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Old 12-12-2020, 03:54 AM   #1
StefanHultberg
Dojo: Roskilde
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Body, mind, and spirit

Yes - body, mind, and spirit. All three aspects are important in aikido and every keiko contains an element of each. I began in the martial arts with judo at 12, carried on with karate from 23. At those times the body - the physical techniques - were all that counted, winning techniques in judo, damaging techniques in karate. The mind and the spirit mattered to me not at all. The mind was a loyal engine to aid me in pursuing my goals in life, the spirit was for old people. At one later stage in my life, though, I was mentally seriously broken from many years of working as a director within a business where competition was cutthroat and mergers, hostile takeovers, and mass layoffs and international moves were the order of the day. In this situation, at 40, after a long pause from the martial arts, I began training aikido. It was a lifesaver, the mental aspects of aikido re-wired me fundamentally to deal with the stresses of work and helped me find other ways to live life. Now that I am (much) older (61) and have seen my parents and their generation wither and die, spiritual aspects of existence, which have always interested me, have become an integral part of my aikido training, my aikido thinking. Misogi no jo and misogi no ken have become meditative spiritual avenues for me, times when my mind can become still and my "self" can talk to me. The movements of tai jutsu show me the workings of nature, i.e. "the universe". Aikido, thus, maintains my body, soothes my mind, and elevates my spirit.

Different people seek different things, some seek insight, enlightenment, some seek effective self-defense or octagon usability. The latter are unimportant to me now, but I must admit that the octagon would have been just as alluring to me in my youth as the full-contact fights I used to relish in England and Scotland.

Many aikidoka seem very focused on the physical aspects of aikido, mental aspects are included and acknowledged, but often spiritual aspects of aikido appear to be ridiculed in many internet forums. Is it so, are the spiritual aspects of aikido being "shunned" a little bit in the aikido-community? I am happy with freedom for all to pursue what feels meaningful at the time, but I would like to see, perhaps one day, an empathic inclusion of all aikido-focus, from the use of aikido "on the street" to investigating the questions of "life, the universe, and everything" through aikido.
I have heard Isoyama Sensei several times say that if we only focus on the physical aspects of aikido, the "left" and the "right", we are letting down the aikido of O-Sensei, missing wonderful opportunities for growth. I, for one, enjoy the spiritual aspects of aikido -- and this does not stand in the way of the physical technique 😊

The quest for "internal power" could be a quest for "inner wisdom"!
Merry christmas to you all
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Old 12-13-2020, 05:53 PM   #2
PuppyDoggie
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Smile Re: Body, mind, and spirit

For me, I have focused a lot on my mind, and personally independently explored the spiritual side a little bit on my own. I was missing the physical aspect, and it has stagnated during my intense academic studies during my twenties. I wanted to do something that fundamentally didn't focus on hurting or damaging other people, including opponents. I also wanted to focus on allowing things to flow, another fundamental aspect I need to work on. I found aikido to be the best for fulfilling all these criteria. Trying to connect with the world or universe is too big and ambitious a goal for me; I would be deeply satisfied if I can just truly tap into it briefly. Everything else, including the social, martial, and self defense aspects were extra bonuses to me.

I never had any formal training in martial arts prior to aikido. It was lovely to learn and practice over the years. I very rarely missed a day of training that my sensei has offered. I am just a bit sad I haven't been able to do regular training or practice with others for almost a year now. My life is still moving on, despite the many things that happened to me this year.

Merry Christmas to everyone and thank you Stefan for sharing.
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Old 12-15-2020, 02:50 AM   #3
robin_jet_alt
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Re: Body, mind, and spirit

Quote:
Stefan Hultberg wrote: View Post
I, for one, enjoy the spiritual aspects of aikido
So, what are the "spiritual aspects"?
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Old 12-15-2020, 06:39 AM   #4
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Body, mind, and spirit

Quote:
Stefan Hultberg wrote: View Post
Yes - body, mind, and spirit.

I have heard Isoyama Sensei several times say that if we only focus on the physical aspects of aikido, the "left" and the "right", we are letting down the aikido of O-Sensei, missing wonderful opportunities for growth. I, for one, enjoy the spiritual aspects of aikido -- and this does not stand in the way of the physical technique 😊

The quest for "internal power" could be a quest for "inner wisdom"!
Merry christmas to you all
First of all, Stefan, all good wishes for Christmas and the New Year!

When I was in the IAF, I used to meet Isoyama Sensei quite regularly, and private discussions sometimes turned to Morihei Ueshiba. And we used to argue. Isoyama Sensei was one of the two 'giants' of Iwama and had frequent and regular contact with Ueshiba. However, what Ueshiba stated about aikido is very difficult to understand without some knowledge of his own intellectual background--and even Isoyama also found it very difficult to convey what Ueshiba stated about aikido.

The problem here is the readiness to use Isoyama as support for 'spiritual' because he disparaged the 'physical' aspect, but I do not think this is quite right. 'Physical' and 'spiritual' might be convenient opposites in English, but there is much ambiguity here, as might be gathered by making a clear and sharp distinction between mental events, physical processes, and so-called 'spiritual' acts, such as shiho-nage in aikido. And it will not do to say that,"Oh well, one slides into the other, because shiho-nage has a physical, mental, and a spiritual aspect."

My awareness of these issues has been sharpened over the past four decades, by having to teach aikido in Japanese to Japanese students who are not familiar with such distinctions, which seem deceptively clear in English.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 12-17-2020, 07:50 AM   #5
Bernd Lehnen
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Re: Body, mind, and spirit

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
First of all, Stefan, all good wishes for Christmas and the New Year!
...
'Physical' and 'spiritual' might be convenient opposites in English, but there is much ambiguity here, as might be gathered by making a clear and sharp distinction between mental events, physical processes, and so-called 'spiritual' acts, such as shiho-nage in aikido. And it will not do to say that,"Oh well, one slides into the other, because shiho-nage has a physical, mental, and a spiritual aspect."

My awareness of these issues has been sharpened over the past four decades, by having to teach aikido in Japanese to Japanese students who are not familiar with such distinctions, which seem deceptively clear in English.
This is may be the one most spread misconception by "westerners", to think that other cultures like Japanese think, feel and make up their universe the same way as ethnic groups who take greek logic as the source of their cultural paradigm. But even yin - yang, in - yo seem not prone to such a clear distinction or also day and night, death and life, in the same way many "westerners" would like to see it.

If we won't or can't take Ueshiba OSensei's words as advice how to do our „ internal training" as a precondition to Aikido, I doubt we will ever come near his concept, if there ever was any.
From my perspective, πάντα ῥεῖ (everything is moving and nothing remains the same) and aikido are the nearest aphorisms to each other, if anything at all is there to compare.

Stefan,
If we are lucky we will grow older and life will take its toll, the growing wish to get things better into perspective included. So, nothing out of the ordinary here…

Best,
Bernd
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Old 12-17-2020, 04:16 PM   #6
jonreading
 
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Re: Body, mind, and spirit

First, I think the romanticizing (and appropriation) of the attractive elements of aikido have lead to misunderstanding of body, mind, and spirit. Mostly, I say this to reinforce the earlier posts.

I remember talking to a Buddhist once who very politely reminded me that spirituality in Buddhism is not the same spirituality in Christianity. I think we (aikido) throw around spirituality without really knowing what we are talking about. I am a Christian, my belief of spirituality is different than the spirituality of a Shinto Japanese culture. Western culture has kinda generically allowed spirituality to morph into whatever description its user likes. It leaves us with thoughts of incredulity when someone says she believes in ghosts, but a totally pass when someone tells us she is becoming more spiritual.

I have beaten up on spiritual comments on this forum. I think attaching pseudo philosophy to aikido is cultish at worst and difficult at best. I don't believe aikido has been (or will be) a compass of behavior. Not that people aren't free to pursue what they want, but its pretty murky stuff to discuss.

Jon Reading
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Old 12-19-2020, 09:35 PM   #7
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Body, mind, and spirit

As I stated earlier, it was a major breath of fresh air to be teaching aikido in Japan to 'ordinary' Japanese, such as their 'western' counterparts would make up the population of an average dojo in the UK or the Netherlands, which are the two countries with which I am most familiar (having born in one one and having taught aikido in the other).

The oldest member of the dojo is in his eighties, and the youngest are two twin boys, aged nine. We meet, we warm up, we practice and we go home again. The only talking that occurs is when I go round the dojo, checking what people are doing, and make a few comments at the end -- and I have never, ever, used any of the usual Japanese terms for 'spiritual' in English.

Bernd used an aphorism of Heraclitus (panta rei), but he was part of a tradition in Greek philosophy and was followed by Parmenides, who said something quite different. Since I have done philosophy for years (including such philosophy as the Japanese have produced), I do not take him too seriously.

Finally, this is addressed to Bernd: Have you come across the works of James Heizig or Thomas Kasulis? They have produced an interesting sourcebook of Japanese philosophy. It covers the whole range and is arranged in terms of 'traditions'. It is part of the Nanzan Library of Asian Religion and Culture.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 12-19-2020 at 09:37 PM.

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Old 12-20-2020, 06:36 AM   #8
Bernd Lehnen
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Re: Body, mind, and spirit

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
....
....
Bernd used an aphorism of Heraclitus (panta rei), but he was part of a tradition in Greek philosophy and was followed by Parmenides, who said something quite different. Since I have done philosophy for years (including such philosophy as the Japanese have produced), I do not take him too seriously.

Finally, this is addressed to Bernd: Have you come across the works of James Heizig or Thomas Kasulis? They have produced an interesting sourcebook of Japanese philosophy. It covers the whole range and is arranged in terms of 'traditions'. It is part of the Nanzan Library of Asian Religion and Culture.
Which philosopher would not have contradicted himself at least once in a lifetime?

In my comparison, I was referring to Plato (Πλάτων) and consciously chose the shortened form of the aphorism, supplemented by my own interpretation.
I left the preoccupation with and discussion of Heraklit in the German-speaking area to Holderlin, Hegel and Nietzsche. My interest in pure philosophy has become more and more limited, as life throws many other possibilities in our way and the time we are given is not enough for everything, but I still got a little inspiration from Rupert Lay as a contemporary mentor, among others.

When I started Aikido, "mens sana in corpore sano" seemed like a good approach, but since Ueshiba OSensei obviously did not clearly limit himself to it and apparently insisted never to do the same thing twice ( 武産 takemusu), I was left with my interpretation of the abbreviated Platonic πάντα ῥεῖ.

I suppose I can "see" where you come from and it is with great pleasure that I follow your meticulous research and precise explanations in "Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation".

I have always consciously avoided the trap of taking Aikido as a new creed.

Best,
Bernd
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Old 12-22-2020, 08:00 AM   #9
RickMatz
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Re: Body, mind, and spirit

Life just works better when I practice regularly.

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Old 12-22-2020, 04:17 PM   #10
StefanHultberg
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Re: Body, mind, and spirit

Quote:
Rick Matz wrote: View Post
Life just works better when I practice regularly.
And that is about as true as it gets!!!

All the best

Stefan
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Old 01-02-2021, 06:13 AM   #11
StefanHultberg
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Re: Body, mind, and spirit

Quote:
Bernd Lehnen wrote: View Post
This is may be the one most spread misconception by "westerners", to think that other cultures like Japanese think, feel and make up their universe the same way as ethnic groups who take greek logic as the source of their cultural paradigm. But even yin - yang, in - yo seem not prone to such a clear distinction or also day and night, death and life, in the same way many "westerners" would like to see it.

If we won't or can't take Ueshiba OSensei's words as advice how to do our „ internal training" as a precondition to Aikido, I doubt we will ever come near his concept, if there ever was any.
From my perspective, πάντα ῥεῖ (everything is moving and nothing remains the same) and aikido are the nearest aphorisms to each other, if anything at all is there to compare.

Stefan,
If we are lucky we will grow older and life will take its toll, the growing wish to get things better into perspective included. So, nothing out of the ordinary here…

Best,
Bernd
Dear Berndt

Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your feedback greatly. I have a few short (I hope) comments.

Nothing out of the ordinary, no - if it was it would be pointless to discuss. Aikido provides the whole range of technique - from 8 months old to 88+ years old - definitely physical and to a large degree mental. It does seem to me though that the spiritual aspect tends to be given a more humble role, sometimes being in the center indeed, but more often (I think) being relegated to a more humble place, ignored, or even ridiculed. Spiritual need is universal and to me there is a clear possibility for aikido to supplement at least part of that need. To me it has been instrumental, but what makes it important is that there is a potential match between "demand and supply" through aikido. Perhaps, I thought it could be an interesting avenue to explore,

In terms of nomenclature in aikido discussions one often encounters the age old problem of whether monks only get to reach nibbana I do realize the huge variance in terms of cultures and languages in the various regions of the world. I am adopting a standardized and pretty well used, not only in the west, terminology in order to convey some thoughts. It is a model, nothing more, and of course it will differ from the "japanese" model just like my middle-swedish snow terminology is very far from the one encountered when talking to one of the sami in northern sweden. We try to integrate and translate - and that is a good process. No mistake, no misunderstanding - just a wish to discuss and understand - and the more that process can be aided the more aikido and aikidoka can benefit. I, of course can satisfy my curiosity around O-Sensei's "spirituality". Thankfully, despite the problem with the "monasterial exclusivity" , much of what is described about O-Sensei's spirituality (or is it Kishomaru Doshu's?) is very similar to both taoist, hindu, and buddhist scripture - shinto I know very little about I'm afraid. The point is that "spiritual" insight tends to be quite similar between the religions even if the deity-models and rituals vary.

I very much value your input. I will keep reflecting on it in my search for O-Sensei's "spirituality"

I wish you a very happy new year !

stefan
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