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Old 10-21-2015, 05:32 PM   #20
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 2,240
Re: Aikido Is An Anachronism In the 21st Century

Hello Peter,

This will be a longer post than usual because I am expanding on the questions I posed earlier and also your answers.

Peter Boylan wrote: View Post
Thank you. You always ask the best questions. I look forward to your responses because they always make me stretch.

Do you lump all martial systems as budo, or merely Japanese martial systems?
This is a really good question, and one I haven't entirely made up my mind on. However, I am leaning towards distinguishing budo as being only Japanese martial systems. The reason for this is that the thing that seems to make a thing a "do" is a strong neo-Confucian component. That component is lacking in Western martial arts. I don't know enough about martial arts from other Asian countries to fully evaluate the Neo-Confucian elements they contain, but they lack the Neo-Confucian elements, particularly those that developed in Japan from the 15th century onward.
PAG. Of course, the reason for the question was your use of the term budo without any qualification. The Japanese cultural baggage that comes with this term makes it very problematic, especially if one avoids giving a definition of the term. The Aikikai, for example, has a preoccupation with the ‘correct view' of budo, but regards the term as indefinable. Which, of course, is very convenient, since it enables one to avoid having to commit oneself and one can remain in the ‘safe' zone of simply quoting the Founder.

Peter Boylan wrote: View Post
Do you make any distinction between jutsu arts and dou arts?
Not within the realm of Japanese martial arts. The Neo-Confucian ideas of personal development combined with the influence of tea ceremony have so permeated Japanese culture that everything in Japan is a Way if someone wants it to be. I have seen books in Japanese on things non-Japanese would never imagine being "do" systems, such as housecleaning. Whether a system makes an official nod to the Neo-Confucian elements of Japanese culture or not, by virtue of being a product of Japanese culture, it contains them.
PAG. In your answer you mentioned the combined influence of Neo-Confucian personal development with the influence of the tea ceremony, by which I suppose you mean the influence of Zen. Is this correct and if so, what of the other manifestations of Buddhism? I say this because you seem to regard Neo-Confucianism in the same way that D T Suzuki regarded Zen Buddhism -- as the key to unlocking Japanese martial culture, especially for non-Japanese. In the same way that scholars like Karl Friday and Oleg Benesch have questioned the canonical version of the evolution / role of the samurai class, the assumptions governing the intellectual background of Sengoku Jidai / Edo Jidai also need to be questioned. SHU-HA-RI is, on the face of it, a very ‘Neo-Confucian' concept and some scholars tie it almost exclusively to Zen. Rupert Cox, for example, does this in his book on the Zen Arts and in a paper entitled, "Is there a Japanese way of Playing?" I am not convinced, mainly because the traditions defining the so-called Zen arts, and by extension the martial arts, were more complex than simply Neo-Confucian or even Zen.

Peter Boylan wrote: View Post

Do you make any distinction between koryu arts and gendai arts?

For purposes of this particular essay, not really. Each art preserves something of the age in which it was founded. Koryu arts do this clearly, but so do judo, aikido and kendo. Judo and kendo were created during the Meiji Era when challenge matches and public competitions were relatively common. They reflect the expectations of the times. For example, I'm something of a heretic because I would like to see judo randori and shiai include matches with dogi, and without. The wearing of kimono like garment is clearly anachronistic, even in Japan. For kendo, the use of the shinai points directly to the technology of the age in which kendo was codified. I'm sure modern sports science could come up with something that much more accurately reflects the true size, weight and balance of a shinken while maintaining the safety provided by the shinai. Aikido is locked into an image with hakama, seiza, shiko walking, and other traits that are clearly part of the Meiji and Taisho eras that Ueshiba grew up in rather than the mid-20th century Japan during which Aikido was solidified.
PAG. Well, I note that you have adapted the title of your thread for Aikiweb, but kept to Budo for the same thread in, which led to a lively discussion over there about people discussing koryu without having practiced it. So I think the main focus of your blog was koryu, but with gendai arts added, perhaps as an afterthought. The thrust of the article seems to be more effective with koryu than with a more ephemeral art like aikido. As I suggested earlier, there is a semantic fluidity involving being traditional, anachronistic, and irrelevant that might lead some to believe that they are similar in meaning.

Peter Boylan wrote: View Post
I think it would help the discussion of we had (1) a clear examples of a pre-modern Japanese art that was not anachronistic at the time, but now is, and also (2) a clear example of a modern Japanese martial art that you think is not anachronistic.
Any of the major Itto Ryu branches come to mind. Also most schools that were created during the Tokugawa period with iai as their foundation. Itto Ryu addressed the most likely combat scenario of an age of peace with people living in cities: duels and fights between a couple of people. It is even clearer for the iai schools, since during the Tokugawa period going to battle in armor was highly unlikely, but scenarios where you would be wearing and using a katana mounted sword were the norm for the bushi class.
PAG. Presumably you could generalize this to cover any martial art that claims to be 'traditional.'.

Peter Boylan wrote: View Post
As for modern Japanese martial arts that aren't anachronistic, I honestly can't think of any.
Peter Boylan wrote: View Post
Do you make any distinction between anachronism and irrelevance?
Yes, I make quite a bit of distinction. The most applicable definition of anachronism from Merriam Webster is: a person or a thing that is chronologically out of place; especially : one from a former age that is incongruous in the present. Nothing there makes any sort of requirement that something anachronistic is, ipso facto, irrelevant. I think it is quite possible for things to be both anachronistic and relevant. Analog, gear driven pocket watches are anachronistic, but they still serve the basic function quite well. Budo still teach a host of things that I think are important and functional in the 21st century. Their packaging is often the most anachronistic thing about them, though all the playing with swords takes a little more work to see the relevance than many things we do.
PAG. One of the reasons for my earlier question and subsequent post was that that the meaning of anachronism has to be so qualified with a context that it loses its much of its use as a defining feature, hence my bemusement with your blog. I think that the relative weight of the poles of the contrast, between anachronism and relevance, is unbalanced, in the sense that being anachronistic is being given the same relative importance as being irrelevant.

Best wishes.

P A Goldsbury
Kokusai Dojo,
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