This is how I see the state of the union of Aikido today. For this to change for the better, much honest and open minded dialogue is required by as many interested and invested parties as possible. What must result is not any compromise on principles, values or hard won positions of rightful leadership. Rather, real, and probably painful compromises must be made on styles of leadership, enhanced levels of mutual respect, and willingness to listen to the points and arguments of each other, not to acquiesce, but to understand, effect suitable compromises to, and to incorporate for mutual benefit and growth.
There is no wish or vision for a completely united Aikido entity or organization in my mind. Human beings over millenniums have proven the folly of such attempts to overcome basic human desires, perceived needs and ambitions.
I do envision separate organizations with philosophical, intellectual, and technical characteristics of their own, finding common ground on matters of style, an enhanced appreciation from the public at large of our mutually historic mission, and to provide mutual benefits on a case by case basis.
The environment I envision is one where open communication, freedom to form or to amicably dissolve relationships or partnerships exist, and the highest levels of Respect, Trust and Friendships are the prioritized and mutually formed goals of all who willingly join together and participate. What I envision then, is not a consolidation of co-operative energy, but one of collaborative synergy, with the input from many, even of seemingly disparate entities, towards achieving greater understanding of the Founder's purpose, while admitting and accepting of our innate differences. We can agree to disagree on certain issues, while finding common ground on the most important ones.
Hello My Good Friend,
I will pay "Devil's Advocate" here. While inclusiveness, mutual acceptance, etc. are generally agreed to be positive values, I think that there is also the a problem when things get too "I'm ok, you're ok." One of the things that has gotten Aikido into trouble in the post war period as the tendency to take the art and homogenize it for large scale, public consumption. A decision was made at the top, not to pursue various elements which were foundational to the Aikido of the Founder in order to make the art teachable to a mass audience around Japan and around the world.
Despite O-Sensei's admonishments that Aikido had no style, styles developed, approaches hardened into dogma, turfs developed and needed to be defended, and so on. While I am in total agreement that we need to let go of much of this baggage from the past, I also worry about too much acceptance, too much "it's all good" in our approach to this art.
There is such a thing as bad Aikido... some of it being done by people with large numbers after their names, as we saw at the Aiki Expos. There are whole styles of Aikido in which there is virtually no "aiki". There is a movement afoot to regain some of what was lost after O-Sensei passed. Right now this is largely focused on the technical side but I am hoping that there eventually be the same energy put into the spiritual side of the art.
While I think that each of us should always deal with his or her fellows from the standpoint of respect, I don't think this can mean ignoring the fact that there is a difference between good budo and bad budo. Inevitably, like minded folks will be sharing their skills and ideas while others reject those same ideas and approaches.
I don't think that Aikido has much of a chance to correct some of its systemic problems unless people are discriminating. Without a clear idea what isn't very good, how can we design a system that produces excellence? So, I am think that, in my opinion, we are due for a period in which there is more distinction and separation rather than less. I would like to see this be more focused on real issues of quality than personality and organization, much less arbitrary than it has been, but I don't see the art going forward having any coherent direction. Rather, I see folks increasingly going their own ways and then forming very loose, non-hierarchical associations of folks of like mind.
As I have said before, I see Aikido going forward and becoming almost two separate arts which will have only superficial resemblance to each other. I don't see continued growth for the centralized, all knowledge emanates from the home office in Japan approach. Once the uchi deshi have passed away, as they are rapidly doing, I don't see any personalities who will command the kind of blind obedience which they felt they were entitled to and were, in many cases, given.
While I am all for getting along with everyone, there's a lot of Aikido out there that simply isn't very good. As an increasing number of practitioners, at all levels, start to make some positive changes in their own Aikido I think it will only make the differences more glaring, not bring things together. We can't stand around and pretend that one approach is fine while another, which is exactly the opposite, is fine as well. One of the approaches isn't fine.
I don't really know how one bridges this gap. Perhaps, with enough cross fertilization coming from events like the Bridge seminars organized by Ikeda Sensei or the Friendship seminars Aikiweb has put on, or that you and my friends have participated in , the differences will become blurred because we have done such a good job sharing. But having attended all three Aiki Expos and seen how it changed certain people's Aikido from top to bottom while others, who saw the very same things we did, changed nothing about what they did, I am not optimistic on this score.
Anyway, you are a great spreader of positive Karma and I hope you are right about how we might interact. The old systems have not done well by us, I think, maybe we can do better... we'll see.