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Old 04-03-2005, 04:28 AM   #1
jss
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causing no (serious) harm

Does anyone have a source for the widely accepted idea that ideally the use of aikido should leave the attacker unharmed? ( I know it says so in 'Aikido & the Dynamic Sphere', but where did they get it from?)
Or is aikido about not causing any serious harm? And how would O-Sensei define that, no 'serious' harm? And would he assume that an attacker knows how to take ukemi?

An what would be the relation with the idea of harmony in aikido? And what did O-Sensei mean when he used the word 'harmony'? A new-age hippie kind of harmony, a taoistic yin-yang type of harmony or something else?

And what's the relation with the non-agressive nature of aikido? Is it the same as the no-(serious-)harm idea or does it rather mean you do not need agression to break a person's wrist with aikido? Did O-Sensei ever actually say that aikido is non-agressive or is that what people have inferred from his remarks about harmony, love and so forth?

Any thoughts or insights on all or some of these questions would be greatly appreciatied.
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Old 04-03-2005, 08:03 AM   #2
Tim Griffiths
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

That's a good few years' worth of questions right there, so I'll just pick up on a couple of points:

'Aiki' can be difficult to translate, and like 'harmony' can mean a wide range of things. As the name and a principle of a martial art, it was intended to mean something more than just commonplace 'blending'. Its almost deliberately vague, though. The point of it being an untranslatable term is just that - there isn't an exact translation.
I once asked a Japanese friend what it meant. After a bit of though, she said that when she and her brother were fighting as children, their grandmother would say and tell them they needed more aiki.
That'll do for me - harmony, understanding, compassion and an ability to come to a mutual understanding. Its a physical and philisophical principle. As far as O'sensei mean to use it, although I never asked him, since he refers to Aikido as a Way to Heal the World, I doubt he meant a Way to Heal the World by Breaking Wrists Easily.

In general, aikido should provide a way to do any amount of damage to an attacker - from lethal damage to no damage at all using the same technique. Kotegeishi can kill, if you flip someone on their head onto concrete, and it can certainly take someone to the ground without causing any damage at all. Shihonage and iriminage are also good examples.
Its personally one of my favourite things about aikido - that you don't have to damage an attacker. If attacked by, say, an autistic teenager, how would a Tae Kwon Do or Arnis practicioner handle it? I'd suggest the result would be much better (especially for the person you really don't want to hurt) using aikido.

Train well,

Tim

If one makes a distinction between the dojo and the battlefield, or being in your bedroom or in public, then when the time comes there will be no opportunity to make amends. (Hagakure)
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Old 04-03-2005, 09:38 AM   #3
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Yes, this is a good question. Can anyone cite Osensei saying anything on the notions of not-harming an opponent and/or (especially) the notion of "minimal damage." The latter one is what gets me - since I find it hard to equate an economic position with a moral position. Can anyone cite something said by Osensei in regards to the notion of "minimal damage" or "minimal injury"????

dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 04-03-2005, 09:50 AM   #4
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Quote:
Katriona O'Neil wrote:
I've heard someone say that Aikido teaches you how not to get into a fight, and I would very much like an explaination of this.
Awareness , confidence in your ability to handle a conflict situation without resorting to violence, knowledge of how to move physically and verbally to a win-win situation, compassion, understanding...

Off the top of me head

Ruth
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Old 04-03-2005, 10:36 AM   #5
Jake Karlins
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Smile Re: causing no (serious) harm

I think the idea of causing as little harm to an attacker as possible is great. At the same time, I think this probably gets very tricky in real-life situations where you're getting attacked by one or more persons who really want to hurt you. I think this is an issue of ukemi- even if you can execute technique well/not lose your cool, what are the chances the attacker will know how to receive a technique?
A lot of times when I train with newbies, they get confused as to how to get taken down by a technique (and that's gotta be half my own fault, I'm pretty new to Aikido, but not just my fault ). Shihonage, for example- if uke doesn't know how to receive it smoothly, there's the possibility of dislocation, or getting thrown down really hard, or both. Good to keep in mind that throws are not in themselves more "harmonious" or peaceful than strikes. A hard throw even onto mats can be jarring. Imagine a hard throw onto concrete, broken glass, down some stairs, etc. I'm not saying that it's impossible to use Aikido for self-defense with a minimum of harm to the attacker(s), just that it is probably really tricky, a lot trickier than dealing with a more or less cooperative uke on the mat. The interesting thing there, I think, is that you might be presented with the choice of either getting out of the way (using footwork to evade), or try for some serious technique, probably with atemi. It might be more in line with the idea of not hurting the attacker to just walk away. Of course, that's not always possible (and it's a whole different story if someone else is being threatened).
I know this doesn't address the question of where the minimal harm idea came from, but it's something that came to me last summer, and I thought it was at least partially relevant.
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Old 04-03-2005, 11:31 AM   #6
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
Yes, this is a good question. Can anyone cite Osensei saying anything on the notions of not-harming an opponent and/or (especially) the notion of "minimal damage." The latter one is what gets me - since I find it hard to equate an economic position with a moral position. Can anyone cite something said by Osensei in regards to the notion of "minimal damage" or "minimal injury"????

dmv
"To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control agression without inficting injury is the Art of Peace" - O-Sensei, "The Art of Peace" by John Stevens.
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Old 04-03-2005, 12:37 PM   #7
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Quote:
Ruth McWilliam wrote:
confidence in your ability to handle a conflict situation without resorting to violence
Does a physical aikido technique count as violence?

Quote:
knowledge of how to move physically and verbally to a win-win situation, compassion, understanding...
Is aikido in this respect so much different from other martial arts, sprts, hobbies, ...? Or do we just emphasize it more in aikido?
This question is especially important to me since there are too many stories about high ranking aikidokas misbehaving. Or should I cynically conclude that the positive effects of aikido balance the negative effects of gaining power in an organization?

Ruth[/quote]
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Old 04-03-2005, 12:52 PM   #8
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Quote:
Ron Ragusa wrote:
"To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control agression without inficting injury is the Art of Peace" - O-Sensei, "The Art of Peace" by John Stevens.
Does someone have this in Japanese to check the translation?
I mean, what would o-sensei consider an injury?
My dictionary (Oxford Advanced Learner's) says: "physical harm to a living being", with "harm": damage, injury. Let me put it this way: is something that will heal an injury?
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Old 04-03-2005, 12:54 PM   #9
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Just a thought:
if we want to control an attacker without injuring him/her, we need to master timing. We need to be able to respond after the attacker has committed himself mentally to attack, but before he is physically able to do so.
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Old 04-03-2005, 01:02 PM   #10
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Quote:
Jake Karlins wrote:
The interesting thing there, I think, is that you might be presented with the choice of either getting out of the way (using footwork to evade), or try for some serious technique, probably with atemi. It might be more in line with the idea of not hurting the attacker to just walk away.
In my opinion running away is surrender. It's a good solution in real life, but I would not consider it as an example of mastery of aikido.
If you meant walking away as one way of not pushing back when being pushed, that would be aikido. For me that's one of the most beautiful aspects of aikido: throughout the attack the attacker has the idea he will be able to sucesfully land the attack, but at the moment it shoud land, the aikidoka is no longer there and he/she redirects the energy of the attack. (And the question of this thread: redirects to what/where?)

If aikido is the way of harmony you will need to do something to restore the harmony. Evading untill the attacker is tired is one way of doing it, although a bit risky.
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Old 04-03-2005, 01:28 PM   #11
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

After reading "Aikido Shugyo", I think, and this is just my little theory, its the intent you have in your heart the moment of the technique. Gozo Shioda tells several stories about in challenges(non lethal), and more specifically with shiohnage, elbows snap. But from the context of the story, I do not feel that he had those intentions in his heart.
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Old 04-03-2005, 01:37 PM   #12
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Quote:
Ron Ragusa wrote:
"To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control agression without inficting injury is the Art of Peace" - O-Sensei, "The Art of Peace" by John Stevens.

Leaving aside the issue of translation, I am not sure this supports the economic position (or suggestion) of minimal damage as a moral position held by the Founder. In fact, one could say that it would actually discredit it - since all injury to our opponent is injury to ourselves. Reason, it would seem, dictates that we should seek rather not to injure ourselves at all - right?

Moreover, to be sure, Osensei's unification of the Same and the Other is coming from the philosophies he practiced -- philosophies wherein the subject/object dichotomy was reconciled. These philosophies, I would suggest, cannot act as the "glue" needed to connect an economic statement with a moral position. Economic statements seem to find their support in the "common sense" that comes to us at first glance. A reconciliation of the subject and object comes to us at any place other than the first glance. For example, we might want to say that it is better to break someone's arm than it is to kill them; better to choke them out than to break their arm; better to pin them in some type of a lock than to choke them out; etc. At an economic level, this makes sense to us; it is a type of "common sense." However, economy aside, one is at most seeking the lesser of two evils; one is still dealing with a violation of oneself here. As such, no matter how economical one gets in one's practice, one is still practicing a type of action that first injures our opponent and thus us, and that second denies the Oneness of my being with the being of my opponent.

Anyway, this is a long about way of suggesting that maybe another quote is in order if we want to see if this notion of "minimal damage" can really be attributed to the Founder, his art, his view of Creation, and/of the meaning of Life, etc.

David M. Valadez
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Old 04-03-2005, 01:47 PM   #13
Jake Karlins
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

I wouldn't consider walking, or even running away surrender necessarily. Of course, we're talking in kind of general terms here, and situations are always more complicated and surprising than we imagine. Still- if it's just me, getting pushed around, or having a punch thrown at me, I think just escaping is a valid option. It seems like trying to do technique could become a surrender in itself: to trying to win in a conflict, or trying to prove courage, or whatever. Not that the idea of running away from a fight doesn't bother me a little, it does, I'd probably feel like I lost if I ran. But I think that feeling of having lost is probably not so good, and counter to the idea of not inflicting damage.
I'd like to hear from people who have ended up being faced with the decision to use technique or walk away... I think one possible problem with this discussion is that you probably don't have much time to think things out when you're being confronted violently.
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Old 04-03-2005, 02:59 PM   #14
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Aikido is an art because you can perform every technique without causing pain. Doing techniques and hurting someone is easy.

Every aggressor must see that it's useless to attack you. And if they still attack you, show it to them.

But in some situations......I would say: who doesn't want to listen, must feel
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Old 04-03-2005, 03:49 PM   #15
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

To see if we can side-track this thread off of the usual twists and turns, please allow me some room to suggest that many of these "common" understandings of Aikido's relationship to moral behavior seem to be very immature in their thinking. I do not wish to discount anyone thinker as "immature," but it is hard not to upon hearing such views immediately ask, "Have you even thought ten minutes about such and such an understanding?"

Human history is filled with men and women who were in possession of a great mind and/or a great spirit, and even they had to dedicate their whole life time to discover the heart of moral behavior. It seems a bit "bold" to approach such a topic without an equal investment of time and effort (i.e. one that is not even close to ten minutes of reflection). Some of these views, in my opinion, can only exist precisely because they are held without any real time or effort to see them through (or see through them) - to see if they are accurate, or valid, or even true. Some more time and effort, even just a little, I feel, would go a long way toward preventing this thread from getting off topic (i.e. the thread talked about citing sources) and/or from landing in the quagmire of undocumented personal accounts that attempt to wrongly bridge the gap between the subjective and the objective.

Last edited by senshincenter : 04-03-2005 at 03:51 PM.

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Old 04-03-2005, 05:23 PM   #16
David Humm
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

...And at what point does a student forget the martial aspect of the discipline because they are overly concerned with a philosophy of the founder who, took many years to formalise into what we generally accept is aikido per se ?

I am far less concerned with the moral or philosophical aspects of the art and more interested in effective application, IMHO once I am fully capable of making effective technique (in a martial sense) I am then equipped to exercise choice over how that application is used - simplistically, "to harm or not as the case may be"

Having worked for several years in high security prison facilities (catA) I am well versed in the dynamics of physical conflict, although there were times when negotiation proved successful, those times were generally always with individuals who were less likely to engage in fisticuffs, the individuals more likely to fight were rarely talked down (indeed they expected you to try and would attempted to use this to their advantage)

Attempting a peaceful solution with an individual influenced by drugs, alcohol or indeed deep depression is often unsuccessful, indeed these people don't feel normal levels of pain (induced to attempt compliance) or, they may be capable of 'inhuman' amounts of strength. In these circumstances, practicality is the only philosophy.

Kind regards

Dave
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Old 04-03-2005, 06:09 PM   #17
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Since it's looking a bit difficult to cite some Osensei quotes, how about references to a teacher? Is the economic view of minimal damage something your teacher teaches - did their teacher teach it (i.e. has your teacher said that his/her teacher taught this)? I have never heard this position taught by my teachers in Aikido. This I say not to discredit anyone but only to answer my own question: "No, my teachers didn't." Did yours? Did theirs? Trying to track this view down - that's all. How about folks from other arts, did you hear of such a view in other arts, etc.? It isn't in the other arts of my study.

I know it's part of the modern view of warfare, but in that arena its economics are its own justification - not its morality.

Rather than just saying whether we agree with it or not, or whether we think this about it or that about it - etc. - can anyone start lending some real traces to the source of this position? I'm interested in the history of this position in relation to the history of Aikido.

Much appreciation,
dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 04-03-2005, 06:43 PM   #18
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

I remember when I was with Maruyama Sensei that he always stressed that technique should be effective but that going out of one's way to injure an adversary was wrong. I teach my students the doctrine of least possible harm. It is my view that if walking away from a situation will avoid conflict then that is the correct technique to employ. If immobilizing an opponent will end the conflict then there is no point in injuring him. Of course least possible harm can escalate to killing an opponent if the situation warrants. It is our responsibility as practitioners of Aikido to determine the correct response to a given situation. Gravely injuring or killing a person when a lesser response is adequate to defuse the conflict and then blaming it on an 'instinctive reaction' is unacceptable. Why else are we training if not to learn to react to stress calmly centered?

As students and teachers of Aikido we are called to adopt to a high standard of conduct both in daily life and in a conflict. Yamada Shihan puts it this way in Aikido Complete:

"Uyeshiba discovered the spiritual potential of the martial arts. He believed that the basic principles of the universe are harmony and love and that these can be attained through the martial arts. He believed that a doctrine which does not teach these principles is not a true martial art." and,

"The main purpose of Aikido is to build a strong mind, body and spirit for use in daily life. In addition, however, Aikido also trains its students to live in harmony with themselves and with one another."
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Old 04-03-2005, 07:14 PM   #19
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Ron,

May I ask: Do you equate what Maruyama said with the concept of minimal damage? Is going out of one's way the same thing as not complying with the concept of minimal damage? Is minimal damage about not going out of one's way? Also - did Maruyama say that he got this from Osensei, Tohei, other teachers, his senpai, etc.?

thanks,
david

Last edited by senshincenter : 04-03-2005 at 07:17 PM.

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Old 04-03-2005, 07:44 PM   #20
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
Ron,

May I ask: Do you equate what Maruyama said with the concept of minimal damage? Is going out of one's way the same thing as not complying with the concept of minimal damage? Is minimal damage about not going out of one's way? Also - did Maruyama say that he got this from Osensei, Tohei, other teachers, his senpai, etc.?

thanks,
david
David,

Understand that 'going out of ones way' is my phrase, not Sensei's. I don't remember his exact phrasing, but I have formed my views based on his teachings over the 25 years I was his student. His views on self defense (which is what we're talking about here) were, and again I'm paraphrasing, were to do what needed doing to protect yourself and no more. My interpretation of this is least possible harm.

Sensei rarely quoted anyone and I don't remember him saying that he got this idea from either O-Sensei or Tohei Sensei.

Ron
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Old 04-03-2005, 07:53 PM   #21
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Ron,

thanks very much for the reply.

david

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Old 04-03-2005, 08:37 PM   #22
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Causing no (serious) harm

One can quote the bible for the devil or the lord,, forgive my blatant paraphrasing of Shakespeare but i think it is pertinent. This holds true for O'sensei too. We could quote and counter quote all night. There are quotations that tell us to strike the enemy down and there are quotes telling us to save our partner and to love the world. Are we wrong to dismiss one and follow the other. Which one do we dismiss? The one on striking and attacking because it doesn't follow with our belief system or the one on love because we are seeking a practical martial experience?
I don't know. From my point of view I don't really care for O'sensei's quotes or philosophies. In my mind they are not really very original and one can find similar idea's in the works of Tesshu, Musashi, Yagyu, Bokuden, Innei, Sun tzu, and I am sure everyones parents, the list goes on.
Why is it that aikidoka examine it so closely?

A lot of people within this thread have proposed the idea that aikido is the mental awareness to walk away and to avoid a violent incident. This is very laudable and I agree it is aikido. My only concern is that the beginning of any violent encounter is the so called adrenaline dump. This gives us a number of positive and negative side effects. On the positive side it makes us stronger, faster and dulls our perception of pain. The negative side is not so good for us aikidoka, it shuts down our higher brain functions, which is why monosyllabic sentences from an aggressive person is a good indicator that he is about to attack.
The adrenaline dump also impairs our ability to perform fine motor functions. We lose our peripheral vision and our personal space increases massively.

What has this to do with aikido?

This is my argument, we need to use reasoning to assess the situation and walk away. However our higher brain functions are now impaired and we have lost the ability to see the bigger picture because our peripheral vision has been lost in order to allow us to fully concentrate on the threat to our front.
If we do manage to overcome the above we still have to deal with an individual who is unable to think clearly and perceives us to be in his personal space and therefore a threat. To overcome this we need to move him or ourselves from this space. 30ft is a good rule of thumb.
It is very difficult to achieve all of the above. Once the above symptoms have occurred in someone you perceive as a threat in my opinion it is going to go violent.
I do think it is possible to win by avoiding conflict, Sun Tzu's highest form of warfare/conflict, but only by recognising the threat very early on and for those of us without 100% zanshin this is not always possible.

My position is the same as Maruyama sensei's. We should not enter into a conflict with the idea of injuring. I take this to mean finishing it as quickly as possible. Geoff Thompson makes an interesting comment that any fight that goes beyond 3 seconds is fifty-fifty regardless of skill.

When someone attacks me they must realise that the possibility of injury exists as much for them as for my self and being the nice bloke that I am I will do my best not to damage him too much but I cannot guarantee anything.
He has made the mistake of attacking me before i have attained O'sensei's mastery.

Regards Paul Finn
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Old 04-03-2005, 10:48 PM   #23
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Sun Zu said the best victory is won without fighting.

But, something tells me that he who wins without fighting likely has lots of experience in fighting to fall back upon should his adversary not accept his enlightend vision.

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Old 04-04-2005, 01:52 AM   #24
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
Yes, this is a good question. Can anyone cite Osensei saying anything on the notions of not-harming an opponent and/or (especially) the notion of "minimal damage." The latter one is what gets me - since I find it hard to equate an economic position with a moral position. Can anyone cite something said by Osensei in regards to the notion of "minimal damage" or "minimal injury"????

dmv
In Invincible Warrior, by John Stevens there is a story about this. Supposedly someone once ask O-sensei if he had any great disappointments in life. One of the things that he said was a failure on his part was an injury that he caused. He was teaching at a police training seminar when one of the students started to strongly resist a wrist technique that O-sensei was applying to him, and so his wrist was injured. O-sensei said that while this may have taught him a lesson in the old way of thinking, that it was not his way, and he resolved after that to refine his technique so that no one would ever get hurt.

I may have gotten some of that story wrong, it's been awhile since I've read that book, but I believe that was the gist of the story. Anyway you can look it up yourself.
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Old 04-04-2005, 03:02 AM   #25
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Re: causing no (serious) harm

Quote:
Joep Schuurkes wrote:
Does a physical aikido technique count as violence?
Nope - as long as it's executed in the way of Aikido

Quote:
Joep Schuurkes wrote:
Is aikido in this respect so much different from other martial arts, sprts, hobbies, ...?
Again no. There are many ways to learn how to be centered, calm under stress etc.

Quote:
Joep Schuurkes wrote:
Or do we just emphasize it more in aikido??
Some do, some don't - it depends upon your sensei, and to some extent your own personal choice.

Quote:
Joep Schuurkes wrote:
This question is especially important to me since there are too many stories about high ranking aikidokas misbehaving. Or should I cynically conclude that the positive effects of aikido balance the negative effects of gaining power in an organization??
People are people, and sometimes they misbehave. Agreeed that they "should know better", but regrettably some of them don't. A degree of cynicism is healthy

Ruth
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