Does Wikipedia need a rant? Do you think you should expend the energy? I gather the article is a 'stub'. I am not quite sure about Wikipedia stubs. In the UK, cigarette stubs are usually snuffed out, after the cigarette has become too short to hold. Clearly, the article is not notable for its intellectual depth or penetration, but I never feel closely enough associated with Wikipedia articles to consider editing them. They are stuff that people write (though in some fields the articles are really brilliant, but not, alas, in aikido). Writing for AikiWeb
is so much easier. People know who you are and can engage with you in a much more rigorous and also personal and friendly way than with Wikipedia.
I think I am one of the people who started with aikido with the mat. In my first practice, I made very close contact with it and did not know how I did so. The mind and body came later and the philosophy very, very much later. I can remember arguing severely with a university friend who told me that aikido was a 'martial art based on love'. At the time (early 70s), I was training at K Chiba Sensei's dojo in the UK (when aikido men were men and women were women, etc etc). Actually, it was Chiba Sensei who taught me that training off the mat should be a reflection / parallel of training on the mat. There should be no difference between the two types of training. However, the only Senseis I have met who actually embodied this idea in their own lives, in my opinion, were Sadateru Arikawa and Hiroshi Tada (and definitely not K Chiba, by the way).
In previous articles, Ross discussed aikido off the mat--and in a previous article we discussed the ethical aspects of this. Ross seemed to me to believe that aikido was intrinsically ordered to the improvement of humanity--and clearly O Sensei believed something similar. However, I think that the way O Sensei believed that this improvement was to be achieved was nothing like the way we believe this now (in individual ethical terms). For O Sensei the improvement in humanity depended on the correction of the relationship between three worlds of Omoto and so for O Sensei aikido was largely a matter of ritual. The aikido waza
were a type of Shingon mudra
, ordered to achieving a degree of enlightenment (here and now), which O Sensei believed he already possessed.
So, the issue for me, with Ross's latest article is:
To what extent does pursuing a michi
(path) require its own ethical system?
I am sure that you can see that this initial question leads to two further questions:
Inside the dojo, to what extent does pursuing a michi
require one to pursue a particular ethical system, in terms of individual training?
Outside the dojo, to what extent does the ethical system pursued inside the dojo need to be manifested outside the dojo?
I think that this issue is very relevant to the issue that you yourself raised in your own article. It seems to me that the Japanese Sensei had very good reasons for subjecting the boy to such a harsh encounter. He was forcing the boy to toughen up, which is what all Japanese boys are supposed to do. This toughening process happens in schools and dojos all over Japan and is the basis of the Japanese concept of fighting spirit. You might want to believe that this concept is actually bankrupt, but I do not think so. I think that in every culture boys are taught to be strong.
Very best wishes,
I was one of those people who had philosophy in my head, but who had little connection between mind and body. My head had all kinds of lovely ideas but my body didn't know what to do with them. The slightest of confrontations and I froze. I like how you put this--it does take years of sweat and frustration, of actually doing aikido before my head starts to "get" philosophy. Often words my shihan says make sense much, much later than when I hear them. Thanks for this column, Ross. I enjoyed it so much I won't go on my usual rant about Wikipedia.