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Old 02-24-2012, 01:35 PM   #21
Ellis Amdur
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Location: Seattle
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 909
On Phenomenology

Among my other projects, I'm currently a consultant on a project to research how military and police establish the best rapport in law enforcement and military contexts - while ENHANCING the mission. To be absolutely clear, this is NOT a kinder gentler police or military - it is the best tactical communication for the mission.

The problem with research is that you find what you look for - or debunk what you were looking at. Furthermore, in a lot of research, you have to remove all outlier information. Here are some examples:
1. IS doesn't exist - therefore, what Ueshiba did was magical and unreplicable. (as I understand it, the current Aikikai position, fwiw).
2. IS does exist, so that everything Ueshiba did was IS.
3. IS is totally derived, in Ueshiba's case, from Daito-ryu - therefore, any claims to the contrary, in Ueshiba's case, are wrong.

So back to the research. Unavoidably, when one talks of "mission," one can easily narrow one's view. Hence, did the Iraqi who disobeyed signals to stop with his car, and his tires were shot out, leave the situation with a positive view of American military. That's doubtful, but if your research paradigm starts with that as the goal, some may assert that shooting out the tires - or the driver - was a failure. And that may not be so in the least.

So a veteran of the Northern Ireland conflict spoke up, and described every day going on patrol, and having people - young, teens and old - spitting on him and his mates. On the uniform. In the face. They were under strict orders to not be distracted, and to not respond. His point - to some small degree, perhaps, the incidents diminished when there was no response. But that wasn't the object. The object was an investment in the larger mission. When peace was tenuously achieved - finally - there was not a fund of stories of people with their faces bashed in with butt-strokes of their rifles, 'just because he spit." In other words, they eliminated ONE impediment to achieving peace. That's tactics.

My point is that without that lived experience, no one would have come up with that from the research paradigm. And at that point, others in the room with law enforcement and military experience came up with similar accounts - that the mission was bigger than the incident.

So how does this relate to phenomenological research. What one tries to do is get complete human narratives - without an agenda (an agenda would be - "no one can describe my teacher that way because I know he was a good man, and I never saw him act that way, at a different point in time"). You give much detail as possible. And you juxtapose them. And you construct a meta-narrative from the common themes. If, on the other hand, one narrative is merely an argument to prove another narrative wrong, you prove one person right and the other wrong - either in a sense of being factually incorrect or existentially corrupt. Terry Dobson told me that Osensei told him that his mission was to work for reconciliation of humanity. One of his sempai stated that Osensei told him that aikido was a means of destroying one's enemies. We could choose, couldn't we. Or, we could overlap those two narratives, and others, and get a more complete picture of the man. Terry told me that even though he believed he was right 100%, he knew that the other man heard that from Osensei.

I proposed this experiment to Jun for a number of reasons:
1. People are being forgotten - how many of you even know who Ichihashi Norihiko was. He hardly went abroad and he died far too young. Yet he was truly one of the best of the post-war shihan of the Aikikai - both because of his character and his staunch technique. He SHOULDN'T be forgotten.
2. But people should be known for who they are. I did this with Osensei, didn't I - in two books. I was the first, in English, for example, to bring out his deep connections with far-right militarists - even assassins. On the contrary, I believe I have brought understanding to the life of Takeda Sokaku, speaking for him as a far more moral man, a suffering man in some ways, than anyone has before. Some regarded me as the equivalent of an apostate to a religion. I will take credit for opening up a discussion in the larger martial arts community regarding moral responsibility, regarding IS in Japanese martial arts, particularly aikido, and regarding who such people as Ueshiba and Takeda Sokaku truly were.
3. If, however, we made my column a simple discussion thread, we would follow the usual ruts. Doesn't this already happen on Aikiweb? There are many posters who, no matter what the subject of the thread, always post essentially the same thing.
4. The phenomenological method requires a discipline. Your object is not to engage in a debate on the truth. Your object is to tell your truth, in as pure a fashion as you can. I was talking yesterday about a shihan whom I've not yet written and I said, "Yeah, he was really powerful, but I always felt he had holes in his technique big enough to drive a Mack truck. He was so eager to crunch me that he'd gather himself, raise up to smash me down, and I sometimes felt like I had time to write out my will for what was going to come next." The guy I was talking too, who trained much more with the man, looked at me in bewilderment. "I never experienced that. He was so tight, there were never the openings you are talking about." So was I lying? Was he a fool who couldn't see? (I don't think so - he's a far better martial artist that I am). Maybe with enough accounts we would see a thread - that he left openings for people he didn't respect, perhaps. Or, when he didn't like someone, he got so eager to crunch them down that he lost focus. Or in public classes, he showed one thing - deliberately misleading people how good he was, saving his real stuff for those he trusted. So my friend and I could publicly argue - could even indulge in personal attacks, misinterpretations of the other's motives, what have you. OR - we could each post our accounts, some of which may not be flattering, because that's what we experienced, and hope for others to post as well, so we can assemble a picture, a complete picture, rather than one dominated by either one true believer, or one "devil's advocate."

There is a kind of recreation on Aikiweb - some people like to argue for the sake of arguing, like to provoke others, like to take the opposing position, as if to say that they are winning in doing so. Many others like to watch this - you get phrases like, 'Put out the popcorn" (which is exactly why I quit Rum Soaked Fist forum).

Just as many disliked my opinions, even hated me, for Dueling with Osensei, some may strongly disagree with my opinions in IHTBF. I've also solicited the accounts of others, who took ukemi for the greats of pre-war aikido, people whom I've never felt - but I've done so on the conditions outlined in this initial proposal - that Jun agreed to. They would NEVER participate were they to get the personal attacks, uninformed argumentation, badinage or huffy umbrage that is so typical in most discussion groups. They are an incredible resource of first-person accounts - and just like mine, not all the accounts will be to another's taste or fantasy.

When is character relevant? - when that aspect of character effects their behavior on the mat. The great painter Caravaggio may have been, in modern terms, a sociopath. It is unclear if this is relevant to his painting, (though it makes great history). Picasso, on the other hand, was a selfish narcissistic cad to women - and those agonized pictures of crying women were often the women he was psychologically torturing at that point in time. He dissected them on canvas - therefore, his character is directly relevant to his art.

At any rate, I am looking for the unvarnished truth. My truth. Your truth. Not an argument that one must be wrong because the other, in another time, perhaps another decade, had a different personal experience/relationship with a teacher. Or that based on a different personal relationship, you were treated differently. One doesn't make the other untrue.

I will reiterate - your account of a teacher may be 100% at variance to mine - be brave enough to simply post it, describing what you experienced. And that includes opinions regarding what you experienced with that teacher - because you, a human being, experienced them. the "objective stance" as a falsehood, anyway. You carve away what is human in the interaction and then it becomes a lie - because that is NOT what you experienced.

But readers in an archive 50 years from now don't need to read your arguments with me and opinions of me, based on what I wrote - or those of any other poster in an IHTBF column, as I hope that others will eventually post.

Unless, of course, the subject is ME on the mat - and then, such discussion is fair game, isn't it.

Ellis Amdur

Last edited by Ellis Amdur : 02-24-2012 at 01:43 PM.

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