Dojo: Latham Eclectic
Join Date: Oct 2007
Re: Tuning the "skin" video
Benjamin, thanks so much for your words, and your contribution to this creation, as it gives us all something to work with. I like your term "partial understanding," because it's really relative. Even Ueshiba has loads of videos available that show him at various levels of "partial understanding."
And my video wasn't a "work," per se. It was me throwing out some sketchwork and having the desire to create a starting point from which something can be created. And that "something" is a way for us to discover a language in which to work, create, play, share, and grow.
We have to understand something about "power." The average teenager today - with access to the internet and a credit card - has more power available to them than all the kings and queens of civilizations past. We have far more power available to us than the founders of aikido did. And, in fact, it is our very power that will empower them even more.
M. Ueshiba learned, and was taught, in an age of largely one-to-one communication. Then the age of one-to-many came about over time, and largely through media. His son, K. Ueshiba, and Tohei were largely responsible for the one-to-many model and the growth of Aikikai and Ki Society, respectively, as well as the founding of "branch" schools by other direct students.
We have entered an age of many-to-many communication. A new level of "structure." And, as such, we are discovering that the very institutions, hierarchies, and power structures that were once effective, trusted, and supportive - are becoming irrelevant. The pyramids of power - by their own design - are collapsing under their own weight.
To be honest here, I started training at NY Aikikai under Yamada many years ago. And I've got to say that for many years after, I didn't like him. I didn't like the "power structure." But Yamada's really been receptive to the "turning of the tide." He's started his own organization. He's also speaking out on things such as belts and dan grades, politics, and how the internal structure of aikido - where it was once supportive - can not longer support aikido. Aikido has grown, and by definition, now requires a structure that allows for more freedom, more autonomy - more power.
Which sort of gets us back to "skin as structure." M. Ueshiba was the architect. K. Ueshiba was the engineer. The direct students were the builders who constructed the building. And we have reached a phase not only in aikido - but in our civilization - where the scaffolding is being removed. Interestingly enough, if you want to look at power, look at what Stanley Pranin has done. He has, as an historian, nearly single-handedly exposed and dismantled the old power structure - for all of us to see. It's not that there was anything wrong with the "old" power structure at the time. But we are all moving to a new level. He's also been responsible for bringing more aikidoka together than anyone else.
In the new many-to-many model, Stanley Pranin is the Toto in the Wizard of Oz, who pulls the curtain away, to expose, not a powerful being who rules through fear, deception, and smoke and mirrors - but a simple man - with his own frailties, imperfections, and "partial understandings." Stanely Pranin has pulled the curtain back to show us ourselves.
And believe me. Ueshiba wanted us to see that. Because, even today, Ueshiba has a greater understanding.
Aikido to me is not a "path" but a process to greater understanding. And, by design, will always contain segments of "partial understanding." Perfect understanding, while we get glimpses of it, will ever remain a blueprint rather than a final destination. Aikido, like enlightenment, and even love, is not a destination, but an ongoing process. In fact, if we take away words such as "way" and "path" and install process - it's makes for something more a live, more dynamic, more - eternal. And the definite article, "the," doesn't really serve us. "The way to harmony with the spirit" may have had some cache at some point, but it doesn't really have the same impact as it once may have.
I've also seen a high-level shihan comment that what Ueshiba meant by his practice was, "You're relationship with God." I could go for something like "A process towards harmony with spirit." Ueshiba was clearly "in process." Nothing more. Just like the rest of us.
Anyone who says, "I got it." Doesn't have it. They are the Wizard of Oz.
But if someone says, "I have a partial understanding, and I want to explore and create more - and that together, we can all make something greater." Therein lies a child. Ueshiba became a great man - precisely because he remained a child. Look at him. The guy was like a kid in a candy shop.
Thank you again, Benjamin, for taking something simple and incomplete and throwing it back to me so that we can play together. Tag. You're it. : )