Re: It Has to be Felt #0
First, I want to observe with real gratitude that people have kept comments and disagreements civil. I knew this column could become contentious, and I'm relieved that is has not. I don't mind being occasionally provocative, but it never serves my aim to muckrake and sow discord.
Aikido is, as a friend of mine once said, a deep well. So deep that none of us limited beings can take it all in. Nevertheless, I am always perplexed by those who take a decidedly limited view of aikido and dismiss or denigrate the rest.
Two common extremes are the hard-assed militant macho types, and the new-age psychobabble types. If ever there was a left hand in need of a right hand (and vice versa), we see it here.
In order for aikido to be socially relevant, in order for it to be meaningful as a transformative way, it has to have hard physical discipline. It has to confront, in the body, life and death. It has to embrace conflict and lessons learned in combat, and find creative and constructive outcomes.
In order for aikido to be valid as a combative art, it has to offer something worth fighting for. It has to bring something new to the equation that does not merely recapitulate millennia of human degradation and environmental pissing. It has to find its heart, and rise to the challenge of O Sensei's realization of budo as love.
Can we do our sincere best to see the grand picture that is aikido, and still say "this is aikido, and this is not?" I think we have to try. We may fail, or miss the mark, but if so it should not be because we refuse to even look at the immensity that is aikido.
I won't cite specific authors or columns in the "It Had to be Felt" series. And to repeat, I do think they are a valuable repository of experiences. But I find it especially troubling when senior aikido instructors, veterans with formidable experience, relate with barely disguised pride in the number of broken bones in the dojo or the number of bar brawls one has engaged in to "test" their mettle.
Doing so conveys a certain kind of toughness. But it's of a limited sort, and one that too easily serves to hide the weakness and fear behind the bravado. Discipline in aikido does require us to be tough, physically and mentally in proportion to our means. But toughness is not the same as brutality.
Without the kind of emotional toughness that impels us toward compassion, aikido is not aikido. A broken bone, deliberately or wantonly inflicted, and well outside of the necessity of medical healing, is not a victory, but a clear loss. It is a loss for the recipient, it is a loss for the community, and it is a special kind of loss for the one who inflicted it and who carries forward the delusion that they've done something special.
Dang. I think I just wrote another article. Thanks again for your patience in hearing my views, and for the respectful points of both agreement and disagreement.