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Old 03-30-2013, 04:39 PM   #50
Ellis Amdur
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Location: Seattle
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 895
Re: how do we define martial?

Eben - You wrote:

However, gendai arts in Japan are designed to preserve the Samurai heritage and even though they are open to the public they are a way of keeping ancient martial techniques alive. Art forms that have been developed over centuries deserve to be preserved for posterity. We may be speaking of semantics here but meanings of words do change over time. Language is organic.

I actually like the idea of dividing martial arts into martial and minervic forms; I would be prepared to accept that Aikido falls into the latter; it is an art form after all that is primarily defensive in both its techniques and philosophy. In many ways its very helpful, especially in the case of Aikido in which O'Sensei's vision of the true meaning of Budo was a radical departure from the traditional understanding of the term.
A couple of thoughts. That gendai arts, in one sense, were designed to preserve the samurai heritage, but this is not necessarily a good thing. These arts mostly developed in the Taisho and early Showa period, to create a new Japanese - that every Japanese was a samurai, and therefore, should willingly sacrifice their lives at the behest of the emperor and the ruling fascist gov't. That women should train with bamboo spears to face down American soldiers when they landed. That no Japanese, just like no feudal samurai, should ever question the order of a superior, no matter how heinous or vile. We use terms awfully loosely. It's worth questioning what it means to "preserve a samurai heritage in gendai budo."

Obviously, I love Japanese martial traditions, but there is far too much romanticising in this area. On the other hand, Nishio sensei, whom I studied with, never said, Dan Richards, that "samurai were shit." He would never say that and it's offensive to put such words in his mouth. He was a cultured man, and a manifestation of his art was in his cleanliness, which extended to the way he talked. Neither his waza or his mouth were ever foul.

Finally, Eben - this whole Minervic thing? I simply said that to mess with Donn's head. I was a much younger guy, and he was a mentor for awhile. But young guys have to puncture the pomposity of their elders. I actually meant, tongue in cheek, defending against a siege, shield rather than sword. But I wasn't serious. I did it just to tick him off. EVen there, I didn't mean aikido.

Aikido was not meant to be defensive. Ueshiba Kisshomaru said a couple of interesting things in a talk I once heard:
1. When asked about people being injured in aikido, he said, essentially, "After all, it is a martial art. (that word again - I think he used the term budo). If you can't handle it, maybe you should study calligraphy or flower arranging.
2. When asked when his father became a pacifist, he started laughing and said that his father was never a pacifist or not a pacifist. He was "beyond the whole dichotomy." Then he told a story of being a little boy and some bigger foreign kids from some embassy were picking on him and his father, in a dress kimono came running out and slipped in the mud on the street and fell in a mud puddle, the foreign boys running away.

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