Words: Virtual Reality? No Virtue, No Reality?
I see two distinct processes that are contributing to the genuine disconnect that exists between some groups of posters.
The first process I observe is the virtual reality that people try and create through the use of words-ONLY on the internet. The internet is a magnificent venue to convey thoughts and ideas. The internet is a horrible venue to try and convey physical experiences. The use of the internet to express thoughts, ideas and beliefs also creates a virtual reality in which people react to the words as though they were actual physical acts. Maybe I am just a dinosaur, but I was taught as a baby dinosaur that "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never harm me." I have to make some leap to a virtual reality in which I allow the words to harm me as though it was some physical assault upon my being. At the end of the O'Reilly-Stewart debate, one of them talked about how sad it is that we as a society, have lost the ability to strenuously voice our opinions, agree to disagree and still treat each other with respect. We seem to have become complacent as a society to covertly agree to not "require" face-to-face encounters, in lieu of the written word. The written word then becomes enlarged into this virtual reality that is treated as a physical experience. I find this virtual reality to be lacking in both virtue and reality. The face-to-face encounters create a virtue that is manifest when people have physical encounters that result in a degree of respect and understanding (without a mandated agreement with the other person's ideas) that is evident for all to personally experience.
The second process that I observe seems to be strongly linked to the aversion of some people in the Aikido community of today, to step outside of their self-defined and confined worlds to see if what they are doing is consistent with stated abilities and with the stated rhetoric/beliefs. I find this position to be also lacking in both virtue and reality. My background in fighting sports and arts strongly grounded me in reality. At the end of the day, it did not matter what anybody said before an encounter (match, sparring session, practice session, etc.), what mattered was what really happened during the encounter. Those encounters created a degree of real respect that transcended our thoughts/feelings of like or dislike for that person. Those encounters created a degree of real respect for our real abilities and short-comings and motivated us to always work harder. These are real virtues that were created from the reality of encounters (be they friendly, competitive, or hostile) to which we have no substitute for today. I take those experiences and apply them every single day in the way in which I train and teach. They are irreplaceable experiences for anybody who truly endeavors to become realistically good in the martial art/sport that they choose to participate in.
We seem to have certain groups that can define wonderful, complex, scientific models to explain what they do. They are given opportunities to step outside of their self-defined/confined worlds and demonstrate that they can produce what they say that can do. These groups find seem to find every way possible to avoid the discovery of their amazing abilities/disconnect between rhetoric and abilities.
We seem to have certain other groups that love to loudly pronounce their lofty, poetic understandings of the true essence of Aikido. They are given opportunities to step outside of their self-defined/confined worlds and demonstrate that they can produce what they say that can do. These groups find seem to find every way possible to avoid the discovery of their amazing abilities/disconnect between rhetoric and abilities. Even worse, when asked to provide clear definitions, sources of "understandings", etc., these groups sidestep those "trivial" matters and typically reply with some passive-aggressive poke- a clear expression of impotent rage.
We seem to have certain groups that believe that all beliefs, abilities and expressions are of equal merit and worth. These types of beliefs never stand up to the kind of academic rigor in institutes of higher learning, nor do these types of beliefs every stand up to real-life encounters.
There is a growing body of Aikidoka who have been stepping outside of their self-defined/confined worlds to develop a truer sense of reality based upon the virtues that are inherent in our art. The most remarkable thing has been the camaraderie that has been created by those people coming together from diverse backgrounds and experiences. They all share the same path of pursuit to excellence. It requires shelving one's ego, opening one's believes and abilities to inspection by others and a deep-seated desire to learn. It is remarkable that this group is the frequently described as the group that is not open, closed-minded and lacking of the higher "skills" within our art that the other groups like to claim (without being tested of course). I have been fortunate enough to be included as part of this group. I can see the real changes that all of us are making. These changes can stand up to the virtual-reality that the words of the other groups like to use, because they are firmly rooted in the virtue of an indisputable reality. The genuinely unfortunate part is that people from the other groups are always offered opportunities to meet us and discover for themselves what is real or what is a virtual reality. I am heartened to find that more and more people are seeking to meet in person, while those who seek to remain within their self-defined/confined groups find themselves further and further isolated from the tradition of our art that was and is always firmly rooted in a physical reality.
How do other people perceive things?