There are two chances to try to understand what’s going on in the world of Aikido. (We could say: in the world of Martial Arts).
One is to invest time and resources to frequently get out of your nest and to meet new people and different styles.
The other is to take advantage of social networks to create channels, new relationships and being curious here and there.
This second opportunity is certainly a kind of low cost tourism and allows us to literally travel the world in one click. To see and hear things and words of people who live on the other side of the planet or to listen and even see people who are no longer here. We can even listen to people who were significant figures for the birth of a movement.
If we look at the content of the discussions published on the web, we can, however, isolate the elements that are peculiar to the human being and that are proposed as they are on the internet, on social media, on the mats, in gyms, in associations… Everywhere!
We often see the generation of a good cocktail -yet potentially explosive- made from a dose of passion (the practice continues to nourish it), a sense of belonging, identity, a purpose, personal gratification, pride and of at least two hundred other characteristics of a martialist’s ego.
And this mix generates forms of communication that an observer can simultaneously label as a moving devotion to the discipline and as a kind of slightly autistic obsession.
Certain posts, like certain locker room discussions, seem to co-create some stereotypes:
- The keeper of tradition. He publishes daily or almost photos of the founder, videos of the founder, memorabilia of the founder. We do not know if he also talks to his family about the founder at home, however it is likely that at some point they do not speak to him so as not to be answered “Masagatsu Agatsu” to the question “Who won the match”?
- The Amaterasu’s cousin. He is the intellectual and spiritual variant of the keeper of tradition. He usually writes very long posts (longer than this, I mean). Maybe he also writes short ones. But in both cases they are so stuffed with quotes, Japanese phrases, references to proto-oceanic cosmogonies that nobody actually understands the meaning or purpose of his words. The problem is self resolving because in the end those people are like the Grandma’s Christmas menu: you have to resist to the end.
- Bernardo (the faithful silent servant of Zorro). He is like the keeper of tradition but is more careful to show his unconditional loyalty. To the head of his movement (portrayed in all poses). To his sensei. To his dojo. Bernardo reposts everything that his “superiors” publish. Uses the same words. Not because he’s convinced. Because he’s within a group. And in teaming up, he shows his loyalty, hoping for a caress from his master. For Bernardo, the tradition to be preserved is that which gives meaning to his existence within a group.
- Bernardo’s opportunistic twin. Usually to distinguish the twins we try to dress them with some different details. In the case of this person, it is sufficient to see how many photos he publishes of himself in the company of the big boss. And how many posters of his seminars, in which a photo taken in an stage of the school boss is used to induce the public to think that Bernardo 2 is an expert student. Like his twin, he exists if the group exists and recognizes him as a member.
- The ecumenical. He compulsively posts anything with a scent of martiality. Chinese children who fight like blacksmiths in the Shaolin tradition, followed by a philosophical post on the meaning of the sword and the blum, followed by the picture of a street party where there is the demonstration of dietary sumo… Practicing with these people it’s a lot of fun, because usually everything is practiced with them, except what the teacher asked to do. For him the tradition is “whatever, everything is fine”.
- Buddhist Spartacus. Spartacus has reached enlightenment. He understood that he is the custodian of knowledge and truth. And so he spends his time denigrating the posts of others. Even those where there are cute kittens playing with a ball. He knows. He knows the truth and with seraphic calm spreads his bitterness on everything he does not understand and does not share. At the same time, since he is Spartacus, he rebels against established power and preaches anarchy. Obviously he is the most dictatorial among practitioners, but a hero can’t ask for much more.
We could go on and on. I believe everyone could add a profile, a stereotype. Just as I believe that, by reading, everyone can recognize himself or recognize someone met somewhere.
In the irreverent (and also a little blasphemous) Monty Python’s Life of Brian, a group of people willing at all costs to have a messiah to follow, believes to identify the “chosen” in a very normal person.
The self-suggestion of the group of strange believers is such that every event is seen as a sign. A shoe abandoned in a precipitous escape gives rise to a frenzied faction of followers in self-proclaimed “Shoe followers” (a faction that is immediately divided into two subgroups), while a woman, raising a gourd to the sky, becomes the referent of the “Gourdenes” .
The more we walk on the mats (at “home” or “away”), the more we understand that for human reasons (and also for teaching limits and needs), the original message is transmitted according to different dialects. We can like it or not, nobody is the only custodian of what has been given to us.
We have just returned from a series of valuable experiences gained thanks to the sempai of Endo Sensei. It is a practice that helps us to understand and make the richness of the dialect with which we speak at home, flourish. And, conversely, our dialect, essentially a rigorous Iwama style but very open to contamination, enriches the proposals of others. Neither duality, nor opposition. Only an incremental support for an increased understanding of things.
Starting to say (convinced!) That “Aikido is…” or that “the Founder wanted that…” is very slippery. It blinds.
Similarly, saying that all dialects are equal is an ambiguous assumption. All dialects may say the same content but if used incorrectly they create confusion.
So, we can certainly say that the founder did not intend to indicate to become Gourdenes nor Shoe followers. Yet looking at our society, at the myriads of religions, parties, martial styles, acronyms… It says that we have become like this.
The founders (of anything) have clearly traced the principles and perspectives. But we prefer to be member of a party and the quiet assurance of being walking labels with belts (white or black) on. It is easier to feel a Shoe follower than a person on a serious journey who finds the definition of his / her own self.