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Old 09-10-2000, 10:28 AM   #1
tedehara
 
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Aikido Devoid of Spiritual Practice

After looking over the answers for Jun's thread on Misogi, in this forum, it's beginning to occur to me that Aikido, as practiced today, is generally just about martial arts technique and absent of traditional spiritual practices.

Spiritual practices would be something that was taught to you in the dojo, and is practiced by yourself, in a scheduled class or a seminar. Things like chanting, bell ringing, river misogi, breathing exercises and meditation are just some of the activities I'm talking about. I am not talking about things like breathing, living or "I once picked up a book on Spiritual Stuff in Aikido, but I didn't read it."

Things like prayer or reading spiritual text are also something I wouldn't consider, since I'm basically interested in things you wouldn't normally do, except that you were introduced to them through Aikido.

I'm especially interested in hearing from groups within Aikikai. If you want to, list your style or affiliation, so we can catagorized these practices.

If you don't have anything to write about, that says something also.

[Edited by tedehara on September 10, 2000 at 11:30am]

It is not practice that makes perfect, it is correct practice that makes perfect.
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Old 09-10-2000, 10:36 AM   #2
Nick
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I feel that the 'spiritual' side of Aikido is revealed in all facets, and, while further investigation of these things can be pursued, it is not necessary to get something beyond the physical range from Aikido.

-Nick

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Old 09-10-2000, 02:37 PM   #3
giriasis
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Cool

The practice of aikido is spiritual for me.

In the doing of aikido, I find my connection to my spirituality. Nothing more, nothing less.

But spirituality is so personal that in someone else practicing aikido, it is completely secular and devoid of spirituality.

Anne Marie
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Old 09-10-2000, 03:07 PM   #4
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Re: Aikido Devoid of Spiritual Practice

Quote:
tedehara wrote:
After looking over the answers for Jun's thread on Misogi, in this forum, it's beginning to occur to me that Aikido, as practiced today, is generally just about martial arts technique and absent of traditional spiritual practices.

Spiritual practices would be something that was taught to you in the dojo, and is practiced by yourself, in a scheduled class or a seminar. Things like chanting, bell ringing, river misogi, breathing exercises and meditation are just some of the activities I'm talking about.

Things like prayer or reading spiritual text are also something I wouldn't consider, since I'm basically interested in things you wouldn't normally do, except that you were introduced to them through Aikido.

[Edited by tedehara on September 10, 2000 at 11:30am]
those who know me know i'm no expert on spiritual things, but i would disagree with saying that chanting, bell ringing, etc are necesssarily spiritual practice (as opposed to religious practice), while other things are not. I think that what makes something spiritual is what is in your heart; cooking dinner or weeding a yard is spiritual to me, if i hold God in my heart then, while chanting or anything else, if just done as an activity, is not. the fact that one practice or another was done in Japan before, during, or since O' Sensei's lifetime does not make it any more or less valuable as a spiritual exercise. and i would like to think he would rather we focus on what thoughts we hold inside us, rather than the external activity we are doing. one a dojo i once belonged to said Judeo-Christian prayers at the start of class, rather than the traditional (Shinto inspired) rei...amazing the number of people who objected to the former, but not to the latter.
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Old 09-10-2000, 03:43 PM   #5
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Ki Symbol Spirituality

Maybe we are somewhat pampered in our dojo, as we have a good cross section of instructors: some emphasize the spiritual side of the Art, while others emphasize the physical- technical, and each student matches and mixes according to what he/she feels they need.

Ultimately, as Iīve said before, our Art is what WE put into it. One must not passively receive what our instructors teach us, but we must look beyond and find the things OīSensei originally attained, through our OWN perceptions. IMHO, THIS is the secret to the myriad facest of AIKI and Aikido

Furthermore, one must not confuse the spiritual practices of Aikido with empty ritualism. Itīs not the same to understand what is sought in Misogi or Tori-Fune, Kokyu-ho exercises or whatever, and actively reach that goal, as opposed to just "going through" these exercises for their own sake. This is a very real danger, as repeated practice of an exercise can become ritual, and not a "stretching and strenghthening" of oneīs knowledge, ki, technique and spirit.

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Old 09-10-2000, 06:22 PM   #6
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Getting Back On Track

There are some really thoughtful views on this thread. However, I wanted to keep these replies very, very simple. Perhaps it was the way I worded the original question, in that case, I apologize.

I'm looking for some yes/no answers and am getting essays (good ones and thought provoking, but still essays).

I'm trying to take an impromptu survey, not argue about the spirituality of Aikido.

Here is the question: "What traditional Japanese spiritual practices do you do or have done, that were introduced to you through Aikido?"

Now if you want to berate me about my lack of understanding of Judeo/Christian values vs. Eastern/Shinto practices - go ahead. If you can also explain the Secrets of the Universe through Aikido technique, then by all means - please do so. However, I would also appreciate it if you answer the above question in your reply.

Let me thank you in advance and thanks for your interest and replies.

It is not practice that makes perfect, it is correct practice that makes perfect.
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Old 09-11-2000, 10:34 AM   #7
giriasis
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I really can't answer your question since I choose/found aikido because of my interest in Japanese spiritual practices. You see, for me it is the other way around.

Anne Marie
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Old 09-11-2000, 11:57 AM   #8
tedehara
 
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Quote:
giriasis wrote:
I really can't answer your question since I choose/found aikido because of my interest in Japanese spiritual practices. You see, for me it is the other way around.

Anne Marie
So you're doing Aikido because you discovered it through your interest in Japanese spiritual practices? That's a good answer in itself.

It is not practice that makes perfect, it is correct practice that makes perfect.
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Old 09-11-2000, 01:34 PM   #9
DJM
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Talking

Well, Ted, just to throw a spanner into the works for you - but I find that Aikido complements, very well, my interest in traditional Chinese spiritual matters - specifically Taoism...

Seriously though, I think you seriously do Aikido a disservice by trying to differentiate between the physical and the spiritual - this dualism is a Western misconception which really can't used to accurately describe Aikido. In answer to your second, more precisely worded question, is that Aikido introduced me to... you guessed it, Aikido. I see no disparity between moksu (sp?) - which we practice sometimes at our Tomiki Aikido dojo - and managing to do a nice, flowing jo irimi nage .
Peace,
David

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Old 09-13-2000, 11:37 AM   #10
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Re: Getting Back On Track

Quote:
tedehara wrote:
Here is the question: "What traditional Japanese spiritual practices do you do or have done, that were introduced to you through Aikido?"
Me? None.

Do people feel that being involved in such spiritual practices is necessary in training in aikido?

Hmm... Maybe an interesting poll...

-- Jun

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Old 09-13-2000, 11:54 PM   #11
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No traditional Japanese spiritual practices. Unless you count being present in my practice.
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Old 09-22-2000, 03:03 PM   #12
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Re: Aikido Devoid of Spiritual Practice

Quote:
tedehara wrote:
After looking over the answers for Jun's thread on Misogi, in this forum, it's beginning to occur to me that Aikido, as practiced today, is generally just about martial arts technique and absent of traditional spiritual practices.

Spiritual practices would be something that was taught to you in the dojo, and is practiced by yourself, in a scheduled class or a seminar. Things like chanting, bell ringing, river misogi, breathing exercises and meditation are just some of the activities I'm talking about. I am not talking about things like breathing, living or "I once picked up a book on Spiritual Stuff in Aikido, but I didn't read it."

Things like prayer or reading spiritual text are also something I wouldn't consider, since I'm basically interested in things you wouldn't normally do, except that you were introduced to them through Aikido.

I'm especially interested in hearing from groups within Aikikai. If you want to, list your style or affiliation, so we can catagorized these practices.

If you don't have anything to write about, that says something also.

[Edited by tedehara on September 10, 2000 at 11:30am]
I think it would be good to remember that the things that you mention as spiritual practice are largely elements of religious practice as embodied in the asian countries.

Many people do some spiritual practices that are distinct from Aikido as traditions but are not distinct as their own personal practices. Often these adjunct practices give a different perspective to the art for the practitioner and allow the art of Aikido to benfit them in ways that might not otherwise.

But it would be a grave mistake to say that the lack of these elements in the Aikido practice of a given dojo means that there is no spiritual element in the practice. In my own case, when I was young I was an Asian Religions major in college. That gave me a foundation in the philsophy and spiritual beliefs of the various cultures that eventually gave us Aikido.
Despite the fact that I do not perform any of these practices you mention separately from my time on the mat, everything I do on the mat is a form of practice that enlightens these spiritual principles.

I fully believe that all of the practices you mention are valuable. But it is a mistake to judge what other people are doing by assuming that since they don't do the same things you do they won't see the same truths. Aikido training and any other activity that one might choose to do can be a spiritual practice if one approaches it that way. It just depends on what you are looking for. The answers are there all along but one only sees them if one is asking the right questions. It is the spirit of asking questions that makes Aikido spritual or not.

George S. Ledyard
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Bellevue, WA
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Old 09-24-2000, 07:29 AM   #13
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these spiritual practices that you speak of were never part of what O'sensei taught as aikido. They are by-products of the way he lived his life. He was a very spritual man and it was reflected in his aikido. Because his aikido was so good, many have taken it upon themselves to assume that these practices are as aikido, as the techniques themselves. If O'sensei had been a devout christian and christian prayer happened to be a part of HIS aikido, but not something he taught as aikido, would so many people still feel it neccessary to aikido? O'sensei did not teach classes on misogi, chanting or meditation, they were things he did in his daily life but they were not aikido.
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Old 09-24-2000, 08:04 PM   #14
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Aikido and spiritual practice

I'm from Kokikai Aikido. I haven't done any trad. Japanese spiritual practices as result of Aikido, unless, as said by someone else, you count being present in my practice.
What is River Misogi?
We do some breathing, some Ki work but spirituality is not a big topic in the dojo where I train.
I wish it were.

JustBeginning
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Old 09-25-2000, 07:44 AM   #15
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Ki Symbol

I'm an Aikikai Aikidoka, and we haven't discussed the spiritual side much at all. My instructor, however, practices and until recently taught T'ai Chi as well, so I know he believes in the spiritual end of things. I figure that, being a mu-kyu, he doesn't feel I am ready to go into all that yet. For now, I'm content to wait, though I'm reading any books I can get my hands to tide me over for now


Stick Man, the aiki-grasshopper, aka Sean Murphy
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Old 09-26-2000, 12:47 PM   #16
tedehara
 
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Re: Aikido and spiritual practice

Quote:
JustBeginning wrote:
...What is River Misogi?...
River Misogi is usually done around the New Year holiday in Japan. Done with a group of people, you generally go up to your chest in a cold river and do a few Kiai (Shouts).

The interesting thing is that if you do it incorrectly, you'll be shivering all the way through with chattering teeth. If you relax completely, you can do all of the misogi without a goose bump. So the experience leads you to use your body correctly.

An added benefit of jumping in a cold river at the start of winter is psychological. Confronted by a freezing, gray winter day, you can tell yourself that if you were stupid enough to jump into a river at New Year's, then you can surely make it though another winter's day.

I'd like to add a few words of caution. Japan is warmer than some parts of the US. Doing a New Year's river misogi in Alaska or areas in Minnesota is more suicidal than invigorating. It's a good idea to do this as a group. A bad misogi is when you are being washed downstream, never to be seen until the spring thaw.

If you're interested in doing a river misogi, the St. Louis Ki Society will have it's Winter Workshop of Mind & Body Unification Jan 6 & 7, 2001 This weekend event features Sokushin training (chanting in a series of forceful exhalations) and Senshin training (training to make your mind positive)river misogi. The event takes place 72 miles SW of St. Louis on I-44 at the Bourbon exit.

Contact the St. Louis Ki Society, 6006 Pershing Av, St. Louis MO 63112 (314) 726-5070 email instructor@stlki.org for more details.

[Edited by tedehara on December 16, 2000 at 08:29pm]

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Old 11-09-2000, 08:22 AM   #17
ian
 
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Personally I feel aikido owes much to the zen spiritual philosophy. To press the spiritual side on early students is just indoctrination. If the spiritual need is there, people will find their way towards the path. You can point to it, but it has to be the students choice whether to walk it or not.
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Old 11-09-2000, 01:30 PM   #18
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Quote:
ian wrote:
Personally I feel aikido owes much to the zen spiritual philosophy.
Everything I have read on O Sensei's spritual influences indicate that those were from Shinto and Omoto, not Zen Buddhism. Check out the interview with Stanley Pranin on this forum. Mr. Pranin has done some comprehensive research into this area, and he says the same thing. IMHO.


Robert Cronin
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Old 11-09-2000, 02:21 PM   #19
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I just read a recent article by T.K. Chiba, Sensei about Aikido and Zen at http://www.aikidoonline.com It was a really interesting article about his spiritual approach to aikido. He diverged from O'Sensei in following Shinto basically because he did identify with the Shintoism. The article does a better job than I could explain.

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 11-09-2000, 03:55 PM   #20
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I am certainly not Japanese. I do not follow or practice any Japanese religions either. I do practice Aikido though (a lot). I believe I fall closer to the Christian tree in my religious beliefs and I do not believe I'm missing anything in my practice due to being Christian.

After all, is it not part of the "grand scheme" of Aikido to be shared and internalized by anyone/everyone in the world? Do you not believe this was considered by the founder? To think otherwise would surely be selling him short!

Seeking peace and alternatives to conflict is not restricted to any particular religion. It does however, speak very well of your spirit!

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Old 11-09-2000, 04:08 PM   #21
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Yeah, what Mongo said!!

Spiritual practice is an everyday thang.
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Old 12-08-2000, 10:15 PM   #22
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What's Going On?

Quote:
Mikey wrote:
Yeah, what Mongo said!!
Spiritual practice is an everyday thang.
I heartily agree. Although real spiritual practice is also an elusive discipline.

Many people agree that O Sensei (Morihei Ueshiba) was a very spiritual person. It seems that this spirituality expressed itself through his martial art and that was what created Aikido. In this way, Aikido can be seen as a spiritual practice.

However, the spiritual practice of O Sensei also included many other things. Koto-Dama, reading ancient texts or practicing the Omoto religion, were just a few activities that O Sensei did outside of the dojo. For O Sensei and many of us, if this forum is to be believed, spirituality is a "hands-on" activity.

After reading messages on usenet and message boards like this one, many people have written that the "core" of Aikido can be seen in Aiki-jitsu techniques. After all, this art was the source of Aikido and the violent results of Aiki-jitsu techniques are both effective in the dojo and on street. I tend to disagree.

Certainly Aikido is composed of Aiki-jitsu techniques, but they were changed by the spiritual perspective of O Sensei into something other than Aiki-jitsu. It seems that both O Sensei and Sokaku Takeda (O Sensei's Aiki-jitsu teacher) could see that, and realized that what O Sensei practiced should be called something different than Daito-ryu Aiki-jitsu.

So perhaps we can consider our "spiritual training" just as seriously as our Aikido training. In fact, our spritual practices, on a deeper level, could be part of our Aikido training.

I'd like to add two warnings:

1. Don't think that because you are doing Aikido for "spiritual development" you can slack off on learning technique. If you're worried about spiritual training then train religiously.

2. O Sensei left Aikido to the World, not the people of Honshu or the Japanese or any special group of humans. If your flavor of spiritual development involves "The Bible" rather than "The Kojiki" or "The Koran" rather than "Nihongi" that's OK too.

If you like ketchup rather than soy sauce, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you get some nutrition from what you digest.

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Old 12-09-2000, 06:04 PM   #23
Richard Harnack
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Circle Spiritual Practice

Ted -
Over the years, I have been exposed to dojos that opened every class with the Shinto ritual of three claps, bow, three claps.

Other dojos read from the writings of the Founder or Koichi Tohei, Sensei, or someone else. This latter reminds me of the lay reading in most churches.

My two lead instructors did not do either of these, in one case, Kobayashi Sensei, when asked about the clapping, responded that he was Buddhist, not Shinto. Of course he also gave the same response when asked if there was going to be class on Easter Sunday.

In my dojo, I have scheduled Misogi on every Saturday morning for 1 hour. Most times we just sit and breathe. Sometimes we practice Aiki Ryoho (Kiatsu). Other times we breathe with a particular focused meditation.

I have found that as long as I do not make a big fuss about the depth of oriental philosophy behind Misogi, many people participate regularly. If the oriental philosophy is over emphasized, some people automatically exclude themselves because of their belief system.

My main point of annoyance with some of the practices passed off as being "spiritual Aikido" is the overly mystical manner by they are "explained".

Such explanations tend to emphasize that the person giving the explanation is somehow on a different spiritual plane that the rest of us poor unenlightened ones. As if incomprehensibility is the same as depth of understanding. Consequently, the student has little idea of how to make the practice relate to them.

Since I teach both Chinese and Japanese Culture and philosophy, I have developed a profound respect for the depth behind some of the beliefs. I also am aware that some practices were developed in reaction to the standard beliefs of the day and were intended to set that particular group apart from the rest of the world. Cf. The Catalpa Bow for an examination of shamanism is Japan.

For me it has come down to the following test:
How well do my arts reflect my spiritual understanding, and, how well is my spiritual understanding derived and based in my arts?


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Richard Harnack
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Old 12-10-2000, 07:23 AM   #24
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In our dojo (affiliated to Hikitsushi sensei, via Gerard Blaize) we practice chinkon kishin no hoo before every class.
Though we are aware that Shinto can be fully understood only by Japanese, it is supposed to help us find O Sensei's state when he practiced Aikido.
LR Joseph

[Edited by aikilouis on December 10, 2000 at 07:25am]
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Old 12-11-2000, 04:07 PM   #25
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Triangle

Quote:
aikilouis wrote:
...Though we are aware that Shinto can be fully understood only by Japanese....
LR Joseph

[Edited by aikilouis on December 10, 2000 at 07:25am]
This is, of course, a myth that goes along with all the other myths of Japanese racial superiority. I lived in Japan as a child, and speak and read Japanese fluently. This in itself is supposed to be impossible by many Japanese. Many are incredulous. You should see the reactions of people when I speak to them. It really takes a couple of minutes for most people to accept it. A lot of people become insecure and resentful...

Koichi Barrish Sensei would take issue with this statement as well, I believe, as he is a fully qualified Shinto 'priest'.

As for spiritual practices, I know that a dojo I used to practice at always had a kagami-biraki (bringing out the mirror) ceremony at new years, although I haven't ever been there for it. Most dojos I've practiced at have sort of swept the shinto under the table, since the Shihan isn't into it really, and it's not considered good for business in the U.S...

OTOH, I've learned a lot more about shinto on my own through my research of aikido and o-sensei... Much of it has helped me understand spiritual issues from a unique and powerful perspective, and I do believe that Shinto is the _key_ to understanding where O-Sensei's abilities came from.

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