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Old 07-02-2009, 08:02 AM   #43
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
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Re: The Challenge of Not Competing

To Jim Cooper, Mark Murray,

The more I read Morihei Ueshiba, the more I am coming to believe that the English translations of his discourses fall short of transmitting what he actually stated--and also what he meant--to those who cannot read him in Japanese. Hence my question to Mr Cooper.

In his discourses, Ueshiba uses two Japanese terms and both are usually translated in English as 'competition'. However, the terms are quite different in meaning and the translations do not make this clear. The terms are 競争 (kyoso) and 試合 (shiai).

Shiai is competition in the sense of a tournament, such as those held at the Olympics, with referees & judges, who have flags or hold up score cards. Ueshiba was adamant that this sort of thing was totally incompatible with aikido as he understood the art.

Kyoso is something far less structured and is best translated as rivalry. It is what Toyota, Nissan and Honda do to increase their market share. It is the state of mind that lies behind rivalry between sportsmen. It can be quite nasty, but it can also be quite friendly and constructive.

Since Ueshiba always stated that aikido was not about winning and losing, his obvious approval of the desire to excel, always to be better than the next man, is usually left unexamined. However, although he never competed in tournaments (which he equated with western sports and thus with a complete lack of understanding of Japanese budo culture), Ueshiba's entire life embodied the importance of kyoso. If the biographies are to be believed, he practised kyoso all his life. He took on all comers and he beat them.

To Mark Murray,

Why do I state that Ueshiba himself was misguided (which is what I actually mean)? I think his view of western sports was far too negative. In the Takemusu Aiki discourses, there is evidence of a very narrow view of western sports, which he believed was dominated by excessive individualism, and a desire to win that would certainly diminish the human personality.

Do not forget that Ueshiba saw himself standing on the Floating Bridge of Heaven as a messenger from the divine world. As such, his mission was to achieve harmony among the three worlds (divine, human, and the world in between) via AIKI, understood as aikido.

Ueshiba constantly talks of aikido as developing the upper part of the soul (which would go to heaven after death) and not the lower part (which would go to the lower world). He complained that the Japanese military trained the martial arts in the wrong way (which favored the lower part of the soul). Western sports were way below even this way.

So I believe that his view of western sports was completely wrong. Misguided was the term I used because I suspect that Ueshiba lacked the information needed to make a balanced judgment. But he also had a clear view of the differences between western sports, as he understood this, and Japanese budo (even though the latter involved kyoso).

Best wishes,


Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 07-02-2009 at 08:05 AM.

P A Goldsbury
Hiroshima, Japan
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