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Old 04-11-2006, 04:41 PM   #1
Erick Mead
 
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"Self-defense" or Something Else?

Are MARTIAL arts 'self-defense" or something else?

A tour of websites recently put me off. Particularly those in the vein of "Aikido is an art of non-violent self-defense. I will not name the site that caused my dyspeptic condition, but this was said there:
Quote:
Could it be that Aikido is not martial in nature, but simply aligned with the true definition of BUDO as related by O-sensei himself. ... What could be the importance of describing Aikido as "a non-martial attitude" fitness "art"? Isn't it quite an unjust service to Aikido to represent it with a word which quite clearly suggests imminent destruction or destruction? That word of course being "martial".
I therefore pose my question: Are MARTIAL arts "self-defense" or something else? Mars is the God of war. Arts of war are for killing people and breaking things -- as my gunnery sergeant once duly enlightened me (while standing over my suddenly prostrate form).

No, really -- killing and destroying -- that is what arts of war are. If you think otherwise you are seriously deluded. Aikido Hombu once placed the image of Take-mika-zuchi-no-kami, the Kami of military arts on the kamidana as a token of worship. The appreciation of this by non-Japanese was deemed a source of potential misunderstanding and the practice was curtailed. But the original dedication of the art remains. Mars inescapably rules our fates in Aikido.

And yet -- O-Sensei once said "True budo is a work of love. It is a work of giving life to all beings, and not killing or struggling with each other."
And "Love is the guardian deity of everything. Nothing can exist without it. Aikido is the realization of love."

Are these just the doddering sentimentalities of a old man getting senile or is there something else here that he was telling us that bears a lot of thinking about? (Me, I vote for the latter)

Conventionally, if martial arts are simply about self-defense-- when presented with a threat -- you kill or destroy before you are killed or destroyed in turn. Q.E.D. Honor? -- piffle! IF it is merely self-defense, then survival of self is all that matters. But martial arts at least pretend to concern themselves with things of greater moment than mere personal survival.

More deeply, what justifies a war for which we would train in such arts? Plainly, it is something larger than mere defense of myself, and indeed, willingly entering into a field of conflict is antithetical in many instances to my own self-preservation. A gazelle does not typically irimi a lion for this reason; except when her fawn is threatened.

Love, only love, can support the will necessary or hope to justify the willing entry into the reach of death. For that is what we train to do.

O-Sensei's thoughts need a modern context. They are true, but need a focus and image to dwell upon for us to begin to act them out and comprehend them in our bones. As the Second Dosshu recognized in removing it, we do not understand the image of Take-mika-zuchi-no-kami, nor its place on the kamidana in the dojo, nor the significance of reverence and even worship for that fierceness of spirit in combat, which is love in its most terrible and irresistible form. But we need an image, or many of them, that will likewise serve for us to call to mind this spirit in ways we can relate to.

Modern myths are more commonplace now and are our common stories, so I will make use of one, which I recently watched with my kids. It is a scene from "Return of the Jedi." I asked my kids when it was over, why Luke was able to defeat Vader in the end. Pleased papa that I am -- one of them got it right.

The scene is where Luke confronts Vader before the Emperor is a sublime exploration of this theme. The Emperor, focus of the will to power and domination in the galaxy, admonishes Luke to take up that power and destroy Vader to save his friends. As he squares off with Vader, Luke wants to save his friends, but also to save his father and simultaneously struggles with his temptation to give in to a very justified hatred and desire for vengeance. Until this point, Vader has the better of him, vastly more trained in the art of the cool and efficient will to destroy.

Vader discovers the existence of Luke's sister and threatens to turn her. Then Luke's fury is unleashed cannot be stopped. But it is not a fury of anger, nor hatred, nor vengeance. His furor rises from a deep and selfless love so commanding that he can do nothing except act upon it until he cannot act any longer.

When it is accomplished, Vader defeated, he turns aside, trying to save his father once more, but throwing away his weapon as an admission of futility in the face of an overwhelming power. He submits and endures the inevitable torture and death that are to follow. It is this completely selfless abandon for the sake of that love that carries the day, converts Vader, and even saves Luke, although he does not intend to seek his own salvation.

Too often I find those drawn to arts of war trying emulate the coolness displayed by Vader until very nearly the end, seeking the will to destroy without care. Our other modern myths (often in the form of video games) too often advance this theme.

What we need to seek is that reservoir, a mass of waters restlessly bound, a matchless torrent waiting to burst from its dam. These waters are pure and clear, but also deep and exceedingly dark. They are drawn from sources deep beyond our meager selves. We cannot trifle with such as this except in small spoonfuls in training. If released unchecked it will carry us away, along with everything else in its path.

I ask again. Is it self-defense we are training in, or is it something else?

Cordially,
Erick Mead
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Old 04-11-2006, 05:00 PM   #2
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

I think traditional MA are more about the "something else", it is a most inefficient way to train for Self Defense. While they can be a part of helping you understand your nature, spirit, body, and things like that..as far as techniques of self defense goes...I think it is a supreme waste of time. However these are my opinions.

I am not sure I am prepared to respond in entirety to your post, but I think we must explore the "darkside" of things somewhat to understand the totality of peace. The thing about putting up the kami's of war I think are not in conflict with peace....there are many reasons why a peaceful person might do this I think.

There are many paradoxes in life. It is messy and complicated and no easy answers. I think many of us from the west like things to be spelled out in the "rulebook" for us...to have it "black and white". I don't think peace/harmony are quite that easy!
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Old 04-12-2006, 12:26 AM   #3
Perry Bell
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Quote:
Erick Mead wrote:
Are MARTIAL arts 'self-defense" or something else?

A tour of websites recently put me off. Particularly those in the vein of "Aikido is an art of non-violent self-defense. I will not name the site that caused my dyspeptic condition, but this was said there: I therefore pose my question: Are MARTIAL arts "self-defense" or something else? Mars is the God of war. Arts of war are for killing people and breaking things -- as my gunnery sergeant once duly enlightened me (while standing over my suddenly prostrate form).

No, really -- killing and destroying -- that is what arts of war are. If you think otherwise you are seriously deluded. Aikido Hombu once placed the image of Take-mika-zuchi-no-kami, the Kami of military arts on the kamidana as a token of worship. The appreciation of this by non-Japanese was deemed a source of potential misunderstanding and the practice was curtailed. But the original dedication of the art remains. Mars inescapably rules our fates in Aikido.

And yet -- O-Sensei once said "True budo is a work of love. It is a work of giving life to all beings, and not killing or struggling with each other."
And "Love is the guardian deity of everything. Nothing can exist without it. Aikido is the realization of love."

Are these just the doddering sentimentalities of a old man getting senile or is there something else here that he was telling us that bears a lot of thinking about? (Me, I vote for the latter)

Conventionally, if martial arts are simply about self-defense-- when presented with a threat -- you kill or destroy before you are killed or destroyed in turn. Q.E.D. Honor? -- piffle! IF it is merely self-defense, then survival of self is all that matters. But martial arts at least pretend to concern themselves with things of greater moment than mere personal survival.

More deeply, what justifies a war for which we would train in such arts? Plainly, it is something larger than mere defense of myself, and indeed, willingly entering into a field of conflict is antithetical in many instances to my own self-preservation. A gazelle does not typically irimi a lion for this reason; except when her fawn is threatened.

Love, only love, can support the will necessary or hope to justify the willing entry into the reach of death. For that is what we train to do.

O-Sensei's thoughts need a modern context. They are true, but need a focus and image to dwell upon for us to begin to act them out and comprehend them in our bones. As the Second Dosshu recognized in removing it, we do not understand the image of Take-mika-zuchi-no-kami, nor its place on the kamidana in the dojo, nor the significance of reverence and even worship for that fierceness of spirit in combat, which is love in its most terrible and irresistible form. But we need an image, or many of them, that will likewise serve for us to call to mind this spirit in ways we can relate to.

Modern myths are more commonplace now and are our common stories, so I will make use of one, which I recently watched with my kids. It is a scene from "Return of the Jedi." I asked my kids when it was over, why Luke was able to defeat Vader in the end. Pleased papa that I am -- one of them got it right.

The scene is where Luke confronts Vader before the Emperor is a sublime exploration of this theme. The Emperor, focus of the will to power and domination in the galaxy, admonishes Luke to take up that power and destroy Vader to save his friends. As he squares off with Vader, Luke wants to save his friends, but also to save his father and simultaneously struggles with his temptation to give in to a very justified hatred and desire for vengeance. Until this point, Vader has the better of him, vastly more trained in the art of the cool and efficient will to destroy.

Vader discovers the existence of Luke's sister and threatens to turn her. Then Luke's fury is unleashed cannot be stopped. But it is not a fury of anger, nor hatred, nor vengeance. His furor rises from a deep and selfless love so commanding that he can do nothing except act upon it until he cannot act any longer.

When it is accomplished, Vader defeated, he turns aside, trying to save his father once more, but throwing away his weapon as an admission of futility in the face of an overwhelming power. He submits and endures the inevitable torture and death that are to follow. It is this completely selfless abandon for the sake of that love that carries the day, converts Vader, and even saves Luke, although he does not intend to seek his own salvation.

Too often I find those drawn to arts of war trying emulate the coolness displayed by Vader until very nearly the end, seeking the will to destroy without care. Our other modern myths (often in the form of video games) too often advance this theme.

What we need to seek is that reservoir, a mass of waters restlessly bound, a matchless torrent waiting to burst from its dam. These waters are pure and clear, but also deep and exceedingly dark. They are drawn from sources deep beyond our meager selves. We cannot trifle with such as this except in small spoonfuls in training. If released unchecked it will carry us away, along with everything else in its path.

I ask again. Is it self-defense we are training in, or is it something else?

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Hi Eric,

Wow what a great thread, I was blown away reading it, finally to see someone talking the same language as me. Asking the same questions, whilst knowing in your heart the answer all the time. How ever if I read your thread with missinterpretation please allow me to apologise.

I am not sure if you are a teacher, but you phrase your question in such a way as to make people think and learn from their thoughts, IMHO that is the sign of a good teacher.

Again IMHO I think the "traditional" martial arts are about something more than self defense in the physical ways that most of us train and expect them to be, if you read my post on other threads you will find a common thread and that is about exactly what you speak of, in the quote form O sensei and Star wars, I think that the undeniable truth is that love is the most powerful martial art going around, I believe that even the nastiest of men, the ones who would destroy lives with out blinking an eye would baulk at committing such atrocities if their families were in their path, why? Because of the love they have for them. In past posts I have spoken about the fact that some focus to much on the physical part of our training and less on the importance of the spiritual, but it must be said that we need the physical in order to understand the softer side of the arts we love and of ourselves , but knowing this does not take away from the fact the techniques we practice do work and can be deadly, just as much as they can heal. So your question is yes and no, no and yes. We have the choice if to use our knowledge to destroy an attacker or to attempt to show them a different way.
Mind you showing an attacker a softer side might still get you killed, I bring your thoughts to easter a long time ago when a man was crucified for showing the people of world that he loved them, he could have used his fists to fight back but he gave us is life in order that we find love.

I apologies if any one takes offense for my remarks on Christianity they are not intended to hurt, merely to show we can choose to love or hate, defend with force or try another way.

Take care, be happy and smile heaps

Perry

Last edited by Perry Bell : 04-12-2006 at 12:30 AM.

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Old 04-12-2006, 12:41 AM   #4
eyrie
 
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

I think whether you're doing budo or bujutsu, it's always about "something else". Unfortunately, it's not the something else that is the issue, but the paradox of that "something else" even presenting itself within the context of what you're doing. Just being comfortable with the paradox is enough, I think.

Ignatius
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Old 04-12-2006, 01:46 AM   #5
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

I like the way you start the thread. First you come in like as if you are about to attack an article, a quote, or a website, but then you actually come in more sensibly and discuss the more important things.

Bujutsu could be roughly translated to martial arts/techniques and Budo could roughly be translated to martial way/path, but it does not explain anything.

The codes of chivalry in the west, which had created fairy tales about the knights in shining armor, but was this code really executed by the knights? As history would tell us, probably not, even the reverse maybe.

...
...
...


And my brain is still fried... and I can't structure sentences correctly right now, let alone a passage

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Old 04-12-2006, 04:49 AM   #6
Mark Freeman
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Hi Erick,

As always, a well thought out and thought provoking post, thanks.

For me Aikido is 'more than' a 'martial' art. Highly effective self defence is a useful side effect of an intensely personal developement art where the only opponent is oneself. We polish ourselves through constant practice, and through the polishing and honing of mind body and spirit we come to a place where we realise the futility of combat and war. Loving protection of all things, should be the mindset of the accomplished aikidoka, to protect an assailant from harm rather than destroying them is surely one of the main reasons 'peaceful' people are drawn to the art.
My own teacher says he is not teaching a 'martial' art he is teaching aikido which is something else. And as I totally respect the 50 years of study of aikido that he has done, I agree with him.
For me aikido resides in a realm 'above' the 'destructive' martial arts, this I believe comes from O Sensei's realisations of his own enlightenments through his warrior background and subsequent practice and study. We all are involved in an art that has much to offer the modern world. We owe it to the founder as well as ourselves to spread this understanding as far and as wide as we can.
Aikido philosophy provides a model or framework for all conflict resolution, it can be applied to non dojo life just as easily as it is on the mat. We can only do what we do in our own small way. But imagine how the world would look if aikido was part of the school curriculum from day one. If it was taught in prisons or the workplace?

Just a few ramblings, inspired by the post above.

regards,
Mark

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Old 04-12-2006, 06:50 AM   #7
ian
 
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

So many people are looking for a 'code' to live by, or a strategy. When a human has a solid and unshakeable intention they can achieve amazing things. Without a moral code I think there is a tendency to live selfishly and animalistically which, for some reason, we tend to find detestable. However finding a code which itself cannot be corrupted is difficult and therefore I think we are always left having to work out life for ourselves. We have a conflict between self-assuredness, and self-doubt.

Personally I think treating everyone as equally human regardless of their perceived crimes I think is useful. Many people do nasty things out a misplaced belief that they are doing something good. Although war may be destructive to all parties, sometimes difficult decisions have to be made for the sake of others who can then live in a happy hippy oblivion.

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 04-12-2006, 08:05 AM   #8
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Quote:
Erick Mead wrote:
Are MARTIAL arts 'self-defense" or something else?
I love dualistic either/or questions.

IMHO, yes, Aikido is a martial art suitable for self-defense and it is something else (depending on what you want to make it). Budo, martial arts, are tools. Its up to us as individuals what we want to make of it and how refined we want our craft and art to be.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 04-12-2006, 11:16 AM   #9
Erick Mead
 
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Quote:
Mark Freeman wrote:
For me Aikido is 'more than' a 'martial' art. ... My own teacher says he is not teaching a 'martial' art he is teaching aikido which is something else. ... For me aikido resides in a realm 'above' the 'destructive' martial arts, this I believe comes from O Sensei's realisations of his own enlightenments through his warrior background and subsequent practice and study. We all are involved in an art that has much to offer the modern world. We owe it to the founder as well as ourselves to spread this understanding as far and as wide as we can.
Finding breathing space for relevant attention in the whirlwind of modern life (itself a cause of manifold problems) is not a small task. My sense of the art calls me to be prepared to relent only when my partner is at the point of my sword -- not before, else my mercy and love are mere theoretical, abstract exercises, that easily become ego-saving covers for fear and a timid heart.

As Kevin said:
Quote:
I think we must explore the "darkside" of things somewhat to understand the totality of peace.
I think this is a strong intuition as to where O-Sensei's mind was, and what he intended for his art and those who practice it to dwell upon. Creating a desire, indeed, almost a joy, (after one is comfortable with the flow of strong attack) to enter aggressively into conflict without first provoking the killing rage to drive it -- that is the art, harnessing the force behind such rage, instead of loosing it unheeded or simply stopping it up in fear. It seems to me that it is the joy of love, not of play, nor in idle exercise, but of abandonment of self for Other, wedded to the same dangerous power that rage can also channel, which allows us to what we do in the best of our art.

Perry said:
Quote:
I believe that even the nastiest of men, the ones who would destroy lives with out blinking an eye would baulk at committing such atrocities if their families were in their path, why? Because of the love they have for them.
Would that it were so, Perry, and perhaps it often is, but a great deal of very sad history, and much domestic violence does not support your premise as a uniform case of retraint. Too often the easiest targets for venting of rage from other sources flows into the nearest and weakest channels as an outlet. More to the point, this is an argument of prior restraint. Despite appearances and conventional assumptions, I do not understand O-Sensei to have taught restraint, but rather harmony. Harmony with a attack, large or small calls for an unrestrained acceptance of the attack. If we hold some part back from our acceptance of the attack AS IT IS, we commit the first error of every bad technique.

Ian said:
Quote:
Without a moral code I think there is a tendency to live selfishly and animalistically which, for some reason, we tend to find detestable. However finding a code which itself cannot be corrupted is difficult and therefore I think we are always left having to work out life for ourselves.
Codes are dead pages and are not immune to being made tools of "selfish, animalistic desires" (speaking as a lawyer). I do not think we can rest comfortably in the rigidity of codes. I know I don't, and I know them all too well. There are human energies (internal and external) constantly at work to darken and undermine the noblest codes, as Thalib's note about western chivalry as a cognate to budo indicates.

As I read these posts and my initial trope of water power unleashed, I am struck by its applicability in light of the responses: hidden potentiality, continuous, building and unrelenting pressure as it is allowed to deepen, its need for outlet, and its inherent desire (nature) to flow downward (undermining its restraints unseen in the dark, deep places), and its irresistible flow if not channeled, coninutously used and kept to a manageable level. Lao-tzu is out there whispering somewhere stilll, I suppose.

Just some further thoughts.

Cordially,
Erick Mead
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Old 04-12-2006, 11:40 AM   #10
Erick Mead
 
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote:
I love dualistic either/or questions.
Well, to break the paradigm you must first acknowledge it. Invention pays tribute to tradition.
Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote:
IMHO, yes, Aikido is a martial art suitable for self-defense and it is something else (depending on what you want to make it). Budo, martial arts, are tools. Its up to us as individuals what we want to make of it and how refined we want our craft and art to be.
Too true, but mere technical refinement as a matter of some measure of efficency disregards the purpose of the tool itself. I do not think we can afford to remain agnostic on these points. If Aikido is relevant to the world, it must be relevant in a concrete way. Aikido is relevant to human conflict in many scales and dimensions of view. Aikido is not relevant to good gardening, and many other good things. It has a place, and an important one, in my view. But, if it is all things to all people, it is nothing to anyone. A hoe digs and a shovel digs, but to confuse the one for the other in terms of its intended purpose does little to advance the mastery of gardening.

Tools are human creations and therefore have intent embodied within them. The toolmaker's intent brought to full flower in the hands of a skilled technician defines mastery of art. A gifted individual may even exceed the imagination of the toolmaker with capacities latent in the tool he made. But as I said, invention pays tribute to tradition. If we do not comprehend the full purpose of the maker in creating the tool we can neither bring it to technical fulfillment as intended, nor honor its maker by enlarging the bounds of its application.

Cordially,
Erick Mead
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Old 04-12-2006, 12:33 PM   #11
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Erick,

Thanks for the interesting thoughts. I think you are close, and my misgivings with total agreement are linguistic, egoic, my own lack of understanding, or maybe that you are talking only from one side of Yin/Yang. Tough for me to tell.

I don't agree about the symbol. Put the war god back on the shrine -make it more gruesome still! Then put another symbol - that of warrior as protector. Make the biggest symbol - humility. Warrior as servant.

Quote:
Re: "Darkside" discussion - I think this is a strong intuition as to where O-Sensei's mind was, and what he intended for his art and those who practice it to dwell upon. Creating a desire, indeed, almost a joy, (after one is comfortable with the flow of strong attack) to enter aggressively into conflict without first provoking the killing rage to drive it -- that is the art, harnessing the force behind such rage, instead of loosing it unheeded or simply stopping it up in fear. It seems to me that it is the joy of love, not of play, nor in idle exercise, but of abandonment of self for Other, wedded to the same dangerous power that rage can also channel, which allows us to what we do in the best of our art.
No. Entering a violent stream one is calm and Receptive. I do not think OSensei entered aggressively, ever, once he realized who he was. I think you are looking for something much simpler than what you said.

You speak well though. I appreciate this opportunity to disagree.

david
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Old 04-12-2006, 12:57 PM   #12
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

More about the darkside. You will run into many that believe that it is not necessary to explore or have knowledge about the negative, darkside, evil, violence etc in order to have peace and harmony.

Many fundamentalist religions develop structure and rules to avoid this, because they believe exploring them or entaining these things harms you. (it might if explored for the wrong reasons or too intently or deeply).

To me, this creates an interesting paradox. Many construct walls and barriers to avoid things that they don't consider to be "good", moral, or positive. The ignorance creates fear...which fear creates hatred!

So in the end avoiding the "darkside" only draws you in deeper!

I think is is fundamental to martial arts. We have a methodolgy for exploring violence in a constructive way in order to better understand it and reduce the fear around it, which allows us to expand our knowledge of how to better influence peace and harmony!
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Old 04-12-2006, 01:13 PM   #13
Erick Mead
 
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Quote:
David Knowlton wrote:
my misgivings with total agreement are linguistic... I don't agree about the symbol. Put the war god back on the shrine -make it more gruesome still! Then put another symbol - that of warrior as protector. Make the biggest symbol - humility. Warrior as servant.
Fudo Myo-O and Kwannon would be good ones, but I am not aware of any Eastern images that combine both in one icon. But it would be remiss not to note that there is a Western image with both present in one familiar symbol -- the Crucifix.
Ex. 15:3, 6 -
Quote:
The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. ... Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.
John 15:13
Quote:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Quote:
David Knowlton wrote:
I do not think OSensei entered aggressively ...
a -gressio - Latin - "advance towards" = irimi

I look forward to further disagreements.

Cordially,
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Old 04-12-2006, 02:14 PM   #14
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Erick,

you almost misquoted me! oh well.

Aggressive:
2. Inclined to behave in an actively hostile fashion: an aggressive regime.
3. Assertive, bold, and energetic: an aggressive sales campaign.

I was thinking definition 2 - I think you meant something akin to 3.

Kevin Leavitt made an interesting point, but Erick, I think many people forget that half of 'ki' is yin, or receptivity. When I said OSensei wasn't aggressive, I meant he wasn't 'hostile'. True strength is gentle.

david
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Old 04-12-2006, 03:28 PM   #15
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote:
More about the darkside. You will run into many that believe that it is not necessary to explore or have knowledge about the negative, darkside, evil, violence etc in order to have peace and harmony.
The via negativa in Catholic tradition. The "dark night of the soul", the "cloud of unknowing." Eliot called it the "darkness of God." All of these describe the closest we can come to direct perception of God in Christian mystical disciplines. It is dangerous to our normal sensibilities, but not inherently harmful to our soul or spirit and ultimately can be very fruitful. St. Teresa of Avila emphasized the importance having an appropriate spiritual teacher or guide in this process, as does nearly every Eastern mystical tradition of which I am aware.
Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote:
Many fundamentalist religions develop structure and rules to avoid this, because they believe exploring them or entaining these things harms you. (it might if explored for the wrong reasons or too intently or deeply). ... So in the end avoiding the "darkside" only draws you in deeper!
The Greek term "daimon" or "demon" originally meant an "in-dwelling or guiding spirit." The related term "genius" in the Latin means "guardian spirit." It is also neutral in the Greek. Traditions of guardian angels fit this definition, as do other, far less benign influences. Only relatively recently has its secondary, negative connotation taken over. This is notably commensurate, I might add, with the modern (post-medieval) aggrandizement of ego generally (i.e.-- anything "I" do not decide is good, is, ipso facto, bad.) I suppose that my effort is to find and awaken the O-Sensei's genius, the "guardian spirit," as guide to our own practice.
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Kevin Leavitt wrote:
I think it is fundamental to martial arts. We have a methodolgy for exploring violence in a constructive way in order to better understand it and reduce the fear around it, which allows us to expand our knowledge of how to better influence peace and harmony!
I could not have said it better.

Cordailly,
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Old 04-12-2006, 06:19 PM   #16
Erick Mead
 
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Quote:
David Knowlton wrote:
Aggressive: ... When I said OSensei wasn't aggressive, I meant he wasn't 'hostile'. True strength is gentle.
I know what you meant, and I do not disagree. I just like to point out how language AND action are sometimes used to create perceptions rather than actual meaning or effective action (Action v. Acting (portrayal= "false" image)??)

In the films I have seen of O-Sensei's movement he could care less about communicating a perception of his action. Notoriously, Many of his students often had to watch him extremely closely to even see what technique he was applying, beceause he didn't tell them. He rarely repeated the same movement twice in the same way to the observer, even when asked. He did not act in the perceptual, or communicative sense, he simply moved. Thus, he did not delay in any internal calculations of the likely perception of his movement. He just was --THERE.

The converse is the kind of mock combat, or threat display, stylized stageacting so common among some "MA" practitioners (even some very traditional forms). It is tied to the "self-defense" issue that I started this thread with. Acting hostile or looking deadly is the personal equivalent of the MAD "mutually assured destruction" strategy to avoid actual fighting. It works for wasps and coral snakes; but then they have no loved ones to defend. Interestingly, nesting birds tend to take the opposite tactic, and present themselves as wounded, easy prey for the would be predator -- even inviting or luring an attack to draw them away from nestlings. For humans, who calculate as much as react, and have loved ones to defend, MAD bluffing strategies tend to simply up the stakes for battle when it may ultimately erupt.

O-Sensei was not interested in portraying or "acting out" agression, which is what you meant, and rightly so. He was simply aggressive in the root sense I used. A - gressio. He just moved in.

Cordially,
Erick Mead
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Old 04-13-2006, 08:25 AM   #17
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Erick,

You express yourself well. I have occasional outbursts of concisely expressed wisdom, but can't predict when they will happen!

Do you think aikido can be fully martial and fully something else?

A young Tomiki student trains with us. He is a great guy. He said "Martial art is about learning to fight, not being enlightened." I replied, "What if they are the same thing." - We both had a good chuckle over my bit of canned Zen.

What if OSensei was like the fool who persisted in his folly? What if his realization was like the end of the movie 'War Games', where the super computer sought all possible solutions and realized that global thermonuclear warfare was not a valid path.

"Train hard" we say in my dojo. Are we right? Am I just another windy pundit? (Please say no!)

David
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Old 04-13-2006, 09:30 AM   #18
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Quote:
David Knowlton wrote:
What if OSensei was like the fool who persisted in his folly? What if his realization was like the end of the movie 'War Games', where the super computer sought all possible solutions and realized that global thermonuclear warfare was not a valid path.
"The only winning move is not to play."

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 04-13-2006, 12:47 PM   #19
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Quote:
David Knowlton wrote:
Do you think aikido can be fully martial and fully something else? A young Tomiki student ... said "Martial art is about learning to fight, not being enlightened." I replied, "What if they are the same thing."
I believe that only those who can make war, can also make peace. A man who cannot make war, cannot make peace. He can only accept terms of surrender dictated to him. This is not genuine peace. A powerless person tyrranized in this manner has not accepted peace, but merely deferred war. He nurses that resentment in his heart. When his power is greater, he is tempted to vengeance. That is not the Aikido I have been taught or which I practice. Kaeshiwaza are not a matter of overpowering the opponent.
Quote:
David Knowlton wrote:
What if OSensei was like the fool who persisted in his folly? What if his realization was ... that ... warfare was not a valid path.
As to O-Sensei's abandoning martiality as he got older -- I do not see this in the demonstrations of his irimi techniques. His entry is the same agressio in the prewar versus the post war period. Please see these brief examples: http://www.geocities.com/yovrosental/oshiba.html. The best ones to compare are Oshiba2.mpg (pre-war) and Ueshiba14.mpg (post war). If you have to temporarily download to view them, please respect fair use and copyright so that such things are kept available.
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Lynn Seiser wrote:
"The only winning move is not to play."
Then why are we all still playing? The problem is not the game. Conflict occurs whether we will it or not. We do not always get to choose. We have no choice then but to play some part. In war, we are not bound by any rules or roles, really, other than those of our own choosing. That too is one of war's truths and dangerous attractions. It is the presumed roles and rules with which we differ.

That is what I sense O-Sensei to have taught -- that entering into conflict does not necessarily mean continuing it, or destroying the one initiating it, nor does shrinking from conflict protect us from it. We simply must choose to play by our own rules, to a large extent. What we may not get to choose is how the board is set to begin.

Cordially,
Erick Mead
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Old 04-13-2006, 01:20 PM   #20
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Erick wrote:

Quote:
I believe that only those who can make war, can also make peace. A man who cannot make war, cannot make peace.
I would tend to agree with you at this juncture of human development/evolution. We must be able to defend ourselves in order to buy the space/time/distance etc to produce "pockets" of peace.

However, to me, this is the paradox of the situation. We can preach the peace through superior firepower motto all day long, but we will still have unbalance and discord to by those that don't have peace.

In the end to have "true peace" we must learn how to be interdependent and have a deep understanding of compassion...that can only come from love.

Once we reach this state of peace in the world, then there is no need for weapons and strength...but of course this is all theorectical right now, and then again, the aliens will invade us at that point
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Old 04-13-2006, 01:33 PM   #21
James Kelly
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

A little something on the language of aikido:

It's a pet peeve of mine, and it happens all over the place not just in aikido, but it seems to me that the practice of using the etymology of words to find their true, somehow hidden meaning is unsound.

Aggression does not = irimi

Yes it may derive from the Latin meaning ‘advance toward' but it now clearly denotes hostility or an attack. (Otherwise an aggressive irimi would be redundant, but it's not. You can have a timid irimi. It may be bad, but it's still an irimi).

Similarly, Aikido does not = ‘the way of harmony and energy' (or however you want to translate the kanji)

Ai, ki and do are clearly components of the term aikido, and it's fun to talk about them and see how they fit in, but the word aikido refers to a specific thing: this art we practice. If not we could use ‘aikido' to label any activity that uses these components.

So when we talk about a ‘martial art', this is an English term applied to various disciplines. But it's an arbitrary category. Sure, an ‘art of war' is about killing and destroying, but labeling aikido as a martial art doesn't mean that it is in fact an art of war.

It's an accident of English that ‘martial art' is applied to aikido. My unscholarly guess is that when the Japanese arts came to the west they were grouped into strange categories like budo and bujutsu and people looked around for a translation for these terms and came up with ‘martial art' for all. They could have just as easily come up with ‘fighting system' or ‘violent practice' or "vigorous training" or simply "expertise" (the literal translation of kung fu). Then we'd be discussing whether aikido is really violent, or is it actually a system (as opposed to whether it's martial or really an art...)

With that said...

In Etruscan times, Mars was the god of springtime, and growth. It was only with the rise of the Romans and their warlike culture that he became associated with war because, legend had it the Romans were descended from Mars and they wanted to up their intimidation factor (his mom was Juno, the queen of the gods and his dad... a magical flower). So they ascribed warlike attributes to Mars and eventually raised him to the equivalent of Ares (the Greek god of war).

The word ‘martial' in English means having to do with the military as opposed to ‘civil', having to do with the citizenry. Martial law vs. civil law; martial disobedience vs. civil disobedience; even martial war (two militaries fighting each other) vs. civil war (the citizenry fighting itself). But I don't think anyone's arguing that aikido is somehow exclusive to the military.

....

Similarly, people tend to get caught up in the ‘art' part of the term. You hear, ‘Remember, it's an art form.' to justify the aesthetic concerns of aikido.

But aikido is not necessarily martial or an art form. It is a martial art... a separate category of things that includes karate, capoeira, systema... a wide variety of things, some of which are martial, some of which are artful, some neither and some both.

It's still a valid discussion to debate whether aikido is self-defense (which, as someone already pointed out, doesn't require and may preclude the destruction of others) or something else, but I don't think using the term ‘martial art' as evidence of the destructive nature of aikido holds up.
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Old 04-13-2006, 02:02 PM   #22
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Good stuff James. Certainly aikido is based upon aikijitsu, traditionaly a system designed to teach skills to be used in combat. So yes, it is no wonder we tend to focus on all that is martial or self defense.

I tend to agree, that aikido is simply a methodolgy designed around a traditonal model of japanese system of combative, but the focus is not on learning to be effective or efficient as a fighter.

Therefore, it is not primarily a system of self defense or martial skill, but a methodolgy for developing your mind, body, and spirit. An allegory so to speak that teaches us about ourselves and our interaction/interdependence with others.

If it was about martial effectiveness, or self defense...it is a poor and inefficient method for acheiving this goal. Money would be better spent on modern weapons training, and/or risk reduction training in our world today!

Aikido, I believe, is simply a methodology for self realization and discovery! nothing more than that really!
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Old 04-13-2006, 04:08 PM   #23
Erick Mead
 
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Quote:
James Kelly wrote:
A little something on the language of aikido:
It's a pet peeve of mine, and it happens all over the place not just in aikido, but it seems to me that the practice of using the etymology of words to find their true, somehow hidden meaning is unsound.
The opposite tendency is more troubling to me -- the Humpty Dumpty approach -- ""When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less." This is the egocentric tendency that I find concerning in the notion of "self defense" versus "martial art."
I find fault with another tendency also -- to simply follow common usage without critical thought about how we use and relate concepts with the words we use. It is blinkered to disregard common usage, but it is also a healthy corrective to understand a word in its origin, evolution and relationship to other concepts. That is my purpose, not mere label-swapping.
Quote:
James Kelly wrote:
‘martial art', ... it's an arbitrary category. Sure, an ‘art of war' is about killing and destroying, but labeling aikido as a martial art doesn't mean that it is in fact an art of war.... It's an accident of English that ‘martial art' is applied to aikido.
It is no accident, but entirely accurate. "Bu-do" is the "way of war." "Aikido " was earlier called "Aiki-budo" by O-Sensei.
Quote:
James Kelly wrote:
In Etruscan times, Mars was the god of springtime, and growth.
Called Maris. Not that the Etruscans were flower-children. The Roman religious rites we know as gladiatorial games have their origins in Etruscan funerary combat rituals honoring the dead. The Quirinalis in mid-February honored deceased ancestors and Mars Quirinus. Mars Quirinus,one of the three chief gods of the Roman State (Mars of "men assembled"-- from co-viris), and the rebirth of Spring. Spring, as it happens, is also the traditional time for gathering men to start wars, and to prepare for defense against them.

The most reverently worshipped god in the Roman pantheon is Vesta, goddess of the hearth and family, whose sacred fire was renewed directly following the Quirinalis on March 1. Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome are reputedly the children of a Vestal virgin raped by Mars. Deep mythology here.

Why then was Mars was a deeply revered god in Rome? Not because they were particularly brutal by nature (relative to those peoples around them), but because they were conscious of being the children of the rape of war. They deeply desired to protect their home from such invasion (see the consequences of 387 B.C.). "Vae Victis!" became a Roman watch-word only because it was first directed at them.
Quote:
James Kelly wrote:
It's still a valid discussion to debate whether aikido is self-defense (which, as someone already pointed out, doesn't require and may preclude the destruction of others) or something else, but I don't think using the term ‘martial art' as evidence of the destructive nature of aikido holds up.
The point is whether "martial" arts are about defense of self -- or about defense of something more important than self. Tyrants and mercenaries may go to war for themselves; common men-at-arms typically do not. They go to war and likely death to save hearth and home. THAT is what "martial" arts are about -- in fact and in spirit.

O-Sensei's genius was to recognize that men will only go so far out of anger, greed or lust of power, but will go vastly further beyond that in a spirit of loving protection, stopping, if at all, only in their own deaths.
Cultivating that spirit in a technical art that brings even our enemy within that loving protection in a concrete way is leap of imagination or inspiration that generations will yet thank O-Sensei for developing and transmitting, if we but maintain it and the spirit in which in originated.
Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote:
aikido is simply a methodolgy ...not primarily a system of self defense or martial skill, but a methodolgy for developing your mind, body, and spirit. An allegory so to speak that teaches us about ourselves and our interaction/interdependence with others.
If it was about martial effectiveness, or self defense...it is a poor and inefficient method for acheiving this goal. Money would be better spent on modern weapons training, and/or risk reduction training in our world today!
Aikido, I believe, is simply a methodology for self realization and discovery! nothing more than that really!
Nineteen men in groups of four or five, armed with nothing more than box cutters -- a blade less than an inch and half in length -- inside of four hours from setting out -- killed three thousand people, stopped the commerce of a nation of 300 million people in its tracks and unleashed war in two other nations on the other side of the globe.

Will matters more than weapons.

Aikido cultivates that martial spirit, in a way directly antithetical to the spirit displayed on that day. Our art cannot be more relevant.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Last edited by Erick Mead : 04-13-2006 at 04:20 PM.
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Old 04-13-2006, 05:50 PM   #24
Mark Freeman
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

Hi all,

I don't really have much to add to this thread right now apart from to say, IMHO this has been the most relevant and important discussion about aikido that I have seen on this site so far. I would like to thank all of the contributors to this discussion for their input. We live in a time of immense importance. For the first time in human history technology is facilitating global connection of 'ordinary people' such as us. We are all engaged in an art that we agree can be seen as a model for conflict resolution and as Erick so neatly put it:
Quote:
O-Sensei's genius was to recognize that men will only go so far out of anger, greed or lust of power, but will go vastly further beyond that in a spirit of loving protection, stopping, if at all, only in their own deaths.
Cultivating that spirit in a technical art that brings even our enemy within that loving protection in a concrete way is leap of imagination or inspiration that generations will yet thank O-Sensei for developing and transmitting, if we but maintain it and the spirit in which in originated.
.
We must in our own small way keep on the path, we must by our teaching pass on to others what we have gained. I believe Aikido is unique in the realm of 'martial arts' call it what you will, for the reason given in Ericks quote above.
Aikido - 'The way of the peaceful warrior', a reasonable title for an art that has such modern relevance.

I wish you all a good easter - however you choose to spend it.

regards,
Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 04-14-2006, 10:31 AM   #25
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Re: "Self-defense" or Something Else?

I wrote
Quote:
What if OSensei was like the fool who persisted in his folly? What if his realization was ... that ... warfare was not a valid path.
- well, i wrote and you cropped.

Erick responded
Quote:
As to O-Sensei's abandoning martiality as he got older -- I do not see this in the demonstrations of his irimi techniques
You misunderstood me. So let me ask again - Can aikido be fully about the warrior arts AND fully about acheiving global concern and compassion?

Dr. Kano of Judo taught the same message. I did not start in 'sport' judo as it is dismissively called. I studied with respect to Kano's message which is very close to OSensei's. I went to class one night a few weeks after being brutalized by one parent while the other looked on. (Specifically, my right testicle was crushed, and my father smiled while he ground his heel in.) My teacher, an old woman at the time, told me that "Judoka do not kill". She saved three lives that night - each of my parent's, and obviously mine, from what would have resulted had I retaliated that way.

I protected them, and it later almost cost me my life. Now I train to not see my father every time I'm in conflict. It's a tough road; the bastard won't stay buried!

Peace.

david

ps. i know this is intense, but every story has it's purpose.dk
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