View Full Version : (Un)Natural Act??? - Budoka Philosophizing

9th April 2001, 01:37
I mean no disrespect but I believe that you are wrong Ellis Amdur when you say, "Technically, it(aikido) is quite limited - deliberately - which forces people into a template of movement. This, by definition, makes it an art, as the skill is created within a frame".
I believe the very oppisite in fact. I think that what makes an art an art is that there are no boundries. Aikido is everything. Pure Karate is everything. Kempo is everythign... and so on. A martial art is growth. And since there is no end to growth (except death... although death leads to new life, and than growth takes place again) there can be no end or frame for an art. True Aikido is the way of blending. Yes it's true that most of aikido uses blending to defeat an attacker. But what about blending with natures natural laws. I think that is what Aikido is really about. So if Aikido is about blending with the natuaral world.. than there can be no limits. Because there are no limits to the natural world. There are only three things constant in the natural world (and by natural world I mean the real reality, and not what people precieve that reality to be because of their own prejudices and thoughts). Paradox, humor, and change.

Thank you,
Tom Berkery

Ellis Amdur
9th April 2001, 05:45
Mr. Berkery -

We're talking about very different things. From a philosophical perspective (or the perspective of quantum physics), not only is karate or aikido everything - bellybutton lint is "everything." But from a human perspective, creation comes from deliniation. For example, the most sophisticated hand fighting techniques are, arguably, Western Boxing. The hook was not created until after throwing techniques were eliminated from boxing. The sophistication of Western fencing reached it's peak with the design of a weapon in which fighting someone in armor was no longer a concern. Rules create the art.

Rules and boundaries allow humanity to actually participate in creation itself. For example, there is nothing in nature equivalent to looking in a magnifying glass painting characters with a one hair brush on a grain of rice, as is sometimes done in China. We have a capacity to develop this degree of fine neuromuscular movement, but until someone decides to train how to do it, it will not be done - ever.

Aikido is, technically quite limited - and this was deliberate. The limitation forces one to concentrate with far more dedication on the elements which Ueshiba Morihei believed essential to his art. Therefore, there's no ground fighting, no kicking, etc. etc. etc. The genius of Ueshiba was his skill in knowing what to pare away from his knowledge of Daito Ryu, and all the other arts he studied, to create what he did.

One other point. Aikido is of the "natural world" because human beings - carbon compound based - doing it. It's no more or less natural than making an atom bomb and dropping it on children, or chopping wood, or polishing silverware. An art is not exceptional for it's "naturalness." This is one of the words used by aikidoka in a very sloppy manner, ie., "aikido follows the natural movement of the universe." Yes, but so does tennis.

An art is exceptional for it's being a human endeavor, which includes an aesthetic sensibility and intention, qualities that no animal (purely natural beings) can do.

In short, then, unlike you towards me, I don't think you are "wrong" - but we are talking about entirely different things.


Ellis Amdur

9th April 2001, 11:56
Sometimes it seems like E-Budo is based on the penthouse of Babel Tower :)

The problem with words is that they carry many misconceptions.

Human beings don't like the fact of having limitations.

Thus we engage in sports and arts seeking to overcome our limits.

In that sense the word "limited" sounds uncomfortable.

But without limits there is no shape.

Without limits there is no reasoning (try on reasoning with someone who doesn't limit himself to one subject).

Without limits there is no learning or research.

We need limits to be able to focus.

Through focusing we can manage to analise and understand new things and new perspectives.

But although AiKiDo is limited as a "lab" on human social behaviour, human social behaviour has an infinite variety of possibilities.

Infinite divided by two is still infinite :)

Best wishes

11th April 2001, 16:10
Mr. Amdur

I am sorry if for any reason I have offended you. I apologize, I meant no disrespect. Thank you for sharing your opinion with me. I am grateful that you have taken the time to expand on your idea. I think that perhaps we are not talking about different things. I think that we are talking about the same thing, and that we may even be describing the same thing, althought in different ways. I do agree with what you are saying. I understand how an art is limited. I am not speaking in as broad a term as you may have thought though. What I mean to say (and even in using words my origional meaning is somewhat lost) is that an art is infinite in it's possiblities. For example, a person never thows the same punch twice, so therefore the same defense can never be used twice. However, the same principles are applied for every punch. So there is really only one punch.

You made a very good point, "An art is not exceptional for it's "naturalness." This is one of the words used by aikidoka in a very sloppy manner, ie., "aikido follows the natural movement of the universe." Yes, but so does tennis." I believe the very same thing. I am going to explain how I view this a bit differently though. I agree very much that the same principles applied in an art are also applied in tennis, or volleyball, or any other sport or actvity for that matter. I am not sure if this is your meaning, but the way that i view it is that a martial art may look unique, and may be constrainded by it's intent. However, I think that any movement in a martial art should be "natural" by natural I mean that the movement shoudl not be forced. For example, Aikidoka usually tend to keep their hands at their center, and close to themselves. It is natural for a human being to pick up a coffe mug in this manner. The same principles of movement applied in picking up a coin on the ground, can be used in evadin a punch. Each art is limited by it's intent. But the same principles of movement should be the same as when a person moves throughout the day. I may have rambled a little. But I hope that I have not lost my origional meaning.

Thank you for reading my thoughts, I look forward to learning of your thoughts on the issue.

Thank you,
Tom Berkery

Ellis Amdur
11th April 2001, 23:41
Do you remember the revelation that I assume you along with every other school kid got at the insight that pictures of atoms in textbooks looked like solar systems? Certainly quantum physics has far superseded this picture, but the concept of reality with different "levels" of microcosm/macrocosm is still a valid one.

The same thing applies to the concept of naturalness. On one level, everything is natural, being of nature. (Of course, this tautology doesn't get us anywhere). We sometimes refer to efficient or fluid movement as natural. But a punch, by definition, is not an act "natural" to humans. The bones of the fist are not made to strike. {I recently saw a great video of a chimpanzee attacking a naturalist :) - ripped off an ear and a finger in the process - and the natural attack was flailing downward palm strikes, a jump on the guy's head and a lot of biting.}

Martial arts are "un-natural" in that they are a retraining of reflexes against our impulse to natural movement. For example, lots of people have great ukemi until they slip on a patch of ice and put down their hand on the ground as they fall.

On the other hand, what is also natural to human beings is an amazing capacity to train the neurological system through experience, not only to get new skills, but literally to grow new dendrites to make these skills possible.

For example, my latest project is to learn American Sign Language (new computer program). If I am successful, my brain will literally grow a plethora of new interconnections so that I can think in muscle movements rather than sounds.

Honestly, once we get past the "all is one" insight regarding efficiency, relaxation, basic principles shared in common, etc., I believe the most interesting thing about combative arts is their unique differences - be they limitations or peaks. Similarly, on one level, all of humanity is "one," but I'm very selective who I want to spend any time with.

P.S. The only reason I'm indulging myself in this pontificating is that it allows me to avoid a reality far harsher than any fist. Doing my taxes.


Ellis Amdur

12th April 2001, 19:11
Mr. Amdur

Good I am glad that we are in agreement. Thank you for taking the time to share your opinons with me. I may have the tendency to over simplify things when I discuss them. Thank you for staying to the specifics. I like the part about the monkey. I believe that is very true as well. I am happy that you spent the time to listen to my thoughts.

Thank you,
Tom Berkery

25th April 2001, 21:33
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Ellis Amdur

"An art is exceptional for it's being a human endeavor, which includes an aesthetic sensibility and intention, qualities that no animal (purely natural beings) can do."

I should probably read more of this thread before jumping in, but this reminds me of what Alasdair MacIntyre calls a "practice" in After Virtue, using examples like chess, physics, and medicine. He's trying to identify what is virtuous for human beings qua human beings, and he tries to show that all practices, no matter what their arbitrary content, require justice, courage, and truthfulness. He opposes practices to institutions, such as chess clubs, universities, and hospitals, and points out that what benefits us in obtaining the goods internal to a practice may actually hinder us in obtaining external goods (like fame, wealth, power) valued by an institution.

In this sense, budo is certainly a practice, which benefits from truthfulness, justice, and courage. The intangible goods we get from practicing budo may often be at odds with the institution of a certain dojo, international organization, etc. Certainly, to do budo well may often (always?) be at odds with the attainment of power, wealth, or fame, and vice versa.

I think I've gone off in a strange direction here, so I'll leave it at that...