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Old 01-30-2014, 07:44 AM   #1
Peter Boylan
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Do we train enough to understand our art's meaning and philosophy?

We all spend a lot of time talking about budo and the philosophy behind what we practice. The practice though, really must come first and inform the philosophy and the discussion, much more so than the other way. Do you agree?

I've written a full discussion at
http://budobum.blogspot.com/2014/01/...hilosophy.html

Peter Boylan
Mugendo Budogu LLC
Budo Books, Videos, Equipment from Japan
http://www.budogu.com
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Old 01-30-2014, 09:14 AM   #2
lbb
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Re: Do we train enough to understand our art's meaning and philosophy?

A related thought: I have a dojo-mate who really struggles with weapons kata. Her way of training with weapons is distinctive: she talks her way through it, with a verbal description of everything that's happening -- not only that, but a full-on narrative that also includes her mental state: "...oh, wait, no, that's not right, I was thinking about x instead of y." A few months back, I said to her, "Have you tried doing this without talking? Because honestly, I think the talking is getting in your way." She was adamant: this talking process was how she learned the kata, the only way she could learn the kata. I didn't belabor the point, because who am I to tell her about her learning process? But I have since started to think that she was using the talking process to learn something...but it wasn't the kata. In other words, she could use it to teach herself whether she was supposed to step or slide here, what type of block or strike was supposed to be used there. She could learn the sequence of techniques. But the heart of the kata wasn't there. The sense of who initiates the first movement and why, the understanding that each subsequent movement is a response to something, the vision that sees the opening...all that was missing. The feeling of "Come and get me, fool!" when you deliberately give an opening. The whole sense of real-ness.

So it's not just "train, train, train". She's trying to do that. But it's a matter of how your head is in it (or not). You don't get that from abstract philosophy -- I like the 100 to 1 ratio, and I think the 100 has to come first before the 1 makes any sense. I think the solution initially, before you have the practice under your belt, is to not try to figure it out, to just be a sponge. My dojo-mate is trying to impose a sort of order on the new things she's learning -- the only kind of order that makes sense to her. But it doesn't make any sense to the kata. There's a difference between trying to just do it, and trying to just get the steps right (which is what she's trying to do). In trying to get the steps right, she's blocking the rest.
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Old 03-11-2014, 07:09 PM   #3
jdm4life
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Re: Do we train enough to understand our art's meaning and philosophy?

My interest in martial arts stems from an interest in eastern wisdom teachings, philosophy and spirituality so I think I 'get it' more than many ive seen at local clubs. As the martial arts spread west to where it is today, from my experience, I suspect a lot of people who say they'do martial arts' have very little clue about any wisdom teachings. ?.doing martial arts is perhaps as far as it goes. but thats up to them. Eg Karate is just a fitness thing they do once or twice a week.

For others, martial arts can compliment an individuals interest in spirituality, zen, philosophy etc...which is true in my case.

It depends what the term martial arts means to you.

Last edited by jdm4life : 03-11-2014 at 07:13 PM.
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Old 03-12-2014, 11:55 AM   #4
jonreading
 
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Re: Do we train enough to understand our art's meaning and philosophy?

There is a scene in the old TV series, Shogun, in which Richard Chamberlain (somewhat jokingly) decrees that none of the servants should remove his hunted bird from hanging and aging in the garden. This hanging of a dead animal is an issue for the servants and one of them disobeys the decree, removes the bird and commits suicide for disobeying his lord. Upon learning what happened, Richard Chamberlain is at a loss for both what happened and what influence he has over the lives of his servants. This scene always resonated with me because it crystallized with me what it meant to hold power over others.

First, I think budo is the process of dealing with the immense weight of power over life and death and the consequences of life choices. It is probably more closely related to therapy for PTSD than [Western] religion. There is an essential power component that has to exist in order to have power over others (or have power exerted over you).
Second, a budo art needs to codify and educate effective methods of therapy. The practitioner must possess the power component or acquire it from the art as another curriculum.

That said, I think Aikido was designed to refine our ability to have power over ourselves, our actions, and those with whom we interact. I the think the philosophy of aikido is designed to give a moral compass to those who have serious power and influence. I do not think there are [proportionally] many people who fit this bill training in aikido.

I would love to take a course on managing a million dollars, but beyond an academic exercise it doesn't make much sense unless I actually have a million dollars to manage. While critical, I think (myself included) are practicing an exercise in wielding power and influence that we do not possess outside of our little aikido world. Saotome sensei has been touching on our [collective] lack of courage in aikido - I belive part of his message is first coming to terms with whether we believe in what we are doing, doing it in a manner that affects others, and taking responsibility for what we are doing.

Ultimately, I do not think its how many books you've read or seminars you've attended. I don't think its aligning your personal ideology with non-specific Eastern religion. I don't think it's how many hours you've been on the mat. I think its whether you realize if you have power and what that power does. Given that many of us train with a clear impression that we don't have power...

When you're young, you have pets that just die. Fish and mice and lizards are not meant for long lives and as parents that is why we choose them for our children; they just die and that's the end of things. Then one day you bring home a rabbit for Easter and that dang thing doesn't die... ever. Eventually, it goes to "live on a farm" because you are done with it and the kids move on. Then you get a dog and you get hit one day with a decision to take a member of the family to the vet and not come home with it. Old, sick, whatever. You make a choice to end a life. You rationalize it, but in the end you made a choice. It should hit you like a brick. It should be unfair. It should make you appreciate everything about that life that you just ended. This is budo; not some book written by some guy telling me to think happy thoughts.

Last edited by jonreading : 03-12-2014 at 11:57 AM.

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Old 03-12-2014, 12:08 PM   #5
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Re: Do we train enough to understand our art's meaning and philosophy?

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
A related thought: I have a dojo-mate who really struggles with weapons kata. Her way of training with weapons is distinctive: she talks her way through it, with a verbal description of everything that's happening -- not only that, but a full-on narrative that also includes her mental state: "...oh, wait, no, that's not right, I was thinking about x instead of y." A few months back, I said to her, "Have you tried doing this without talking? Because honestly, I think the talking is getting in your way."
We all learn in different ways, but what will probably happen in the future, if she starts to teach, is that she will probably teach it the same way - talk, talk, talk, explaining every detail (getting half of it wrong too) to the extent that no one wants to listen. I have seen this done many, many times. Drives me nuts.

Just do it!

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Old 03-13-2014, 07:14 AM   #6
dps
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Re: Do we train enough to understand our art's meaning and philosophy?

Budo is about bettering yourself through self control.

'' You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. ''. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.

You do that by practicing, practicing, practicing.
dps
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Old 03-13-2014, 07:24 AM   #7
dps
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Re: Do we train enough to understand our art's meaning and philosophy?

Some of us first learn the steps of the kata, then the whole kata, then the heart of the kata.

dps

Last edited by dps : 03-13-2014 at 07:33 AM.
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Old 03-13-2014, 08:10 AM   #8
lbb
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Re: Do we train enough to understand our art's meaning and philosophy?

But can you "learn the steps of the kata" if you ignore maai, zanshin, all that good stuff?
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Old 03-13-2014, 09:43 AM   #9
Janet Rosen
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Re: Do we train enough to understand our art's meaning and philosophy?

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
But can you "learn the steps of the kata" if you ignore maai, zanshin, all that good stuff?
Yes because "learning the steps" does not equal "perfecting the steps."
Some of us non-talented students have to parse out the gross movements of each individual hand-foot-body move step by step, even writing them out, and not learn more than three moves at a time because otherwise the next three will overwrite the first three. Separate exercises during the same class to develop principle-based skills are fine but just as in empty hand, gross movement first for actual patterns of movement; If I tried to *perfect* the first three moves in terms of maai etc I would never learn the gross movements of the rest of the kata.

Janet Rosen
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Old 03-13-2014, 10:03 AM   #10
phitruong
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Re: Do we train enough to understand our art's meaning and philosophy?

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
Some of us first learn the steps of the kata, then the whole kata, then the heart of the kata.

dps
where is the part where we rip the heart out and eat it? keep having the image from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. my philosophy usually includes riping it out and eat it with a side of kimchee and don't really care about the meaning.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
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Old 03-13-2014, 11:09 AM   #11
jonreading
 
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Re: Do we train enough to understand our art's meaning and philosophy?

To my earlier point, I think we [Aikido] accept verbal instruction with more leniency than physical instruction.

There are plenty of people training who intellectually do not know what they are talking about yet we are not critical of that instruction. I think someone competent to speak about maai should be able to realize that instruction in their physical aikido. Student instructors are often put in a role of instructing about a topic in which they are still learning... the result is more talk and less action because their intellectual competency exceeds their physical competency.

To the point of the thread, I think we tend to abuse our claim to know aikido, but have difficulty realizing aiki in our movement. The proverbial armchair quarterback, so to speak. This creates an inconsistency with what we say and what we do.

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Old 03-13-2014, 11:48 AM   #12
dps
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Re: Do we train enough to understand our art's meaning and philosophy?

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
where is the part where we rip the heart out and eat it? keep having the image from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. my philosophy usually includes riping it out and eat it with a side of kimchee and don't really care about the meaning.
Would not fava beans and a nice chianta be a better choice?

dps
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Old 03-13-2014, 11:59 AM   #13
Cliff Judge
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Re: Do we train enough to understand our art's meaning and philosophy?

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
But can you "learn the steps of the kata" if you ignore maai, zanshin, all that good stuff?
What kind of kata are we talking about that doesn't include maai and zanshin?
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Old 03-13-2014, 01:39 PM   #14
lbb
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Re: Do we train enough to understand our art's meaning and philosophy?

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
What kind of kata are we talking about that doesn't include maai and zanshin?
Well, duh. But they're not steps. Let's not be disingenuous and pretend that when a newbie is learning the "steps" of the kata, that's what they're thinking of. They're thinking of which foot is forward and which hand goes where.
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