A blog with some news, reports and articles from the Aikido community around the world.
Edited by Lawrence Warry & Ze'ev Erlich

Monday, February 11, 2013

February 2013

1. Kan Geiko (Winter training)
Being close to nature, all the seasons have their challenges. Going through the seasons, practicing regularly, we learn to accept the changes in season and be one with nature. Winter training can be very hard and enduring when faced with the the cold, the wind, the rain, sometimes snow. Nature tests humans all the time. During the winter time, it is useful to make a special Aikido practice to face up to the elements with respect and defiance. It is character building and confidence building and challenges the mind and the body.
I have written in previous years about how Kan Geiko is practiced in different ways. One way is to take your Aikido group to an isolated area during the winter time and make a winter practice near to nature but just going to your regular dojo location during the winter, riding the bike through the biting cold temparatures to get on time to practice is already a challenge worthy of the category "Winter Training". So, enjoy the process as Winter will soon become Spring and there are only a few opportunities to really experience Kan Geiko. 

2. Thoughts About the Evolution of Aikido Organisations and Budo Culture

As Aikido develops in the world through the decades, evolutionary change cannot be avoided. When you put a group of human beings together to form a group, very predictable patterns of evolution arise from what begins as a primitive group structure to what becomes a self-organizing advanced structure. The initial stages (first few decades/generations) are especially interesting. Typically, there are turbulant times as pioneering people struggle amongst themselves to establish who is the leader. Many members of the group will have different, and sometimes conflicting, agendas. Communication links between other groups need to be worked out and optimised. How the continuation of the group will arise often raises a problematic question. These are just some of the few interesting challenges that lie ahead of a young group which strives towards one day being an advanced and evolved group.
One could say that the turbulance and struggles (fights for leadership, splitting of groups, conflicts in visions and interpretations of what is Aikido, egos taking the driving seat, etc ...) do not fit the "Aiki" principles though I think these turbulances and struggles fit natural laws and the "Aiki" principles of O-Sensei, as most readers know, were about harmonizing with the natural laws of the universe. In this sense, O-Sensei's principles are not contradictory to the natural obstacles of group evolution. It takes one to step out of the world they are in, as they perceive it, and to look at the big picture (both as a snapshot in time and over a longer period of time) to realise that what is happening in this moment is simply a part of the process.
An advanced group will eventually be ego-free but it didn't become ego-free without having egos in the first place. Egos will even be necessary in the beginning to make the struggles effective and lead to an era of peace and, as time goes on, the ego plays less and less of a role (think about the centuries of Samurai struggles followed by the peaceful Edo period in Japan).
Younger Aikido organisations will rely on a feudal structure (such as the pyramid) which will establish a certain "royalty" within their group in order to confirm some kind of discipline while they try to bring their group forwards. More advanced organisations will eventually become matrix forming (see the definition of matrix management which parrallels this idea in the corporate world). Matrices lend themselves more naturally to how human beings actually think. Instead of information being pushed through a hierarchical pyramid, information will be freely available in a network and people will seek their peers for trustworthy and realiable information. Peers in the matrix systems are considered much like the Sampai (senior) is regarded by the Kohai (junior) in the cultural learning models of Budo. Therefore, a learning matrix with multiple influences and multiple knowledge sources does not necessarily go against the Budo culture and philosophy. Within the Budo culture there is room for structural change on an organisational level.
Fujita shihan, a teacher with a strong Budo background, has often spoken about the Budo tenets (Loyalty, Devotion, Respect and Thanks) and these are very much necessary principles of the matrix structure as much as they are of the pyramid structure. The difference between the pyramid and the matrix is that within the matrix structure is simply a difference of managing how information is transmitted but Budo principles can still be upheld in both cases. One learns quickly in the matrix that to get anywhere, one needs to fulfill a role of respectful regard to others, to be loyal and devoted to one's peers and to be thankful towards our peers and those learning from us for what has been learned. Becasue of the peers, mini hierarchies still exist in a matrix structure though they freely interact with eachother without conflict and are not governed by a figure that proclaims him/her-self close to God in the way that leaders in the past had to do in order to control their people. Consequently, in the matrix structure, Budo traditions are upheld not because they are traditions but because they make logical sense within the evolving system.
Next to organising the learning structure of a group, there is also the question of economy. Economy is naturally necessary to keep a group alive and kicking. In the early generations of a group, the economy depends on the money floating to the top of the pyramid in order for the leadership to govern how the money in the group is spent based on the information that is propagated to its members. The group hits a natural turning point, however, when the money necessary to give the group its momentum tends towards even distribution amongst members so that micro budgets can be established and governed on independent levels. The economic evolution naturally comes hand-in-hand with the evolution of information exchange as information and money are bi-directionally dependent on eachother.
On my travels, I've encountered many Aikido groups in the world which are currently at different stages of evolution. Some have a more self-organising, knowledge sharing, multiple influence nature. I would say these are the more matrix forming groups. Pyramidal groups appear to depend more on authority instead of mutual acceptance, dogmatism instead of mentoring, congruence with other groups instead of cooperation with other groups, territorial monopolies instead of shared territories, financial dependence more than member involvement dependence, lack of transparancy instead of sharing of information. Of course, it is not a black and white picture. Many groups have a combination of matrix and pyramid within them and they have evolved in one area more than an another area and, seeing the big picture, it really makes sense what is happening all over the world. Aikido forms a very microcosmic part of the global evolution of the whole planet and, if you can make this a study and an observation, you see that neither structure is right nor wrong but simply organisational structures are there as a vehichle for the evolution of a group.
At the other end of the spectrum, is the whole structure of the Ueshiba family lineage which somehow seems to be immune to the Aikido group' evolution theory as I see it. It is maybe too soon to say but, since the organisation based on the Ueshiba family's continuation, the Aikikai, is regarded as the basis for all other Aikikai organisations to stem from, the rights and obligations of the Aikikai branch organisations should arise from the hombu dojo and yet groups are freely evolving nevetherless.
To me, it simply remains very interesting how groups, especially Aikido groups, are formed and how they evolve. I'd be interested in readers' opinions and experiences, so please do feel free to make your remarks in the comments field below.