Thread: Kuzushi
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Old 01-27-2012, 12:56 PM   #24
R.A. Robertson
Dojo: Still Point Aikido Center
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 345
Re: Kuzushi


One of the things that gets me in a tangle with others is that I tend not to emphasize things like intent or purpose. They're a part of the equation of course, but I prefer to look at outcomes and consequences.

This is why discussing the semantics can be important, to discover if we (any of us) are having the same discussion.

I'd been doing aikido for a long time, fairly confident that I was never doing it to attack anyone (except maybe as uke, but that was just to be a helpful simulacrum). But the more I looked at it, the more I realized that there often was an element of attack, despite my purest intent.

An attack may be an action undertaken which causes harm. An attack may also be an action undertaken which limits function, even if no structural harm results. If I throw someone with exquisite delicacy, but they don't know how to fall, they may be harmed. I would hope to be held blameless in a court of law, but if harm is likely to result from my action, regardless of motive, I think it best to characterize it as an attack. Similarly if I try to unbalance or pin someone. Done well, these cause no harm to the body, but while being performed they are an assault on another individual's function.

I cannot say that I would never under any circumstances harm someone. I can envision circumstances where I most definitely would intend it, and I hope my aikido training would help me do it masterfully.

But my larger purpose is to reduce the amount of harm my actions cause.

I return again and again to the analogy to medicine. Physicians are supposed to follow the dictum of "First, do no harm." Yet clearly many procedures are harmful or hurtful, even if it's a necessary harm to promote a greater good. The patient may be poked with needles, cut with knives, poisoned with chemicals, irradiated, cauterized, amputated, and lots of other things.

Under only slightly other circumstances, these very same actions would be characterized as torture. Yes, the intent is almost certainly different, but it's the outcome that really defines action. Is the recipient improved or diminished?

Budo, like medicine, is on a trajectory of better procedures. Less invasive, less hurtful, more efficient, less collateral damage, longer lasting benefit, better diagnostic tools, and gentler, more proactive interventions. There is even the possibility of working cooperatively with the conflicted area.

This is the way it should be, and this is the trajectory that I support. For me personally, I feel that I cannot make progress in that direction unless I'm able to identify the harm that I do. If I must do harm, then I want to do it as skillfully and mindfully as possible, and without hesitation once the necessity is clear. Without this, my art and craft would be diminished.

At the same time, I would measure my success as a healer by finding less and less necessity for harm.
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