I suspect that Aikido [“Aikido And The New Warrior,” Issue 136], in spite of all the noble claims made by its practitioners, has more to do with religion than with martial (war) arts. Ueshiba is quoted, “Aikido is a way to harmonize the world and to make human beings one family.” This is a bit grandiose. Further he states, “The enemy tries to fight with me, the universe itself,” as if the two were one and the same. The implication that those who oppose him are somehow separate from universal harmony doesn’t make sense.

Realistically speaking, after all the cosmic romance subsides, discussions of “subtle energy” amount to little more than obscurantism. Suggestions of Aikido as a superior form of martial art are indications of arrogance and ethnocentrism. Stories about supernatural powers that transcend “the normal laws of time and space” are fairy tales for adults stuck in childhood. They entertain the crippled spirit and are myths of a savior symbolizing freedom from the human.

The real enemy within is, to me, one who confuses imagination with what actually is. Aikido is just people moving in relation to one another in particular ways. There is no magic.

I have the honor of being a friend and professional colleague of Richard Heckler for many years. I am also a student of the martial arts and hold a second degree black belt in Korean Myosim Kendo and Iaido.

Jeffrey A. Schaler
Silver Spring, Maryland

Richard Strozzi-Heckler responds:

I began my study of the martial arts with Judo at the age of ten; since that time I have studied systems that have included Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Brazilian, and Korean martial arts, and have been a student of Aikido for more than fifteen years. Each of these arts offers something unique, but it is clear that if one brings an inner presence to the external form, it creates an enhanced quality of movement. Without this presence one is simply performing techniques by rote. I believe it is this emphasis on presence that attracts so many people to Aikido; the “magic,” however, is in the person, not the form.

Morihei Ueshiba’s statements about Aikido were based on years and years of diligent study and practice. He was a recognized master of Bushido [The Warrior’s Way], and martial artists arrived from all parts of the world to challenge his art of “peaceful reconciliation.” From all accounts he was not only successful in defeating them, but impressive enough for them to remain as students. While Schaler considers Ueshiba “grandiose,” the government of Japan considered him worthy of their highest honor, that of a National Living Treasure.

While Schaler suggests some provocative points, he transgresses a cardinal rule that is routinely accepted in the martial arts world: it is best to comment on another’s art from a position of experience. To criticize a martial form without having direct experience in it is something like being an armchair quarterback. I would encourage Jeff Schaler to study the art of Aikido in order to deepen his analysis of it.

Your editorial condemning personal ads as a “foolish attempt to present oneself as flawless” is both flawed and foolish. Readers of The Sun share common philosophical, social and literary interests. Why shouldn’t they be permitted the chance to meet?

And, come to think of it, just what is so bad about describing yourself as if you were a car? An ad I placed read: “Guy: Classic 1956 model. White, previous owner, body in great shape but interior could use some care. Looking for complimentary female model of same vintage, domestic or foreign, color unimportant.”

That was four years ago, and the relationship formed as a result of the ad is still running strong.

T. Postol
Port Jefferson Station, New York

I am appalled that you would print my ad verbatim in your article, [“Between The Lines,” Issue 136] without my permission, in order to degrade it. You have projected a scenario onto my ad that wasn’t there at all. What you have done to me is cruel and inhuman. I have lost respect for you and your magazine. I feel as though I’ve had my soul raped.

I wondered why you singled out my ad when you had recently run personals for “Vegetarians who are still seeking that special someone.” You mean it’s OK to meet someone through an organization but it’s not OK to meet someone individually?

Your article about my ad is an article about you — except that you don’t seem to have any insight into that fact. I personally do not feel lonely or separated from myself. I do not feel like a car. I never said that a heart of gold was something you were or were not born with, as you wrote in your article. This is all your projection.

Why do you assume that going to the South Seas is avoiding responsibility? There are gardens to weed there, too. But I was speaking symbolically, which you seemed to have missed entirely. I was referring to a type of relationship in which you create home and hearth (as in baking bread) and in which you also explore the outer world (as in the South Seas). Have you ever read any poetry?

Furthermore, I have a right to a slim man. It’s my decision, my life. I am not planning to take on the whole baseball team or the army. I was only advertising for one person and I don’t need to accommodate everyone’s feelings. If someone doesn’t fit the description, I would hope he wouldn’t take it personally.

Why do you say my ad is a “clumsy expression of genuine feeling?” What is clumsy about it? I stated exactly what I need and want. It seems pretty direct to me.

I do not feel incomplete, nor do I seek completion through another person. This is your stuff again. Wanting a mate and companion does not imply that you are incomplete without it.

When you speak of lying about love, speak for yourself. You have no way of knowing how I would relate to the people I would have met through the ad. Don’t use me and my ad to talk about yourself. My fantasy is not an attempt to compensate for the ways in which I’ve been wounded. Where do you get these ideas?

P.S. In addition to printing my letter, I hope you will print a public apology to me. Also, I would like to have forwarded to me any responses from people who wish to correspond with me in regard to this ad.

Name Withheld

The Sun responds:

While I don’t regret what I wrote, I’m sorry my words hurt you. I didn’t use your name, since I didn’t wish to embarrass you publicly. Nor did I mean to diminish you in any way privately. In expressing my ambivalence about personals, and about your ad in particular, I wanted to convey a mood of poignancy, not ridicule. If I judged you, it was by the same standards I use to judge everyone, including myself. When it comes to love, I judge us all a little foolish and more than a little wounded.

The Vege-Dates ad also bothered me, but not enough to make me turn it down. I’d welcome comment on whether there is an appropriate way — in a magazine devoted to the human heart — for readers to reach out to one another for companionship and love.

Thank you for sharing your journey through your body image in “Baby Fat” [Issue 135]. It struck a familiar chord.

Two years ago, after having been on many diets, I looked at myself in the mirror and pledged to find out what could possibly put a stop to this madness. I could no longer stand looking at myself with embarrassment and self-consciousness, nor could I tolerate the see-saw of binging and dieting, gratification and deprivation. Where did my feelings of worthlessness come from?

By the age of ten, I had developed breasts, grown considerably, gotten my period, and become a fully grown female. It was quite shocking to me and my family. I was ridiculed by others for something totally out of my control. My folks thought I was overweight and put me on my first diet.

Our culture seems to notice and appreciate only those women who are anorexic and boyish in form. The models and actresses all have that “I’ve been eating salad and jogging ten miles a day” look. And here I was trying to look just like them. No wonder I didn’t consider myself beautiful or worthy enough.

The first step in my body reclamation project was to totally appreciate and accept my body just as it was. I often spent five minutes in front of the mirror, totally naked, noticing my body. When I found myself making negative judgements, I’d go over that body part with my hands, breathe deeply and say an affirmation.

Next, I looked at when I ate. Although I had spent eight years in the restaurant business, I rarely sat down to a relaxing meal myself. My energy went toward feeding faceless multitudes, and I’d collapse at home with a yogurt, or pick at cheese and crackers because I was too tired for much else. I realized that I needed to spend time preparing regular, well-balanced meals for myself. My poor body needed to know where the next meal was coming from.

Whenever I stared into the cupboard or refrigerator searching for the right food to make me feel better, I asked myself, “What are you feeling or needing?” Sometimes I felt lonely, so I closed the refrigerator and called a friend for some company. If I was sad, I felt my feelings, wrote in my journal about them or talked with a buddy.

While eating, I noticed my hunger levels and emotional state. I also resigned from the clean plate club and left food on my plate. I chewed my food more slowly and enjoyed every bite.

Another crucial step was to overhaul my wardrobe. Ever since age nine, when I grew out of my clothes so quickly, I’d worn hand-me-downs. My parents couldn’t afford to keep me in clothes, so all the relatives pitched in their old clothes for me to wear. From then on I was Second Hand Rose. Now, I am beginning to construct a wardrobe which reflects my style, my sense of who I am.

Who I am is a beautiful woman, fully female in every fiber, a delight, totally irresistible. I now know how to properly nourish and nurture myself and appreciate my body’s strength, stamina and voluptuousness. I will never go on a diet again.

Mindy Sue Cohen
Burlington, Vermont