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Old 11-16-2004, 08:15 PM   #26
Joe Bowen
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Dojo: Yongsan Aikikai
Location: But now I'm in the UK
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 212
South Korea
Re: Aikido and Preserving Ego

What a nice little thread. So many ideas and opinions are presented. Let me just address a few of them……..

Matthew Green wrote:
I practice Zen, and I was wondering if Aikido is still just to preserve one's ego. I know that many of O'Sensei's teachings were to shed ones ego, but if you do so, then who are you defending? What is the "point" of defending oneself? I personally practice Aikido just for fun, and find it to be a good physical and spiritual activity. I do not plan on ever having to defend myself. I believe good Karma is your best defense in life. On the other hand, I guess you could look at it from the perspective that the attacker is only attacking themselves. I am very interested in other people's insights on this topic. Zen and of other faith..... …..Thank you all for taking interest in this thread. It has been an issue I have been thinking about for some time. I really find the concept that the attacker has their own ego very interesting. I was always told to understand that ego only exists as what was created by society. For example, even if you hate someone, your ego cannot exist without them, because you identify yourself as not being them. That is why I think that we need to respect everyone we encounter in our lives. They are making up what we call our reality. To fight against them is to fight your own reality and ultimately ourselves" ego". That is why I enjoy Aikido, because you are not actually fighting against them. They are fighting themselves. In Buddhism, everyone is viewed as one. I believe to attack someone is to attack yourself. And of course, there is still that whole Karma thing........and of course, there is still the option that this is all crap. hahaha. Fell free to tell me if you think so. I'll listen.
This is a lot of intellectual thought for a practitioner of Zen. Buddhist tradition is full of stories and examples of monks not resisting some type of onslaught and being wiped out. But, on the other hand Buddhism exists today, so somewhere along the line, some of them refused to go "quietly into the night". In fact, Buddhist monks are credited with major advances in the martial arts tradition (i.e. the Shaolin monks) and the 1st Zen patriarch in China is supposed to have developed the initial martial forms practiced by the monks in order to improve their physical health. To preserve the physical body is not necessarily the same as preserving the ego….

Charles Hill wrote:
I disagree with the idea that O`Sensei intended for us to shed the ego with Aikido practice. Saotome Sensei has said that we should work to improve our ego, make it bigger, stronger. (That is, if I understood him correctly) It is also important to note, I think, that O`Sensei reportedly hated Zen and would get angry if he heard that a student was practicing it. Charles Hill
Not sure how Saotome Sensei is using the term ego in your quote. O Sensei's probably didn't "hate" Zen, but probably would have preferred his students to have studied Shinto or followed a religious practice similar to his own. Since when he "lectured" on Aikido most of his spiritual/ metaphysical references would have come from his own religious practice….

Anders Bjonback wrote:
I don't think aikido is necessarily about preserving one's ego. For one thing, it works against our usual tendency to either to return struggle with struggle, to blindly go into a contest of egos….But really, Zen can be used to preserve one's ego if you're using it as a way of defining oneself. "I'm a Zen Buddhist, therefore I meditate and do these other practices and have this belief structure." Or, "I'm Zen and I believe in letting go of all belief structures." Ego is really tricky. I remember this one adage that went something like, "Those who grasp onto existence are stupid, but those who grasp onto emptiness are as stupid as a cow."
You're correct in that any practice can be used to bolster or preserve one's ego. I like your last quote. Most Zen practice is about striping away attachments, to include the attachment to Zen practice….

Owen Matchim wrote:
While I'm new to Aikido, I had merely assumed that by 'ego', O-Sensei meant something more like 'pride' in the 7 deadly sin type way. Like to shed the idea that a guy is too macho to be thrown by a girl for example. Or that he should always try to overpower his nage so they can't do their technique properly in some stupid test to show supposed superiority. My Sensei explained to me that we do break falls and that in the dojo to sort of beat humility into you (maybe a bad choice of words but I hope you catch my drift). Then if you got into a fight on the street or something, and you found yourself in a tight spot you could roll to safety instead of trying overpower them with brute strength because you don't want to show what you perceive as weakness by rolling. But again, I haven't been practicing very long so please tell me if I'm way off.
You're not too far off, just a little. Rolling is fun, and a great way to get back to your feet after you have been thrown, but if you just try to roll away from someone in a fight it is far too easy for them to just follow you and attack you again as you are trying to get up. You are correct in that ukemi is about surviving an encounter, but you just can't "roll away" from a fight….

Michael Riehle wrote:
Ego is always discussed as though it's a Bad Thing. Maybe it isn't? A gall bladder is not a Bad Thing. We are much better off with it than without it, unless it's unhealthy. Then we have to remove it because we can live without it. You can't really just remove your ego. But some people have observed that obtaining a healthy ego is a lot more like removing the old one and replacing it with a better one than it is like working out muscles to make them stronger. I'm rambling here, but it seems like these ideas address some of the points made in this thread.
All too true. From a psychoanalytical view, the ego is our organized conscious mediator between the person and reality especially by functioning both in the perception of and adaptation to reality, and is supplemented by our id and superego. From the Zen perspective, this "reality interface" often times interferes with our ability to function properly by distorting the reality by remaining too rigid. Therefore, Zen practice attempts to strip away the interference so that the practitioner experiences a purer form of reality. Striping away the layers of the ego requires a great deal of practice and effort, and perhaps you never can quite strip it away completely, but you can work to minimize the distortion.

David Valadez wrote:
It is a good question, and it is not without its answers or solutions, especially since it is related to one of the main points of all Budo training. I think a like statement would be:
"If there is no ego, who is doing the Zen training?"
Politely, the answer to that question is the same answer to your question. dmv
This is a great rebuttal to too much intellectualizing. Many of the Zen Koan practice revolve around questions such as this. In the end, it is an unanswerable question. "As soon as you open your mouth to answer, you are wrong"….

Lynn Seiser wrote:
Count how many times "I" is used in these posts and an idea will form regarding efforts to preserve it. The learned identity ego is useful. Just don't take it too seriously or too personally. Now, who ever is asking and answering, back to training.
Best answer yet. Open your mouth to speak and you are actively engaging your ego in the answer. Proper response is to just keep training…….

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