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Old 12-29-2008, 02:46 PM   #26
C. David Henderson
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

Reminds me of this time I travelled over the top of Crete on a bus with a drunken British sailor as a travelling companion ... But oh, don't go there.

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Old 12-29-2008, 07:22 PM   #27
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
With the sometimes naive idea of aikido magically being able to resolve all conflict, particularly "soft" aikido, I find this statement by Toehi Koichi quite refreshing.

Tohei Koichi: http://www.toitsu.de/texte/tohei_en.htm
Naive thinking I think is interwoven with lack of experience. Because experience plays a role in naive thinking lots of types and degrees of naive thinking come about. But, I think this is true for cynicism, often being mistaken for realistic thinking.

Last edited by Buck : 12-29-2008 at 07:26 PM.
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Old 12-29-2008, 07:51 PM   #28
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

Perhaps, we all delude ourselves by our thinking, in our training in some way. Some of us realize this at some point and face it, and other denial it, and some never do. I don't think we can expect people to put themselves in harms way to test their training, and skills. Though thinking about it, it would be great in a way, cause it would really weed out the poor, weak, unskilled and full of it instructors. The illusion what Ellis points to comes from the instructors. It comes from the top down, from people who don't seem themselves or skill realistically, and from those others who put them on those high pedestals. In essence you have the trickle down theory pertaining to miscomprehension and naive thinking of soft (and hard) Aikido and everything in between in all things and not just conflict resolution. For me that is because we don't take the life or death test, since we don't we really should look at ourselves realistically.

Last edited by Buck : 12-29-2008 at 07:56 PM.
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Old 12-29-2008, 08:29 PM   #29
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

Something I've become more conscious of in this Country since I began training in Aikido is the way in which most people here has a relatively high set-point of physical complacency.

The assumption that nothing bad should or will happen to me takes a number of forms. In one form, it allows one to entertain naive illusions or improbable ambition. It also may promote panic and extreme fear in the face of evidence that the world remains a dangerous place.

Complacency about physical safety reflects a lot of different things. It might reflect a belief in community, or expectations based on an idealized view of community, for example.

But I think in today's world it also reflects the existence of structures -- institutions -- that keep violence at more than arm's length. We don't even really need to think too hard about the burden of keeping this illusion on those who sacrifice in order to give it some semblance of reality.

No different really than going into the store and buying a package of meat. Or going to the hospital to die, in a way. We are insulated.

I heard a story recently about a vegetarian who decided she would serve turkey for Thanksgiving. Rather than buying a bird carcass, she raised a bird, and then slaughtered and prepared it. Her friends, who were not vegetarians, were appalled, and would not partake.

I wonder whether naive or magical thinking about martial arts isn't just another version of the same kind of thing. We can do good without risking doing bad; there are good choices, not just least-bad ones.

However, I also will admit it's been suggested in my hearing that I'm a cynic, which is to say, an idealist inverted.

Regards,

DH
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Old 12-29-2008, 09:04 PM   #30
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

Quote:
David Henderson wrote: View Post
Reminds me of this time I travelled over the top of Crete on a bus with a drunken British sailor as a travelling companion ... But oh, don't go there.

k ok ok ok ok

Further reminds me of the Terry Dobson tale A Kind Word Turneth Away Wrath

For those who would like to read or re-read it, Here ya go: http://www.aikidoofalamo.com/dobson.html

That's a refreshing perspective. too.

BTW the photo is from a San Francisco,CA dojo that was once affectionately referred to as the Rocky Horror Dojo and Skid Row Dojo. That group is now under the sponsorship of Kato Sensei. It was one of Terry's very last classes.

Best

Last edited by jennifer paige smith : 12-29-2008 at 09:13 PM.

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Old 12-29-2008, 09:20 PM   #31
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

Yes, I love that story of Terry's too. I also remember one night when Terry's girlfriend came into the dojo saying that a guy had just tried to grab her and when she shoved him away, he threw a bottle at her head, narrowly missing, and showering her with broken glass.
So Terry and I went next door to Great Jone's Street, and she pointed the guy out, and Terry grabbed him by the throat, and slammed him up against a wall, with the guy yelling, "That woman accosted me. She accosted me." The sheer absurdity of that made Terry pause and the man somehow broke free and darted down the street. Terry built for comfort, not for speed - (ie., he was fat), it was up to me, but the man had wings for feet, (though pure slime otherwise), and I couldn't catch him.
Terry was very mad at himself - but only for letting the man slip through his fingers - because he had full intentions of loving him to death.

Last edited by Ellis Amdur : 12-29-2008 at 09:22 PM.

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Old 12-29-2008, 09:42 PM   #32
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

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Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
Yes, I love that story of Terry's too. I also remember one night when Terry's girlfriend came into the dojo saying that a guy had just tried to grab her and when she shoved him away, he threw a bottle at her head, narrowly missing, and showering her with broken glass.
So Terry and I went next door to Great Jone's Street, and she pointed the guy out, and Terry grabbed him by the throat, and slammed him up against a wall, with the guy yelling, "That woman accosted me. She accosted me." The sheer absurdity of that made Terry pause and the man somehow broke free and darted down the street. Terry built for comfort, not for speed - (ie., he was fat), it was up to me, but the man had wings for feet, (though sh*t for brains), and I couldn't catch him.
Terry was very mad at himself - but only for letting the man slip through his fingers - because he had full intentions of loving him to death.
Gosh, I'm a 'tough cookie', too.

Aikido has connected me to the 'realness' in my life and has supported me in being real about myself, not someone else's idea about what conflict resolution means, but what it means for me to live in this body/personality in this life. That's it.

I figured you'd have another anecdote to continue the balancing act. I just didn't know it would arrive so soon.
Thanks for the story,
jen

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Old 12-29-2008, 09:49 PM   #33
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

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Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
Yes, I love that story of Terry's too. I also remember one night when [...]
Do you see a contradiction? I do not.

The famous subway story is about how someone else did it right, so to speak, no?

I mean no disrespect, of course, and I would never hazzard judgment about the action; but, I am curious, Ellis, as to why the second story seems to be presented as a counterpoint to the first. Does an angry man having someone by the throat tell us what aikido is or should be, or does it tell us about the man who happens to practice aikido?

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Old 12-29-2008, 10:13 PM   #34
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

Stories not prefaced are dangerously misleading. It by default romanizes ugly situations or situations of poor judgement into unjust moments of heroism. A heroism misunderstood my the naive who model it, and because the situation isn't identical to the one they romanize the naive find themselves faced with a situation they can't survive. Gee, you know as strong as it sounds, the word irresponsible or reckless may apply to the story.

It is a thing of mine, that the more responsible action comes from those in higher places, you know higher ranks, the admired, etc. and they shouldn't have gone off to assault and batter the other guy, a crime in itself. More reasonable action would have had been cooler and smarter/wiser heads prevailing.

Myself, being a victim of bullies, I think I used the word bully-bait once to refer to myself, when your are out muscled or in a bad situation like someone throwing a beer bottle at you, they only thing you have is your wit from getting you rear-end kicked. You will be surprised how well witt and smart thinking works, over reactive force. Oh yea this is even more true if the bully (or another choice word) is bigger and stronger. Isn't there professional de-escalation and conflict resolution techniques that don't involve choking someone? Wouldn't point the guy out to the police be more effective, and the guy did run-off unpunished. Scared sure, but not punished.

If we are to admire people or model after those of higher rank and stature, we should do so for the right reasons, because they did the right thing as uneventful as it is. The right reasons are for doing the more difficult thing right. And not for shooting from the hip or for knee jerk reactions that make good stories, but instead could lead to a more dangerous situation. Because that shooting from the hip with such anger models to others a behavior that is seen as acceptable, that really isn't acceptable. I use this as an example of the unrealistic views of those of "hard" Aikido that are equal to the unrealistic views of those that are considered "soft" Aikido.

I don't think criticism and cynicism is a useful tool, I think education is the tool. The education has to come from the outside of Aikido, because it was from within Aikido that created the soft and the hard Aikidoka. Change comes from the top and admired. Insight comes from the rest of us.

Last edited by Buck : 12-29-2008 at 10:26 PM.
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Old 12-30-2008, 12:09 AM   #35
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

Joe - in answer to your question - I started the thread just because Tohei's statement delighted me - as it is far from the grandiose, aikido can fix and handle any problem I have heard on occasion.
Terry's train story has been pulled up over and over as the ultimate "counter," of pure ai-ki-do(TM). A pure moment - yes. But that's all. Given another type of assailant, the old man in the story could have had his skull crushed. His story does exemplify a moment of grace. And a lesson learned - at least somewhat for Terry. But I do not think it exemplifies more than that. Nor does it, alone, tell us how to live.

As for my second anecdote,Terry never regretted for an instant trying to commit bodily harm on a man who tried first to sexually assault and then smash in the head - someone he loved. And as she was someone dear to me as well, I still regret not being able to catch that person when he broke and ran.

Whether this tells what aikido is or not? Hmmm - to me, it's just a martial art with some interesting technical attributes and oft-times misunderstood ideology. If it really offered directions on how to live, then it's exemplars would be more exemplary.

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Old 12-30-2008, 12:28 AM   #36
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

Thanks for the candid and thoughtful answer, Ellis.

Here's the only line with which I really do not concur:

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Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
If it really offered directions on how to live, then it's exemplars would be more exemplary.
Actual religions fail there routinely, even when the manuals spell out everything explicitly. And as for me, I'm not one of those guys who reads the manuals; I stumble through. I'm fortunate that no one has me on their exemplar radar

By the way, just yesterday I was cleaning up old podcasts and rediscovered your interview in "Aikido - the Way of Harmony" with some fellows at Oberlin, I think. I was a bit intrigued by your presenting the view that O-Sensei wasn't very concerned with whether a student got either the spiritual or martial aspects of what he taught; rather, practitioners were, in essence---and if I understood it right---generating energy for O-Sensei to use (in his role as an "avatar"). Interesting stuff I'll want to revisit when the kids aren't hounding me

Last edited by Joe McParland : 12-30-2008 at 12:30 AM. Reason: grammar

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Old 12-30-2008, 03:17 AM   #37
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

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By the way, just yesterday I was cleaning up old podcasts and rediscovered your interview in "Aikido - the Way of Harmony" with some fellows at Oberlin, I think. I was a bit intrigued by your presenting the view that O-Sensei wasn't very concerned with whether a student got either the spiritual or martial aspects of what he taught; rather, practitioners were, in essence---and if I understood it right---generating energy for O-Sensei to use (in his role as an "avatar"). Interesting stuff I'll want to revisit when the kids aren't hounding me
Hey Joe, I just wanted to say thanks for mentioning that interview! I was just checking some of it out and I gotta say i really like what I was hearing. Not that I have any real understanding going on for me here (I've been a "dabbler" in Aikido for a while now), but it made a lot of sense to me.
Ellis, I'm curious what your thoughts are on how Aikido has been taught by Tohei Sensei and O Sensei; if you don't mind, how would you say they compare to each other (particularly as it relates to the thread of course)? Or what would you recommend as a good resource for me to look into?
Take care,
Matt

Last edited by mathewjgano : 12-30-2008 at 03:22 AM.

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Old 12-30-2008, 04:09 AM   #38
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

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I know allot of people try to follow O'Sensei's philosophy and as a result of many things gravitate to one of the extremes. The soft Aikido end of the spectrum is being talked about here and isn't favored because of its seeming unrealistic view, and poor showing.

I want to throw a new spice into the soup, I think that the soft Aikido is the most difficult to achieve than the other extreme being hard Aikido. My criticism with the soft Aikido isn't the goal or if it is possible, effective, etc. it is those who really don't understand the soft end and are not good at it, but advocate publicly. Beside throwing in their own flavoring in the pot of soft Aikido. It is damaging to the idea and credibility of soft Aikido. Boy, does it also give the hard Aikido people ammo to attack the idea of soft Aikido.

I don't think soft Aikido is about soft people. O.K. then what is soft Aikido about, it is about the approach and application of the full use of skills applied effectively to a dangerous situation at hand. I think some people because of their meek nature feel Aikido should be practiced and applied meekly and passively like soft Aikido. By taking that route your abilities don't match up to the threat your are forced to face. As the ye ol' sayings go, your only as good as your training, and perfect practice makes perfect. Btw, as for the other extreme, hard Aikido, it suffers from the same conditions. No control, over aggressive, narrow perspectives, etc.

Everyone takes Aikido for different reasons, and not all of us will every have to use it on the street or as professionals. Bunches of people take Aikido for recreation, social, and spiritual reasons. I would say less take it for fighting. Even though many would agree O'Sensei didn't seem to be your typical meek and passive person. A person with a strong spirit, but not violent spirit. Maybe a person with a hot temper, but not a violent temper. Certainly, he wasn't Gandhi, I mean there are pictures of him where he is someone you wouldn't want to mess with. Despite those poses and moments of intense concentration, he wasn't a person who would injure or kill you if you angered him, as possibly done by those Japanese military officers document in WWII. I think that is what is the gauge we measure what violence by and what is peace when he speaks -based on his life experiences.

In a way soft Aikido is probably the most effective and refined Aikido, it is just that some people don't see it that way.

FWIW.
I see aikido as both soft and hard ....... its all a matter of knowing how to achieve a good balance...... in other words...... goju or jugo

Tony
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Old 12-30-2008, 04:27 AM   #39
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

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But I do not think it exemplifies more than that. Nor does it, alone, tell us how to live.
....Whether this tells what aikido is or not? Hmmm - to me, it's just a martial art with some interesting technical attributes and oft-times misunderstood ideology. If it really offered directions on how to live, then it's exemplars would be more exemplary.
Does anything else in life, let alone a martial art with, or without an ideology? Sometimes you just gotta do what's gotta be done and hope it was the right thing to do at the time.

Ignatius
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Old 12-30-2008, 06:46 AM   #40
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

I'm not sure it's about what Aikido is or isn't... I think it's about what people are or are not... While Aikido might lead people to temper their ideas in some fashion, what they do is still just an outgrowth of themselves.

I think this gets to the point of Ellis' original post... that someone as iconic in Aikido circles as Tohei Sensei would advocate a very practical and suitably "hard" response to a situation getting out-of-hand, rather than try to rationalize a philosophical "Aiki-bunny" solution. That is refreshing.

We are all people. Some of us do Aikido. But Aikido cannot exist without people.
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Old 12-30-2008, 07:13 AM   #41
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

Quote:
Ellis, I'm curious what your thoughts are on how Aikido has been taught by Tohei Sensei and O Sensei; ...
I'm not Ellis...but...

If you do a search on aikido journal, there are some interesting articles there by and about Tohei that mention some of the differences. One being that after a hard night of drinking, Ueshiba couldn't understand how Tohei could do aikido well, since no self-respecting kami would enter such an impure body.

This leads me to conclude that the two men had widely divergent world views...yet they both shared aikido.

I guess that is one reason I have friends in aikido who do very different styles from mine...and hold very different political associations or beliefs. If it was good enough for Tohei and Ueshiba...

Best,
Ron (pardon any unintended comment on some of the responses to the thread)

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Old 12-30-2008, 07:49 AM   #42
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

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Clark Bateman wrote: View Post
I think this gets to the point of Ellis' original post... that someone as iconic in Aikido circles as Tohei Sensei would advocate a very practical and suitably "hard" response to a situation getting out-of-hand, rather than try to rationalize a philosophical "Aiki-bunny" solution. That is refreshing.
What exactly is a "philosophical Aiki-bunny solution" to a situation getting out-of-hand? Who teaches this?

-John Matsushima

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http://onecorneroftheplanetinjapan.blogspot.jp/
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Old 12-30-2008, 08:30 AM   #43
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

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What exactly is a "philosophical Aiki-bunny solution" to a situation getting out-of-hand? Who teaches this?
Read a couple of issues of Aikido Today magazine...there was usually at least one article like that in just about every issue.

Best,
Ron

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Old 12-30-2008, 08:48 AM   #44
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

Just fwiw having dealt with folk "not of right mind" often you simply don't have many options. So I can't imagine why anyone would argue with the initial point. Heck, even the classic Dobson story about the train is a great *individual* story. But how many people have gotten whacked by a beligerent drunk when they tried to do the exact same thing the old man did? Great that it worked out in that case, but for all we know the old man just happened to get lucky that day. Or maybe he had a blackjack behind is back just in case... Now that would change the feel of the story, neh? Heck, if he had tried to calm the drunk down then bonked him one good on the head if it hadn't worked I'd still say it was good Aikido. Blending with the situation right up till it became dangerous then using the blackjack to restore harmony...

Step off the line and cut them down at the speed of light...

I will say that talking to some in Aikido is like talking to people enthusiastic about their 12-step program. Or religion. Or selling Amway. Or low-carb diets. Or Tony Robbins. Or whatever "that" thing is that seems to give them an overarching structure within which to live their lives. That's cool for them but I guess I'm just too cynical to go that far. I enjoy Aikido and I think applying it to daily life is a good thing for me. But I find lessons and "tools" for living in all aspects of my life, not just from Aikido.

Or as the expression goes, if all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.

Not sure how it all relates, but back to the original post all my training has always emphasized that Aikido is also about learning to see things as they truly are. And that sometimes restoring harmony is obtained by the other guy accelerating into the ground face first...

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Old 12-30-2008, 09:43 AM   #45
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

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I think this gets to the point of Ellis' original post... that someone as iconic in Aikido circles as Tohei Sensei would advocate a very practical and suitably "hard" response to a situation getting out-of-hand, rather than try to rationalize a philosophical "Aiki-bunny" solution. That is refreshing.
A spontaneous, appropriate response given the circumstances is what many seek. Doing whatever you do with full mind-body coordination, is also what many seek. It is not inconceivable that people can choose to embody these principles within their own constrained philosophical systems. Can one person "turn the other cheek" as a spontaneous response with full mind-body coordination? I think so. Can another person punch another in the nose with the same? I think so. Is there a point in these two people being frustrated with one another in seeing the difference in their sameness? Well, some would say that that interferes with the mind-body coordination business as well as the spontaneous, appropriate response bit...

If I have only one arm, my range of potential responses to a physical situation is limited---at least compared to your own. Still, I may be celebrated for my efforts by the aikido community for my heroic effort, training with such a handicap. Now, if I have two arms, but I always train with one arm tied behind my back, my range of responses is as limited as the one-armed fellow. Now you may call me an idiot for practicing this way, but can I not still learn mind-body coordination and finding a spontaneous, appropriate response within my constrained situation? That is, can aikido still not have value to me? "Well, maybe not that thing that you call 'aikido'..." each might say to the other...

A philosophical constraint is not much different than physically binding an arm in practice.

But before anyone gets too excited with a "Yeah! Stupid aiki-bunnies, limiting their responses with philosophy!" though, note that the need to have a completely unbound range of responses is just as much a hindrance as any; it's just lest obvious.

Finding something that bolsters one's point of view is a good opportunity to check one's self for this type of issue.

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Old 12-30-2008, 10:15 AM   #46
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

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But before anyone gets too excited with a "Yeah! Stupid aiki-bunnies, limiting their responses with philosophy!" though, note that the need to have a completely unbound range of responses is just as much a hindrance as any; it's just lest obvious.
Not hindrance but challenge, and I do like the "one hand analogy", it captures something interesting. Aikido, as I understand it, is a physical discipline at its most basic level (it can be more, but you can not take the basics away). Intentionally handicapping yourself makes no sense.

Last edited by sorokod : 12-30-2008 at 10:19 AM.

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Old 12-30-2008, 10:26 AM   #47
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

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Not hindrance but challenge, and I do like the "one hand analogy", it captures something interesting.
"Hindrance" to finding the mind-body coordination or the takemusu aspect, but I think we're matching. It's all a challenge

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Old 12-30-2008, 11:43 AM   #48
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

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If you do a search on aikido journal, there are some interesting articles there by and about Tohei that mention some of the differences. One being that after a hard night of drinking, Ueshiba couldn't understand how Tohei could do aikido well, since no self-respecting kami would enter such an impure body.

This leads me to conclude that the two men had widely divergent world views...yet they both shared aikido.

I guess that is one reason I have friends in aikido who do very different styles from mine...and hold very different political associations or beliefs. If it was good enough for Tohei and Ueshiba...

Best,
Ron (pardon any unintended comment on some of the responses to the thread)
Hi Ron! Thanks for the suggestion. I'll check it out. I remember browsing the site a while back, but I was mostly looking for cool pictures.
Take care,
Matt

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 12-30-2008, 11:47 AM   #49
Joe McParland
 
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

Quote:
David Soroko wrote: View Post
Intentionally handicapping yourself makes no sense.
Someone living near the arctic circle could ask why that fool chooses to suffer living near the equator where it's so very hot...

Really, why ask why?

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Old 12-30-2008, 02:26 PM   #50
sorokod
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Re: How truly refreshing - Tohei K. on conflict resolution

I'll stick to your original analogy, why tie only one arm behind your back, why not both? And the feet, why not tie them as well?

One could claim that quadriplegic people are actually practicing Aikido by just living, but not very convincingly.

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