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Thread: Aikido, most spiritual Martial Art?

  1. #1
    AFF Guest

    Default Aikido, most spiritual Martial Art?

    Dear all:

    An Aikido classmate (who has also taken some years of Karate) insists that Aikido is the highes t spiritual martial art there is.

    Although I also practice Aikido (and SMR), I do not think his argument is accurate. I would think that anybody, from any martial art (modern or traditional) after 20 or 30 years would consider his/her MA as the highest spiritual.

    Comments?

    Best.

    Alina

  2. #2
    bruceb Guest

    Default It is not true ...

    As for any art, each practitioner finds what they need. Some find certain arts to be a catylist to spur them on to other studies ...

    The resolution of violence with practicing a martial art that is inherently violent does pose a problem for the mind to resolve both spiritually and morally. I guess when some people find Aikido, they want to seek .... resolution.

    Those who don't ... just reiterate ... get back to practice, or practice, practice, practice. Go figure.

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    Default Re: Aikido, most spiritual Martial Art?

    Originally posted by AFF
    I would think that anybody, from any martial art (modern or traditional) after 20 or 30 years would consider his/her MA as the highest spiritual.

    Comments?

    Best.

    Alina
    yeah right, everything is Zen, isn't it?
    regardz

    Szczepan Janczuk

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    Altho it is true that there is nothing particular and exclusive to aikido, there is a difference. Other martial arts have moral codes in the context of self-defense, 'spiritual training,' health enhancement, aikido is unique in the explicit aim of it's creator to have developed an art for the purpose of spiritual and moral attainment.

    I,m not convinced that it is any better at this than the incidental benefits of other arts, any more than as magnificently moral a religion as Christianity (to use only a single example) guarantees any more spiritual behavior than ironworking.

    If nothing else, the expressed aim, even misinterpretted, has had a profound effect on worldwide culture, something that cannot be equally claimed by any other martial art. It may be that aikido's message is its greatest attainment, not its method.

    Ellis Amdur
    www.ellisamdur.com

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    Bruce,

    Do I understand correctly that you see those who espouse "practice, practice, practice" as not "seek[ing]...resolution"?

    Ron

  6. #6
    ErikH Guest

    Default

    Originally posted by Ellis Amdur
    If nothing else, the expressed aim, even misinterpretted, has had a profound effect on worldwide culture, something that cannot be equally claimed by any other martial art. It may be that aikido's message is its greatest attainment, not its method.
    I'd probably debate the word 'profound' but clearly this art has been greatly driven by it's message. I don't know how anyone can see it any other way.

    But the highest spiritual martial art? Sheesh!! That's some heavy duty baggage to carry.

    This is off-topic, and the opportunity for a free plug, but are you still coming to these parts the first week of September?

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    Default Thanks for the Plug, Erik

    Yes, I will be at Aikido of Diablo September 6-7. Details are posted on their website, http://www.advdojo.org/

    Speaking of spiritual,sometime in the early 80's, I visited the t'ai chi school of Wang Nen Min (I'm sure I've got the spelling zrong - ex Chinese general, described in one of Smith,s books). I had a nice time, got sheer friendliness from everyone there, even when they understood I practiced a lot of Japanese martial arts (the Taiwanese having no reason to love the Japanese). I was asked if I trained in any Chinese martial arts, and I said hsing i. One of the seniors, about 50 years old simply freaked. Started screaming that hsing i was an art of violence and mayhem, that only thugs were drawn to such a thing, and that how could a hsing i practitioner walk into a spiritual discipline of peace, PEACE!!!!!!! like t'ai chi, observe practice, and not immediately abandon his thuggish art in shame? Two people were holding him back by the arms, and eventually had to settle him down in the corner of the room. (Wang, BTW, was the soul of friendliness - I think in the internal arts, the most "spiritual" have tended to be, in my experience, the ones with the most confidence and skill, the incsecure falling on two wings --cheapshot artists on one side, and bliss-ninnies on the other.)

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    Default

    What about Shorinji Kempo?


    -Russ

    Originally posted by Ellis Amdur
    Altho it is true that there is nothing particular and exclusive to aikido, there is a difference. Other martial arts have moral codes in the context of self-defense, 'spiritual training,' health enhancement, aikido is unique in the explicit aim of it's creator to have developed an art for the purpose of spiritual and moral attainment.

    I,m not convinced that it is any better at this than the incidental benefits of other arts, any more than as magnificently moral a religion as Christianity (to use only a single example) guarantees any more spiritual behavior than ironworking.

    If nothing else, the expressed aim, even misinterpretted, has had a profound effect on worldwide culture, something that cannot be equally claimed by any other martial art. It may be that aikido's message is its greatest attainment, not its method.

    Ellis Amdur
    www.ellisamdur.com

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    I visited the t'ai chi school of Wang Nen Min (I'm sure I've got the spelling zrong - ex Chinese general, described in one of Smith,s books). I had a nice time, got sheer friendliness from everyone there, even when they understood I practiced a lot of Japanese martial arts (the Taiwanese having no reason to love the Japanese).
    Hi Ellis,

    I think you're talking about Wang Yen-nien, who does a type of Yang style that is taught in the US under the name "Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan". I trained with one of his students for a couple of years in Wisconsin, and though I never got to meet him, your assessment of him matches what I've heard.

    As for Aikido and spirituality - this topic used to bother me quite a bit, since I could never quite figure out what exactly it was that is "spiritual" about Aikido that sets it apart dramatically from any other martial art. I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that what is unique about Aikido has to do with the aesthetics of how it is practiced - the way techniques are done encourages a sensation of physical pleasure for both partners in a situation that starts off with well-defined roles, escalates to a moment or two of tension and confrontation that results (usually) in a satisfying, clean resolution, often with a nice exclamation mark at the end (of a body hitting the mat or a tap-out). Plus, there is also the visceral pleasure of well-executed, gravity-defying ukemi, which I and many aikidoka I knew were addicted to.

    And I'm not talking about aiki-bunny/bliss-ninny Aikido - these experiences occurred most often for me at the physically roughest schools I trained, and I later found that softer Aikido was physically unpleasant for me to practice.

    So here comes a gross generalization - in most Western cultures (possibly American more than many European cultures), there are very few endeavors that we are allowed to describe as physically pleasurable, especially when it physically involves another person and no sex is involved. So when someone engages in a practice like this and is "allowed" to find pleasure in using their body in often intimate contact with other people, the sense of release we feel is reinterpreted as "spiritual", which makes it much more acceptable. The need for that kind of physical contact is very deep, though, and I think in many ways we are starved for non-sexual yet pleasurable physical human contact.

    Plus, it resonates with our deep-rooted Judeo-Christian imperative to transcend the pleasures of the body so that we can ascend to the more refined spiritual ones.

    This may also explain why aikido is so heavily intellectualized. Maybe all the deep talk is another way of rationalizing something that, at its most basic level, simply feels good. Americans aren't very good at doing things that just feel good we tend to either feel guilty and undeserving, or we get obsessively and destructively addicted to it. I think we also have something against seeing living as a fundamentally pleasurable sensation.

    You can have all of these experiences with any martial art, but I feel pretty confident in stating that Aikido training provides the highest consistent level of them. Judo has even more physical contact than aikido, and at least as much ukemi, but the competetive atmosphere makes it more similar to wrestling, which is a perfectly acceptable way for men to get physical in this culture. And jujutsu-related arts, which have the contact and ukemi and clean techniques but may not have competition, are still geared towards physical violence enough to make it understandable and without need of further rationalization or reinterpretation for most people.

    I think this might help to explain two things. One is the seemingly disproportionate number of Aikido instructors who engage in inappropriate sexual behavior with students (who may or may not be very young) wrong turns made in reinterpreting the significance of the pleasure of Aikido, perhaps. The other is the relative lack of talk about "spirituality" among Japanese Aikidoka and instructors that I've noticed. Maybe because it's not a big deal for them to simply enjoy an intimate physical activity with other people. They certainly seem to lack (for better or for worse, depending on how you look at it) some of the feelings of shame and guilt regarding their physicality that we have. But they make up for it in social ways that we think are silly, so we're all probably even in the end.

    Related to the question about Shorinji Kempo, I think another interesting distinction to draw would be that between "spiritual" and "religious". They are very sticky terms, and I don't want to start a heated debate about them, so I will stop at saying that my impression is that Aikido is more accurately described as being more religious than most popular martial arts (but no more than, or perhaps less than, Shorinji Kempo) as opposed to being more spiritual than most martial arts. I'm using the term "spiritual" here in the sense of a subjective experience and "religious" in the sense of a formalized manner of doing things (either outwardly as a ritual or inwardly as a belief system or thought processes) that reflects and allows you to participate in a specific cosmology. I'm not saying that Aikido is more religious than it is spiritual, however. Just that using this idea of religion may be a more accurate way to compare Aikido and other arts, instead of using the idea of spirituality.

    This post got much longer than I intended, and my point was probably lost, so I'll state it again succinctly

    I think Aikidoka see Aikido as more spiritual than other arts because they are reinterpreting the pleasure they feel in the aesthetics of Aikido practice and the pleasure they feel in that specific kind of non-sexual yet intimate human contact because it is taking place without the sense of competition that would make it otherwise more palatable for us. Both of these pleasures combined make most Westerners (at least most Western men) at least a little uncomfortable at some level, and the intellectualization and spiritualization occurs as a means of rationalizing it.

    Josh
    Josh Lerner

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    Josh,

    That was an excellent post, and well worth the length. I'm going to do some serious thinking about the points you made!

    Ellis,

    I've seen much the same reaction from some aikidoka...hmmm, strange isn't it?

    Ron Tisdale

  11. #11
    bruceb Guest

    Default Do it again, and again, and again ....

    I think there is a quicker way to resolve some of the physical practice, and it is not always done on the mat. Some of it is done from self reflection, and seeking answers outside of the Aikido forum. Just like any proof, there should be more than one way to proove a theorem, and although physical practice is a big part of Aikido's transmission, it's importance is just as important as your studys and getting your thoughts and emotional house in order.

    As much a Morehei Ueshiba transmitted his teachings, he spent as much or more time in studies, reading, and seeking answers through prayer, which was an attempt to purify himself both physically and mentally. Much of it is a metaphor for getting the body to operate correctly and maintain proper health, but then some of this has nothing to do with practice, practice, practice, the term often inferred for those who believe that all knowledge will come from physical practice over time.

    I guess Aikido could be a spiritual martial art, but then how many people train for years and never truly understand the spiritual aspects that could be read into Aikido's many techniques and exercises? Too many for my money, I wouldn't bet a dollar to a C-note.

    The fact is .... we need to add more backround to where these techniques and exercises come from , how they can help or hurt you, and get some kind of handbook together that has some across the board consistency . We certainly have enough professonals who are members in different Aikido connected affiliations, you would think we could get a modern analysation of the physical, spiritual, and health aspects of aikido.

    So, to a degree of getting the proper mindset for what you should be practicing the rest of your life, you should be able to formulate some kind of picture in your mind, and come close to the goal in less than 10,000 throws, manipulations, or whatever you are practicing.

    Also, by the time you have done 40,000-50,000 it should be pretty hard to pick out the minor flaws in your technique. For some people, it might only happen with practice, practice, practice, but for others, it might happen over time, with studies, in a much smaller number.

    I believe in not overdoing it, and letting the perfection, or high level of practice, come of its own accord in its own time without forcing it to happen.

    Sometimes, for me at least, it just takes more than someone showing me how to do it. Sometimes, the mind need time to assimulate information, and formulate its use..... that would be me.

    If that is not you, no big deal. Sometimes I wish I could practice, practice, practice, but since I can not .... I do what I can and it seems to be enough.

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    Default The road less traveled... might end at a cliff

    Anything can be packaged as the most spiritual. I package "spiritual" as training in an unairconditioned warehouse converted into a dojo. You train hard and you tire fast in 95 degree weather and 100% humidity. I can't wait for the unspiritual fall season where it actually cools down and I can make it to the end of practice.

    This bunk about Aikido being the "Most Spiritual" martial art is exactly that... bunk. There are just to many variations of Aikido for it to be considered most spiritual. It's like asking which Christian religion is the most spiritual? Answer: All of them: They all tell you to be nice to each other.

    In my opinion, the Seven Prinicples of Bushido (Right Decision, Bravery, Compassion, Right Action, Truth, Honor, and Devotion) show a very spiritual template. I think that everyone across the board should endeavor to follows these guidelines. It's not easy to follow so it makes it worth practicing.

    Therefore, as Bruce so hates to hear, PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE! On and off the MAT!

    BTW: Do we really need another book telling us how to be spiritual? Experience is the best teacher for that if you follow your heart.
    Sean Moffatt

    "I'm turning Japanese; I really think so."

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    Bruce, I've taken some time to re-read your posts and think about this. Your first post seems to make clear your derision for those who espouse 'practice, practice, practice', and to say that they are denying other methods and aspects of their practice. I just don't see that at all. And the long winded excuse you provide when a simple yes or no would suffice just confuses me.

    If you had just said the last two sentences in the first post...well, you see what I mean, I think.

    Ron

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