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Old 06-08-2005, 01:46 PM   #1
akiy
 
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Aikido as a Religion

Note: Below quote taken from this post in the "Aikido minus mysticism: a step forward" thread.

Quote:
Michael Neal wrote:
Jun, many are promoting Aikido as a Religion, and practically worhipping Ueshiba as a diety.

Magical powers of Ki, absolute faith in magical like acts performed by Ueshiba even though they never experienced it themselves, etc.

I can spend a bit of time here on Aikiweb collecting the quotes if you would like
I wonder what percentage of the aikido populace subscribe to the kind of things you are talking about.

Do you have any concrete examples of the kind of behavior to which you allude above which you find objectionable in aikido?

How prevalent would you say the behavior in the examples are in the aikido world?

-- Jun

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Old 06-08-2005, 01:57 PM   #2
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

...Dodging bullets comes to mind...maybe a good start there?

Faith is always an interesting topic. This will be a intriguing thread to follow.

Where do you draw the line between accepting a past event that you did not experience as being Gospel, if you will?

I can believe that George Washington exisited and did many great deeds upon what this country was founded on. Do I believe he actually threw a silver dollar across the potomac, or cross the delaware river choked with ice while standing up in the boat? probably not.

This can get controversial, but I can also accept that Jesus Christ exsisted and did many wonderful deeds of which are a wonderful example to follow and emulate. Did he really walk on water and heal people with miracles? (no need to answer the question please!)

Does it really matter if they did these things? IMHO, the answer is NO. What matters the most is that many historical figures have opened our minds to new possibilities, paradigms, and ways that are wonderful models to follow to become better people.

Jun, I will really have to think hard and dig through some old post to find examples of "diefication" and "worship" of O'Sensei. I am sure there must be some, cause I too have felt this presence from time to time, but can't put a finger on it!
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Old 06-08-2005, 02:02 PM   #3
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

Just to try to keep things under control a bit (and to keep this thread from being put into the Open Discussions forum), let's try to discuss this explicitly through the topic of aikido...

Thanks,

-- Jun

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Old 06-08-2005, 02:48 PM   #4
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

Jun, it is an interesting subject and i will spend some time browsing around for some good examples.
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Old 06-08-2005, 02:53 PM   #5
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

I have gotten the impression from people who know and care way more anout this than I do that aikido is a spiritual practice as well as a martial art. That is has nothing to do with religion. And if you rall understood it, you might not have any need for religion. I don't really understand it, and somehow I still manage not to have much need for any religion.

I've met great men before. (I shook hands with Andre the Giant - had to be said!) Seriously, I have had conversations with Suganuma sensei and Takeda sensei (with help for others) and it is clear to me that they have had some kind of a spiritual awakening. Neither of them preach about anything religious. One thing that I like a lot about Takeda sensei is that his shomen (what is it called, kami-something where people face when they bow in and out of the training) has "ai and ki" and when you ask him where is the "do" he says something like "that's up to you to find".

Rob
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Old 06-08-2005, 03:13 PM   #6
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

kamidana, which is different apparently than tokonoma, which is different apparently than ....

Like I said in another thread today...japanese makes my head hurt...

Ron

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Old 06-08-2005, 03:32 PM   #7
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

Quote:
Rob Liberti wrote:
it is clear to me that they have had some kind of a spiritual awakening. Neither of them preach about anything religious. Rob
Hope this makes sense....

Rob,

Would you consider having a "spiritual awakening" similar to realizing a "consciousness" or "awareness" of another person who may or may not be sharing themselves with you?

I have seen my aikido practice improve dramatically after I was able to stop thinking about things (in a physical, "do" the technique, sense) and instead be conscious of my surroundings and those who may be in those surroundings (in other words...I was "being").

IMHO this does not evoke religious ideas but rather a physical awareness of an energy that is shared by people both on and off the mat.

-C
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Old 06-08-2005, 04:26 PM   #8
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

Well, to be honest. I have only the outsider's experience with people I'd consider to have had a spiritual awakening. It's not like I recognize this in them because I have had my own spiritual awakening. When I think about it, I can say that they are both operating outside of my total understanding for sure. I'll have to think about it some more, and ask people a lot smarter than myself!!

Rob
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Old 06-08-2005, 04:56 PM   #9
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

IMHO, in all my years of browsing and lurking, I have never come across Aikido as a religion.

Its Omoto spiritual message is only common sense life the 4 noble truths, the 8 path way, and the 5 percepts of Buddhism. Just good rules to live life by that we already know.

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 06-08-2005, 05:56 PM   #10
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

In refference to dodging bullets, mosts of the posts I've seen try to break it down scientifically. As far as it being a religion, I think most people use their religion in conjunction with Aikido, not aikido as a religion. Finally, Saying people worship O'sensei is a bit dramatic I think. Just because people believe the stories hardly means they view him as a diety. Just because people believe in excersizing their ki, does not mean ki is something spirtual at all. Ki means different things to different people.

Last edited by AikiSean! : 06-08-2005 at 05:58 PM.
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Old 06-08-2005, 06:52 PM   #11
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

AIkido isn't a religion to me but.

It is the Martial-physical-manifestation of what my religious beliefs are. However aikido itself is not the religion.

"Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity"
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Old 06-08-2005, 09:34 PM   #12
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

Perhaps the confusion lies in the definition...

Quote:
re·li·gion (r-ljn)
n.

1.
a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.
Quote:
spir·i·tu·al (spr-ch-l)
adj.
1. Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material. See Synonyms at immaterial.
2. Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul.
3. Of, from, or relating to God; deific.
4. Of or belonging to a church or religion; sacred.
5. Relating to or having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural.

n.
1.
a. A religious folk song of African-American origin.
b. A work composed in imitation of such a song.
2. Religious, spiritual, or ecclesiastical matters. Often used in the plural.
Personally, whilst Aikido is certainly influenced by the religion of Omoto-kyo, and bears a distinct spiritual component, I would hestitate to say that Aikido is a religion.

But then again, what's your definition of "religion" and "spiritual practice"?

My preference is for the 2nd meaning of spiritual - in a very generalized sort of way, just as "Chicken Soup" is food for my soul.

Ignatius
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Old 06-08-2005, 09:41 PM   #13
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Do symbol Re: Aikido as a Religion

I remember O'Sensei's alleged saying that states aikido is not a religion, but it completes religions.

Religion in Islamic (I am muslim so this is what I know) litterature is "din", which simply means "way" or "path", and so does "do" in aikido. Religions and their associated cultures are simply teachings to reach a spiritual point. Regardless of the point to be reached all sorts of "ways" use the same principles of human training. Therefore these training practicies must be interchangable between one discipline and another. The important thing to realize is that all these spiritual points reach to the same place eventually.

So tell me, how different is the practice of whirling dervishes from aikido practice? Whirling dervishes (comes from the teachings of a simple islamic philosopher Jallaladdin Rumi), turn around themselves because they can't feel of doing anything else as they grasp the vastness of God. As they do, they don't only know the universe they become the universe. This is the same thing O'Sensei talks about when he says 'swallow the universe with one gulp'.
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Old 06-08-2005, 10:58 PM   #14
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

I'm a vegetarian which in itself is a religious practice for me. But eating vegetables is not a religion!

Sure you can use science to prove that dodging bullets is possible. You can also use it to prove that it is impossible. Many religious fundamentalist do the same thing, so I don't think the science argument holds true.

I agree it can depend on your definition of what constitutes religion.

I belong to the Unitarian church. It looks, smells, and functions in much the same way any other church does, however it is open to all religion and beliefs that value human life preservation of dignity, and spiritual growth....it allows you to choose your own path. That said many would view unitarian as NOT being a religion.

In fact, in Texas, they tried to pull the Church status in one community because of this concept of a religion of non-religion.

To me the issue is not so much whether aikido is defined as religion, but that is it, or does it become dogmatic and does some aspects encourage fundamentalism as is can happen in many religions!
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Old 06-09-2005, 08:58 AM   #15
Robert Rumpf
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

While I hate to add fuel to Neal's fire... the two claps that we make in ASU when we bow in have a religious origin.

Details.

However, this is not common knowledge in many dojos, including ANV. As such, it can hardly be considered religious practice of any sort when noone is aware of it. When you do a search on clapping and Aikido, you find a lot of Aikido dojo sites that say explicitly that they clap and that the claps have no religious meaning.. they must be saying that it has no meaning for them.

I think people maintain the claps because they like them. I know for me it tells me how in tune the class is, and it is always interesting to see how much more in synch the claps are at the end of class, as opposed to the beginning.

I knew about this because of my sordid past in other places (Japan) where such claps can occur in different contexts. One of my sempai at my first dojo told me that at the first clap, my soul leaves my body, at the second, it returns. At the time, I wanted to ask what happened if I didn't clap that second time..

I look at it the same way when I do when I hear a Hindu friend of mine who swears "Jesus Christ!" when he's upset. Its essentially meaningless because he doesn't know any better (or care). Of course, I'm not much of a Christian these days, but what's left is very flexible!

Rob
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Old 06-09-2005, 09:37 AM   #16
rob_liberti
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

I thought the significance of that parable was that there was pure spiritual goodness available but the people were unable to understand or appreciate it. So they hid the spiritual goodness until the people developed enough as a society (technologically?) to be able to appreciate it. I was under the impression that "aikido" is considered the second opening of the rock door of heaven - because we have trained ourselves enough to be ready for it. I haven't heard this in a hwile, so I might not have expressed it all that well. It can be found in The Spiritual Foundations of Aikido.

Rob
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Old 06-09-2005, 10:52 AM   #17
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

I thought perhaps to go back to the original post/questions that Jun started with on this thread:
Michael Neal wrote:
Jun, many are promoting Aikido as a Religion, and practically worshiping Ueshiba as a Deity.

Magical powers of Ki, absolute faith in magical like acts performed by Ueshiba even though they never experienced it themselves, etc.

I can spend a bit of time here on Aikiweb collecting the quotes if you would like


I have never seen anyone promote AIKIDO as a religion.
Regarding some people practically worshiping Ueshiba as a deity, that is a little more closer to the truth. Fewer and fewer people are alive whom have actually seen or trained under O-Sensei. Stories told are as often happens to any story about someone with fame and a following start to develop mythological proportions. Even easier to do when it's an incredible martial artist who led/lived in interesting times. In addition, when you add a nebulous spiritually mysterious word like KI to non-Asians and it is easy to see how stories/ideas/beliefs can take on lives of their own.

The problem is to any outsider and to insiders as well, we look and act like a religion. The old adage if it walks like a duck, quacks, like a duck, looks like a duck, then it must be a chicken. It reminds me when I was a child and the controversy/legal battle over silent prayer/or moment of silence was raging through the court system, and school systems. One Saturday during that time, my family driving out to go do something passed the building for the then organization of Atheists and proponents against organized prayer in our schools gathering in their building for a Saturday meeting -people dressed in their 'Sunday go to Church' clothes getting out of cars and gathering at a building that resembled most places of worship. Asked my mother what this was and she said they were people who didn't believe in God. My question was so they formed a religion and have services to profess their non-belief in a God??

We have that religious or more than likely mysterious mystical/spiritual look and yes there has to be someone who sees or practices AIKIDO in their mind as a religion (heck, is there not a movement in Japan to treat KARAOKE as a DO), but AIKIDO being touted as religion is media hyperbole. A couple of people may write/subscribe to a religious flavor to their practice or towards their Dojo does not seem to lend credence that AIKIDO treated as a religion exists in any Dojo. But, I am glad Jun started this thread because I think we need to talk more about this perception openly.

It's always going to seem a fine line because of O-Sensei's personal beliefs and many AIKIDOKA also seeking spiritual growth/awareness through their practice. Personally, I have always seen my practice as similar to David's dance up to the Temple. A celebration of the gift God gave me that is this life and what I can do with this body given as a gift. Also like YaB connection to Jallaladdin Rumi and Whirling dervishes.
Gene
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Old 06-09-2005, 11:00 AM   #18
Michael Neal
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

Here are few religious quotes that I have dug up, I did not do alot of searching, this is what I found after a brief time.


Quote:
ORIGINAL STATEMENT: Students attempt to clear their minds, chant words or syllables, breath a certain way, assume postures, and so forth in the attempt to grasp or develop a magical power that is about as real as George Lucas' "Force."

RESPONSE: People who took UKEMI from Osensei have a different opinion, of course.
Quote:
When Kensho is realised Aikido then becomes a demonstration of a state of consciousness that is in harmony and connected to 'what is'. This state of consciousness is then experienced off the mat and you will sense and feel at one with the creation.
Quote:
My students and I once had a conversation on the spirit of Aikido and whether a beginner could have the spirit of Aikido at such an early stage. Only one person said that they could not until the debate enlightened him to the fact that yes they can have the spirit of Aikido but at what level.
I am open to any thoughts on this as it would be good to relay this onto my students who like me feel the spirit of Aikido within us. Many thanks
Quote:
[*]Were the basic elements of Aikido ever codified by O-Sensei or anyone else?

Sure he "codified" them... he just used traditional metaphors (mostly borrowed from the Chinese and Shinto, it appears) to obscure (in the tradtional manner of Asian martial obscuring) what he wanted to keep hidden yet to show that he knew it:

"open your feet to the **six directions, N, S, E, W, Up and Down**"

"Aiki-- the power which harmonizes all things: Never stop polishing [that jewel], You who tread this Path."

"The **Divine Will** (try "mind intent") permeating body and soul is the blade of Aiki: Polish it, make it shine throughout this world of ours!"

"Aiki-- [its mysteries] can never be encompassed by the brush or by the mouth. Do not rely on words to grasp it; attain enlightenment through practice!"

"Takemusu is the harmonization of Creation's **fire and water**; that interaction is the Divine Techniques of GI and MI.

"A great blessing for us: IZU and MIZU (read "yin and yang") forming the Cross [and Path] of Aiki. Press on firmly, guided by MIZU's Exalted Voice!"

"Link yourself to **heaven and earth**; stand in the very cventer with your heart receptive to the resounding mountain echo."

"Sun, earth, and moon harmonized perfectily; on the bridge above the vast sea the mountain echo Path [leads me]."

"Keep **heaven, earth, god, and humankind in perfect harmony**, blended and bound together for all eternity".

"Vibrant **Life** (wrong translation, idiomatically) circulates and vivifies all creation: The jewel-spirit of Aiki, **Heaven's Floating Bridge**."

"Brave and intrepid, the cross and path of harmonyh is an instrument of the gods. Utilize the **Eight Great Powers** to sustain the Divine Plan."

"Kototama (try "vibrations of ki")-- seething throughout the cosmos: In the plains of Heaven, in the dceep sea, one vast mountain echo."

"Entrust yourself to the sacred **life force of heaven and earth**; draw your heart close to the gods, O brave warriors".

"Progress comes to those who train in the **inner and outer factors**. Do not chase after "secret techniques", for everything is right before your eyes".

It is before your eyes, but it is still deliberately hidden; you cannot make up your own definitions of what he was talking about (as many of the New Age seem to have done) because he is talking about very specific things in his deliberately flowery and obscure way.

Acknowledgements to John Stevens for the translations; he might have altered his translations if he had understood the tradition from which many of the references came.
Quote:
I believe Aikido is a spirit rising to help heal the world.
Quote:
I was once praying to the Kami of Aikido, not knowing a specific name or anything, and I got the impression that O Sensei IS the very same kami now.

I like to think he looks over all aikidoka, and we can all look forward to a "visit" with him during our career.
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Old 06-09-2005, 11:10 AM   #19
Jack Simpson
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

I think it depends on where you're at with your training.

In the beginning it's all mysticism and mystifying.
In the middle it's just hard training.
In the end it can be a religious experience.

Jack
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Old 06-09-2005, 11:15 AM   #20
Michael Neal
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

I also find the whole concept of KI very religious in nature, it is comparable to the Catholic belief in the holy spirit.

Just because you are not required to believe in these things to advance in Aikido does not mean that religion is not being preached, it just means the teaching is not heavy handed. I remember reading how Ueshiba would talk about the Kami gods while saying it was OK to be any religion and practice Aikido, what he was teaching was a spiritual lesson that could be appled to any religious belief. But what he was really doing is opening a gate for people to his religious realm. I am not saying he was being dishonest or tricky or anything but he was certainly opening those doors and leaving to people to enter them if they wished.

While, I don't think Ueshiba was being overt about it I believe he was a missionary for his religious beliefs and used Aikido as a tool for that. If you think about the history of missionaries, many of them were quite subtle and did not ask people to abandon many of their customs or religious practices.
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Old 06-09-2005, 11:22 AM   #21
Robert Rumpf
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

It also depends on where you do your training.
If your ideas on Aikido are shaped by what people write on forums, than you will get one impression.
If your ideas on Aikido are shaped by what is done in class in dojos, than you will get a different impression.

Reading a forum is not a substitute for a martial arts experience.
Reading someone's religious/spiritual/mystical text is not a substitute for a religious (etc.) experience.

Reading may help illuminate your own experiences and ideas in these areas, but it is not a substitute for having those experiences.

People say a lot of stupid things without care. Even with care, people's actions and people's words are loosely related, regardless of their intentions. Words are imprecise.

Rob
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Old 06-09-2005, 11:45 AM   #22
Michael Neal
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

But these concepts mostly original from Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido so they are embedded in the art as a whole and how it is taught even if at a subconscious level. Even if the dojo you train at has no traces of the religion, you can not escape it completely if you want to be a part of the Aikido community as a whole.
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Old 06-09-2005, 11:56 AM   #23
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

First off, we are talking about a culture that had something very close to a "national religion," and in general has deep religious beliefs. It's fair to say that some of the Japanese culture was influenced by religion, including the Emporers that were believed to be descended from gods. The culture itself should be the first clue that aikido is religious.

Second, the western definition of "religion" is not the same as the eastern definition. We think of "religion" as worship to a deity or omnipotent power and conjure up thoughts of the Pope and God. Asian cultures, including Japan, have less grandious notions; anscestor worship, weather worship, thankful worship, etc. The concepts are apples and oranges.

Third, Ueshiba Sensei was devote Omoto Kyo and dedicated follower of religious practice. He meditated at shrines regularly, was an active member of the Omoto Kyo sect for years, and eventually retired to his private dojo with a shrine to the kami. He regularly chanted prayers, performed religious misogi, and dedicated dojo with shrines.

O'Sensei did not promote aikido as a religion because it was not meant to be religion. Aikido was meant to compliment religious beliefs because aikido internalizes many of the traits of the 5 major religions, making it a great physical manifestation of religious belief. But like many religious practices someone(s) took it to far and aikido sprouted fanatics. Remember, the movie series, "Star Wars," the music group, "Back Street Boys", the TV show, "Magnum PI" and Baseball all have fanatics too. Why should aikido be different?

I have heard that aikido is religion; I have also heard that O'Sensei was divine (actually, O'Sensei did declare that his spirit was replaced by a kami). Do I think that aikido is a religion? No. I also believe that aikido is religous in practice, but not religion in and of itself. I personally believe that some aikido people hide behind a mantle of spirituality that clouds their physical prowress. I do believe that there are some aikido fanatics that have damaged aikido's public image by their actions and teachings. I do believe there are some aikido fanatics that preach to much and practice too little.
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Old 06-09-2005, 01:15 PM   #24
Michael Neal
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

Well, magical Ki, A divine O'Sensei, Kami gods, etc. is enough for me to call it religious. Even if it is not religious to you guys it is to me, thats all that really matters to me personally.

You can argue all day that it is not religious but all that counts to me is my perception.
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Old 06-09-2005, 01:28 PM   #25
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Aikido as a Religion

Again, I suggest the yoshinkan. They really don't babble on about ki, they don't even mention O-Sensei much, a lot of the trappings of shinto have been stripped out, I've never heard anyone speak of 'kami'...would you have a problem with that sort of practice? I don't believe we practice the sort of randori you'd find most beneficial, but hey, you can't have everything, right?

Ron

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