Sunday, August 06, 2006

On athletes as archetypes, baseball & aikido

I've always been a big fan of Barry Bonds. Some of this is because I am a Giants fan, and i was certainly a big fan of his Godfather, Willie Mays. This is not about my opinions on the steroid controversy, but on what it means to hit (literally) a level that has never before been reached. Bonds success in his later years for an athlete(past the age of 36) as well as the radical change in his physique are red flags for those who present steroid accusations. I am not defending Bonds, as this will play out in court and in other arenas, and i am satisfied to let others decide. what i am going to present is a certain similarity to aikido's founder Morihei Ueshiba .
insisted that his physical prime was around the age of 52, when he stood 5'1" and weighed 180 pounds. He was probably a little tank who could turn on a dime. Was Ueshiba on steroids as well? He acheived a physical/spiritual/psychic level that has not since been reached since.He could sense attacks before they came, throw people miraculously with little or no physical contact, and acheived his best art in his 80's. Was he on steroids as well?

I think that Bonds, on steroids or not, reached another level. If it was done with steroids, they were not the only reason. During his record 73 home run year, as a commentator, Tony Gwynn said that, as a former batting champion, it was obvious to him that Bonds was swinging as if he knew what the pitcher was going to throw before the pitcher threw it. Precognition is a sign of being in this state. Even more impressive, though not as dramatic, as his home run totals was the number of bases on balls he was issued. And the low number of strikeouts to the high home run total means that Bonds was aligned to something. Miyamoto Musashi described this state as having "the body of a rock", ie a patience honed to perfection through an almost unreal physical/emotional/spiritual balance. Imagine going to the plate knowing that you might get one or two pitches to drive in the space of a week, yet refusing to go outside the strike zone for anything less than what you want. The strength to do that does not purely come from chemicals.

Personally, for me Bonds transcended the game. Watching the laser shots he hit awakened within me a genuine sense of awe. Trying to perfect my sense of center in aikido, I drew a lot of inspiration from him and learned a lot from him. Sports are just sports unless there is a transcendence and they are transformed to art. At this time the Michael Jordans and Joe Montanas and the Barry Bondses acheive the status of an archetype, reflecting to us a glimmer of the deeper potentials that are hidden in all of us.

For another connection between aikido and baseball, check out . It is a review of "A Zen Way of Baseball" by Sadaharu Oh. Even if Bonds passes Aaron, he will have a ways to go to pass Oh, the all-time home run hitter on this planet. Oh met Ueshiba Osensei and was counseled by him on the fundamental principles that connect baseball with the universe. Oh himself on his path to self-perfection trained with the Japanese sword and was instructed in aikido principles by his coach, Hiroshi Arakawa. It's a small world.


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