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Old 03-12-2014, 11:55 AM   #4
jonreading's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido South (formerly Emory Aikikai)
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 1,135
Re: Do we train enough to understand our art's meaning and philosophy?

There is a scene in the old TV series, Shogun, in which Richard Chamberlain (somewhat jokingly) decrees that none of the servants should remove his hunted bird from hanging and aging in the garden. This hanging of a dead animal is an issue for the servants and one of them disobeys the decree, removes the bird and commits suicide for disobeying his lord. Upon learning what happened, Richard Chamberlain is at a loss for both what happened and what influence he has over the lives of his servants. This scene always resonated with me because it crystallized with me what it meant to hold power over others.

First, I think budo is the process of dealing with the immense weight of power over life and death and the consequences of life choices. It is probably more closely related to therapy for PTSD than [Western] religion. There is an essential power component that has to exist in order to have power over others (or have power exerted over you).
Second, a budo art needs to codify and educate effective methods of therapy. The practitioner must possess the power component or acquire it from the art as another curriculum.

That said, I think Aikido was designed to refine our ability to have power over ourselves, our actions, and those with whom we interact. I the think the philosophy of aikido is designed to give a moral compass to those who have serious power and influence. I do not think there are [proportionally] many people who fit this bill training in aikido.

I would love to take a course on managing a million dollars, but beyond an academic exercise it doesn't make much sense unless I actually have a million dollars to manage. While critical, I think (myself included) are practicing an exercise in wielding power and influence that we do not possess outside of our little aikido world. Saotome sensei has been touching on our [collective] lack of courage in aikido - I belive part of his message is first coming to terms with whether we believe in what we are doing, doing it in a manner that affects others, and taking responsibility for what we are doing.

Ultimately, I do not think its how many books you've read or seminars you've attended. I don't think its aligning your personal ideology with non-specific Eastern religion. I don't think it's how many hours you've been on the mat. I think its whether you realize if you have power and what that power does. Given that many of us train with a clear impression that we don't have power...

When you're young, you have pets that just die. Fish and mice and lizards are not meant for long lives and as parents that is why we choose them for our children; they just die and that's the end of things. Then one day you bring home a rabbit for Easter and that dang thing doesn't die... ever. Eventually, it goes to "live on a farm" because you are done with it and the kids move on. Then you get a dog and you get hit one day with a decision to take a member of the family to the vet and not come home with it. Old, sick, whatever. You make a choice to end a life. You rationalize it, but in the end you made a choice. It should hit you like a brick. It should be unfair. It should make you appreciate everything about that life that you just ended. This is budo; not some book written by some guy telling me to think happy thoughts.

Last edited by jonreading : 03-12-2014 at 11:57 AM.

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