“The Founder’s admonition is that Aikido is True Budo, with the obligation to protect all of life, and to be in harmonious co-existence with our environment and all its elements.”
Major areas of study in ethics may be divided into 3 operational areas: Meta-ethics, about the theoretical meaning and reference of moral propositions and how their truth values (if any) may be determined; Normative ethics, about the practical means of determining a moral course of action; Applied ethics, about how moral outcomes can be achieved in specific situations.
Each of these areas include many further sub-fields of study.
Which begs the question, are there identifiable and quantifiable elements of both morality and ethics in the art form we call Aikido? Is the subject field we refer to as martial arts itself subject to independent scrutiny using these two lenses of human discrimination and of societal evaluation? If so, how do we then objectively and subjectively begin to analyze, scrutinize, qualify, quantify and otherwise identify those elements of Aikido philosophy and application that may be honestly and appropriately vetted for us to wisely consider, and to incorporate into our daily activities?
For this article, we are focusing on what role that ethics can and should play, if any, in evaluating, and more accurately determining and defining the benefits that the study of Aiki and of Aikido actually promises to the committed student, and to the seeker of truth and for personal achievement. Further, we definitely need to research how best to introduce more discussion, debate, and planning, to effectively bring true awareness and applicability of ethics and morality into our teachings, our training of instructors, and to our overall goal of appropriately introducing Aiki Principles to the rest of the world. In the real world, things are not bought or simply sold. Rather, it is the benefits of using these things that actually convince the buyer into following through with the transaction. Let us then focus on demonstrating the benefits of Aiki thinking, of Aiki Principles, and of Aikido training. We must learn to do so in the context of what the world acknowledges and accepts as ethical and moral gospel.
Although the Founder of Aikido was wont to expound on Aiki theory in mostly esoteric language and terms, using metaphors and almost mythical allusions to established Shinto doctrine in his teachings, it may be safe to extract certain references to the presence of and connections to the need for ethical considerations and activities in our practice. Chief amongst the many to be cited, would be the Founder’s admonition that Aikido is True Budo, with the obligation to protect all of life, and to be in harmonious co-existence with our environment and all its elements. Then too, we have the example of Kisshomaru Doshu, who set the bar quite high in personal conduct, consistently behaving in a considerate and compassionate way in both teaching and writing, and in his interpersonal relationships, not only with those in the Aikikai family, but with key leaders in other disciplines and organizations, including but not limited to his ongoing relationships with Masters Gozo Shioda, Minoru Mochizuki, Kenji Tomiki, and others that the public can substantiate and provide. It was not by accident that Aikikai Foundation was able to obtain and retain the uncompromising support from the Japanese government, leading to similar support from the governments of other countries throughout the East and West, thus allowing for the unprecedented spread of Aikido unto the international stage. This is where Aikido now enjoys its greatest testament and living proof to its ethical and moral foundation, as well as to its Budo heritage, and its oft maligned legitimacy. “Take that, Bainbridge scholars!”
Today, we can well appreciate how the Western image of Aikido is one of real and compassionate regard for all in the human family, and a clear voice for harmony in all human dealings, both politically and socially. Yet, we can also acknowledge that we have miles and miles to go before we can sleep the good sleep of good conscience, and of accomplished harmony amongst ourselves. We are still plagued with divisive rhetoric, unkind commentary, ego driven behavior against any who would challenge any perceived status by simply being truthful, and the constant proliferation of separate, but sadly underpowered attempts to study and represent the true legacy and teachings of the Founder. It is no secret that in such manifestations, we see a severe and unfortunate lack of ethical behavior and of moral conduct, with no apparent relief in sight. How the rest of the world, especially that of the martial arts community, might well be chuckling in their Starbucks or Seattle’s Best.
With all the emphases on martial integrity, traditional relevance, and of unsupported claims of breakthroughs in correctly translating the Founder’s past works, when will we begin the much simpler, yet infinitely more challenging task of representing the foundation of true and consistent moral example, and of the kind of ethical behavior we need to foster towards one another in speeches, writings. When indeed will we choose to regularly engage one another in face to face interactions that can foster true understanding and amazing friendships?
Is it fear? Is it lack of motivation? Is it the lack of visionary leadership that currently leaves us in the lurch? Whatever it is, like the dismal economy nationally and internationally, it is up to us, the people class, to work to turn the tide of complacency and make a real difference towards our treasured goals. We must find common cause, mutual points of interest, and commit to achieving them in the Way of Aiki, together.
Let’s at least get started by having open ended, meaningful, and courteous dialogue, and perhaps the momentum generated will be carried forward by our students, and their students, and forever forward. Why not begin again now?