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Not Magic, Science
Not Magic, Science
by The Mirror
10-15-2007
Not Magic, Science

Here the trail rises high above the river, but not as high as the bluffs on the other side. I've passed the part that runs through backyards and a horse farm. Now I'm in the woods, away from the road. I haven't seen another person for miles.

A woodchuck stands on his hind legs, not two feet from me, watching. I sidle past, stepping lightly. A kingfisher flies low over the water. Leaves crunch behind me. I turn, hoping to see a deer. It's a guy in camouflage fatigues, a flak jacket. I smile, speak. People on this trail speak.

He doesn't. He stares, no warmth in his eyes.
***
Years ago, when I first began aikido, back when I still had good knees, I ran. Sometimes I'd be running alone and I'd realize I'd seen a car twice or I'd feel the hair on the back of my neck rising. In my head I had an elaborate scenario worked out. If they came near me, I'd call, "Hi, I'm Susan. Sensei must have sent you for my sandan test (because of course a sandan must be almost godlike). Do you have the knives? If my nikyo pin cuts off your oxygen and you black out, I promise I won't let you stay out long enough to be brain damaged. Are you comfortable break-falling on concrete? If not, let's go back to my house and do this on grass." And they'd be frightened by my bluff and run away, or at my house my husband Kemp (my hero) would understand our code word and call the police, then help me beat these guys' asses (in a very nice way of course), and it'd be over.

Once I was out of town, running where the hotel desk clerk told me, when I realized nobody but me and this slowly circling blue car was in the mall parking lot. I had the whole movie script written in my head by the time I got out of there.
***
Kemp and I stood near the finish line at a cross country meet. My nephew was already in; my son out of the woods and on the track. Suddenly loud words erupted; somebody in the other team's uniform was shoving and cursing. I backed away. Kemp, a high school teacher, jumped in, held the loudest boy. My soft reasonable sentences did nothing. Kemp barked short commands. The boy stopped struggling, cried. Kemp put an arm around him and led him a little ways away. Finally I saw his artificial leg. "He tripped me," I heard him say. "All I had to do was place and I have a scholarship, and he tripped me."

"Fighting at a school event won't help with the scholarship, son. Let's take a breath and think." I felt proud of how Kemp handled the situation. I wondered how many years I'd train before my first instinct would be to enter.
***
Our dog was lost. My daughter and her friend had gone down to the park one more time to look. They were eleven. Out the window I saw them down the block, no dog. A black truck seemed to be following them. "Honey," I called. "I think that truck's following the girls." Kemp joined me at the window and watched them walk past our house and turn on the next block. The truck went another half block up our street, then backed up and turned where they had. I wrote down the plate numbers while Kemp went outside. The truck sped off.

"That truck followed us all around the park and then home," my daughter said. "I went up on the Van Gorders' porch, but nobody was there. I headed toward home, made Hannah take out her ponytail so he wouldn't have a handle to grab her with and walked past our house so he wouldn't know where I live."

She gets her practicality from her father. At the time, none of those precautions would have occurred to me. I would have been too busy practicing in my head all the ways I could transform a situation with a pervert into a happy ending.
***
I hate to be held in a chokehold from behind. John had one arm twisted behind my back. His other arm was around my neck, pulling me into him. Every time, my center was up in my throat. I could taste panic. We were playing hard. Finally I got sankyo, but the next day my neck hurt. "What do I do, Sensei?" I asked. "My sankyo doesn't work so well."

"Come here," he said. "If someone on the street got you in this hold, you'd play differently than you play in here. First you stomp the top of his foot, then you do a backward head butt to break his nose, then you slam back into his groin, then you separate his little finger from the rest and break it off, and then you do sankyo. It should work just fine."
***
"Old style aikido," Sensei said. "is very dangerous." He was here from Japan for two weeks, teaching some of what his teacher, our teacher's father, had taught him. He is the last of his teacher's students, one of two still living. Sensei walked around the mat, correcting our techniques. He moved my hand a fraction; uke dropped in submission. "You will have to decide what you want to keep, to put into your aikido. Your aikido must change as you evaluate what works and what doesn't. It's not magic; it's science."
***
The kingfisher skims the river. I nod again at the guy in the flak jacket. Maybe he's somebody like me, out to enjoy a walk on a beautiful fall morning while his family sleeps. Maybe he just needs a kind word and he'll see the error of his rudeness. Maybe... I stop the dialogue in my head, pay attention to this moment. Magic is fun to imagine. Now I will trust the science.


2007 Susan Dalton

"The Mirror" is a collaborative column written by a group of women who describe themselves as:
We comprise mothers, spouses, scientists, artists, teachers, healers, and yes, of course, writers. We range in age from 30s through 50s, we are kyu ranked and yudansha and from various parts of the United States and styles of aikido. What we have in common is a love for budo that keeps it an integral part of our busy lives, both curiosity about and a commonsense approach to life and aikido, and an inveterate tendency to write about these explorations.
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Old 10-25-2007, 01:00 PM   #2
SeiserL
 
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Re: Not Magic, Science

Osu,
Agreed.
It looks like magic from a distance.
Its more like a science in training.
Which allows one to see further into the distance
and even more magic.
Rei, Domo.

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 10-25-2007, 02:15 PM   #3
tedehara
 
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Re: Not Magic, Science

Not Magic. Not Science. It is Art.

Aikido is a performance-based art within the subgroup known as the Martial Arts.

You don't need enlightenment to figure that out, just a dictionary.

It is not practice that makes perfect, it is correct practice that makes perfect.
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Old 10-26-2007, 05:16 AM   #4
SeiserL
 
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Re: Not Magic, Science

Quote:
Ted Ehara wrote: View Post
Not Magic. Not Science. It is Art.
Osu,
I was once told that before it (anything) can truly become an art, it must first be a craft (a science).
To write a great novel, first learn to spell.
To wrote a great rock opera, first learn to play an instrument.
Before you run, learn to walk.
Before you talk, listen.
Its a sequential thing.
Rei, Domo.

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 10-26-2007, 06:04 AM   #5
DonMagee
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Re: Not Magic, Science

I actually find most things in martial arts very far from what I'd call scientific, from aikido to MMA.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 10-26-2007, 10:04 AM   #6
CitoMaramba
 
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Re: Not Magic, Science

Clarke's Third Law:

Quote:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Inocencio Maramba, MD, MSc
Dangayan Singkaw Aikido Shinzui
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Old 10-26-2007, 10:34 AM   #7
Mattias Bengtsson
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Re: Not Magic, Science

Quote:
Cito Maramba wrote: View Post
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
But since were talking Aikido here, maybe it should be
"Any sufficiently advanced technique is indistinguishable from magic."

Uke Iacta Est
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Old 10-26-2007, 12:25 PM   #8
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Re: Not Magic, Science

Quote:
Mattias Bengtsson wrote: View Post
But since were talking Aikido here, maybe it should be
"Any sufficiently advanced technique is indistinguishable from magic."
hehehe.. of course!

Inocencio Maramba, MD, MSc
Dangayan Singkaw Aikido Shinzui
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Old 10-27-2007, 11:43 AM   #9
tedehara
 
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Re: Not Magic, Science

I certainly agree with much of what was written in this column. The quotation from Sensei, "It's not magic. It is science.", is correct to a certain level. There is a rational to this martial art. It is not magic or mysticism.

Techniques can be described as in terms of Newtonian physics. Bodies in motion and all that. However aikido still remains an art because it is an expression of human endeavor.

If I order a pizza with mushrooms, it does not mean I want mushrooms. It means I want mushrooms in my pizza. Similarly if parts of aikido can be described in a scientific manner, it does not mean all of aikido is a science. The writer has made an illogical jump, trying to apply the Sensei's statement to encompass the whole art.

What is disturbing is this unthinking attitude. You can have the best instructor in the world, but if you misinterpret what they're saying and doing, then the mistake is yours alone. A good example of this is the final statement.
Quote:
...Now I will trust the science.
Nobody trusts science, especially scientists.

It is not practice that makes perfect, it is correct practice that makes perfect.
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Old 10-27-2007, 08:44 PM   #10
eyrie
 
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Re: Not Magic, Science

I thought the piece was too much waffle and not enough science...

I agree with Ted, some aspects of aikido can be explained with science. But, applying aikido (or any martial ART) is a skill (i.e. craft) and that is an art in itself.

Magic is the art and skill of illusion and deception. It is the skill of the magician that makes it seem so... magical.

Ignatius
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Old 10-28-2007, 01:18 AM   #11
Lonin
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Re: Not Magic, Science

I ordered fried eggs yoshinkan style but got them Ki styled. No sense right? Aikido is to be experienced as it is. To try comparing it other subjects (like food/science/magic) reduces the experience.
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Old 10-28-2007, 05:06 AM   #12
eyrie
 
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Re: Not Magic, Science

Wha..?? Aikido is an egg? I s'pose it depends on how you like your eggs: scrambled, fried, sunny-side up, over-easy, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, poached, steamed or baked. Cooking times may vary... as will the results.

Speaking of food science and cooking. Martial arts is like cooking. There's some science involved, some art, and mostly skill. A good chef is said to have some "gongfu". Likewise, a good martial artist might have some "gongfu"...

Ignatius
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Old 10-28-2007, 11:21 AM   #13
Susan Dalton
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Re: Not Magic, Science

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Osu,
Agreed.
It looks like magic from a distance.
Its more like a science in training.
Which allows one to see further into the distance
and even more magic.
Rei, Domo.
Yes, that's the idea I was trying to get across. Thank you for reading. My teacher's aikido looks like magic, but is it really fair to call something magic if someone has worked at it for 50 years?
Susan
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Old 10-28-2007, 11:36 AM   #14
Susan Dalton
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Re: Not Magic, Science

Quote:
Ted Ehara wrote: View Post
The writer has made an illogical jump, trying to apply the Sensei's statement to encompass the whole art."

Obviously I can't speak for the whole art. This story is only talking about what was going on with me, in one particular situation. Maybe I'm not getting my idea across very well. What changed for me in this particular situation was I stopped the magical thinking, where my brilliant wit and obvious good intention would save the day and all would be well. Good would magically vanquish evil. Instead of wandering off into the fairy tale in my head, I stayed in the moment and was ready for whatever came. Most people may do that anyway. I had to learn that skill.

"What is disturbing is this unthinking attitude. You can have the best instructor in the world, but if you misinterpret what they're saying and doing, then the mistake is yours alone. A good example of this is the final statement.
Nobody trusts science, especially scientists.
My mother took a prescribed drug when she was pregnant with me. It was supposed to be great. Instead, it has altered the course of my life. So no, I do not always trust science. But in this one particular instance, I decided to trust the science of what I had been taught. Anyway, thanks for reading.
Susan
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Old 03-18-2008, 03:07 PM   #15
E.D. Gordon
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Re: Not Magic, Science

Science is the art of questioning.
If you are here to ask the question, ask why you are here.

I would not be here, if not for science. I would never have been conceived. I would be dead of pneumonia (age 4) strep, dysentery, polio or smallpox.

My mate would not be able to walk or see. Or teach budo. I'd be stuck with it. ;-p

Ask not, what science does for you.
Ask, what science has done for you already. Glasses? Contacts? Lasik? Contraceptives? Clean water? Food that doesn't make you sick? This computer you're sitting at? It's all good, man. :-)

It's my experience,that when people don't believe in evolution, it's because it passed them by.

What would you tell me, if I told you that I didn't believe in the theory of Gravity? the Big Bang? What if I said that Earth was the center of the Universe?

Let's not just look at what we have learned, but what we CAN learn. Please don't go thinking, that we're done yet!!!

Science is the art of exploration and rational evaluation.
If you don't have this, you are stuck in the feudal world. Our roots need not designate our goals.

8-D
E.D. Gordon
Go Science!
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Old 03-18-2008, 03:08 PM   #16
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Re: Not Magic, Science

Quote:
Nobody trusts science, especially scientists.
I certainly trust science before I trust mumbo-jumbo.

Aikido is a system of budo relying on basic principles of psychology and physiology. Without those two elements, you Do have "a performance-based art" and not a functional budo.

Having crossed hands with Susan, I'd say she's got a good handle on the technique, art and science of budo. I can't say so much of many other alleged aikidoka with whom I've had the experience of training.

My teacher spent time in the dojo of both Shioda and Tohei and our jujutsu has a distinct and strong influence from the aikido of both of those gentlemen.

And having done budo for 35+ years (I stopped counting after 30, but IIRC, I started training in budo in 1973 or so) its been my experience that budo is both art and science, and it has naught all to do with mysticism or woo.

Good budo, that is. There's lots of stupid and ignorant and sadly uninformed budo out there, even in Japan.

Physically, if it cannot be described in terms of physics and other human science, it's non-existent.

Culturally, if it cannot be defined in terms of the vocabulary of art and human interaction, then it is simply woo and needs to be viewed as such.

Your mileage, it may vary, of course, but mine is fairly well calibrated.

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Old 03-18-2008, 03:11 PM   #17
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Re: Not Magic, Science

I'm always boggled by those who doubt science, and must assume that they, first, have no clue what science IS or how it works ...

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Old 03-18-2008, 11:52 PM   #18
John Ruhl
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Re: Not Magic, Science

Chuck -

As a 4th kyu in aikido and something like a rokudan in physics I tend to think about things like this a fair bit.

Quote:
Chuck Gordon wrote: View Post
Aikido is a system of budo relying on basic principles of psychology and physiology.
I hold a similar view, but your statement:

Quote:
Chuck Gordon wrote: View Post
Physically, if it cannot be described in terms of physics and other human science, it's non-existent.
seems much too definitive. There's surely a heck of a lot that's "real" that isn't well described by science... that's the whole reason we do science, and haven't stopped!

On the mental side, do you think that those aspects are really explained well enough by psychology, or do you think there is room for much more understanding as we learn more about the mind? I don't know much psychology, but I suspect the human mind is capable of things that are both very impressive and not yet understood.

I do know that I am very impressed every time I get "smoked", by which I mean nage disappears and I'm flying through the air wondering what just happened. I guess that could be that nage's mind just did something impressive, or that my mind did something particularly unimpressive.

cheers,
-John
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Old 03-19-2008, 04:34 AM   #19
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Re: Not Magic, Science

Quote:
Chuck Gordon wrote: View Post
I started training in budo in 1973 or so) its been my experience that budo is both art and science, and it has naught all to do with mysticism or woo.
What no woo!!! Boo Hoo.

David
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Old 03-23-2008, 09:58 AM   #20
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Arrow Re: Not Magic, Science

When results of an experiment are published, other scientists can duplicate that experiment to verify the results of the original investigation. This method of verification is what I was referring to when I wrote, "Nobody trusts science, especially scientists." The fact that scientists can verify each other's work precludes trust. Science is not built on trust but on objective verification.

Drugs, surgical procedures, medical therapies and computers connected to the internet are by-products of scientific inquiry. This technology is not science itself. Pure science concerns itself with investigation, not its product line.

Poorly defined words, mysticism and emotional thoughts that are called arguments are common in aikido forums and dojos. This approach has been tried before and failed.

From Cosmos by Carl Sagan
Quote:
Sagan wrote:
They did not advocate the free confrontation of conflicting points of view. Instead, like all orthodox religions, they practiced a rigidity that prevented them from correcting their errors.
Cicero wrote:
In discussion it is not so much weight of authority as force of argument that should be demanded. Indeed, the authority of those who profess to teach is often a positive hindrance to those who desire to learn; they cease to employ their own judgment, and take what they perceive to be the verdict of their chosen master as settling the question. In fact I am not disposed to approve the practice traditionally ascribed to the Pythagoreans, who, when questioned as to the grounds of any assertion that they advanced in debate, are said to have been accustomed to reply "The Master said so," "the Master" being Pythagoras. So potent was an opinion already decided, making authority prevail unsupported by reason.

It is not practice that makes perfect, it is correct practice that makes perfect.
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Old 03-23-2008, 01:34 PM   #21
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Re: Not Magic, Science

it's all about physics my friends.
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Old 03-23-2008, 06:29 PM   #22
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Re: Not Magic, Science

Quote:
Ted Ehara wrote: View Post
Science is not built on trust but on objective verification.... Pure science concerns itself with investigation, not its product line. Poorly defined words, mysticism and emotional thoughts that are called arguments are common in aikido forums and dojos. This approach has been tried before and failed.
In-yo. Both have a place. Aikido is as much about the physics (big on the physics, myself) as it is about the affective elements. The latter drives people to do it in training, and to perform it properly in critical circumstances. Physics can't do that.

You cannot ignore the physics, but you cannot ignore the poetry, either, physical and otherwise.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
一隻狗可久里馬房但他也不是馬的.
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