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Old 09-01-2013, 09:33 AM   #209
Keith Larman
Dojo: AIA, Los Angeles, CA
Location: California
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,604
Re: Is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

And after going off on that *long* tangent about daito, kanji, and the inherent danger of reading in to things via translation, I forgot to mention the one thing that was more relevant to this thread (although I think it all is relevant, actually, and symptomatic of the thinking that causes debate where none is really necessary). If you look at the history of the Japanese sword it was a history that constantly morphed, shifted, and at a few times was almost completely lost. Floods ravaged Bizen at one point wiping out a lot of sword making "technology". The relative peace of the Tokugawa era actually ushered in a great deal of changes in swords, some of which many complain resulted in inferior swords (hence the prized status of Koto (the old sword era) as compared to "Shinto" (the new sword era). And of course there was the Meiji restoration, the prohibition on wearing swords, and then of course WWII which almost completely decimated the craft. However, things went on, things changed, and new stuff emerged. Meaning for anything that is alive in a new day and age is touched in some manner by the time. Even koryu arts see subtle changes over time -- the real difference is that they've been around longer. Swords *were* influenced by foreign imports such as foreign steel (the so-called "Namban steel") as an example. And the transition from wearing swords as tachi, slung low from hangers to wearing as uchigatana (thrust through the obi edge up) didn't happen overnight. It took over a century (or maybe longer) for the "style" to complete the change. And I would bet you could find someone who still slides on all the old armor and wears a tachi hung from the belt instead. The point I'm making is that every change probably generated the same debate we're seeing here, with the "traditionalists" saying "it's just not swordsmanship anymore" or whatever. And they'll list the reasons why including how it's tradition, how doing it this way rather than that way teaches different lessons.

So they quibble about what to call this new fangled thing. But over the long term, well, whatever evolves and whatever sticks ends up being whatever it is called. Sure, the debate can be important if we're concerned with losing important things or if we feel that something critical to the very "soul" of the art is being lost -- The introduction of mass produced blades in WWII followed by the allies banning weapons, swords included, was almost the death of the traditional sword craft (thank God IMHO exceptions were eventually made for traditional craft). And yet even today in the traditional craft the very exceptions that allowed the traditional craft to survive the aftermath of WWII are the things modern smiths often push up against, bristling at what they see as stagnating rules preventing creativity and experimentation, all critical for the survival of an art.

Anyway, things evolve. Things do what they do. Heck, the analogy of a river flowing is used to describe traditional ryuha as it is. It flows, it changes slowly, it sometimes takes a hard left turn. It is the nature of the beast. And saying "oh, that's not *really* this or that" strikes me as short sighted and a narrow point of view. History will decide in the long run. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be extremely careful about shifting too much too fast -- of course. I've got stories about that problem as well in Japanese swords. Mistakes, omissions, losses of critical information due to those who really shouldn't be innovating deciding they know what they're doing. Heck, there is no shortage of examples of people like that on this forum IMHO.

But enough rambling for me for today. Have a great day everyone!

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