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Old 08-17-2012, 04:17 PM   #62
akiy's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 5,933
Re: Aikiweb as a "Big Tent"

Hi folks,

First off, I appreciate the level-headed discourse that I see from most of the people in this thread. Thank you for your thoughts and support for raising the level of discourse here on AikiWeb.

I wanted to take a few minutes to respond to some things that were raised, and I wanted to also express my appreciations for a few things. To quote Blaise Pascal for a moment, "I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter." Similarly, I have not had time to, perhaps, be as diplomatic nor fully thought out as I usually wish. To quote Kurt Vonnegut, "So it goes." And, so, here goes.

One thing I read in Janet's message is frustration that some threads end up (predictably) being centered around internal training when, initially, it had a different direction. It's a frustration that I've heard from many and one, frankly, that I have personally shared. I have had times in the past when I've predicted how some discussions will turn out: when someone brings up issues with ukemi, the discussion will turn into how aikido ukemi is contradictory to internal training methods and damaging to one's development in the art; if someone talks about trouble with a certain portion of a technique, the discussion will turn into how using "aiki" would prove such points meaningless; if ki testing is brought up, the discussion will become . . . I'm sure the reader gets the point. Again, this is not to say that the subject of internal training is invalid in those discussions. I know that this topic of internal training is one that's very important to some folks here. And, I very well understand that internal training methods can be applied in many different aspects of aikido. Rather, I feel that the pervasiveness of the internal training topic often keeps many discussions from flourishing by taking over that discussion through sheer volume of rhetoric and overall direction of discussion (as Janet and Katherine have mentioned in their posts (here, here, and here)).

Also, as I wrote before, there often seems to be a tone in these discussions that include "condemnations, disparagement, and even seeming contempt" (my words) for what many people are practicing -- which, in turn, seems to serve to strip away the meaning and enjoyment that many people find in their current training. (As an aside, I use "seem" as I can only interpret what I see and do not have the means to divine the writer's intentions.)

For example, I've seen people write that there is very little reason 1) to train in a method (or subset of an approach) that does not have the goal or 2) to train with a teacher who does not have the ability to physically dominate one's opponent. Although they are valid notions, some people have stated pretty clearly that they either do not subscribe or that they are not in such notions. As such, I think returning, time and time again, to this line of argumentation (which I feel gets too often conflated into many of the threads) does not get us very far when it comes to discussing topics which are built upon a different foundation.

Another example is the labeling of those who do not do internal training methods as practicing "modern aikido" -- a rather broad brush, in my eyes. Does that mean everyone who did non-modern aikido (pre-war?) had internal training? Does that mean everyone who is otherwise practicing today lacks internal training? It just seems to serve to create a rift to me. Another pet peeve of mine is when people write something to the effect that "no Japanese shihan is capable of doing XYZ" as I don't really see the necessity to be explicit about the ethnicity of such a group (especially when it's probably also their case that non-Japanese shihan are also incapable of XYZ). Also, when I see words and phrases such as "utter nonsense," "brainwashed," "aikibunnies," and "caricature of the real thing," I don't see how such rhetoric can serve to bridge differences but only to divide and polarize, no matter the intent of the posting.

~ * ~

As an aside, some folks bring up the fact that "meeting up" with others will basically solve everything. I don't deny that meeting people face-to-face will often help bridge differences and will also allow for demonstration and, perhaps, transmission of a lot of what we do in this art of aikido -- as some of you know, I've organized many seminars and workshops to this very end. Furthermore, not everyone has the ability nor means to go out and meet others -- and, also, there are those who purposefully choose not to do so. I think choosing one's experiences is a right that everyone has; criticizing them for not going out and experiencing something that someone else finds valuable/insightful/necessary seems odd to me. In any case -- not to be obvious or anything -- but this here is a discussion forum; its purpose is to discuss -- to communicate with each other our thoughts, experiences, and opinions. As such, if your discussion boils down to that catchphrase, "it has to be felt," then I don't see a whole lot of point of that line of argument in a discussion forum. Of course, I understand and agree that certain experiences are very difficult to capture in words; my request there, then, would be for folks to take the time and effort to do what they can to do so. After all, that's the purpose of the AikiWeb Forums.

~ * ~

In response to Mark Murray's question of "What do you suggest we do to make things better?", one thing I'm feeling from folks is that some consider internal training critical/integrated to their aikido training and others do not. I remember encountering the same sorts of philosophical differences, if you will, in the past when topics such as Tomiki competition, weapons work, and other "facets" of aikido training that wasn't shared universally came up. Those who practiced it seemed to think those facets are incontrovertibly important; others, not so much.

One imperfect solution, then, would be to start a new thread referencing the original one to discuss the topic from the viewpoint of internal training. Some may argue, though, that this doesn't address the feelings that some have that internal training might be pertinent to the discussion at-hand. Although I understand and can even agree to a certain point, I think that being able to clearly focus and delineate the topic at-hand will, in the long run, enable a much richer discussion. In terms of starting a new thread, it will enable the original thread to continue while the second thread will be there to allow discussion with a different emphasis. Again, this is imperfect -- but, until there's a difference in which the manner of discussion about internal training becomes such that talking about it isn't so polarizing, that's probably the best and simplest solution that I can offer today.

A more difficult solution, if I can say so with more than a bit of presumption regarding people's intentions, would be for everyone to be a bit more kind in their communication here. Yes, I said it -- be more kind. I sometimes get the feeling that some folks post here with a sense of righteousness and maybe even some indignation, as though they had something they wanted to educate others about -- or, even worse, put down what others have written -- rather than entering into dialogue based on sharing one's experiences, thoughts, and opinions. When you encounter differences between your point and those of others, be passionate without hostility. Seek to work out the differences you encounter, or walk away from those differences without carrying away bitterness and anger. Just as "budo begins and ends with respect," each of us has the responsibility to conduct ourselves with dignity, integrity, and, yes, respect.

~ * ~

On another topic, there are also people with, as Janet writes, "a history" between themselves and others that underlie (or, worse yet, overtly takes over) their interactions. To these folks, my request is to keep your animosities out of your discussions. Honestly, seeing people keep bringing out their dirty laundry to air on AikiWeb seems unnecessarily petty and immature. Cut it out, folks. Please engage in your discussions without coloring your points with such personal baggage, or take it to private conversations.

~ * ~

To respond to a few people's thoughts:

Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
I don't really think that it's the place of outsiders like myself, who don't participate in a practice, to participate in a discussion of that practice, unless we can do so 1)in a spirit of true inquiry and 2)without derailing the discussion.
I think what Mary brings up above (and in the rest of her message) has many good things in it and is worth re-reading, especially her analogies containing rutabagas and zazen.

Russ Qureshi wrote: View Post
If the IP guys can speak directly to the thread topic from their POV then that should be productive for participants and trolls alike. ie. "how much competitiveness is good/bad in a ki testing situation?" IP guy " we approach this kind of exercise this way.....". etc, etc.
I agree with this. Too many times in the past have I seen people resort to "that's been discussed already" or "it has to be felt" as their response rather than delineating the differences of their training methods, experiences, and principles through words in a productive and positive manner.

Nicholas Eschenbruch wrote: View Post
(1) I strongly believe in "modern aikido", as it is sometimes disparagingly called, as a fascinating practice which is "fun", for lack of a better word, and can change lives. So do most aikido practitioners. However, it seems very difficult these days to discuss it as such on aikiweb without intensive, almost ritualised reference to a lot of stuff that, for a huge majority of practitioners, has nothing to do with their practice for now. (Please note that I am not saying I agree with all of modern aikido; also note that I still belive Dan's teaching is invaluable for me personally)

(2) history - as it relates to the aikido most of us do - has recently been predominantly used in discussions here in a negative, backward looking and often fundamentalist (as in, back to the golden days) way. It is hardly ever used in a constructive, forward looking manner. I wonder whether there is still a gap between truly fascinating historical insights some of you have had, and, well, their practical relevance to what most of us do, which is modern aikido. I really look forward to the times when that gap will be bridged, but until then, we should treat each other with more tolerance and courtesy.
Thank you for that, Nicholas. I agree on both points.

Michael Hackett wrote: View Post
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Nice "tests," Michael. I like the last two, especially.

Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
Janet seems to be suggesting that there is an effort to push an idea or set of ideas, which while very much grounded in authenticity, also pushes people away from participating or otherwise distracts from the conversations on a regular basis.
Well said, Matthew.

~ * ~

I also wanted to relate that I have heard from many people who, in their paraphrased collective words, "used to participate on AikiWeb but don't any longer because of the tone of the discussions." Words such as "predictable," "disrespectful," "vituperation," and "trolling" have come up in their feedback. Rather than people walking away due to the subject matter, it really seems to be the tone and manner of engagement that they found objectionable. Also, I'll just say that no matter how "true" something might be, if it's being couched in disrespectful terms, I don't want to see it here on AikiWeb. Saying "just saying" or "no offense" or being tactless under the guise of being straightforward are not acceptable. On this topic, I'll just quote myself, as I've already expressed the below sentiments a while back:

Jun Akiyama wrote: View Post
I would rather have a community which understands and subscribes to conducting discussions in a civil manner over one that may be more "vibrant" which fosters disrespectful behavior. I've done what I can (imperfectly, of course) to maintain such a standard, even when it meant pushing away people whose behavior got in their way of contributing positively, no matter their experience level and acumen regarding the topics being discussed -- and I will continue doing so.
~ * ~

Again, I want to thank everyone for their engaging in this meta-discussion about AikiWeb. I'll close with a link to my post "Request for Civil and Respectful Conduct" which I posted earlier this year:

Back to work for me.

-- Jun

PS: I have moved the discussion on "Rutabagans" to a different thread.

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