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Old 08-20-2016, 11:28 PM   #26
RonRagusa
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Re: Reconcile the world

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John Hillson wrote: View Post
Does Aikido genuinely have a ethical and philosophical tradition, do aikido people genuinely believe in or work toward an Art of Peace? Probably not.
I think Aikido has both an ethical and philosophical tradition. I also think Aikido has a martial tradition and that the ethical, philosophical and martial traditions are not mutually exclusive. Working one's Aikido toward any specific goal is a personal choice that each practitioner continually refines as the years of practice mount up. So why not a martial art of peace?

Ron

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Old 08-21-2016, 08:28 AM   #27
rugwithlegs
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Re: Reconcile the world

Quote:
Ron Ragusa wrote: View Post
I think Aikido has both an ethical and philosophical tradition. I also think Aikido has a martial tradition and that the ethical, philosophical and martial traditions are not mutually exclusive. Working one's Aikido toward any specific goal is a personal choice that each practitioner continually refines as the years of practice mount up. So why not a martial art of peace?

Ron
Thank you.

How is this ethical and philosophical tradition represented in your dojo and your own practice? How does this manifest outside of the dojo, or does it? How is this passed on to students, how is it taught?

No reason that "How" and "Why" need to be mutually exclusive in any practice. But do we actually do this?
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Old 08-21-2016, 02:14 PM   #28
RonRagusa
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Re: Reconcile the world

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Mary Malmros wrote:
...there is no "we". "We" are not a unified body; we don't share a consensus.
I want to preface my attempts at answering your questions with that quote from Mary M. I agree with that view and further assert that since O Sensei's writings are full of imagery, metaphor and outright contradictions, when I speak of Aikido ethical and philosophical traditions I'm using my own interpretations gleaned from the years I've spent studying and training. Other teachers and students are free to form their own opinions of what he meant.

Quote:
John Hillson wrote: View Post
How is this ethical and philosophical tradition represented in your dojo and your own practice? How does this manifest outside of the dojo, or does it? How is this passed on to students, how is it taught?
Regarding ethical tradition in Aikido I can sum it up by saying you don't swat a fly with a nuclear weapon. Ueshiba addresses the negative consequences to one's self of inflicting unnecessary damage to an opponent repeatedly. Enough is enough and any more is just adding insult to injury. Our training reflects this idea in that we treat each other with respect and dish out no more than our partners can comfortably handle, from both sides of the interaction.

Philosophically speaking we are an egalitarian dojo. While we do have a traditional ranking system, rank doesn't equate to position in any pecking order. There's no "step 'n fetch it" activity here. The main reason that Mary E. and I frown on the hierarchical nature of many dojos is that we want our students to grow strong and keep growing stronger as they train. So we absolutely reject any behavior that permits students to give away their power to their more advanced partners and visa versa.

Our dojo traditions are passed onto students by example. Students who have trouble conforming to our standards inevitably leave and there have been more than a few over the years.

As far as "reconciling the world", I think the study of Aikido can lead one to a more peaceful existence, it certainly has for me. But I don't see Aikido as a system that will ever operate on anything greater than say a dojo wide level. As Mary M. said above, there is no WE in the collective sense; there's only us as individuals and we must decide for ourselves the path that's right for us.

Ron

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Old 08-21-2016, 10:04 PM   #29
rugwithlegs
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Re: Reconcile the world

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Ron Ragusa wrote: View Post
Philosophically speaking we are an egalitarian dojo. While we do have a traditional ranking system, rank doesn't equate to position in any pecking order. There's no "step 'n fetch it" activity here. The main reason that Mary E. and I frown on the hierarchical nature of many dojos is that we want our students to grow strong and keep growing stronger as they train. So we absolutely reject any behavior that permits students to give away their power to their more advanced partners and visa versa.
Thanks Ron,

You and your dojo looks to have put a lot of thought into how to transmit character development. This one aspect is something I haven't seen elsewhere and I like it. Sometimes blind obedience, subservience, and loyalty get confused. I've wondered how students get taught to think and act for themselves in a more rigid military style top-down environment. You're giving your students autonomy and authority early on, which is rare.

Some students are more senior than others, and the teachers are more senior as well. Do you have a problem keeping a class on task in a more egalitarian environment? Some aspects of etiquette like bowing contain aspects of juniors giving away power to their seniors - hand position, timing, lining up to bow in, who goes first after bowing in to each other, etc - do you still teach this?
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Old 08-22-2016, 12:05 PM   #30
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Re: Reconcile the world

A couple of thoughts...

1. Martial arts is a collection of athleticism, unified with a purpose - effective combat. Look at a similar group, say baseball, and you will find a collection of athleticism unified with a purpose - winning a baseball game. You could argue that baseball teaches ethics (sportsmanship, self-discipline, etc.), yet most people would not specifically argue that baseball is an ethical pursuit. Aikido has chosen to make a point of arguing its ethical position.
2. Decisions have value. Every decision we make has a value and a consequence. The concept of perception management deals specifically in altering the perceived value of the decision. The idea the resonated with our earlier aikido generations was the potential injury they could inflict was significant and therefore their actions should be weighed accordingly. This idea generally resonates across most martial arts.

I can chose to behave in any manner when I am on the mat, but my partner can likewise choose. Etiquette is designed to create some ground rules. Seniority is designed to let seniors demonstrate to juniors the "real" value of a decision, not the perceived one. A common thread that runs through several of these issues is a generation(s) of students who don't understand the "real" value of what they are doing and therefore can't share it with juniors. So in many ways we are susceptible to perception management because we don't understand the value of what we are doing.

Pointing back to our Kentucky issue, it's not that the teaching didn't work. As reported, it appears the techniques were [too] effective. The problem was the perception of aikido did not match the outcome of the training. In reading the thread, the super-position of the ethics of aikido being impugned would seem to support our priority to preserve our appearance.

In many ways, Aikido has worked so hard to elevate the perception if its position as an ethically-driven martial art that it almost can't support the weight of its own claims. This warps our training and I think that is not necessarily a good thing.

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Old 08-22-2016, 02:35 PM   #31
RonRagusa
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Re: Reconcile the world

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Do you have a problem keeping a class on task in a more egalitarian environment?
No John. Most of our students have been with Mary E. and me between 10 and 20 years. Our practice has developed a particular rhythm and flow as we have aged together (both Aikido-age and real-age ). New students are infrequent and get absorbed into the group in relatively short order.

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John Hillson wrote: View Post
Some aspects of etiquette like bowing contain aspects of juniors giving away power to their seniors - hand position, timing, lining up to bow in, who goes first after bowing in to each other, etc - do you still teach this?
Not formally, no. Pretty much everything to do with etiquette on the mat gets absorbed via student to student communication and experience. I'm not sure how bowing to one another implies a transfer of power; when we do bow in & out it's a gesture of courtesy, thanks and mutual respect. Same goes for bowing before and after drills with a partner.

Ron

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Old 08-22-2016, 06:35 PM   #32
rugwithlegs
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Re: Reconcile the world

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I'm not sure how bowing to one another implies a transfer of power...

Ron
First off, your dojo sounds like a great place to train!

In terms of bowing, I had it taught to me that the depth of the bow was lower for the junior student, how quickly the left hand left the hip to join the right on the floor or if it went down at the same time was a motion of deference (how quickly can the sword be drawn, and the senior was given deference in the timing, junior bowed first and held the bow longer, etc. Lining up, the most senior by the door to protect the kohei and Sensei and everyone else in descending order both by rank and time in rank. There's about nine different ways to say thank you apparently, and some are very deferential, some are very informal for among friends or a dismissive insult used wrongly. It got a little complicated some days.

I did like that the start and end of every class was a visual reminder who I was to protect and nurture, and who I was to learn from. On the other hand, so many ways drilled in to "not give offense" got mixed up with so many reasons I "should take offense" at other student's perfectly happy bowing.
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Old 08-22-2016, 07:22 PM   #33
rugwithlegs
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Re: Reconcile the world

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Jon Reading wrote: View Post
A couple of thoughts...

1. Martial arts is a collection of athleticism, unified with a purpose - effective combat. Look at a similar group, say baseball, and you will find a collection of athleticism unified with a purpose - winning a baseball game. You could argue that baseball teaches ethics (sportsmanship, self-discipline, etc.), yet most people would not specifically argue that baseball is an ethical pursuit. Aikido has chosen to make a point of arguing its ethical position.

Agreed. Ethics and philosophy are now defining features of Aikido to other martial artists and the public.

Defining our ethics is more of the trick. For example, some will say Aikido tries to not hurt their attackers - truthfully, safer techniques and safe, mutually beneficial practice was a goal of Kano Jigoro while O Sensei called Aikido a potentially lethal art.

2. Decisions have value. Every decision we make has a value and a consequence. The concept of perception management deals specifically in altering the perceived value of the decision. The idea the resonated with our earlier aikido generations was the potential injury they could inflict was significant and therefore their actions should be weighed accordingly. This idea generally resonates across most martial arts.

The warrior as an acceptible part of society. Part of the model for police officers and soldiers, and the foundation for society and law.

A common thread that runs through several of these issues is a generation(s) of students who don't understand the "real" value of what they are doing and therefore can't share it with juniors. So in many ways we are susceptible to perception management because we don't understand the value of what we are doing.

Is this only a knowledge deficit? Do we simply need to learn more?

...Aikido has worked so hard to elevate the perception if its position as an ethically-driven martial art that it almost can't support the weight of its own claims. This warps our training and I think that is not necessarily a good thing.
The claims are so varied and vast, and highly individual. They are not anchored in any one religious system nor uniform throughout the entire art - and maybe not even uniform in a single dojo. I do not think all of the widely varying ethics stances are all connected back to the Founder.

When a dojo talks about ethics driven training, and then only offers a class of Kotegaeshi and Ikkyo - is the art itself responsible for not supporting the weight of the claims?
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Old 08-22-2016, 09:16 PM   #34
jonreading
 
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Re: Reconcile the world

Quote:
Defining our ethics is more of the trick. For example, some will say Aikido tries to not hurt their attackers - truthfully, safer techniques and safe, mutually beneficial practice was a goal of Kano Jigoro while O Sensei called Aikido a potentially lethal art.
Or, maybe it's not that aikido people try not to hurt attackers... Maybe it's that attackers have a difficult time hurting aikido people. Unusual power and all that... Of course, the problem is that while that trait was manifest in the earlier days, its proven tough to replicate.

Quote:
The warrior as an acceptible part of society. Part of the model for police officers and soldiers, and the foundation for society and law.
Its not an acceptable part of society. Look at the news. Since the second world war Western culture has not celebrated this model. Uncivilized and all that. Oddly, that's also about the time aikido started having problems...

Quote:
Is this only a knowledge deficit? Do we simply need to learn more?
Yep. There is a lot of information out there that informs my training as unsatisfactory. I keep my eyes on my own paper and try to find satisfaction.

The art itself can only be as big as the people who represent it. I think that you are arguing the point... That maybe we can teach kotegaishi. But maybe we don't know what we don't know.

Last edited by jonreading : 08-22-2016 at 09:20 PM.

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Old 08-23-2016, 08:41 AM   #35
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Re: Reconcile the world

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When a dojo talks about ethics driven training, and then only offers a class of Kotegaeshi and Ikkyo - is the art itself responsible for not supporting the weight of the claims?
Does "the art itself" make the claims? Then no. The dojo that makes them has taken on that burden.

Ron says:

Quote:
I think Aikido has both an ethical and philosophical tradition.
I don't think "Aikido" has anything that could be argued to be a coherent "ethical and philosophical tradition", and if it's not coherent, not intelligible to today's practitioners, does it make any practical sense to use it as a guidepost? And if your dojo has such a tradition, that's great, but should you be calling it Aikido's tradition?
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Old 08-23-2016, 01:37 PM   #36
Dan Richards
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Re: Reconcile the world

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The author does go on to make a call to arms of sorts Mr Richards. War is strictly the province and tool of politics; the relative stability of my own country gives me opportunities to try to reduce violence and suffering in my own backyard. Do you encourage your own students to embrace these opportunities? What work do you think the author says is just beginning?
War has a much wider scope than just politics. We can see it in many micro and macro levels.

With regards to training, most of what we do explores the micro level of the war taking place inside the self. The real fundamentals of aikido are found in moving yourself first—not other people. If you move correctly, by default others will move.

So we explore the war inside; the tensions, the structural misalignment, the misplaced focus, the fear,
the resistance, the non-integration and misunderstanding of forces.

There is an intrinsic strength and power in the design of the body. By bringing that into alignment we find that there is a wellspring of peace and effortless power available.

And we need to move into those levels on the micro before fretting about the macro. And when exploring the macro, where are we getting our information?

The baseline of this topic is your blog entry, and you obviously becoming disheartened by too much exposure to the effluvium of information that is programmed by interests that have the precise goal of disempowering you. It worked. You drank the Kool-Aid. And then you write your entry, post it here, and attempt to get others to join your impoverishment.

I don't buy it. Sorry. At the time of the writing of your entry, you had lost your center, and were not coming from an integrated and powerful place, and focused on the problem to the extent that you became so incapacitated that you further spread the defeat and resignation that you allowed to seep into your psyche.

There is another war waging in the world, and it's one waged by big corporations and industries whose sole purpose is to weaken by giving misinformation, unhealthy food, destructive drugs, and disempowering the population with unnecessary repetition and talking heads.

It is the default setting of this society. And the default setting of many people is that they don't know how to do very basic things in their lives: how to breath, how to sit, how to stand, how to move, how to select and make healthy and enriching foods for themselves and their families. Because of this, we have a society of tired, worn out... I guess we could say "rats."

Aikido at its best has everything to do with moving away from the learned default cultural settings that disempower us, and moving into natural intrinsic power—and therein lies the beginning of the peace that would reconcile the world.

Ueshiba was clearly coming from a place of higher consciousness. He understood the relationship of the micro to the macro, and as he found more peace inside himself it would naturally be reflected in his outer world.

Yes. We are that powerful. And this signpost is one that all the great teachers have shown us—and one which modern physics confirms.

Anyone who desires to reconcile the world has to first begin at home. And "home" in this case is the domain of our own bodies and minds. We all have internal wars and skirmishes we can use to awaken us, and expose areas we need to reclaim on the path of integration and power that nature has given us.

If we are poor, it's only because we are blind to the universal gifts that are constantly available and on tap for us.

If we want to see changes in the world, they have to begin inside of us.

That's not even philosophy. That's straight up engineering and science.

Peace.

Last edited by Dan Richards : 08-23-2016 at 01:45 PM.
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Old 08-23-2016, 01:59 PM   #37
RonRagusa
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Re: Reconcile the world

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John Hillson wrote: View Post
First off, your dojo sounds like a great place to train!
Thank you.

Quote:
John Hillson wrote: View Post
In terms of bowing, I had it taught to me that the depth of the bow was lower for the junior student, how quickly the left hand left the hip to join the right on the floor or if it went down at the same time was a motion of deference (how quickly can the sword be drawn, and the senior was given deference in the timing, junior bowed first and held the bow longer, etc. Lining up, the most senior by the door to protect the kohei and Sensei and everyone else in descending order both by rank and time in rank. There's about nine different ways to say thank you apparently, and some are very deferential, some are very informal for among friends or a dismissive insult used wrongly. It got a little complicated some days.
Wow, that's pretty formal. I see your point though about how that kind of formality can be viewed as a method of defining a hierarchy within a dojo; creating the impression that levels of power and skill are a consequence of rank and time on the mat. It's been my experience that this "ain't necessarily so". Every student learns at a different pace and with an unique depth of understanding. I have seen relative beginners who quickly obtained a level of mind/body coordination that exceeded some of their seniors.

In your blog you wrote "I want the world reconciled. I want our one family, I want peace, I want this to stop. I want to do something. I want to play a role. I want to believe in Ueshiba's call for warriors for peace." Well, you have a role, we all do; but not, I think, as a collective. My Aikido path has led me to a point where I'm living a healthier, more peaceful and productive life than I might be otherwise. I, in turn, pass along the opportunity to others by providing a space where they can come to listen to my story and through their own practice see where their paths lead to. As an instructor you have the chance to transmit what you have discovered to your students. That is your role. Once you impart what you know the rest is up to them.

Ron

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Old 08-23-2016, 02:21 PM   #38
Dan Richards
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Re: Reconcile the world

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Ron Ragusa wrote: View Post
I have seen relative beginners who quickly obtained a level of mind/body coordination that exceeded some of their seniors.
Yes, Ron. This is the underlying beauty of it all. I've done little experiments with people who have no training at all. I'll ask them to remain just as themselves and relaxed, and completely forget about me. I'll then exert some forces on them, such as grabbing them somewhere. I ask them to do normal, daily things they do all the time. Touch your nose, take off your glasses, put them back on, reach in your pocket...

I've done this with children and with people in their 70s and 80s.

In every case, they can do exactly that, even while I'm restraining them. They quickly see that their own natural movement in a relaxed and integrated state is where the power lies. And that it does not lie in me and my hands grabbing them and attempting to restrict their movement.

They also quickly understand that when they focus on me and the point of restraint, they get caught and can't move.

They always get a big smile on their face, and I say, "See, you already know how to do this."

Last edited by Dan Richards : 08-23-2016 at 02:24 PM.
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Old 08-23-2016, 02:52 PM   #39
RonRagusa
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Re: Reconcile the world

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Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
And if your dojo has such a tradition, that's great, but should you be calling it Aikido's tradition?
The traditions we have in our dojo, such as they are, weren't made up out of whole cloth. They evolved from what I was taught by Maruyama Sensei and from what I gleaned from the translated writings of O Sensei, Tohei Sensei and others. Since all those teachings and learned views were Aikido based then yes, I feel ok with saying those are Aikido traditions.

Ron

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Old 08-23-2016, 08:47 PM   #40
rugwithlegs
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Re: Reconcile the world

Good conversation.

Firstly, Dan, I meant you no injury. Nothing was written as an attack on your world view.

I have actually been wrestling with this question for some time, and in other blog entries. Most quotes from the Founder are more spiritually minded than combat oriented. Personally, I feel distanced from this tradition. I do not feel well equipped to teach it. I go through life more answering to my conscience. When I teach Aikido, I research a topic I teach and I debate it and evaluate it.

It is interesting in a forum as well populated with senior students as this that every one has answered differently, with more diversity than might be seen on a more technique oriented question.

The mind-body exercises mentioned are interesting and profound - but ethics and philosophy is about Why. These exercises are about How. They are different questions. Relaxed and integrated movement is a goal in many martial arts; ethics and philosophy would be more about why do it? Doing this to inflict maximum damage versus avoiding damage, going on the attack versus defensive - I realize I am using tactical examples, which are different questions again.

Aikido doesn't seem to clearly have a coherent world wide tradition, for all that most writing attributed to the Founder seem to hint at one. In Aikido, students from different schools can argue about techniques, and names of techniques, and practice methods, and weapons use...but Aikido identified as an ethical practice is usually not challenged. Why would a school board look at aikido? Because a million Google hits will promise love, harmony, and never any injury to anyone. Do any aikido research, easy to find mention of Morihei Ueshiba's enlightenment. What do I do with the knowledge - harder to answer.

Students don't teach what they don't know, and maybe students adopt traditions - or take an opportunity to further justify already entrenched and cherished beliefs. Neither makes a student part of any lineage or allied with any founder. And some maybe just train How. Or respect memories and keep personal connections alive (I do.). That might not be a bad thing.
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