Sunday, December 03, 2006

As I update my old web site, I'm going to transfer the stuff I like over to this blog.
This next post is from March 2002.

If I recall correctly, author and scientist Richard Dawkins flatly dismisses the myth of race.
As I like this theory, this essay becomes a moot point. However, for those who still thrive on myths and cling to illusion, here's my opinion on racism in budo:

Updated March 18, 2002:
There is something I am very tired of. A certain childish attitude, in the world of budo. It is born of insecurity and lack of confidence, born of closemindedness and fear.

It is composed of the very things we seek to extinguish in ourselves by pursuing our path.
I did not see it so clearly until I went to Kim Taylor's "Sword School" in Guelph. Having been to the Guelph Sword School, where they are trying frantically to preserve ancient arts from being lost, I must say I observed a difference.
At Guelph, the differences are between ryu, not ha. That is, a whole different system. Socially, less competition. As in, between baseball and football instead of between football teams.

There is much interest and open sharing. There is mutual respect and admiration. They know what it is to do a crazy thing to a level of expertise and respect it. They don't do what you do, but they will enjoy your performance and enjoyment of it.

In the gendai budo world there is a form of racism (undoubtedly in the koryu as well, within sects). Yes, racism. "'Oh, don't talk to them.. they're a different color/school/sect. They will 'pollute your aikido/karate/judo/basketweaving' "No.Really. Even in the most polite and softened terms, anyone who forbids you to train with anyone else has something they don't want you to see about them. Anyone who thinks everyone else is a waste of time is an egotist, a megalomaniac with an inferiority complex. Naturally, a person should try to gain a base in an art which suits them, but training under lock and key is like never leaving your house.. no matter how cool you make it, you're not going anywhere. It's a kind of spiritual and intellectual agoraphobia. It's locking your door when someone of a different color walks by.

It's a terribly poisonous practice and it is robbing the aikido world (I know little of the other arts besides Wing Tsun and will tell you for free that's vicious and crazy) of a "whole vision" of what Morihei Ueshiba taught. Not to say the Japanese are sinless, in fact Hombu Dojo is known for its nationalist tendencies (see
footnote by Henry Ellis) and policies which include holding back Western student so as to promote Japanese students faster.
Ueshiba taught Inoue and he taught Saotome. He taught Akira AND Koichi Tohei. If you throw away what he taught one person, what they brought away from the experience and yes, added to it, then you disregard a piece of the whole.

Can we afford to do that?
Can we, as second-third-fourth-XXX generation aikidoka and budoka, AFFORD to do that? I say no.

At the same time, we don't have to perpetuate the prejudices.

I came back from Guelph to an e-mail message which, while very sweet to me, attempted to undermine my instructor, from one of my old instructors, written under an all too traceable pseudonym.I figure he had a hard time dealing with the fact that I got to go to Guelph and get my hands on "the real thing" while he flails for truth by his own parameters back home. Geez man, let go and be glad for me! The fact remains that we cannot help those who will not either recieve help, or help themselves. I have gone out to find out more, I will meet strange people and go sword to sword with them, I will humble myself to learn from them and take what I can to those who might someday learn from me. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Is it all about whether or not you can hit somebody with a length of bamboo? I don't think so.

I think it's about history, about respect (hokorei...) about generations of survival in a lethal political and military climate.It's about taking what your teachers give you in blood and sweat and carrying it on. It's about supporting other people who are trying to do the same. Big arfing deal if they have other teachers. They are your brothers and sisters in preserving an ancient tradition and improving upon it.In a political climate terrified of people with power (unless they have money too) unless it's a question of character and legality, we must support one another. And we must be compassionate and try to understand that everyone does the best they can with what they have. If the person is poisonous, then be specific. If you simply don't like someone's art, don't assume they're a bad person. Just because other folks don't fit in your little cookie mold doesn't mean they're evil.

Can we turn up our noses because of the unknown and the assumed?

What do we gain, with closed minds?

Now, here is my dare, for you. Try something new. Add to your collection of perspectives. Are you content with your tiny piece of it? I dare you to kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight. Don't just cower behind your door, or under your label, or behind your shield. So, you're already right about everything? What does that mean, if you only do one thing and won't think about anything else?

If you want the karateka's version of this, go to If you want to talk about genetic racism, sorry, can't help ya. Don't suffer from it (I don't even believe there is any basis for it!).

A footnote from Henry Ellis Sensei, posted on the aikido list:
"Hi Chuck,
I totally agree with you and others on the subject of grades in Aikido. In the 1950's several of us that were students of the legendry Kenshiro Abbe sensei were graded to dan grade, we all trained at least four to five nights a week, with three hours every Sunday, these were some of the best aikidoist's I have ever seen, all dan grades were graded by Abbe sensei, our certificates were signed by O'Sensei. In the very early 1960's Aikido was now expanding very quickly throughout the UK, Abbe sensei asked O'Sensei to send another teacher to the UK. The first teacher O'Sensei sent was Mikoto Mashailo Nakazono, we were all shocked to learn that we were to be regraded by Nakazono Sensei, the gradings were harder the second time around, I must add that the first grading was tough enough, we all kept our grades except one who was demoted from 2nd dan to first, this was the occasion that Nakazono stated " Necessary sell your gi while prices are high " this guy was a great student and a good 2nd dan, he was totally gutted after that, and it was not long after that he gave it all up. Now back to Chucks point, we later found out that Abbe sensei had received a letter from the Hombu dojo to advise that all Western students should be held back from promotions in grade, this was obviously to enhance the grades of any visiting Japanese

-Henry Ellis

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