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Old 10-29-2013, 12:15 PM   #101
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
How much was done to "meet the needs" of the consumers at the time, all very necessary I think to keep Aikido afloat in a very difficult time in Japan. And the "repackaging" of some of O-sensei's stuff in the more mystical vein also fed in to the stereotype of "mystical oriental arts" that still attracts many. And then notions of being one with the universe, peace, love, understanding, and all that good stuff that really started to kick in during the 60's and 70's. The timing was incredible if you stand back and consider it all.
Totally agree and, to some point, it explains why previous attempts to export Aikido were not so succesful. I'm thinking in pioneers like Abbe Kenshiro in UK, Mochizuki Minoru or Abe Tadashi in continental Europe or Tomiki Kenji in the USAF.

Last edited by Demetrio Cereijo : 10-29-2013 at 12:23 PM.

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Old 10-29-2013, 01:07 PM   #102
Budd
 
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Actually I was referring to the early history of Aikido, primarily when Tohei was just rising in the organization and Kisshomaru was making his presence felt in the original organization. I think a good argument could be made along the lines of Hobsbawm's discussions that an awful lot of what most now take as "traditional" arose at this time. Bits of this, bits of that, some long standing traditions, but many others "created" along that time. These things allowed participants to feel "part of the group" or maybe better yet, part of an "elite" group. Hobsbawm goes in to a lot of this stuff in his introduction to his book on invented traditions. When I first read that a few years ago I kept smiling thinking about the "evolution" of Aikido. How much was done to "meet the needs" of the consumers at the time, all very necessary I think to keep Aikido afloat in a very difficult time in Japan. And the "repackaging" of some of O-sensei's stuff in the more mystical vein also fed in to the stereotype of "mystical oriental arts" that still attracts many. And then notions of being one with the universe, peace, love, understanding, and all that good stuff that really started to kick in during the 60's and 70's. The timing was incredible if you stand back and consider it all.

Anyway, the point of invented traditions is that many things are to some extent taken to be "tradition" that are on closer examination rather recent and to some extent "artificial". They can be more about inclusion (or exclusion), about group dynamics, about creating an identity, about yearning for the mythical days long gone (that often themselves didn't exist). I'm reminded of books like the Hagakure, and various things we still hear today with alarming frequency about "Bushido". Well, today we talk about "budo". But I think there is a tremendous amount of idealized and self-serving views of these things.

Anyway, not really my area, I'm just an amateur that loves to read stuff.

Oh, the pizza reference is about how you can go to Italy today and get a "traditional" pizza. And how people here will argue incessantly about what style of pizza is "truly authentic". All when pizza as we know it was a somewhat American thing that Italians now make for American tourists looking for the "real deal".

Or to put it another way... It's complicated.

Anyway, a lot of Mr. Boylan's threads lately have reminded me of all of that. So I just dusted off my copy of Invented Traditions for when I finish the book I'm on now. All interesting stuff so I'm sorry if I went a bit far afield.

Carry one as they say...
This is a great post, Keith. Pretty much a joy to read.
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Old 10-29-2013, 07:33 PM   #103
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Anyway, the point of invented traditions is that many things are to some extent taken to be "tradition" that are on closer examination rather recent and to some extent "artificial". They can be more about inclusion (or exclusion), about group dynamics, about creating an identity, about yearning for the mythical days long gone (that often themselves didn't exist). I'm reminded of books like the Hagakure, and various things we still hear today with alarming frequency about "Bushido". Well, today we talk about "budo". But I think there is a tremendous amount of idealized and self-serving views of these things.

Anyway, not really my area, I'm just an amateur that loves to read stuff.

Oh, the pizza reference is about how you can go to Italy today and get a "traditional" pizza. And how people here will argue incessantly about what style of pizza is "truly authentic". All when pizza as we know it was a somewhat American thing that Italians now make for American tourists looking for the "real deal".

Or to put it another way... It's complicated.

Anyway, a lot of Mr. Boylan's threads lately have reminded me of all of that. So I just dusted off my copy of Invented Traditions for when I finish the book I'm on now. All interesting stuff so I'm sorry if I went a bit far afield.

Carry one as they say...
Hello Keith,

When I wrote my earlier post, I was thinking of the essay on judo in the collection edited by Stephen Vlastos. The title of the book is Mirror of Modernity and the essay is entitled "The Invention of the Martial Arts: Kano Jigoro Kano and Kodokan Judo." The essay is by Shun Inoue, who is listed as a professor of sociology at Kyoto University.There is a lengthy translator's note on p.163, but it is unclear to what extent the (anonymous) translator's comments about budo are a reflection of Inoue's thinking about budo or the translator's own ideas.

I recently gave a lecture at Kogakkan University, which is a school for training Shinto priests. The university is situated in Ise and is very close to the two shrines. In the evening I had dinner with some of the professors and we discussed Hobsbawn's ideas. The general tone was, 'Well, in Shinto we invent traditions all the time: the emphasis is more on the quality and value of the tradition itself, rather than whether it is invented or not.'

Best wishes,

PAG

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Old 10-29-2013, 09:30 PM   #104
hughrbeyer
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

Actually, it's my understanding that pizza is something that Italians now make for other Italians because it was imported from America and re-imagined for the Italian market. An Italian pizza is rather different from an American pizza.

Alex, I think you offer a valuable perspective re the marketing of Aikido. If Aikido or the Aikikai really wanted to be a marketing organization, there are lots of models out there which would be much more successful than your typical Aikido dojo. Just visit your local Tae Kwon Do outlet for an example. If Aikido has been adapted (or "simplified" or "dumbed down") for easy dissemination to a wider audience, it's still attempted to maintain some integrity as a martial *art*.

As for invented traditions, there are some videos available of O-Sensei warming up a group before a practice (see the Aikido Journal series of 5 DVDs), which are shocking to modern eyes. There is the Founder, running through his exercises--and half the group is doing something totally different, almost nobody is keeping time with him, the whole thing seems pretty much random. It's a problem to fetishize traditions, perhaps, but requiring people to sit up and pay attention does not seem so much of an ask.

As for O-Sensei's mystical vein, remember that the man evolved. He himself talked about re-envisioning Aikido in the wake of Japan's defeat in the war--and not just Japan's defeat, but in consideration of Japan's role and actions in that war. When you quote him, you have to think about when the quote came from. I'm sure he did mean exactly that Takeda Sokaku opened his eyes to "true budo." I'm also sure his idea of "true budo" expanded over time.

Evolution doesn't prove God doesn't exist, any more than hammers prove carpenters don't exist.
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Old 10-29-2013, 10:46 PM   #105
Stephen Nichol
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Hugh Beyer wrote: View Post
As for O-Sensei's mystical vein, remember that the man evolved. He himself talked about re-envisioning Aikido in the wake of Japan's defeat in the war--and not just Japan's defeat, but in consideration of Japan's role and actions in that war. When you quote him, you have to think about when the quote came from. I'm sure he did mean exactly that Takeda Sokaku opened his eyes to "true budo." I'm also sure his idea of "true budo" expanded over time.
Thanks Hugh,

That is a very good point.
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Old 10-30-2013, 07:47 AM   #106
Keith Larman
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Hello Keith,

When I wrote my earlier post, I was thinking of the essay on judo in the collection edited by Stephen Vlastos. The title of the book is Mirror of Modernity and the essay is entitled "The Invention of the Martial Arts: Kano Jigoro Kano and Kodokan Judo." The essay is by Shun Inoue, who is listed as a professor of sociology at Kyoto University.There is a lengthy translator's note on p.163, but it is unclear to what extent the (anonymous) translator's comments about budo are a reflection of Inoue's thinking about budo or the translator's own ideas.
Thank you, Peter. I will add it to my reading list. I find it quite amazing how very complicated our social interactions can be. And how some things coalesce over time and develop a life of their own.

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
I recently gave a lecture at Kogakkan University, which is a school for training Shinto priests. The university is situated in Ise and is very close to the two shrines. In the evening I had dinner with some of the professors and we discussed Hobsbawn's ideas. The general tone was, 'Well, in Shinto we invent traditions all the time: the emphasis is more on the quality and value of the tradition itself, rather than whether it is invented or not.'

Best wishes,

PAG
Their candor in this admission is quite remarkable to a western mindset, but I suppose it is not surprising otherwise. And I think that's where some discussions between the two cultures tend to veer in to precarious territories. When I first started doing work in the Japanese sword crafts I spent a lot of time simply astounded at things I heard and learned. I am quite lucky to have a number of friends, mentors and now customers who are deeply involved in any variety of old sword arts, both in the craft but also "usage" of the sword. I found it amazing to hear stories of how certain things were "discovered" within some arts/ryuha. The wild creation myths seem to be quite acceptable with Tengu revealing techniques to founders. Or dubious claims of histories going back thousands of years (often with remarkably large holes in the history) where most just smile, repeat the story, and get on with training. So there seems to be an easy "flexibility" and even an acknowledgement of invented tradition as being a practical part of the evolution of things. It just is and it can often carry useful information for the area. Whereas for the more westernized minds it comes as a shock to find that deeply held traditions can often be, well, not so "authentic" as they appear. The fact that some histories in Japan seem to quite easily accommodate mystical inspirations is really quite interesting. And how easily that is accepted or just, well, not really considered a problem is a sign of a different attitude (or maybe more relaxed attitude) about needing concrete, "objective", and non-mystical roots for an art. It says something about both cultures. Then the western mindset seems quite uncomfortable with any uncertainty or non-absolutes. So we are surprised to find that some of our "traditions" may not be quite so traditional.

And I think it also gives us a lot to think about when we start to idealize etiquette, tradition, etc. in the non-western arts we study as westerners. Some, I think, take it more seriously and try to make it more concrete than maybe they should.

Last edited by Keith Larman : 10-30-2013 at 07:50 AM.

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Old 10-30-2013, 08:35 AM   #107
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
There is a lengthy translator's note on p.163, but it is unclear to what extent the (anonymous) translator's comments about budo are a reflection of Inoue's thinking about budo or the translator's own ideas.
Or Turnbull's

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Old 10-30-2013, 09:37 AM   #108
Keith Larman
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

I'll also toss in that it is amazing to me that people so conveniently forget that Japan was rocked with massive upheavals in social norms and all things related for the last 150 years. So many things changed and changed profoundly. Some resisted, others embraced it. And everything in between. There was the Meiji Restoration, the rise of the ultra-nationalists, excursions in to China, etc., the crushing defeat of WWII, and so forth. The cultural/political changes were incredibly profound so there should be little wonder that some things were held on to with a fanatical enthusiasm while other things were adopted to justify changes and behaviors. I wonder how many people ever ask whether their groups with highly militaristic training and "culture" are more a reflection of early 20th century nationalist fervor rather than the often posited "samurai" origins (and whether those origins existed at all in any sort of consistent fashion). The next logical question is to ask how much things like this (and many others including the longer term traditions) affect our understanding of meaning of the term "budo" today. Is what makes it something "authentic" or "true" more a reflection of a 20th century fascist fanaticism rather than the idealized view of the warrior sage? Or some combination of both? And if it is a complex interwoven mess (my position I suppose) how do we unravel the history and define "authentic" or "true"?

Or are we just choosing and defining the tradition we find most helpful and consistent with what we find valuable today... There's nothing wrong with doing that as long as, like Peter's Shinto professor acquaintances, we recognize what we're doing and why. So I suppose I'm saying I have no problem with invented traditions, I'm just hesitant to give them the weight of historic authenticity many in the west in particular seem to feel tradition grants them.

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