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Old 06-09-2009, 06:00 PM   #1
George S. Ledyard
 
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Aiki Extensions

I saw Bill Leicht this past weekend in New York. He is the current President of Aiki Extensions, an organization of which I have been a member since its inception, just about. Since I have been remiss about getting involved with any of there many projects, largely due to my own crazy schedule, I thought I'd try to help get the word out. These are really good folks trying to make a difference. I'm really better about investigating our art of Aikido within the dojo context but these folks are taking it "to the streets" so to speak. Please take some time to check them out...

Aiki Extensions Website[


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Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 06-09-2009 at 06:02 PM.
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Old 06-10-2009, 07:18 AM   #2
Carsten Möllering
 
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Re: Aiki Extensions

Hi
Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
... these folks are taking it "to the streets" so to speak. Please take some time to check them out...
aiki-extensions.org
What do you / they mean with "Aiki principles"?

Carsten
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Old 06-11-2009, 10:17 PM   #3
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Aiki Extensions

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
Hi

What do you / they mean with "Aiki principles"?

Carsten
I think it's fairly obvious what they mean from their materials...

George S. Ledyard
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Old 06-11-2009, 10:53 PM   #4
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Aiki Extensions

I had a rather unpleasant experience with Aiki Extensions a few years ago on this very website, when an attempt was made to censor one of my posts. Since just about every principle announced on their website was broken at this time, I have been rather wary of this organization ever since.

Best wishes,

PAG

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Old 06-12-2009, 01:45 AM   #5
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Aiki Extensions

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
I had a rather unpleasant experience with Aiki Extensions a few years ago on this very website, when an attempt was made to censor one of my posts. Since just about every principle announced on their website was broken at this time, I have been rather wary of this organization ever since.

Best wishes,

PAG
That's unfortunate and not in keeping with the folks I know who are involved... I don't know the situation but many of the folks involved have been my friends for years. Doesn't sound like them, although there can be a bit of the true believer coupled with a dose of pc-ness" with a few in the org. I am very sorry you had that experience, it surprises me.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 06-12-2009, 01:49 AM   #6
Carsten Möllering
 
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Re: Aiki Extensions

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
I think it's fairly obvious what they mean from their materials...
Hm, I can see what they do and I had a long conversation with one person of the advisory council, one year ago, not knowing he belongs to "aiki extensions". It was very, very interesting indeed.

I will try to concrete my question:

First aiki is merely a technical concept to control ones own ki and to control the ki of an attacker.Be it to focus ones ki and / or to blend with the ki of the opponent.
It is just a method used in some budo or bujutsu like aikido or daito ryu. Even in koryu like katori shinto ryu you find elements of it.
And using this method can hurt people or even kill.
Aiki taken by itself is neither good nor evil.

O Sensei filled this technical concept with his religous belief. His understanding of harmony, peace and so on is that of Shinto/Oomotkyo.
Others fill aiki with Zen like Shimizu Sensei, with Daoism like Endo Sensei or with an understanding of ki taken from Tempukai. I myself fill it with my Christian belief.
So the method of aiki is filled or interpreted by the philosophy or religous beliefs of the practioners.

But here it seems to be the other way round: What I read on the Homepage you linked, sounds nearly "religious". As if aiki taken by itself has some themes, contents or a "philosophy" ...
As if aiki taken by itself is "good".

On the Homepage I read:
"Aiki is the core of Aikido. It is a practical philosophy of harmony and cooperative action. It consists of principles and methods of self-awareness, calmness under pressure, compassionate power, and respectful engagement with others."

So my concretion:

Where are the principles, here called principles of aiki, taken from?

Greetings,
Carsten

Last edited by Carsten Möllering : 06-12-2009 at 01:52 AM.
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Old 06-12-2009, 06:10 AM   #7
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Aiki Extensions

Hello, George,

Actually, I was as surprised as you are.

I suppose my main issues with Aiki Extensions are: (1) the name, and (2) the very high 'ideological' content. I will take these separately.

(1) The Name
I think Carsten had a point in asking about the 'Aiki' in Aiki Extensions. In Hiroshima people have found that if you add 'Peace' to a name, it becomes much more marketable. So a glance at the telephone directory reveals dozens of companies that use 'Peace' in their names or advertising, from bus companies to builders. Why? Because 'Hiroshima' is all about peace, isn't it?

I think you can see the specious logic here. However, with 'peace', things are reasonably clear. Everyone knows what the word means, even the Japanese. (However, there is 'peace' (the bare absence of conflict) and 'peace' (the solving of all the human problems which afflict society generally).

With 'Aiki', things are much less clear, because there is no agreed definition of the term. So people can use 'aiki' to mean whatever they want it to mean. Yes, I know about 'matching of KI', but there is no agreement about the derivations, such as the idea that 'AIKI' really means conflict resolution.

(2) The Ideology / Moral Aspects
Aiki Extensions advertises itself as a kind of trans-cultural 'good thing': something that anyone who 'seriously' or 'honestly' practises aikido would naturally embrace as an 'extension' of their dojo training. However, I do not believe that the concept of 'aiki' in itself possesses these built-in ideological or moral aspects. Nor do I believe that 'aiki' in itself has an extrinsic moral imperative (that people who believe in 'aiki' should, as a result, live in such and such a way). Nor do I believe that people who practice aikido need to 'extend' their 'aiki' activities outside the dojo, as a direct result of aikido practice. They might (want to) do this, but there is no moral or ideological imperative to do so.

By the way, have you ever talked to Saotome Sensei about aikido and ideology?

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
That's unfortunate and not in keeping with the folks I know who are involved... I don't know the situation but many of the folks involved have been my friends for years. Doesn't sound like them, although there can be a bit of the true believer coupled with a dose of pc-ness" with a few in the org. I am very sorry you had that experience, it surprises me.
Best wishes,

PAG

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 06-12-2009 at 06:13 AM.

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Old 06-16-2009, 12:58 AM   #8
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Aiki Extensions

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

Actually, I was as surprised as you are.

I suppose my main issues with Aiki Extensions are: (1) the name, and (2) the very high 'ideological' content. I will take these separately.

(1) The Name
I think Carsten had a point in asking about the 'Aiki' in Aiki Extensions. In Hiroshima people have found that if you add 'Peace' to a name, it becomes much more marketable. So a glance at the telephone directory reveals dozens of companies that use 'Peace' in their names or advertising, from bus companies to builders. Why? Because 'Hiroshima' is all about peace, isn't it?

I think you can see the specious logic here. However, with 'peace', things are reasonably clear. Everyone knows what the word means, even the Japanese. (However, there is 'peace' (the bare absence of conflict) and 'peace' (the solving of all the human problems which afflict society generally).

With 'Aiki', things are much less clear, because there is no agreed definition of the term. So people can use 'aiki' to mean whatever they want it to mean. Yes, I know about 'matching of KI', but there is no agreement about the derivations, such as the idea that 'AIKI' really means conflict resolution.

(2) The Ideology / Moral Aspects
Aiki Extensions advertises itself as a kind of trans-cultural 'good thing': something that anyone who 'seriously' or 'honestly' practises aikido would naturally embrace as an 'extension' of their dojo training. However, I do not believe that the concept of 'aiki' in itself possesses these built-in ideological or moral aspects. Nor do I believe that 'aiki' in itself has an extrinsic moral imperative (that people who believe in 'aiki' should, as a result, live in such and such a way). Nor do I believe that people who practice aikido need to 'extend' their 'aiki' activities outside the dojo, as a direct result of aikido practice. They might (want to) do this, but there is no moral or ideological imperative to do so.

By the way, have you ever talked to Saotome Sensei about aikido and ideology?

Best wishes,

PAG
Hi Peter,
Saotome Sensei was definitely effected by the Founder's philosophy. He really believes that Aikido practice should make the world better etc. As with many of the deshi, he feels it has been his mission to take O-Sensei's message to the world. However, his take on it is a bit different than many of the folks here who use the same phrases.

Sensei had a button he wore on his hat that said "Peace through superior swordplay". He once commented on "conflict resolution" by saying "We have a conflict? Bang! Your dead. Now no more conflict". I'm not saying that he believes this is the only form of conflict resolution but as a Budo man he clearly sees this as one possibility. His other favorite is "You want to be non-violent? If you are weak, non-violence has no meaning... it's just wishful thinking."

I think that this is much more in keeping with a traditional viewpoint on what aiki is. Sensei pointed out to us very early on that "aiki" as a term was value neutral. It was not benign, or good, or warm and fuzzy as many Westerners interpreted it. He said that this was actually the reason O-Sensei did not wish just anyone to study his art. He felt that the techniques of the art should not be taught to someone of bad character because they dangerous and should not fall into the wrong hands.

The clear implication is that "aiki" is not a moral force, it is a process for connecting. I think it is more than simply a technique but it certainly isn't the synonym for holding hands and singing Kumbaya that many folks have tried to make it. The idea that connecting in this manner is necessarily "good" just isn't the case. I've done training in which there were techniques that were classified as "aiki" techniques which were total combat techniques in a system that most would consider amoral at best.

Saotome Sensei has always been big on how people apply their training off the mat. One of Sensei's students was a top heart surgeon. He routinely was able to do complex operations in a fraction of the time anyone had previously been able to accomplish. He said he used the same mindset he used in Aikido randori. That was exactly the kind if thing Sensei loves. Incidentally, when Sensei told the Nidai Doshu about this fellow, the Doshu went nuts... he loved the whole idea as well.

I don't think this is very different from what has taken place in the Zen community... When it first got here from Japan, it was about the practice. It was very monastic-ly oriented, despite the lack of actual monasteries. The first thing everybody did was found monastic training centers. Now we have had several generations of American Zen teachers and the emphasis on lay practice is far greater and there is a whole social activism taking place which strives to put the values of Buddhism into practice in society.

I think it is inevitable that this happens in Aikido. In my opinion it is an extension of what the Founder wanted for the art even though he probably never envisioned it happening quite this way. I do not think that O-Sensei really thought of Aikido as a practice for the masses that would spread widely around the world. Certainly, if you read Kisshomaru's description of his talks with his Father after the war, you can see that this vision was more from the son than the old man.

On the other hand, I think that most of what is done under the rubric of applying aiki principles on the social level, no matter how inaccurate the use of the term "aiki" might be in that context, would have had the Founder's approval. That's just my take on it.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
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Old 06-16-2009, 02:23 AM   #9
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Aiki Extensions

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Sensei had a button he wore on his hat that said "Peace through superior swordplay". He once commented on "conflict resolution" by saying "We have a conflict? Bang! Your dead. Now no more conflict". I'm not saying that he believes this is the only form of conflict resolution but as a Budo man he clearly sees this as one possibility. His other favorite is "You want to be non-violent? If you are weak, non-violence has no meaning... it's just wishful thinking."

I think that this is much more in keeping with a traditional viewpoint on what aiki is. Sensei pointed out to us very early on that "aiki" as a term was value neutral. It was not benign, or good, or warm and fuzzy as many Westerners interpreted it. He said that this was actually the reason O-Sensei did not wish just anyone to study his art. He felt that the techniques of the art should not be taught to someone of bad character because they dangerous and should not fall into the wrong hands.

The clear implication is that "aiki" is not a moral force, it is a process for connecting. I think it is more than simply a technique but it certainly isn't the synonym for holding hands and singing Kumbaya that many folks have tried to make it. The idea that connecting in this manner is necessarily "good" just isn't the case. I've done training in which there were techniques that were classified as "aiki" techniques which were total combat techniques in a system that most would consider amoral at best.

Saotome Sensei has always been big on how people apply their training off the mat. One of Sensei's students was a top heart surgeon. He routinely was able to do complex operations in a fraction of the time anyone had previously been able to accomplish. He said he used the same mindset he used in Aikido randori. That was exactly the kind if thing Sensei loves. Incidentally, when Sensei told the Nidai Doshu about this fellow, the Doshu went nuts... he loved the whole idea as well.
George,

I used to have similar conversations with Chiba Sensei, when we met in Japan. This would be shortly after my arrival in 1980--and I knew far less about the culture than I know now. However, our conversations used to focus far more on morality and moral choice as it affects the individual.

As for the heart surgeon, Tada Sensei has a similar anecdote about the skill required to make optical instruments: he believes it requires a skill that aikido training affords and that machines cannot match.

I think the moral issue is of crucial importance to postwar aikido, as is the ambivalence of many Japanese to the last war. I have come to this conclusion through the 30 years I have lived here in Hiroshima and talked to A-bomb victims, government officials and young students who have no knowledge of the war.

It is a very common complaint here that postwar Japan lacks a spiritual focus. There is a very good article by Ian Buruma in a recent issue of the New York Review of Books. The old ultranationalistic values were swept away, but MacArthur never succeeded in establishing a western style democratic structure here and the postwar educational system did not give any secure basis for individual moral values.

Kisshomaru Ueshiba was a transitional figure, but the younger deshi, like Chiba, Yamada and Saotome were most definitely 'postwar'. A moral dimension is perhaps something that western aikidoists can give the Japanese, but I am not sure that this moral dimension is best represented by Aiki Extensions.

Best wishes,

PAG

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Old 06-16-2009, 08:23 AM   #10
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Re: Aiki Extensions

George and Peter. Thanks for the discussion. This is very valuable insight and wisdom on the meaning of Aiki! Thanks for having it here.

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Old 06-16-2009, 11:33 AM   #11
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Aiki Extensions

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Kisshomaru Ueshiba was a transitional figure, but the younger deshi, like Chiba, Yamada and Saotome were most definitely 'postwar'. A moral dimension is perhaps something that western aikidoists can give the Japanese, but I am not sure that this moral dimension is best represented by Aiki Extensions.
I think I would agree... It seems to me that the bottom line in Aikido is still a deep, really deep understanding of what is happening in the interaction between two or more live energy systems that are human beings.

There are so many levels on which "connection" exists. Often, people like the idea of everything being connected but simply have not trained enough to have really understood it on the mat, in their bodies and in their minds. There is a tendency for these folks to feel a bit "ersatz" when they talk about applying "aiki" principles in the world.

I think it is the path of some folks to take the ideas of Aikido and apply them in the world. It is the path of others to master those principles on a deep level on the mat. One inspires the other... I don't usually see these talents combined in a single person. Getting deeply into ones training is such an individual effort, the folks I know who have gone the farthest in this direction are not terribly social beings for the most part.

For Americans, or any foreigners, to give something back to the Japanese that would be in a form that they would take in and make their own, it will have to be, first and foremost, grounded in a deep understanding of technique. That is the common language we share. If someone with exceptional technical skill could then connect that skill with insights that would apply off the mat, it would make sense and might be something the Japanese could digest.

In my opinion, the Aiki Extensions concept is profoundly American, or at least Western, in its fundamental outlook. To the extent that they refer to "aiki" principles, I think it is not the understanding of those principles that the Japanese would have. It's not that the Japanese might not see their efforts as positive or valuable... it's that they simply wouldn't necessarily see the connection with what they understand Aikido to be.

Anyway, there was some discussion a while back with Stan Pranin about what and how the West could give back to Japan now that Aikido has been flourishing over seas for over a generation. I told him that such a discussion was purely academic as I saw no sign that Japan had even the slightest interest in anything flowing back to them from abroad. Francis Takahashi has actually discussed the issue with Hombu, to little or no avail.

So whatever we "might" be able to give Japan, there would need to be a mechanism for doing so and that doesn't exist right now. And Aiki Extensions is not the vehicle.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 06-16-2009, 03:00 PM   #12
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Re: Aiki Extensions

I agree with Kevin; great discussion by two pillars of our aikido community.

I have a couple thoughts.
I don't feel an obligation to give anything back to Japan. I do feel an obligation to give something back to society, whether it be Japanese, American, Mexican, etc., but mostly I feel an obligation to give back to the community in which I find myself at the moment.

While I may speak of principals of aikido while not in the dojo, I do not think that sharing principals of aikido outside of the dojo is very meaningful or useful. It just feels too 'out of context' for me.

Apologies for the Interruption. Back to the pillars.
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Old 06-16-2009, 08:22 PM   #13
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Re: Aiki Extensions

similar discussion happens in Buddhism. Some debate has occurred over the years if westerners can really be buddhist as much of it is cultural in nature.

The concepts of engaged Buddhism seems to be along the same vein as aiki extensions.

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