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Old 05-10-2004, 05:00 PM   #36
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Aikido and Samurai: a few questions

Dennis Hooker wrote:
George wrote

"Now, Budo is another issue. If you train in the martial arts seriously there are certain values that inform that world. When those values begin to form the basis for your values system, when training is at the heart of how you structure your life, then you could be said to be following the path of Budo. I think Budo assumes that you have decided to live your life as a warrior even though you might not be a professional military person."

George, since we are talking about Aikido and its relationship to budo let me go in just a little different direction. Your feed back is always welcome.

Ueshiba O' Sensei would often say "Aikido is true budo". Did that mean the other stuff was not? I believe through his training and development process he came to a new understanding of what budo was. Indeed, I believe as the old concepts and moirés were filtered through him they changed a great deal and changed him a great deal. He was not your typical Japanese group submissive or even group follower; although he was a fierce Nationalist and an Imperialist of the old school he was also a mover and shaker. He seemed to be quite a contradiction of old and new. Personally I believe just as he redefined the meaning of Aiki to incorporate benevolence and love he redefined budo to fit his physical, spiritual and philosophical understanding of the art he was creating. It is significantly different from the old school thinking. Even his concept of what he was developing was dramatically different post and pre WWII. Read his daka and see the change in his understanding of what he was developing and how he viewed its place in world. I believe we Americans have defined for ourselves (if not redefined for many Japanese) the meaning of that enigmatic word Budo. We have changes Aikido just as it has changed us and in so doing we no longer hold onto the old ways but embrace the new. I believe this is true if our Aikido is alive and vibrant and we let that show through us. Just as he did we take what we like and add to it our own experiences and believes and we change, and are changed by the process. Budo as defined by the Aikidoka should be flexible and ever-changing to reflect the changing humanity of the practitioner.

Dennis Hooker
Hi Dennis,
I think that Ueshiba Morihei saw what he was doing from an evolutionary standpoint but was certainly aware that it was revolutionary as well. When he made statements like "Aikido is True Budo" I do not believe that he necessarily meant that everything that went before was not. Rather I think he saw what he did rather like the founder of the B'hai Faith saw his new religion, namely as one that superseded but was still based on, the teachings of the past.

As far as O-sensei was concerned, all that was positive about the Budo traditions of the past are contained within Aikido but he felt that his teachings offered a brand new way to view them and practice them. By changing the assumptions underlying the practice we get a new outcome, something creative rather than destructive, an art which is designed to create peace, not by destroying an enemy but rather by destroying the illusions upon which conflict is based in the first place.

I would absolutely agree with you that we are in the process of redefining Budo. We started with an understanding of that word as it was taught to us by Japanese instructors. Now we have our own understanding of what we each mean by it. Although it won't be exactly a Japanese understanding, it won't be a typical American understanding either. And that is good. Some people say that if Aikido is going to become a truly American art, we should dispense with all Japanese terms, etiquette, anything which is Japanese in flavor. I totally disagree with this.

There is a reason that so many people look outside their own cultures for spiritual inspiration. Often it is difficult to see the truths in ones own traditions because one is too close to them and has grown up being too familiar with how their own traditions have failed to live up to their own ideals. But traditions from outside have the advantage of helping us shift our perspective and this is always helpful when working on spiritual issues. That why one often finds people from outside our own culture looking to our traditions for inspiration at the same moment we are looking to theirs.

So Budo has come to America. We will make something of it that is uniquely our own. I think we are more likely to make something really deep and creative out of the art than the Japanese themselves. Then it will be interesting to see if the teaching starts to go the other direction, from here back to Japan (somehow I suspect not without some resistance).

One can see this on the brink of happening in other arts, not just in Aikido. In many martial arts, especially the Koryu, and also many of the cultural arts like tea ceremony, etc. the senior students of these arts are in foreigners from N. America, S. America or Europe. When the Japanese sit up and realize that this has happened it is a shock for them. It will be interesting to see what they end up doing about it.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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