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Coleman Ridge

Here is one technique, or class of techniques. It consists of creating, or finding, an architectonic, a system of systems, that will include both one's belief system and that of one's opponent, and set them in right relationship to one another.

What, you may ask, the hell does that mean? Here is the best example I know of the thing being done well. I tell this story often; pardon me if you have heard it.

On the campus of Fordham University, a Jesuit college in New York City, there is a reflecting pool, and at one end of it a bronze statue of a tall lean man pitching a net out over the water. If you look closely, you see that the sculptor made art of necessity. Peter's fingers split to become the meshes of the net, so that he is casting out his own flesh, and will be caught by whatever he catches.

When the Jesuits went to China, they presented themselves as students. They learned Chinese, and then read their way through the classics of Chinese philosophy. They noted similarities to the pre-Socratics, and introduced the Chinese scholars first to Parmenides and Heraclitus, and then to Plato and Aristotle. From there, it was a simple step to show how Aquinas and Scripture can be seen as a completion and a divinely inspired fulfillment of the aspirations of those philosophies, and thus of Chinese philosophy. (Thanks to very clever back-interpretation by generations of Catholic scholars.) When the Dominicans showed up to check up, the Chinese court was on the verge of conversion.

However, the Jesuits were wearing Chinese clothing, practicing the Confucian virtues, and paying reverent respect to their ancestors.

Whatever the Jesuit's original intentions had been, they had been caught in their own net. They had engaged in real conversation, rather than proselytizing, and had been influenced by the Chinese scholars as much as they had influenced them.

It could not last, of course. The Dominicans, God's dogs, began to bark in panic. One of them told the Emperor that his ancestors were in Hell; the Emperor told them that they should all go home and come back when they had their story straight.

But that is how you do it.

Jeff Dooley

An Aikido exemplar of what you describe is tai-no-henko. In this technique, as I'm sure you practice it, you absorb an initial grab, using the grab to make contact with uke's body. Then, instead of pushing back, or dragging uke around, you simply use the connection and the initial energy to pivot around the fulcrum of the grabbed wrist, facing suddenly in the same direction as uke. No fighting, just a strong move to leverage the attacker's energy so as to make your own statement while staying connected and taking in the view from the attacker's perspective.

So the Jesuits pulled this off somehow. I wonder what training they had that the Dominicans and most of the rest of us did not have?


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Aikido Quotes

  • O-Sensei: My students think I don't lose my center. That is not so; I simply recognize it sooner and get back faster.

  • Morihiro Saito Sensei: Aikido is generally believed to represent circular movements. Contrary to such belief, however, Aikido, in its true KI form, is a fierce art piercing straight through the center of opposition.

  • Furuya Sensei on Swordsmanship: Letting go of the idea of “sword” and the idea of “action” is the meaning behind “willow in the gentle breeze.” When the slight summer breeze blows, does the willow follow the “nature of the willow,” or does it follow the “nature of the breeze?” Please think about this - in this lies the essence of sword technique.