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Old 09-08-2005, 09:23 AM   #1
markwalsh
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HOW does aikido change us?

What is the mechanism by which personal change/growth occurs in aikido practitioners?



I would like to start this thread from the assumption that, that aikido does in some way change us as people, and to ask how this transformation occurs? Is it for example the result of simple physical exercise, increased social support or of other spiritual factors.

Thoughts?
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Old 09-08-2005, 09:39 AM   #2
rob_liberti
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

My opinion is that you need to develop sensitivity to yourself and your partner first. If you do this, and are thrown consistently by someone who can do it without ego, you can change. If you become more perceptive but there is even a hint of ego in the teacher's technique, then I think you'll need to look elsewhere for help. You also need to to be brutally honest with yourself, and continue to see the depths of your own ego for what it is, acknowledge it, and let it go - slowly but surely. What do you think?

Rob (sorry about my very on-the-mat answer)
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Old 09-08-2005, 09:39 AM   #3
Hanna B
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

This the kind of topic that always make me take the bait.

IMO aikido doesn't change us. We can use aikido as an instrument for personal development, if we like, but there is no reason to believe that aikido should change or develop the practitioner any more than would, say, horse riding.
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Old 09-08-2005, 09:51 AM   #4
markwalsh
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

On the mat, is cool -I train 6 days a week presently and dislike purely "armchair aikido". On is the foundation for off.

Hanna - To rephrase then, how can we use aikido (or say, rock-climbing) as an instrument for growth?
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Old 09-08-2005, 09:57 AM   #5
Camille Lore
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

I'd say for me, it makes me look at how I handle conflicts that aren't physical. Through Aikido, it became apparent to me that striking back in an argument is not the way I'd like to conduct myself. So, I search on how to apply Aiki principles in the rest of my life, to move with energy rather than resist it.....I think it has made me more calm and focused. Also, since I do jujutsu and kempo, with all three arts, I feel more confident because I know that I can defend myself. I stand up straighter even. I think aikido makes me more centered. But how... it's kind of a mystery I guess!
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Old 09-08-2005, 10:01 AM   #6
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

Quote:
Mark Walsh wrote:
What is the mechanism by which personal change/growth occurs in aikido practitioners?



I would like to start this thread from the assumption that, that aikido does in some way change us as people, and to ask how this transformation occurs? Is it for example the result of simple physical exercise, increased social support or of other spiritual factors.

Thoughts?
Hello Mark,

Given the bald terms in which you pose the question, I would agree with Hanna. Aikido is simply training and you get out of it what you put into it. Such training might change people for better or for worse. It is impossible to generalize.

I happen to believe that aikido training has changed me as a person, in many ways. I also believe that it has changed others whom I have trained with and have taught. But I would not like to generalize on this basis.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
_______________________
Hiroshima, Japan
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Old 09-08-2005, 10:31 AM   #7
markwalsh
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

Hi Peter,

I also think that aikido has changed me over the years, and almost every other aikidoka I've spoken to has said the same thing - a good basis for generalization to me. Fair enough, short of a twin-study it's hard to prove scientifically, but there would seem to be at least some truth in the matter.

To tackle the debate from a different angle, what feature does aikido have that would lead one to believe it will change the practitioner more than many other activities? or to suggest it could make a more effective vehicle than other things? I would suggest:

1. It is a good exercise and many studies how that exercise is a significant factor for mental health.
2. It involves social and touch elements.
3. From a physiological point of view, it brings up Freudian, Jungian and Adlerian themes -eg power and vulnerability, father figures, archetypes, etc.
4. The reciprocal, non competitive nature of the uke-nage relationship - CRUCIAL.
5. It deliberately trains posture, movement and breath.
6. The emphasis on manner and etiquette.
7. It exposes practitioners to related healthy philosophies and practices such as Buddhism, meditation, etc.
8. It contains an intensity, and an existential, life and death element.
9. In order to do it you have to be relaxed.
Additions?

Re horse riding, I think this activity also contains many beneficial elements. I have some experience in outdoor education, which has developed into a kind of "Western Budo" where by children are developed through psychologically intense (eg climbing), or team work activities. So sure, aikido isn't the only way.

Genuine question: How fair would it be to say that the purpose of Budo is some kind of personal change?

Mark
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Old 09-08-2005, 10:40 AM   #8
markwalsh
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

I just found this quote from Don Modesto on another thread that I think is absolutely brilliant and of relevant here:

Aikido Definition "Martial art adapted to the project of giving practitioners the EXPERIENCE (i.e., sans theories, words, or concepts) of reconciliation."

I have heard aikido described as "embodied" meaning much the same thing.
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Old 09-08-2005, 12:53 PM   #9
rob_liberti
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

I think this goes back to the whole Do and Jitsu thing. I believe that aikido was intended to be a transformative practice. But people don't have to use any tool for the initially intended purpose. -Rob
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Old 09-08-2005, 03:00 PM   #10
Mark Uttech
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

Aikido changes us as we get involved in physical and visual poetry, as we envision the physical and visual poetry of Nature. Sometimes we even become more true.
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Old 09-08-2005, 07:51 PM   #11
Larry John
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

To simplify things a bit, let's assume that all the changes any individual experiences go one way or the other, even though we know this is probably not true.

That said, I believe the basic change mechanism in all of the activities that have been cited is continual repetition of behaviors (physical, mental, spiritual, etc.).

For folks who have changed for the better, the behaviors have been those that society might consider positive or valuable. For those who have changed for the worse, the behaviors have been those that society might consider negative or troublesome.

This repetition of behaviors is reinforced (possibly rewarded, but at least tolerated) by the reactions of formal and informal leaders in the community of interest (i.e., the dojo).

Larry
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Old 09-08-2005, 08:09 PM   #12
Zato Ichi
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

How does aikido change us? Well, here are a few ways it has changed me:
  • Grew third arm out of my back.
  • Skin is now a healthy shade of green.
  • Developed abnormally high tolerance for Japanese TV.
  • Can use ki to create a dazzling light show from my eyes (great party trick!)
  • Have developed the long sought after ability to appear to be awake and interested while asleep.
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Old 09-09-2005, 12:38 AM   #13
dyffcult
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

"What is the mechanism by which personal change/growth occurs in aikido practitioners? I would like to start this thread from the assumption that, that aikido does in some way change us as people, and to ask how this transformation occurs? Is it for example the result of simple physical exercise, increased social support or of other spiritual factors."

Even if one watches an aikido class and decides not to follow the way, one is changed. They will now seek out an art other than aikido. Poor, pathetic souls. :-)

When one practices aikido on a regular basis for any length of time, aikido does change the practitioner. Growth depends upon the aikidoka. The question is whether that is the goal or the unexpected result :-)

Some come to aikido seeking a martial art...solely focused on self defense. They may find this, and thus are changed and therefore "grow". Through physical training and technique, if they train hard enough and often enough, they eventually learn self defense.

Some come to aikido seeking the spiritual aspect. And they are changed and therefore grow. They continue to train, whether it be to seek another martial art, because aikido did not meet their needs, or in aikido because aikido does.

Through my various training in aikido I have found that it has changed me mentally, physical, emotionally, and spiritually. All at different times in my training, all at different levels or efforts of training, all at different points in my training.

At times, my technique seemed to improve dramatically, and that changed bits of my life, increased my confidence. Other times, I trained hard, and felt the physical improvement in my body and thus extended myself, and grew. Certain days, I saw the spiritual side of aikido (more often off the mat) and worked on that in my life and therefore grew.

I believe that every student comes to aikido in his or her own time....whether it be surviving the "physical" of the training, finding the "mental" of the training, or finally figuring out the "spirit" of the training. Of course, we all suffer the "emotional" of the training whether we wish it or not. (Injuries, body resistance, finding the time, committing to training, walking away from training, etc.)

Some of us come for a short time and benefit greatly, only to leave our aikido training. If we are lucky, we return to dedication to our art, with the hope that we will benefit further...

Just my humble perspective,

Brenda

BTW, learning to ride horseback takes a great deal of training and skill. One of the skills developed is balance. Another other is learning to react the entire body to movement. Also, one learns that just because the horse might outweigh you by a thousand pounds plus, that does not mean that the horse is in control of the situation. Ergo, one learns balance, control, confidence, etc....


Aikido Definition "Martial art adapted to the project of giving practitioners the EXPERIENCE (i.e., sans theories, words, or concepts) of reconciliation."

I really like that :-) Works for me on so many levels :-)
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Old 09-09-2005, 01:44 AM   #14
xuzen
 
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

Quote:
Rob Haruo Hori wrote:
How does aikido change us? Well, here are a few ways it has changed me:
  • Grew third arm out of my back.
  • Skin is now a healthy shade of green.
  • Developed abnormally high tolerance for Japanese TV.
  • Can use ki to create a dazzling light show from my eyes (great party trick!)
  • Have developed the long sought after ability to appear to be awake and interested while asleep.
Ah Ha, Hori-san,

So it was you who stole my secret potion no. 9, could you kindly return it to the rightful owner. And please contact the Centre of Mutagenic Studies for we are short of case study subjects. Thank you.

Boon.

SHOMEN-ATE (TM), the solution to 90% of aikido and life's problems.
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Old 09-09-2005, 01:44 AM   #15
Paul Kerr
 
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

I would argue that there is nothing inherently or intrinsically 'transformational' about aikido practice. Any of the above mentioned beneficial changes could be in many other ways. Any change comes from a person projecting their individual needs / goals onto practice. The person creates change, not the art.

Paul Kerr
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Old 09-09-2005, 03:58 AM   #16
shnobryu
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

Aikido Changes you definitely..
The first thing that came to mind with how i believe aikido study has changed me is in my spirit of cooperation. I have been studying aikido for about eight years and the first thing that i picked up on was that spirit of cooperation. I studied a few other martial arts and none of them involed totally putting yourself in your defenders hands and trusting that you won't get irimi naged into the next week.
The trust in your fellow human slowly increases from that point throughout your studies. As a beginner i totally didnt understand that because i was more interested in being a super martial artist etc. I was still in that competition mode and wasnt excepting the principles of loving kindness etc.
I get too long winded so i am going to let that reply sit and stew for a bit..take care..
j
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Old 09-09-2005, 07:31 AM   #17
Olaf
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

I also believe that Aikido can change a person, and that on the other hand this can also by true for pursuits other than Aikido. Just as many changes that we see, looking back at our own development, might actually be because of getting older and more mature.

That being said, I have yet to come across another pursuit that actually teaches and practices bringing agression and violence to peaceful resolution. Provided, of course, that Aikido is actually practised that way physically, mentally, emotionally and spritually.

Olaf

Olaf Schubert
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Old 09-09-2005, 09:22 AM   #18
markwalsh
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

Some great posts there folks, cheers. If I may sum up:

Aikido Doesn't change you - a few of this opinion, let's not argue abut it here please.

Aikido does change you, but only if you want it to and purposely develop this aspect.

Aikido changes you for the better.

Aikido changes you for better or for worse, depending on what your working on within it.

..................................................................

Is aikido unique in its transformative abilities (sounds like a superhero)? No, but aikido practice does have some features that encourage (positive) change - trust aspects, embodied, cooperative, etc.

.................................................................

Larry, thank you for introducing a behavourist element, this has given me much to think about as my psychology background is a little different.
I guess we can all ask: what kind of behavours are being rewarded and punished in aikido, and in our dojos in particular?
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Old 09-09-2005, 11:52 AM   #19
Paul Kerr
 
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

Everything we come into contact with 'changes' us in some way. I just drank a cup of coffee so my metabolism has changed. I had a good day at work, feel good about it, so my state has changed since this morning. I'm a few hours older than when I last posted, so I have changed.

My point is that there's nothing intrinsic within aikido that necessarily leads to any kind of personal development (which I'm assuming is the 'change' under discussion here). It may be a framework to explore that if you have a mindset oriented that way and explicitly seek that in your training. All good!

But, imho, there's nothing in the corpus of aikido training that can cause that unless you create it from your own model of the world.

eg. What is there, specifically, that's transformational and leads to personal growth in, say, repeatedly practising shihonage or ikkyo? What elements lie within those particular movements that "cause" a transformation?

Last edited by Paul Kerr : 09-09-2005 at 11:55 AM.

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Old 09-09-2005, 12:49 PM   #20
SeiserL
 
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

IMHO, Aikido doesn't change us. It only gives us a tool and opportunity to choose to change ourselves.

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 09-09-2005, 01:11 PM   #21
Paul Kerr
 
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote:
IMHO, Aikido doesn't change us. It only gives us a tool and opportunity to choose to change ourselves.
Why didn't I just say it like that?

Paul Kerr
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Old 09-09-2005, 01:21 PM   #22
markwalsh
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

Dear Paul, dear Lynn,

Good points well stated, and largely I agree with you. However, I would still say that the list I gave earlier leads us towards some kind of change even if we have to make the decision to drink it up ourselves. We've all met people who haven't

I guess the next question would be how do we use the "tool" of aikido to change ourselves most effectively - re Paul's suggestion, I too think blind repetition of shiho nage might not be the best way.

Regards,

Mark

PS - like the avatar Paul - but you know it's Ernie that's the real evil one
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Old 09-09-2005, 05:01 PM   #23
cck
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

1. It is a good exercise and many studies how that exercise is a significant factor for mental health.
I agree - but also that any exercise would accomplish this
2. It involves social and touch elements.
I agree - but so do other sports, family and friends
3. From a physiological point of view, it brings up Freudian, Jungian and Adlerian themes -eg power and vulnerability, father figures, archetypes, etc.
I agree - but so do other sports, work, family and friends
4. The reciprocal, non competitive nature of the uke-nage relationship - CRUCIAL.
I agree - but all other relationships can bring this out as something to work on; I've known competitive aikidoka
5. It deliberately trains posture, movement and breath.
I agree - but so do other sports, an ergonomically-minded employer, etc
6. The emphasis on manner and etiquette.
I agree - but so do other sports, family and friends, work
7. It exposes practitioners to related healthy philosophies and practices such as Buddhism, meditation, etc.
Not really in my dojo - but Uni did
8. It contains an intensity, and an existential, life and death element.
So does life - especially when parenting
9. In order to do it you have to be relaxed.
True - but same goes for life in general.

I'm just saying that a lot of things can get you in the same direction as aikido. You've got to want it and see it. Beginners go fast, especially if they can't be open to the possibility of fallibility. Age changes you more certainly than aikido, I think.

That said, to me, aikido gives things a physical manifestation. I never thought of myself as an impatient person until one of my instructors said it as I was going through a technique - and it just made a lot of sense. Someone else said I was holding back (in a literal sense), and that really struck a chord, too.

If I were a very shy person who did not like physical contact, obviously I would not choose aikido, and were I forced to participate it would not change me. It's the chicken and the egg. I choose aikido and it does not frighten or intimidate me. If I wanted to be challenged in that way, I'd look for something else. I like aikido because it just really fits.

I've met some aikidoka who are truly miserable people, and especially one sensei who was a downright donkey-synonym (they were all in the same dojo, mind you). It was a very unhappy place. I kept going there until I couldn't stand it anymore because it was so hard to accept that I had absolutely lost all respect for my sensei - it had to be me that was somehow wrong. But then I learned the same lesson at work. Now I am older and just won't find myself in that same situation again. Time and experience helped me process the lesson, not aikido.

There is no magic bullet. If the knocks and other experiences you get generally don't alert you, I don't know that anything will. Aikido allows you to experiment with things in an unusual setting, and that can be helpful. But so can any number of things. You have to see them, or at least be aware that improvements may be possible.
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Old 09-09-2005, 09:57 PM   #24
Joezer M.
 
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

Quote:
Hanna Björk wrote:
This the kind of topic that always make me take the bait.

IMO aikido doesn't change us. We can use aikido as an instrument for personal development, if we like, but there is no reason to believe that aikido should change or develop the practitioner any more than would, say, horse riding.
Got this from Reader's Digest:
Quote:
Sport doesn't improve character. It reveals one's character.
Could it be the same for Aikido?

Regards,
Joezer

I AM in shape... Round is a shape...
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Old 09-09-2005, 11:38 PM   #25
Larry John
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Re: HOW does aikido change us?

Mark,

Thanks! Glad I could offer some little value.

Without appearing to trivialize things, I expect that each person will answer your question "what kind of behavours (sic) are being rewarded and punished in aikido, and in our dojos in particular?" differently.

Interestingly, it seems a useful part of the process of evaluating a dojo to see if one wishes to begin--or continue--to train there.

By the way, I'd suggest changing "rewarded" to read "encouraged" and "punished" to read "discouraged." Not to be PC, but to more accurately reflect what I think is the operating philosophy of most aikido dojos.

What's really interesting is when different members of the same dojo come up with different answers.

Last edited by Larry John : 09-09-2005 at 11:46 PM.

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