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A change of optic:

Aikido is a gem of many facets – sometimes it seems that every one of O’Sensei’s students remembered a different teacher, and of course, many, many different styles have been preserved and developed – but here is one facet that clicked into focus for me recently:

what if O’Sensei spent his time away from Iwama and Tokyo coherently pursuing what he felt to be his “mission in life”?…

what if he spent his time away from Iwama and Tokyo creating and nurturing a network of dojos run by Omoto-Kyo, ex-Omoto-Kyo and Ko-Shinto believers ( hand-picked deshi,  some of them raised, almost, as members of his family) – – – and ex-Kamikaze pilots, too (!) – often with his own name on the sign –  in places – and close to shrines…

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…Philip and trees and the dojo’s roof…

A long time ago, everybody played music…

 – – – Mitsugi Saotome Shihan

At one point in history, everyone was a warrior; everyone, a hunter; everyone, a musician; everyone, a carpenter. There was no separation of functions. People were just striving to survive. Later, civilization introduced classes…. Today we need to return to the old ways. Each of us needs to learn how to be a protector, a farmer, a cook, a musician, and so on.

A long time ago, everybody played music, everybody partied, everybody prayed…and everybody went to war. Compared to life in those days, our lives seem very isolated… People today tend not to be players or actors, but observers. Observers watch life without living it or studying it. The modern life-style is very poor in quality.

* – * – *

[Budo] is based on developing heightened awareness of all sensations….Through their olfactory, visual, auditory, and tactile senses, [budo-ka] gather information about their immediate surroundings. With clear heads, they can process this information quickly. And a calm readiness increases their ability to respond appropriately. These are the warrior’s skills.

The warrior spirit is the struggle for life – spiritual as well as physical… The warrior will not accept a spiritually dead existence. And what preserves life is the natural world around us. When we grow the ingredients of our salad or stew, there is an undeniable cycle of life being sacrificed for life; caring for plants is the first step to developing sensitivity and compassion for other living things. When we hand-sew fabric, there is an undeniable sensation available to us through our touch. When we cook, sensations are abundant through smell, touch, hearing and sight.

* – * – *

Getting our food from many places creates a great danger of control. How can we create self-governance under these conditions? Self-governance implies independence. It is best if a nations’s food is grown on its own land….

The basic problem is that the industrial concept of food production is based on the concept of bigness. In my opinion, however, real strength lies in the family farmer. Budo consciousness has to do with how to live well – how to make yourself and your family healthy. These are issues of management, which does not just have to do with counting money.

* – * – *

People who are not hard-working will never discover a peaceful society. Laziness, dishonor, escaping responsibility – these are not good. Budo requires constant work – very intense, hard work to develop and complete projects. If we neglect hard work of this kind, society will suffer. This is more than just living.

That is why I built a dojo – my contribution.

* – * – *


from Aikido – Living by Design,  pp. xiv, 59, 84, 92, 96

…the oracle-bones…

Our tradition and our teachers’ teachers tell us that what we learn is very old.  And we believe them because we discover that we are learning what a farmer knows, what a hunter-gatherer knows, what someone who rows a boat knows, and what someone who fights on horse-back knows – and what a swordsman who has fought to exhaustion knows – ways of holding our body, and of being in our body, and of knowledge that comes from that.

And we believe them because we hear that some of our exercises are reminiscent of First Nations movement ritual.

And we believe them centereduprightbecause we see that what we are learning is encoded in the oldest writing. In oracle-bone scripts and seal script.

The oldest form of ‘centered’ is an upright with that metaphor of banner waving in the wind – both above, and below. And the oldest form of  ‘straight and upright’ is a foot with no ankle: so with the weight resting behind the ball of the foot, on the Bubbling Well chakra.

So what is happening here?…


So what is happening here? Is the dancer spinning clockwise or counter-clockwise?

Depends which side of the brain you are using.

Left side: logical, language, methodic, concepts, like a serial processor
Right side: creative, emotion, direct experience, like a parallel processor

Can you get it to switch at will?
– by doing math in your head?
– by imaginging you are about to look at your hand?

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…pencil learning vs.electronic…

Amusing to note, as we process the recent findings of Princeton and UCLA researchers,  that:

  • Masatake Fujita sound-recorded O’Sensei’s talks, and Sadateru Arikawa transcribed them for the Aikikai’s  newsletter…. AND, NOTORIOUSLY, AT HOMBU, NOT A SINGLE STUDENT UNDERSTOOD WHAT O’SENSEI WAS SAYING…

while on the other hand:



All physical activity in the dojo tends to rewire the circuits in one’s head –  but none more so than the investigation of “kyo” :   the trajectory through air that feels like the path of least resistance for a staff or sword, and in particular the places where gravity and momentum are perfectly balanced so that the weapon seems to float.

The term “kyo” is a buddhist term – it’s one of the Japanese words for  “emptiness” in “emptiness is form, form is emptiness”.  And the experience of it is  profoundly counter-cultural.  Our culture, more than any previous  culture, surrounds us with a plethora of objects and leads us to interact more
with objects than with other human beings. Thus, we are entrained to  pay attention to the moment of grasping the object…

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Jean Baudrillard on kotodama, potlatch and self-sacrifice…

Nevertheless…there does exist a schema of social relations founded on the extermination of [monetary] value. For us, it is a model we see in  primitive social structures, and it is from them that we learn it,    b u t   its radical utopia is beginning to explode slowly throughout all levels of our society – along with that vertiginous feeling that comes from a rebellion that has nothing to do, these days,  with notions of “revolution”, “laws of history”, or even…the “liberation” of “desire”….

From our vantage point, now, there are other nodes of theory that have become the most important: Saussure’s [studies of ancient] anagrams 1), Mauss’ exchange/gift [ – potlatch]….[these] are not simply curiosities on the fringe of linguistics and anthropology…[they] show us clearly, right here and right now, something beyond [monetary] value, something beyond legalism and legality, something beyond [what your therapist calls] “repression”, something beyond the [Western, Freudian notion of] “sub-conscious”. These are the coming things.

And just one more, that seems as important to us as the above-mentioned pair: Freud’s hypothesis of the death-wish.

– – – Jean Baudrillard,  L’Echange symbolique et la mort  ed. Gallimard, 1976,  pp.7-8

1)  Saussure’s investigation of assonance, hidden structure and hidden meanings in ancient Latin poetry.  Opening up a wider perspective onto the direct value of sound (beyond denoted meaning) and those things in the language of antiquity – such as polysemy – that precede rationality.

…Guy Debord / La Société du Spectacle…



  • The entire life of [our] societies where modern conditions of production reign, manifests itself as – and proclaims itself to be – an immense accumulation of performances and images.  Everything that used to be lived directly has become removed and distanced: and has become a replica, a second-hand representation.

* – * – *

This means that instead of people using the myth for introspection and illumination… the myth now has become its own thing. And so  having an aggregated myth about yourself, plus a set of selfies and a ‘personality’…  everyone has become both an actor and a cinematographer, and they’ve forgotten… even though Nature is acting upon them… they respond in the third person. And they don’t feel the visceral knowledge: which means they’re out of synch with Great Nature.

And so what used to be the great dramas and passion plays, that were used to reconnect you to tribe and to Nature and a deeper sense of being, have all been turned into the opposite.

It actually turns you away from everything. It even turns you away from others, because then you compete in your spectacle.

* – * – *


  • In a world which has been truly turned inside out, the ‘true’ is a beautiful moment of sublimely realized falsehood. 

* – * – *


  • The concept of  ‘le spectacle‘  – of these performances and images – encompasses and explains a huge diversity of phenomena of appearance. Their diversity and variety are the way these appearances appear, organized socially, which must be seen and understood as its generalized truth. Considered on its own terms, ‘le spectacle‘ is the  a f f i r m a t i o n  of appearances and the affirmation of all human life, which is to say life in society, as simple appearance. But the critique which gets to the true heart of ‘le spectacle‘ discovers it to be the visible  n e g a t i o n   of life; because, in fact, it is an on-going    n e g a t i o n  of life which has  b e c o m e   v i s i b l e .
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…Guy Debord / La Société du Spectacle II…



  • It is the essential gesture of these performances and images to capture as performance and image everything that, as human activity, exists in a fluid state, in order to own it – to make it property – in a frozen state, in the shape of things that have finally become society’s sole source of value: by formulating themselves as the imprint: the negative image, as it were, of value as it can actually be lived. In this essential gesture we recognize our old enemy, who knows so well how to appear at first glance something trivial and perfectly natural, whereas on the contrary it is in fact something tremendously complex and full of metaphysical subtlety: consumer goods.

* – * – *

In the English-speaking world, money was first used to escape from social obligation – to buy out one’s social obligations… This was the reason it first became widely used.

But as we learn in budo: if you escape a social obligation, then you also don’t have – you don’t get to acquire – the experience of performing that obligation. And so you have no idea of the real value of performing that obligation…

And as we can see, increasingly, today… and this is becoming more and more visible: by definition, the “imprint” is made by people who are under pressure, under compulsion… in a hurry.  So they h a v e no real sense of value.

And consumer goods are the comforting short hand, the abbreviated avatar of their guilt – for the social relations escaped from.

So, in the English-speaking world, when the pre-Reformation abbeys, convents and monasteries were abolished – they became big, fancy houses for rich merchants and nouveaux riches… with no chapel.

Whereas in a recusant household, the chapel would still be there: still the beating heart of the household… and they would sing the old music – and play it on viols – wood and gut and voices raised in sweet harmonies, making the air dance all together.

And often, today, we see something that originally was religious – pantheistic or animist, rooted and local – and many-layered – for sale in a simplified form. A form that you  c o u l d  still use to build a deeper understanding – but no-one has the time or the know-how. So its monetary value is a wish based on a distant memory of its real, experienced value.

That wish is how the keeping-you-always-wanting-more works!

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