Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
Join Date: Jun 2005
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 12
What we are talking about is "signs & portents."
A sign, any sign, verbal, written, or gestural is both arbitrary in one sense and programmatic in another. The creation of signs allows the capture of a system of relations, and that system of relations can be "stretched forward" -- L. por-tendere to divine a presumptive pattern. Events will show the correspondence ( or lack of such) of the pattern to the scheme of events. Then more signs will be added and related in the system to frame and extend new portents. The degree of correspondence between the system of relations and the results of its extension and then recursion determine its fitness (in the Darwinian sense) Badly fitted signs and systems do not survive.
Extension of a system of relations is essentially a branch of divination, though we are so "sophisticated" that we have mostly forgotten that. We must divine the subjective meaning of another person, and we must divine a subjective system of relations that the other person will subjectively grasp. The succesful extension of our own system of relations un the communicative function creates a communal system, which then builds and extends its portending function in turn. More conventionally, we also divine the probable consequence of objective events in the future -- but this and the subjective, communicative function have but a single root. They are actually the same process.
Chinese writing explicitly began as interpretation of signs from fire-cracked bone or shell; chant, and song, in shamanic traditions around the world had the same purpose. Explicit representational symbolic language was an extension of this; narrative myth was a further extension of this, and symbolic analysis yet a further extension. But, before all of that, was the physical system of relations -- gesture, violence, and from them both, ultimately, dance.
In this sense then, I have perceived the difference in the Japanese understanding of the physical form of movement and its "discovery" function in extending it, in ways similar to our differences in learning and harnessing language. An example I have cited before is the nature of sword work.
In Saito's and Saotome's kumitachi are two seemingly different expressions of relations of sword movements. If we are to understand Saito, particularly, these were the sequences as he was taught them by O Sensei, and he tried to faithfully replicate them, as given. Saotome seems to have had a similar process, perhaps with different emphasis, and a quite different set of sequences. John Stevens has taught and explained the ShoChikuBai elements of sword work (shomenuchi, yokomenuchi, tsuki) as paired combinations, and from my own experience in both Saito's and Saotome's weapons systems I perceive those underlying combinations of ShoChikuBai that form elements within their respective kumitachi.
The reason that I perceive this is that I seem natively to have broken down the kumitachi in both systems. I always had great difficulty remembering the precise rote sequence given, but I developed some facility responding spontaneously and appropriately with any given element of those sequences when presented in the moment.
After reflection I see this physical manner of manipulating the physical signs of movement as explicitly language-related. The kumitachi as systems of relation are of a piece with the learning of kanji as systems of relation. The whole must be progammatically memorized for the relations to become apparent. In a different way the inherent ambiguity of Japanese syllabic sounds has a similar issue, in that knowing all the possible referents of a single syllable is necessary to contextualize the syllable in conjunction with all the other possible referents of all the other single syllables. The language seems to resolve meaning in a crystallization, if you will, from a fluid solution. Conversely, in Our (western) approach, our sounds, themselves, are analytically broken into subelements. We build our pattern in an accretion/erosion, rather than a crystallization, which means we have a very different affective, as well as directive, approach to extending those systems of relations in the form of those signs. To a lesser degree, we have a reflection of this dichotomy in the distinction between whole-language methods and phonics as means to learn reading and writing in English, for example. Valid patterns tend to repeat with variations in scale and form.
When Abe Sensei teaches calligraphy, the correspondence of the system of relations in written signs is seen to be of a piece with tai sabaki in aikido, or other budo forms, and is part of the proverb, bun bu ichi. They are divinatory processes of meaning and action.
But the same is true for us, it is simply less apparent in Western terms because our nature is incremental, analytic, and reductive in the process of deriving elements for use in our forms of spontaneous synthesis in our divinatory process of both meaning and action. Because the process, physically and linguistically is divinatory in both contexts, the moral element or content of the process, the implied question of what we "ought" to do or "say", can never be removed.