Ei Mei Kan - July - 2010

Musubi and Diversity in Europe

by Chris Mooney

I feel privileged to write for the first pan-European Birankai magazine.

Despite the turmoil of our recent history in Birankai Europe, and with the developing autonomies within our respective countries, I think it appropriate to talk about musubi.

What is musubi? A translation of musubi is connection, unification, blending, harmonious interaction.

As most of you will be aware, I have been travelling throughout Europe since the early 1980s, when I gained my first insight into teaching Aikido in another culture, in Athens, Greece. Armed with limited knowledge and experience, but an enthusiastic spirit, and with a touch of idealism (a chasm I continually fell into) I taught what I knew. Subsequently, I found myself in Bern, Switzerland, whose culture would appear to be diametrically opposed to that of Greece. In both these cases and in many other cases to follow, I understood that I was in the process of a student, developing an awareness which I would build on in teaching within other cultures.

As a teacher you acquire sensitivity to factors which can impact on Aikido training in each country, such as culture, economic situation, political instability, a country that is at peace, a country that is at ware, the weather, language, etc. This requires actively acquiring intelligence coupled with martial awareness. This I would consider, is one form of musubi.

On my travels, one of the key questions which was often asked of me is “what the teacher-student relationship is?” In my experience, from the earliest days when I entered the Dojo, we were taught a form: to sit in seize, to bow to the kamiza, and then to say ‘onegaishimasu’ and the end of class ‘domo arigato gozaimashita’. This is said by both the teacher and the student, and therein begins on form of musubi. The concept of the teacher and student as being separate and opposite is a product of dualistic thinking. In my view, the essence of the teacher student relationship is where we experience the benefits of both teacher and student at once.

From my viewpoint, there are three things on which it is important to focus.

The great strengths we have within Europe are the diversity of our cultures and the diversity of students who had entered the school via different organisations but were all enthused with the Birankai group. The drive and energy of these people to come together to make something very fresh ad new is inspirational. There is no reason why this cannot continue. Indeed, now armed with a little bit more knowledge and experience, my spirit is optimistic. Perhaps I am still in danger of falling into idealism, but practical experiences have given me a better sense of where the edge of the chasm lies.

Finally, I would like to thank the many people who were very supportive during the period of time when I was injured. I would also like to express my gratitude for the experience of learning from you, your Dojo and your culture.


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