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Old 08-22-2013, 09:41 AM   #51
Janet Rosen
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
I wish I could find the hilarious piece that (I think) Jim Baker wrote, years ago, comparing dressing up and playing "cowboys" in Japan, to dressing up and playing "aikido" in the West.
Dang, not on the aikidofaq.

Janet Rosen
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Old 08-22-2013, 09:44 AM   #52
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

Shoot. I thought he originally put it on Aikido-L back in the day. I know it's online somewhere, prolly archived.
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Old 08-22-2013, 10:09 AM   #53
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

Chris,
I think there is a focus here on the fact that sometimes we train without all the fancy clothes. I'm trying to look at the overall practice, not the occasional times when we do something unusual. What is the baseline? That's dressed in funny clothes. We can train without them, but the overwhelming majority of the time we wear the uniform.

I chuckled when you mentioned Kano Shihan and keikogi. In the circles I run around in in Japan, keikogi means the nice, traditional indigo uwagi worn for kendo, kenjutsu and related stuff. The thing Kano Shihan created is usually referred to particularly as a judogi. It may be because I spend so much time in the koryu world and so little time in gendai budo circles these days.

I do find it interesting that the group consensus falls on the side of etiquette and non-physical cultural aspects are necessary, but the particular clothing is not.

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Old 08-22-2013, 10:29 AM   #54
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

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Peter Boylan wrote: View Post

I do find it interesting that the group consensus falls on the side of etiquette and non-physical cultural aspects are necessary, but the particular clothing is not.
Once you get to the question of whether a specific etiquette is required then I think that things get much cloudier.

The etiquette in Iwama is different than than in Tokyo, in many places I've trained in Japan there's barely any reiho at all. If we're requiring a specific type of reiho then one could make the argument that there's only one "correct" reiho.

I think that trying to make the argument that a specific reiho is required is going to be very difficult - and then you get to the point of where the crossover is.

A number of the direct students of Morihei Ueshiba told me flatly that it wasn't important if people didn't want to bow, for example. I know that there are some dojo where the entire practice of bowing has been eliminated - is what they're doing no longer Aikido?

I think that if you ask people "should etiquette be required?", then most will say yes. Once you get into the details I think that most will say "no".

Best,

Chris

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Old 08-22-2013, 10:47 AM   #55
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

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Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Once you get to the question of whether a specific etiquette is required then I think that things get much cloudier.....
I think that if you ask people "should etiquette be required?", then most will say yes. Once you get into the details I think that most will say "no".
I tend to agree, and I think this has to do with the human desire/need/preference for some kind of ritual, however brief, to separate disparate activities.
If I dash into the studio or out to the garden for just a two minute task, I don't bother; however, if I am planning on settling into either for a period of focused work, then there is a period of tidying up, preparing tools, etc that may or may not be 100% "necessary" but helps me prepare. Similarly when doing major cooking or arriving at the office.
I think much of what falls under the rubric of etiquette in the aikido dojo is simply THAT dojo's specific ritual norms that help separate being in the dojo from other activities and therefore aid in focus (as well as, being communal rather than individual, team-building).

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Old 08-22-2013, 11:03 AM   #56
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

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BJJ is not a budo. It's just a series of techniques. It has no spiritual content. I am of the opinion that in Japanese arts everything has meaning and tradition. This includes the clothing and the protocol in the dojo. If you remove those things you might just as well go outside and roll in the dirt. Just my opinion.
First of all, both aikido and BJJ are as "spiritual" as the practitioner chooses to make them. It is entirely possible to practice BJJ spiritually, and entirely possible to practice aikido nonspiritually.

In terms of the specific traditional trappings of aikido, I have two stories that I think are very relevant to this thread:

1.
Ikeda Shihan visits my old club every year for a seminar. One year, his luggage did not arrive with him, and he therefore had no uniform for the Friday night class. Many students and instructors were falling over themselves to offer him their gis and hakamas, but he waved them all off politely and led the class in jeans and a tee shirt. I can assure you all that his aikido was just as real that night as any other night.

2.
Aikidoists from all over the Milwaukee area get together in the summer to train with weapons out in the park. There are no gis or hakamas, there is no sitting in seiza, and there is no kamiza to bow to, and our aikido is none the worse for it.

The more I train, the more I come to think of the uniform, the bowing, the etiquette, the kamiza, etc. as non-essential. I am happy to have them, and I am not suggesting we get rid of them, but I think it's dangerous to start imbuing trappings with some kind of pseudo-religious importance. The real essence of aikido, I think, is not in what we say or wear.

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Old 08-22-2013, 11:27 AM   #57
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

I think sometimes it is important to train in your everyday clothes. If a situation escalated in a real life scenario would you be wearing a Gi? Aikido is Aikido no matter how you approach it. If you are granted permission to train in plain clothes, then etiquette will have to be there, along with everything else.
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Old 08-22-2013, 11:34 AM   #58
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

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Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
I wish I could find the hilarious piece that (I think) Jim Baker wrote, years ago, comparing dressing up and playing "cowboys" in Japan, to dressing up and playing "aikido" in the West.
http://www.aikiweb.com/humor/baker1.html

Quote:
Imagine you're walking in a backwoods area of Japan.
There's a small college nearby and the gymnasium is right ahead. You hear strange noises and sneak in to investigate. You go up a stairway to what must be the Alumni booth overlooking the gym floor.

Down below there are dozens of Japanese men and women dressed up in costumes from America's Wild West of the 1800's. Some have ten-gallon hats; others have big fuzzy chaps; all are wearing holsters with wooden guns. They've paired off with "pardners" and stand 2.5 meters apart. The one on the left, called "varmint", says the traditional phrase, "This town has not sufficient size to contain two of us. You must depart." The person on the right, the "Good Guy", responds, "Reach for your shooting irons, you unclean rodent!" They both draw their wooden guns and yell, "Bang!", and the "varmint" falls to the ground; the "Good Guy" blows on the barrel of his wooden gun.

This is repeated four times. The "pardners" then switch sides. This goes on until the "Sheriff" stops class to demonstrate a new "draw."

Do these people seem silly? Would you laugh at them?

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Old 08-22-2013, 12:19 PM   #59
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

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but I think it's dangerous to start imbuing trappings with some kind of pseudo-religious importance.
That strikes me as funny because budo (and pre-budo bujutsu!) is inherently pseudo-religious.
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Old 08-22-2013, 12:29 PM   #60
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

Matthew beat me to it, I keep a copy of that on my computer just so I can repost it occasionally when discussions go this direction...

I know people who are dead nuts serious about their aikido training. But for some of these people it often strikes me that the focus is balanced on a shaky foundation in the first place. Some are just enamored with some Hollywood movie version of the inscrutable, mystical eastern philosophy. Hell, I know guys who I'm pretty sure are in reality more motivated in their focus on asian arts as a result of David Carradine's slow motion and often painful acting in Kung Fu than a result of anything more "real" or concrete.

The mistake, IMHO, is to try to compare this with koryu. It never really seemed to be anything like my understanding of koryu, even from the early history of whatever the hell it was we want to call what O-sensei was doing. Heck, Takeda himself was travelling about, teaching some this, teaching others that, charging by the lesson, and was generally an unpleasant man. And then with Ueshiba M, people came from all over the feel and train with this guy because he was doing stuff they couldn't quite understand but knew they wanted to be able to do. But it never seemed O-sensei was trying to transmit a curriculum of techniques, history, etc. as you see in most koryu. It was more O-sensei was teaching some sorts of body skills that he seemed to feel were intertwined with a series of spiritual ideas that he used to help organize them.

Later on with Morihei's son, Tohei, and the various other early deshi who went their own ways we see their take on what Ueshiba was doing but often then systematized in different forms with different focuses, mostly along the lines of the predispositions and abilities of the deshi themselves. Now each of those developed (or maybe better adopted) more formal traditions as they became systems on their own. Each with varied balances of ideas in areas such as reiho, underlying spirituality, etc. I've been in settings where they just practice. Others with bowing. Others with bowing and a variety of what are essentially adopted Shinto ritualistic practices, etc.

So this all goes back to my original post of saying it really depends on what you mean by "Aikido". To me it's like saying a Jeep isn't really a car because it's not as relaxing and comfortable as driving a Lexus on a day long drive on the interstate. Or that the Lexus isn't *really* a car because it can't 4-wheel-drive on the dirt back roads of Montana. Nah, they're both cars. Just different.

Me, I'm trying to figure out what the original old guy was doing. I come from a lineage that separated from Tohei, so the emphasis is there. And we have judogi, hakama, etc. But we don't line up according to rank nor do we clap 2 times after 2 bows. Just a bow to the shomen then a bow to the instructor. Some on the end. But would it be the same aikido as we practice it to remove the etiquette, etc.? Well, no, not really the same, but I would argue it is still aikido in some sense or another. But one could make the same argument about every single one of you reading this. Your aikido isn't the same as mine because, well, it's different on any number of levels. But I'd say on a higher level it is all still Aikido, at least in some sense of the word.

Whether the differences become important, then, depends on those differences and whether those differences are important to you.

A friend of mine was talking with Ono Yoshimitsu, one of the greatest living swordsmiths in Japan. His Yamatorige fully polished fetch over $60K and you've got years to wait. He was laughing about how a British Documentary team was doing a film on him and his work. He found it funny that they had him move his large power hammer out of his workshop. They wanted it out of view so they could film how he *really* makes swords, you know, the "traditional" way.

So I suppose my response to most of this is... Whatever. Seems like much of it is really a bunch of argument on semantics and reflects more about what people want to believe and what people choose to believe rather than any sort of certain truth about reality. Aikido is a fuzzy area trained in by a whole lot of people. Some folk are way out in the fringes doing either really amazing things or completely silly crap depending on your point of view. Is it all Aikido? Kinda. Sorta. Yes and no.

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Old 08-22-2013, 01:51 PM   #61
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

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That strikes me as funny because budo (and pre-budo bujutsu!) is inherently pseudo-religious.
Even if you think budo is inherently religious/spiritual (that's an argument for another thread, I think) it's important to distinguish what is and is not budo. White uniforms, colored belts, bowing, seiza, the kamiza, Japanese phrases, even the dojo itself: to me, these things are not budo. They are the trappings that usually go along with budo, but I think budo would still be budo without them.

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Old 08-22-2013, 02:44 PM   #62
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

Matthew and Keith. Great post. and great topic Peter!

FWIW, I know plenty of soldiers in the Army that wear a uniform everyday, but I would not consider them warriors. It isn't the clothes that makes the man, it's what is inside the man and what he is willing and prepared to do that makes him a warrior or a budoka.

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Old 08-22-2013, 03:05 PM   #63
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

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So it looks like for most people the clothing isn't terribly important, but the etiquette is very important. Actions over appearance.

This is pretty much a discussion that can only be had with gendai arts like Aikido. The koryu arts are pretty clear about how much change is acceptable (not much. You either adapt yourself to the system or go do something else).

I will note that as far as I'm concerned, modern IJF Judo is almost a completely different animal from the Kodokan Judo from which it was born. They still use the cloths and the formal etiquette and the Japanese terms, but the spirit of practice has been transformed. The complete focus on competition and making everything spectator and TV friendly has created a completely different beast with a totally different soul.
I don't think it is easy to say clothes are or are not important. My answer is "it depends". Spending my time in BJJ these days I have seen many variations of teaching styles. I have been to gyms that pump up there students with Angry White Boy music and others that play very relaxing euro beat music. Most don't play music at all. Some will bow in and out, some will not. Some only allow white gis, others you can wear a pink one with patches! However, the quality of the jiu jitsu tends to be decent regardless...so you might surmise that "it doesn't matter".

However, I'd argue that it does matter in some respect. I might play relaxing euro beat music and dim the lights and try and create an ambiance that relaxes the students and gets them to flow. Other times I might cut off the AC, play loud music and increase the stress.

It all depends on the students and teaching style of the teacher and how he uses the environment to connect and reach his students.

Customs and courtesies must be important as we have them in the military. They matter for what they are, but they are NOT everything. They help encourage "good order and discipline" for the masses, establish an identity, and create brotherhood and affinity. Outside of that, I don't think it matters much.

So, is it still aikido without all this. I think so. I think you most certainly can call your art Aikido if you are following the tenants of your methodology and are working successfully to achieve your end states.

Alas, "what is aikido?" "how do we know it when we see it". of course, we spend a great deal of time defining what this means as it is an elusive art that seems to escape the ability to objectify measurements of effectiveness!

I think sometimes putting on the hakama is a good thing. but it can also be a hinderance, just as a black belt can be a hinderance if we start believing the myth of our belt!

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Old 08-22-2013, 03:05 PM   #64
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

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Matthew Story wrote: View Post
Even if you think budo is inherently religious/spiritual (that's an argument for another thread, I think) it's important to distinguish what is and is not budo. White uniforms, colored belts, bowing, seiza, the kamiza, Japanese phrases, even the dojo itself: to me, these things are not budo. They are the trappings that usually go along with budo, but I think budo would still be budo without them.
You misquoted me quoting you! I distinctly said "pseudo-religious."

Budo is a process meant to change and strengthen a practitioner along the lines of character, spirit, mental endurance, etc. It has to be a process that you submit to. You don't get to choose what it is. That would be like a military boot camp where recruits were allowed to choose how many hours of sleep they would like each day and what activities they chose to sign up for.

Of course modern military training is not pseudo-religious, but of course it is not based on principals laid out in Chinese classics either.
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Old 08-22-2013, 03:15 PM   #65
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

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You misquoted me quoting you! I distinctly said "pseudo-religious."

Budo is a process meant to change and strengthen a practitioner along the lines of character, spirit, mental endurance, etc. It has to be a process that you submit to. You don't get to choose what it is. That would be like a military boot camp where recruits were allowed to choose how many hours of sleep they would like each day and what activities they chose to sign up for.

Of course modern military training is not pseudo-religious, but of course it is not based on principals laid out in Chinese classics either.
Could you explain further what this means in reference to the post of mine that you are quoting? I'm not sure I'm following you.

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Old 08-22-2013, 03:36 PM   #66
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

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Matthew Story wrote: View Post
Could you explain further what this means in reference to the post of mine that you are quoting? I'm not sure I'm following you.
You seemed to be disregarding clothing and some other elements as trappings, and warning against imbuing them with psuedo-religious meaning.

This strikes me as funny because the entire traditional training process is a great example of a thing that is pseudo-religious....it is the product of thinking that is steeped in religious thought. The Japanese junction of Neo-Confucianism, Taoism, and esoteric Buddhism and Shintoism, to be precise (or not since it is quite a melange).

Even if you disregard the traditions established by Ueshiba's son and senior students, and don't understand or don't care about the link between what he was doing and how martial arts were transmitted classically, the link between Ueshiba's practice and the Chinese classics is something that a lot of people around here are currently pretty excited by.
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Old 08-22-2013, 03:55 PM   #67
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

Matthew,
You are THE MAN!!
Thanks for digging that out of cold storage. And it was right here under our noses on AikiWeb.
I guess more than a few people thought of that old post when, as Keith Larman put it, discussions go in "this direction."

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Last edited by Cady Goldfield : 08-22-2013 at 03:59 PM.
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Old 08-23-2013, 10:05 AM   #68
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

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You seemed to be disregarding clothing and some other elements as trappings, and warning against imbuing them with psuedo-religious meaning.
Quick point of order: what I warned against was imbuing them with pseudo-religious importance. Of course these things have meaning. If they didn't have meaning they wouldn't still be around. I wasn't calling these things meaningless; I was suggesting they are not vitally important to the question of what is and is not aikido.

Quote:
This strikes me as funny because the entire traditional training process is a great example of a thing that is pseudo-religious....it is the product of thinking that is steeped in religious thought. The Japanese junction of Neo-Confucianism, Taoism, and esoteric Buddhism and Shintoism, to be precise (or not since it is quite a melange).

Even if you disregard the traditions established by Ueshiba's son and senior students, and don't understand or don't care about the link between what he was doing and how martial arts were transmitted classically, the link between Ueshiba's practice and the Chinese classics is something that a lot of people around here are currently pretty excited by.
And there is no reason they shouldn't be excited by it.

But is the "thinking steeped in religious thought" you're talking about really contained in what we wear and how many times we bow? And what's more, can't someone who has no knowledge of or interest in Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, and Shinto still practice real aikido?

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Old 08-23-2013, 10:08 AM   #69
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

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Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
Matthew,
You are THE MAN!!
Thanks for digging that out of cold storage. And it was right here under our noses on AikiWeb.
I guess more than a few people thought of that old post when, as Keith Larman put it, discussions go in "this direction."
I have Dave Whiteland (of Fudebakudo fame) to thank for that. He e-mailed that to me after reading one of my blog posts, so I had it sitting in my inbox.

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Old 08-23-2013, 10:17 PM   #70
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Re: Is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

Newcomers ask 'do I have to buy a 'uniform.' In our dojo the answer is 'no.' We find that over time people choose to. I responded to a new inquiry with "we don't obsess over finery or nit-pick over obscure rules. It is obvious when someone is being disrespectful, not matter if they are well dressed and following the letter of the rules. Just come Play Aikido and over time you will learn the details through experience and observation."
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Old 08-23-2013, 11:39 PM   #71
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Re: Is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

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Newcomers ask 'do I have to buy a 'uniform.' In our dojo the answer is 'no.' We find that over time people choose to. I responded to a new inquiry with "we don't obsess over finery or nit-pick over obscure rules. It is obvious when someone is being disrespectful, not matter if they are well dressed and following the letter of the rules. Just come Play Aikido and over time you will learn the details through experience and observation."
I think the gi is a pretty sensible garment for aikido practice, personally. You need something that is going to protect you from the mat and is going to give your training partners something to grab onto. The gi works really well for this; I've certainly never seen anyone come up with anything that works better. What's more, although I don't think this something essential to or definitive of aikido, I think there is some merit to the argument that our purpose in the dojo is to be part of a group rather than to declare our individuality, and that therefore we ought to dress accordingly. For these reasons, I don't have an issue with clubs that make their students wear gis; I think there is more to gis than just tradition for tradition's sake.

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Old 08-24-2013, 07:33 AM   #72
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Re: Is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

If it ain´t broke don´t fix it !
Lars
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Old 08-24-2013, 07:47 AM   #73
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Re: Is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

I don't look at my Hakama as Japanese clothes. I wear it when I practice Aikido in the dojo. When I practice Aikido out of the dojo I don't wear it.

In response to Baker's anecdote. I would not laugh at them..I would hope they were having fun.

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Old 08-24-2013, 07:07 PM   #74
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Re: Is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

As I learned it, the etiquette is a form of martial awase (blending), or more specifically, musubi (connection) to your training partners and environment. If the partners or environment change, the outer forms change too (e.g.: in your school or workplace), but the principle of connecting and always being in the right place, physically and mentally, seemed to be pretty important to Morihei Ueshiba. A lot of the forms the founder used, particularly in the handling of weapons, have clear martial meaning and even the more gculturalh practices (offering your head for decapitation as a sign of trust etc) have a martial theme to them. So while I agree that you can take away the uniform and polite language, I think what they represent is part of the training in Ueshibafs aikido at least and something that we can adapt and put into practice in daily life.

Regards

Carl
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Old 08-25-2013, 08:35 AM   #75
chillzATL
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Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Aikido is a fuzzy area trained in by a whole lot of people. Some folk are way out in the fringes doing either really amazing things or completely silly crap depending on your point of view. Is it all Aikido? Kinda. Sorta. Yes and no.
Brilliant!
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