Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: How is aikido related to your spiritual path?
If I may sum up a couple of things:
1. Prior to a certain period (let's say the turn of the 20th century -- around there to be safe) we know, through the research of various scholars, that the current distinction between "do" and "jutsu" did not exist.
2. We also know that after a certain period (let's say the first part of the 20th century -- around there to be safe) a new distinction between "do" and "jutsu" started to exist, one that was "contrasting" in nature. We know that this movement to hold "do" (up) in contrast to "jutsu" (down) made ample use of Japanese culture's tendencies for aesthetic practices (e.g. revisionist history, double meanings, hidden meanings, foreign borrowings, etc.).
3. We know that currently, if we are really pressed, no one that adopts this distinction can make clear use of it.
4. And we know that today there is a backlash, or reverse of this distinction, that is taking place in some circles -- such that "jutsu" is held (up) in contrast to "do" (down).
When I see these things all together, the question that arises in my head is not "What is the truth?" The question is: "What's the truth game and who is it serving, how, and why?"
I came across an interesting angle on the "do/jutsu" debate -- one that I have not seen addressed at all in the literature that is building up around Aikido, etc., which is a shame because I think it might prove very interesting for those of us that wonder if the game is worth still playing. This area is by far not my area of specialty and I only came across it via a personal question I had. I did not reach any kind of valid conclusion, but I could see that there were connections that could be proven fruitful if one would simply take on the huge amount of research needed.
The question I was pondering over one day, due to an experience at class, dealt with the difference between Budo's historical technology of Self, which is for the most part Buddhist in nature, and the current technology of Self that Budo, especially Aikido, tends to implement today. As I said, this work is huge in scope, so I can only here give general ideas, which led me to more general ideas, etc. I do not wish to prove anything here, but rather lead the reader through some research paths that were leading me from one thing to the next thing -- all extremely interesting.
In that sense, let me generally explain what I mean so far without being required to address every contrasting position a reader may take. "Technology of the Self" was a term used by Michel Foucault to denote the various historical ways in which Man through culture comes to determine himself as "saved," "wise," "awakened," "enlightened," "holy," "well," "spiritual", etc. When I say that Budo's technology of the Self is Buddhist in nature I do not mean to imply that other traditions, such as Taoist traditions, Shinto traditions, Yin/Yang traditions, Confucian traditions, Christian traditions, etc., do not have their historical influence in Budo and/or in Aikido. They do. I merely mean to say that the technology used by Budo to determine who has reached its ideals (i.e. spiritual cultivation, awakened, enlightened, being a master), etc., is Buddhist in nature. That is to say the model Budo uses, for the most part, makes use of the Buddhist position concerning the nature of existence -- particularly that clearly defined in the writings of Nagarjuna (turn of the common era). All "problems to be fixed," all issues by which we as human beings require a technique to address properly, center around reconciling the subjective experience of Reality. Toward this end, throughout most of Budo's history various practices, of course derived from a plethora of other cultural traditions, have been used to address the problem set forth in Nagarjuna's tetralemma. Understanding this, we can very easily relate things as Musashi's emphasis on victory, Osensei's emphasis on ritual purification and Love, and Takuan's notion of immoveable wisdom, etc. -- mentioned here because they are commonly known.
But somewhere, for budoka, over time, the problem of reconciling the subjective experience of Reality stopped being a problem that required various techniques. For example -- Today it is quite common for folks to feel that they can be non-violent, loving, brave, compassionate, spiritual, empowered, awakened, and any of all the other ideals commonly put forth as a goal of this particular technology of the Self, simply by doing Aikido -- simply by doing Budo. There was a time when that would have been a crazy notion. These ideals could not be realized, in the past, until the reconciliation of the subjective experience of Reality took place. Today, however, for many, for more than not, it makes perfect sense. For most, do enough tenkan and you'll get "it". For some, a growing some, doing even one tenkan leads to a spiritual alteration in terms of whether or not one is violent, loving, compassionate, etc.
Yet there was a time when it would have been totally ridiculous to propose that the problematic of human violence, the capacity to Love and to feel compassion, etc., could be solved by something other than the reconciliation of the subjective experience of the world. Whereas today many hold that Aikido is a non-violent art, part of the modern evolved self that is non-violent, that it is the "rubber bullet" of martial arts, etc., practitioners of old would have clearly said, "Having rubber bullets doesn't make you a non-violent person." An epistemic shift has occurred, culturally speaking. Our two times appear paradoxical to each other. Somewhere a break took place.
Looking casually for that break I was led to see a relationship between some very interesting things -- some mentioned here:
a. The (re)defining of terms Budo and Bujutsu that started to take place around the turn of the 20th century.
b. The role that folks like Kano played in the current understanding of Budo's technology of the Self -- they way Kano "modernized" martial arts; they way he attempted to unify them; the institutional support he had to address them; the financial resources at his disposal to support them; etc.
c. The affect "The West" has had on Japanese history and/or self-understanding, etc., following the Meiji Restoration.
d. And a movement little known today, and never mentioned in my experience regarding Budo, called "Muscular Christianity".
Again, by scholastic standards there is nothing here to prove -- the research has not be done. But I can put forth a general hypothesis that may shed a new light on the truth game behind the will to (re)define Budo and Bujutsu.
Muscular Christianity was a movement that around the turn of the 20th century grew in popularity -- especially in Europe and the United States. Its position was that there was a direct relationship between things like being a good Christian, being masculine, being a good citizen of the State, and exercise, physical activity, and competition. The ideas contained and/or related to Muscular Christianity have gone on to create and/or influence such diverse things as the YMCA, the Modern Olympics, the Boy Scouts, the Hitler Youth, the health and fitness industry, the breakfast food industry, etc., AND Judo AND Kano's understanding of martial arts, particularly concerning the "do" and "justsu" endings.
Kano came into contact with these ideas and with the proponents of these ideas via his interests in Western athletics and his involvement with the Japanese Olympic committee as well as through his position in key government institutions related to the practice of martial arts. Nearly ever other martial arts, ourselves included, came into contact with these ideas via folks like Kano -- folks participating in the "rediscovering" or "redefining" or "modernizing" of Japan's martial arts. (Please note that this is not something that solely pertains to what might be called the "Gendai Budo" -- this is nearly across the board influence we are talking about.)
The cultural traces leftover by the Meiji Restoration had much of Japan thirsting for all things Modern and therefore Western. There was also a general distrust of things Buddhist since the Buddhist were associated too closely with the Bakufu (for many) which had just been overthrown and blamed for every ill Japan was facing as it raced to catch up with the West. What we see in the "do" and "justsu" contrast is not an evolution so much as it is a re-invention; it is a rejection of an older technology of the Self (Buddhist) and the adoption of a new one (Muscular Christianity) -- one that was deemed better because it was Modern (Western); but one that nevertheless had to make sense to those folks that were espousing it and making it work for them. Japan is famous or infamous, depending on your point of view, for doing this type of thing: borrowing something and making it theirs via little tweak here or there, a lie here or there, a misunderstanding here or there, etc. All cultures do it.
Once it was all in place, every member of the culture had to address it, had to use it to make sense of his or her own experiences, etc. Not even our shihan have escaped this history. They are for the most part thoroughly immersed in it. Only those who opted not to participate in this particular aspect of Japanese culture, those who could weather the harsh winters of no institutional support, and there were many in Japan, even within Judo and Aikido, etc., offer us something else -- something totally different.
In short, the "do/jutsu" distinction has a lot to do with influences from the West, influence that came in through movements like Muscular Christianity, and movements that rejected the old Buddhist technology of the Self for the a new Modern one that was 100% related to being a good citizen of the State.
Peter and Don -- love your posts. Could you please provide me with the source material for Bodiford's book. I would love to read it. If it's on the web -- some direction would be much appreciated.