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Old 08-18-2005, 08:47 PM   #1
Pdella
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Politics in Aikido practice

This actually applies to many martial arts. Have any of you thought about this very much? The political background of Aikido was initially very right-wing, Japanese nationalist, with O Sensei (and others) going to China to spread Japanese imperialism. O Sensei broke with nationalism somewhat (as I understand it ) following the defeat of the Japanese empire, but other of his students, for example Yoshinkan Aikido, continued right-wing nationalist practices, such as training all the strikebreakers in the 1950s to crush the Japanese labor movement. And now they train the Tokyo riot cops who regularly beat up on left-wing protesters.

Then, of course if you go back far enough, Aikido (and most Japanese martial arts except karate) derive from the feudal samurai class, who tested the sharpness of their blade by beheading peasants and served the ruling class of the time, their lords.

This seems to be true of MANY martial arts. The only totally distinct tradition I know of is with the Filipino Martial Arts, which were used repeatedly AGAINST colonial invaders, whether Spanish or American.

Anyone think about this? Are these considerations irrelevant to your practice of Aikido? For me, they are not irrelevant. I will use the techniques as I see fit personally, but I like to think of myself as standing in a long chain of people who have tried to make the world a better place, which I do not consider to include colonizers and warriors for the rich... But this hasn't stopped my Aikido practice, so that should say a lot about how I ultimately feel on this question.
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Old 08-18-2005, 09:10 PM   #2
Mashu
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

I don't think it matters unless you yourself use what you've learned for bad things.

Fas est et ab hoste doceri
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Old 08-18-2005, 09:14 PM   #3
Mark Uttech
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Really, to be as politically minded as you are is nothing impressionable.
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Old 08-18-2005, 10:22 PM   #4
Roy
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Peter,

Good point, kind-of makes you think a little.
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Old 08-18-2005, 10:36 PM   #5
Neil Mick
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Quote:
Peter Della wrote:
This actually applies to many martial arts. Have any of you thought about this very much? The political background of Aikido was initially very right-wing, Japanese nationalist, with O Sensei (and others) going to China to spread Japanese imperialism.

Then, of course if you go back far enough, Aikido (and most Japanese martial arts except karate) derive from the feudal samurai class, who tested the sharpness of their blade by beheading peasants and served the ruling class of the time, their lords.
No, not quite (but you make some good points). The "Mongolian affair" where O Sensei went with Onisaburo Deguchi to spread the word of Omotokyo was not spreading Japanese nationalism. In fact, O Sensei was arrested at various points, for his involvement in the religion (cult?).

But, you are correct about the right-wing origins of martial arts. If you consider that most martial artists in the 19th & early 20th C's were in the military, this makes sense. And, this is why Aikido is, IMO, special. It "broke the mold," and O Sensei (according to John Stevens) briefly and secretly attempted to avert Japan's conflict with the US, at the start of WW2.

Quote:
This seems to be true of MANY martial arts. The only totally distinct tradition I know of is with the Filipino Martial Arts, which were used repeatedly AGAINST colonial invaders, whether Spanish or American.
Capoeira, the Brazilian art, also had a totally distinct tradition from the military. The popular belief is that Capoeira originated when the African slaves brought over from the Continent had to develop a style of fighting that was "secretive," and could easily be converted to a dance, if the need arose (i.e., a cop came by).

It IS a fact that Capoeira in the 18th C was outlawed because it was mainly the domain of robbers, and thieves. It started to gain respectability in the 20th C, but it never was adopted by the military.

Quote:
Anyone think about this? Are these considerations irrelevant to your practice of Aikido? For me, they are not irrelevant. I will use the techniques as I see fit personally, but I like to think of myself as standing in a long chain of people who have tried to make the world a better place, which I do not consider to include colonizers and warriors for the rich... But this hasn't stopped my Aikido practice, so that should say a lot about how I ultimately feel on this question.
Aikido, like any discipline, is a tool. You can use a tool like a hammer to make houses and benefit ppl, or you can use it to bash heads and create misery.

But yes, I completely agree with you. Nice thread-topic.
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Old 08-19-2005, 03:18 AM   #6
Dazzler
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Quote:
Peter Della wrote:
Are these considerations irrelevant to your practice of Aikido?
yes.
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Old 08-19-2005, 03:23 AM   #7
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Why does everything have to be political?

Why does everything political has to be either liberal or conservative?

Not everything in black and white makes sense.

The people who understand, understand prefectly.
yann@york-aikido.org York Shodokan Aikido
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Old 08-19-2005, 07:24 AM   #8
Lyle Bogin
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Yes, it matters if you want to see the whole context.
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Old 08-19-2005, 07:51 AM   #9
happysod
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Quote:
Yes, it matters if you want to see the whole context.
totally agree and totally disagree with this statement (hey, it's Friday, my day of worshiping woolly thinking).

It's important if your interest for practicing includes both the historical basis for your art and the tradition (and reasons) behind many of the drills and techniques which your art focuses on. It's totally unimportant from the point of view of your individual practice, unless you are personally related in some way to the arts founders/main proponents. The idea that you are representing historical figures through your practice smacks of hubris (I'm sure Ueshiba would be horrified if I was convinced I was his spiritual "son" in any way)

I think of it as a bit like researching into your family tree. It can be fun and educational to find out where you came from, but they're not you and it's up to you to make of your life what best you can.
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Old 08-19-2005, 08:20 AM   #10
Rich Dyer
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Wasnt fma involved in clan v clan warfare? Dont think it was just used against invaders.
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Old 08-19-2005, 08:25 AM   #11
nekobaka
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

The only remotely right wing thing I've seen is singing the national anthem at demonstrations in Japan. this may seem very strange to those who haven't heard about it, but it's concidered nationalist to sing it and often people refuse to stand up for it. We also bow to the flag instead of O Sensei's picture. But it doesn't bother me and Japanese people tend to not talk about politics at all, so it's never been an issue. besides the right wing in Japan is certainly not about peace and love, so I think it's a stretch.
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Old 08-19-2005, 08:31 AM   #12
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Hi folks,

I thought I'd step in at this point and ask people in this thread to please stick to the subject which is "Politics in Aikido practice." I can see already that there's a chance this thread just may drift to a general politics discussion, so let's keep the subject of aikido actively involved in this thread...

Thanks,

-- Jun

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Old 08-19-2005, 08:49 AM   #13
jimbaker
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Okinawan Karate arose as a method for peasants to defend themselves against Japanese occupiers. It traditionally isn't considered a Budo, but rather a "peasant art".

What do you feel about studying some of the modern sword arts. Several derived their revision of cutting techniques from "experiments" on living prisoners during WWII. The prisoners were killed specifically to test cutting. At least one of the sword shihans was convicted of war crimes. If someone studies these cutting methods, are they benefiting from a war crime? Does directly benefiting from a crime imply some form of complicity?
http://www.dragon-tsunami.org/Dtimes.../articled2.htm

During WWII there was a secret Japanese military medical unit, Unit 731, which carried out horrific biological weapons experiments on Chinese prisoners. Some elements of the Unit were captured by the US, some by the Russians. The US sent the Unit's records back for study and allowed the doctors to return home, where they took up high positions in medical education and research. The local Russians commanders burned the records and executed the doctors. Is it wrong to benefit from such research and doesn't it encourage it happen again?
http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery;...2_1&sbid=lc03a

Teachers pass on more than technique. We absorb some of their world views and learn how to treat our sempai and kohai from how out teachers treat us. If there is a tradition of brutality, of dismissal, of a pathetic desire to appease, then that's what we find ourselves passing down. I have witnessed students repeating their sensei's brutal attitudes in the same way that some abused children turn into abusing adults; they think that's the way to act because that's the way they were treated.

Aikido was seen by O-Sensei as a way of reconciling the world, as a force for good, and as a way of personal growth. The degree to which a dojo diverges from those goals is the degree to which it diverges from Aikido.

Jim Baker
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Old 08-19-2005, 10:06 AM   #14
Lyle Bogin
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

In china and other southeast asian countries, martial arts were used to galvanize rebel groups, form religious cults, and develop gangs and crime rings, like the Tang.

All very political stuff.
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Old 08-19-2005, 10:20 AM   #15
jeff.
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

from what i've read omoto-kyo was distinctly anti-capitalist, and relatively anti-athoritarian (the relative aspect is important, because while they emphasized a sort of direct democracy, the japanese master-student relationship was still emphasized heavily, etc. as well as onisaberu's weird emperor stuff coming into play), and certainly anti-militarist / pacifist. stevens-sensei remarked in his book that onisaberu often met with leaders of both the far right and far left, and other books on the faith seem to indicate that he felt that omoto-kyo transcended such distinctions as "right" and "left", and made use of traditionally japanese nationalist language to elude to larger principals regarding the destiny of all humanity.

within this context i think we should reexamine osensei's use of typically nationalist terminology. my guess (given the text of what written works there are and his talks, and the claims of some withint the japanese military that he vehemently opposed the war before it started) is that before the war he agreed with onisaberu's trying to use this terminolgy to overcome nationalism by making it expand into a more global persepctive. after the war he clearly rejected this notion.

i dunno... this stuff is important to me too, but i also agree with the idea that we need to transcend notions of left, right and center in favor of a politics of compassion. which requires some level of "blending" as we typically understand it: coming to see the others' perspectives whithout loosing our own. and then finding a way to bring them together.

gotta run...
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Old 08-19-2005, 10:24 AM   #16
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Quote:
No, not quite (but you make some good points). The "Mongolian affair" where O Sensei went with Onisaburo Deguchi to spread the word of Omotokyo was not spreading Japanese nationalism. In fact, O Sensei was arrested at various points, for his involvement in the religion (cult?).
This can be a tough discussion. Actually, Stan Pranin has published information that leads me to believe there was more involved with the "Mongolian affair" than simple religious evangalism. They were trying to actually create a separate nation, with strong ties back to Japan. Ueshiba also taught at the Nakano school, and had many ultra right wing connections through-out most of the formative years of aikido. The Omoto kyo incidents were for Lese Majesty, not for being left or right wing specifically. The government cracked down on a lot of the 'New Religions' of the time. And as has been mentioned, the Yoshinkan continued / may continue to have some pretty right wing connections.

What do I do with this? Not much. It doesn't really affect my keiko. Its good to be aware of, I think, because its so easy to adopt the (mostly western) idea of aikido as a liberal, left wing, peace and light affair. Knowing the roots puts you in touch with the reality of what it is we train in. Techniques can be used in many different ways, at many different times, and we shouldn't lose sight of that. But in the end what really matters is the training, and how each one of us puts it to use.

Best,
Ron

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Old 08-19-2005, 11:42 AM   #17
Dan Herak
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

This is only my impression and I cannot say how objectively correct this is. Indeed, I am not even sure how to properly articulate this as it has only been an impression which I have never articulated before. Please, no flaming.

When I first started practicing aikido about seven years ago, I had the feeling that, to the degree that it had any political undertones, they were of a distinct left wing variety. I now believe that this may be a byproduct of how aikido came to the U.S.

Of course, aikido arrived here through various routes. Some shihans such as Yamada Sensei and Saotome Sensei came to America to spread the art. I have never felt that they or their respective organizations are political.

But aikido also arrived via Northern California in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Anyone familiar with that time and place would recognize it as being extremely to the left. As we know, O'Sensei infused aikido with a spiritual aspect (even if some practitioners do not focus much on it) and perhaps this spiritual aspect of aikido was filtered into America in a very "Northern California" way. I know that is a rather vague phrase but it is the best I can do. The result is that much aikido has a "leftist" feel for me.

This is not to say that I believe the prominent aikidoka in California to be overtly political. I did not hear of Nadeau Sensei endorse Kerry over Bush, so to speak. But it is just a general feel. Just as I get the feeling that most of the vegetarians at my yoga practice lean to the left even if they do not say so, I get a similar feeling from many, though not all, aikidoka.

Perhaps this is because aikido stresses non-violence and self-actualization more so than other martial arts. These traits are usually, rightly or wrongly, more associated with the left. I have some personal support for this, as I am distinctly NOT of the left and have had people on my side of the political spectrum look at me questioningly when they discover some of my hobbies.

Just a thought.
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Old 08-19-2005, 11:57 AM   #18
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Some interesting info from: http://www.aikidojournal.com/article...ight=omoto+kyo

Quote:
Ueshiba was to later share a great adventure with Onisaburo when he accompanied his master to Mongolia in 1924 as a bodyguard. The small party of Japanese became embroiled in local politics and narrowly escaped with their lives.
And from: http://www.aikidojournal.com/article.php?articleID=582

We have a distillation of Omoto kyo's original focus:

Quote:
Her writings proved full of revelations concerning the spirit world and contained a continuous stream of social criticism. Mankind was urged to mend its ways and create new structures of social justice while developing a new value system. Moreover, her vision was based on a universal God who regarded all human beings as equals. This ideal was, naturally, in conflict with state Shinto which placed the imperial family at the center of worship and revered the Emperor as the highest god.
Which is what lead to the Lese Majesty problems:

Quote:
As we have alluded to above, the heart of the matter was the universalist and humanistic approach of Omoto teachings which regarded all human beings as brothers and equals and which stood in stark contrast to the ultra nationalistic stance of the prevailing imperial establishment which imposed its view of Japan as the "land of the gods" on the nation.
But the place they were going to 'found' was definately still seen as a colony:

Quote:
Ueshiba accompanied Onisaburo on an ill-fated journey to Manchuria in an effort to found a Utopian colony in February 1924.
But in terms of Ueshiba's connections to right wing politics, from http://www.aikidojournal.com/article...ht+wing+nakano

Quote:
Although it is difficult to pin down the specific dates and circumstances of his military teaching career, we offer below a tentative listing of his assignments:

Naval Staff College (Kaigun Daigakko), c. 1927-1937 through his contacts with Admirals Isamu Takeshita and Sankichi Takahashi.
Army University (Rikugun Shikan Gakko)
Military Police School (Kempei Gakko), dates unknown, through an introduction from General Makoto Miura.
Toyama School (Rikugun Toyama Gakko), c. 1930-?, possibly through a connection with General Miura.
Nakano Spy School (Rikugun Nakano Gakko), c. 1941-1942, through a connection with General Miura.
In addition, brief teaching stints at the Naval Engineering School (Kaigun Kikan Gakko), the Yokosuka Naval Communications School (Kaigun Tsushin Gakko), and the Torpedo Technical School (Kaigun Suirai Gakko) of unknown dates are recorded.
The teaching assignments at military schools covered here span the period from about 1927 to 1942 when Morihei retired to Iwama. A glance at the above list offers rather convincing evidence of Morihei's extensive links to right-wing military figures and their activities. We will delve into this subject further in part two.
So it is pretty obvious that while the connection to Omoto and its 'every one is equal' doctrines is there, there is also a strong connection between Ueshiba and the nationalist right wing government, its adherents, and its disimination structures.

And Omoto had its own right wing connections:

Quote:
In addition to the sect's many domestic activities that irked the government, Onisaburo was heavily involved in the affairs of Manchuria and was advocating an independent nation under Pu'yi, the "Last Emperor" of movie fame. Furthermore, Onisaburo was suspected of funneling large amounts of money to various right-wing causes including the activities of Mitsuru Toyama and Ryohei Uchida.
Best,
Ron

Last edited by Ron Tisdale : 08-19-2005 at 12:04 PM.

Ron Tisdale
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Old 08-19-2005, 01:48 PM   #19
tedehara
 
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Quote:
Dan Herak wrote:
...But aikido also arrived via Northern California in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Anyone familiar with that time and place would recognize it as being extremely to the left. As we know, O'Sensei infused aikido with a spiritual aspect (even if some practitioners do not focus much on it) and perhaps this spiritual aspect of aikido was filtered into America in a very "Northern California" way. I know that is a rather vague phrase but it is the best I can do. The result is that much aikido has a "leftist" feel for me...
Quote:
Robert W. Smith wrote:
...I first heard of Tohei at the First U.S. Judo Tournament in San Jose, California, in 1953. Some of us were chatting about the judo and one veered off with the information that an expert in something called aikido was present from Hawaii and would demonstrate his art.
The fact is that aikido in America developed with the baby boomers in the post-war years. Perhaps the early American instructors from Hawaii and the West Coast tended towards a liberal position. That would vary with each instructor's political stance. However the politics of American instructors had no relationship with the politics of the Japanese instructors, especially the pre-war political scene.

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Old 08-20-2005, 08:24 AM   #20
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Hello Ron,

Have you read Thomas Nadolski's doctoral thesis? The title is The Socio-Political Background to the 1921 and 1935 Omoto Suppressions in Japan. The thesis as a whole makes for gripping reading, but I have an academic's reluctance to accept his Japanese sources without question. There is one reference to Morihei Ueshiba, as a bodyguard, on p. 201, and one might gain the general impression from the thesis that aikido made very little contribution to Omoto. The movement was all the other way.

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Old 08-20-2005, 12:17 PM   #21
tedehara
 
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
...There is one reference to Morihei Ueshiba, as a bodyguard, on p. 201, and one might gain the general impression from the thesis that aikido made very little contribution to Omoto. The movement was all the other way...
Are you saying that Omoto is well known today because of the popularity of aikido? Or are you saying that aikido and/or the founder, affected the Omoto movement during the pre-WWII era?

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Old 08-20-2005, 05:01 PM   #22
Pdella
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

hey, I appreciate all the information and responses. You folks have a lot of good information.

I will try to check out that thesis & other articles posted and study up. I didn't realize that there is so much information on this topic available.

About Aikido in Northern California or the US, my sensei definitely leans to the left politically, but his students are of various political (and apolitical) persuasions.

As for capoeira, someone told me that capoeira was actually a West African martial art/dance that West Africans in Brazil simply continued doing, rather than something developed in response to slavery. But I really haven't researched the subject and it sounds like other sources say different things.

About the Filipino MA, I also learned that they were used for clan vs. clan warfare, but I meant that unlike some other martial arts they do have some history of being used against colonialism:

Quote:

In 1521, the first Spanish conquistadors led by Captain Ferdinand Magellan landed in the Philippines only to realize the deadly efficiency of the art of Kali. Captain Magellan quickly lost his life at the hands of Filipino Chieftain Lapu Lapu on Mactan Island, what is now known as the province of Cebu.

During the American invasion several U.S. Marines would also lose their lives in battle in the Philippines, very often by decapitation. Thus the term "leatherneck" was born from a need to wear a large heavy leather neck brace to protect their own necks from the powerful slashes from heavy bolo swords and kris daggers. There was also an upgrade of pistol caliber from .38cal to .45acp to provide the needed power to knock down a charging Filipino Moro Moro warrior. The .38cal pistol just wasn't killing them. Even so, the casualty of life suffered by the Americans was so great that the Marines would need to pull out.

Later in World War II the Japanese would also attempt to overthrow the islands, and gave a very hard fight. So difficult was this battle that U.S. troops now with a common interest in the Philippines, gave aid to Philippines in the fight against the Japanese. And again, the Filipino warrior was on the front line. One of the strategies used by the Filipino soldiers in battle was to form a triangle pointed in the direction of attack. The point man would critically injure a Japanese soldiers on the front line, and the flanks of U.S. Marines and Filipino soldiers would finish the job. That battle was won as well. Even to this day, no armed military from any nation in battle on Philippine soil has ever defeated the fierce Moro Moro warriors or the martial art of Kali on southern Mindanao Island.

http://www.authenticbeladiri.com/kali.htm

Last edited by Pdella : 08-20-2005 at 05:14 PM.
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Old 08-20-2005, 06:42 PM   #23
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Quote:
Ted Ehara wrote:
Are you saying that Omoto is well known today because of the popularity of aikido? Or are you saying that aikido and/or the founder, affected the Omoto movement during the pre-WWII era?
No. I am saying neither of these things. In addition, Nadolski has nothing to say at all about Ueshiba or aikido. In Chapter 5 he discusses the "ultranationalistic Omoto from 1927 to 1934" and the sole reference to Ueshiba comes in a quotation from the memoirs of Kingoro Hashimoto, who was executed for attempting a coup d'etat in 1936. Incidentally, on p.86 of Stanley Pranin's Modern Masters Ikkusai Iwata mentions the meetings of the Sakurakai, a group of military officers, that actually took place in the Kobukan Dojo.

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Old 08-21-2005, 01:53 AM   #24
Neil Mick
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Quote:
Peter Della wrote:
As for capoeira, someone told me that capoeira was actually a West African martial art/dance that West Africans in Brazil simply continued doing, rather than something developed in response to slavery. But I really haven't researched the subject and it sounds like other sources say different things.
That's right: it's both. There's a whole portion of Capoeira called the "Machete Dance," which was picked up directly from Brazilian tribal dances. And, there's a significant part that was from W. African dances and music, as well as slaves adopting to their conditions. Like Aikido, Capoeira has a complex history.
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Old 08-21-2005, 04:06 AM   #25
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Politics in Aikido practice

Mr Della,

The questions you raise in your post are interesting, but not so simple to answer. The political situation in which a martial art like aikido was created, even the intentions of the creator, are not directly relevant to any political statement one might make in practising the art.

As I suggested in an earlier post, Thomas Nadolski has researched the social and political background of Omoto, but he appears to have done no research at all into its connection with aikido and, as I stated, the name Ueshiba appears only once and in a quotation from another source. As such the picture of Omoto he gives is rather different from that you find in The Great Onisaburo Deguchi, for example, and if you practised aikido without knowing about Omoto, the aikido training itself would make you none the wiser.

Here in Japan there are flourishing aikido clubs in the national Diet and in all the armed services. Select members oif the Tokyo riot police have long undertaken intensive Yoshinkan aikido training. Politicians always appear at the All-Japan Demonstration in May and make long speeches about how aikido has to achieve many lofty goals: goals that they themselves appear unwilling or unable to achieve.

It is often said that Morihei Ueshiba founded aikido as a means of promoting world peace and some shihans go further and state that we practise aikido for world peace. On the other hand, his son Kisshomaru has gone on record that Ueshiba was no pacifist and the impressive list, cited in an earlier post, of military institutions where Ueshiba taught aikido strengthens this impression.

So, does aikido practice entail that we become peace activists and enter politics? In Japan, clearly not. However, the statement by an 8th dan shihan that we practise aikido for world peace is intriguing.

The source for Morihei Ueshiba's statements about world peace is the collection of discourses published in Japanese as Takemusu Aiki. These were delivered to an audience of members of the Byakko Shinkoukai, an indirect offshoot of Omoto founded by Masahisa Goi. Byakko Shinkoukai members shun any type of political activity and focus instead on the power of prayer, not just any old prayer, but the Prayer for World Peace formulated by Goi. The purpose of this prayer is to awaken members to awareness of a higher spiritual existence, which is more real than the material world, and to focus these spiritual energies in order to bring about world peace.

It is important to realise that this spiritual energy is seen in almost shamanistic terms, such as directing 'power' at an image. I think it was this common interest in spiritrual energy that led to Ueshiba's friendship with Goi. This common interest was shown in a belief that world peace would be achieved only by the correct alignment of the spiritual and the 'material' (expressed by Ueshiba in 'shinto' terms involving kami and becoming one with the universe). For Ueshiba this is what was meant by practising aikido in order to become a 'better person', not espousing left wing or right wing political causes. One can do either, of course, but they are not the real thing.

P A Goldsbury
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Hiroshima, Japan
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