Recommended Book

The art of Aikido is grounded firmly within both the particular cultural context of Budo and also within the larger historical context of East Asia’s wisdom traditions, namely those practices that aim the ascetic toward a reconciliation of all dichotomy, including and especially so, the subject/object dichotomy. Aikido’s key and widely touted and accepted concepts of Yin/Yang Theory, Musubi, Aiki, Takemusu Aiki, harmony, love, etc., including the very suffix in the art’s name, Tao, all work and stem from a long established position: To abide within a world of opposites, even to seek a middle ground between opposites, is to abide in delusion.

This delusion takes on a ubiquity and the art’s ideals become less and less embodied as they become more and more warped or denied as “irrelevant.“ An easy to understand example of this is how most Aikido instructors now either clash upward against the downward aspect of Uke’s Shomenuchi or they artificially reconcile the clash by taking out altogether said downward aspect from Uke’s Shomenuchi: This, today, now passing for “harmony.”

In my experience, what contributes widely but silently to these kind of corruptions of the art is nothing more than a lack of exposure to these aforementioned wisdom traditions and in particular to what has always been their unique way of understanding how we live the world. I am convinced that it was this that had Hombu dojo’s younger missionizing shihan at a loss when it came to understanding what Osensei was explaining. He, Osensei, was a mystic, a person that sought to reconcile dichotomy according to the wisdom traditions to which he had been exposed. Yet, he was speaking to moderns, atheists, materialists, the scientistic - all modes of being that seek to function through dichotomy. The semantic barrier between speaker and audience was obviously not one of language, but it was also not one of “old vs new.” The semantic barrier was epistemological, and it was why those other deshi that had been exposed to the aforementioned wisdom traditions and their thinking, deshi such as Inoue and Sunadomari for example, more clearly understood their teacher. By extension, it is also why their art more resembles their teacher’s art.

What then should a contemporary Aikidoka do in light of such effects? First, find a teacher that understands and knows how to assist others across the given semantic barrier. Then, expose yourself more and more to this epistemic rift. This book recommended here is a good foot in the door, as it is trying to do the same thing: Bridge gaps in understanding.

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