Join Date: Oct 2000
My two cents in defense of AikiWeb.
This is an internet forum, not a dojo. A dojo is a particular place of a particular kind of practice, with a Sensei who is, within that realm, The Authority; there is considerable physical risk to participants. Talking should be the absolute minimum (in my opinion), and obedience to Sensei should be instant. An internet forum is a place in a global communications network where nobody is really in charge, and, aside from a few sociopathic tragedies, nobody is in physical danger. This is a place to read/write freely, within the limits of applicable laws, common sense and decency. As someone mentioned, this is a place where we can discuss things like aikido and MA history and philosophy, talk of future and past, etc. But a dojo it is not. If I hold my arm out to my computer, none of you can grab my wrist. (At least not at present levels of technology; maybe haptic devices will get better.)
This is a forum. That word is Latin, from "foris," meaning outside, beyond the door (of the dojo, perhaps), in the open air. This is a place of rhetoric, of dialogue, of conversation and even humor, sometimes sarcasm and criticism (but please play nice). We can toss around thoughts here, perhaps thoughts we would never feel comforable expressing inside, in a dojo, in a face-to-face conversation with a great Sensei, where we tend rather to be timid and subservient and quiet. We don't toss each other physically, but perhaps rhetorically. And just as we need to learn on the mat not to use our "upper body strength," and how to take atemi and ukemi, perhaps here we need to learn to to use our "upper head" strength that might injure each other. If we can survive the bumps and bruises we get from each other here, we may bring more peace to the world.
There are other points I would like to make. What would happen on a foreign policy forum if Mr. Bush or Mr. Blair decided to join? Chances are, they would receive a lot of criticism, and high-tail it out of there after "Thank you very much." Why do so few top academics participate in internet fora? Because in a real sense, they are "fora" in the classical sense of the word. They are "outisde." They are outside all the protocols and decora of our professions, of our status. If you are the President, Prime Minister, a bishop, a monk, or a seventh-grader, we all come here pretty much stripped of our dignity of office and status. This place is really "outside," and this can be a shock to folks expecting deferential treatment and "respect" that they receive in other places, such as dojo's or universities or government offices. This is a very level playing field, and if your ideas are subject to critique (and everything I write can be critiques about 18 ways to Sunday), then you get criticism. If people can't take this, they are free to go back "inside" to their protected, status-filled environments where nobody expresses themselves as freely. I've done that with some forums. I just couldn't take it. Nobody is forced to be here.
But we should respect each other as human beings, and respect all applicable laws (no slander, threats, etc.) Aside from that, however, the internet forum is a great place to be "stripped" of our robes of office and be really humble. "Who I am" realy doesn't matter here. Nobdoy cares about my CV, what honors I've received, etc. That can be refreshing and enlightening as very cold water, if I can stand it.
I also think this is important for the future of martial arts. We certainly are not going back to 18th century Japan, or even early 20th century Japan, or the martial arts world of the 1970's in the U.S. How will these arts exist in the future? Not as parts of a historical Japanese culture. Confucian ideas of obedience and filial piety are losing ground even in Asia; they will not be suitable models, in my opinion, for the future of martial arts. (Otherwise, for one thing there would be no female leaders in martial arts; wait a minute, where are the female leaders today?) We cannot model, in my opinion, the future of martial arts as a broad human endeavor on historical samurai or Japanse Zen. Dojos are not places of free communication and thought, in my opinion; that is how it should be, also my opinion. Also, "big events" are filled with an atmosphere of formality, need to avoid giving offense, etc. Again, that is not a place for "free and casual" expression and exchange regarding martial arts. This forum may provide a "safe" place to discuss such issues, to discuss what of the past is a helpful stepping stone to the future, and what of the past is a wall.
Peace to all.