Dojo: Still Point Aikido Center
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Join Date: Jul 2002
Re: It Has to be Felt #0
Lots of accumulated responses by now. I wish I could get all of us in a room together for a full, real-time conversation.
Aikido as Negotiation:
Yes, I do think of aikido as negotiation. Of course I see budo as negotiation. One does not lessen the other. On a large scale, we make distinctions and create departments between the military and the State Department. But they are not really separate. Diplomacy is warfare; war is diplomacy. These/this can be done badly or with nefarious aims, or executed with great skill and toward maximum benefit for all.
East vs. West:
As a Westerner, I know better than to think I will ever fully understand the Eastern world view, and specifically that of the Japanese. Understanding in its degree is desirable, but I would consider myself presumptuous and arrogant to believe that I know, or even can know, what it means to see things from a Japanese perspective. So while I do what I think is proper to respect the Japanese origin of our discipline, I must necessarily see, explore, and relate my art from my own perspective. It's the only one I have any authority over, and the only one I have a real responsibility to report from.
That said, aikido is a human derivation, with universal potential. While it possibly might never have emerged in its particular form outside of Japan, it nevertheless is more Human than it is Japanese. Else its value is limited. If I can never understand aikido the way the Japanese do, then I must abdicate the field entirely, or claim what part of it is truly mine. Only then can I rightly have something worth sharing.
Individual vs. Social:
Another false dichotomy. Whether we're speaking of aikido or political arenas, it is a mistake to treat these as separate or opposed. Will emphasis on creating strong, independent, self-sufficient individuals automatically lead to a more perfect society? It's a start, but it can also lead to greed and tyranny. Does building a strong community that emphasizes social welfare benefit every individual? It should, but we see too often the loss of privacy and personal freedom as a result. What we do need, wherever we look, is individuals taking responsibility for their own experience, and positioning themselves to assist others in ways that foster healthy interdependence.
If you specifically don't want your aikido to have social relevance, then practice alone. If you don't want to, or can't practice alone, then realize the discipline of the dojo is one of relationships. The quality of relationships has a direct effect on the quality or your own experience and progress. If aikido gives you a greater understanding into the nature of relationships and how to do them well, then why would you not practice that outside the dojo? This is social relevance.
Where indeed is the Aikikai Foundation Hospital? Where are the great aikido figures operating on the world stage or with dedicated focus in their own local communities? In some sense, the fact that the question has to be asked (and indeed it does) is an embarrassment. If the best aikido has to offer is a cohort of self-aggrandized individuals, enabled by dojo brands and tribal affiliations tending their own gardens and guarding their own turf, then I'm ready to call it a failed experiment.
Of course, we need only look at the US budget proportion allocated to the Pentagon vs. the Peace Corps to see the problem is not unique to aikido.
But, in fact, the outreach is there. It's not often making headlines, It's far from universal among dojos and affiliations, but it exists. It is nascent, fragile, immature, not yet well coordinated. There are cases of viable and successful dojos that have the resources to focus some of their energy on benefiting their local communities, and this is integral to fostering the notion of self-defense. There are aikido groups around the world working together and with other martial artists on the problems of global conflict and local inequity. These groups tend to be horribly underfunded and not always as effective as could be hoped. But they're there, and you can find them if you look. Probably they could use your help, and would welcome your contributions. But if you don't like what they're doing or how they're doing it, you could always lead your own initiative. IF you have the resources. Not everyone does, and that's something we should all be working on as well.