The words “form,” and “style,” tend to allude to and to calcify in the mindset of beginners, that of a dogmatic approach. They then become well-intentionedly frightened to depart from this stricture, in case of displeasing someone or another, or straying from what they imagine is the path. Or simply because they mistake the finger pointing to the moon as the source of light! And so further new discovery and refinement stops dead. A living art becomes a rote and dies.
This strange human predisposition of bending the facts, and following the ape seen as “powerful,” even into misfortune, probably first arose in the minds of our ape ancestors and their clans, an early evolution of the cult politics of the simian. The assumption of there being security in numbers if even on a self-extinction trajectory based on erroneous belief, is a strange predisposition. Looking at the world today, this quirk appears alive and well and is devouring us as a species. All someone has to do is to get on a stage and sing a song and suddenly numbers of people imagine he has the answers to all their problems.
And so, the wheel of life captures us in its thrall and keeps us rotating in meaninglessly stagnant circles, stopping us from expanding our horizons. Sometimes sadly, human beings even engage cruelty and injustice to inflict parochially outdated, dead views, as history reveals.
The gendai budo (modern martial arts) world is not the only culprit (kobudo could not afford that luxury). It happens in every field. Innovators and those with authentic new discovery, are mostly persecuted, often for a long time, before their ideas are stolen, embraced by others who often eventually claim wrongful credit. Often this then valid steppingstone is also made into a millstone or wall wherewith to stop further forward motion as well. And on it goes. Paradoxically, religion is the worst offender and more wars and atrocities have been perpetrated in the name of a belief than ever in the name of unmitigated factual truth. So called “science” the art of “knowing,” is not far behind, however. Once knowledge is turned into a gadget, an “advanced” bauble for “advanced” monkeys, all interest in truth is lost in favour of commerce.
This is because truth is boring. Once it becomes self-evident, we take it for granted and not long after that we bend it out of proportion again. Thereby we disparage the very steppingstones that could have enabled the next step in our progress.
What a strange species!
We best shine when united in noticing truth, as it is, for ourselves, then joining to co create in beneficial endeavours. Yet how hard is it to find volunteers to participate in work which nourishes forward vision. Everyone is “too busy!” (avoiding)
All Good Budo
Budo arts are sciences as well. As an art refines, it finds greater efficiency and economy in its deployment. It teaches strategic values and life navigation which can be then used in all things. When you can read conditions you have predictability on your side. Predictability is 999% of success. The other 999% on the Way of learning to refine skills, is persistence.
All things cannot escape but to rely on fundamental principles of the universe, time, space, matter, energy and intention.
As for methods of training, at the bottom of a mountain, one path must initially be chosen and adhered to. As one approaches the peak, it soon becomes evident that most paths converge, some sooner and some later, all the valid ones meeting at the same pinnacle. Opinion, belief and ideology disappears, banished by the equanimous light of hard factuality. Truth.
For example, good old karate-do was not only hitting. As well as atemi it deployed the same principles as good old judo/jujutsu as does true aikido. These included zanshin, kuzushi and kansetsu waza to name a few. The principles of the battlefield, hell, are to be learnt from. Nature’s way of telling us this, is in suffering. We continue to suffer until we learn. And then they become the principles of a robust and healthy society, having learnt from the pain error and that which the correcting of error will enable. By default, such object lessons can bear fruit in value providing planetary civilisation. The only heaven you will ever get, is the one you generate inside of yourself. There is nowhere to run from cause and effect.
The implements of life are not going to change. The universe is as it is. It is we who must take responsibility as to how we use them, how we respond to circumstances and events.
Anything at all can be used to generate suffering or to alleviate it.
It begins in the mind. Intention. Harmonised intention is aikido. The word, “aikido” literally translates the way of harmonising intention.
There is an old Buddhist parable that goes something like this:
“A holy man was having a conversation with the Buddha one day and said, “Buddha, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like. “Buddha led the holy man to two doors. He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew which smelled delicious and made the holy man’s mouth water. The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths. The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. Buddha said, “You have seen Hell.”
They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man’s mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The holy man said, “I don’t understand.” “It is simple” said Buddha, “it requires but one skill. You see, they have learned to feed each other. While the greedy think only of themselves.”
That’s pretty much it for a species so limited as humans are. The difference between the allegorical “heaven and “hell” reside not is some external location, but rather our own attitudes and how we deploy them. Especially in group co-operation.
This brings us straight back to the dojo, The place of the Way.
Unless you understand the deployment, the implications and the consequences of the proper use of: zanshin, maai, deai, atemi, taisabaki or irimi-tenkan, kansetsu and kuzushi, plus whatever is possible and necessary after that, you will not make progress in any budo. Particularly Aikido.
The old operating system for life was crude and inefficient. But it did the job getting us this far. The newer ones osmotically penetrate into the present from future possibilities. These offer hope for a better navigation of existence and the education of it. Aikido is such a propensity. The recognition that life is not a contest, but for the mentally ill. Rather, for awakened human beings it can be a co-creative process of mutual assistance. Otherwise, as is quite evident, it becomes a meltdown of value and useful structures with severe repercussions.
Position of safety.
Train well, yet safely; and it becomes possible to be a sane, equanimous, useful and constructive, contributing member of society, yet be effective in defence when required.
Violence, catch-up-late, blind knee-jerk reactions, do not stop violence. They add to it as the sad repetitions of history consistently show.
War-like attitudes are a disease of laggards. The mentally and spiritually retarded who are constantly at war with something or another because they cannot identify the value of variants in energy. So instead of harmonising they choose to contend because they fail to understand and deploy appropriate positioning.
If you don’t know your place in the scheme of things, you will soon find out by way of qualifications tested under challenge.
As a method of response, contention breeds more contention until it is worn out by the attrition that destroys resources, which in a brighter mind, would have been utilised for creation.
Before and after training, we bow towards the Kamidana, those of us that do, to express our deep and sincerest gratitude, kansha no kimochi, towards those who went before in this tradition of self-testing. And yet there are those modern day fools who with their mouth, would sweep away a thousand years of forging of the spirit in the fields of battle for numerous generations of warriors, yet study poorly and shallowly these offerings. Some even claim they could, “defeat the founder of Aikido.” Now that he’s not here to test that one, that’s a trite and meaningless challenge as well as being a moot point. A simple: “Thank you,” will do! As William Hazlitt said: “Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves.”
The Roman adage of Si vis pace para bellum means: Be prepared, capable and vigilant, but do not rush in where fools do.
Wisdom is to discern the value of any engagement and whether it is truly inevitable. And to know or discern the alternatives. This skill can only arise in much practice and addressing variables.
The goal, and the sign of a sustainable society is to make the rising of injustice, violence, imposition increasingly more difficult by the right use of foresight and just management of resources.
Nothing can reach higher than the simple truth. Discovering is the journey. In order to traverse this path we need to practice and refine ourselves gaining victory over ourselves at every step. In other words, self-mastery is a process of attrition by ruthless honesty that leads to increased awakening, and in practice it is a process of learning the ability to RESPOND instead of contend.
Interestingly, the etymology of this word is old; and everyone innately knows what it means: RESPONSIBILITY.
In my view, after a considerable number of years practicing Aikido, choosing to be responsible, or response enabled in all conditions and under all circumstances, is the essence of true Budo and the aim and purpose of the self-unfoldment that the processes of regular Aikido training will provide.