April 14, 2005


ok. Here's my translation of the French passage. I think it's interesting since Aoki-sensei always seems to come up with new ideas tailored to people's condition and age. I personally don't think that this "minimalist" keiko is appropriate for the young and energetic, but it does give us old folks some hope for our sunset years.

We have surely had experiences through body movement that most have never known. That is a good thing. What is unfortunate, however, is that our bodies (1) have been injured and worn out by the many years of our Shintaido practice. Our bodies’ youthfulness is a distant memory.I have been thinking continually about the development of a Shintaido which wouldn’t be detrimental to our physical condition. Several years ago I went to a large hospital where I was astonished to meet so many patients who had damaged hips and knees and who had not practiced Shintaido, in other words, who had not done any practice which would be harmful to the human body.(2)

I thought at that moment that I ought to develop a keiko which would allow people in such a condition to continue their practice right up to the end of their lives. In other words, that there be a practice which wouldn’t require extreme body movement, that would be easy, would purify the heart, encourage spirituality, deepen thoughts and direct one’s mind beyond one’s personal concerns. Simultaneously, in order to counter the brain’s aging process, it should be a practice which requires reflection and creativity. Each element of the practice should be free from too much detail - for example, it could be begun and ended at any point. And of course, it shouldn’t be too tiring...

(1) Referring to the retiring ISF Technical Committee members.

(2) He is talking about the "old" style of keiko practiced back in the early days. Posted by mandragore at April 14, 2005 05:10 PM

What grabs my attention about this is Aoki-sensei's seemingly inexhaustible creativity in continuing to develop new keiko. I was also intrigued by the note that "it could be begun and ended at any point," which makes it sound somehow non-linear.

Of course, I have no idea what the actual keiko is. But it raises the question of how new techniques will added to the canon of Shintaido in the future -- that is, how we will recognize them as "Shintaido," apart from the direct imprimatur of Aoki-sensei himself (which will not be an option forever).

The culture of holistic exericise for older people, or people who are not in good physical condition, is very well-developed in China (and Taiwan), where Taiji (T'ai Chi), Qigong (Ch'i Kung) and related disciplines are respected and widely-practiced both for health maintenance and rehabilitation from injury or disease.

Japan, so far as I have seen, does not have a similar culture of age-appropriate excercise, and while you can see quite a few people of a certain age jogging and cycling any morning in New York's Central Park, neither can compare in sophistication of movement or sheer density of people to what you see in a park in Shanghai, Beijing, or Taipei.

Early on in the Communist regime, Taiji and similar disciplines were actively suppressed in mainland China because they were considered expressions of the feudalistic culture of the past, and because they embodied philosophies and cosmologies that conflicted with the official ideology of Marxism-Leninism.

But when it became clear that these practices were going to continue as grass-roots activities regardless, Mao soon changed his tune and adopted a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" posture, promoting traditional health disciplines, and rationalizing them as a People's Struggle to Maintain the Health of the Proletariat Masses. Provided, that is, that they were stripped of their original philosophies and reduced to value-neutral physical exercises.

One reason the Fa Lun Gong movement is so threatening to Beijing (aside from possible funding links to Taiwan) is that they are explicitly preaching a neo-Buddhist/Taoist ethics in conjunction with meditation and Qigong-like exercises. As Ito-sensei and I saw during our trip to Beijing in 2002, this has had the chilling effect that some Taiji masters refuse to discuss the background philosophy other than in private.

This leads me to ask if we can articulate some underlying principles of Shintaido movement. We already have something like a philosophy -- the question is, if someone develops a new movement or new variation, what specific criteria can we apply to determine if it's coherent with Shintaido philosophy?

David Franklin

Posted by: David Franklin at May 3, 2005 07:36 AM

Ah yes, the actual keiko - affectionately known as "zombie" movement - is almost all image and no movement. Just in time, I might add. But it does presuppose a great deal of physical practice at some point in one's career, including the last bit concerning stepping practice.

It might not be a bad idea to gather some of Shintaido's philosophical principles that have been articulated over the past 35-40 years and try to make a coherent presentation of them. It doesn't have to go as far as the "four these" and the "eight thats," since I don't believe in filling in all the blanks, but some kind of recapitulation could be of use.

Posted by: mandragore at May 3, 2005 11:59 AM

Yes, it would be really useful to have a kind of written guide that gave a broad enough overview of Shintaido's principles, values, philosophy & more.
I remember when I first received the Shintaido, new art of movement and life expression, book in June of 1982. I read it 3 times, was deeply moved by a few of the photos, and greatly inspired by the freshness of thought of Aoki Sensei.
I tried to copy and practice the forms.
Than Alex and Vera came from Japan and we practiced keiko. The actual, real practice was beyond my imagination. I thought I caught the feel and mood of Shintaido through the book. But nothing could have prepared me for the actual keiko. It blew my worldview wide open, and has not stopped since that first day.
So, yes let's put together some remarkable writings, but remember that it can only be a mere shimmer of what the keiko is (and I am one generation removed from the broken koshi keiko-nin, so I can't even imagine what that world may have been like!).
Michael De-Campo

Posted by: Michael De-Campo at May 10, 2005 05:58 AM