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Old 02-02-2009, 10:29 AM   #198
Erick Mead
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Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,403
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 10

Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
... what has long been referred to in budo circles as "that which cannot be described with words." Naturally, it's very, very difficult to reach an understanding of what he was saying without an idea of his particular context and idiom.
Well said.

Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
I think Ueshiba, like Yagyu Munenori, intended to be understood, but only by those who had put in the work to reach the physical understanding that he had. If there's one thing I think Professor Goldsbury's columns here have made abundantly clear, Ueshiba was not operating with the intention of cogently taking his students from point A to point Z. Rather, he gave them his understanding of the system of the world, and he expected them to put in the physical work to illuminate that understanding.
FWIW, this manner of thinking stems from Oyomei-gaku -- and I firmly agree. Action and knowledge are one.

Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
So naturally, to truly understand Ueshiba's words, one needs to understand his context, physical and metaphysical. That would require a study of the things he studied, the way he studied them. It would require the mat time, as both sides inform the other.

I do not say that this is all necessary to do aikido (although a case could be made that it is in order to do "Ueshiba's aikido"), but I think it is necessary to understand how and what he wrote about aikido.
... And then here we part company -- slightly, over the "natural" assumption from which you take the thought further. There is immense value of course in delving into O Sensei's words and meanings to elaborate his imagery further.

But I take issue with the thought, almost passed over in your comment, that HIS conceptual context of his images of the art was paramount for OUR learning of the art and grasping the significance of the images he employed.

I would go with your first impulse and say that the practice of the art is the only suitable context. From that all of his concrete imagery can be made sense of, with relatively little cultural subtlety (apart from knowing what image the words describe, of course).

This is very much in-line with Prof. Goldsbury's comment about being told bay a senior Japanese he could not understand something because he was not born Japanese and raised in Japan -- to which he replied that he simply smiled enigmatically and said nothing. (Kudos to him BTW for that wonderfully ironic reflexion of casual prejudices.)

There is evidence that Ueshiba believed that his imagery was more universal than is often given credit. Certinaly Oomoto held this as a tenet of its syncretistic fatih, if nothing else. But deeper than that the Shinto root of this comprehension is as thoroughly naturalistic and concrete as it is lively and imaginitive. There is no "deity" in the Shinto pantheon (apart from of the Sanshin Zouka -- who seem defy otherwise rampant anthropomorphizing) that is more "perfect" than any human -- just more powerful and just as flawed in their own ways -- concrete human attributes writ large and spectacularly for examination or example.

Consider the various yokai traditions for instance -- an ancient umbrella taking a life and mind of its own -- this is myth coursing in and through concrete function. If you use something enough (well or badly) it takes on a life of its own (good or bad, accordingly) . This is very much the same sensibility as Aikido as I see it. Any person of any culture can imagine the "desires" and "fears" of the awakened umbrella, because they flow from what it is and what ir does in a naturalistic sense. Knowing what the inanimate thing "wants" to do is understanding and cooperating with its nature. -- Aiki in our context.

This is often foreign to minds of modern prejudice. It is prerational -- not irrational. But this interplay between concrete action or object and the conceptual image given a developmental life of sorts, is appealing at very basic levels. This is a part of why aikido has spread so far so fast -- IMO. It speaks to the remnant of unschooled childlike intellect in each of us that simply loves this sort of play. That play can be simple or complex depending on the capacities of the persons concerned, but the same spirit should be in the effort, at whatever level.

It is for this reason that I take O Sensei's comment to Terry Dobson as being more indicative of this kind of universalizing intent through the lively concreteness of both practice and image. Dobson asked about the meaning of the triangle circle and square. O Sensei wouldn't tell him -- although of course he could and did describe it for others elsewhere at other times. "Find out for yourself," was the answer. The task was given for Terry Dobson to contextualize the image consistent with his own concrete practice and his own sense of liveliness, not according to O Sensei's playing of the same game.

One does not understand chess or go by being given the endgame positions of someone else's game -- one has to play the whole thing to get there. Of course, no two games are alike, though the rules, the field and the operative parts do not change from game to game. Aikido is a game that in the brutal reality of its complete context has winners and losers, of course, but that is not why we practice the game -- merely to win or avoid losing. One would not understand chess if one quit playing because one was routinely beaten.

In this analogy, perhaps too much effort is sometimes spent trying to make some fortuitous combinations of the application of those rules in a justifiably well-admired game -- into additional rules (or worse yet, as though they were some sort of meta-rules dictating the sequence of play). The why of the play is more important that the what or the how, and the play itself is more important than the why, how or what results -- it is self-justifying.

Your move.


Erick Mead
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