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Old 01-22-2007, 06:13 PM   #1
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Article: Restoring Harmony by Ross Robertson

Discuss the article, "Restoring Harmony" by Ross Robertson here.

Article URL: http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/rrobertson/2007_01.html
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Old 01-22-2007, 10:03 PM   #2
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: Article: Restoring Harmony by Ross Robertson

Quote:
And yet, if you look up the word "harmony" in a good Japanese/English dictionary (like Jeffrey's Japanese<->English Dictionary Server at http://www.df.lth.se/cgi-bin/j-e/dict), you'll get many returns, several of which include the same kanji for "ai." So I think we have to allow that there is justification for including "harmony" as an equally valid interpretation.
Let's look at those a little more closely. Nothing against Jeffrey's J/E dictionary, but it has quite a kitchen sink approach.

和合 - wagou - harmony, unity
釣り合う - tsuriau - balance, matching
配合 - haigou - combination, compound
四部合唱 - shibugasshou - four-part harmony

"Tsuru" is a verb meaning "to hang on a line". The idea of "tsuriau" is that of a set of scales. The two scales (tsutte-iru, held on a line) hang together, matching, in balance. So again, the "au" here refers to "matching", not to harmony. "Matching scales" may be considered to be a type of harmony, but that's a higher order interpretation.

Similarly, "haigou" means "to distribute together, to combine together". Again, the "au" here represents joining, and matching together.

"Shibugasshou" is something of a false hit, because while the English phrase uses "harmony", the Japanese phrase is actually "four part chorus". The harmony is implied.

"Wagou" is a key word, because if you look through those entries and count the kanji most used in "harmony" context, you'll see most are either 調 chou, or 和 wa. Indeed, "to harmonize" (as in 四部合唱 ) is 調和する chouwa suru. Here, the "au" again means "matching, meeting". If we have 和 together, we are in harmony.

Ueshiba Morihei indeed talk often about harmony, and when he did so, he used the words 調和 chouwa and 融和 yuuwa. Sometimes, 和合 as well, I'm sure. 和 is, for me, the word for harmony in Japanese. A great example is Robert Whiting's book on Japanese baseball, "You Gotta Have Wa". When Japanese people worry about harmony, they worry about "wa".

The reason I tend to be picky about people referring to 合 as "harmony" is two-fold. One, "harmony" is not a core meaning of the kanji. When combined with other words or kanji it can, depending on the context, create a word that means "harmony" or relates to harmony. It does not mean that by itself.

Second, the word, in this specific case (aikido) does not exist by itself. It is attached to "ki". The two form a compound word that can exist independently of "do". That word, at least, has a history, an idiom of usage. In Daito-ryu, it was a noun: 合気をかける aiki wo kakeru, "to apply aiki". Which means that that the "ai" here modified the "ki", like an adjective: "apply matching ki (energy)".

In Ueshiba aikido, it is often verbified: 合気する "to do aiki". Here, the nuance slightly changes. Rather than "apply matching energy", it's more like "do matching energy". That is, at least, what the word translates to. (Linguistically, there probably is not much difference, cf. denwa wo kakeru and denwa suru, "to place a phone call, to call someone". We'll leave differences in the actual mechanics of the two arts to another thread.) Now, if one wants to go from "match energy" to "blend energy", and from there with combining Ueshiba's lectures to say "harmonize" with an opponent, well, that's fine, I think. As long as when makes clear that's a higher order interpretation.

The problem, as I see it, is that all too often people say, "Ueshiba talked about harmony with the universe. His art is called 'aikido'. 'Do' means 'way', 'ki' means some kind of life-force or energy, so the harmony must be in 'ai'! The meaning is close enough." This ignores that a) the word "aiki" predated Ueshiba's art, and b) that Ueshiba didn't come up with the name "aikido" for his art. "Ai" is a meaty word in Japanese, with heavy and frequent use in everyday life, and its own full history and idiom. To be a little melodramatic , it makes me sad to see all that thrown out for a narrow interpretation based on English translations of Ueshiba's teachings, which used another set of words entirely for "harmony". Plus, students don't learn a useful bit of Japanese culture: the word 和 "wa", which means "harmony, accord, peace, cooperation", and just so happens to be the word the Japanese use to signify themselves. So it's not fair to 合 to deprive it of its core meaning and add this other meaning, and not fair to 和 to give all of its core meaning to 合 and then ignore it altogether.

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Therefore we should not expect any short, simplistic interpretation of "aikido" to be satisfactory.
Personally, I think any short, simple interpretation (translation) of aikido that sticks with the core meanings of the elements is satisfactory. "The Way of Matching Energy". Aikijutsu "Matching Energy Techniques". Are those complete, perfect translations? No. But they provide the minimum necessary information, faithful to the idiom of both languages. There's not much more you can ask for in translation. Everything else has to come out on the mat.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 01-23-2007, 08:44 AM   #3
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Re: Article: Restoring Harmony by Ross Robertson

Just read a thread over on E-Budo. Seems there is a Daiwa ryu. So, I guess if the Japanese wanted to show that a martial art is using "harmony", they use wa. Gives more credence to "ai" not being used primarily as harmony.

http://www.e-budo.com/forum/showthread.php?t=36304

Mark
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Old 01-23-2007, 09:23 AM   #4
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Re: Article: Restoring Harmony by Ross Robertson

Also, for those following this thread, there is another similar thread on E-Budo:
http://www.e-budo.com/forum/showthread.php?t=36321
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Old 01-23-2007, 12:39 PM   #5
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Re: Article: Restoring Harmony by Ross Robertson

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Joshua Reyer wrote:
Let's look at those a little more closely....
A careful post and one I benefit by. Thank you.

I have a question, though.

I took the term "aiki" very analytically once, as have you here. I asked Stanley Pranin at a seminar if "aikido" couldn't be translated as "the way of taking balance" (taking the compound "aiki" in the way DR's Kondo defines it as taking balance.) Stanley didn't quite harumph, but he didn't appreciate the irony, either. Osensei plainly meant "harmony" is his mind.

Ultimately, we could just be arguing angels on a pinhead. Ueshiba indulged in esoteric discourse, much of which consists of punning and the like. It could very well have all these meanings for him.

Interested in your comment and thanks again for the excellent post.

Don J. Modesto
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Old 01-24-2007, 10:33 AM   #6
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Re: Article: Restoring Harmony by Ross Robertson

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Don J. Modesto wrote:
A careful post and one I benefit by. Thank you.

I have a question, though.

I took the term "aiki" very analytically once, as have you here. I asked Stanley Pranin at a seminar if "aikido" couldn't be translated as "the way of taking balance" (taking the compound "aiki" in the way DR's Kondo defines it as taking balance.) Stanley didn't quite harumph, but he didn't appreciate the irony, either. Osensei plainly meant "harmony" is his mind.

Ultimately, we could just be arguing angels on a pinhead. Ueshiba indulged in esoteric discourse, much of which consists of punning and the like. It could very well have all these meanings for him.

Interested in your comment and thanks again for the excellent post.
Well, here we are getting into higher interpretations of a compound. Which is fine. Ueshiba said once that the ki one matches is not the opponent's, but rather that of the Universe, and that once one has done that, any encounter is beyond victory/defeat, because your opponent simply can't go against the Universe. If one wanted to take that comment and suggest that thus "'aiki' means 'Harmony with the Universe'", I see no problem with that, provided one makes clear that's an interpretation made in conjunction with Ueshiba's lectures/writings.

Kondo's definition is a higher order interpretation as well. There's simply no way "taking balance" can be derived from the linguistic elements. However, as I understand it, aiki in used in Daito-ryu to obtain kuzushi instead of the usual jujutsu methods. Instead of pushing or pulling the opponent off-balance, the aiki practioner "applies aiki" at contact, (seen in demonstrations by uke either falling at a touch, or standing immobilized on his toes, his knees bent), and then applies the throwing/locking technique. I qualify this by saying I have no personal experience with DR, and am basing this judgment purely by what I've seen here on the net, and what I've read in books and in various forums. I welcome any correction or refinement in this area.

So, I would hazard that Kondo was essentially pointing out how aikijutsu was theoretically used in conflict, rather than providing a working translation of "aiki". I would tentatively agree with Mr. Pranin that "aiki" as a single word has different implications in aikido compared to Daito-ryu, but then I'd raise the question of whether it should have those implications, at least from a technical standpoint.

Personally, just from what I have read I don't think Ueshiba cared very much what his art was called. He changed it several times, and when it was called "aikido" it was all the same to him, and he proceeded to mine it for material in his lectures; e.g. punning that the "ai" of aikido was 愛 ai, "love".

"Ueshiba Morihei and Aikido" (a compilation in Japanese of a number of Aiki News's interviews with Ueshiba's deshi) includes a transcript of a radio interview with Ueshiba where the interview specifically asked Ueshiba about the Aikido name. Here's my translation of it (the footnote is included):
Quote:
Interviewer: Why did you name your art "Aikido"?

Ueshiba: I didn't name it. As this is a great treasure of the nation, it's not someone one person just names. When I had given it no thought, Mr. Kotaro Nakamura from the Education Ministry came and suggested "aikido".* They said to call it aikido. It sounded like a fine suggestion, so I said let's make it that, and there it was. After that, I figured I had to look into this thing called "aikido" myself...

* "On February 9, 1948, permission was granted by the Ministry of Education to revise the act of endowment as "the Aikikai Foundation." - Kisshomaru Ueshiba, "Ueshiba Morihei den")
Of course, it's noted earlier that Ueshiba's art was first officially referred to as "Aikido" in 1942 when Minoru Hirai was dispatched by the Aikikai Foundation (at that time called the Kobukai Foundation) to the Butokukai and they (the Butokukai) created an "aikido division" to encompass Ueshiba aikido, Daito-ryu, and others.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 01-24-2007, 01:30 PM   #7
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Re: Article: Restoring Harmony by Ross Robertson

Quote:
Joshua Reyer wrote:
Well, here we are getting into higher interpretations of a compound. Which is fine. Ueshiba said once that the ki one matches is not the opponent's, but rather that of the Universe, and that once one has done that, any encounter is beyond victory/defeat, because your opponent simply can't go against the Universe. If one wanted to take that comment and suggest that thus "'aiki' means 'Harmony with the Universe'", I see no problem with that, provided one makes clear that's an interpretation made in conjunction with Ueshiba's lectures/writings.

Kondo's definition is a higher order interpretation as well. There's simply no way "taking balance" can be derived from the linguistic elements. However, as I understand it, aiki in used in Daito-ryu to obtain kuzushi instead of the usual jujutsu methods. Instead of pushing or pulling the opponent off-balance, the aiki practioner "applies aiki" at contact, (seen in demonstrations by uke either falling at a touch, or standing immobilized on his toes, his knees bent), and then applies the throwing/locking technique. I qualify this by saying I have no personal experience with DR, and am basing this judgment purely by what I've seen here on the net, and what I've read in books and in various forums. I welcome any correction or refinement in this area.

So, I would hazard that Kondo was essentially pointing out how aikijutsu was theoretically used in conflict, rather than providing a working translation of "aiki". I would tentatively agree with Mr. Pranin that "aiki" as a single word has different implications in aikido compared to Daito-ryu, but then I'd raise the question of whether it should have those implications, at least from a technical standpoint.
Hmmm ... so, maybe Ueshiba Morihei changed the way aiki is viewed in his aikido? Maybe he kept the DR definition of aiki but added a variation on the definition by using it in a verb sense in regards to the Universe?

In other words, aikido should have the aiki of DR where one "applies aiki" at contact, but also have the aiki of "Harmony with the Universe". Noun and verb at once.

Rambling again,
Mark
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Old 06-29-2007, 01:55 PM   #8
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Re: Article: Restoring Harmony by Ross Robertson

I appreciate the thoughtful discussion people are bringing to this.

I can also sympathize with why O-Sensei may not have cared much what "his" art is called. If it's truly a universal way, then to name it anything is to separate it from everything else.

The deeper I look into aikido, the more I see it reflected in other arts. Like aikido, other arts can be done well or done badly. In nearly all cases, there are rare cases of an art being done in a manner that is indescribably pure. And with these cases, it is almost as if they are all doing the same thing regardless of the art.

Same general anatomy, same set of physics. I do think ultimately there is only one art, and that one is probably best left un-named. Even so, that's the one I want most to do.

And even so, I'll still call it "aikido," because that's the name of the path that I take to get me there.

Ross
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