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Old 02-01-2009, 01:20 PM   #14
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

There are two types of folks whom, in my opinion, you don't want to be. First is the True Believer as Eric Hoffer called him. This is the guy that "drinks the cool aid" so to speak. The suspension of common sense, the subjugating of ones own judgment to another person or to an ideology. You can see this within Aikido all the time. Our way is the right way. My teacher was the one who really understood the Founder. This is the real way the Founder did technique and the other folks out there are ruining Aikido.

The True Believer shuts down his own process in order to model himself on some outside set of beliefs or principles. Almost always this seriously restricts his growth as a person and retards any ability to go beyond the external limits placed on him. In Aikido this type of thinking results in practitioners who are good copies of an original. But a copy is never as good as the original because it lacks genuineness, originality, and creativity. But seeking out your own way is far riskier and entails living at the edge of ones comfort level. Most folks prefer to have someone else tell them what to do.

The other extreme is the perennial doubter. In his effort to not "drink the cool aid" he ignores anything that he doesn't feel is proven already to his satisfaction. I guess I don't really understand this deeply rooted fear of "being fooled". But there are many folks who seem so controlled by this fear that they dismiss, out of hand, anything which they don't understand.

I have many friends who a like this. I have watched as they summarily dismissed a teacher or a style based simply on a YouTube video. I have seen people simply turn their backs on some training because it challenged their preconceived notions of what is what. It's much easier to call something fake and walk away than to make the changes needed to understand and maybe do what had previously been thought impossible.

Morihei Ueshiba was clearly a giant in 20th century Japanese martial arts. I am sure he had that rare combination of natural talent and total focus on succeeding required to be great. I once heard someone say that Ueshiba Sensei's true distinguishing character was that he trained harder than anyone this person knew. And that is what yields wisdom.

Yes, it is important that each of us find and develop his own wisdom; find what makes each of genuine. But an attachment to that individuality causes us to ignore what has been done by others before us. The resistance to being drawn into someone else's sphere can cut us off from the synergy of collective effort. It causes us to reinvent the wheel rather than piggy back on the work others have done before us. In fact, if we are talking about the highest levels of teaching, you won't even reinvent the wheel unless you slipstream behind the work done by others.

Myth is very important in a culture. It is at the heart of the drive to better ourselves. In our Aikido culture, the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba, is our central mythical figure. His myth provides the model for our practice and our striving to be better.

The modern trend towards historical deconstruction is valuable. It allows us to see how our reality has failed to match our myths. But I have to say that the facts of reality seldom inspire anyone. It is the power of myth to move people.

It's important to understand the Founder and to this end, historical research, understanding of the cultural and religious influences that shaped his thinking all contribute. But it is not the historical O-Sensei as a man like the rest of us but rather the mythical figure of O-Sensei as a man who has become something greater that inspires us to go the distance and attempt great things.

But myth supplies the inspiration, it is not your reality. The True Believer ceases to exist as himself by subjugating his own reality to the myth. The Doubting Thomas disavows the myth and settles for less than he might otherwise have accomplished because he stays within his own comfort zone and his own understanding.

Training is about developing the strength of character to be centered, to be oneself. If one has this strong sense of himself he will never disappear into some cult or ideology. Nor will he feel threatened by new ideas or things that he can't explain. He is free if he is centered. The myth for such a person provides the target, it is the source of aspiration. It doesn't actually matter if the myth was historically true in every detail; that 's not its power.

We need the myths. A culture that has its myths destroyed is lost, its heart is missing. Every time we destroy one of our myths, we are driven to find another to put in its place. Its how the human mind works. When used correctly it can be a tremendous impetus towards growth. When used incorrectly it can be deadly.

Why would we impute some degree of wisdom to Morihei Ueshiba? Well, he trained longer and harder than any of us doing things most of us will never do. So that's a pretty good start right there. Coupled with the fact that, clearly his intentions were towards the light rather than towards the dark I think that gives us enough of a reason to give his ideas a good hearing. But the "myth" of the Founder is merely a tool we can use in our lives and our training. We can be inspired by it but do not lose ourselves in it. But for me, I am always looking to verify the myth through my own efforts in training rather than spending all my time debunking the myth as many people feel they need to do. That, to me, is the function of the myth.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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