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Old 09-25-2011, 09:06 AM   #1
gates
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Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

I am interested to hear peoples perspectives on the spiritual aspects of Aikido. Specifically in how they see Aikido working for them practically as a tool for spiritual development.

For the purpose of the discussion we will borrow a couple of definitions to reduce the likely hood of semantic debates.
Define spirituality as:

"the search for connection with one's true self and a core reality that gives value and meaning to life" Andrew Canale, The cry of the desperate, (http://www.sanjosepby.org/Refmsprt.html)

"a state of interconnectedness with the Other - the divine, the self, the human, the natural, or any combination thereof - resulting in a state of security with a sense of worthful purpose" Caleb Rosado, What is spirituality? Memetics, Quantum Mechanics, and the spiral of spirituality (http://rosado.net/articles-qumetics.html)

Obviously I have some clear opinions of my own, but I'll chime in if people are interested in the discussion of the topic. If possible I'd like to avoid quoting O'Sensei, I am more interested in peoples individuals perspectives, not interested in a 'quotation debate', and if you feel spirituality doesn't have a place in your Aikido practice, there is no need to post !!

Keith

Last edited by gates : 09-25-2011 at 09:09 AM.

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Old 09-25-2011, 12:25 PM   #2
Janet Rosen
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

To me, short version, aikido gives me a place/means to explore being the human I want to be in dealing w/ other humans. I experience this as spiritual but for another YMMV.

To put is longer: from perspective of being nage: I have to stand before another human and on a basis that is kinetic/energetic/tactile etc but nonverbal engage in the martial interaction in the way that aikido expects. This means not fighting or running away, but accepting the attack as it is; allowing it to express itself while at the same time holding firm to myself (I tend to not see what I do as "blending" but as entering and holding a center line even my feet appear to go to the side or even step back). It means finding a way to form a tactile/energetic connection with my partner that temporarily makes us one unit, then releasing my partner from that unity in a way that preserves my integrity while not doing him harm. In the dojo, which is not a street or combat situation, I want each of us to stand and face each other again smiling with the same open eyes, mind and heart as when he attacked me.
When I'm uke the same feeling pervades; I want to give the best attack I can, aiming for his center, and continue to be connected and aiming for his center as long as it is possible so I can give the gift of the right attack for the technique.
Even when I am partnered with someone I don't like or who has different training goals then I do or I've had a crappy day or whatever....under all circumstances, this is my practice and what I seek to gain from it besides the technical competence.

And, yes, I firmly believe that
1. it is the regular hard work on the technical competence that makes this happen, not the other way around and
2. one does not have to frame one's aikido the way I do for aikido to have meaning or be complete. Totally a matter of YMMV.

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 09-25-2011, 12:59 PM   #3
hughrbeyer
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

As I see it, the spirituality of aikido is expressed in the physicality of aikido. They are one thing, not two.

This was really brought home to me a while back when I took up boxing to address weaknesses in my aikido. What struck me most was what a different attitude boxing teaches from aikido, starting with the basic stance. The boxing attitude is: mitts up, light on your feet, eying your opponent from behind your defenses. Turn palms out instead of palms in and you'd almost be cringing. It's both more aggressive and more defensive than the basic aikido kamae.

The aikido stance is neutral, neither attacking nor defensive. In fact, we train not to have either a mindset of aggression or defense, because both are self-defeating. Instead, we train to be balanced in ourselves--if one side retreats, the other takes up the space, and vice versa. And our intention throughout remains one of connection--'hearing' what the other side has to 'say' and responding to it, not necessarily on their terms, but on our own.

Aikido teaches an attitude towards conflict that starts before the conflict starts. We practice to take sente from the first moment, kuzushi from first touch, zanshin when the conflict is resolved. At no time do we give over initiative. Neither do we allow ourselves to become over-committed to the conflict itself. Once it's resolved we either disengage with a throw, or finish it with a simple pin. And the techniques are designed to encourage full awareness of our larger environment throughout.

The spiritual lessons, I think, teach themselves.
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Old 09-25-2011, 03:39 PM   #4
graham christian
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Hey Keith, good idea for a thread, especially with your parameters for it set out.

I like it. I will definitely contribute to this one but better limit myself or I'll be hogging all the space,

I will start with an example of your first definition, true self. This is more to do with HOW I was taught. Not long after starting, (thus not after a wait of twenty years) I would try a technique on my teacher and he would go down if technically correct. On the second attempt he would remain unmoved.

His explanation would always be the first was him connected to my body but the second was him connected to me.

He would then go on to say the true me has to do it now for it to work on him. Thus started what was for me a great adventure.

Thereafter each time I got stuck he would observe and merely point to what was out. He may say 'no one point' or 'no circle' or many things in such a simple manner and leave me to get on with it trying to discover what new level of one point or such he was now talking about. However, when I would be confidently trying to do a technique on him unsuccessfully and he would say'that's your body' or on other occasions would say 'that's your mind' then those times were stunners and often. For to me how could he know? How could he see what even I was sure wasn't the case. Yet each and every time I finally found myself there he would be on the floor, now saying 'very good'.

Thus I gradually discovered more and more the quiet, silent me of no mind and no body. So many things came from this which helped in life. For instance the realization through doing such discipline that a basic simplicity was that of the true me just being willing to be there and be with and that ability helps in all walks of life.

It showed me that arguing with some one in life or even thinking too much and worrying in situations in life was me bringing in the mind to face the situation and in fact was merely a way of me avoiding being there and being with. How can you communicate well or view properly and calmly and bring about a good or better solution when you are not even there?

Anyway, enough from me.

Regards.G.
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Old 09-25-2011, 04:34 PM   #5
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Quote:
Keith Gates wrote: View Post
I am interested to hear peoples perspectives on the spiritual aspects of Aikido. Specifically in how they see Aikido working for them practically as a tool for spiritual development.
What comes to my mind are the benefits of creating stillness. Perception (mindfulness) takes energy; in quieting my mind/body (stripping superfluous activity), I can perceive better. In perceiving better, I can act better. In acting better, I can "quiet" better. If I have diligence throughout the process, I create a kind of upward spiral that affects everything I do.
I had these ideas before I came to Aikido, and it's from them that I chose what I perceived to be a more meditative approach to physicality (and was reinforced in a somewhat profound way).
That's the general gist. Specifically, I practice Shinto meditation along with my meager physical aiki practice and that fits perfectly (minus the "meager" part) with my search for "inner peace" (stillness/clarity). Water misogi; various breath exercises; and gratitude might be a good description of my practice, and in doing them I've seen my body develop an element of what I call indominability. I've seen that as my mindfulness for practice declines, so too does my stability. So where I'm at now is trying to reclaim lost ground and developing a solid rythm of living/doing.
That's what comes to mind, at any rate. As I type different sections I get a bunch of other ideas, so it's hard to pick one. Each connection a thousand others. Another example of where I'm at with quieting my mind.
Lord I was born a ramblin' man...
Take care,
Matt

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Old 09-25-2011, 05:29 PM   #6
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Budo is not always about fighting, although it's the greater part.
Budo is also about living your life. I know any number of guys who can really kick ass and take names and they found things in Aikido that were very, very good for them. I am in Aikido Dojos everywhere and from an outsider looking in, I would say that for many reasons you people are dong something ...very right.
Cheers
Dan
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Old 09-25-2011, 06:47 PM   #7
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
What comes to my mind are the benefits of creating stillness. Perception (mindfulness) takes energy; in quieting my mind/body (stripping superfluous activity), I can perceive better. In perceiving better, I can act better. In acting better, I can "quiet" better. If I have diligence throughout the process, I create a kind of upward spiral that affects everything I do.
I had these ideas before I came to Aikido, and it's from them that I chose what I perceived to be a more meditative approach to physicality (and was reinforced in a somewhat profound way).
That's the general gist. Specifically, I practice Shinto meditation along with my meager physical aiki practice and that fits perfectly (minus the "meager" part) with my search for "inner peace" (stillness/clarity). Water misogi; various breath exercises; and gratitude might be a good description of my practice, and in doing them I've seen my body develop an element of what I call indomitability. I've seen that as my mindfulness for practice declines, so too does my stability. So where I'm at now is trying to reclaim lost ground and developing a solid rythm of living/doing.
That's what comes to mind, at any rate. As I type different sections I get a bunch of other ideas, so it's hard to pick one. Each connection a thousand others. Another example of where I'm at with quieting my mind.
Lord I was born a ramblin' man...
Take care,
Matt
I think, in general, there are two main approaches towards what we might call spirituality in Aikido. First, there are the technique folks. Then there are the Spiritual folks. This isn't a new phenomenon, it was always there from the start of Aikido.

Generally, the technique folks worry more about the how to, the martial application, the development of traits we would directly associate with martial practice, or Budo etc.

The Spiritual folks are usually folks who found Aikido because it fit with their already existing values system. They develop their technique to reflect their spiritual outlook.

In my experience, it is somewhat rare that the technique folks ever develop much of a sense of the spiritual possibilities of the art through their pursuit of effective technique. They develop certain martial traits like toughness and discipline, and on some level they get less fearful of physical threat, but they are typically not all that good at applying the various lessons that could be learned from training off the mat. O-Sensei used to caution students repeatedly that they missed the point by over focusing on waza.

On the other hand, the spiritual folks seldom seem to have taken their understanding of the technical very deep. Very seldom do you find people within this category who could hold their own with someone of equivalent experience in another martial art. Nor do they have the ability to connect the waza they do on the mat with the spiritual values they espouse on anything more than a superficial level.

In O-Sensei's Aikido these two areas were just sides of the same coin. They could not be separated. When O-Sensei demonstrated waza he was showing physical manifestation of certain energetic aspects of the universe. His Aikido was a martial embodiment of the concept that goes all the way back to the Upanishads that what is out there (the Universe) is duplicated in here (the Body).

So, O-Sensei's training was about reorganizing his body to reflect the principles that are manifest on the universe. To do this it required that he reorganize his mind the same way because one can't organize the body properly when the mind is doing something else. It has to go together.

On some level. if there isn't a balance between the physical waza and the spiritual side of the art, then it isn't really Aikido. It's an Aikido-like substance.

I think that the spiritual ideal can certainly precede the technical, in fact, I believe it must. Ones waza will be what one trains. If ones focus is simply on how to defend oneself, how to defeat another, how to be powerful, etc. that will almost certainly be what one gets out of training. If, on the other hand, ones focus is on understanding the underlying connection between all things, ones practice will tend to develop a sense of that. Martial skill, in my opinion, is a by product of proper training, but not the point. The reason that the martial paradigm is important is that it is the instant and immediate confirmation or denial of ones understanding in that instant. If one is training properly, with partners that are giving correct feedback, every technique demonstrates your level of understanding. Without this, ones understanding is not tested. One has no real idea whether what one believes to be true is really true. The whole process is just wishful thinking.

Just because you understand the nature of things in your mind does not mean you do in your body. Doran Sensei once told me he did a class for some advanced Zen practitioners. These were fairly senior folks, quite experienced in the spiritual realm. But on the mat, he said they were just like any other beginners. The fact that they had achieved a certain direct perception of the nature of things did not mean that they could connect that understanding to their bodies.

People constantly try to reshape Aikido into something that reflects their own preconceptions and the avoid doing anything which calls those preconceptions into question. On some level every person who walks into an Aikido dojo did so because they knew on some level, that they needed to change. Otherwise, you'd never have even seen them. They be home watching TV like everyone else. But, the instant they get inside, they resist changing like crazy. They want the art to affirm their ideas of who they think they are rather than call for them to change.

I think think that, when training is structured properly, each person is called upon to change on a fundamental level. This is because Aikido is all about balancing things out. We are striving for that still point, that physical balance and mental balance where we are free to move as we wish. Training is about achieving freedom. In the physical sense it is about understanding that no other person can really take away your freedom to move. The more you balance your own structure, calm your own mind, and learn to relax, the more you understand that no one else can take away that freedom. You can get to the point at which the very thought of an attack has already defeated itself.

To really attain a level of technique that is anything more than simply mechanical, you have to "let go". Strong people have to stop relying on being strong, weak people have to become strong, aggressive people need to become less aggressive and shy people need to become assertive. Taking ones Aikido beyond the superficial level requires doing what is most difficult for any of us, namely, change that which is our dominant way we see and present ourselves and develop its opposite thereby achieving balance. Balance is what it's all about. Achieving that balance is clearly not an easy matter or everybody would be great at Aikido waza and possessed of profound insight.

We need to understand that this is the goal of training. If the goal is martial capability and the ability to effectively confront all comers regardless of martial style or skill, one will training one way. While it is possible that deep spiritual insight and personal transformation can come out of this process, it isn't terribly likely. Witness the number of really ferocious and accomplished fighters who are also wretched human beings.

Why do we think O-Sensei created this art? Pursuit of fighting skill alone is a distraction, it is a false path that will not lead to the kind of freedom and balance or understanding that we are talking about. On the other hand, the folks who ignore principle, tailor their technique to reflect their pre-existing notions, insist that their ukes act in a way that confirms these ideas are just as side tracked. Whatever beautiful ideas they have about oneness, connection, conflict resolution, peace, etc are totally superficial until they can manifest them on the mat physically.

It's not that the ideas are not true or that they are not manifesting their values in their lives... Mother Teresa was an extremely, profoundly, spiritual person. She lived her spirituality every day. But she didn't do Aikido. It is only Aikido when you can manifest this knowledge in ones waza. The understanding of Aikido is a Mind / Body understanding that reveals and demonstrates spiritual insight. Spiritual insight without the mind / body manifestation isn't Aikido. It's not wrong or in any way inferior, it just isn't Aikido. That's what makes Aikido such a unique practice.

So, we all need to take a look at our Aikido training... It's one thing to be able to say I get his out of it or I get that out of it... It's quite another to ask oneself what you should be getting out of it, or what you would like to get out of it? What does your teacher want you to get out of it? What might O-Sensei have wanted you to get out of it? Think about those answers... Are your answers reflective of what would make you feel better or be better? They are not necessarily the same. In my own case, some of the things in my life that made be better were things that, at the time, made me feel the worst I had ever felt.

Anyway, whatever you decide those answers are, then you must structure your training so that it directly addresses those issues. Unless you have an enlightened teacher (and I can't think of one off hand) you can't simply trust this process to that teacher. You have to look at what you want and need to get out of the training and find those teachers (notice I did not say just one) who can help get you there. This is what we all have to do.

Anyway, that's my take on it.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 09-25-2011 at 06:55 PM.

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Old 09-26-2011, 06:28 AM   #8
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Aikido training helps me develop being in the now. God is in the now for me.
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Old 09-26-2011, 06:34 AM   #9
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Quote:
Keith Gates wrote: View Post
I am interested to hear peoples perspectives on the spiritual aspects of Aikido. Specifically in how they see Aikido working for them practically as a tool for spiritual development.
My take on it: aikido is not a spiritual practice, and if a spiritual practice is what you want, aikido is not an adequate substitute for it. The large majority of sensei have no training in teaching esoteric practices, and (appropriately) therefore don't attempt to teach them. If you have a personal spiritual practice, there are certain things about aikido that make some parts of the practice a useful vehicle for reinforcing some of the lessons of some spiritual paths. Also, for people who don't have a personal spiritual practice, some aikido practices can be conducive to giving you glimpses of something beyond the thing itself. In both cases, though, aikido is not unique: the same reinforcement or the same glimpses can come about through many other activities, and indeed, there are others that are probably better than aikido in that regard.
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Old 09-26-2011, 06:48 AM   #10
gates
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Interesting that there are such contrasting opinions back to back !

There does appear to be recurring theme happening.

Which is: Aiki-do practice helps many to be more grounded within themselves.

Last edited by gates : 09-26-2011 at 06:59 AM.

Enjoy the journey
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Old 09-26-2011, 07:55 AM   #11
lbb
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Quote:
Keith Gates wrote: View Post
Interesting that there are such contrasting opinions back to back !

There does appear to be recurring theme happening.

Which is: Aiki-do practice helps many to be more grounded within themselves.
I don't find it to be such, but you'd really have to get into a whole discussion of what we mean by "grounded". IMO it's like "closure", a buzzword that we use for some kind of vague good feeling -- in this case, for being sure and settled. But this illustrates the fact that the umbrella term "spiritual" encompasses many beliefs, including some that directly contradict each other. In order to be "grounded", to be settled and sure, you must believe that there are things or truths that do not change -- and certainly some spiritual traditions, such as Christianity, would hold that this is the case. But other traditions, such as Buddhism, believe that nothing is fixed, that everything changes -- and furthermore, that it's a bad habit to try to seek ground, to find things to cling to for surety. So, in the Buddhist view, aikido practice can't possibly help you to be grounded in yourself -- and if it lets you think so, that's a bad thing.
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Old 09-26-2011, 07:59 AM   #12
Tim Ruijs
 
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Georges,
interesting read. When you talk about balance; do you mean be (spiritually) in the moment (of conflict) and let go of 'self/intention'? This I can relate to, but always be in balance would that imply always be without self/character/intend?

In a real fight:
* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
www.aikido-makato.nl
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Old 09-26-2011, 09:00 AM   #13
gates
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
I don't find it to be such, but you'd really have to get into a whole discussion of what we mean by "grounded". IMO it's like "closure", a buzzword that we use for some kind of vague good feeling -- in this case, for being sure and settled. But this illustrates the fact that the umbrella term "spiritual" encompasses many beliefs, including some that directly contradict each other. In order to be "grounded", to be settled and sure, you must believe that there are things or truths that do not change -- and certainly some spiritual traditions, such as Christianity, would hold that this is the case. But other traditions, such as Buddhism, believe that nothing is fixed, that everything changes -- and furthermore, that it's a bad habit to try to seek ground, to find things to cling to for surety. So, in the Buddhist view, aikido practice can't possibly help you to be grounded in yourself -- and if it lets you think so, that's a bad thing.
Hi Mary,
Thanks for your input. I was careful to set some sort of definition as to what spirituality was so we need not go down a semantic path.

In terms of Martial Arts as Buddihist Practice I would refer you to 2010 August edition of: The Middle Way, Journal of The Buddhist Society, August 2010 Vol 85. Article entitled "Martial Arts as Buddhist Practice" by Benjamin Charlton.

What I mean when I say 'being grounded' does not mean 'seeking ground' as you seem to have defined it. Perhaps I should clarify. We could argue here about interpretations of the Dharma and the meaning of Anitya, but lets not. I am looking for common ground not a debate over doctrine, although some other time I'd love to. Comparative religion is a favourite topic of mine !

Many believe Aiki-do can serve as a valid and effective tool to understand ones own inner (true / original) nature more deeply. That is a little simplistic but by the contemporary definitions given above it qualifies.

You obviously have some strong feelings on this issue. If I were to ask you what spirituality means to you perhaps we could find some common ground?

Keith

Last edited by gates : 09-26-2011 at 09:13 AM.

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Old 09-26-2011, 09:22 AM   #14
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
My take on it: aikido is not a spiritual practice...
I think Aikido can be a spiritual practice since to my mind spiritual practices are entirely individualized in nature. I would agree, however, it is not necessarily a spiritual practice, but that's not unique to Aikido either, since all practices, even those regularly accepted as "spiritual," can be described as such.

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Old 09-26-2011, 10:31 AM   #15
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

What comes to mind is surrender.

When you search for spirituality you are actually surrendering yourself to a higher power. It doesn't make sense to even think that you can get to a higher power using your own. You can't dictate terms against something which is immeasurable.

Now in aikido, it teaches you a path to surrender. You surrender your ego, instead of doing something to uke, you let uke come to a conclusion on his own. The less you do, the more you achieve.

Again this may seem so esotherical. But physical aikido can only take you so far. Behind the body, there is ki. Behind ki there is intent. And behind intent there is the mind.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 09-26-2011, 11:39 AM   #16
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Ahmad,

that is exactly what I referred to. Behind ki there is intent, behind that the mind. What intend would you have outside conflict situation? During/in conflict one seeks to balance and go from there, but then what is your intend then?

In a real fight:
* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
www.aikido-makato.nl
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Old 09-26-2011, 12:49 PM   #17
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Quote:
Keith Gates wrote: View Post
Hi Mary,
Thanks for your input. I was careful to set some sort of definition as to what spirituality was so we need not go down a semantic path.
I accepted your definition. I thought I made that abundantly clear. What I said was NOT "going down a semantic path".

Quote:
Keith Gates wrote: View Post
In terms of Martial Arts as Buddihist Practice I would refer you to 2010 August edition of: The Middle Way, Journal of The Buddhist Society, August 2010 Vol 85. Article entitled "Martial Arts as Buddhist Practice" by Benjamin Charlton.
That article is not available on their website, so since it's germane here, perhaps you could give us the gist of it?

Quote:
Keith Gates wrote: View Post
What I mean when I say 'being grounded' does not mean 'seeking ground' as you seem to have defined it. Perhaps I should clarify. We could argue here about interpretations of the Dharma and the meaning of Anitya, but lets not. I am looking for common ground not a debate over doctrine, although some other time I'd love to. Comparative religion is a favourite topic of mine !
I wasn't debating. What I said was meant to reflect what I think most people mean when they talk about "being grounded" -- not what YOU mean by it.

Quote:
Keith Gates wrote: View Post
Many believe Aiki-do can serve as a valid and effective tool to understand ones own inner (true / original) nature more deeply. That is a little simplistic but by the contemporary definitions given above it qualifies.
Well, yes, but this brings up another issue: that of getting what you asked for, but that it's very different than you thought it would be. Pema Chodron talked one time about how a lot of people come to meditation because they imagine that it will make their minds become like a tranquil pool...and that does happen...but that's when you get to see all the old tires and refrigerators and skeletons lying at the bottom of the pool. Getting to understand your own inner/true/original nature is the same: you get a good look at who you really are...and (at least initially) that's a pretty uncomfortable experience. it's not at all what most people imagine when they talk about getting to know themselves.

Quote:
Keith Gates wrote: View Post
You obviously have some strong feelings on this issue. If I were to ask you what spirituality means to you perhaps we could find some common ground?

Keith
My definition of spirituality isn't the point of disagreement.
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Old 09-26-2011, 01:00 PM   #18
lbb
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Ledyard Sensei, I generally agree with what you've said, but one paragraph confused me:

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
It's not that the ideas are not true or that they are not manifesting their values in their lives... Mother Teresa was an extremely, profoundly, spiritual person. She lived her spirituality every day. But she didn't do Aikido. It is only Aikido when you can manifest this knowledge in ones waza. The understanding of Aikido is a Mind / Body understanding that reveals and demonstrates spiritual insight. Spiritual insight without the mind / body manifestation isn't Aikido. It's not wrong or in any way inferior, it just isn't Aikido. That's what makes Aikido such a unique practice.
I don't get it. Are you saying that Aikido is the only practice in which a physical practice is a manifestation of a spiritual state?
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Old 09-26-2011, 02:07 PM   #19
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Quote:
Keith Gates wrote: View Post
In terms of Martial Arts as Buddihist Practice I would refer you to 2010 August edition of: The Middle Way, Journal of The Buddhist Society, August 2010 Vol 85. Article entitled "Martial Arts as Buddhist Practice" by Benjamin Charlton.
Let's see...

"When the handgun appeared five centuries ago, traditional martial arts were among its first victims. Swaggering grandmasters, the erstwhile tigers and dragons of Asia, became the dodos of the battlefield. Their unequalled ability to hack, slash and grapple equipped them perfectly for an environment that no longer existed. They seemed destined for extinction"

Stopped reading at this point.

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Old 09-26-2011, 04:08 PM   #20
donhebert
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

I have often found Spirituality in Aikido to be a muddled topic. This is despite the fact that I have always been keenly drawn to this aspect of the art. By muddled I mean that most Aikidoists (there are few notable exceptions) seem to avoid talking about spirituality and when they do, the discussion is often fatuous and not too useful or (infrequently) questioning but with few authentic answers.

Why is the practice of Aikido any closer to a spiritual path then, say, playing soccer? They both involve grace and beauty. They both require technical skill. They both provide immediate feedback and are extremely challenging.

Perhaps the answer is that they are both equally valid spiritual paths as long as the individual plays them that way. Of course, it seems obvious to most that just because one plays soccer doesn't mean one is on a spiritual path. In fact most soccer players probably could care less - why should they? This is also true for Aikido , even though in its genesis, Aikido was intended to have a spiritual dimension. However, the landscape of Aikido practice is so large that people can easily stay in the "Aikido as non-spiritual activity" terrain their entire lives and have a perfectly fulfilling training.

It is evident to me that not everyone needs Aikido to augment their spirituality. For example, many of the best people I have ever known have never even seen Aikido. The most important mentor in my life never even heard of the art. I was drawn to Aikido because I sensed there was something in it that I needed.

Here is a list of some of the spiritual elements that have developed in my own training. Please excuse some of the broad metaphors. I don't necessarily mean them literally.

1. I practice Aikido to more fully inhabit my own life and become the person that the gods had in mind when they created me. I don't want to get to the end and think that I missed this one.

2. I want to enhance my EXPERIENCE of being alive.

3. I am seeking for an experience of a larger connection to my world and a sense of the greater mystery that underlies all things.

3. Aikido cannot be practiced between a person and a lamp-post or and inanimate lump. It is a feedback system that occurs between living beings. It is a generous engagement that we provide for each other.

4. Aikido is an art in the fullest sense of the word. It requires skill, training, vision, courage and an aesthetic sensibility. True Art can connect us to a larger experience of the world and trigger transformation within.

5. Aikido is rooted in a martial edge. By this I mean that its fundamental lessons are contained in the martial integrity of the practice. On some level "its gotta work". Practices such as "internal power" training encourage physical transformations that can reverberate spiritually in fundamental ways.

6. My spiritual state is immediately reflected in how I execute technique or take ukemi, whether I want it to or not. The feedback provided by my movements and my partner and felt in my body provides a continuous stream of information and countless opportunities to adjust and improve. By paying attention to this information and changing how I manifest technique I can change my inner landscape.

7. I have to define for myself what it means to grow spiritually. What does it mean to continually advance the task of becoming who I am meant to be? What are my values? What does the soul want? In any case, what I intend when I practice Aikido, over time, is likely to be what I will get.

8. By default, any fundamental human capacity we avoid gets placed into our shadow. The shadow is our dark side where dangerous and unacceptable energies are imprisoned. These energies are the Mr. Hyde of our lives and cause all kinds of mischief. This is why there are as many soft, spiritual people who unconsciously manifest betrayal as there are aggressive people who unconsciously promote a kind of spiritual poverty. By taking material out of my shadow bag in a physical way and letting it breathe I can access energy that was formerly unavailable and become a more balanced person.

9. Like most people, I grow by working my edges. For example, one of my personality traits is that I naturally tend to avoid aggression. Thus it is really good practice for me train in situations where my level of assertiveness is challenged and exposed. In such situations I am forced to move out my comfort zone and practice projecting myself. Taking manageable risks is the key to effective training and if I don't have some moments where I am feeling uncomfortable then I am probably not growing.

10. The practice is designed to encourage our thinking out of the mundane onto a more aware and vital plane. This is why I agree to wearing old-fashioned Japanese formal-wear and practicing in a consciously designed dojo. By placing myself in a this created sacred space I am reminding myself of the higher purpose of training and connecting to a larger tradition. Otherwise I could do just as well wearing sweats. Without this purpose the wearing of a gi and hakama is like a Japanese person dressing up in a cowboy outfit - harmless enough but perhaps a bit daft.

11. Aikido is an art that really does have its own parameters. One can have a practice with all of the above attributes and not be practicing Aikido. Aikido is rooted in a tradition that sprang (at least) from the explorations of Morihei Ueshiba and practioners need to follow that transmission as best they can if they want to call what they are doing Aikido.

Geez - this is longer than I intended. I am sure that there are many who can't see putting all of this stuff into their Aikido practice, but I appreciate the opportunity provided by this thread to talk about it.

Don Hebert

Last edited by donhebert : 09-26-2011 at 04:13 PM.
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Old 09-26-2011, 05:39 PM   #21
graham christian
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

My second contribution to this thread is that in my Aikido I am not interested in connecting mentally. Physical connection is is merely because our body is stable reality. All techniques and motions are based on connection from true self to other true self.

In life this reminds me to do the same and not go into mind versus mind or physical versus physical. In true self there is no versus.

Regards.G.
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Old 09-26-2011, 06:33 PM   #22
Abasan
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Sorry Tim, but I couldn't find what you wrote when you referred to intent behind ki. But I reread George's post instead of skimming that almost book'ish post like the first time around.

Interestingly enough we under stand the path to aikido to be...
Aiki no Kokoro, aiki no genri, aiki no waza, aiki no chikara, aiki no seishin.
So although principles is right there at the beginning before technical waza and physical training.... Without the heart (or mind) to embrace wiki, you really can't begin.
That chimes with the distinction of technical folks and spiritual folks...but only to an extent. Spiritual for spirituality's sake isn't going to get you far here. I won't argue for technical side, since being technical is an important third of aikido. Without equilibrium we'll all be lopsided in our approach.

What I meant by spirit in aikido is essentially a warrior's spirit. It is not love all mankind and be one with the force kind of mentality. It's to live a life to protect what is right. The abject subjugation to something greater. To understand that life is so fleeting and to realize that it has to be valued as a precious gift to mankind.

Osensei admonishes his students to always contemplate with nature. To listen to the voice of earth and voice of heaven. This has no bearing to the technical development of aikido. Yet it develops the mind, the heart and the spirit. You then have to manifest that in your waza... Otherwise it's still not a true reality. Eg, translate what you think you've understood into the physical otherwise it might just be a daydream.

Outside of conflict, the practice of aikido is conducted to find your true self. To purify or distill your movements beyond your ego. At my level...to just concentrate in getting center right and aligning intent, ki and physical as best as I can. So I don't really think I can contribute anymore in this thread since I know I haven't even approached the spiritual level at this juncture. My mind is still too much in this world i'm afraid.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 09-26-2011, 08:24 PM   #23
graham christian
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Hey Keith.
I think it's about time you 'chimed in' with one of your own.

Respectfully.G.
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Old 09-26-2011, 09:25 PM   #24
graham christian
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

I must say I like Georges post. Being on the spiritual side of Aikido, at least promotion wise, I am seen by some as not technically aware.
The complete opposite is true. However this is not really about that it is more to do with peoples perceptions or assumptions and I am guilty of letting them have them and not interfering.

When people talk about a group of zen practitioners or yoga or some other spiritual discipline stepping on the mat and being surprised that they had a harder time as students I thoroughly agree.

In fact I would say I am more of an expert on this than nearly everyone on this forum.

This fact is one of the reasons I loved Aikido. As I explain to all spiritual people who come to me to see what I mean when I tell them Aikido will give you more reality on what you already believe in.

The beauty of Aikido for me is a simplicity referred to by George and if I'm not mistaken positively shouted about by Dan in one context and that is this: The truth of spiritual aims of oneness, meditative stillness, universal love etc. are quite easy to get a feel of through various forms of meditation but to maintain it whilst facing and handling an opponent is the true test.

Thus for me it is a great vehicle for those following a spiritual path.

Regards.G.
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Old 09-27-2011, 04:05 AM   #25
gates
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Re: Discussion of Spirituality from an Aikido Perspective.

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
Hey Keith.
I think it's about time you 'chimed in' with one of your own.

Respectfully.G.
I have enjoyed hearing different perspectives but just for you Graham when I arrive home tonight, I'll put finger to qwerty.

Enjoy the journey
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