by Kimbal Anderson Sensei
So I want to talk to you a couple of concepts that we’re going to work with…
I was just thinking how little, in aikido training, you see that is based on multiple people doing something. Sometimes you have randori, where a single person has a multitude being uke. Occasionally we have two people grabbing. But the emphasis is not on the beneficent organization of multiple people It’s usually based on a bunch of people doing the wrong thing.
But I guess the counterpoint to that is the concept of what a dojo is.
In Japan, if we lived in some rural area, the dojo, in essence, would be a school of community, in which we would train people who would be the equivalent of your local militia: the guys who went out and built that bridge real quick, or ran off the bandits or whatever. Also, the teachers would help inculcate positive cultural things in children. And as a group you would be an extended family. Because not just anyone could go to the dojo.
In America we have this strange form of egalitarianism where we include the useless – the people with bad motives – in everything too: people who come with a desire to destroy. For some reason we feel like we’re supposed to, out of the goodness of our heart, accept them, and that we’re going to change them…
This is not so in old dojos.
Your parents or whoever would have to write. I’d say, “well, bring me some letters from people I respect, assuring me that you won’t be a doofus.” And you’ll have to convince me that you’re really going to do it. Because I’m empowering you. And not just for you: I’m empowering you as a community.
And then you guys have to figure out how to b e a community. So we learn certain things in here: how to work with each other in practice, adjusting for levels of experience… how to learn to communicate instead of just thinking the other person’s stupid… also how to receive guidance and criticism without being angry or pushing back: so that it’s more like: “thank you for telling me not to do that… I had no idea they would explode if I put these two chemicals together…”
So the dojo serves that function.
The other is it provides a continuity. I’ve been doing this in Boise a long time. I think in 1982 I got a dojo put together over at BSU, and we’ve gone through lots of permutations to get to the point where we have this super-comfortable, wonderful spot to practise… but always with the same intention.
One of the things I find really interesting – because you’re not agricultural any more – is that you have few chances to work together for the common good of all of you. I mean, physically… you didn’t grow up doing that. And as a result, lots of times when people suggest things your brain goes: “we can’t do that!”
It’s like the barn-raising: “that can’t be done!” “We need a contractor!” “Oh my god! We have to…!” “That’s too much money!” “It’ll cut into my TV time…!”
People before said: “Oh yeah, Saturday. Okay. Help me get the cows in, and then we’ll go over and get started.”
And people in general were competent. If you didn’t know how to do something, you attended such an event, and then you knew. And then you could practise it the next time. There wasn’t such a huge focus on self pleasure… just isolated, narcissistic pleasure, where you simply roll up in a ball, and everything’s a problem when it interferes with your current moment of what you think is pleasurable…
Because everyone in this society is subject to such boredom. It’s like a rotating buffet where no-one’s happy.
Old school kind of thing: people were happy because they were respected for what they were like. You know, if you weren’t big enough to pick up the giant timber, then you could do something which is just as important: timbers don’t get moved unless the horse gets fed… and someone needs to feed that horse. So: “I can’t build a barn but I can make sure the horse gets fed…”
So for us, in modern times, a dojo is a chance to have a community based on concurrent learning. You’re always learning. You’re all learning about the same stuff… and you’re playing with it in your own manner… but you’re all concurrent. And therefore equal. Which is really important. How can you be valuable unless you’re equal?
There’s another kind of valuing, but it’s not based on that. It’s not based on your value, it’s based on something else. But we don’t do that. We don’t compete. Your biggest competitor is your mind – some little aspect of your mind.
Now, I want to play with doing things as a group, a little bit. And the first time I’m sure it will expose to you how you really see yourself in relationship to everything. Which means you can open up. Because if you don’t know where you’re standing and how you’re behaving and what your mind’s telling you, how can you transform? Remember I told you you have to know where you are? the big thing in here is you get to know where you are: so you know your own space and what’s going on and that there’s other people moving around you, and you include them into your reality.
Because if you’re not paying attention in here, you get bumped into.
And you start seeing all the interactions, all of them, all at once… and you realize they’re just like one giant organism. And that perception helps you drop a bunch of stuff.
So… if you were Vikings we’d make a shield-wall. But I also want you to move together in a big movement.
You all have the skills, I know that: the timing, everything, it’s all totally inherent: you know this stuff. Now, I want you to see how you react to other people and if you may confuse yourself in order to avoid things.
I want to eliminate that.
And this will be a positive thing, except for that little part of you that just wants to be wrapped in a cocoon with earphones on…
Well that’s over…
So… there are all kind of versions of working together, and we’re going to play with that a bunch…