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Old 08-26-2013, 11:42 AM   #87
jonreading's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido South (formerly Emory Aikikai)
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 1,135
Re: Is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

I would be hard-pressed to find an aikido book that does not glorify, if not misrepresent, the Japanaese cultural, including linguistic translation. In promoting the art, it is not inappropriate - I am fine with the PR campaign. If I am consuming the material as fact... Well...

I tend to avoid cultural labels in aikido because so much of what we "know" is not accurate. Most of what I have redefined in my "knowledge" of aikido has actually come from other historical books and non-aikido material. I think if we are going to claim aikido provides a sound foundation of Japanese cultural or socio-historical information, we have a lot of work in front of us.

I think there aikido people who have a working knowledge of Japanese culture they may not have pursued without training aikido. I am not sure all aikido people have taken to increasing their cultural awareness beyond what is required in their training. I think part of the interest of Japanese martial arts is the close ties to a romaticized war class. There is an attraction to the cultural period that we have decided to remain part of. Wearing one-size-fits-most scratchy undies is undoubtably a decision based upon the culture period in which we want to stay rooted. I can buy $10 worth of workout clothes from Walmart that are more comfortable, more effective, and more appropriate for a variety of training conditions... especially down South.

I think tying ourselves to a "exotic" culture with extreme etiquette gives us validation and authority over those who know less. It sets an image for those around us to inquire, "what are those people doing in with those wooden sticks and outlandish clothes?" In saying this, I am not criticizing the value of this decision; I think identifying with a period and a culture can often provide a context in which we are able to act.

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