Wednesday, May 6, 2009

S40653680 - Cormac White
RELN.2110. Trance, Shamanism, Body and Soul
Review Essay: Trance and the Everyday
Subject: Martial Arts

Following World War II, a new form of martial arts called Aikido was established in Japan by Morihei Uisheba. He founded a physical and philosophical development of martial arts which adopted principles based on Budo which, in the contemporary world, symbolises peace and non-aggression. Uisheba's modern Budo (practitioner) has no external enemy as the real issue is "victory over one's self" or one's ego, (Levine, 1990). In reality any prolonged 'ego-less' state would seem to be an impossibility, with the question being asked as to what form of martial art could prectice the separation of the ego and the self.

This essay will examine the fundamental processes of Uisheba's Aikido as it is:

- practised cross-culturally in social studies for academic accreditation;
- revealed in semi-structured interviews with a Sensei (teacher/instructor) and his students;
- practised by psychotherapists and applied in their professions;
- critically evaluated.

Cross-Cultural Studies
Levine (1990, pp.2-7) states that educational adaptation of Aikido can be achieved once the rigidity and authoritarianism of cross-cultural traditions are liberalised without diminishing the principles of Budo. His account demonstrates the value of Japan's contribution, through Uisheba's principles, as he teaches Introductory Aikido in studies called "Conflict and Theory Aikido" in the Sociology Department of the University of Chicago. His students practice relaxation, meditation, Ki exercises, blending and entering movements with their opponents, avoidance of clashes and harmonising what otherwise could be physical confrontations. The response from Levine's students displayed a greater self-awareness of how to manage conflict.

In 1996, a substantial liberation of Aikido, known as Yuishinkai, was introduced by one of Uisheba's followers, Sensei Koritoshi Muruyama. All forms of Aikido are free to engage in cross-disciplinary and co-operative training to achieve improvements and community accessibility with Uisheba's teachings, (

INTERVIEW 1: Chief Instructor - Aikido Yuishinkai Brisbane Dojo

MAC: How long have you been practising martial arts?

SENSEI: I started martial arts in the seventies but did not get too serious until the early eighties when I took up Wing Chun Kung Fu under Sifu Jim Fung. Six years later I left and helped start a freestyle martial art which incorporated Kung Fu, Tai Kwan Do, Karate, boxing and grappling. Later on I studied Non Shou Tong Long Gung Fu.

MAC: What motivated you to take up Aikido?

SENSEI: I decided to take up Aikido due to the fact that I knew how to fight and now I wanted to know how not to. I saw no point in injuring people. The other martial arts relied on how much damage one could do, which had its limitations, whereas Aikido solely relies on turning your opponent's aggression back towards them without doing any damage to your aggressor, unless they persist. By blending and becoming part of the universe, one has the option of directing an opponent into a futile situation. Aikido was a change to what I knew, to be non-aggressive yet able to protect myself, to be able to not hurt an aggressor if I chose to.


MAC: From your experience with Aikido, how has it helped you as a counsellor?

STUDENT: My role was split with a component dedicated to Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) personal support work, and a component allocated to presentations for workers and heavy industry. The support work is very much like a counselling relationship, supporting behavioural or cognitive change. I credit much of my success as a presenter to being able to manipulate my energy while speaking to connect parts of the audience or emphasise important areas. During conferences there are often opposing viewpoints. I utilise blending to support differing views, and in turn harmonise them to support my own position.

As a support worker, blending is a vital component. Aggressive and anti-social behaviour is common when assisting people with AOD. Without being provided a safe outlet many people are unable to build rapport, and consequently disengage with the service provider. By acknowledging these feelings, blending, or harmonising to provide a brief venting, people feel understood. With a shared understanding the helping process can commence.


MAC: Can you describe budo and how you use it.

STUDENT: Karate and Aikido are examples of Gendai Budo (-Lit. modern martial arts). The character (Kanji) for Bu has three radicals (elements which make up the Kanji). These are - Stop, Spear and Ichi, i.e., one. In the modern interpretation Bu means to stop conflict. To participate in Budo training you need to have a calm mind. To my mind this is the essence of "Masakatsu agatsu katsuhayabi" - "true victory is victory of self ..."

Psychotherapy and Aikido
Eight psychotherapists, who were also Aikido practitioners, were interviewed and asked to describe their experiences as to how Aikido helped them in a sometimes volatile and unpredictable environment. Most of the respondents experienced transformation and healing. They were skilled at remaining centred and blending with their clients, that is, putting themselves in their clients' position and avoiding provocation that may cause resistance and confrontation. Anger within themselves, or clients, is the most difficult area for therapists as they are not taught how to handle it, (Faggianelli & Lukoff, 2006, pp.163-172).

From their Aikido experience, they know how to suspend client anger and redirect it back to its owner without any physical engagement or antagonism. Their knowledge and principles of Aikido have contributed to their occupational stability over periods of five to twentyfive years.

Common Criticisms
There is a lack of realism in martial practices which are choreographed and rehearsed. Conditioned responses and attacks could lead to vulnerability in self-defence. However, the quality of competence in training for any form of self-defence depends on how the necessary realities are enacted in the Dojo. The skilful application of the instructors' own experiences with realities are then applied with correct evaluation of the students' potential to achieve the necessary qualifications. More importantly, that teachers convey an awareness of conflict where there are circumstantial limitations, (Tart, 1986, p.4).

With reference to the aforementioned therapy research, Tart (1986, pp.3-5) finds agreement with Levine (1990, p.5) in that Aikido skills which are acquired over time need to be highly specialised in their application as Aikido is non-competitive. There is no pre-occupation with winning or losing, just a calm awareness which allows for avoidance or diversion of conflict either for oneself or others in the event of situational violence. Any account of such events may be out of reach for constructive criticism if they involve 'ego-less' states of activity.

From the preceding account, there is consensus that Aikido practitioners are aware of those natural instincts and actions that are derived from long years of practising technical skills without resorting to their ego. Beyond easily learned techniques, Aikidoists aspire to the higher and infinitely more difficult task, which is Uishiba's goal: how to manage the self-ego divide?


Faggianelli, P., Ph.D. & Lukoff, D., Ph.D. (2006), Aikido and Psychotherapy: A Study of Psychotherapists who are Aikido Practitioners, The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 2006, Vol.38, No. 2,

Levine, D.N. (1990), Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Means to Personal Growth, eds. Kiyota, M. & Konoshita, H., 173-87, 1990, Japanese Martial Arts and American Sports: and reprinted in The Body: Social Process and Cultural Theory, eds. Featherstone, M., Hepworth, M. & Turner, B.S. (London: Sage), 209-24, 1991,

Tart, C.T. (1986), Harmony, Self-Defense, and Subtle Energies: Aikido and the Concept of Ki, University of California, Davis, (1986, The Open Mind), Charles T. Tart Home Page and Consciousness Library Online (ref. CTT Articles Library) articles1.cfm

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