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Old 08-26-2013, 09:35 AM   #78
ChrisMikk's Avatar
Dojo: Mugenjuku
Location: Kyoto, Japan
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 107
Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Japanese people tend to be picky about what's acceptable - for example, people playing golf or tennis both have acceptable "uniforms" as well.

I'd note that the keikogi is a created tradition - not something that belongs to traditional budo, but something that was created by Jigoro Kano. It was created clothes.
Yes, I am aware of the history of keikogi from Inoue's article in Mirror of Modernity, as I suspect are you. However, I think you miss the point of this article as it relates to modern Japan. Kano did not create special "budo" clothes, there was simply no training-wear at the time. If the Japanese thought of the keikogi as simply training clothes, they would have replaced it, just as they have replaced kimonos with tuxs and white wedding dresses as the "uniforms" for weddings. No, the Japanese connect the keikogi with budo because of its Japanese-ness, not because it is simply the right uniform when you go to aikido.

I agree that Ueshiba wore "regular" clothes for training, so what is my point?

As I said previously, if you think aikido is either (A) a purely physical and results-oriented self-defense system or (B) a spiritual pursuit connected with universal truths, there is no reason to see aikido as culturally nested. However, by almost any other definition of what aikido is, or any other goal of an aikido practitioner, aikido is at least partially a cultural pursuit. The argument against the keikogi is almost a straw-man argument because it is one of the least important cultural aspects of the practice, but it is one. For example, having clothes that wrap and tie give you a different feeling of movement from having clothes that pull over and have elastic.

To examine via reductio ad absurdum, we could make the same argument as is made against keikogi against suwari waza or against wrist grabs. That is, Ueshiba practiced what was in his daily life. He wore Japanese clothes because he wore them in his regular life. He did suwari waza because he sat in seiza in his regular life. He practiced wrist grabs because he grew up in a time when people were still familiar with and owned traditional weapons. Ergo, we should practice aikido in sweatpants, out of chairs, and against sucker punches. Etc. But if you start removing all these elements, you just end up with people practicing a type of gymnastics rather than a budo.

(Plus, you run the risk that when you get rid of element X from your practice, you haven't understood X's total importance and you lose the opportunity to learn from it.)

I think the fundamental problem with your position is that you are arguing against any static definition of a "traditional culture" while the reality is that, while "traditional culture" may have been different in 1600, 1800, and 2000, there were definite cultures at these times. Practicing aikido may not be touching a "traditional Japanese culture," but it is touching a past Japanese culture.

Of course, learning about 20th century Japan is not the purpose of aikido, and taking aikido for that purpose is probably a big FAIL, but if you take aikido in a classical dojo, you will learn something about it.

Christopher Li wrote: View Post
If you're talking about "traditional" Japanese culture, then how did that work for Morihei Ueshiba, was he also trying to become part of some culture? If he wasn't - than what was he trying to do? Shouldn't that be where we're trying to go?
The short answer is "no". Unless aikido is a cult. If aikido is a cult, then yes everyone should follow the master's path. But if not, then we can find our own meanings and goals in it. It may be that aikido has an "intelligent design" and a "teleology" to its practice, but that doesn't mean we need to follow it.

Christopher Li wrote: View Post
That's your preference of course, but that doesn't mean that that it's impossible, we do it around here quite often. Once again, if Morihei Ueshiba taught outside without keikogi or etiquette (as he was known to do on many occassions), would it still be Aikido?
Revisiting the problem of traditions, there is not a strict dichotomy between the existence of a single unbroken tradition and the absence of context. Ueshiba may have trained in something besides keikogi and without etiquette, but he did not train in nylon shorts, jeans, or sweat pants nor with students who would hold their own sidebar conversations, ask self-involved questions, or step away from training without asking leave.

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