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Old 05-22-2006, 11:22 AM   #1
dps
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Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

I once studied Aikido with a new sensei who was an admitted pacifist. He did no teach the use of a bo, jo, ken or atemi in practice. He said his sensei ( can't remember who) studied with O'Sensei toward the end O'Sensei's life and this is where his pacifist view of Aikido came from.
Was O'Sensei a pacifist?
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Old 05-22-2006, 11:39 AM   #2
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Did this new sensei not teach weapons because he was "an admitted pacifist", or because he never studied them? There's zero reason a genuine pacifist should not be capable with a weapon. In fact one should reasonably conceive that a pacifist would be as such because they have an idea of how effective weapons may be, and how painful they may be when used effectively. So in that brief and foggy light, I would say as other's have reported, O Sensei was a pacifist, and he certainly used, trained in, and taught weapons.

michael.
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Old 05-22-2006, 11:50 AM   #3
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote:
Was O'Sensei a pacifist?
IMHO, no.

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 05-22-2006, 12:05 PM   #4
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Pacifism to me is passive resistance, the kind used by protesters in the 60's (I saw it all on tv).

I don't prefer weapons in training my body to move. I don't prefer training sword, when any of my pistols is a more effective weapon and more likely to be around then a sword.

I train these things in aikido because it is offered to me, and I do what I'm told. That's the 'martial' part of martial art. I bought my first gun the week I bought my first house - I just didn't ever want to have to explain to my wife's family that I had let her be killed because of a belief I had, even if it is a noble belief such as 'pacifism'.

IMHO peace comes from strength not weakness.

dave
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Old 05-22-2006, 12:11 PM   #5
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

In order to truly be a pcifist, one must know that one has the ability to deal, immediately and with necessary force (up to and including deadly) with a threat. To truly be able to choose pacifism takes work in realism. otherwise one is simply stating that one thinks violence is bad, not making a choice based on what one is capable of.

Also IMHO- No

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Old 05-22-2006, 12:50 PM   #6
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

I wish I could remember, Niadh , a poster here on aikiweb uses a quote roughly to the effect of your post as their signature.

The funny part is that it always reminded me of what i saw as the pacifist nature of the societal principles of aikido.
I'll ask a question now, so I'll have better reason and ability to reply.
Am I pacifist even though I wish to learn about violence? And odd way to say it, I know...
Quote:
Thomas Hardy wrote:
If way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst.
Or, to make the best go of it, we must know the worst of it.

Oh, and, SDEWTIA*



*Some day everyone will talk in acronym
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Old 05-22-2006, 02:56 PM   #7
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote:
I once studied Aikido with a new sensei who was an admitted pacifist. He did no teach the use of a bo, jo, ken or atemi in practice. He said his sensei ( can't remember who) studied with O'Sensei toward the end O'Sensei's life and this is where his pacifist view of Aikido came from.
Was O'Sensei a pacifist?
1) Morihei Ueshiba trained with weapons daily until the end of his life.
2) Kisshomaru Ueshiba stated specifically that his father was not a pacifist. See this posting by Ellis Amdur:

"I recall a presentation 2nd Doshu gave to the Japan Martial Arts Society in the 1980's, and someone raised his hand as asked just when it was that Osensei became a pacifist. After the translation, Doshu looked rather puzzled, and asked for clarification, and the question was asked again. Doshu seemed to be suppressing giggles, and said, in effect that his father was never a pacifist, nor was aikido a pacifist practice. "After all, it is a martial art," he said. He then continued on to say, vaguely but accurately that his father created something new, that was outside the dualism of violence and non-violence."

Best,

Chris

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Old 05-22-2006, 03:10 PM   #8
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

i don't think he was.

that is: it seems to me that we can see three general catagories in this equation: pacifism, the belief in violence and non-violence. in my opinion, non-violence is the middle ground between pacifism and violence. that is: it is the idea of minimizing violence as much as possible, while recognizing that sometimes violence might be unfortunately necessary to stop even worse violence from happening. or perhaps better put: sometimes violence might be required to minimize violence.

as an example: suppose someone is about to shoot a friend of yours. you come upon the situation and realize you could get the drop on this person using an aikido technique (using the gun as a lever to do gyaku-kotegaeshi, say). however, in the process the person with gun will have their fingers broken. do you allow them to shoot someone in order to be true to "pacifism" or do you break their fingers (a lesser violence) in order to stop them from killing your friend (a greater violence)? it seems to me that ethically reponsible action is to break the fingers.

further, i think its important to recognize how this kind of violence is qualitatively different from shooting someone, or attacking someone for selfish reasons. but it is also important to recognize this as a slippery slope. to wit: this justification has been used to allow all manner of atrocities.

so: in my mind, part of osensei's genius was to create an martial form that trains us to be mindful of this slippery slope, to pay attention, a martial art of nonviolence (as opposed to pacifism or violence), so that we will be able to take ethically responsible action (which, of course, is not always, or even not usually, violent. see terry dobson sensei's story about his train ride [printed in aikido and the new warrior, and other places]). and to do so with love in our hearts for all involved.

jeff.
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Old 05-22-2006, 03:15 PM   #9
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

thanks chris! i'd never heard that story... and you posted it while i was writing my reply. but it seems like my feelings on the issue can be understood as correct, if the dualism is actually understood as violence and pacisfism, while non-violence is a different middle ground. thinking about this i'm reminded that many of the so-called fathers of pacifism supported violence actions when they thought they were necessary. thoreau supported john brown, gandhi supported the war against the nazis, etc. i think this puts them into the realm of non-violence that i'm trying to describe.

by the way: how would you translate / understand the word muteiko, which osensei seemed to use frequently, and which is often translated as "non-violence"? could it be that osensei understood muteiko in the sense i'm trying to describe?

thanks!

jeff.
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Old 05-22-2006, 03:17 PM   #10
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Quote:
Mike Logan wrote:
Did this new sensei not teach weapons because he was "an admitted pacifist", or because he never studied them?

michael.
He never studied them because he felt practicing violence was wrong.
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Old 05-22-2006, 03:45 PM   #11
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Quote:
He never studied them because he felt practicing violence was wrong.
I won't criticize your Sensei for taking a stand.

dave
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Old 05-22-2006, 03:50 PM   #12
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Quote:
Jeff Miller wrote:
by the way: how would you translate / understand the word muteiko, which osensei seemed to use frequently, and which is often translated as "non-violence"? could it be that osensei understood muteiko in the sense i'm trying to describe?

thanks!

jeff.
I would say that "non-resistance" is a better translation, generally speaking. "Teiko" means "oppose" or "resist" rather than "violence" (with "mu" meaning "non"). OTOH, it would depend upon context and usage for exact meaning and shades of meaning.

Best,

Chris

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Old 05-22-2006, 04:01 PM   #13
dps
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Quote:
David Knowlton wrote:
I won't criticize your Sensei for taking a stand.

dave
This was about 5 years ago for a month.. I stopped practicing with him because of a re injured knee. When I was able to practice again he had stopped teaching.
At the time I was surprised at what he told me. From what I had read about O'Sensei he continued to practice with a bokken until illness stopped him. My feelings were and still are that Aikido is a martial art first and foremost and as you practice the art that practice works on your mind which works on your spirit.
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Old 05-22-2006, 04:11 PM   #14
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Hmmm, practicing a form with a stick or sword is violence, and throwing,twisting and pinning another human being are pacifistic?

Q
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Old 05-22-2006, 04:14 PM   #15
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Quote:
Jo Adell wrote:
Hmmm, practicing a form with a stick or sword is violence, and throwing,twisting and pinning another human being are pacifistic?
Wish I had thought of that then. Where were you when I needed you.
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Old 05-22-2006, 04:29 PM   #16
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Quote:
Mike Logan wrote:
...a poster here on aikiweb uses a quote roughly to the effect of your post as their signature.
That would be me

I'm not at home right now or I could give you the name of the person quoted in my sig. He was a high level sword art practitioner is all I can remember (the sig. box didn't have enough room to fit his name at the end of the quote)

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 05-22-2006, 05:28 PM   #17
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote:
1) Morihei Ueshiba trained with weapons daily until the end of his life.
2) Kisshomaru Ueshiba stated specifically that his father was not a pacifist. See this posting by Ellis Amdur:

"I recall a presentation 2nd Doshu gave to the Japan Martial Arts Society in the 1980's, and someone raised his hand as asked just when it was that Osensei became a pacifist. After the translation, Doshu looked rather puzzled, and asked for clarification, and the question was asked again. Doshu seemed to be suppressing giggles, and said, in effect that his father was never a pacifist, nor was aikido a pacifist practice. "After all, it is a martial art," he said. He then continued on to say, vaguely but accurately that his father created something new, that was outside the dualism of violence and non-violence."

Best,

Chris
Thanks Chris,
The lack of Japanese language skills makes it difficult for Aikido folks to get a good picture of the Founder's spiritual views. This distortion wasn't accidental but rather purposeful. The vast majority of the material presented by the Aikikai under Kisshomaru Ueshiba after the war in which the Founder was quoted was highly selective and the words used to present his ideas were tailored to the message the Aikido leadership wished to present to the West.

As I described elsewhere, it was Arikawa, Osawa and the Nidai Doshu who cherry picked through O-Sensei's writings and lectures to present a picture that would make Aikido "sellable" to a world that had only recently been at war with Japan. The Peace and Harmony part got top billing while virtually all mention of Shinto, the Kami, overtly religious material was expunged.

It's not that O-Sensei didn't wish for Peace but his idea of how that would be attained was much more complex than what most folks call "Pacivism". Most Americans get their ideas of Pacifism from Martin Luther King who was inturn influenced by Ghandi. This type of Pacifism has almost nothing to do with what O-Sensei was putting forward.The mechanism by which the world will become a peaceful place has to do with training and individuals, one by one, becoming in tune with the Way of the Kami. O-sensei's unique vision was to see that this could be done through budo training.

In fact O-Sensei believed that all of the elements which go into drawing oneself into accord with the "Will of the Gods" are contained in true budo practice whihc is what he believed Aikido to be (and he didn't mean this in an exclusive way - not maintaining that Aikido had it and other martial ways didn't).

It is through proper training that one comes to understand the proper relationship of all things. "Non-resistence" calls for putting ones own actions into accord with this realization. Violence is produced by a failure to understand this proper relationship. In O-Sensei's thinking, violence violated the fundamental balance of the myriad elements in the Universe and automatically led to the destruction of the purpetrator. However, the mechanism of his destruction would be the warrior who is acting in accord with the Way of the Kami which exhibits the "spirit of loving protection of all things". This is where many Westerners start forming their ideas about O-Sensei's "pacifism". But O-Sensei's idea of true Budo involved protection of all things and that would sometimes need to involve the removal of the destructive element from the system. The spiritual warrior would attempt to bring the ignorant violent person into harmony with the proper order of things but, failing that, he would do battle in order to protect his people and restore balance.

It is true that O-Sensei's idea of what kind of personal power one who has attained true budo would be able to wield would, in itself, tend to bring those around him into the correct path. But nowhere does anything O-Sensei writes infer that one would sacrifice himself and let an evil person prevail out of some idea that violence was "wrong". Violence would have more to do with ones internal state. The spiritual warrior could fight evil and do so from altruistic motives and that would not be violence, from the internal standpoint.

Passive resistance is not the same thing at all. However, I think that the internal state required to pursue real passive resistance would actually be very similar to what O-Sensei seems to have meant when he talked about true Budo. It would require the same spirit of self sacrifice that the follower of True Budo would have been expected to cultivate.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 05-22-2006 at 05:31 PM.

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Old 05-22-2006, 06:17 PM   #18
Chris Li
 
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
Thanks Chris,
The lack of Japanese language skills makes it difficult for Aikido folks to get a good picture of the Founder's spiritual views. This distortion wasn't accidental but rather purposeful. The vast majority of the material presented by the Aikikai under Kisshomaru Ueshiba after the war in which the Founder was quoted was highly selective and the words used to present his ideas were tailored to the message the Aikido leadership wished to present to the West.

As I described elsewhere, it was Arikawa, Osawa and the Nidai Doshu who cherry picked through O-Sensei's writings and lectures to present a picture that would make Aikido "sellable" to a world that had only recently been at war with Japan. The Peace and Harmony part got top billing while virtually all mention of Shinto, the Kami, overtly religious material was expunged.
Of course, Gozo Shioda, Kenji Tomiki, and Minoru Mochizuki were all seperate from the above three after the war, but their own arts incorporate even less religious material than the Aikikai.

Also, you would expect that, if religious references were deliberately eliminated in translation, that Japanese practitioners of Aikido (who still had access to the original material) would be more conversant with that facet of the art, but they are, if anything, less knowledgeable of such things than practitioners overseas.

I would describe the process in somewhat less nefarious terms. In general, the deemphasis of Shinto, the Kami, and overtly religious material was a cultural change that occurred throughout Japanese society, and Aikido was no exception. The general deemphasis on religion in Japan had little to do with the west, but was so complete that many young Japanese people look puzzled today if you mention the word "Shinto".

Material containing heavily religious references continued to be published throughout Kisshomaru's life. "Aikido Shinzui" is one collection of such articles published by Morihei Ueshiba, "Take Musu Aiki" is another.

Unfortunately, Morihei's writings are very difficult to understand, even for Japanese. Virtually all of his students, from Gozo Shioda to Mitsugi Saotome have made public comments that they often had no idea what he was talking about. Accordingly, a large part of Kisshomaru's efforts were spent on attempting to make his father's ideas more understandable. This may be best seen in "Aikido no Kokoro" ("The Spirit of Aikido"), where he does a fair job of expressing his father's views in more accessible language.

Best,

Chris

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Old 05-22-2006, 08:12 PM   #19
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

On Aikido and atemi: The radio interview that one can hear on one of the DVDs sold over at AJ.com has the interviewer asking Osensei about Aikido having no strikes, being purely defensive, etc., and you could tell he was asking looking for an agreement of sorts, like he had been prepped in one way or another to have his understanding affirmed by Osensei. To me, this is a sign of what George is saying - that a view of the art was developing and that that view wasn't too in line with Osensei's own understandings. Well, what does Osensei say? After chuckling at the guy - like saying, "Man, weren't you listening to what I have been saying (i.e. what a stupid question)," Osensei says something like, "Of course there are strikes, an offense, etc., in Aikido - Aikido is about reconciling dichotomies, so yes, it has to have both offense and defense." (etc. yada yada yada)

I'm with Chris on this one - there was a whole "secularization" of Japan - not just Osensei's Aikido. However, I'm not so sure this is the exact thing we are seeing in the "pacifying" of Aikido. In my opinion, that is something that actually came from outside of Aikido - at least Osensei's. It was something that came in to Aikido mainly through the rhetoric Judo was trying to use to distinguish itself (where the "other" was "what came before"), to get its curriculum understood one way and not another, and to get it in the favor of certain institutions (e.g. the public school system). Whatever Osensei was doing in Iwama, I don't think he was at all partial to this view of "martial arts," but all those young folks training during that time or entering into training soon thereafter, in and outside of Aikido, really couldn't understand their art in any way outside of what Judo was saying about itself and "budo" as a whole. In my opinion, that is where you get all this stuff from - and why there is this obvious effort to look at certain things Osensei said over others and/or in a certain way.

d

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Old 05-22-2006, 09:19 PM   #20
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

George, Chris, David are you saying there was a disconnect of O''Sensei religious beliefs in order to make Aikido more palatable for it to spread in Japan and outside Japan?
O'Sensei's religious beliefs were from Shinto and Omoto-kyo. I think the disconnect has left an opening for the individual to use their own spiritual, religious or philosophical beliefs for the spirit part of the mind, body ,spirit relationship.
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Old 05-22-2006, 09:30 PM   #21
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

I wouldn't say that anything so conscious took place, or if it did, it was not enough to cause the kind of shift we can see. Rather, there were a lot of social/cultural changes that took place that had a lot do to with the epistemic shift or rift between Osensei and others (i.e. some) - others, by a set of circumstances, that went on to dominate how Aikido was to be understood and practiced, etc., by the majority of us in the world today.

Additionally, I would not say that Osensei's religious beliefs, especially his Omoto-kyo beliefs, would have gotten in the way of anyone using their own spiritual, religious, or philosophical beliefs for the spirit part of the mind/body/spirit relationship. Osensei's religious beliefs were not of the kind that had a strict doxa - one that could be contrasted against others. For example, Omoto-kyo was very much into the idea of all religions leading to the same place, etc. It would not have made sense for him to say, "You must do what I do - only!" He would have rather said, "You do that? It's the same thing - meet you at the same top of the same mountain."

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Old 05-22-2006, 09:38 PM   #22
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote:
Of course, Gozo Shioda, Kenji Tomiki, and Minoru Mochizuki were all separate from the above three after the war, but their own arts incorporate even less religious material than the Aikikai.
Does anybody know what their religious beliefs were?
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Old 05-22-2006, 09:44 PM   #23
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:

Additionally, I would not say that Osensei's religious beliefs, especially his Omoto-kyo beliefs, would have gotten in the way of anyone using their own spiritual, religious, or philosophical beliefs for the spirit part of the mind/body/spirit relationship. Osensei's religious beliefs were not of the kind that had a strict doxa - one that could be contrasted against others. For example, Omoto-kyo was very much into the idea of all religions leading to the same place, etc. It would not have made sense for him to say, "You must do what I do - only!" He would have rather said, "You do that? It's the same thing - meet you at the same top of the same mountain."
This in part could be what O'Sensei meant when he said that everyone was to find thier own Aikido ( I hope my paraphrase was right).
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Old 05-22-2006, 10:04 PM   #24
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Quote:
Bronson Diffin wrote:
That would be me

I'm not at home right now or I could give you the name of the person quoted in my sig. He was a high level sword art practitioner is all I can remember (the sig. box didn't have enough room to fit his name at the end of the quote)

Bronson
Great quote. I found this link http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=578.
Thanks.
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Old 05-22-2006, 10:23 PM   #25
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Re: Was O'Sensei a pacifist?

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
. Most Americans get their ideas of Pacifism from Martin Luther King who was inturn influenced by Ghandi
" When the choice is between cowardice and violence, I would strongly recommend violence." Mohandus Ghandi written in a letter to his son.

From a post by James Williams on Aikido Journal.
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