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Old 02-02-2003, 05:40 PM   #1
Paula Lydon
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violence

~~(a) An ongoing curiosity in my mind (well, for years now): Are martial arts inherently violent? Seems an easy question, but is it? Outwardly it would seem like yes--certainly appears that way in the movies . Even if we're training in something like Tai Chi Chuan or Aikido and are focusing on personal growth and spirituality, by the very act of learning and practicing these techniques are we, perhaps unconsciously, planting and cultivating a violence inside ourselves? Or are we merely learning to subjegate to our control a violence already there?
~~(b) What is voilence? Is it uncontrolled, even undirected, high-volumn distruction and chaos of a reactive nature? Is a calm, calculated act with a destructive outcome equally violent? Is highly skilled exicution of a technique that breaks an attacking arm less violent than a frightened, lashing out movement that breaks the same arm? Is it only our internal stance that designates an act as violent or not?
~~I, of course, have my own ongoing theories about all of this but wished to begin with the questions only so as not to colour anyone elses views. Besides, to be honest, my own views keep shifting with time and expierence. Just mental musings...

~~Paula~~
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Old 02-02-2003, 06:02 PM   #2
DaveO
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Personally, I think that violence isn't a physical thing, its spiritual. In other words, whether or not a thing becomes violent depends on our attitude, our intent, not necessarily on what we actually do. (Caveat: up to a certain point, that is.)

For istance: The all-time-greatest-sport-on-Earth is, of course, Hockey. Hockey is said to be a very violent game. To my mind, it is not - it's rough, certainly; crashing into a guy with a closing speed of 30 mph, sending him and his equipment all over the ice is a punishing experience, but that doesn't make it violent. Why? Because its not done maliciously - you check someone for tactical reasons; driving him off the puck or the puck handler, disrupting his game. It's hard, it hurts, (it's wonderfully cathartic... )but its a part of the game; not only do players accept it, they'd be insulted if you didn't check them for fear of getting 'too rough'.

It can become violent of course, it wouldn't be Hockey unless there were fights, but the game itself isn't.

Same thing for martial arts, I think. We use MA for self defence - to protect ourselves and others from a violent attack. We're not promoting or using violence, we're stopping it; when we use it properly. Things change when our attitude changes - if we decide to use our skills beyond what is required to defend ourselves or others, i.e. if we opened shihonage out to break the attackers arm rather than just dropping him to the ground - THEN it becomes a violent act. That's my opinion on the matter.

Hope I explained my own position clearly; it's difficult isn't it?

Thanx!

Dave

Answers are only easy when they're incomplete.
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Old 02-02-2003, 09:09 PM   #3
Jeff Tibbetts
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Tough question. I think that there are different forms of violence. You could call the simplest forms hot or cold violence. You have hot violence, which is an instinctive, lashing out without thinking type of violence that wells up like a geyser of force. You also have the cold violence which slowly plays itself out, poisoning or elaborate plans to kill someone, like ice forming over a person's soul until you can shatter it. You then have a whole range in between, plus other things like passive-aggressive mental violence. The eventual goals and outcomes may vary, but in my mind anything done to the detriment of another person or persons is a form of violence. It can surely be mental, and it can obviously be physical, it's almost always both at some point. Now as far as what we do. I think that, as said, martial arts can be called violent if they are used violently or to violent ends. If you look at it from the standpoint that you can train to help someone as opposed to hurting them then it ceases to be violent. If what you're doing isn't to the detriment of another, than surely it's to their benefit? I guess there's some middle ground, but intent is the root of wether or not it's violent in most cases. If you do accidently break an arm trying to stop an attack than that means you should train more, but unless it was clearly intentional than I don't consider it a violent act. Something can be dynamic, powerful, forceful, and tactically or strategically beneficial and not be violent if the goal and outcome are beneficial. I hope this makes sense, I'm tired...

If the Nightingale doesn't sing-
wait
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Old 02-03-2003, 02:08 AM   #4
happysod
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There was a recent aikiweb poll on whether aikido was violent and I believe I was in the minority "yes" side - the arguments for it not being violent are the same ones being presented here. Notably, that it is "intent" that determines whether something is violent or not. This is an attitude I cannot disagree with strongly enough. History is littered with abhorrent things done in the name of good intentions, fervently and honestly held by the monsters in question. Violence is the net result of your actions, not your intent (although you can of course intend to "do" violence).

To take the example offered by Mr Tibbets of "inadvertently" breaking an arm when defending yourself. The defence itself is violent, whether the arm is broken or not. You're referring to justified violence (also a very personal and tricky definition). Many spiritual leaders (such as Ghandi) preached non-violence, which meant allowing violence to be perpetrated on you. A nice defence performed with the best intentions, that leaves the attacker non-the-worse for wear is still you committing violence.

Are martial arts violent? Yes, but the intentions of the practitioner for pursuing the martial art aren't necessarily violent or even linked with any violent intent. I also don't think learning MA can subjugate violent tendencies, but they can give a person more discipline and options in how they cope with internal and external violence. Having said that, as there are so many different paths to spiritual growth etc. other than MA, I'd be surprised if anyone practising MA for the spiritual side didn't also have a more "violent" reason for persuing this path...
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Old 02-03-2003, 11:32 AM   #5
cAnAdiAn
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Quote:
Dave Organ (DaveO) wrote:
Personally, I think that violence isn't a physical thing, its spiritual. In other words, whether or not a thing becomes violent depends on our attitude, our intent, not necessarily on what we actually do. (Caveat: up to a certain point, that is.)

For istance: The all-time-greatest-sport-on-Earth is, of course, Hockey. Hockey is said to be a very violent game. To my mind, it is not - it's rough, certainly; crashing into a guy with a closing speed of 30 mph, sending him and his equipment all over the ice is a punishing experience, but that doesn't make it violent. Why? Because its not done maliciously - you check someone for tactical reasons; driving him off the puck or the puck handler, disrupting his game. It's hard, it hurts, (it's wonderfully cathartic... )but its a part of the game; not only do players accept it, they'd be insulted if you didn't check them for fear of getting 'too rough'.

It can become violent of course, it wouldn't be Hockey unless there were fights, but the game itself isn't.

Same thing for martial arts, I think. We use MA for self defence - to protect ourselves and others from a violent attack. We're not promoting or using violence, we're stopping it; when we use it properly. Things change when our attitude changes - if we decide to use our skills beyond what is required to defend ourselves or others, i.e. if we opened shihonage out to break the attackers arm rather than just dropping him to the ground - THEN it becomes a violent act. That's my opinion on the matter.

Hope I explained my own position clearly; it's difficult isn't it?

Thanx!

AMEN!

Dave

"Find me guilty, when true guilt is from within"
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Old 02-03-2003, 12:53 PM   #6
paw
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Ian,
Quote:
History is littered with abhorrent things done in the name of good intentions, fervently and honestly held by the monsters in question. Violence is the net result of your actions, not your intent (although you can of course intend to "do" violence).
If my neighbor doesn't clean their walkway and someone slips and breaks their arm, is that violence?

Curious,

Paul
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Old 02-03-2003, 12:59 PM   #7
ian
 
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Amusing response Paul!

Although I think many people who undertake martial arts are inherently aggressive, I think it is a useful conduit for this aggression. Although martial arts may be 'violent' (i.e. very physical with lots of contact and posibly injury) I think many martial artists are actually not violent, and that indeed, it could be the reason for this.

Ian

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 02-03-2003, 02:36 PM   #8
paw
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Ian,

I asked because I want to make sure I understand where you're coming from. I have a friend who would say that a deer eating a leaf is a violent act, for example.

In any case, I'm back to lurking....

Regards,

Paul
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Old 02-03-2003, 09:52 PM   #9
Paula Lydon
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...and if the leaf gives the deer a bellyache..?

~~Paula~~
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Old 02-03-2003, 11:07 PM   #10
PeterR
 
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Martial Arts are controlled violence.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 02-03-2003, 11:29 PM   #11
PeterR
 
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Quote:
Ian Dodkins (ian) wrote:
Although I think many people who undertake martial arts are inherently aggressive, I think it is a useful conduit for this aggression.
Let's not forget the overly passive that find strength through the martial arts. I know of quite a few instances where young boys are enrolled because they were being bullied. Of course some of these need to be controlled once they start getting confident (speaks to latent aggression) but really I do think that the inherently aggressive would get bored pretty quick with most Budo.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 02-03-2003, 11:59 PM   #12
Dross
 
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I think to some extent all martial arts involve violence of some sort. They are "martial" arts afterall. However one neat thing about a martial art is that the better you get, the less you need to rely on violence to solve problems in day to day life.
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Old 02-04-2003, 02:42 AM   #13
happysod
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Hiya Paw,

Uncleaned paths as a violent act? Nope, just negligence. But if your neighbour had deliberately sprayed his path with water before it hit freezing, then I would consider any resulting injury an act of violence on their part(they could claim their intent had maybe been to make some interesting patterns in the ice?)

However, please correct me if I'm wrong, the theme was MA and is it violent, not good housekeeping. Well, you voluntarily wander into a forum (wearing some of the worst fashion in god's little earth) where you happily submit to intense physical interaction using techniques specifically designed to cause at a minimum physical disruption of your partners balance, at the other end kill-maim-death. Nah - thats not violent is it?

One problem I think is that the many people are horrified to think that they might be violent, as the word has such negative connotations. No, I'm a nice person, I have "good inetntions" when turning their joints the wrong way... Violence when channelled properly is useful and often theraputic. Here your intent matters as you're doing something constructive with your violent tendancies in a controlled (ish) environment. It's unstruuctured violence that I get worried about - give me a dojo over certain pubs at kicking-out time any day of the week.

PS There's at least 2 Ian's on this thread, I don't think Mr Dodkins would be very happy at being mistaken for a "hairdresser" aikidoka like myself (loved that term from a previous thread, thanks)
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Old 02-04-2003, 10:29 AM   #14
George S. Ledyard
 
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Violence

Hi Paula!

There are actually a couple of questions here that could use discussion. First is the nature of violence in itself. Second is the question of whether martial arts are inherently violent.

Let's address the first one. The narrow definition of violence is usually physical. It involves the harm or destruction of a human or so-called "higher" animals. Most of us don't think about the bugs we kill or the slugs we exterminate in our gardens… But every culture has developed at least one if not several models for what constitutes "violence". In India you can find people who consider it violent to do any harm to any sentient creature. They wear masks in order to avoid inhaling an insect. In our own culture you can find a number of folks who believe that doing any harm to animals is violent, even if it potentially saves human lives.

But beyond just the physical violence against sentient beings you can expand the definition to include destructive acts against even material objects. The term "vandalism" refers to the damage or destruction of material objects. We tend to view the seriousness of such an act by the amount of human investment in the object which was damaged. A work of art being vandalized is usually seen to be somehow worse than vandalizing an auto for instance.

All of the above examples have one thing in common, though. All of them involve "Intention". A tornado or hurricane is incredibly destructive. The energy is certainly described as violent since the result is sometimes complete destruction of whatever they encounter. So clearly "violence" exists in nature, even when a being with intention is lacking.

Also, how about TV? Is a show which depicts violence really "violent"? Certainly no one was really killed or injured. The depiction was fictional… Is that really violent?

It is quite clear that human beings are programmed to be capable of violence as a survival mechanism. It is also clear that this programming, in the modern world, actually constitutes one of the major threats to the survival of our species. Violent behavior that once was required for our survival has become dysfunctional in the modern world.

Aikido represents a practice, a form of training for human beings to be able to take the violence which is present in their world, and even within themselves, and learn to control it, channel it, and potentially even convert it to something else. Budo should be about perfecting oneself. Yes, the techniques we practice are potentially violent. But is the practice violent? Especially in Aikido we are constantly practicing techniques that were designed specifically not to be destructive. On the other hand they could be quite destructive if that were necessary.

There are still instances in which it is functional to be able to be violent. To protect oneself or another from harm is clearly a natural survival function. But most violence is the product of fear, not clear intention. Martial arts training should be, first and foremost, about dealing with that fear. You simply can't do good Aikido if you are fearful. In fact you can't do any martial art from a fearful state. So training takes one to a place in which fear does not control your actions.

I have met many high level martial artists. Many of these are combat veterans, and are quite capable of executing the most violent actions possible. Yet they are the least likely of anyone I know to do so. If you met these folks you would have no idea that they were capable of such actions. They are universally quiet, humble, and thoughtful. They would be the first to walk away from any potential conflict unless it became unavoidable. Then their actions would be quick, decisive, and only what would be needed to end the threat.

Martial arts training is also about taking responsibility for ones own actions. It is about being present and aware. It is about developing clear intention. All of these traits are specifically those that make other forms of "violence" less likely. As a culture we destroy our environment because we are unwilling to take responsibility for the consequences of our actions. We allow whole segments of our population to exist in poverty because we don't wish to pay attention to what is right in front of us. I think O-sensei's vision for Aikido as a way to make the world a better place comes directly from the fact that training should make us less fearful, more sensitive, more willing to take risks, more humble, and more aware and more responsible.

So you could say that martial arts are violent in that we practice techniques that can be destructive. But I would actually maintain that martial arts, properly taught, are in fact not violent at all. They lead to a reduced likelihood of violence, less internal conflict, less external conflict. Most martial artists I have met have an acute awareness of the fragility of human life and are very respectful of all life for that reason.

So the problem is not violence in itself. If we didn't have the violence of our immune system going on moment by moment we would be dead. If we didn't have the ability to defend ourselves from those members of our own species who are intentionally violent we would be victims. Violence (or destruction), in the sense that it is the flip side of Creation, is simply a fact, neither inherently good or bad. What produces unnecessary violence is fear. Fear causes most forms of human violence including physical and emotional violence. Good martial arts training reduces fear.

So I would say that. Despite the fact that we use techniques which could be violent in their result, our practice is precisely the opposite of violent. It fosters awareness, personal responsibility etc. All of which make violence of any kind less likely. And on those occasions in which violent action is necessary to protect the common good, we are able to do that as well and do it with the minimum creation of negative Karma to go forward.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 02-04-2003, 07:38 PM   #15
Paula Lydon
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~~Wow, thanks for all the varying views and thoughts. Many are like threads that I'm still following but haven't as yet found where they're rooted.

~~Hi George! I was wondering where you'd gotten of to; hadn't seen you here for awhile. Thanks for unfolding so many aspects of my questions. Hope to see you down the road

~~Paula~~
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Old 02-04-2003, 11:32 PM   #16
SeiserL
 
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Yes, IMHO, the martial arts by definition are violent. Most of that violence is the intent and purpose by which it is put to use by our directed ego-identity.

Until again,

Lynn

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 02-05-2003, 03:28 PM   #17
warriorwoman
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violence

I would say that while some martial arts train one to be violent, others "explore" violence. That is, they explore the violent nature we all possess. Aikido, I beleive, is one that "explores" this. By understanding where violence comes from and how it can be expressed, a person can move in their training beyond violence. Again, I believe this is the goal of Aikido.

janet dtantirojanarat

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