Nietzsche and the Aikido Crisis


When it comes to addressing the immediate crisis of modernity, which itself is the disease of nihilism, Nietzsche is an important thinker to understand. He is like a prophet of old, or, at the least, like a vanguard scientist, if you will, one that hypothesized the existence of the virus, noted its early symptomology, and understood its destructive potential, but did so with only crude tools of detection. This is important, in my opinion, for Aikidoka to understand, because the Aikido crisis, the art’s impotency in both spiritual and martial matters, its lack of practicality, and the ensuing loss of meaning that comes with the loss of practicality, is nothing more than a part of the larger modernity crisis. To fix the art, to solve its meaning crisis, and to regain its practicality, we are going to have to solve the modern crisis – at least at the level of the individual practitioner and at the level of the individual dojo.


Toward this end, when using Nietzsche as a guidepost, it is important to note that he was no historian. Because of this, his thought was mostly ethnocentric or egocentric – which he did not realize. However, this is when it is at its strongest – when it is reflecting in upon itself, upon us, us of the “modern west.” In other words, and for example, Nietzsche knew nothing of Christianity: He knew of the Christianity of his time. He knew nothing of Buddhism: He knew the “Buddhism” that was being introduced to Europe by European thinkers during his time. Also, via this ethnocentric thought, Nietzsche “objectively” (without reflection) assigned an evolutionary nature to culture, to history, and to Man, without realizing that this understanding of Time was a marker of his particular culture, and that it too functioned at a genetic level within the virus of nihilism itself.


Contrarily, if your force history back into the thinking of Nietzsche, you realize that he is talking not about human beings in general, not about a condition of humanity in the greater sense, nor even about the west as a whole, but rather about a specific culture adopted by particular human beings that happen to be near him at that time. In this sense, as premodern peoples knew, and as contemporary people not of this culture know today, the disease of nihilism is not an inevitable end of human progress and/or of history. Rather, it is, as I have been referring, a disease, a degenerate state, brought about by a deviation from a wellness path. And, as such, nihilism only infects those humans that have made this deviation from health.


When it comes to the Aikido crisis, we should not that it is these particular humans, and their particular culture, more than any other people or anything culture, that makes up contemporary Aikido in the United States, and in Europe, and in other geographical locations we would colloquially refer to as “the west” or as “modern.” It is like this, or because of this, at the subtle level of culture, and at the dichotomy between wellness and disease, that you go in but a handful of decades from an individual mystic to masses of secular-materialists, and from the art being powerful and practical to the art being a farce in light of its claims or stated purposes. To undo any of this, the first step will be to separate him/herself from this culture.