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Old 03-09-2009, 09:29 PM   #226
Buck
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

Am I questioning O'Sensei's validity of his religious experience which he could have possibly modeled it from Miki. I am questioning also how we interpret it without questioning, how we don't research it, because we believe the myth. How we just except it when it is told to us by whom ever. And how that leads to a heck of allot of misinformation. How it leads to students, schools and organization opposing each other and arguing about Aikido- just like what we do here.
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Old 03-09-2009, 11:13 PM   #227
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

Morihei Ueshiba did not need Tenri-kyo. He already had Onisaburo Deguchi and, earlier, Nao Deguchi of Omoto-kyo. Omoto-kyo, Tenri-kyo, Kurozumi-kyo, and many other 'new religions' all followed a similar pattern in their creation and organization. Many people had revelations, became 'enlightened', did all kinds of unusual things, and attracted disciples. The last such 'new' religion was formed in 1966: Aum Shinri-kyo, whose founder is now under sentence of death.

I can hear the cries of shock and horror, if aikido is compared to Aum Shinri-kyo. Aum Shinri-kyo was a cult; Aikido is not a cult etc etc. Probably not, but its origins and early organization followed a very common pattern in Japan.

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Philip Burgess wrote: View Post
Another thing I would like to introduce to this discussion that I feel important is Tenrikyo, and its parallels to Aikido. Why do I want to do this, well because it is my firm belief what we think unique about one of O'Sensei's life experiences isn't. An experience of O'Sensei's that was similar to a previous experience of Nakayama Miki (1798-1887) the founder of Tenrikyo.

O'Sensei's religious experience shifted Aikido towards shaping, forming, its spirituality. An experience of O'Sensei's deeply rooted in Shinto, as means of validation. A similar spiritual experience of Nakayama Miki which was also rooted in Shinto. She experienced a divine revelation in form of a permanent possession by a kami. via a trance gave validity to a religion/spirituality. Miki event was also rooted in Shinto.

My point is, is that often we see O'Sensei as an island unconnected to what all Japanese are connected too. It is as if the building bricks for Aikido and what created Aikido are unique unto themselves and not connected to anything. That those bricks are not taken from anything else to build Aikido. We see O'Sensei too much like ourselves and not like who he was and what he was connected to beyond some Budo and Japanese words, hakamas, gis, and dojo design. Because of this, it causes allot of misunderstanding and misinformation concerning O'Sensei and Aikido. We have to equally put in the same effort to do the research, find the facts, etc. as we do in practice and enjoying Aikido, and not depend on that single one sourse for that information.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 03-10-2009, 10:18 AM   #228
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

I had a slack day at work, and have ended up reading all 10 pages of this thread. Some very interesting stuff. I have nothing of any value to add myself, apart from to say thanks to Philip for sparking off such a stimulating discussion, and to the usual contributors for making it so edifying.

Cheers,

Mark
p.s. ah, the guilty pleasure of being paid whilst filling my head with aiki-talk
p.p.s O Sensei - a remarkable man - no more, no less.

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 03-10-2009, 08:17 PM   #229
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

Hello Philip,

I think you are oversimplifying somewhat, hence these comments.

Quote:
Philip Burgess wrote: View Post
Peter,

Now, I understand George's use of the importance of myth. Myth is part of the fabric of Aikido. It exists, and plays a useful part. Without it, Aikido is less. Basically, in a nutshell is my understanding for the heck of it.
PAG. The senses I gave are not 'my' senses. They are directly quoted from the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. I would think that any other dictionary would give similar definitions. The definitions yield, I believe, two fundamental concepts of myth.

(1) The first are the myths that are the foundation of the researches by scholars like James Frazer, C J Jung, Joseph Campbell, and anthropologists like Margaret Mead, B Malinowski, Ruth Benedict, Clifford Geertz, and Colin Turnbull. Like metaphor, these are 'cross-cultural', in the sense that there are such myths in every culture and they help to define the culture in a real way. These myths feature in children's bedtime stories probably all over the planet.

(2) The second conception relies more on the manipulation of myths for ulterior motives, which motives are not necessarily known for what they are to those who manipulate them. I think one can see that there are situations where the two senses become congruent. The 'myth' of the Emperor is one example here in Japan.

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Philip Burgess wrote: View Post
What am saying is yes, Aikido has myth. It is a part of Aikido. But not in the way we might think, and we have come to expect, in our western way.
PAG. You need to distinguish the 'western way' and the 'non-western = oriental way' in more detail and deities meeting on a riverbed are not much help here. For example, the myth of Oedipus was used by Aristotle to create a theory of drama that has lasted for many centuries and was used by such dramatists as Shakespeare. The story of Oedipus was a tragedy and the myth enabled Aristotle to present a tragic drama as a cathartic experience for the audience, who 'participated' in their own way. Shakespeare's King Lear is a good example of an Aristotelian tragedy. So in one sense, the 'mythification' of O Sensei is quite 'western' and in some respects can fit Joseph Campbell's idea of the 'hero'.

Quote:
Philip Burgess wrote: View Post
I think to understand how myth functions in Aikido we have to look at the way the Japanese create myth, its purpose, and function which is different then from the west. I used the Japanese deities at the river bed myth because how it is used in Japanese thinking. And because of that myth being a relatable and well known example in O'Sensei's life and Aikido.
PAG. It might well be that the Yamato kings believed that using the episode of the deities meeting in the riverbed reflected their own ideas of good government, but I do not see that this affects the relationship between the myth and the culture in which the myth flourishes. Actually, Joseph Campbell is quite popular here in Japan and the pattern:

"Once upon a time there was a handsome prince and a beautiful princess etc etc ... and they all lived happily ever after,"

is repeated in many Japanese myths.

So, I am not sure that the mechanism, if you like, in which myths become an essential part of a culture and are used to maintain and preserve that culture, actually differs between 'western' and 'oriental' cultures.

Best wishes,

PAG

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 03-10-2009 at 08:20 PM.

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Old 03-10-2009, 08:26 PM   #230
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Morihei Ueshiba did not need Tenri-kyo. He already had Onisaburo Deguchi and, earlier, Nao Deguchi of Omoto-kyo. Omoto-kyo, Tenri-kyo, Kurozumi-kyo, and many other 'new religions' all followed a similar pattern in their creation and organization. Many people had revelations, became 'enlightened', did all kinds of unusual things, and attracted disciples. The last such 'new' religion was formed in 1966: Aum Shinri-kyo, whose founder is now under sentence of death.

I can hear the cries of shock and horror, if aikido is compared to Aum Shinri-kyo. Aum Shinri-kyo was a cult; Aikido is not a cult etc etc. Probably not, but its origins and early organization followed a very common pattern in Japan.
Yes, that is true and was what I was getting at. But, I don't want to mis- lead people to think that I said that O'Sensei was involved, a part of, or connected to Tenrikyo etc. Tenrikyo was an example of the Japanese religious model that could have influenced O'Sensei for Aikido. I think the Japanese structure of religion like that of Tenrikyo is really evident and easily seen in Aikido's structure and in O'Sensei. So, it is easy to look at Aikido and much of what O'Sensei said as old wine in a new bottle. When you see that- from what Aikido and O'Sensei's thoughts are taken- you have a more accurate and true understanding of both Aikido and O'Sensei for yourself. There is no blanks to fill in from what ever is in familiar reach. You get a first hand look, a front row sit, at all of it. Then there is no relying on other's accounts so much.

Mark Freeman,

Thanks.
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Old 03-10-2009, 08:55 PM   #231
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

Peter,

Thank you for your post.
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Old 03-10-2009, 09:13 PM   #232
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
PAG. The senses I gave are not 'my' senses. They are directly quoted from the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. I would think that any other dictionary would give similar definitions. The definitions yield, I believe, two fundamental concepts of myth.
I would qualify the first sense in two sub genres.
a) There is myth that is "operative"( vice manipulative -- it is done quite openly) : the elements of stories that we tease apart and/or combine to illustrate difficult but important points that do not easily fit one or another concrete or analytic categories, and

b) There is myth that is preservative: that we tell because they serve as storehouses of those recurrent and important symbols in our culture so they remain available to become operative in a given circumstance

A good example of the "operative" nature of myth is found in Jung, and in a more pedestrian way in "legal fictions" that serve to symbolize abstracted concepts of legal categories or operations in pleasingly concrete, but essentially false, ways, that everyone nonetheless agrees are the terms of reference or terms of art for handling such disputes.

Morihei Ueshiba was a man and a storyteller, but mistaking the storyteller (who always has a point of view, if not an agenda) for the story is a category error. He was engaged in an exercise of operative myth, as I see it.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
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Old 03-10-2009, 09:19 PM   #233
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

Quote:
Hello Philip,

I think you are oversimplifying somewhat, hence these comments.
Yea, it is true, and it's a fault of mine, I get lazy.

Quote:
PAG. The senses I gave are not 'my' senses. They are directly quoted from the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. I would think that any other dictionary would give similar definitions. The definitions yield, I believe, two fundamental concepts of myth.
Yea, that is me being lazy again.
Quote:
PAG. You need to distinguish the 'western way' and the 'non-western = oriental way' in more detail and deities meeting on a riverbed are not much help here. For example, the myth of Oedipus was used by Aristotle to create a theory of drama that has lasted for many centuries and was used by such dramatists as Shakespeare. The story of Oedipus was a tragedy and the myth enabled Aristotle to present a tragic drama as a cathartic experience for the audience, who 'participated' in their own way. Shakespeare's King Lear is a good example of an Aristotelian tragedy. So in one sense, the 'mythification' of O Sensei is quite 'western' and in some respects can fit Joseph Campbell's idea of the 'hero'.
Dang, point well taken, I got to stop being lazy. I have forgotten how hard Profs crack whips on lazy students..ouch . I do think there is of that hero stuff going on that can over lap from a westerner's view. People of the west will use what they know, and are cultured in to see O'Sensei. And, I think O'Sensei and other Japanese Aikidoka knew the myth of the hero and used it to reach and communicate to the western student body. As all good intentions that maybe, I don't think they calculated the danger of doing so that would create inaccuracies and the extensions of that.

Quote:
PAG. It might well be that the Yamato kings believed that using the episode of the deities meeting in the riverbed reflected their own ideas of good government, but I do not see that this affects the relationship between the myth and the culture in which the myth flourishes. Actually, Joseph Campbell is quite popular here in Japan and the pattern:

"Once upon a time there was a handsome prince and a beautiful princess etc etc ... and they all lived happily ever after,"

is repeated in many Japanese myths.

So, I am not sure that the mechanism, if you like, in which myths become an essential part of a culture and are used to maintain and preserve that culture, actually differs between 'western' and 'oriental' cultures.
I think it does, in these terms. Why the myth was created and what was done or resulted from the myth. For Japanese it resulted in democratic view and its procedures, laws, organizational behavior and structure etc., which naturally Aikido's and Omoto organizational structure modeled. Also, it isn't something we interchange the function, treatment western of myth into. Point being we must look at Aikido in it's Japanese home, and not in someone else's.

FWIW The deities I was refering to and should have been more specific come from:

The Kojiki: The Door Of The Heavenly Rock-Dwelling. I studied this in my Japanese classes in college. I think it should be a prerequisite for anyone studying Aikido- best if Cliff notes are done on it. Perhaps Japanese religion and other stuff too.
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Old 03-10-2009, 11:52 PM   #234
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

Hello Phil,

Quote:
Philip Burgess wrote: View Post

I think it does, in these terms. Why the myth was created and what was done or resulted from the myth. For Japanese it resulted in democratic view and its procedures, laws, organizational behavior and structure etc., which naturally Aikido's and Omoto organizational structure modeled. Also, it isn't something we interchange the function, treatment western of myth into. Point being we must look at Aikido in it's Japanese home, and not in someone else's.
PAG. Again, I think you are oversimplifying somewhat. It will be very difficult to explain why a particular myth was created and I suspect this is why C J Jung talked about 'archetypes' of the 'collective unconscious'.

The result might have been different for the Japanese (though I doubt this very much: Japan has never been democratic in a western sense, and some Japanese believe that Japan has a 'unique' kind of democracy--in the same way that Japanese stomachs, blood, brains, rice, and also snow are all thought to be unique), but the way of arriving at the result--the interplay between the myth and the culture that nurtures and uses the myth--is common. There is nothing uniquely Japanese about this.

Quote:
Philip Burgess wrote: View Post
FWIW The deities I was refering to and should have been more specific come from:

The Kojiki: The Door Of The Heavenly Rock-Dwelling. I studied this in my Japanese classes in college. I think it should be a prerequisite for anyone studying Aikido- best if Cliff notes are done on it. Perhaps Japanese religion and other stuff too.
Well, I am sure you know from your Japanese classes that there is much, much more in the Kojiki than Amaterasu's cave and the door and I also strongly hope that your professor told you to avoid Cliff notes and go to the real thing--in Donald Philippi's translation, if the Japanese text was too difficult.

In fact, one of the interesting things about O Sensei's connection with Omoto is that he shared Onisaburo Deguchi's very high regard for Amaterasu's unruly brother. The whole point about Omoto is why Deguchi thought that the three worlds were out of joint. The reason is that Kuni-no-toko-tachi-no-kami had been deposed from his proper place in the pantheon and that it was the brother, Hayasusa no o, who was going to restore the balance, not, definitely not, Amaterasu and her antics in the cave.

However, the restoration of the rule of Kuni-no-toko-tachi-no-kami and Susa-no-o (by their chosen instruments: Deguchi and Omoto) implied that the rule by the descendants of Ama-terasu, namely the Meiji Emperor and his successors, was adding to the chaos.

After the first suppression in 1921, Deguchi changed Omoto theology and displaced Susa-no-o somewhat. The Imperial Grandchild (of Amaterasu) now had the job of coming down to earth restoring the balance of the three worlds, in conjunction, of course, with Omoto and, of course, under the benevolent guidance of the Japanese emperor. Cynics suggest that the reason he did this was to head off another suppression.

So, really, the entire first section of the Kojiki is a prerequisite for understanding Morihei Ueshiba and I wonder how use useful Cliff notes will be in this case.

Best wishes,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 03-11-2009, 08:07 AM   #235
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Hello Phil,

So, really, the entire first section of the Kojiki is a prerequisite for understanding Morihei Ueshiba and I wonder how use useful Cliff notes will be in this case.

Best wishes,
Hi Peter,

I am glad you wrote that, that is my point. By understanding the origins and what O'Sensei used to create Aikido. That is what myths and how they were used are different then the west. Sure you can make parallelism, like the hero myth, but you have to treat Japanese myths as Japanese myths. It is because Japanese myth plays a huge important role etc. in their way of life, their national and cultural identity and who they. Here is where I understand George's passion for myth.

But, trouble comes into play (lots of misunderstanding and the reshaping of Aikido etc.) when you take Japanese myths and treat them as western myths. I mean, expecting Japanese myths to be some kind of universal device, a plug n' play thingy. Like, for instance, take the American folklore hero Paul Bunyan and say he would fit nicely or just fit at all into Japanese mythology explaining or giving us insight into the Japanese. It is really inaccurate to say the Paul Bunyan myth says anything or something about Japanese. We shouldn't take the perspective that Japanese is almost interchangeable in any way as it is with Greek and Roman mythology.

The Japanese my adopt the myth of Paul Bunyan (like they have with Santa Clause (treating him differently then we do in the US we do differently then from where we adopted him), but it doesn't say anything about the Japanese, or their way of like etc. as their myths do- for the obvious reasons.

Understanding Japanese myth as western myth gives us an accurate picture of Aikido. I think that is what happens to Aikido and the thoughts of O'Sensei. For example, O'Sensei was into Japanese myth (the norm), and he followed it (the norm) to provide a pattern guidelines for organizational structure (very common to do). For example, the myth of the divine assembly I keep using as an example dictated big decisions should not be made by one person. Voila the reasons for the use of governing boards in Japanese organizations like Aikido and Omoto.

I agree with what you pointed out that knowing Japanese myth is a prerequisite. I go further in saying they have to be understood and how they work in the Japanese mind and culture to understand Aikido as it is, and not the myth we turn it into being.
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Old 03-11-2009, 08:48 AM   #236
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

The problem I have with myth (specifically in terms of Aikido) is when the myth is taken as fact.

Who in this day and age believe's Poseidon exists, and controls the seas, and shakes the earth? Sure myth has a function, as Campbell and others point out, but not in the truth of things.

The function of myth was and is the mainstay for primitive peoples who didn't't understand a whole lot of things about themselves and the world around them. And, I think it is because of our human need for the truth, to have an explanation of why things are etc. Which is why myth is so ingrained into humans because we have used it for so long. It seems myth then is a the default among the uneducated to explain things, to get answers, to make sense of life and things. Because of that myth becomes a great marketing tool for snake oil sales men though out the ages.

Myth is part of the fabric of Aikido and O'Sensei, which we see in his thoughts and writings. He used the power of myth and believed in it, all within his cultural context. He used Japanese myth to build, structure, and give credibility to Aikido in the same way other Japanese used myth. Whether Campbell or Jung or others like them of the west write about the subject of myth doesn't serve to help understand Aikido. What they do is provide their examination and opinions of myth. And not a means to see Aikido as it is. We should look at our own interpretation or opinions of myth in the same way that it doesn't't provide us with an accurate understanding or picture of Aikido etc.

I think the perpetuation and belief into the power of myth, and the misunderstanding of Japanese and Aikido mythology by many Aikidoka is what gave critics something to bite on in regard to Aikido and stuff. I think that is one of O'Sensei's and others Aikidokas' goofs, when they were planting the seed of Aikido some places outside Japan. They didn't understand the impact of their myths and how they would be perceived by other peoples.

I think truth is far more important than myth. Myth is the entertainment. It is what catches our attention. It is gift warp paper on an otherwise unattractive box. Myth is the artificial sweetener in an otherwise bitter beverage for many of us in the west. Myth said the moon was made of cheese, and that a cow could jump over the moon. That the sun was a god, and that witches fly on broomsticks. That giant man with a giant blue ox as a pet roamed the woods. Things we seem never to question, but just except as truth.

How different would our world be if we didn't ever question the myths told to us so earnestly, upholding those myths as truths? What then. What does it hurt to question, to find the truth, to see things as they are with all their pimples and warts? What are people afraid of.

I think at this point in time of our world, understanding myth in Aikido gives us a front row seat to O'Sensei's thoughts and how he see his world etc. and how he seen and communicated Aikido and Budo. Myth isn't a critical element in Aikido in terms of function and as mechanism. It serves to help with the understanding of how myth played a role in O'Sensei's life, and how he relied on it- for example, his great spiritual experience of God. But myth it is not required to be believe in it, or is there a need to create new myths, or interpretations of the myths that already exist. It isn't hard to see how Japanese myths function in the Japanese mind and culture, and that I feel is the key and the only tool in understanding the mythology of Aikido.


Last edited by Buck : 03-11-2009 at 08:50 AM.
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Old 03-11-2009, 09:53 AM   #237
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

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Philip Burgess wrote: View Post
The Japanese my adopt the myth of Paul Bunyan (like they have with Santa Clause (treating him differently then we do in the US- we do [treat him] differently then from where we adopted him), but it doesn't say anything about the Japanese, or their way of [life] etc. as their myths do- for the obvious reasons.
I needed to correct the stuff in the quote I wrote.

Basically, I want to add that the Japanese traditions of myth are not that of the west. Aikido and O'Sensei's stuff must be not be removed out of the Japanese tradition and put in another tradition. And that goes for all things in Aikido and with O'Sensei that they should stay within their Japanese context and Japanese traditions, and not placed in any where else. No matter how bad we want Aikido and O'Sensei to reflect our stuff, our likeness etc. We must realize Aikido reflects O'Sensei and the Japanese.

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Old 03-11-2009, 02:27 PM   #238
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

Quote:
Philip Burgess wrote: View Post
*** I think ... because of our human need for the truth, [we must] have an explanation of why things are etc. Which is why myth is so ingrained into humans because we have used it for so long. It seems myth then is a the default among the uneducated to explain things, to get answers, to make sense of life and things.
Hi Buck.

I appreciate and have a good deal of sympathy for your point of view in general.

But I would venture that positing a "human need for truth" as an explanation for "myth" is itself a (rationalist) myth.

Similarly, for a scientifically educated modern person to treat "myth" as a flawed attempt at empirical explanation by the uneducated is to "misrecognize" [in the sense of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu] the role of myth as explicated by Campbell, Jung, and others.

It also tends, in my view, to obscure why myth, symbols, and stories can be used to manipulate us all so very effectively. That capacity does not end with the dawning of the age of reason; if it did, the history of politics as well as religion would read far differently, I think.

Regards,

David
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Old 03-11-2009, 03:13 PM   #239
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

Quote:
Philip Burgess wrote: View Post
I needed to correct the stuff in the quote I wrote.

Basically, I want to add that the Japanese traditions of myth are not that of the west. Aikido and O'Sensei's stuff must be not be removed out of the Japanese tradition and put in another tradition. And that goes for all things in Aikido and with O'Sensei that they should stay within their Japanese context and Japanese traditions, and not placed in any where else. No matter how bad we want Aikido and O'Sensei to reflect our stuff, our likeness etc. We must realize Aikido reflects O'Sensei and the Japanese.

I realy disaggree with this. I don't train in aikido as some type of exploration of Japanese culture. I have also never been the direct student of a Japanese sensei. Though I have trained with several at seminars. I have no problem with Japanese cultural elements being maintained in aikido as this reflects it's origins and it's "center" still today, but I truly view it as a path that can be walked by people of any culture, that I can think of anyway. Of course, I do understand that understanding O-sensei is impossible without understanding his beliefs and culture. But it wasn't O-sensei that got me hooked to aikido.

But then I'm not a purist, and I see no problem with making aikido what I want it to be as opposed to what O-sensei may have wanted it to be. To me the relationship between the "way" and the practitioner is an organic one with each influencing the other.

Jonathan Olson
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Old 03-11-2009, 03:39 PM   #240
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

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David Henderson wrote: View Post
Hi Buck.

But I would venture that positing a "human need for truth" as an explanation for "myth" is itself a (rationalist) myth.
Yea, maybe so LOL...

Quote:
Similarly, for a scientifically educated modern person to treat "myth" as a flawed attempt at empirical explanation by the uneducated is to "misrecognize" [in the sense of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu] the role of myth as explicated by Campbell, Jung, and others.

It also tends, in my view, to obscure why myth, symbols, and stories can be used to manipulate us all so very effectively. That capacity does not end with the dawning of the age of reason; if it did, the history of politics as well as religion would read far differently, I think.
Yea, that is definitely on my mind though out this discussion and anyone would be foolish to over-look that. And, I guess, I erred by mentioning it too lightly before. opps...

I am trying to avoid a focused discussion on Campbell etc.because I think it is a peripheral that by default can serve in seeing myths as Campbell etc. do, and not how, specifically, the Japanese do or O'Sensei did.

Thanks Dave for the heads up and good points.

FWIW. By viewing Japanese myth and how it effected the Japanese and how it worked to shape Japan, influenced O'Sensei to use and draw upon for Aikido should lead us to a better and pure understanding of Aikido. Why should it be viewed it any other way? Well, we know what has happened when it did.

I guess it is a matter of turning and looking in the right direction and at the right thing.

Last edited by Buck : 03-11-2009 at 03:50 PM.
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Old 03-11-2009, 03:49 PM   #241
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

Jonathan,

No problems. I agree that Aikido was to be a path that everyone was invited to walk. We both agree that O'Sensei is difficult to understand. I think it makes sense if you want to understand that path and its origins sincerely and earnestly you have to understand O'Sensei, his work, and intentions as a Japanese within the culture and traditions of Japan. We shouldn't guess etc. and make that into something it isn't.
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Old 03-11-2009, 08:15 PM   #242
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

When it comes to understanding aikido's origins, I agree. But I'm not sure that studying the history and culture is all that important in understanding the art or walking the path.

Put it this way, I've been lurking around this board for 9 years, for several years I was a paying member of Aikido Journal and read a big chunk of S. Pranin's research and I have a few of the basic aikido books. But in ten years of training, I just don't know that all this reading has had much influence on my actual training. While I am interested in the history, in my training I tend to look forward up the path at my instructors and sempai more than I look back to the founder and the origins. I would also say that the most important insights I have had have come from looking inwards at how aikido affects me and how it fits into my own worldview.

Jonathan Olson
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Old 03-12-2009, 12:12 AM   #243
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

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Jonathan Olson wrote: View Post
When it comes to understanding aikido's origins, I agree. But I'm not sure that studying the history and culture is all that important in understanding the art or walking the path.

Put it this way, I've been lurking around this board for 9 years, for several years I was a paying member of Aikido Journal and read a big chunk of S. Pranin's research and I have a few of the basic aikido books. But in ten years of training, I just don't know that all this reading has had much influence on my actual training. While I am interested in the history, in my training I tend to look forward up the path at my instructors and sempai more than I look back to the founder and the origins. I would also say that the most important insights I have had have come from looking inwards at how aikido affects me and how it fits into my own worldview.
Hi Jonathan,
I was pretty much in the same place you are for most of Aikido career. The fact is, the really great teachers, like the Founder, functioned at such a high level that what they were doing and how they thought about it had little to do with what I was doing. So when I read O-Sensei's writings it was interesting but not all that helpful.

Since the first Expo in 2001 my own Aikido has been changing exponentially. I read the Founder's writings with new eyes. I am not saying that I understand exactly what he meant... as we can all see from these discussions, that attempt is best left to those with the academic credentials and language skills to attempt the work. But in terms of my own practice, many things which seemed incomprehensible now have meaning for me. I expect that this will continue. My paradigm has shifted and I think I will continue to develop along these new lines indefinitely rather than being stuck which I think was my state before the first Expo.

So now, when I read the same books I was reading before, they might as well be new books because I see them differently now.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 03-12-2009, 12:24 AM   #244
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

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Philip Burgess wrote: View Post
Jonathan,

No problems. I agree that Aikido was to be a path that everyone was invited to walk. We both agree that O'Sensei is difficult to understand. I think it makes sense if you want to understand that path and its origins sincerely and earnestly you have to understand O'Sensei, his work, and intentions as a Japanese within the culture and traditions of Japan. We shouldn't guess etc. and make that into something it isn't.
This pretty much fits in with the view that many Japanese teachers have, namely, that foreigners can't really understand Aikido. I don't agree with that. As Peter points out, there are all sorts of issues which prevent native Japanese from an unclouded view of the Founder and his art.

There were Americans who trained with the Founder like Terry Dobson and Bob Nadeau. I don't think they came away misunderstanding the Founder's intentions for the art any more than the Japanese deshi of the time. I actually think that the fact that they were pretty much unaware of many of the nuances of the culture, socially and historically, left them in a position to hear the Founder's message unhampered by a lot of the baggage carried by the Japanese students. Anyway, that would be my take on it...

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Old 03-12-2009, 06:17 AM   #245
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
This pretty much fits in with the view that many Japanese teachers have, namely, that foreigners can't really understand Aikido. I don't agree with that. As Peter points out, there are all sorts of issues which prevent native Japanese from an unclouded view of the Founder and his art.

There were Americans who trained with the Founder like Terry Dobson and Bob Nadeau. I don't think they came away misunderstanding the Founder's intentions for the art any more than the Japanese deshi of the time. I actually think that the fact that they were pretty much unaware of many of the nuances of the culture, socially and historically, left them in a position to hear the Founder's message unhampered by a lot of the baggage carried by the Japanese students. Anyway, that would be my take on it...
It isn't not what am saying at all. Why should we not educate ourselves well in Japanese culture and the way they think? Why shouldn't we question what we are told and test it for truth. Should we live in ignorance about something we are passionate about. Why is it important to believe in the myths and our own assumptions for the truth, for the facts. Doesn't that lead us down the wrong path? If you are going to walk the path of Aikido you might as well do it right.

I will never believe that O'Sensei was super human no matter how many students it brings in, and who propagates that, be they Japanese or not.

What do you fear by looking at Aikido and O'Sensei in the right direction, in the proper light, or O'Sensei as he truly was- warts and all?

I weight the truth over anything else, no matter how beneficial mis-information it is to whom ever.

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Old 03-12-2009, 06:38 AM   #246
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

Hello Jonathan,

A few points.

Quote:
Jonathan Olson wrote: View Post
When it comes to understanding aikido's origins, I agree. But I'm not sure that studying the history and culture is all that important in understanding the art or walking the path.
PAG. In your earlier post you mentioned that you have never had a Japanese teacher as your main teacher. George and I have had a different experience. Saotome Shihan was George's teacher and I have had a whole succession of teachers--all Japanese. So for me, studying the culture was a major necessity, if only to understand what they were after. In terms of aikido history and culture, I have talked the most with Shihans Chiba, Arikawa and the late Kisshomaru Doshu. However, all this did not really affect my training. This was done in the dojo, not in the library. Studying the language and culture was interesting for its own sake, but training was quite different, and the only overlap was being able to understand explanations given in Japanese during training, by shihans like Tada and Arikawa (I mean in seminars here in Japan). Understanding the explanations was crucial for training correctly.

Quote:
Jonathan Olson wrote: View Post
Put it this way, I've been lurking around this board for 9 years, for several years I was a paying member of Aikido Journal and read a big chunk of S. Pranin's research and I have a few of the basic aikido books. But in ten years of training, I just don't know that all this reading has had much influence on my actual training. While I am interested in the history, in my training I tend to look forward up the path at my instructors and sempai more than I look back to the founder and the origins. I would also say that the most important insights I have had have come from looking inwards at how aikido affects me and how it fits into my own worldview.
PAG. Yes, I agree. I have managed to keep my studies of aikido history separate from my training in the dojo. O Sensei was a very unusual person and is regarded as a major icon. But I am finding out more and more that the kind of life he led and the kind of life I am leading right now are so different, that finding differences is much easier than finding similarities. I am much closer in thinking to the second Doshu and his generation of deshi. But there are loads of aikidoka in Japan who knew O Sensei and were taught by him / received their dan directly from him--and treasure these memories: as I would, had I been born ten years earlier.

However, I appear to have a talent for writing and it is only now, after 30 years of living here, that I have come to understand what kind of man O Sensei was and what he stood for. And I believe this is rather different from what people have been led to believe from the 'official' biographies. So, I am writing, a bit like Stan Pranin felt he had to do when he lived here.

Deep down, I feel that there is an ethical problem here, for I have been taught by Chiba Shihan that aikido is all about honesty and commitment--and you can see this very clearly when you face Chiba S in full cry with a bokken. The self-honesty on the mat should lead to self-honesty off the mat, but this can be interpreted in various ways, mainly according to the ethical standards of the culture. It has taken me a long time to realize that the ethical standards of Japanese shihans in Japan are not mine: they are not better or worse--they are different: a product of a culture that I have come to know very well, but which I have entered only partially. I think Terry Dobson had this problem, also.

Best wishes,

PAG

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 03-12-2009 at 06:42 AM.

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Old 03-12-2009, 09:46 AM   #247
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

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Hello Jonathan,

A few points.

PAG. In your earlier post you mentioned that you have never had a Japanese teacher as your main teacher. George and I have had a different experience. Saotome Shihan was George's teacher and I have had a whole succession of teachers--all Japanese. So for me, studying the culture was a major necessity, if only to understand what they were after. In terms of aikido history and culture, I have talked the most with Shihans Chiba, Arikawa and the late Kisshomaru Doshu. However, all this did not really affect my training. This was done in the dojo, not in the library. Studying the language and culture was interesting for its own sake, but training was quite different, and the only overlap was being able to understand explanations given in Japanese during training, by shihans like Tada and Arikawa (I mean in seminars here in Japan). Understanding the explanations was crucial for training correctly.

PAG. Yes, I agree. I have managed to keep my studies of aikido history separate from my training in the dojo. O Sensei was a very unusual person and is regarded as a major icon. But I am finding out more and more that the kind of life he led and the kind of life I am leading right now are so different, that finding differences is much easier than finding similarities. I am much closer in thinking to the second Doshu and his generation of deshi. But there are loads of aikidoka in Japan who knew O Sensei and were taught by him / received their dan directly from him--and treasure these memories: as I would, had I been born ten years earlier.

However, I appear to have a talent for writing and it is only now, after 30 years of living here, that I have come to understand what kind of man O Sensei was and what he stood for. And I believe this is rather different from what people have been led to believe from the 'official' biographies. So, I am writing, a bit like Stan Pranin felt he had to do when he lived here.

Deep down, I feel that there is an ethical problem here, for I have been taught by Chiba Shihan that aikido is all about honesty and commitment--and you can see this very clearly when you face Chiba S in full cry with a bokken. The self-honesty on the mat should lead to self-honesty off the mat, but this can be interpreted in various ways, mainly according to the ethical standards of the culture. It has taken me a long time to realize that the ethical standards of Japanese shihans in Japan are not mine: they are not better or worse--they are different: a product of a culture that I have come to know very well, but which I have entered only partially. I think Terry Dobson had this problem, also.

Best wishes,

PAG
Hi Peter,
Well, we went quite a ways down the road with the discussion of O-Sensei as "myth", further than I had expected. I only really brought up the concept as part of my musings about what happens to a culture when it loses its heroes. It seems to be our tendency to idealize figures and then lose faith when they turn out to be human after all. Certainly, O-Sensei has been idealized. It is fascinating to read your column and realize that there was far more going on politically and socially with that idealization, more intentionality even, than I had ever dreamed. There were almost no books available when I started Aikido. What I knew of the Founder came directly from Saotome Sensei in the form of stories he told, typically sitting around the dojo after class over a couple beers. So it was all very personal and alive feeling, like having someone telling you about a grandfather who had passed away just before you came along.

I read everything I can get my hands on concerning the Founder. But you are certainly right that his context cannot be my context. After trying to be as informed as possible about the man and his ideas, it's still a matter of picking and choosing what things are meaningful to me and what aren't.

So for me, as regards my own practice, O-Sensei remains an inspirational figure rather than one I see as a role model. Kisshomaru Ueshiba fit the bill in that regard a lot better. I only had a chance to train with him a couple of times and I was fortunate to have him spend a bit of time with him at his home when I visited. I found him to be the consummate gentleman. I think the Founder understood that his son was better equipped to make Aikido into something that could be practiced by many people around the world than he was himself.

So as regards the Founder, I try to work towards being able to do what he did technically and understand how his spiritual ideas influenced his ability to take things to such a high level. But it is the Nidai Doshu who represents a figure that one might wish to emulate. He was a class act all around, in my experience.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 03-12-2009 at 09:57 AM.

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Old 03-12-2009, 09:58 AM   #248
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
It has taken me a long time to realize that the ethical standards of Japanese shihans in Japan are not mine: they are not better or worse--they are different: a product of a culture that I have come to know very well, but which I have entered only partially. I think Terry Dobson had this problem, also.

Best wishes,

PAG
Hello Peter,
Thanks for the fine post. I agree with your viewpoint (which is not quoted in this post, but is available up there a post or two ; follow the eyes.) that it is educational and functional to know the references and ,perhaps, the context of what one's teacher is teaching. I hope I got that right.
I would like to comment on the quoted part of your post, ...I believe some American students who have trained in Japan and are now Sensei, have also come away with a way of being 'Japanese' that is aside from my own take on morals. They look like they're on the same page as you, publicly they may say they're on the same page as you, but behind closed doors, 'it's none of your business conversations' regarding policy and power are not on the same page. I believe this is an area of mis-use of cultural training and abuse of power when it comes to Americans who don't know they're having the cultural/moral wool pulled over their eye's. I don't know that it is always intentional, but I suspect it is terribly convenient.
I realize I'm drifting off thread, but the thread was already a bit adrift. And I realize this may not be exactly what you were saying, but I would appreciate your comment.
Would you be so kind?

Thank You,
Jen Smith

Last edited by jennifer paige smith : 03-12-2009 at 10:02 AM.

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Old 03-12-2009, 10:23 AM   #249
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

Peter, George,
Thank you for the eloquent responses. Give me a few more things to reflect on.

Jonathan Olson
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Old 03-12-2009, 11:42 AM   #250
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Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

I've tried to answer the question originally posed by Mr. Burgess, i.e. "Who sez O'Sensei was wise?" several times and I feel that the question has broadened now. Mr. Burgess talks a lot about questioning the myths of aikido, and I think it would be useful now if he talked about the myths he feel need questioning, the ones he has questioned and rejected so that we can move this discussion forward or finally put a lid on it.
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