Peter A Goldsbury
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).
Thank you for posting more of your thoughts and clearing up my confusion. But, please, for my sanity, call me Mark. When I see my full name up there, I find it weird. Almost as weird as being called Mr. Murray.
While the Internet is certainly no substitute for a live environment, it still seems weird that after a certain point to still be called by my whole name or by Mister. I'm sure that in person, I would use formalities since we really don't know each other, however, here on the Internet, it creates a different atmosphere of sorts. I hope by using Peter, I'm not going too far.
As to kyoso, I find it apt. It is certainly something I have been doing with my peers. I find myself wanting to be better than them as I train, but not in a nasty or hostile way.
I've been part of the U.S. Military in two separate branches, Army Guard and active Air Force. I think that I would agree with Ueshiba in that the U.S. military doesn't train in a martial arts manner. Training is on killing the other person and staying alive, but in a more regimented, follow superior's orders kind of manner. I would classify that kind of training as below martial arts.
As to sports venues. Yeah, I guess I agree with Ueshiba. It's below the military training. I don't see Olympic Judo or UFC as being near military training in regards to martial arts. At least in the U.S. military, you learn group tactics, military strategy, tactical use of current weapons, some unarmed combat, demolitions, etc. Whereas, sport competition is extremely limited and strictly regulated. In the U.S. military, you learn to live and yes, die, for your country. It's an ideal and a way of life. What does western sport have that compares? Gold medals for your country?
I don't know exactly what Ueshiba's views were since I have to rely too much upon previously translated material. But, I do know that I am very, very grateful to your insights and posts. They mesh a whole lot more with what I'm learning and understanding about aiki/internal skills.