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Old 05-18-2009, 10:15 PM   #1
aikishrine
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Aikido and Bushido

How closely do you find the philosophies of Aikido and Bushido compare?

Or do you find that they are in no way similar?
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Old 05-18-2009, 10:52 PM   #2
aikishrine
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

I find that most people i talk to find the ideals of Bushido to be overly romantic, and i suppose that those same people probably find the underlying spiritual aspects of Aikido to be the same. However i truly believe that these philosophies can be adhered to with a little bit of effort. I guess what i am looking for is what your opinions are on this.

I am not a religious person, but i am trying to become a spiritual person, and i believe these two separate "Ways" can provide a very profound "Path" to follow.
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Old 05-18-2009, 11:43 PM   #3
Charles Hill
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Hi Brian,

What are the ideals of bushido and how are they romantic?

Charles
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Old 05-19-2009, 12:08 AM   #4
Keith Larman
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

I would suggest you do a search on Nitobe's writing and also look for critiques of it as well. Lots out there to read.

It ain't quite so simple...

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Old 05-19-2009, 08:13 AM   #5
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

I suggest that you do a search on bushida both here and at E-budo. The results should be quite enlightening.

Personally, I find no connection what ever between the two.

Best,
Ron

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Old 05-19-2009, 09:32 AM   #6
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

The question is as interesting as it is difficult to answer.
I guess that it's safe to say that aikido has emerged from old bushido ideas, but also in some opposition to them. Instead of just trying to win a battle, its aim is to do away with battling.

True, one tradition of explaining the kanji for bu is "don't use the halberd", the ideal of refraining from fighting - but aikido has certainly taken this to a positive extreme.
I have always been intrigued by the aikido idea of learning peacefulness by practicing what is fundamentally an art of war. A paradox that can only be explained by actually doing it, practicing it.

Surely, such noble thoughts have been present also in traditional bushido, through the ages, but aikido refines them and comes with new, surprising solutions.

Stefan Stenudd
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Old 05-19-2009, 11:11 AM   #7
Rennis Buchner
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

If you are following the ideas as put forth by Nitobe, then yes they are highly idealized and romantic. One might argue (and several have) that Nitobe was just about the worst person to write a historically accurate work on the ideals of the warrior class. He was very much a product of the race to modernize Japan, was educated overseas at the university level (first in the US, rather unsuccessfully and then later in Germany), spent years and years abroad and was a Quaker which he converted to by though his American wife's influence and he felt that there was a strong similarity to his Quaker faith and the ideals of the Japanese warrior and his faith colored much about how he viewed Japan.

During his uni days in Germany, one of his teachers asked him were the Japanese got their moral values from, since religion and morality were not subjects covered in the Japanese school system at that time. Nitobe had no answer to this question and supposedly it bothered him for many years. Much later in the later half of his life, he spent a chunk of time in California (if I recall correctly) while trying to recover from some illness and it was during this period of down time (somewhere between 6 months and a year again if memory serves me) that he decided to try and address the question and write the book "Bushido". The book was originally written in English for a Western audience and only later was it translated into Japanese and gained fame there.

The fact of the matter is that there was never really any single defined "bushido" at any point in Japanese history (at least until World War Two anyways). The closest things we can probably find are various documents surviving in the records of various domains with "pointers" on how warriors of said domain were expected to live, but these all vary radically from each other and were very much subject to the whims of the lord, etc writing them. Many of the works famous now (Hagakure comes to mind) only achieved their fame much later and their influence around the time of their writing tended to be minimal and/or local.

Quote:
Stefan Stenudd wrote: View Post
Surely, such noble thoughts have been present also in traditional bushido, through the ages, but aikido refines them and comes with new, surprising solutions.
Regarding the refining and surprising solutions, I thought that for many years as well, but the longer I spend in Japan doing the research I am doing, the more it seems to me that Ueshiba was just recycling things that had been floating around for centuries before. While I wouldn't say said ideas were completely commonplace, there were a number of ryu that did carry the philosophy to equal extremes and, in some cases I think, much more elegantly than the somewhat haphazard situation that is Aikido (I have no doubt Ueshiba was a man of gifts such that we rarely see, but in many areas he was obviously winging it). It's to the point these days where outside of some of the Omoto-kyo stuff, I don't really see much of anything original in what he brought to the table. Not that that makes the pursuit any less worthwhile of course....

Hmmm, did I stir the pot enough there?
Rennis Buchner
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Old 05-19-2009, 11:12 AM   #8
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Quote:
True, one tradition of explaining the kanji for bu is "don't use the halberd",
Uh, pretty much a mis-placed tradition, according to the writings of people more knowlegable than I am. Check out the postings of Peter Goldsbury and Josh Reyer, here and on aikido journal.

"Bushido" carries much the same baggage.

Best,
Ron

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Old 05-19-2009, 11:22 AM   #9
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Hey Rennis, good to read you again...

Best,
Ron

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Old 05-19-2009, 11:22 AM   #10
Rennis Buchner
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote: View Post
Uh, pretty much a mis-placed tradition, according to the writings of people more knowlegable than I am. Check out the postings of Peter Goldsbury and Josh Reyer, here and on aikido journal.
The idea of "bu" meaning "stop the halberd" or its various permutations is not linquistically accurate from my understanding, but the use of that idea is in fact fairly old in Japan and while it may not be linquistically accurate, it is something that has colored the Japanese view of the character for quite a long time. Within the ryu I am a member of, one of the core teachings of the entire tradition is based off of a permutation hoko/todomeru idea. We have densho dating back to the 1600's surviving that talk about this teaching in great detail.

Rennis Buchner

Last edited by Rennis Buchner : 05-19-2009 at 11:25 AM.
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Old 05-19-2009, 11:23 AM   #11
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Kool, first I've heard of that from an older tradition...Thanks!
R

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Old 05-19-2009, 03:07 PM   #12
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Mr. Buchner, could you please go into further detail of how Osensei was just winging it and other points in your statement. I'm assuming that you have knowledge and access to things in Japan that I can't get a hold of. Please stir up the pot!! Would love to learn more.
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Old 05-19-2009, 05:59 PM   #13
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Quote:
Rennis Buchner wrote: View Post
Regarding the refining and surprising solutions, I thought that for many years as well, but the longer I spend in Japan doing the research I am doing, the more it seems to me that Ueshiba was just recycling things that had been floating around for centuries before.
I am reminded of what is said about Western tradition: Everything ever thought is a footnote in the works of Plato. Not that he used footnotes...

About the halberd thingy: As I implied, that interpretation can be discussed, but it has been around for very long, so it is definitely one of the traditions within bushido, contributing to its context and expressions.

Stefan Stenudd
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Old 05-19-2009, 06:29 PM   #14
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Hello,

I am not Rennis, but I am presently researching on kotodama for my next few columns and I can tell you that, from the evidence, Ueshiba's view of kotodama was a blend of borrowings from Esoteric Buddhism and Deguchi's Reikai Monogatari.

Quote:
Mike Braxton wrote: View Post
Mr. Buchner, could you please go into further detail of how Osensei was just winging it and other points in your statement. I'm assuming that you have knowledge and access to things in Japan that I can't get a hold of. Please stir up the pot!! Would love to learn more.
PAG

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Old 05-19-2009, 10:47 PM   #15
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Regarding the "bu" character, my personal assertions have always been as follows:

Historically, the character is a combination of a spear element and a walking/marching element. The walking/marching element looks very similar to the current character for "stop" (for related reasons), but it did not have that meaning when the character was first created. Thus, from an origin standpoint, it is not "stop the spears".

Idiomatically, the character has no instrinsic pacifistic or alturistic sense. It is used in senses of ferocity, strength and battle. In the more philosophical realm, you have the phrase Genna Enbu, referring to the end of major military action of the Sengoku period; it marks the start of the Pax Tokugawa. Ostensibly, budo arts were still practiced to put down rebellions (stop spears) and keep the peace, but the start of peace in the first year of Genna is nonetheless called "The Genna Laying Down of 'Bu'". On the mundane side, you have buki, a "vessel of 'bu'" meaning "weapon". If you ask the typical Japanese person what "bu" means, they'll talk about war and fighting, and the idea of "stopping spears" won't even occur to them unless pointed out.

Philosophically, "stopping spears" really is a wonderful, meaningful sentiment, that succinctly describes why we study "budo". Much like Choisai's saying, "Heiho 兵法 is Heiho 平法" (The ways of battle are the ways of peace), it's a great statement that's not meant to be taken literally. So, personally, I have no issue with it until people start throwing words like "really means" or "etymology" or "original meaning" around.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 05-19-2009, 10:55 PM   #16
Rennis Buchner
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Quote:
Mike Braxton wrote: View Post
Mr. Buchner, could you please go into further detail of how Osensei was just winging it and other points in your statement. I'm assuming that you have knowledge and access to things in Japan that I can't get a hold of. Please stir up the pot!! Would love to learn more.
Please just call me Rennis. Peter Goldsbury's writings show fairly well many aspects of Ueshiba was often just "going with the flow" as it were. Ueshiba seems to have been something of a person striving for something, but often it seems like he wasn't really sure what it was striving for. As a result he seemed to jump from one thing to another, being very intense about it while he was there, and then eventually moving on to something else. As a result it seems to me that his art is a bit of a mixing pot of various things. Technically it is obvious that the majority is pretty much right out of the Daito-ryu hand book (for those who might argue that aikido is fundamentally different than Daito-ryu technically, I find aikido to be really not much different than many of the Daito-ryu groups are from each other). As far as the philosophical bits related to his martial art goes, most of the major concepts there I can find in other much older ryuha (heck I can find most of them in my own ryu). The divine non-killing business, check. The ideas of everything and everyone coming from one universal source, check. are pretty common in a number of different arts (in fact aikido is missing a couple of the other ones they are commonly grouped with). The whole principle of non-clashing and all the permutations that go with it technically and philosophically, check. Skills coming directly from various deities, check.

There are numerous other examples, but I have to start getting ready for work here. Anyways, it seems to me that rather than creating much new, Ueshiba was just taking bits and pieces of already existing ideas and using what spoke to him in a rather haphazard way. I think a lot of the idea of him creating a totally new art for today's world was, while possibly some of his intent, also a bit of a PR job after the fact. Anyways, other people, such as Mr Goldsbury, have written in much more depth on these things from the Aikido side of things. I've just noticed that most of the hallmark points of aikido many talk about I have come across in traditions much older. Again, not being 100% original doesn't make the end goal any less worthy so maybe it is not so important in the grand scheme of things.

Rennis Buchner
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Old 05-19-2009, 11:27 PM   #17
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Quote:
Rennis Buchner wrote: View Post
. Anyways, it seems to me that rather than creating much new, Ueshiba was just taking bits and pieces of already existing ideas and using what spoke to him in a rather haphazard way. I think a lot of the idea of him creating a totally new art for today's world was, while possibly some of his intent, also a bit of a PR job after the fact. I've just noticed that most of the hallmark points of aikido many talk about I have come across in traditions much older. Again, not being 100% original doesn't make the end goal any less worthy so maybe it is not so important in the grand scheme of things.
Rennis said it well, and that is what I have been saying in numerous threads. Rennis said it quite nicely. Now to throw out something I have been holding back, something I wanted to say when I discussed Aikido and String theory, but at the time would have been too much, and Rennis touch on it in combination with what I quoted him saying. That is is old budo geometry that is only the equation. It is what you do with that equation that sparks interest and underlines the mysticism. So what if that process of the equation is fractal geometry? Aikido and Bushido is then fractal. Fractal ( iteration being stressed with the idea of "infinitely complex" ) plays a new dynamic in the way we approach and see waza? In the most simplist and entertaining ways to think about it, nature, shintoism, Aikido and Bushido, and fractal fits right in.

Questioning as I said before is important, and not being dependent on what others tell you, but rather it coming from yourself and your own discoveries really enhances your practice of Aikido, and leads you to the heart of Aikido and to it being a Budo.

Last edited by Buck : 05-19-2009 at 11:33 PM.
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Old 05-20-2009, 03:52 AM   #18
Charles Hill
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Hi Rennis,

I certainly understand about how Ueshiba may not have been offering anything entirely new, he himself basically said the same thing, right? However, I am not sure how you get he was "winging it" and "not really sure what it was (that he) was striving for." What specifically are you basing this on? My understanding is that upon meeting Onisaburo Deguchi, he had found what he was looking for and kept to that path the rest of his life.

As for the original post, I believe that Aikido (Japanese style) and Bushido are very similar. It is my understanding that what we get as "Bushido" is largely a leading-up-to WWII construct designed to convince the populace to toe the line and to sacrifice for the sake of the state. Perhaps it is just the massive pessimist in me, but I see the role Aikido often plays in Japan to be somewhat similar.
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Old 05-20-2009, 10:48 AM   #19
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Oh, and Stefan, Happy B-Day!
Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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Old 05-20-2009, 07:13 PM   #20
Rennis Buchner
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Quote:
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My understanding is that upon meeting Onisaburo Deguchi, he had found what he was looking for and kept to that path the rest of his life.
Regarding the "striving for something" of Ueshiba, I believe Ellis Amdur posted something about that element of his personality a while ago, but his views more or less jive with my impressions of the man.

As for finding what he was looking for with Deguchi, the general impression I get myself is that Ueshiba's time with Deguchi was in some ways quite similar to his time with Takeda Sokaku. That is to say he stumbled upon something that "spoke to him" at that point in his life, engaged in an extended period of intense focus and study on it, and then eventually distanced himself from it while still retaining a great deal of the core ideals. In the case of the Omoto-kyo, the distancing might have had some political elements to it as well (I think that is an oversimplification of a complex man), but if he was such a true believer and close student of Deguchi, why didn't he stick with it through the good times and the bad? Ueshiba seems to me to have been endlessly looking for something better, first from outside teachers, then eventually from the kami directly. In any case with both Daito-ryu and Omoto-kyo you could argue that he didn't really stick with them to the bitter end, even if the greater part of what he was doing himself came from them and he seems to have taken an idea from here, a concept from there throughout his entire life.

My comments about "winging it", while being a bit casual, I still stand by to a certain degree and are based on that pattern of "do something, move on" he seems to have had. This is especially true with elements of creating the organizational and educational models of the art, as well as the technical cirriculum itself, which is to say, he didn't seem to really have any plan at all (some might argue that Ueshiba's teaching model was based off of an older ideal on the method of instruction. While there is much to that argument, Ueshiba didn't really follow that method to the letter either). Technically he kind of followed Daito-ryu, but any ideas of formally organizing anything seemed to have been beyond him and mostly fell to his son later. Simpy put, he had people show up and train on whatever he felt like doing that day, when it gets too big, pass it off on someone else and let them deal with it, I can't be bothered as I have more important stuff to work on. Ueshiba never seemed to be working from any master plan and in many ways it seems to me like aikido as the art we know it now, was kind of a victim of his do it and move on tendencies. Not that he every stopped practicing and refining "his" art, but when he had finally gotten a decent level of name recognition for the art of aikido, he seems to have again "lost interest" as it were and dumped the whole thing off on his son to organize and he moves off to the country to do his own thing again. Many have commented that Aikido as we know it now is a product of the second Doshu and I would agree. When viewed very generally of Ueshiba's life seems to be him following whatever new adventure he discovered until he found something new and better. Martials arts... wait, a new life and adventure in Hokkaido.. Oh my god Daito-ryu..... wait..actually, Omoto-kyo!!..... hmmm, well maybe Aiki-budo... wait no, Aikido... come to think of it, aiki-farming in the country..... etc.

I think in many ways aikido is more a sum total of the various things Ueshiba happened to find himself stumbling into over the course of his life more than any particular gameplan he developed at some point. He was a rare combination of a man of great talent who was also in a situation to be able to freely pursue just about path that struck his fancy and he did so.

Also, if a guy today claimed to have gleened the proper use of the naginata by simply reading a comic book and then staying up all night that day thinking about it and getting enlightenment on the issue from the gods, regardless of how sincere he might be, we would say he was winging it (actually we'd probably say he was crazy), so I stand by my comments in that regard.

More random thoughts,
Rennis Buchner
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Old 05-21-2009, 08:13 AM   #21
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

I can't claim the level of scholarship of many of those participating in those threads, but it seems to me that comparing aikido to bushido is comparing apples to oranges. Bushido was a "way", a do, that was reserved for members of a certain social class. It was an ideal whose particulars changed over the centuries, not a static thing, and while certainly not every bushi lived up to its ideals, it would seem nonsensical for a peasant to pursue bushido. Aikido doesn't seem to have any such class connotations.
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Old 05-21-2009, 08:28 AM   #22
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Honor,
Respect,
Compassion,
Honesty,
Courage,
Loyalty,
Rectitude(right thoughts and actions).

The 7 virtues of Bushido, it seems to me that these are qualities that could very well be adhered to in today's society, as well as the past.
And not just by a certain social class, but for all classes and walks of life. I also believe that these virtues fit nicely with Aikido(the way of spirit and harmony).

Anyway that is just my belief, i am glad that you all are giving me your input. Thanks
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Old 05-21-2009, 09:11 AM   #23
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Hi Brian,

I think the salient question here though, is do those virtues REALLY represent Bushido, either as an over all concept, or in terms of the various uses of the term in individual areas at specific periods of time. If you go with the overall concept, then you have to look at a kind of sum total or amalgam of those ideas...which of course then should include the way the idea of Bushido was used in WWII by the government to incite violence and war.

Then, having selected one of those areas, and periods of time that match the items listed in your post; is there any true correlation between Ueshida and his influences and that time/place you accept for the definition for "Bushido" (the time/period closest to him is in fact during the mis-use of the concept leading up to and during the war [I can't believe anyone in aikido in the US would actually want to go there]).

I was taught the "meaning of the pleats of the hakama" thingy and "Bushido" too...but I choose to take that kind of thing with a few grains of salt. It is part of the mythology of Japanese martial art and specifically, many forms of aikido, even if only in passing. BUT...I also think these things are not to be taken too literally, and I don't think too much should be made of them.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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Old 05-21-2009, 09:26 AM   #24
Rennis Buchner
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
I can't claim the level of scholarship of many of those participating in those threads, but it seems to me that comparing aikido to bushido is comparing apples to oranges. Bushido was a "way", a do, that was reserved for members of a certain social class. It was an ideal whose particulars changed over the centuries, not a static thing, and while certainly not every bushi lived up to its ideals, it would seem nonsensical for a peasant to pursue bushido. Aikido doesn't seem to have any such class connotations.
On the other hand, you could very well argue that what most people consider "Bushido" today was very much a product of the military/government leading up into World War Two and that brand of "Bushido" was very much a product aimed that the general population rather than an elite warrior class. More over, it was during a period when Ueshiba was very much active and he seems to have been as influenced by the times as anyone else (adventures in Mongolia anyone?). Of course after the war it is likely much of that influence was downplayed for obvious reasons.
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Old 05-21-2009, 09:37 AM   #25
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Re: Aikido and Bushido

Whenever the samurai-wanna-be's wax romantic about the past I always say with a fiegned gleam in my eye "Lets imagine we can go back to that era wouldn't that be great? I'll go back as a war lord who just successfully attacked a castle. And you? You go back...............as a peasant farmer owing taxes with a bad crop yield!"

What was that other diddy? Hell for a bushi would be reincarnated as a Bushi.

The entire affair seemed to be a stiffling way to live. But taken as a whole the entire world was a system of the haves stepping on the necks of others. I think most dissmissed the whole "noble night" farse a long time ago.

All that said -can we count the times Ueshiba stated flatly that Aikido was budo, that aiki was budo, that Takeda (who described his art as defensive) opened his eyes to true budo!
That he taught the military, was part of rightwing groups, and may have taught assasins? Then spent time talking about love.
Somewhere in there is the dualism of his message.
But most certainly aikido never was about the Samurai or anything to do with the samurai.
Cheers
Dan
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