However, I think it should be productive to ask if aikido training has anything to offer how we approach such differences. If, in the United States, Republicans and Democrats, or liberals and conservatives everywhere, could dialogue in aikido's particular brand of constructive adversity? Can we get fundamentalists and secularists to work together on worthy charitable causes?
The world and its many paths can get there without what we explicitly call "aikido." But if aikido does not actively and self-consciously participate in this social process -- not so much to take sides, but to bring factions together to make something larger and more coherent -- then I can't for the life of me see it as something to brag about.
In view of Christopher Li's response to this, on aikido as a form of negotiation, I think I need to come in here. Negotiation is one aspect of communication, which is also one aspect of a wider frame of discourse, commonly called rhetoric. In terms of rhetoric, Japan and the USA are at opposite ends of the spectrum and it would not be surprising if this opposition were not also found in an art like aikido, which is fundamentally based on Japanese culture and values. Yes, I know that postwar aikido can be called ‘international' in some sense, but this is ex post facto
, so to speak.
I believe the models of rhetoric commonly found and taught in the US are based on Greek models and a very good example of this is Lincoln's address at Gettysburg, which is based on the oratory of Pericles. The Greek model was fundamentally adversarial, since the speeches were aimed at an audience, of jurors or electors, who would eventually vote. It was in no way ‘win-win', as the publications of the Harvard Business School might suggest. The rhetorical and logical tricks actually used during debate were originally catalogued by Aristotle in his Topics
and Refutations Against the Sophists
. The model of negotiation taught by those such as Howard Raiffa or Roy Lewicki is an American development of the original Greek model and parallels the later history of western rhetoric. This rhetorical tradition was based on Aristotle's Organon
and his Rhetoric
This rhetorical tradition has some very interesting parallels with the Chinese rhetoric that flourished at the time of the Mohists. However (1) Chinese rhetoric followed its own path after this date and (2) these are not the only rhetorical traditions that exist. Ancient Egypt, ancient Mesopotamia and ancient India also had their own traditions of rhetoric that were certainly not Greek, but—and this is very important—these traditions were not seen as distinct subjects with their own internal structure and rules. Indian rhetorical forms, for example, were seen as a part of general ethical discourse and this is certainly true of Buddhist rhetoric. These traditions were overwhelmed by the Greek / western model, but certainly did not disappear.
It is a subject of great interest that Japan does not have a tradition of rhetoric and there are very few books on rhetoric, especially on negotiation, for example, written by Japanese scholars. Those that are tend to follow the postwar American dialectical models of ‘win-win' etc, but in my experience the Japanese do not actually follow these models in practice and 'win-win' is certainly not a model in aikido.
So when we talk of aikido as a martial art that is essentially
an art of negotiation or conflict resolution, I think there is some anachronism here, for I believe that neither the Founder himself nor his son Kisshomaru ever saw the art in these terms.