Thread: Then and Now
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Old 08-31-2002, 12:36 AM   #6
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
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Hello Chris,

I touched on matters germaine to this thread in another post, which should have been more strictly about kotodama and the origins of aikido. I will go back to that thread later, since I have quite a lot more to say about kotodama. I have a research budget and recently treated myself to the 14-volume Morohashi kanji dictionary. I want to check all my kanji references before committing myself.

A striking difference between aikido now and, say, 30 years ago when I started, was brought home to me recently at the IAF meeting in Sweden. The IAF usually discusses matters of little interest to the average aikidoist, but this time we had some very good and vigorous discussions on matters of great interest to the average dojo population: violence in the dojo, sexual and other forms of harassment, aikido and HIV/AIDS, drugs and aikido. Four of the participants were Japanese 8th dan shihans, and all the continents were represented except America, though some of the above issues were raised by aikidoists in the US who have corresponded with me privately. I think it is the first time these issues have ever been publicly discussed in an aikido organisation, certainly in my experience of the Aikikai and the IAF.

The discussion of violence in dojo was in response to a complaint made to me privately by someone who was injured in a dojo run by an 8th dan Aikikai shihan. I advised the person to take the matter through the courts and have the shihan publicly defend himself. This very much caught the attention of the Japanese participants (all of whom knew and trained at the hands of the Founder himself), one of whom stated quite candidly that violence in the dojo was to be expected. Wanton or culpable violence and accidental injuries were hardly ever distinguished when he started training: so much so that if you didn't sustain some injury or other, you felt you had not had a really good practice; had not been "blooded", so to speak. I for one was surprised that what I had suspected for years and had discussed only in private with individual shihans was being openly admitted at a public meeting, the results of which would soon be generally available on the Internet.

As we all know, some shihans convey this general attitude more than others, even now. I, also, never made the distinction between gratuitous violence and unusually hard training and regarded such violence and the occasional injuries they caused as a response to my own poor ukemi or intended as a means to greater humility. I have long believed that in aikido you lend your self (body, mind and spirit: there is no need to distinguish) to your partrner, who returns it in a better state than it was to begin with. But the quality of this state is not always obvious, either to oneself or to one's dojo mates.

Nevertheless, as a tatemae, we all agreed at the IAF meeting that times really had changed. Gratuitous violence and injuries were both unacceptable and aikido teachers had to learn this for themselves, or be taught, by the Aikikai or other bodies. The problem this caused was also admitted to be quite real: in the past a line was never drawn between hard training and such violence. Now a reasonable distinction has been made and the line has become harder to draw: for the warlike aspects of aikido are essential to the art and it will change if these are forgotten. In some respects Sokaku Takeda and O Sensei saw things in much simpler terms than we do today.

Best regards,

Peter Goldsbury

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 08-31-2002 at 12:41 AM.

P A Goldsbury
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