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Old 05-10-2004, 02:13 PM   #27
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Re: Aikido and Samurai: a few questions

Mr. Peling began this post by saying:

"I was struck by several thoughts. First, many things that I have read in my growing interest about Japanese history are described here as "myths." Second, that people discounted or dismissed the connection between Aikido and the Samurai."

At first it seemed strange to me, as I'm sure it did to Mr. Peling, to some degree, that one would have to so "cautiously" approach the topic of the relationship between the warrior class of feudal Japan, bushido, and Aikido. But if you look at the following responses taken from the various posts thus offered, one could indeed understand where Mr. Peling was coming from and why he had to do it in the way that he did. Folks had the following to say:

a. That Aikido and the samurai have no relation to each other.
b. That samurai did not seek spiritual awakening.
c. That all samurai were bisexual.
d. That bushido had a tenet that proposed or demanded bisexuality.
e. That bushido did not exist until the 20th century.
f. That bushido was about piracy and brigandage.
g. That bushido is merely a justification for the political machinations of thugs.
h. That bushido is a formula for violence.
i. That bushido is only about fighting and killing.
j. That budo and bushido are in total contrast to each other.

Respectfully, I have to say that none of these statements are accurate. While one's decision to outright reject bushido (either in total or in parts) is of course one's prerogative, reinforcing one's personal decision with the weight of historical accuracy is an option that should remain open only to those that do not hold such positions as the ones listed above -- in this case.

It will always be hard to say what bushido is and/or is not. I think we will always have to accept that. Of course, we will have to also accept the fact that works like the "Hagakure" and "Bushido" played a huge part in the formulation of such notions. But we would be wiser to say that these works played a huge part in formulation of such notions such that they can speak to our own modern minds than if we said that they invented bushido outright. Rather there was long, slow, and random process by which the warrior of Japan came to build a link between what he did on the battlefield and what he did off of that field. In general, and especially for our purposes, he drew a relation between ethical ("proper") behavior and military practice. This long, slow, and random process is itself connected to another long, slow, and random process -- the one whereby "Japan" was unified and brought into Modernity. All this, I believe, has to be kept in mind.

Thus, I think one would be pressured to say that the bushido of the samurai came to an end with the end of feudalism, or soon there about -- this is because a class mentality was so much at the center of it, etc. However, that other part, small as it may be, of bushido that connected ethical (by today's standards) behavior to military practice, and vice versa, has indeed continued on past feudalism and even into today. It is this part that I think Mr. Ledyard is referring to in his post. I would only like to say that such personnel (i.e. military) cannot, like we cannot, choose the bushido of the samurai because of the elements contained therein that were central to things like the social system of feudalism. On the other hand, we, like military personnel, can indeed choose to foster a relationship between ethical behavior and our various military practices. I do not think that law enforcement agents or the various military agents of state governments have a monopoly or even an upper hand in this regard.

Budo on the other hand, I believe, is not solely a concern for ethical behavior in one's life and/or in relation to one's military practice. It is the way of spiritual awakening via the means of martial practice. Thus, bushido and budo are not the same things -- true. But they are not in opposition to each other either. In my opinion, it is not too fair to think of one as the evolution or devolution of the other. They are just different things -- even if a normal cultural overlap is present.

dmv
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