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Old 04-24-2006, 08:37 AM   #68
Erick Mead
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Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,619
Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Matthew Gano wrote:
Are you saying the term "self-defense" creates a more egocentric intention...a division between the concern of self and the concern for another? I think I understand: it's good to consider other layers of meaning which might be affixed to the concept/phrase "self defense." Am I understanding you correctly here?
In part, yes, and in another sense, no. 正勝吾勝 "Masagatsu Agatsu" "True conquest -- self-conquest." "True victory is victory over self." I find that the term "self-defense," and more importantly the attitude that it seems to inculcate in technique is troubling to the sense that O-Sensei gave in his famous phrase. These are no mere word games, but ways to think about how we critically judge and adapt our practice. Verbal metaphors for physical acts, that we can think through after the fact and then find ways to adapt in a reasoned way to the irrational physical arena of practice.
Matthew Gano wrote:
Do you mean "opponant" to be a person who stands in literal opposition? It is my "understanding" (if you can call it that ) that if I perform pure Aikido I have no real opposition and thus no literal opponant. I feel as if I'm staring too closely at something and missing the big picture as a result. Sorry for my uncertainty.
I guess what I am saying, taking a cue from those who describe aikido as a physical conversation, is to examine technique in its usages, just as we critically examine words and their roots. To discover what things we have transformed into something we wish them or make them to be, from our unconscious motivations, rather than what they were intended or designed to do by their inventor. By doing this we can find hidden meaning, as well find a way to be both creative and true to the spirit of the techniques

In fact, the whole scheme of words we use in this context (in English) involve interesting psychological reinterpretations or inflations from much more pedestrian roots. I have a deep sense that in words, as in physical technique, our usage tends naturally to seek the conceptual "end-of-the-road" i.e. -- words of conflict are made to seem harder and tougher -- words of comfort are made to seem more soft and inviting. Usage and impact thus shifts from the root meaning of the initial design toward the root meaning of subsequent usage.

The sense of conflict in meaning makes usage in language harsher, as the same sense in technique tends to make technique harsher, a tendency that we aikidoka in principle try to both use in one way, and to avoid in another, like a boat sailing against the wind. People who have only ever rowed boats may laugh at the nonsense idea of using the wind to sail upwind, but it does work, and quite well. It requires weight and depth in the keel, which is never apparent above the waterline. Something else to think about.

When O-Sensei spoke of True Budo -- perhaps this was part of what he was getting at.

Opponent -- L. opponere, from ob + poner = "to put or place against" One Latin sense of the root is to "lean on." One "leans on" friends for support as well as would-be victims as a threat
A good cognate here is "musubi." Uke and nage are natural opponents, which is to say neither has really chosen the roles they are given. By positing uke, one posits nage, and vice versa -- they have inherent connecton in meaning to one another.

Adversary -- "adversus", (past participle of advertere) = "Turning towards"
A fascinating cognate here is the blended sense of irimi/tenkan. Is the turning towards good or bad? Eye of the beholder.

"Enemy" is one usage in which the sense is seemingly preserved intact from Old French -- L. "inimicus" -- in+ amicus = not + friend, However, the Latin "inamicus" can also mean "friendless." Again, which sense are we called to respond to when confronted with an enemy?

Similarly the purely English , "Foe" -- OE "gefa" = foe or "fah" hostile (But "fear" is a closely related word, BTW) A "foe" is only the object of fear.

Back to "Self-Defense" -- Latin "defendere" means to "ward off" and "self-defense" thus carries a sense of "pushing away from me." This sense is deeply antithetical to irimi, the very heart of aikido technique.

Victim/victor from L. "vincere" = "to conquer"
Thus, in O-Sensei's sformula "Masakatsu Agatsu" (正勝吾勝) "True conquest -- self conquest.": one seeks to be both victor and victim -- a sensibility with deep resonance for Christians. "Jihad" primarily speaks of "self-struggle" for Muslims in submitting to the will of God (insh'Allah). This complex of ideas is a common meeting place for them with Buddhists, Shinto, Taoists, Jews and a whole host of other modes of faith. It is a good place to start from in analyzing our practice.

Erick Mead
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