130) Aikido and the “Cult” of Aiki: June 2015
I have openly admitted that I had previously talked about what I believed Ai-Ki-Do to be. The reality was that I did not know then what I did not know. Plain and simply, I was basing my understanding on inaccurate translations of O’Sensei’s writings and on my own desire to want to believe some nice “feel-good” understandings that are popular in our society. Aikido was primarily brought outside of Japan in the 1960’s. This was a period of time in which peace movements throughout the world were prevalent. In this atmosphere, the message from O’Sensei in regards to using his martial art as a tool to heal our violent world resonated strongly and helped this art to grow rapidly. Unfortunately, this mistaken understanding of our art has hurt more than helped what and how are martial art is represented and practiced. O’Sensei’s martial art was both profound and powerful. It was a very good tool to help make our world a more peaceful place. I do not believe that most of what is represented as Aikido (that includes what I am currently doing) can fit that bill….
Thanks to the diligent research from the professional interpreter, Christopher Li (who just so happens to be the official translator for the current doshu) and the tireless research and work of others, we can no longer pretend that our art is not Aiki – Do. Aiki is the product in your body of a unique type of internal power training with roots that appear to trace back to India, through China, in Japan, through Takeda Sensei and taught directly to O’Sensei. There is tangible evidence, O’Sensei’s direct words, that speak to us to exactly what O’Sensei defined Aiki to be. He must have been very frustrated that his students were mostly not getting what he was trying to tell them and teach them.
There are those of us who have always genuinely been sincere about wanting to learn and teach the art of Aikido. Some of us have openly admitted how mistaken our prior understandings were. We have been intellectually curious and open in our desire to continue learning. Many of us did not want to believe this “rediscovered” truth as to what O’Sensei was talking about. We have been open minded enough to confront our understandings and confront the understandings of others in order to best understand our art. To say that having to make such a seismic shift in our paradigms of understandings was difficult is beyond an understatement. We will continue to explore, learn and grow with a skeptical, yet open mind.
We are not questioning the “sincerity” of those who seek to hold onto other understandings. We have asked for source information and challenge when the source is either not accurate or not from the founder of our art. Obviously, some people do not want their understandings to be questioned. They want to be able to make “absolute statements” and be believed at face value, without question. Sorry to say that out of an honest desire to apply the utmost scrutiny to the art that we do, we will continue to question and challenge. A person is entitled to hold onto whatever belief he/she wants. When that person tries to ascribe that belief to the founder of our art, then this person should demonstrate the intellectual honesty to separate personal belief from that which the founder of our art held and talked about.
In pursuit of this path, myself and another person (from a different Aikido organization) were accused of being in a cult! In another internet thread, another person did not want to believe that there was anything real about internal power! Needless to say, I do not belong to a cult, nor am I some naive dope who believes in unicorns and magical powers…… We can all agree to disagree on our own personal beliefs about things. Choosing to ignore accurate translations from our founder said does not fit neatly into this polite paradigm. I support people’s varied paths of their interpretations of what they are doing. I cannot and will not support these varied paths when they are essentially intellectually dishonest in misrepresenting what and how they are doing what they are doing. O’Sensei let people work on what they were doing under his instruction. He also scolded people for not doing what he was doing. I think that this policy is both honest, respectful and relevant today.
Marc Abrams Sensei