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Old 12-28-2009, 07:25 AM   #1
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O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Raul Rodrigo quoted TK Chiba in a post on the thread, "Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life}".

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Nevertheless, the Founder always emphasized the importance of spiritual discipline ("religious faith", in his exact words) and the practice of farming along with martial discipline, if one wished to achieve one's goals. "
1. Religious faith
2. Farming
3. Martial discipline

What is the importance of farming to the practice of Aikido?

O'Sensei thought it was important.

David
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Old 12-28-2009, 09:11 AM   #2
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

farming - food for the body.
aikido - food for the soul.

Osensei wants us to nourish our body and soul.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 12-28-2009, 09:43 AM   #3
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Everything is connected in some way. Farming might seem be a lowly lifestyle and it may appear on the surface to be unconnected to many other occupations and trades. But it is important to remember... without farming no one eats. If we don't eat we don't live much less have the energy to put into such things as aikido.

In today's world the vast majority are so far removed from knowing the origin of the food that sustains us. We maybe know in a vague sense that milk and meat comes from cows and vegetables form the ground but have we seen the birth of a calf that will later feed us or have we tilled and prepared the earth which will produce the vegetables? Do we feel the connection with the very things that give us life? From one who has been a part of this lifestyle I can speak to the fact that it does deepen our connectedness to the earth, the world around us and to the entire universe.

Since connection with the universe was a key factor in Ueshiba's life and aikido I can totally see how he would place importance on farming.
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Old 12-28-2009, 09:50 AM   #4
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Question Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

As someone who has done a lot of food-based gardening (too small-scale to properly be called "farming" I think, but the same idea), I'm very interested in this question.

In my experience, farming is food for the soul. Being in nature, observing natural processes, helping them along, seeing things grow, observing the cycles of the seasons, accepting what you get and working with (not struggling against) it for a better outcome, all seem very compatible with Aikido.

Besides, using hand tools (rake, shovel, manure fork) is great jo practice.

I'd be very interested in hearing about anything O-Sensei said about how farming and Aikido are related. Also, does anyone know if he had experience with either food animals (pigs, chickens...) or draft animals (horses, oxen...)? I would assume that would've been part of his farming life, but haven't heard anything about it.

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Old 12-28-2009, 03:33 PM   #5
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Morihei Ueshiba got his agricultural ideas from Omoto-kyo (I'm like a broken record these days!) They didn't keep animals and had to develop sophisticated composting systems After the war, Ueshiba used to hold farming technique "seminars" for the local people in Iwama.
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Old 12-28-2009, 04:38 PM   #6
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

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Morihei Ueshiba got his agricultural ideas from Omoto-kyo (I'm like a broken record these days!) They didn't keep animals and had to develop sophisticated composting systems After the war, Ueshiba used to hold farming technique "seminars" for the local people in Iwama.
Yes. And Omoto got their ideas from the kokugaku nativists like Hirata Atsutane, who wanted to return to a pure Japan, uncorrupted by Chinese and especially western ideas. Good sources for those who cannot read Hirata in Japanese are Peter Nosco's Remembering Paradise; H A Harootunian's Things Seen and Unseen: Discourse and Ideology in Tokugawa Nativism (a little difficult, because of his writing style); and Mark McNally's Proving the Way: Conflict and Practice in the History of Japanese Nativism. Shimazaki Toson's novel, Before the Dawn, is a fictional depiction of Shimazaki's own father, who was a largely misunderstood follower of Hirata.

Once again, all the best for 2010.

PAG

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 12-28-2009 at 04:40 PM.

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Old 12-28-2009, 05:41 PM   #7
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

I am thinking that while it may have been important to Ueshiba in his time and social context that it is probably not very relevant to most of us in our current time and context. In this day and age I can't imagine too many aikidoka participating in farming just because it was important to Ueshiba in his day.
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Old 12-28-2009, 07:13 PM   #8
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

I think the relevance to farming lied in the natural process of it. He believed the ultimate goal was to be in union with the universal creative force. Farming was a spring for that universal force.


Personally, I kill anything green I touch.

MM
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Old 12-28-2009, 08:48 PM   #9
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Thank you Charles, and Professor Goldsbury. Yay! More interesting reading. Much appreciated.

I think, whether or not we can actually particpate in farming, some direct experience of interacting with nature would have to be beneficial, even if it's just noticing the phases of the moon, so we know when we will have light for a late-night walk, or darkness to see the stars better. Tides, seasons, weather, decay and sprouting, predation, planting and harvesting, etc. all feel to me like the same circling, flowing energies in our techniques.

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Old 12-28-2009, 09:13 PM   #10
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Does this count?
http://www.furcommission.com/farming/index.html
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Old 12-28-2009, 09:20 PM   #11
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Four different things:

1. Why O-Sensei farmed.
2. Why O-Sensei thought their was a connection between aikido and farming.
3. Whether O-Sensei thought that connection applied to anyone but himself.
4. Whether you think there's such a connection, or should be, to your practice.

Not everything has to be connected to everything else. Maybe there is a connection, but as P-Funk would say, "if it don't fit, don't force it."
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Old 12-28-2009, 11:11 PM   #12
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Now here's something I was trying to allude to in another thread. Dr. Goldsbury posts a rather intriguing post pointing out that Omoto was influenced by a Japanese nativist movement. But it is followed in subsequent posts by rather conventional interpretations that things like gardening / farming was therefore about becoming "one" with nature and the like. I enjoy gardening for my own food for those very reasons myself. But my (very limited) understanding of the nativist movement was that people like Hirata Atsutane were vastly more involved in a more nationalist pride/good old days/etc. slant and it had little if nothing to do with "being one with the nature". It was more about not being one with the perceived foreign influences on Japanese culture. Which had a lot of less than pleasant results in the ensuing years.

Of course I could be wrong as well. But my curiosity is piqued. Soooo, I'd love to hear more, Dr. Goldsbury, if you have the time.

Better go see if I can find a copy of one of the referenced books...

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Old 12-28-2009, 11:14 PM   #13
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Hey Ricky,

That is murderously opposite what Ueshiba meant, and so viciously a perversion of nature and farming, it would be like asking (even in a joking way, you see?) if the Final Solution is representative of the ideals of Socialism as a social construct. Not same and not funny.

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Old 12-29-2009, 12:05 AM   #14
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Besides farming, Osensei asked his students to reflect in nature a lot if they want to understand Aikido.

It may not be relevant to the fast paced world you live in today, but farming is just an idea or aspect. There are other ways to learn gratitude and servitude.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 12-29-2009, 01:20 AM   #15
Charles Hill
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
But my curiosity is piqued. Soooo, I'd love to hear more, Dr. Goldsbury, if you have the time...
Hi Keith,
Check this out, especially 4. The Answer Lies in the Soil
http://aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=14610
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Old 12-29-2009, 04:35 AM   #16
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Of course I could be wrong as well. But my curiosity is piqued. Soooo, I'd love to hear more, Dr. Goldsbury, if you have the time.

Better go see if I can find a copy of one of the referenced books...
Hello Keith,

The column that Charles called attention to was my first stab at discussing the general cultural background of Morihei Ueshiba and farming / nature. Since coming to live here I had received two important items of information relevant to aikido. (1) O Sensei believed that farming and budo were very closely related. (2) The Japanese have a unique view of nature, shared by no other culture.

We can deal with (2) first. I came across a book, written in Japanese with a parallel English translation, written by a man named Isamu Kurita. The Japanese title of the book was 『雪月花の心』Setsu Getsu Ka no Kokoro. (Basic translation: The Spirit of Snow, Moon and Flowers). The English title of the book, however, was: Japanese Identity. The book was concerned to explain the unique Japanese concept of nature and to show that unique Japanese culture was also rooted in this concept. Kurita's central point is that 'western' views of nature are based on the doctrine of the Fall, as expressed in the early chapters of Genesis. The idea is that Original Sin set up a fundamental conflict between Man and Nature, such that the latter was seen as hostile. The Japanese view, on the other hand, is that there is no such conflict and therefore--this is important--that Japanese, being fundamentally of a piece with nature, can treat it as they wish. Kurita's view leads him to make some very unusual assertions. Here are his thoughts about Japanese as "worker bees", quoted from Page 33:

"The Japanese have for some time been labeled "worker bees" or even "workaholics". This view, however, is a misconception based on cultural differences relating to the concept of labor.
As is frequently pointed out, in the West, labor is considered as a kind of punishment. This view traces back to the days of Adam and Eve, when man became compelled to undertake labor after being chased from the Garden of Eden.
In Japan, by contrast, labor was from ancient times interpreted as a human commitment to join forces with nature in the creative process, whether it focused on agriculture, mining or pottery making.
In later days, when organizations or modern factories came to replace nature as the creative dynamo, this view of nature manifested itself as joy in committing oneself to the creative efforts of the group. Even in a daunting environment of heavy snow, there is joy to be found in labor."

I hope you are as skeptical as I was, on reading this. There are so many things wrong even with this one paragraph that I could devote an entire column to Japanese Myths Concerning Nature and Labor. Kurita ignores the fundamental economic structure of Japan from the Heian Era onwards, namely, that rice was produced by peasants, who were taxed with variable degrees of severity by those were not producers. The Tokugawas sanctified this economic structure with four social classes: samurai, peasant farmers, artisans, merchants. Kurita's talk of the 'joy in committing oneself to the creative efforts of the group' is an expample of an invented tradition, in Hobsbawm's phrase, and has to be balanced by the exploitation of the peasants and the uprisings that this led to. However, the more important question (1) was: to what extent did Morihei Ueshiba share in this 'joy in nature as a creative process' mythology?

There is no evidence that O Sensei considered budo and farming to be related until after he met Onisaburo Deguchi. His father was a peasant farmer, who had made his family quite wealthy. His other relatives were involved in trade, so they would have occupied the fourth level of the Tokugawa social structure. There is zero evidence that Ueshiba did any farming at all when he lived at home in Tanabe. However, from the accounts given by his son, he became good at farming, probably from sheer necessity and bitter experience, when his family lived in Hokkaido in the early 1900s. In Hokkaido winters the cold comes directly from Siberia: there is nothing in between.

After Ueshiba moved to Ayabe and became a student of Deguchi, he organized a kind of farming commune, which was repeated later, when the Takeda Dojo of the Budo Senyokai was opened. In his creation of Omoto doctrine, Deguchi trawled very widely and in his later period (after the 1921 suppression), he borrowed from Hirata Atsutane and the Nativists and strongly supported a return to traditional Japanese roots and extolled the virtues of the cooperative creation of growing rice, always under the benevolent but absolute rule of the Emperor: the Chief Rice-Grower himself, who was directly descended from the Sun Goddess.
In 1942, with the move to Iwama, Ueshiba occupied himself in farming and after Japan's defeat and the severe economic hardships that this caused, the vegetable farming in Iwama became a lifeline, but Kisshomaru Ueshiba still had to take a 'secret' job in Tokyo (secret because he kept it from his father), in order, as he himself put it, that the deshi could survive.

So, when someone like Chiba Sensei used to tell me that O Sensei believed that there was an essential connection between budo and farming, I was extremely skeptical, as I still am, that this had any relevance to anyone except O Sensei himself.

Best wishes,

PAG

Edit: I should add, that my sister breeds horses and all the family can ride them. My niece's husband is a farmer. His family has run several large arable farms for generations in rural Nottinghamshire (UK). The lands he farms are leased from the Crown (= the Queen). The countryside is beautiful, as is the countryside around here during the summer. However, it is an easy temptation to regard Nature and the Soil as exclusively benevolent and to forget the heavy toll that even a 'joyful' Japanese conception of nature and labor can exact.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 12-29-2009 at 04:43 AM.

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Old 12-29-2009, 06:06 AM   #17
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

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Hey Ricky,

That is murderously opposite what Ueshiba meant, and so viciously a perversion of nature and farming, it would be like asking (even in a joking way, you see?) if the Final Solution is representative of the ideals of Socialism as a social construct. Not same and not funny.
Hey John,
Put myself through college 'murdering" mink. Handling mink and breaking their necks during pelting season is real good for one's grip. I've also been known to 'murder' cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and even turkeys!
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Old 12-29-2009, 07:45 AM   #18
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Thank you, Professor Goldsbury. <rei>

I don't know that I would say I find "joy" in cleaning the horse pen or tending our small collection of fruit trees. But there is (for me) a deep satisfaction in caring for animals and plants, and observing and working with natural processes. In my case that might mean being out late at night, flinging manure under trees before the first big rains hit, or refraining from mowing while the ladybugs are in their larval stage on the grass and weeds. Certainly "going with" nature works out better than struggling against it. I could see a that a certain budo-like sense of "if you fail, you die" could exist for some farmers, too. Certainly if you fail your plants and animals could die. Even on a small scale, there's a serious sense of commitment and discipline, IME.

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Old 12-29-2009, 07:50 AM   #19
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Quote:
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Hey Ricky,

That is murderously opposite what Ueshiba meant, and so viciously a perversion of nature and farming, it would be like asking (even in a joking way, you see?) if the Final Solution is representative of the ideals of Socialism as a social construct. Not same and not funny.
Hmm had a look at some of the information there and I don't see anything vicious or a perversion of farming. I see very responsible practices and very high standards of care. Everything that lives dies and nature is often far more cruel than this.

Regardless of whether one takes up farming or not it certainly should be recognized as necessary and important. But I do think that nurturing a living thing be it a dairy cow, pet dog, field of corn or houseplant, has a benefit for those who do so.

How Ueshiba really viewed it maybe died with him. Maybe it was personal and important only to him it matters not all that much. What really should matter is how we view it and whether we choose to make it a part of our own development and growth. I don't think there is a right or wrong choice here.

Personally I find it vastly beneficial to have had the experiences I have had. Raising animals from birth to maturity knowing that they would be feeding and or clothing me gave me quite an appreciation for them. They have died in order that I might benefit and live. It makes one far more aware of the circle that life is.
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Old 12-29-2009, 08:04 AM   #20
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
So, when someone like Chiba Sensei used to tell me that O Sensei believed that there was an essential connection between budo and farming, I was extremely skeptical, as I still am, that this had any relevance to anyone except O Sensei himself.
This was my initial feeling as well, but I do leave some wiggle room based on ideas others have raised from reading Ellis Amdurs Hidden in Plain Sight.

Perhaps O'sensei found some parallels in the Daito-Ryu aiki training methods and farming methods? I've never done hard manual farming, but what extended garden/yard work I've done makes it obvious to me that anyone who did that extensively would quickly learn more physically economical ways to get things done than simply using their muscles. You would likely develop unique body postures and movements and ways of generating energy through those movements so that you're not relying on pure strength. Also, the type of strength one gains from doing those things is quite different than simply putting on muscle.

On a similar line of thought, maybe this was just something he was doing at the same time that he really developed his aiki ability and it, along with his spirituality, were things he gave the bulk of the credit too for those abilities.

Last edited by chillzATL : 12-29-2009 at 08:07 AM.
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Old 12-29-2009, 08:50 AM   #21
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Thank you Dr. Goldsbury. That was exactly what I was looking for. I must admit my first thought with the nativists had been the notion of well-off comfortable people waxing nostalgically about things they chose to see in a self-satisfying way (which immediately brought up thoughts of Yamamoto Tsunetomo). It did seem rather naive to my understanding considering the heavy burden (physically, economically and socially) placed upon farmers throughout Japanese history. So considering Morihei Ueshiba came from a rather wealthy family, the family's wealth due to the farming "industry", and then the Omoto influence leaves a lot of possible "lens" through which to view his ideas about farming. And all of them have their own "tint" (to abuse a concept from Bertrand Russell).

Thank you again. Time to read some more...

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Old 12-29-2009, 09:14 AM   #22
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

Two things:

First, in the feudal days of Japan it was considered a virtue for the samurai to be close to his land. The Emperor himself even maintained a small ceremonial rice paddy. This made pretty good sense then, since a samurai's political and economic power was more or less measured by the agricultural output of the lands he controlled. Without trying to read O Sensei's mind for deeper meaning (though I suspect he might have had one in mind), I venture that he might have been trying to keep alive the traditional warrior virtue of understanding the land.

Second, if you're looking for a good read on the spiritual benefits of agriculture, I suggest Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening by Eastern Orthodox theologian Vigen Guroian.

Last edited by OwlMatt : 12-29-2009 at 09:17 AM.
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Old 12-29-2009, 09:24 AM   #23
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Ki Symbol Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

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I am thinking that while it may have been important to Ueshiba in his time and social context that it is probably not very relevant to most of us in our current time and context. In this day and age I can't imagine too many aikidoka participating in farming just because it was important to Ueshiba in his day.
I believe that connecting with living things is important in any age. I think that the disconnect that we often experience in modern society (fast paced life with technology being a blessing/curse) is a major problem and contributes to apathy towards our fellow man and the world around us in my opinion.

Further, that sense of connection with other living beings (in Aikido practice-- people) is cited as one of the reasons to train. In my case this is coming from someone who cites self-defence and practical Aikido as pillars. While I completely agree that "farming" is not realistic for most of us, the lessons from doing such work could be gleaned from caring for plants, landscaping on your yard, or in many other ways.

It seems intuitive that if one one desires to be in harmony with nature there needs to be some connection to it. It seems that aspiring to protect livings things--beginning with ourselves and then if possible our attacker/s is a central tenant of Aikido so to have a connection with nature and the beings within it seems to logically follow. If not, then maybe we should all be doing Systema and skip the connection stuff as well as ethical aspirations.
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Old 12-29-2009, 09:37 AM   #24
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

I think there are two issues here. One is what we think today, what we need today, and what we may get from our beliefs today. That's cool. But this is the problem of history -- determining what someone/something meant *then*. In context of their world, society, norms, etc.

I think that people surely gain a lot of insight into life, living, etc. by farming/gardening. Lord knows I come from a long line of farmers who worked in less than hospitable areas. My great grandparents and grandparents worked *very* hard on farms and I have memories of both the wonders of it all but also the extremely hard work.

That said... There is another issue and that is to tease out what Morihei Ueshiba meant when he made statements about farming and Budo. Here we have a choice as to how to proceed -- do we interpret it through what we find meaningful or missing in our lives today or do we try to understand the world he was living in, the context he experienced, and the social/cultural/intellectual underpinnings he was experiencing these things from. The former is perfectly fine for each person who is striving to find meaning in what they're doing. That's great -- you're applying things in a new context. But that's not really learning anything about what Morihei Ueshiba was saying but more about what we feel is important today in our context. If his words inspire things today, that's great, but the historical question still remains -- what did *he* mean by it. How did *he* understand it. Asking those questions in no way diminishes the value that someone may gather from the inspiration of his words in today's context even if they go very far afield from the "reality" of the history.

Last edited by Keith Larman : 12-29-2009 at 09:38 AM. Reason: oops...

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Old 12-29-2009, 11:03 AM   #25
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Re: O'Sensei Thought It Was Important

My dad was raised on a series of Depression era tenant farms in the rural south and spent most of his pre-war years working his tail off as one of eight kids, trying to eke out a life. Many years later, as a skilled craftsman, he retired as the Maintenance Foreman of a large, family-owned agricultural business. I remember him telling me that "There's never been any bad lovin', or any good work on the end of a hoe." It might have been tough living in Hokkaido, but O Sensei never picked cotton in the Mississippi Delta.

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