My dissertation—Aikido Sensibilities: The Sociosomatics of Connection and its Role in the Constitution of Community at North Bay Aikido in Santa Cruz, California—published in December 2000 was conducted under the supervision of Olga Nájera-Ramírez at the University of California, Santa Cruz. I chose my dissertation topic (the Japanese martial art of aikido) because it offered a unique opportunity to study both kinesthetic learning and its relationship to the invention of community. The research was conducted in downtown Santa Cruz at North Bay Aikido dojo (now Aikido of Santa Cruz). I included consideration of the history and character of this region and its impact on the ethics and culture of this dojo.
Aikido Sensibilities examines the social and somatic practices of aikido and how they contribute to the invention of community sentiments. At the center of this research is the study of touch, in particular the sensations of tactility and kinesthesia. I show that the tactile and kinesthetic experiences of aikido aid in the acquisition of a new consciousness of intersubjectivity and a shared experience of community.
The stated goal of aikido is to achieve an energetic (ki) “connection” with each training partner through repeated tactile and kinesthetic experiences. This is coupled with a variety of social activities that bind members together: from dojo upkeep to serving on committees to participation in cyclical rites of passage. These dual socio-somatic connections produce a sensuous community of practitioners. This was rich soil for a dissertation project, and it satisfied my intellectual curiosity about “community” as a socio-cultural phenomenon.
I have attached my dissertation as PDF files if you are interested in reading more.