Thread: Defining Aikido
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Old 03-12-2005, 09:40 PM   #5
Brion Toss
Dojo: Aikido Port Townsend
Location: Port Townsend, Wa.
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 104
Re: Defining Aikido

[quote=Mary Eastland I have seen and felt the transformation that dedicated, long term training brings to me and others in our dojo. I believe Aikido is a spirit rising to help heal the world.

Transformation brought about by training, yes. On the 'Without this, no Aikido' thread, the search seems to revolve around defining the art in terms of technical content, as perhaps modified in fact or supposition by cultural and historical considerations. David Valadez, in particular, speculates that there is nothing talismanic in the practice of Aikido waza that might result in enlightenment. But time and again I have seen the kind of transformation that you speak of, including, to some small extent, in myself, and I believe it was the result of that waza. Not easy to prove, of course.
So how can this be? How can the practice of a particular series of motions transform someone? Well, when I write it down like that, it seems obvious that such is often the case. I think of people spending long hours driving to work, then sitting all day in cubicles, then spending more hours driving home; with some form of compensatory activity/philosophy it's hard not to turn into a drudge, it seems. So if instead, or in addition, you are practicing an art that requires consciousness of yourself as well as those around you, that involves ongoing dynamic physical relationship with those people, that asks you to trust and to be trustworth, just to be in the class, some good must result.
This is not to say that there are any guarantees. Ken Kesey, speaking about the creative process, once said something like, "If you want to be inspired, you have to hang out in places that inspiration has been known to frequent." There are no guarantees that it will show up regularly, or at all. But you have to go there if you hope to find it. I think this accounts for all the great, though not entirely admirable teachers I have met in Aikido. They might be alchoholic, socially inept, abrasive, or worse, but that is not all they are; some aspects of Aikido's ideals is also present. And one has to wonder what they would be like if they hadn't practiced Aikido at all. So the absence of Perfect Masters in the art is not, on its own, evidence of its lack of transformative power. Rather, the evidence is available, in almost every dojo, that it has such power, enough to overcome, at least to some extent, huge psychological baggage, less than ideal training environment, and imperfect translation from the original.
So what is it about Aikido that can do this? Part of it may simply be its stated intent to transform the world, and to be a means of correcting oneself. If I founded a school for diesel mechanics, and over the door I inscribed the words, "Here we learn to bring peace to the world by repairing truck engines," and really meant it, and worked to demonstrate that every step of engine repair was in fact a metaphor for achieving peace, and if I could find anyone to suspend disbelief long enough to give it a chance, we could wind up with some good mechanics who could simultaneously adjust valve clearance and draw the attention of the Nobel committee. Intention is powerful.
Much more powerful, then, is coupling that intention with an art which exhibits specific, graphic, consistent concern with relating to conflict with some attempt at harmony.
Brion Toss
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