Re: Aikido and being Christian
I've been a "born again" Christian for almost three decades. I have practiced aikido for a little more than half that time. So far, I haven't had any conflict between my faith and my aikido practice. I think sometimes people mistake the effects of long training for something magical or supernatural (call it "ki" or "chi", if you will). I mean, a concert pianist can do things on the keys of a piano that are impossible for me to do. Is this pianist, then, possessed with a piano-playing demon? Of course not. Likewise, someone who has trained hard in aikido for forty years is going to have skills that may initally seem supernatural to the aikido novice. Time and training will change that view to one that is rather more mundane. This has been my experience in Aikido.
I do wonder, though, at some of the stories I've heard and read of concerning O-sensei's martial abilities. It's one thing to play the piano brilliantly; it's quite another to be able to play three or four simultaneously without actually touching any of them. And this is what some of O-sensei's martial feats amount to. He would have, in some of the instances that I am aware of, had to exceed the laws of physics in order to do what he did. That, or some of his direct students are fantastic liars.
Anyway, as a Christian, I believe that there is a spiritual realm (of which O-sensei seemed quite aware). Obviously, I cannot believe the contents of the Bible and deny the presence of spiritual beings. However, I don't jump to conclusions about whether or not a thing is supernatural simply because that thing is new or exceptional to my experience. Just because someone can do something remarkable that I cannot doesn't necessarily mean that they have tapped into some dark spiritual force. Mind you, if someone can hold out a staff in one hand and prevent it from moving while six or seven people push with all their might against, well, I can't help thinking there is more at work in that than really amazing physical technique. This seems to me to go beyond clever manipulation of the physical to the transcedence of it. Perhaps I just need more training...
To any Christians out there who may have some concern about the "ki" thing in Aikido I would suggest that it is just the deep refining of one's intuition, sensory perception and physical movement expressed in relaxed, powerful, creative and effective responses to attack. If, however, you can stand perfectly still with your eyes closed and throw and pin twenty guys to the floor without touching any of them, you might want to visit your nearest exorcist - that or become your own one-man, pro-footbal team.
Take it easy!