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John Brockington
01-31-2007, 03:24 PM
Sensei Amdur-
I am curious- did Terry Dobson ever say much to you about his treatment by Ueshiba and whether or not there was much evidence of anti-gaijin thinking or behavior? Do you think this may have been what Arikawa was doing to Dobson? And, if so, to what extent does this still exist?

Respectfully-
John

Ellis Amdur
01-31-2007, 05:53 PM
1. Certainly to Ueshiba, Terry was a curious beast - but then again, he truly was a curious beast. There were days that had the blessed wildness of a drunken Irish poet in full flight, others where he had the kindness of the father you wished you always had, and other times when he could have shambled out of a bog with a small rodent on a skewer for his dinner. From all I heard, Ueshiba was far beyond any anti-gaijin stuff. When Terry was invited as an uchi-deshi (Tamura was the one who suggested it, as I recall), there was some objection. Ueshiba himself put his foot down and said it would be so. Ueshiba was, as best as I can tell, beyond all the usual stereotypes - he kept violent people in the dojo and scummy politicians and wacky mystics and some of the finest, sweetest men and women you'd ever want to me. And per Terry, he either saw through to the heart of each of them, or he simply accepted anyone as they were. Sounds kind of blissed out, but I think it was true - not because Ueshiba was "nice," but he just wasn't in that particular game.
2. I remember, by the way, a sincere American once asking Nidai Doshu what led his father to pacifism, and it took three tries at translation for Doshu to get the question, and he started giggling and said, "What? My father was never a pacifist. He was beyond all that, good and evil, that sort of stuff." PAUSE "It's a martial art he was doing. People get hurt. If you want to do something where there is no chance of getting hurt, then you should do ikebana or shogi."
3. Re Arikawa - I also do not think Arikawa sensei was anti-foreigner. He hurt lots of Japanese too. I remember the first time I took his class, and I got puzzled by one of his techniques and I signaled to him for help, and my partner, a young Japanese, said and I quote, "Please. Please put your hand down. Please. He'll come over and help us and that will be very bad." And Arikawa explained the technique on the body of the poor young Japanese guy and it was very bad. Yet I truly got the sense that he liked me and meant me well in his own way - he, too, seemed beyond the foreigner/Japanese dichotomy. When I took his ukemi, I never got hurt. I was absolutely aware what he was putting out, and where it was going. If you read him, I found you were fine. If not, he just kept going.
Two encounters - he sidled up to me behind the curtain at Meiji shrine and said, "Oh, you're doing Araki-ryu. Remember, when you go out there, SMASH THEM! SMASH THEM!" And once, I dropped by the bookstore where my wife worked, the only hippie bookstore in Tokyo, and there was Arikawa in the back, his hair dishelved, with a pile of books on the interface of Shingon Mikkyo and quantum physics. I tapped him on the shoulder and said "hi sensei." And he sort of hid the books like most guys would do if they were caught reading Playboy.
I really liked the man - he had a sincerity, an odd genuine innocence, but he seemed profoundly existentially alone in some ways, and I had a sense that he was a desperate purist, that there had to be a right way to do aikido, which he loved, and he couldn't forgive people who went through the motions. At the same time, I didn't trust him - he wasn't a brute or a thug, like some people who come to mind - but I sensed he was, what I would now see in clinical terms, perhaps a little autistic - he was in his own world, and as kind as he could be, acts of kindness that I'd never expect from most of the other shihan, he didn't see people on the same terms that most people would. And of all the shihan who have recently died, I somehow felt saddest about Arikawa sensei. I can't really explain it, but he, I firmly believe, would have been someone I would have benefited from knowing in more depth - that I didn't had something to do, however, with his propinquity for burying his fist in your throat.

Best

Lorien Lowe
01-31-2007, 06:14 PM
Amdur Sensei,
that's one of the nicest eulogies I've ever read. Thanks.

Peter Goldsbury
01-31-2007, 07:00 PM
Hello Ellis,

Your post brings back memories. I never knew Arikawa Sensei like Terry Dobson, Stan Pranin and you yourself did, but I knew him in a different way, I suppose, from different goalposts. I fought with him at IAF meetings and he was just as scary off the mat as he was on it.

On one occasion he wanted the IAF statutes to be changed to take account of the special position of certain Japanese shihans. I refused. We had a vigorous argument, in which Arikawa Sensei ignored the normal rules of meeting procedure and simply blasted away, ignoring the pleas of the hapless General Secretary to keep to the agenda. But he made the whole thing very personal, as if the whole thing was simply between Arikawa and Goldsbury. I am sure you can imagine the scene.

These were battles that I felt I just had to win, for the kind of reasons that George intimates in his post about Bruce Bookman. Aikido 'gaijin' are tested everywhere in Japan, not just at the Hombu Dojo, and I think the reason has to do with how most Japanese have been mentally programmed to deal with foreigners. If you are an 'outside person', then the goalposts are very rarely level: they always tilt, but, and this is important, not always in the same direction. However, aikido is willy-nilly no longer an art based solely and simply on Japanese values. Like judo, it has been opened to the world at large, and the Japanese alone are not capable of ensuring that it does not also go the way of judo. But this real 'internationalizing' of aikido, in a way that does not result in any serious splits, will take much longer than one or two generations.

As bookshop encounters. I once bumped into Arikawa Sensei in the Kinokuniya store in Times Square, Shinjuku. I was with Christian Tisser and some others and they quietly 'disappeared', leaving me with Arikawa Sensei. I had just bought some books on early Japanese history and we had a long discussion. I think he was a little surprised that I was studying such a subject, and even more surprised when I told him I taught a course to Japanese students in Hiroshima on the Kojiki and the Bible.

I think I mentioned somewhere at the time that when Arikawa Sensei died, Stan and I visited him at the hospital. There was no one else there and we paid our respective farewells. From the recorded time of death, I think he died just a few minutes after we left and I also believe that we were the last visitors to see him before the end.

Best, PAG

gdandscompserv
01-31-2007, 07:37 PM
Ellis & Peter,
Thank you for sharing.

John Brockington
02-01-2007, 07:48 AM
Sensei Amdur-

Thank you very much for your thoughtful response to my question. I deeply appreciate it.

John

Ron Tisdale
02-01-2007, 07:55 AM
Hi Jun, any chance we can archive the significant posts to their own thread? I think it would be a shame for them to get lost in the shuffle.

Ellis and Peter,

Thanks,
Ron

Michael Douglas
02-01-2007, 04:19 PM
This thread is short and sweet, real gold.
If there is any chance of some more reminiscences on the same lines, please go ahead!

rulemaker
02-01-2007, 06:54 PM
Arikawa Sensei is in the The 8th International Aikido Congress (Sept. 2000) Video produced by Aikikai Hombu Dojo. This is the only video that I saw him in action. Are there any others?

Mel

Alex Megann
02-02-2007, 05:55 AM
I never saw Arikawa Sensei - when I went to Hombu Dojo three or four years ago his name was still on the teaching roster, but when I finally plucked up the courage to go to one of his classes Toriumi Sensei was teaching in his place. I think he died a few months later. I was disappointed, as I felt, from what I had read and heard about him, that he was one of the true originals in aikido.

I remember years ago Kanetsuka Sensei was musing on who to invite as visiting instructor for the BAF Summer School. He said that he would very much like to invite Arikawa, but he felt the BAF was "not ready yet" for him!

Alex

George S. Ledyard
02-02-2007, 10:14 AM
I once asked Ikeda Sensei if there was anyone at Hombu he was scared of. He didn't even hesitate when he replied "Airikawa Sensei". I don't even want to consider what someone would have to be like to actually scare Ikeda Sensei.

Arikawa was one of the old school folks who basically believed that there was Aikido and there were the students of Aikido and one didn't adjust the art to the student, the student had to adjust to the art. He was a force of nature in a way and when he was doing his technique he was just about as impersonal. It's a hard aspect for us to understand I think.

thisisnotreal
02-02-2007, 11:20 AM
Greetings!

i would transcribe the text here, but i'm afraid i'd be violating the copyright; and disrespecting Daniel Linden, the author, if I did so (but I'd love to...so sorry..). The book is "On Mastering Aikido"

There is an amazing story which i cannot forget about Arikawa sensei manifesting some non-contact force holding some Aikido dude down on the mat at a seminar, after he slammed him down to the mat the old-fashioned way. His hand was splayed out in front of the dude's face, but a few feet away. The author and his buddy were on the sidelines. Author's buddy is some toughguy (the real thing); says that is BS. Somehow Arikawa senses this, calls toughguy up and repeats it on him. Toughguy has the scare of his life, gets up off the mat, leaves the seminar, and quits aikido. It was real. It was not viewed as a good thing by Toughguy.

This is of course in the chapter on 'KI'.

This deep solitariness and existential aloneness is an indication that he became these (mikkyo) principles. Essentially, internally, i believe he was committed, from moment-to-moment to his 'enlightenment'. I personally am not sure this is truly a good thing. i don't know. Sometimes i think this withdrawnness or religious commitment to Fudoshin can just lead us 100 miles an hour into a brick wall.

This is now the third time i have heard someone describe a shihan as being truly alone. I find it interesting. And kind of a bit sad. But that is just me...of course.

//josh

Fred Little
02-02-2007, 12:40 PM
I. He was a force of nature in a way and when he was doing his technique he was just about as impersonal. It's a hard aspect for us to understand I think.

I took one class from Arikawa Sensei in the mid-nineties at Hombu Dojo, and the phrase that came to mind when I saw his technique was "inexorable force of nature." It was clear that any failure to follow his technique with immediate timing that was dead on could have very bad results for uke.

The other thing that struck me was the absolutely flat blackness of his pupils, which I have only seen in two other people in the last fifty years. Eyes like that are so far out of the normal range that I don't doubt for a second that more than a few people found him quite frightening indeed.

FL

raul rodrigo
02-02-2007, 07:31 PM
I heard from an Italian friend, a yondan who trained in Hombu, that Arikawa would now and then break his uke's arm in demonstrations. He once picked an uke who wasn't all that used to his movement and perhaps inevitably, uke came to grief. My question is, why did people put up with it? What makes behavior like this if not okay, then tolerable? I've read what Stan Pranin and Ellis Amdur have written about his being kind and generous and sweet spirited off the mat--but all that sweetness doesnt make a difference when you're being methodically disassembled on the mat.

DH
02-02-2007, 08:26 PM
Frankly, I'm disgusted. I can't believe I am even reading this here. I saw this crap with Chiba and hoped that he was the only screwball getting away with this abuse from his own students.

It would be more fun to see abusers try this in a Judo or jujutsu freestyle format where these ....er....people.....would have no chance for that kind of abuse. Where they would have to fight for the chance to maim a lesser player, and maybe have it cost them for their effort.

Read between the lines of his own "supposed" attititude. Like what he said to Ellis. "You're Araki ryu. Smash them smash them!"
I say fine by me. I understand that. TAKE HIS ADVICE. Do what he commands and suggests!.
Offer a shomen-uchi-as a fient- then kick him right in the teeth or balls. Kick him in the ribs while he is layed out. When he wakes up look at him and say...... "What?"
"Its MY aikido."
"Deal with it! "
"Smash them! Smash them!.... Thanks for the advice."

Simply disgusting


For newer students
Please do not be confused.
Do not accept this garbage from a teacher.
Some folks think its some sort of right of passage or some how "cool" to have survived some Dojo tough guy twit because they have a legend for hurting folks. There's a type of structured support they create where they get you to actually believe its OK.
Don't you believe it!!

Couple of ground rules
1. No one, anywhere, needs to demonstrate the martial veracity of either themselves or their art by hurting students regularly. It may happen by accident. It's happend to me and I felt terrible. But accidents are not the norm. And heres a clue "Demonstrations should be safer then freestlye." Listen to your innner voice. If you KNOW you are cooperating to some extent then it means there is an agreed trust. You make damn sure anyone pays for violating it.
2. To state things like "Smash them"openly and then to hurt folks in demonstrations ...IS....abuse. Don't validate or support it. It smacks of a personality dissorder. It matters not if he has authority.
3. Never be afraid to fight back when it happens. Even if you lose.
They are demonstrating the ultimate disdain for you and your classmates. Utter disgregard for your safety. What they are doing- at that time- is the equivalant of battery. Of criminal intent. Screw them! Go all out and defend yourself. Kick the living crap out of the teacher in front of everyone. Stand up for your self and make a change for those others he has left in his wake.
4.Or just leave. But never, ever, accept abuse like that. From anyone. Particularly and pointedly from some Japanese Shihan. Position does not warrant and legitimize personality dissorders and abuse as "teaching style" with broken bones and wreckage in its wake
5. If they try to use "presumed risk" as a defense. Use it right back when they get out of the hospital. You were just doing martial arts and defending yourself.

I hope no one is "looking up" to this type of behaviour from a teacher and calling it good.

Dan

Chris Li
02-02-2007, 08:42 PM
Frankly, I'm disgusted. I can't believe I am even reading this here. I saw this crap with Chiba and hoped that he was the only screwball getting away with this abuse from his own students.

I used to go to a lot of Arikawa's class at hombu. He always applied technique very strongly, but I never felt unsafe. I never saw him deliberately abuse anybody (much less break an arm). I will say that we was one of the only one of the old guard at hombu who would work with anybody and everybody as long as they were serious, whether he knew you or not - most of the others had their "inner circle".

He was also extremely knowledgeable if you could get through his Japanese.

Best,

Chris

raul rodrigo
02-02-2007, 08:55 PM
Frankly, I'm disgusted. I can't believe I am even reading this here. I saw this crap with Chiba and hoped that he was the only screwball getting away with this abuse from his own students.


What did you see Chiba do, specifically?

Gernot Hassenpflug
02-03-2007, 06:40 AM
I remember in about 2000 or so spending a week in Tokyo to train daily at honbu dojo, and taking all of Arikawa sensei's classes. I got the impression he was a little different after about 5 seconds into the warm up which consisted of moving forwards and backwards doing shomen, yokomen cutting movement and tsuki, plus some taisabaki (alone). Now I get an idea what he was doing. Anyway, when uke was asked to attack him, the difference was as vast as the sea - it truly looked as though uke was afraid for his life. And yet the technique was always gentle, any sudden moves to demonstrate strikes, or limb manipulations were done sliding off uke if necessary, and when I took ukemi for sensei his touch was so light that I could adjust in his grip for the position - it was like having my arm surrounded by two steel loops attached to a solid machine.

I remember Arikawa sensei twiddling his thumbs constantly, hands placed one palm over the other at his hara, or behind his back like an old Chinese :-) When we were at the railway station (in Hiroshima IIRC) he would walk up to some of his students and remonstrate them for standing with their hands in their pockets, they ought to do what he was doing for their martial training and well-being. He was the teacher I would most have liked to train with regularly at Honbu. I shall miss him a lot.

Peter Ralls
02-03-2007, 07:02 AM
I trained in Arikawa Sensei's classes many times in 1979 and 1980. Though training in those classes was very rough, and a lot of people got injured, I don't remember Arikawa Sensei himself ever injuring his ukes. When he threw me, though the experience was usually pretty painful, I never got injured, in that the joint in question didn't hurt the next day. This was not always true with some of the other teachers who had a less fearsome reputation.

I also did some training with Terry Dobson Sensei. While Terry was very good, very strong, pretty tough, and had some unresolved anger issues, my own belief is that in a real fight Arikawa Sensei would have destroyed him, even though Terry was three times Arikawa Sensei's size. Though Terry isn't around anymore to ask, I doubt if he would have disagreed.

Although Arikawa Sensei's practice was very intense and severe, and Arikawa Sensei was definitely very eccentric, I always found him to be a gentleman, again, not my experience with all the teachers.

Ellis Amdur
02-03-2007, 07:46 AM
Dan - You are right in your outrage at abuse. Hence the several "layers" at my post.
At the same time, I remain puzzled and curious about this man, because there was something different going on than with the typical bullying aiki-thug cheap-shot artist - regarding the latter type, both then young teachers at the Aikikai, I replied to such an attempt with one individual by nearly breaking his wrist (we were in Doshu's class together, working out - he, a teacher, was always ingratiatingly friendly to me afterwards) and another, I took down and nearly choked out - he also never tried to hurt me again. Of course, it didn't change their overall behavior in the slightest. I left aikido very early in my time in Japan - I was there 13 years, and only two of them in aikido - and part of the reason for my disinterested was that such bullying, particularly by unimpressive individuals who could get away with things because of the context, was permitted in the aikido world. I do not know what my response Arikawa would have been had he done something gratuitous to me, particularly as I matured. I trust the last sentence of my post makes clear why I kept my distance. But similar to my contact with what I called the "undamaged self" to individuals of far greater capacity for violence that I've dealt with on my job, I saw something in Arikawa that caught my attention.
And going back to context, my original post was in response to what i considered an unjustifiable deification of the Founder and of aikido as "peaceful." Arikawa's behavior, and that of the many others, is as much intrinsic to aikido, particularly in Japan in my day, as the integrity and kindness of such individuals as Kuwamori Yasunori, whom I also have spoken. That the former is worthy of contempt is something you and I both agree.

Best

柘植富安
02-03-2007, 09:25 AM
"It would be more fun to see abusers try this in a Judo or jujutsu freestyle format where these ....er....people.....would have no chance for that kind of abuse. Where they would have to fight for the chance to maim a lesser player, and maybe have it cost them for their effort."

My money would have been on Arikawa Sensei.

Ellis and Goldsbury's comments are incredibly astute and accurate I think.

But, to each their own. There is tons of "other" AIkido out there to satisfy the less martial. Actually most of it looks that way now. :hypno:

raul rodrigo
02-03-2007, 11:05 AM
Its not about being more or less martial, or a waza being more or less painful. Ellis's post points out the key concept: the issue here is gratuitous pain, hurting uke one iota more than you have to. Aikido is a budo, yes, and therefore inherently dangerous. But why should it be deliberately made more dangerous or painful than it has to be?

Peter Goldsbury
02-03-2007, 09:35 PM
Its not about being more or less martial, or a waza being more or less painful. Ellis's post points out the key concept: the issue here is gratuitous pain, hurting uke one iota more than you have to. Aikido is a budo, yes, and therefore inherently dangerous. But why should it be deliberately made more dangerous or painful than it has to be?

I think the posts were originally in the Hypocrisy in Aikido thread and the posts on Terry Dobson and Arikawa Sensei were split off. The particular context was the treatment of foreigners in the Aikikai Hombu Dojo.

None of the shihans of Arikawa Sensei's vintage teaches there any more, but foreigners are still regarded as something of a separate community there, and therefore as something of a target in Japan's ijime-based culture. Ijime is usually translated as bullying or persecution and exists everywhere, but in Japan it has a wider connotation that this and especially focuses on those who are, or are perceived to be, different. The crude and boisterous humor of some TV shows has an element of it.

I cannot stress too much that aikido's pretensions to be a JAPANESE art based on harmony and peace have to be understood in a certain context. The AI of aikido does not really mean harmony, which is usually rendered in Japanese as WA. WA ˜a is the second character in the word Yamato ‘å˜a, which is the ancient name for Japan. A conclusion drawn by some is that non-Japanese do not really understand WA.

raul rodrigo
02-03-2007, 09:44 PM
I meant Ellis Amdur's second post, where he talks about cheap shot artists who were young instructors during his time in Hombu decades ago. And as he points out Arikawa hurt some non-Japanese too, so its not about race, I think. Arikawa dealt out pain democratically.

Peter Goldsbury
02-04-2007, 03:20 AM
And I was thinking of George Ledyard's post (#74 in the other thread) about Bruce Bookman's experience in the Hombu, which was not moved to this thread. In my experience, in the way he trained Arikawa Sensei was neither hypocritical, in the sense that his words and actions did not match, nor discriminatory against foreign aikidouka. The same is true of Chiba Sensei also.

Josh Reyer
02-04-2007, 09:58 AM
I've only trained at Hombu once, so I can't say much about what goes/went on there, but here's another perspective I've found. When training out in the boondocks of Japan, where foreign aikidoka are not so common, its a good idea to be on your toes when uke. Not because of ijime, IMO, but rather because of a lack of perspective. The Japanese, generally being small people, are generally in awe of bigger people. Foreigners, particularly foreign men, tend to be among the biggest students in any particular dojo. What I think happens is that other Japanese students (and even instructors) get the impression that because the foreigner (or indeed, any big student) is bigger/heavier/taller, they won't get hurt quite so easily. This can lead to a certain carelessness, and in the kyu ranks a tendency to overcompensate and crank on technique harder than it needs to be. Sumo wrestlers have commented on this tendency of normal-sized Japanese folk to assume that it won't hurt if they hit the sumo wrestlers, because of their size.

Of course, there are always the few who, even if only subconsciously, have those romantic images of tiny Japanese men throwing around large foreign opponents, and relish the opportunity to try out their technique on the big man. (Which can all be relative; I'm 177 cm and 68 kg. Hardly big in the U.S., but here I'm considered a big guy.) Even with the best of intentions, these guys can get a little carried away.

Peter Goldsbury
02-04-2007, 06:34 PM
I've only trained at Hombu once, so I can't say much about what goes/went on there, but here's another perspective I've found. When training out in the boondocks of Japan, where foreign aikidoka are not so common, its a good idea to be on your toes when uke. Not because of ijime, IMO, but rather because of a lack of perspective. The Japanese, generally being small people, are generally in awe of bigger people. Foreigners, particularly foreign men, tend to be among the biggest students in any particular dojo. What I think happens is that other Japanese students (and even instructors) get the impression that because the foreigner (or indeed, any big student) is bigger/heavier/taller, they won't get hurt quite so easily. This can lead to a certain carelessness, and in the kyu ranks a tendency to overcompensate and crank on technique harder than it needs to be. Sumo wrestlers have commented on this tendency of normal-sized Japanese folk to assume that it won't hurt if they hit the sumo wrestlers, because of their size.

Of course, there are always the few who, even if only subconsciously, have those romantic images of tiny Japanese men throwing around large foreign opponents, and relish the opportunity to try out their technique on the big man. (Which can all be relative; I'm 177 cm and 68 kg. Hardly big in the U.S., but here I'm considered a big guy.) Even with the best of intentions, these guys can get a little carried away.

Well, I, too, am in the boondocks and do not think that size and foreignness can be equated so easily. I used the term ijime, but did not intend it in its usual narrow sense. It is more of a tendency, very often exploited here and not just with respect to foreigners, to emphasize differences rather than similarities.

The problem in these discussions is that it all boils down to individual experiences and these clearly differ considerably.

Josh Reyer
02-04-2007, 09:13 PM
Well, I, too, am in the boondocks and do not think that size and foreignness can be equated so easily. I used the term ijime, but did not intend it in its usual narrow sense. It is more of a tendency, very often exploited here and not just with respect to foreigners, to emphasize differences rather than similarities.

The problem in these discussions is that it all boils down to individual experiences and these clearly differ considerably.

Well, I wasn't trying to equate size and foreignness, but rather show a connection. I have no doubt there is a certain marginalization of foreigners in aikido; I see such marginalization in non-budo contexts not infrequently here in Toyota City, where there is a large Brazilian population. And yes, much depends on personal experience, but I do not necessarily see that as a problem in the discussion. My intention was not to contradict or supplant your (or others') accounts, but rather to supplement those with my own. My point simply being that even if one is lucky enough to find a place to train where no such marginalization occurs, there are other considerations that should keep foreign aikidoka in Japan on their toes when it comes to ukemi. For the non-Japanese aikidoka thinking of training in Japan, forewarned is forearmed, and many perspectives would be beneficial, wouldn't you agree?

Ellis Amdur
02-04-2007, 10:33 PM
I'm not sure what you mean by marginalization. Peter is certainly correct - and it was my experience - that there is an emphasis on "difference." Interestingly, that is how "wa" is maintained - when your "place" is known, there is a way to fit you in.
On the other hand, I definitely felt "included" - and any violence I experienced in dojo settings was not due, in my experience, to anti-foreign sentiment. Some people just didn't like me.
I was quite deeply included in people's homes and lives for many years - my differences still emphasized and taken into "account" - but included I was.
One interesting experience. I believe I may have been the first non-Japanese to demonstrate at the Nihon Budokan in their yearly koryu embu. No, actually, there was a foreign student as part of a large entourage of Takenouchi-ryu, but I was going to be the lead - senior of a group of four of Toda-ha Buko-ryu. Some, at least, consider this the pre-eminent demo of koryu in Japan. I very much disliked demos at this time, and tended to avoid them. The day before the demo, when Nitta sensei turned in the final list of presenters, a very senior member of another ryu suggested that it would be shameful for the ryu that it was represented so prominently by a non-Japanese, that it also held Japanese up, implicitly, to negative comparison. Nitta sensei's response was to say, 1) that the affairs of our ryu were none of our concern 2) to call me up and order me - the only time she ordered me to do anything to demonstrate.
On another occasion, Nitta sensei, Ms. Kini Collins and I were to demonstrate at Shimogawa Jinja in Kyoto and Nitta sensei took ill. Kini and I demonstrated - it may have been the only time in Japanese history that the ONLY demonstrators in such an embu were non-Japanese. Everyone watched us very intently, to be sure, but in both direct and subtle ways, Nitta sensei was informed that we did right by the ryu.
So, even though I experienced a fair amount of bias and rudeness in my time in Japan, I honestly think far too much can be made of this. Stand-up people are accepted in budo society - even though your "differences" are not forgotten. And yes, some people may not - and some people may be rude or violent. But I honestly think more problems would happen on the organizational and administrative side than on the mat itself.

Best

David Orange
02-04-2007, 11:12 PM
4.Or just leave. But never, ever, accept abuse like that. From anyone. Particularly and pointedly from some Japanese Shihan. Position does not warrant and legitimize personality dissorders and abuse as "teaching style" with broken bones and wreckage in its wake

Dan, something you said there reminded me of someone I used to know. Not Japanese but a fairly high-ranking American. He had a habit for awhile of doing his techniques twice: nikkyo, for instance. He would apply the technique until you tapped, then ease off of it. And when you relaxed from his easing off, he would apply the technique again, just when you were opened to it.

He did it to me seveal times and I saw him do it to other people and it was clear that they not only didn't like it, but that they though his was a real POS for it and I doubt they ever changed their opinion of him.

I'm glad to say that my experiences with Japanese senseis were always positive and I never got any bad treatment of any kind from Mochizuki Sensei or any of the shihans under him.

But the aforementioned American showed up at the dojo and guess what? One shihan repeatedly mauled him! I wouldn't say it was "funny," but there was something very validating in seeing that happen.

Best to you.

David

Josh Reyer
02-05-2007, 09:38 AM
I'm not sure what you mean by marginalization.

I'm referring to Peter's quote:but foreigners are still regarded as something of a separate community there, and therefore as something of a target in Japan's ijime-based culture.
An individual, particularly one with an understanding of Japanese culture and proficiency with the language, is unlikely to be wholly marginalized in Japan. Groups of people, OTOH...

John Brockington
02-05-2007, 11:56 AM
What actually motivated my question (posed first in the thread "Hypocrisy in Aikido") to Sensei Amdur in the first place was really O Sensei and his treatment of Terry Dobson. There is a place in Terry Dobson's book entitled, I believe, "It's a Lot Like Dancing," where he briefly mentions this relationship and nuanced treatment. And when I read this, I started to think about O Sensei's prior activities in Manchuria and Hokkaido. It occurred to me that his efforts to create a "utopian" state in Manchuria could be construed as an overtly imperialistic act (why wasn't this attempted in Japan?), and certainly the Chinese did not appreciate it. Then his activities in the development of Hokkaido- were these part or an extension of the Japanese government's efforts to displace or dissolve the Ainu? I can find little to support one interpretation or the other, and so was trying to solicit insight from another source. And this does, indeed, get back to the question of the deification, by some, of O Sensei.

John

gdandscompserv
02-05-2007, 06:21 PM
Dan, something you said there reminded me of someone I used to know. Not Japanese but a fairly high-ranking American. He had a habit for awhile of doing his techniques twice: nikkyo, for instance. He would apply the technique until you tapped, then ease off of it. And when you relaxed from his easing off, he would apply the technique again, just when you were opened to it.

He did it to me seveal times and I saw him do it to other people and it was clear that they not only didn't like it, but that they though his was a real POS for it and I doubt they ever changed their opinion of him.

I'm glad to say that my experiences with Japanese senseis were always positive and I never got any bad treatment of any kind from Mochizuki Sensei or any of the shihans under him.

But the aforementioned American showed up at the dojo and guess what? One shihan repeatedly mauled him! I wouldn't say it was "funny," but there was something very validating in seeing that happen.

Best to you.

David
That reminds me of how my sensei handled bullies. They soon became his next uke. They either never came back or they came back as much gentler partners.

Peter Goldsbury
02-05-2007, 07:11 PM
What actually motivated my question (posed first in the thread "Hypocrisy in Aikido") to Sensei Amdur in the first place was really O Sensei and his treatment of Terry Dobson. There is a place in Terry Dobson's book entitled, I believe, "It's a Lot Like Dancing," where he briefly mentions this relationship and nuanced treatment. And when I read this, I started to think about O Sensei's prior activities in Manchuria and Hokkaido. It occurred to me that his efforts to create a "utopian" state in Manchuria could be construed as an overtly imperialistic act (why wasn't this attempted in Japan?), and certainly the Chinese did not appreciate it. Then his activities in the development of Hokkaido- were these part or an extension of the Japanese government's efforts to displace or dissolve the Ainu? I can find little to support one interpretation or the other, and so was trying to solicit insight from another source. And this does, indeed, get back to the question of the deification, by some, of O Sensei.

John

Don't forget that he was a member of a group led by the charismatic, but crackpot, Onisaburo Deguchi, who provided the ideological/spiritual justification for the mission. (Don't forget, also, that at least one member of the group, Yutaro Yano, was linked to the right-wing Amur River Society). Of course, the mission could be construed as overly imperialistic and the same can be said of Japan's later South Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere: the mission to give 'universal brotherhood' to the people of South East Asia. Viewed from this perspective, I think the idea of dispersing the Ainu, seen as an aggressive act, would have been foreign to Japanese at the time, since the Ainu were also in dire need of the kind of universal brotherhood that only the Japanese could provide.

Certainly, the circles in which M Ueshiba moved and the people he knew, apart from Deguchi, would lead one to suppose that he was way to the right of the political spectrum, but he accepted Dobson as a student after World War II, when such ideas were no longer overtly in favor.

You should compare pp.37-45 of Invincible Warrior, by John Stevens, with pp.123-155 of Thomas Nadolski's Ph.D thesis, entitled The Socio-political Background of the 1921 and 1935 Omoto Suppressions in Japan. Nadolski examines the entire Mongolian adventure without once mentioning Ueshiba by name. Stanley Pranin, also, has writen about the episode somewhere in Aikido Journal.

Best wishes,

Chuck Clark
02-05-2007, 07:11 PM
This thread is, in my opinion, an example of the highest form of communication on the web. I sure would like to see more of this sort of exchange on AikiWeb.

Thanks and best regards,

John Brockington
02-06-2007, 08:18 AM
Sensei Goldsbury-

I again appreciate your illuminating response. O Sensei was a fascinating and complex individual, and I feel it is important for me to try to understand the "why" as well as the "how" of Aikido given the cultural and historical/chronological gap between us. I have read Sensei Stevens' book, and will look for Nadolski's thesis for comparison.

Thank you-

John

Peter Goldsbury
02-06-2007, 08:27 PM
Sensei Goldsbury-

I again appreciate your illuminating response. O Sensei was a fascinating and complex individual, and I feel it is important for me to try to understand the "why" as well as the "how" of Aikido given the cultural and historical/chronological gap between us. I have read Sensei Stevens' book, and will look for Nadolski's thesis for comparison.

Thank you-

John

Mr Brockington,

Thank you for your response.

It is my belief that O Sensei can be looked at in several ways: as a kind of saint, whose actions and utterances are understandable regardless of any historical context; or as a man who lived in a very interesting period of Japanese history. Of course, you can combine these two ways, but attempts to do so have not, in my opinion, been very successful so far.

Unfortunately, the writings we have in English, divorced from any context, tend to favor the first way and, as with most saints, there is a flourishing sub-industry designed to buttress and protect the sainthood. People will go to absurd lengths, in my opinion, to convince themselves that O Sensei could indeed do the miraculous things he has been credited with. I think this approach needs to be balanced with an approach that firmly places M Ueshiba in his proper historical context, and if any warts appear as a result, well, this has to be accepted.

I am simplifying a lot here, but unlike in Britain and Germany, the tradition of historical research that began in Japan with Hayashi Razan was not maintained after the Meiji Restoration and historians became afraid to pursue lines of enquiry that were not generally in favor. If you do a search for Tsuda Sokichi, I think you will see what I mean.

Best wishes,

John Brockington
02-07-2007, 02:04 PM
Sensei Goldsbury-

Thank you for your post- I searched and found Nadolski's thesis written at U Penn and also found very interesting background information on Tsuda Sokichi, who certainly was courageous in his scholarship. I wonder if other pre-WWII Japanese historians attempting to validate Japanese history were as fortunate as Sokichi was in surviving his persecutions. But outside of Japan, we are not necessarily (professionally or socially) held to limited inquiry of Japanese history, and so there really should not be such reluctance to seek historical perspective on O Sensei. Of course, having had lengthy exposure to academics, I do understand that academia is imbued with politics. It is just unfortunate that there isn't more in-depth information, true critical analysis, of O Sensei and his Aikido.

Respectfully-

John

Charles Hill
02-07-2007, 05:47 PM
Hi,

I think that it is important to remember that Terry Dobson, in the Aikido in america book, talked about the episode that Mr. Amdur relates above and said that he felt Arikawa Sensei didn't know "his ass from his elbow" in terms of what Aikido is. It also should probably be noted that Mr.Dobson did not name the Shihan that he was talking about.

My experience of Arikawa Sensei's classes in the mid to late 90's was that he always used the same uke every class, a large non-Japanese, never anyone else. Interestingly, Watanabe Sensei always used him as well. Arikawa Sensei continually talked while demonstrating technique, but spoke so softly that I couldn't hear a word. After class, I would ask around and found that no one else could hear what he had said as well. After demoing a technique, he would go to the corner and talk to the same two older Japanese gentlemen, ignoring the class. I realize now, that maybe I should have summoned up the courage to talk to him directly.

Also, there are a number of people in the area where I live now who were members of Arikawa's university club, including the two main shihan of the area. At a party last year, the comment was made that there has never been a captain of the club that was not seriously injured by Arikawa Sensei. Several people nodded at that comment. In Japan there is without a doubt, the idea that to be injured by your teacher is an essential part of serious training.

Charles

Ellis Amdur
02-07-2007, 09:45 PM
I just pulled out Aikido in America - The actual statement puts a slightly different spin on things: "I still feel to this day that the teacher didn't know his ass from his elbow in terms of aikido, that while he was very proficient in the martial stuff, he hadn't understood the soul of the art. And whether or not I'm right is immaterial. What is important is that O-Sensei made no effort to intervene or correct him or anything, just said, "Very good, very good. carry on," and went about his business. . . . O-sensei was very spiritual, but he never forced anyone to participate in his practice. In a sense he would include you in the same way that one might have watched Thomas a Becket pray at chapel. I f you were in the chapel with him, you were included, but he didn't give a damn what you were doing: he was praying. . . . That's what's so devilish about aikido. It deals with these primary forces but leaves pretty much all the detail work up to you . . . .He was not a moral policeman, running around telling everybody to clean up their act. . . . You see, nobody, except those people who were part of inventing another cliche, ever said that the warrior is noble and pure, . . . All that affective stuff didn't need to be laid on it, and the more that you subscribed to it, the deeper trouble you got into because for the most part you hadn't conquered those demons either."

Actually, I'd love to quote the whole chapter. It is very relevant to this discussion.

Best

David Orange
02-07-2007, 10:18 PM
" . . That's what's so devilish about aikido. It deals with these primary forces but leaves pretty much all the detail work up to you . . . .He was not a moral policeman, running around telling everybody to clean up their act. . . . You see, nobody, except those people who were part of inventing another cliche, ever said that the warrior is noble and pure, . . . All that affective stuff didn't need to be laid on it, and the more that you subscribed to it, the deeper trouble you got into because for the most part you hadn't conquered those demons either."

Well, that was one thing I really liked about Mochizuki Sensei. He had the aikido, but no one was following him around thinking he was a saint. Those who followed him followed a martial artist. Still, for the most part, his dojo was always peaceful--despite the fact that it echoed with kiai, thunder on the mat and slamming of the bags and often a choked expression of pain. But hard feelings seemed to be rare there. I very, very rarely saw anyone lose his temper there and most of the abuse was heaped on by the visiting foreigners who didn't know how to act like gentlemen. The shihans were incredibly powerful, yet spectacularly forebearing. No saints. Just very skilled and powerful gentlemen. And they all revered Minoru Mochizuki as just that kind of man.

Best to all.

David

raul rodrigo
02-08-2007, 04:44 AM
Actually, I'd love to quote the whole chapter. It is very relevant to this discussion.


Please add to this thread more quotes from that chapter you feel are relevant. Its not a book I can easily get my hands on.

Peter Goldsbury
02-08-2007, 05:25 AM
Hello Ellis,

I too looked at the book. There are a few remarks about Arikawa Sensei made by Mary Heiny in her chapter (p.116-117). She points out that he was clearly brutal, but I think he was clearly brutal with everybody.

Hiroshima Kenshibu has been fortunate in having regular visits from three Hombu shihan. These were Masatake Fujita (who actually started the Hiroshima Dojo when he was a student at Takudai), Hiroshi Tada and Seigo Yamaguchi. After Yamaguchi Sensei died, my teacher asked Arikawa Sensei if he would kindly visit Hiroshima regularly. He took a lot of persuading, for I do not think he wanted to play second fiddle to Yamaguchi. But just before his first visit my teacher impressed upon him to, "muri shinaiyouni kudasai" (not to do anything 'stupid'). Jokes about dojo insurance circulated.

Everything went well, but Arikawa Sensei, like Yamaguchi Sensei before him, never used students as ukes. On his first visit he brought his own uke, a man named Niall. (I think this is the person you mean, Charles.) But nobody wanted to talk to him after practice. There was the customary party, but when I arrived, Arikawa Sensei was sitting alone at the top table, with everyone standing around trying to look invisible. It is impossible for me to look invisible here, so I was pushed forward and told to talk to Arikawa Sensei. Which I did.

I note Terry's remarks about this certain shihan's ignorance of the 'spirit' of aikido. (I think his reference to shiho-nage gives the game away as to who he is.) After Arikawa Sensei got used to Hiroshima and we got used to him, he relaxed and opened up more. I especially liked the private talks after practice. On one occasion I got the Hombu's Dojo's view (i.e., Kisshomaru's view) of the Tohei split, for Arikawa Sensei was close to the late Doshu.

Terry seemed to have injuries in mind, perhaps, wanton injuries, and we can all agree, now, that there is a serious disconnect between the mantra of loving protection of one's partner (not 'opponent') and pulling his shoulder out with a shiho-nage or causing concussion with an irimi-nage. Probably Terry was the first non-Japanese to confront this issue, but with Arikawa Sensei it was simply a matter of degree. Hiroshi Isoyama once made the remark at an IAF meeting that it was to be expected that one would be injured during practice and I assume that he was thinking of training at Iwama when he made the remark. But he also noted that times had changed since he started training and that there was a need to educate young shihans about this.

One of the (for me) depressing features of Aikido in America was that all the people mentioned in the book left Japan. Terry left because O Sensei died and it was clear that there was no place for him at the Hombu. It is curious that he never mentions Kisshomaru Ueshiba in his chapter. Was it Kisshomaru who opposed his becoming a deshi? Mary Heiny left because she ultimately could not stand the culture. You have to create your own niche here and this is as true of aikido as of anything else. No one will do it for you. But I think I am one of the very few non-Japanese in the Aikikai world who have made the decision to live in Japan for the rest of my life.

Why? I like Hiroshima very much, but I also believe that there is a great danger that some kind of ideological split will occur between Japan and the rest of the aikido world. America and France have huge aikido populations but they have absolutely zero influence on how aikido is practised in Japan at the Hombu. For example, at present one of the issues occupying my mind is the education of the next Doshu. Mitsuteru-san has just graduated from university and has been added to the roll of Hombu instructors. How his future aikido training develops will be crucial also for the future of aikido. So he needs to spend some time abroad training and seeing how aikido can truly cross cultures.

So I, a non-Japanese chairman of the IAF, am quietly putting a 'think-tank' together to ponder the future of aikido for the next century. I think this would not have been possible when Terry was in the Hombu.

Best wishes,

Peter Goldsbury
02-08-2007, 05:46 AM
Please add to this thread more quotes from that chapter you feel are relevant. Its not a book I can easily get my hands on.

Hello Raul,

I think it would be hard to do this. The interview is very diffuse and Terry ranges over a wide range of topics.

From reading the interview, I think that Terry Dobson sounds very much like Onisaburo Deguchi: a combination of very much common sense with a whole load of wackiness. I never met him and the closest I have come to him is reading the stories that Ellis occasionally puts out and reading his book Aikido in Everyday Life: Giving in to Get your Way, which I confess did not impress me very much.

But the trials he experienced in the Hombu must have been very severe. All those ani-deshi who regarded him as simply different. There is a famous photograph of Terry in western clothes sitting in sitting in seiza presumably listening to O Sensei discoursing from a book. Or he might have just been reading the book in silence. One cannot help wondering, what is this guy doing here? I would love to have met him and compared notes and stories about living in this amazing country.

By the way, I found Aikido in America in a bookstore in Amsterdam.

crbateman
02-08-2007, 05:48 AM
Gentlemen, this is some good stuff. This entire discussion should be preserved and amplified in a book. Please, continue.

Peter Goldsbury
02-08-2007, 06:57 AM
Hello Clark,

I don't know about a book, but one of the most interesting memories of Arikawa Sensei for me was his participation at the annual All-Japan Demonstration, held at the Nippon Budokan on the third Saturday in May each year.

I have written about this event before. Basically, it is the aikido equivalent of the undoukai (sports day, but this is a bad translation), which is an essential part of the calendar in every school and neighborhood center in Japan. Everybody gathers and 'does' something. And, this being Japan, the event is carefully structured vertically, with demonstrations given by Hombu shihans, shihans from the Aikikai Instruction Department (the two are not the same), other shihans, military dojos, company dojos, dojos in local government etc etc. Even the amount of lighting depends on one's place in the pecking order.

Anyway, Arikawa Sensei had long given up actually demonstrating at this event, but used to wander around, camera in hand, giving advice on occasion. Of course, everyone knew him, but also treated him with a certain awe. He had no fan club of vociferous students, such as greets Watanabe Sensei every year, when he does his seemingly miraculous non-contact demonstrations. As IAF Chairman I wore a suit and sat in the area just in front of the red and white bunting and Arikawa Sensei would sometimes come and talk. I remember some lengthy discussions about the meaning of shoumen (towards the Imperial Palace, actually not far away) and some very trenchant comments about the poor quality of the participants.

Actually, it is a sad thing that Arikawa Sensei had such immense prestige in the Hombu, but he has left virtually no legacy. Yamaguchi Sensei and Tada Sensei have created a generation of deshi, but you will find no one at the Aikikai Hombu who practises 'Arikawa' aikido.

In an earlier post, Ellis talked about Arikawa Sensei being autistic in some sense. I do not believe this to be true. Earlier, I mentioned an IAF meeting where I crossed swords with Arikawa Sensei. I did not tell the whole story.

Basically, Arikawa Sensei wanted to create a special place within the IAF for those shihans like Tamura, Yamada, Chiba, Sugano et al, who were immediate postwar students of O Sensei. I said No, on the grounds that the statutes could not legislate for special cases. The argument became very heated and I was severely attacked. Arikawa Sensei publicly called into question my whole personal commitment to aikido. I was very depressed and asked a Japanese friend what to do. Later that evening I had an urgent telephone call. It was Arikawa Sensei and he wanted to see me. We met and spent 30 minutes talking. I was gently reassured that he had absolute faith in my judgment and would accept whatever I decided. He had a duty to his kohai in the Hombu, but he also understood that I had a duty to perform. Actually this is the whole foreigner thing again, but I think that Arikawa Sensei respected what I stood for and I admired him for that. So I am prepared to forgive his excesses on the tatami.

Actually, I believe that Arikawa Sensei was not so much autistic as someone trying to do what O Sensei himself did. In Hiroshima he showed waza, but did not really teach. After practice ended he was very happy to answer questions, but occasionally told us not to give students certain explanations. They should be required to find out for themselves. The shihan could guide and prevent bad waza, but should not give verbal explanations.

In my experience, the closest anyone comes to Arikawa Sensei is Kazuo Chiba Sensei and I have crossed swords with him on many occasions.

Finally, Clark, you could ponder the question: why would anyone want to become an uchi-deshi in a martial art like aikido? I have met Don Angier and Toby Threadgill, and also Ellis, at the 2002 Expo. They all were deshi of senseis in koryu budo, but did not experience the rough and tumble of a being in a large group of Japanese deshi in a martial art with no real history. Unless I am quite mistaken.

Best wishes,

raul rodrigo
02-08-2007, 07:35 AM
Actually, it is a sad thing that Arikawa Sensei had such immense prestige in the Hombu, but he has left virtually no legacy. Yamaguchi Sensei and Tada Sensei have created a generation of deshi, but you will find no one at the Aikikai Hombu who practises 'Arikawa' aikido.


Would you care to venture a theory as to why he did not create a core group of deshi?


best,

R

Peter Goldsbury
02-08-2007, 08:18 AM
Would you care to venture a theory as to why he did not create a core group of deshi?


best,

R

This is a hard question and I think it does not admit of a general answer.

I do not believe that Arikawa Sensei felt that he had any kind of mission to tramsmit a legacy to future generations. I think that he believed that people would see him for what he was and either make the effort to train like he did, or not.

For Doshu in the Hombu, the paramount preoccupation is creating a legacy: a core of principles and ways of doing basic techniques that will be the way O Sensei's original legacy has been preserved and bequeathed to future generations. This is what is meant by 'iemoto'.

With Kisshomaru and Tohei, who were at the top of the pyramid, the need to create a legacy was clearly paramount. They just disagreed on which elements to emphasize. For those who were lower down, the need was not so pressing.

There are a number of deshis who have not published any manuals or videos and these deshis generally do not have an extensive following outside Japan. I am thinking of Kisaburo Osawa, Seigo Yamaguchi and Sadateru Arikawa and also younger deshi like Watanabe and Masuda. The exceptions are Tada and Sugano, who have lived and trained overseas, but who have not published anything. Tada Sensei has been famously writing a book on ikkyou for the past decade or so and we all know he will never publish it. Of course, Tada Sensei has a core of deshi, but his method of training is so unique that nobody, in my opinion, has succeeded in absorbing the total of Tada's aikido in his own training. The deshi who tried the most was Masatomi Ikeda and he is no longer practising aikido.

I once asked Tada Sensei about the arrangements he had made for people to preserve his knowledge after he had died. He bluntly answered that this was not possible. His aikido was his aikido and it was up to his disciples to take what they could and create their own aikido. This was how O Sensei had taught. If this is the case, the future is quite bleak.

So in the Hombu, Doshu's aikido is quite bland, so to speak, and he once told me that it was his duty to inherit, preserve and transmit a living heritage. Other people could tramsmit the icing, but he had a duty to transmit the cake, as rich in fruit as he was capable of transmitting.

Actually, my next Aikiweb column will be a discussion of the issues of transmission, inheritance and emulation in aikido. It was too late for the February columns, but will appear in March. Arikawa Sensei will be a good example of the issues involved. So, I hope you will come back with issues and questions later.

Best wishes,

Ecosamurai
02-08-2007, 08:53 AM
I especially liked the private talks after practice. On one occasion I got the Hombu's Dojo's view (i.e., Kisshomaru's view) of the Tohei split, for Arikawa Sensei was close to the late Doshu.

SNIP

So I, a non-Japanese chairman of the IAF, am quietly putting a 'think-tank' together to ponder the future of aikido for the next century. I think this would not have been possible when Terry was in the Hombu.

If it's alright with you I'd be very interested in hearing the Hombu (Kisshomaru) view of the Tohei split and especially curious as to how that sort of thing may influence the aforementioned 'think-tank'

Mike Haft

Ellis Amdur
02-08-2007, 08:57 AM
Peter - A number of thoughts come to mind.
1. Arikawa sensei's uke - Niall - I wonder if he a) is still in Japan b) might not have some valuable things to say/write about Arikawa sensei.
2. The story you told about Arikawa calling you to restore "wa" - in a very personal/after the fact way, as if he realized that he had, previously, not addressed you as you truly were - that's the kind of unexpected kindness that stuck me.
3.I should save my comments about the experience of being a deshi for another time, it being rather off topic, but I remember once, thinking to myself that I'd come to Japan hoping to find an Osensei, and I found a Takeda Sokaku (I'm referring to the quality of the relationship, not anything to do with waza). It was terribly, pervasively intense, for many years, unleavened by a community of ani-deshi and kohai, meaning there were no politics but also, no respite.
4. Terry was very different from Deguchi in that he was neither inflated nor pathologically narcissistic. I used to say to him that he had "one foot in heaven and one foot in high school." He went through terrible times, in a way, as a deshi, and part of this was due to his brother deshi, but part was due to him. I believe that Mssr. Noquet had a very happy two years as a deshi. Terry was inordinately passionate - in the old sense of the term in which passion is both pain and ecstasy. He demanded of others among his fellows the same passion and loyalty to a vision of aikido as a way of transforming the universe, excoriating them for their failings or disinterest in this mission, even as he sold out himself and the mission due to his own failings.
Best

Edward
02-08-2007, 09:31 AM
Finally, Clark, you could ponder the question: why would anyone want to become an uchi-deshi in a martial art like aikido? I have met Don Angier and Toby Threadgill, and also Ellis, at the 2002 Expo. They all were deshi of senseis in koryu budo, but did not experience the rough and tumble of a being in a large group of Japanese deshi in a martial art with no real history. Unless I am quite mistaken.

Best wishes,

Hello Peter,

It would be very interesting to hear your answer to this question. I think I know what you mean by " a martial art with no real history" but I would love to read your point of view.

Thanks for your great contributions to this fascinating thread.

crbateman
02-08-2007, 10:00 AM
Actually, my next Aikiweb column will be a discussion of the issues of transmission, inheritance and emulation in aikido. It was too late for the February columns, but will appear in March. Arikawa Sensei will be a good example of the issues involved. So, I hope you will come back with issues and questions later.This is, in my opinion, one of the cornerstone issues in the preservation of this historical information. All who are yet capable of documenting, in as faithful a fashion as is possible, their experiences with the Founder, with early Aikido, and with these most influential teachers who comprise so many important stitches in the fabric of Aikido, should do so, for the benefit of future generations. The writings won't change over time, whereas the interpretative teachings of current instructors surely will, from person to person. The sense of what Aikido is cannot survive without the understanding of what Aikido was.

Thank you, Prof. Goldsbury, for your most valuable contributions. I look forward to your columns.

Jorge Garcia
02-08-2007, 10:04 AM
Speaking of supposed abuse, I have heard some interesting underground stories of a system of "protection" at the Aikikai Hombu for the locals that existed in the past. I don't know the details but the stories imply something like this. A person from another martial art comes in and is being really rough on his partner ( and possibly abusive). When a senior member notices it, they notify an unofficial "enforcer" who then finds a way to train with that person (interrupt the two practicing or get them the next time?) and that person "takes care of them".There seems to be an implication that is is somewhat of an honor to be that enforcer because it is an unspoken recognition that the person can handle almost anyone. This example would be among the more senior members. Anyone ever heard or become aware of anything like this? Could this be why O Sensei wasn't interfering with the person Ellis said was being abusive? Maybe it was going to be "taken care of" later.
Best wishes,
Jorge.

George S. Ledyard
02-08-2007, 10:05 AM
Actually, I believe that Arikawa Sensei was not so much autistic as someone trying to do what O Sensei himself did. In Hiroshima he showed waza, but did not really teach. After practice ended he was very happy to answer questions, but occasionally told us not to give students certain explanations. They should be required to find out for themselves. The shihan could guide and prevent bad waza, but should not give verbal explanations.

Hi Peter,
One is tempted to see a direct connection between this attitude and his observation of a lack of quality in the demonstrations he saw. This way of looking at Aikido teaching is very "elitist" in my own opinion. That wasn't really an issue in the old days with O-Sensei because the uchi deshi as a group formed the "elite".

But now, Aikido has been encouraged to grow into a world wide endeavor. There are tens of thousands of people in the States who give up their precious time and hard earned money to train in this art. There simply is no way for them to all get consistent and frequent exposure to a Shihan level teacher. This "figure it out for yourself" attitude favors exclusively the folks who are "visual learners". Most of the people out there will not be able to take ukemi from a Shihan level teacher more than a very few times in a year, many simply will not at all. So even the "tactile learners" are stuck if they don't have a chance to put their hands on someone at a high level.

Frankly, attending a seminar in which you will never be called up for ukemi and at which the teacher will only demonstrate and not give explanation makes that seminar about as useful as learning from a video for most of the attendees.

And the "cognitive types" are simply left out in the cold. I have many students who require an understanding in their minds of what they are trying to do before they can get their bodies to actually do it. Everything for them is a matter of understanding preceding doing. Training can EVENTUALLY get them into their bodies and out of their heads to a greater degree but they have to stay which means they have to feel like they are getting some encouragement and making some headway.

I was trained under the minimal explanation model. To the extent that I have actually started to be able to do what my teachers are doing, it was largely do to the exposure I had to teachers like Kuroda, Angier, Ushiro, Threadgill, etc who had very systematic ways of describing the princples at work in their waza. I was able to take these explanations and figure out what my own teacher had been showing us all these years.

I just can't accept that the vast majority of practitioners should be condemned to doing Aikido-lite while a very few get to the point at which they can actually do their Aikido with some real understanding of "aiki". Even with the best instruction in the world, it still takes a huge amount of work to get the principles into ones body and mind to the point at which they feel natural on some level. Most people will not make the effort to get that far. But for the ones that are putting out the effort, we owe them the best instruction we can give.

When someone with the skill and experience like Arikawa passes away without having passed on what he knows to the next generation, it is lost. it will never be replaced. People may figure out new things for themselves but they will never really understand what went before. I think that prevents Aikido from building on a strong foundation. It means that every generation has to build its own foundation all over again. We should be able to build on what has gone before and add our own experience to it. This can't happen if there is not a systematic transmission.

I remember Saotome Sensei lighting into a student who had made the grave error in judgment of referring to an certain not very accomplished Aikido instructor as an "Aikido Master". This is a big button with him and one that is best avoided. But the fact is that Aikido has grown to the point at which most of the folks practicing only have minimal exposure to folks who have any real degree of mastery. Without a systematic transmission, Aikido keeps growing the way it has but we get to the point at which folks really do not have any sense of what real mastery is and what a teacher with real mastery looks and feels like. They simply do not know.

Even worse, even if they do know, they simply feel as if that level of understanding is somehow "special"; reserved for some elite group of folks. Then they give up. They might still go through the motions of training but they do not really believe that they can get to the point where they can do what their teachers can do.

I explain when I teach. I try to isolate the principles which make this stuff work and that's what I pass on. I have found that when I go around and conduct seminars the folks out there are quite excited to actually have someone explain what they have been trying (often for some time) to do. It's like rain in the dessert, all of a sudden there is life. Folks get excited about their practice again because now they can see that they can really make some progress. I believe that as Aikido teachers, it is our job to do this.

Aikilove
02-08-2007, 11:02 AM
George, I agree that there should be a way to really transmit some form of foundation over the generations, but I also believe that for most people it doesn't matter. They simply don't train nearly enough (frequently and timewise) and/or take enough responsibility for their own training to have a chance to reach those levels of "mastery". Even if some of them do; without the talent they might become good but not brilliant.
An interesting point, as you wrote, is that most aikido people today simply have no idea of what mastery in aikido is. Just out of the sheer number exponents today vs. the number of people at these elevated levels living today. To some level I can understand Arikawa's view: He couldn't care less if people didn't understand him or put the time/energy in to make a different. It was those who did get it and had the skill that would make a different. And nothing he would say would change that.

/J

Fred Little
02-08-2007, 02:05 PM
Speaking of supposed abuse, I have heard some interesting underground stories of a system of "protection" at the Aikikai Hombu for the locals that existed in the past. I don't know the details but the stories imply something like this. A person from another martial art comes in and is being really rough on his partner ( and possibly abusive). When a senior member notices it, they notify an unofficial "enforcer" who then finds a way to train with that person (interrupt the two practicing or get them the next time?) and that person "takes care of them".There seems to be an implication that is is somewhat of an honor to be that enforcer because it is an unspoken recognition that the person can handle almost anyone. This example would be among the more senior members. Anyone ever heard or become aware of anything like this? Could this be why O Sensei wasn't interfering with the person Ellis said was being abusive? Maybe it was going to be "taken care of" later.
Best wishes,
Jorge.

Oh yes. The first time I went to Saotome Sensei's Aikido Shobukan in Washington DC, I was determined to demonstrate that I was serious about my training, which led me to an up-close-and-personal encounter with that particular phenomenon.

Mind you, I wasn't trying to hurt anyone, but I was most definitely intent on proving that I even though I was a yonkyu nobody knew from Adam, was serious about my practice, and I was working fairly fast and hard. Just as I began to register a touch of surprise that my partner didn't seem to be up for practice as fast, hard, and -- in retrospect -- more than a bit rough around the edges as I was engaging in, Frank Bell cut in, immediately bumping the speed and intensity up a notch. So my next yokomen was that much harder and more determined. His next shinonage set me down correspondingly faster. The cycle continued to rise in intensity -- with Frank maintaining a degree of control I recall as exquisite -- until I took enough of a knock on the back of the head when he set me down in shiho-nage that I learned why my teachers had all emphasized tucking the chin.

Not that I had the sense to dial back at that point. That obvious possibility didn't even occur to me until felt a sharp harbinger of potential shoulder separation. And even then, I didn't really dial back the attack so much as I adjusted the ukemi to avoid the risk to my shoulder. Frank was enjoying himself greatly. And to tell the truth, I was too. So we continued until I just couldn't draw enough oxygen to stand up again, and gasped "can I have a moment to catch my breath?"

He nodded yes, in a deadly serious but not unfriendly way. Saotome Sensei stepped up from where he had been watching and asked, "Everything ok here?" Frank and I both looked at him and replied at once: "Yes, Sensei." He smiled and said, "Good." Then, wa restored, he turned and walked away.

I popped back up, began to pay attention to the speed and intensity of practice around me, Frank continued to school me for the rest of the class, no matter what I did, and I remain grateful that I got a conscientious enforcer that evening.

FL

Ellis Amdur
02-08-2007, 02:30 PM
Mr. Garcia - Fred's story illustrates well the question you asked. But this would not have applied to Arikawa sensei, who was one of the senior shihan in the dojo. The only one who could have "set him to rights" was Ueshiba Morihei - and if he had, there wouldn't have been the chain of continued injuries that Arikawa sensei left behind him.
On another matter, I just had a conversation with a friend who, like me, took ukemi for Arikawa sensei in some of his classes. His technique was crude - looking, but both of us have a "body memory" of an absolutely precise irimi - that, at the moment of contact, he took absolute control. To compare my memory of taking ukemi for Chiba sensei, the latter had an explosive ability to go from zero-to-hundred miles per hour in an instant, but from that point, I could always feel him gather himself to do the next move. For example, grabbing his wrist for nikkyo, he would enter in an inordinately powerful way and my balance was disturbed. I would then feel him prepare, rising up and then slamming down in the wrist lock. Honestly, I waited for him to put the technique on. The initial move had the shock of being hit by a club, and then there would be space as he "drew back," so to speak, to do it again. With Arikawa, it was like being caught in the gears of an inexorable machine.

Best

dhebert
02-08-2007, 02:32 PM
Hi Fred - hope all is well. Thanks for the very enjoyable story. Frank Bell was irreplaceable.

Don Hebert

Jorge Garcia
02-08-2007, 03:39 PM
Yes Amdur Sensei, I understand. I thought of the story as I read it years ago not taking note that the person was Arikawa sensei.

Rod Yabut
02-08-2007, 04:01 PM
You'd have to wonder if shihans like Chiba and Arikawa senseis took it upong themselves to keep the training 'honest' in hombu in order not to lose face. I remember reading one of Chiba sensei's writings in reference to when he would accompany O'sensei to Iwama that the training there was more 'vigorous' than in Tokyo in his time as a deshi. He was alluding to the fact that the students were more blue collar (I'm picturing farmers with wrists the size of my ankles) vs. a more white collar city folk that attended Hombu.

With Arikawa, it was like being caught in the gears of an inexorable machine.

Yikes!

Rod Yabut
02-08-2007, 04:06 PM
I explain when I teach. I try to isolate the principles which make this stuff work and that's what I pass on. I have found that when I go around and conduct seminars the folks out there are quite excited to actually have someone explain what they have been trying (often for some time) to do. It's like rain in the dessert, all of a sudden there is life. Folks get excited about their practice again because now they can see that they can really make some progress. I believe that as Aikido teachers, it is our job to do this.

Quite coincidentally, one of our newer students started attending our children's class consistently. I commended him for his enthusiasm in which he repled that "the stuff we practiced" in regular classes made makes more sense after it was slowed down and verbalized in the children's class. What a concept!

Gernot Hassenpflug
02-08-2007, 09:48 PM
Ellis, that's a great point you make there about "gears of an inexorable machine", that's what I get when someone like Akuzawa does a technique slowly (happily! saves me some nervous sweating in advance) -- the feeling is simply like you described. In the vocabulary of Mike Sigman's explanations, that probably is related to the use of the ground in all movements. Speed is clearly not an issue in demonstrations or classes, so that this can be felt more easily. It is much harder, IMHO, to feel this with the so-called "aiki throws" that do not use much contact or in which the contact is so short (breaking of balance very rapid) that it is not clear how it occurred, even though the mechanism is the same.

On a random note, not taking people seriously as they age seems to be a common source of injuries :-) I've no doubt that someone like Abe sensei used to be a lot stronger than he is now, but that doesn't change the fact that the basic power hasn't degraded as much as the individual muscles that make up the body mass. So for people who associate technique with muscle mass, speed, timing, and such like, are often unpleasantly surprised by effect of such a teacher's movement, especially since it looks somewhat "weak" when viewed from the chorus-line. This failure to appreciate what is really going on means the uke's body is not protected and ready to take the technique, and I have seen a few of the strongly-built high-school and university students get thrown rather more violently through their own inattendance.

raul rodrigo
02-08-2007, 10:43 PM
Ellis Amdur once had a terrific story on how the young Ichiro Shibata was called up to take ukemi for Rinjiro Shirata in the late 1970s. The young hombu deshi didn't really know who he was and Shibata came over looking bored and a bit put out at having to take ukemi for this old man. He writes: "Shirata took hold of young Shibata and began moving (blending) in the direction he had reached - very fast, very hard - 180 degrees away. Shibata's eyes opened wide in horror, because, in an instant, he was stretched nearly horizontal, and Shirata sensei hadn't even started his turn into the shihonage itself - this was just the initial move! Nor did he pause. Shibata-san just barely, with supreme athleticism, managed to "catch up" enough to merely be slammed down to the mat rather than have his arm ripped off. The expression on his face at the moment of realization was just like that of the coyote in the Roadrunner cartoons when he suddenly realizes he's run right off a cliff. ... Sometimes the best way to illustrate quality to a young man is to rattle his bones, and Shirata-sensei had done that with a casual ease - no viciousness at all, just the implacable force of an anvil dropped off a high building."

raul rodrigo
02-08-2007, 10:55 PM
Actually, my next Aikiweb column will be a discussion of the issues of transmission, inheritance and emulation in aikido. It was too late for the February columns, but will appear in March. Arikawa Sensei will be a good example of the issues involved. So, I hope you will come back with issues and questions later.

Best wishes,


I look forward to that column.


best,


R

Peter Ralls
02-09-2007, 12:45 AM
This thread certainly covers a lot of issues in aikido, but getting back to how Arikawa Sensei taught, what interests me is what he was trying pass on, and how. He was obviously an intelligent man who put a lot of thought into what he was doing, and what the art was. So why did he teach the way he did?

My guess is that he was not trying to pass down his own style of aikido in terms of a way of doing techniques, or a methodology, but instead trying to create a training environment that would result in the students experiencing certain things that would deepen their understanding of aikido. Obviously Arikawa Sensei thought that the training environment had to be severe. We all have our own opinions of what constitutes an acceptable level of severity, and what constitutes abuse. I don't think Arikawa Sensei was too worried about people getting injured. I think most of us in the west teaching now are concerned about injuries.

Since Arikawa Sensei was an equal opportunity pain inflictor, and I never thought there was the slightest racial malice behind what he did, I didn't find it abusive. The way he taught, and threw his ukes was clearly the way he felt necessary to impart what he was trying to teach. This in turn meant usually that your partner for the class was going to be throwing as hard as they could also, and I think that was the environment he was trying to create.

This was very different from say, a certain other senior teacher's class, which wasn't generally so severe, but in which I had an experience I did think was abusive. My training partner was an attractive blond American woman who I knew slightly, and this teacher came over to "instruct" her, which translated to him smashing me repeatedly into the mat to impress her. Was it any more painful than some of the training in Arikawa Sensei's class? No, but the intent was totally different, and left me feeling angry and disgusted.

Anyway, when we think about trying to teach aikido, I think as westerners, we try and create a rational, methodical curriculum based on what we think will benefit the majority of our students, as George Ledyard touched on above. I think this is based on our western value system, and understanding of how the world works. We also want to avoid injuries. But it seems to me that a lot of Japanese teachers I have trained with seem to have a different value system. And Osensei, by all accounts, didn't have the most rational system of teaching either.

I often think that in aikido, that quality which has been a major topic in this forum, the quality that transcends physical technique that we refer to as kokyu, has been passed on by experiencing kokyu taking falls from ones teacher, rather than any set method of teaching. Thus, Osensei had a lot of kokyu. His students, that experienced him directly, got some of it, though not nearly to the degree Osensei had. And their students in turn, often got a whole lot less. And as the the number of people training in aikido became greater and greater, the less people proportionately have had the experience of being thrown with kokyu, to the point now that a lot of people just don't believe in it at all.

So maybe that's what Arikawa Sensei was up to, trying to pass on what he had by letting people feel it from him. I never got the feeling that he was throwing the way he did because he enjoyed hurting people. My guess is he did it to create a training environment where people would get something, and to try and pass something on that he didn't feel could be passed on by explanation.

Last of all, I think the Second Doshu must have had some of this thought process also, as the training in pretty much all the classes at Hombu Dojo in the period I lived in Japan in 1979 and 1980 was a lot rougher than is the norm at Hombu Dojo now. My impression is that the Third Doshu doesn't want things to be as severe. I personally find it a lot more enjoyable now.

Peter Goldsbury
02-09-2007, 04:49 AM
Hello George,

Since you addressed your post to me, I think I need to reply. I have added a few comments at the end of each paragraph. Peter Ralls has pretty well summed up what I think about Arikawa Sensei's classes.

Hi Peter,
One is tempted to see a direct connection between this attitude and his observation of a lack of quality in the demonstrations he saw. This way of looking at Aikido teaching is very "elitist" in my own opinion. That wasn't really an issue in the old days with O-Sensei because the uchi deshi as a group formed the "elite"..
PAG. I think the temptation should be resisted. I think Arikawa Sensei had extremely high standards as to what constituted good aikido and saw clearly when these standards were not met. So I think he tried to show the best aikido of which he was capable for as long as he could. I was once struck by Yamaguchi Sensei telling me that he planned to give up practising aikido, for he could no longer train in the way he wanted to (like Arikawa Sensei, he was a secret cancer sufferer). But I do not think it is elitist to have high standards and then, separately, to have a certain way of teaching. I suppose that if I really wanted to learn the best aikido possible to me at this time, I would leave Hiroshima and go and live close to Hiroshi Tada--and then learn from him, in whatever way he chose to teach me. I suppose I am being elitist here. Of course, I cannot do this, since I have a job here, and so I have to be satisfied with the teacher I have.

But now, Aikido has been encouraged to grow into a world wide endeavor. There are tens of thousands of people in the States who give up their precious time and hard earned money to train in this art. There simply is no way for them to all get consistent and frequent exposure to a Shihan level teacher. This "figure it out for yourself" attitude favors exclusively the folks who are "visual learners". Most of the people out there will not be able to take ukemi from a Shihan level teacher more than a very few times in a year, many simply will not at all. So even the "tactile learners" are stuck if they don't have a chance to put their hands on someone at a high level..
PAG. Well, I don't think you can blame Arikawa Sensei for this. Aikido in America has grown to what it is now, thanks to the efforts of the folks interviewed in Aikido in America and their Japanese teachers: Koichi Tohei, Yoshimitsu Yamada, Akira Tohei, Mitsunari Kanai, Mitsugi Saotome and Kazuo Chiba. What you have here is people being sent abroad, or, rather being given an offer they cannot refuse, and intially replicating the circumstances in which they themseves trained. They were given no preparation because the Aikikai were not in a position to give such preparation. As it is, I would think they had a pretty sharp learning curve. But I think American aikidoists should call their own Japanese teachers to account and ask: (1) what steps have you taken to make sure that what you teach is available to every single member of your organization; (2) what steps have you taken to ensure that the quality instruction that you give now will still be available when you are no longer around.

Frankly, attending a seminar in which you will never be called up for ukemi and at which the teacher will only demonstrate and not give explanation makes that seminar about as useful as learning from a video for most of the attendees..
PAG. I disagree. I do not like attending large seminars, but I attended one given by Doshu in Tokyo. I was not called on to take uke, Doshu gave the minimum of explanation and much of this was lost in translation. However, I practised with several people, whom I knew, but had never practised with before. I have regularly questioned the value of large seminars but each time I have been overruled, with the reason that large seminars have some value.

And the "cognitive types" are simply left out in the cold. I have many students who require an understanding in their minds of what they are trying to do before they can get their bodies to actually do it. Everything for them is a matter of understanding preceding doing. Training can EVENTUALLY get them into their bodies and out of their heads to a greater degree but they have to stay which means they have to feel like they are getting some encouragement and making some headway..
PAG. I am not sure that the dichotomy between the two types is so marked. For example, I have seen two ways of teaching ukemi here in Japan.
One way is favored by the students here and has the very minimum of expanation. Students make return journeys up and down the dojo and the kambu and sempai are there to explain and correct at an individual level. However, there is no set model, but a lot of peer pressure, and students end up being able to take very good ukemi by the end of the first semester.
The other way is favored by my colleagues in my dojo. Here, there is a specific model: a very clear and specific way of holding your hands and turning your head. The model is shown, with explanation given as necessary, but excessive deviation from the model is not permitted. I am not yet convinced that the second method is better than the first, but it is preferable to the kind of training that goes on in the other city dojos of which I have experience.

I was trained under the minimal explanation model. To the extent that I have actually started to be able to do what my teachers are doing, it was largely do to the exposure I had to teachers like Kuroda, Angier, Ushiro, Threadgill, etc who had very systematic ways of describing the princples at work in their waza. I was able to take these explanations and figure out what my own teacher had been showing us all these years..
PAG. So was I. I had a large number of teachers in my time and each one became my 'teacher'. Each had a different take on kihon-waza and each had his own preferred oyou-waza. You have had Saotome Sensei, but I wonder whether you ever gently forced him to explain what he had been showing you, for the sake of the 'cognitivists'.

I just can't accept that the vast majority of practitioners should be condemned to doing Aikido-lite while a very few get to the point at which they can actually do their Aikido with some real understanding of "aiki". Even with the best instruction in the world, it still takes a huge amount of work to get the principles into ones body and mind to the point at which they feel natural on some level. Most people will not make the effort to get that far. But for the ones that are putting out the effort, we owe them the best instruction we can give..
PAG. Yes, you have stated this before. One could argue that it is a mistake to offer aikido to a very large number of potential practitioners without also making sure that the facilities to enable them to go beyond aikido-lite are already in place. We can see that this mistake has been made in many places (Russia comes to mind as a good example), but this is partly hindsight. I think the second Doshu was faced with a number of choices after the war, but he did not have the means to weigh the consequences of these choices. He chose to make aikido a 'general' art, available to everybody, but the structure available to him was the pre-war model: a local dojo run by a shihan who 'shows' the art to as many people who have the resources to be shown.

When someone with the skill and experience like Arikawa passes away without having passed on what he knows to the next generation, it is lost. it will never be replaced. People may figure out new things for themselves but they will never really understand what went before. I think that prevents Aikido from building on a strong foundation. It means that every generation has to build its own foundation all over again. We should be able to build on what has gone before and add our own experience to it. This can't happen if there is not a systematic transmission..
PAG. Well yes. But how do you persuade the likes of Arikawa Sensei to be aware of this? And there is a systematic transmission. It is centered on Doshu and his successors. You might not like it, but it is there. The Aikikai Hombu under the present Doshu is quite an efficient, well-oiled organization. Perhaps like a Toyota car factory... And Doshu goes around Japan and the world giving very similar demonstrations and classes. One could think that he is marketing a product, but there are always many, many consumers. I think there are major differences between a Doshu class at a large seminar and the kind of class that Arikawa Sensei used to teach here in Hiroshima.

I remember Saotome Sensei lighting into a student who had made the grave error in judgment of referring to an certain not very accomplished Aikido instructor as an "Aikido Master". This is a big button with him and one that is best avoided. But the fact is that Aikido has grown to the point at which most of the folks practicing only have minimal exposure to folks who have any real degree of mastery. Without a systematic transmission, Aikido keeps growing the way it has but we get to the point at which folks really do not have any sense of what real mastery is and what a teacher with real mastery looks and feels like. They simply do not know..
PAG. Yes, but I think you need to deal with this in the States and with Saotome Sensei himself. It is a fact that in the next 50 years there will be no one left who learned from O Sensei himself. But this cannot be avoided.
We have the same problem in Hiroshima. The average age of A-Bomb survivors is now 77, so the City is now building up a massive video archive of 'A-Bomb testimony'. Rather like the interviews that Stan Pranin conducted with O Sensei's deshi. But the model, the frame of the operation, is first hand description of what it was actually like to live through the atomic bombing and you cannot change this to any other medium. By relying on 'katari-be', as they are called, Hiroshima City has chosen an 'elitist' way of preserving the memory of the atomic bombing, because there are very few who actually experienced the event and if you want to hear about it directly, you need to find the surviving victims and get them to talk.
In some sense this is a 'heroic' way of looking at the atomic bombing, through the eyes of the those who lived through it and did not give up.
Similarly, Arikawa Sensei represents the 'heroic' age of aikido. He lived with the Founder and learned from him directly, but HE did it and his experiences cannot be duplicated or reduced to a set of techniques.

Even worse, even if they do know, they simply feel as if that level of understanding is somehow "special"; reserved for some elite group of folks. Then they give up. They might still go through the motions of training but they do not really believe that they can get to the point where they can do what their teachers can do..
PAG. I disagree, again. This might be true for some, but not necessarily for everybody. For example, I know that I will never be as good as the people who have taught me and this is because my life has unfolded in a certain way. I made choices and then had the consequences. I am prepared to believe that someone like Tada Sensei has a special level of understanding because, in addition to the gifts he was born with, he put in the hours and trained relentlessly. I have never been able to do this. But this does not mean that I am simply going to go through the motions of training, or give up because I can never reach Tada's level. One of the reasons why I was so attracted to aikido is that it is so personal. It takes you for what you are and then polishes it. Like grace, it builds on nature: it does not destroy it. I think you create too broad a gap between the shihans like Saotome and Arikawa and the rest of us.

I explain when I teach. I try to isolate the principles which make this stuff work and that's what I pass on. I have found that when I go around and conduct seminars the folks out there are quite excited to actually have someone explain what they have been trying (often for some time) to do. It's like rain in the dessert, all of a sudden there is life. Folks get excited about their practice again because now they can see that they can really make some progress. I believe that as Aikido teachers, it is our job to do this.
PAG. Yes, George, but I have experienced this from shihans like Chiba and Saito. I have never forgotten such experiences like training with Chiba Sensei in his own house in Hatake, just the two of us, of Arikawa Sensei in a local coffee shop showing & explaining about shomen uchi attacks, of Saito Sensei showing me how to hold the head in katen-nage, and of struggling to take the best ukemi of which I was capable for Yamaguchi.

And I suspect that you are famous as a teacher in the US because you are first and foremost George Ledyard and only secondarily for the brilliant methodology you use.

Best wishes and apologies for the very long post.

Ron Tisdale
02-09-2007, 08:35 AM
But this does not mean that I am simply going to go through the motions of training, or give up because I can never reach Tada's level. One of the reasons why I was so attracted to aikido is that it is so personal. It takes you for what you are and then polishes it. Like grace, it builds on nature: it does not destroy it. I think you create too broad a gap between the shihans like Saotome and Arikawa and the rest of us.

I'm sorry, I thought this was worth repeating...and this part in particular...

It takes you for what you are and then polishes it. Like grace, it builds on nature: it does not destroy it.

Rarely have I heard this put so well.

Domo arigato gozaimashita,
Ron

DH
02-09-2007, 08:36 AM
This thread certainly covers a lot of issues in aikido, but getting back to how Arikawa Sensei taught, what interests me is what he was trying pass on, and how. He was obviously an intelligent man who put a lot of thought into what he was doing, and what the art was. So why did he teach the way he did?

My guess is that he was not trying to pass down his own style of aikido in terms of a way of doing techniques, or a methodology, but instead trying to create a training environment that would result in the students experiencing certain things that would deepen their understanding of aikido.......
snip

I often think that in aikido, that quality which has been a major topic in this forum, the quality that transcends physical technique that we refer to as kokyu, has been passed on by experiencing kokyu taking falls from ones teacher, rather than any set method of teaching. Thus, Osensei had a lot of kokyu. His students, that experienced him directly, got some of it, though not nearly to the degree Osensei had. And their students in turn, often got a whole lot less. And as the the number of people training in aikido became greater and greater, [b]the less people proportionately have had the experience of being thrown with kokyu,[/i to the point now that a lot of people just don't believe in it at all.

So maybe that's what Arikawa Sensei was up to, trying to pass on what he had by letting people feel it from him.

Peter
First up learning kokyu is not done from taking falls. I teach it without anyone having to fall down. I teach them to stay standing up. Learning to take falls is Ukemi. Not kokyu.
I understand perfectly well your point about "experiencing" the veracity of Kokyu skills by taking technique. While I understand the model BTDT it is not necessary either. The logic of this sentance escapes me [i]....snip....kokyu, has been passed on by experiencing kokyu. Taking falls from ones teacher, rather than any set method of teaching. Thus, Osensei had a lot of kokyu. His students, that experienced him directly, got some of it, though not nearly to the degree Osensei had.
Ueshiba learned Kokyu from Takeda and he learned it from learning to do it- not by learning to take falls. But by being taught how to DO it. So to quote you it was " Thus, Osensei had a lot of kokyu."

Aikido folks it seems do not practice solo training do not practice AIki-power as breath power the way it was done with Takeda. Why? They were, for the most part, not shown how. It for this reason they can't do and have less power.

I see nothing compelling to support Arikawa or Chiba's reputation of abuses. Again, and I cannot emphasize it strongly enough. Aikidoka are not truly fighting back as in MMA or Judo whihc creates a different dynamic in the body that protects. Aikidoka when Uke are still offering an attack then taking technique. With that measure of cooperation, there is not justifaction for repeated injury.
To make the point, lets review and pretend we are talking about Arikawa and Chiba having demonstrated now for the last thirty years with Chuck Lidell, Rickson Gracie, and Randy Coutere as their Ukes.
What student injuries do you suppose- we'd be discussing?

Its abuse, and yes, it is that simple. It is just as important to read Peter G.'s reply about training with CHiba in his house or Arikawa in the coffee shop. Why the dichotomy? What was the need in these men to do what they did? Sever training can be dangerous, I have had my share of injuries with students but they were random accidents or done under full fight training. It is different than what has been frequently reported with many of these guys.

Cheers
Dan

George S. Ledyard
02-09-2007, 09:09 AM
Hello George,

Since you addressed your post to me, I think I need to reply. I have added a few comments at the end of each paragraph. Peter Ralls has pretty well summed up what I think about Arikawa Sensei's classes.


PAG. I think the temptation should be resisted. I think Arikawa Sensei had extremely high standards as to what constituted good aikido and saw clearly when these standards were not met. So I think he tried to show the best aikido of which he was capable for as long as he could. I was once struck by Yamaguchi Sensei telling me that he planned to give up practising aikido, for he could no longer train in the way he wanted to (like Arikawa Sensei, he was a secret cancer sufferer). But I do not think it is elitist to have high standards and then, separately, to have a certain way of teaching. I suppose that if I really wanted to learn the best aikido possible to me at this time, I would leave Hiroshima and go and live close to Hiroshi Tada--and then learn from him, in whatever way he chose to teach me. I suppose I am being elitist here. Of course, I cannot do this, since I have a job here, and so I have to be satisfied with the teacher I have.


PAG. Well, I don't think you can blame Arikawa Sensei for this. Aikido in America has grown to what it is now, thanks to the efforts of the folks interviewed in Aikido in America and their Japanese teachers: Koichi Tohei, Yoshimitsu Yamada, Akira Tohei, Mitsunari Kanai, Mitsugi Saotome and Kazuo Chiba. What you have here is people being sent abroad, or, rather being given an offer they cannot refuse, and intially replicating the circumstances in which they themseves trained. They were given no preparation because the Aikikai were not in a position to give such preparation. As it is, I would think they had a pretty sharp learning curve. But I think American aikidoists should call their own Japanese teachers to account and ask: (1) what steps have you taken to make sure that what you teach is available to every single member of your organization; (2) what steps have you taken to ensure that the quality instruction that you give now will still be available when you are no longer around.


PAG. I disagree. I do not like attending large seminars, but I attended one given by Doshu in Tokyo. I was not called on to take uke, Doshu gave the minimum of explanation and much of this was lost in translation. However, I practised with several people, whom I knew, but had never practised with before. I have regularly questioned the value of large seminars but each time I have been overruled, with the reason that large seminars have some value.


PAG. I am not sure that the dichotomy between the two types is so marked. For example, I have seen two ways of teaching ukemi here in Japan.
One way is favored by the students here and has the very minimum of expanation. Students make return journeys up and down the dojo and the kambu and sempai are there to explain and correct at an individual level. However, there is no set model, but a lot of peer pressure, and students end up being able to take very good ukemi by the end of the first semester.
The other way is favored by my colleagues in my dojo. Here, there is a specific model: a very clear and specific way of holding your hands and turning your head. The model is shown, with explanation given as necessary, but excessive deviation from the model is not permitted. I am not yet convinced that the second method is better than the first, but it is preferable to the kind of training that goes on in the other city dojos of which I have experience.


PAG. So was I. I had a large number of teachers in my time and each one became my 'teacher'. Each had a different take on kihon-waza and each had his own preferred oyou-waza. You have had Saotome Sensei, but I wonder whether you ever gently forced him to explain what he had been showing you, for the sake of the 'cognitivists'.


PAG. Yes, you have stated this before. One could argue that it is a mistake to offer aikido to a very large number of potential practitioners without also making sure that the facilities to enable them to go beyond aikido-lite are already in place. We can see that this mistake has been made in many places (Russia comes to mind as a good example), but this is partly hindsight. I think the second Doshu was faced with a number of choices after the war, but he did not have the means to weigh the consequences of these choices. He chose to make aikido a 'general' art, available to everybody, but the structure available to him was the pre-war model: a local dojo run by a shihan who 'shows' the art to as many people who have the resources to be shown.


PAG. Well yes. But how do you persuade the likes of Arikawa Sensei to be aware of this? And there is a systematic transmission. It is centered on Doshu and his successors. You might not like it, but it is there. The Aikikai Hombu under the present Doshu is quite an efficient, well-oiled organization. Perhaps like a Toyota car factory... And Doshu goes around Japan and the world giving very similar demonstrations and classes. One could think that he is marketing a product, but there are always many, many consumers. I think there are major differences between a Doshu class at a large seminar and the kind of class that Arikawa Sensei used to teach here in Hiroshima.


PAG. Yes, but I think you need to deal with this in the States and with Saotome Sensei himself. It is a fact that in the next 50 years there will be no one left who learned from O Sensei himself. But this cannot be avoided.
We have the same problem in Hiroshima. The average age of A-Bomb survivors is now 77, so the City is now building up a massive video archive of 'A-Bomb testimony'. Rather like the interviews that Stan Pranin conducted with O Sensei's deshi. But the model, the frame of the operation, is first hand description of what it was actually like to live through the atomic bombing and you cannot change this to any other medium. By relying on 'katari-be', as they are called, Hiroshima City has chosen an 'elitist' way of preserving the memory of the atomic bombing, because there are very few who actually experienced the event and if you want to hear about it directly, you need to find the surviving victims and get them to talk.
In some sense this is a 'heroic' way of looking at the atomic bombing, through the eyes of the those who lived through it and did not give up.
Similarly, Arikawa Sensei represents the 'heroic' age of aikido. He lived with the Founder and learned from him directly, but HE did it and his experiences cannot be duplicated or reduced to a set of techniques.


PAG. I disagree, again. This might be true for some, but not necessarily for everybody. For example, I know that I will never be as good as the people who have taught me and this is because my life has unfolded in a certain way. I made choices and then had the consequences. I am prepared to believe that someone like Tada Sensei has a special level of understanding because, in addition to the gifts he was born with, he put in the hours and trained relentlessly. I have never been able to do this. But this does not mean that I am simply going to go through the motions of training, or give up because I can never reach Tada's level. One of the reasons why I was so attracted to aikido is that it is so personal. It takes you for what you are and then polishes it. Like grace, it builds on nature: it does not destroy it. I think you create too broad a gap between the shihans like Saotome and Arikawa and the rest of us.


PAG. Yes, George, but I have experienced this from shihans like Chiba and Saito. I have never forgotten such experiences like training with Chiba Sensei in his own house in Hatake, just the two of us, of Arikawa Sensei in a local coffee shop showing & explaining about shomen uchi attacks, of Saito Sensei showing me how to hold the head in katen-nage, and of struggling to take the best ukemi of which I was capable for Yamaguchi.

And I suspect that you are famous as a teacher in the US because you are first and foremost George Ledyard and only secondarily for the brilliant methodology you use.

Best wishes and apologies for the very long post.

Thanks so much for taking the time, Peter. I am aware that these issues are open to debate. As I have told my students, they are my guinea pigs... I am fifty five and what I am trying to do is an experiment. I will only have time to try it once so if I am wrong, well apologies in advance to my students...

The one thing that gives me hope is that, at the level at which they currently are, which would be Shodan through Yondan, each of them is far more aware of what it is that they need to be working on than I was at that point in my training. If they train hard and stay with it, they will be better than I am. But that's a big "if". Only time will tell...

Ellis Amdur
02-09-2007, 11:21 AM
I am in full agreement with Dan Harden above. I remember, still an active aikidoka in Japan, age 24, telling my truly formidible instructor in Araki-ryu about some of the abuses I (and others here) enumerated. He looked honestly puzzled and said, "Are you telling me that the teachers do this and the students think they are strong?" He, far more precocious than me at a younger age than my 24, described joining the NihonDaigaku Aikido club, a very aggressive club led a very prominent, very brutal shihan - already a judoka and kick boxer, he lasted a week. At that point, he took ukemi for the teacher, who tried to hurt him and said, "OK if I fight back now?" And didn't wait for permission. ;) Stopping the teacher's response cold, he disdainfully pushed him aside and got his gear and left. And given his reputation in other circles which I shan't mention here, he, unlike most youth who quit a university club, was left utterly alone - no retribution whatsoever from his seniors, FWIW.
Additionally, some thoughts on George Ledyard's and Peter Rail's post - and also concurring with Peter G.'s point that we should try to hold our teacher's accountable for their legacy, this being contingent, however, on our own level of accountability. Whatever level of skill I've attained in the various arts I've trained - and more generally, bodyskills - has come from four things: 1) training itself - putting in the mileage 2) Finding teachers who actually know something 3) Courteously, persistently demanding answers from my teachers - putting them on notice, directly or subtly, depending on the quality of our relationship, that I am only training to learn - EVERYTHING. I recently told a friend of mine, who has trained with a teacher for well over twenty years, that he should formulate the questions to ask his teacher why, after all this time, given his true dedication to training, he is clearly many levels below his teacher. In other words, "what have I not been taught? What have I not noticed? What have I not listened to?" But I also believe the teacher only "owes" the answer to those who offer the PASSION (I'm using the word in it's original usage - note "the Passion of Christ" is both ecstasy and torment). If one doesn't offer that level to one's teacher, one is owed nothing. In the latter case, take anything given as a gift you haven't earned. 3) Never get offended when my own lack of understanding or skill is pointed out. I recently got offended at a teacher of mine who apologized after for pointing out a clear deficiency in my "structure." My sense of offense was not the way he crudely pointed it out at first - it was that he felt I might be the kind of person who would have hurt feelings at the truth. (As a teacher, myself, I "write off" people who are so offended, who cling to the attainments they have). Similarly, if a teacher is off the mark, I am not offended either - those who defend themselves, saying "that's not fair," "that's not true," when it comes to technical corrections are more concerned about their own image and attainments than learning, because rectifying the misapprehension of the teacher becomes more important than further information.
In a moment of alcohol inspired affection and honesty, one of my teachers in Japan said the following to me, after eleven years together: "Ellis, I'm going to teach you everything I know. So I'm putting you on notice, I'm going to treat you like hell. I'm going to find fault in everything you do, cut you no slack whatsoever, and accept no excuses or explanations without instant understanding and ability in what I want. I can't believe I'm telling you this, but you are a foreigner. A Japanese would know without my saying so what I was doing. Because you are a gaijin, you might think I merely hate you." Kindest thing he ever did. Because he was true to his word. I was sick to my stomach with adrenaline for the next two years. It, an accentuation of the relationship we already had, played havoc with my entire life - in retrospect, some aspects were destructive for a long time. But I learned what I desired, and that havoc - mostly psychological, but also physical, was what I was prepared to sacrifice to do so. (But, quoting Dan above: "Severe training can be dangerous, I have had my share of injuries with students but they were random accidents or done under full fight training."). My teacher received - and was willing to receive - as good as he got. This is something different than the abusive behaviors we've been discussing.

Best

Dennis Hooker
02-09-2007, 12:18 PM
removed

Edward
02-09-2007, 12:33 PM
Not sure about Kokyu, but I have been told by my previous Japanese teacher that it is customary in Japanese Dojos (especially in universities) not to allow the new comers to execute any techniques. They have to spend the first few months just taking Ukemi for senior students. Many Aikidoists believe that one learns best by taking Ukemi for notorious Shihans. I have no idea whether this really is the best way to learn, but I have heard it often enough to get the impression it is a wide spread belief.

Dennis Hooker
02-09-2007, 12:57 PM
I guess I am an exception then. I have interacted with most of the Japanese Shihan in America over the last 4 decades or so in one fashion or another. I have not been treated with malevolence. On one occasion where bad feelings existed I just did not dress out. I have seen high ranking people do such things and I have worked with their senior students in some cases that would have like to hurt me but I never gave them the opportunity. I have been ask to leave a mat a time or two for defending myself in a rather proactive ways but hay that is part of the life we live is it not. To paraphrase old Abe you can’t trust all the people all the time and you can’t trust some of the people any of the time. I’ll be damned if I just let someone hurt me if I can prevent it, I don’t care who it is. If I see such abuse in my dojo or any class I control that person is gone and will never be welcome in my space again. Years ago I did let a godan from another organization train in the dojo and he gained my trust. The first time I let him teach when I was not there he dislocated a sandan’s shoulder after the sandan had tapped out. The jerk then left and has not been back. I think if I saw someone deliberately injure some one to the point of disability I would seriously consider legal action. We are not immune from assault and battery because we practice this art. Being a Shihan of any nationality does not immune one from civil responsibility.

Ron Tisdale
02-09-2007, 01:26 PM
I think an important distinction that is often lost is

a) taking ukemi as in recieving your teacher's technique (doesn't equate to falling, though you might)

and

b) falling.

Best,
Ron
Not sure about Kokyu, but I have been told by my previous Japanese teacher that it is customary in Japanese Dojos (especially in universities) not to allow the new comers to execute any techniques. They have to spend the first few months just taking Ukemi for senior students. Many Aikidoists believe that one learns best by taking Ukemi for notorious Shihans. I have no idea whether this really is the best way to learn, but I have heard it often enough to get the impression it is a wide spread belief.

James Young
02-09-2007, 01:50 PM
Not sure about Kokyu, but I have been told by my previous Japanese teacher that it is customary in Japanese Dojos (especially in universities) not to allow the new comers to execute any techniques. They have to spend the first few months just taking Ukemi for senior students.

Maybe in days past, but I'm not sure how customary that is these days. My experience in an aikido club at a Japanese university was not like that, nor were other people in similar situations that I knew. We were thrown into the fire so to speak and were expected to practice waza with our senpai along with taking ukemi from them from day one.

Peter Ralls
02-09-2007, 10:41 PM
Dan

I'm sorry, but this is going to be a very long winded post to try and cover the issues you brought up. I think the first step in learning kokyu is figuring out that it exists, and that physical technique will only take you so far. I am not saying that just feeling kokyu is an efficient method of learning and developing kokyu, I am simply saying that by experiencing O'Sensei's kokyu, his students, trying to figure out what he was doing, developed what they have.

I do not believe, based on what I have been told, that O'Sensei taught a specific, structured method to develop kokyu skills. You state that O'Sensei did learn such a method from Takeda Sokaku, but chose not to teach it. I do not know whether this is the case or not. My experience in aikido is that to develop kokyu, you have to go outside the box of the traditional training methods you typically find in Aikikai aikido.

I absolutely agree with you that aikido, with it's separation of roles into uke and nage, create a completely different training dynamic than MMA or Judo. I think that this separation, and the way we train a single technique at a time, does open the door for a certain kind of idiotic gamesmanship on the part of a few individuals that, in my experience, is unique to aikido.

None the less, in terms of abusiveness, I have trained in judo a bit, and BJJ a bit, and if you are training with someone a lot bigger than you, or a lot better than you, and they are a malicious jerk, you have just as much chance of getting injured as in aikido. And if you stay within the rules of training in those arts, you can fight back, but against a much bigger or better opponent, you probably aren't going to be able to stop them from hurting you. I've seen plenty of injuries in both judo and BJJ, and just like aikido, some of them were pure accidents, and some of them were the result of malicious or reckless behavior on the part of one of the partners.

I have related my experiences with Arikawa Sensei, and given my opinion on what I think he was trying to accomplish. I think that he had the philosophy of "no pain no gain." But to me, that alone does not constitute abuse. No one made me, or anyone else, go to his class. I chose to do so. And though taking falls for Arikawa Sensei was definitely intense, frightening, and painful, he never injured me, nor do I remember seeing him cause injury to his ukes. Now, I am not saying he didn't cause injury to people from time to time, but I didn't see it. Now, there were a hell of lot if injuries in his classes, but in my recollection they were from all the students going at it with each other. To me, an abusive teacher is one that is hurting their students because they like to hurt people, or because they become angry, or to show off and boost their ego by dominating other people. I never saw that in Arikawa Sensei.

Now, please don't think that I am advocating his training method. I am not. My personal opinion is that it leads to unnecessary injuries, is martially ineffective, and doesn't develop good mental health. But that is only my opinion. I know other people who believe that kind of training is essential, and choose to do it. I further think that it is unjust to paint Arikawa Sensei as a brutal abusive monster based on his philosophy of teaching and training. I think things are a little more complex than that.

So again, it falls back on what each of us individually defines abuse as. I probably fall pretty much in the middle ground of aikido training. I believe in training vigorously most of the time, softly part of the time, and high intensity part of the time. I believe that high intensity training has to be structured very carefully to avoid injuries. Now, I know lots of aikido people from different dojos. I know aikido people that think I train way too hard, and that I am violent and abusive. I know other aikido people that think I train too softly, and am a wimp. So what's the truth? I think it is going to differ with each person, based on their belief of how to train.

So Ellis and I can each go to Arikawa Sensei's classes and come out with with a different opinion based on our different beliefs. Or maybe our beliefs aren't even that different, but we each had a different perception of what was going on, based on our experiences. But Dan, I have to wonder, what was your experience with Arikawa Sensei that you base such vehement statements on? Did you actually have a bad experience with Arikawa Sensei, or are you equating something you heard with behavior you have witnessed with some other aikido teacher? If the latter is the case, I think that you are being unfair to Arikawa Sensei.

David Hall
02-10-2007, 07:37 AM
Some very interesting stuff in this thread.

Ellis Amdur wrote:
Arikawa sensei's uke - Niall - I wonder if he a) is still in Japan b) might not have some valuable things to say/write about Arikawa sensei.

Does anyone have contact details for Niall?

Aikilove
02-10-2007, 08:09 AM
Within a month Jan "Janne Yondan" Hermansson, 7 dan aikikai Shihan, will publish his biography (in Swedish for now). Jan was somewhat of the same breed as Arikawa and seems to remember him with fondness. He was in Japan and trained aikido in Tokyo and elsewere between 1965 and 1980.

I was told that stories about his encounters with various shihan will be included. Should make for an interesting read.

/J

TomW
02-10-2007, 02:37 PM
I do not believe, based on what I have been told, that O'Sensei taught a specific, structured method to develop kokyu skills. You state that O'Sensei did learn such a method from Takeda Sokaku, but chose not to teach it. I do not know whether this is the case or not. My experience in aikido is that to develop kokyu, you have to go outside the box of the traditional training methods you typically find in Aikikai aikido.


The pre-war aikibudo of Shirata Sensei has several solo exercises and paired kata designed specifically to teach kokyu skills among other things, including kokyu-dosa :eek: of all things. I don't know how much of these kata were passed on from O'Sensei or are Shirata S.'s creation, I'll have to ask.

In my experience, I agree with you about the typical Aikikai training methods and kokyu as I understand it. Of course YMMV.

Tom Wharton

Ellis Amdur
02-10-2007, 03:58 PM
A question to those who would know. Is this a DR technique, or simply something that Arikawa sensei arrived at on his own?


http://www.aikidojournal.com/potd.php?page=153

DH
02-10-2007, 04:06 PM
Daito ryu
It is a double arm pin meant to be used to decapitate or pin and leave the standing fellow free to draw a sword or continue to defend. Done correctly-this is not a well done version- the forward leg pins the arms leaving the hands free. The forward leg can bend at the knee enveloping both the upper and lower arms. It can also seal the breath and cause allot of pain.
Its like other jujutsu waza. The actual ability to pull it off on a fully resisting opponent can be dicey.
While we're on the subject much of Shioda's stock in trade stuff like the chest bounce off, the throat thing, the knee swival, and toe and side of foot press are all Daito ryu as well.
Dan

Ellis Amdur
02-10-2007, 04:37 PM
Thank you Dan - which leads to a simple curiousity. Arikawa sensei was, by report, passionately loyal to Ueshiba Morihei - and he started post-war, in 1948. Did he learn this Daito-ryu technique from Ueshiba - which means, even after the war, he was still training and teaching in a much wider range of techniques or did he "jump the fence?" My speculation is the former. My reason is his response to someone else who did a "non-aikido" technique. Kuroiwa Yoshio told me that when he introduced his unique form ofl "hip throw" in a demonstration- (a technique that only he could bring off in free-style) - Arikawa confronted him and told him to stop doing that technique, saying that what he was doing was "not aikido." Kuroiwa, amused, said to me that he replied that Osensei was his exemplar, that his techniques were an ongoing creative process, and that he'd stop only if Osensei personally told him to. Otherwise, he refused. He continued to do his technique without interference or reprecussion - and I think there was a simple reason for that. Arikawa sensei very definitely knew how to hurt people - his ability as a man who could actually fight , however, is something I do not know. Kuroiwa, on the other hand, was a seasoned street fighter and semi-pro middleweight boxer, with several hundred bouts before he started aikido. Which does lead me to wonder if Arikawa sensei, like others I can think of, only hurt people in a very specific, circumscribed context.

Best

Peter Goldsbury
02-10-2007, 05:14 PM
A question to those who would know. Is this a DR technique, or simply something that Arikawa sensei arrived at on his own?


http://www.aikidojournal.com/potd.php?page=153

If it is the same technique (and I am used to the pinning with the leg version, but it depends on what you do it from), I first saw it used by Rinjiro Shirata here in Japan, who talked about such techniques being "prewar". Everything that Dan states, including the difficulty of pulling it off with a non-cooperative uke, rings true from my own experience. However, I know that Arikawa Sensei was a good friend of Katsuyuki Kondo and used to watch his training, but he (Arikawa) once stated to me that he had not actually trained in DR.

I am sure the provenance is DR, but I also believe that much of what would nowadays be more strictly DR was practised in aikido dojos and it was only with the emphasis on kihon techniques, with the ambiguity implied by this term, that this other stuff was lost. Well, it is not completely lost, since it is still practised in some aikido dojos.

raul rodrigo
02-10-2007, 05:42 PM
I believe Yamaguchi shihan was in pretty much the same position as Arikawa—that of being an early postwar student who learned in the old Hombu dojo some DR waza that hadnt yet been taken out of the official syllabus. I've seen video of him doing things—the two-arm pin, the asagao no hana (morning glory) hand position, slipping behind a shomenuchi and grabbing both of uke's hands, etc—that are apparently (in my limited knowledge) DR. Of course, being who he was, the waza seem much more languid and circular than when a man like K Kondo does them. I havent seen video of him using the leg in the two arm pin the way that Arikawa does, though.

Chris Li
02-10-2007, 06:39 PM
I believe Yamaguchi shihan was in pretty much the same position as Arikawa—that of being an early postwar student who learned in the old Hombu dojo some DR waza that hadnt yet been taken out of the official syllabus. I've seen video of him doing things—the two-arm pin, the asagao no hana (morning glory) hand position, slipping behind a shomenuchi and grabbing both of uke's hands, etc—that are apparently (in my limited knowledge) DR. Of course, being who he was, the waza seem much more languid and circular than when a man like K Kondo does them. I havent seen video of him using the leg in the two arm pin the way that Arikawa does, though.

Since when is there an official syllabus?

Kisshomaru often used asagao, which shouldn't be surprising, since virtually everything (on the technical side) in the Aikido curriculum comes from Daito-ryu.

Best,

Chris

raul rodrigo
02-10-2007, 06:49 PM
Since when is there an official syllabus?

Kisshomaru often used asagao, which shouldn't be surprising, since virtually everything (on the technical side) in the Aikido curriculum comes from Daito-ryu.

Best,

Chris

Since Hombu had a testing system that focused on certain waza and not on others that also came from DR. i meant the standard approach to waza, the curriculum that is embodied these days in the books and videos of Moriteru. the same standard approach that no longer includes DR material like bouncing away a push to the chest that you see in Shioda and in the 1935 Asahi demo of Morihei. Asagao isnt shown in nearly all the aikido books i've seen (except in a book by Yamaguchi's deshi, William Gleason) and hasnt been taught by any of the shihan i have had the good fortune to meet.

DH
02-10-2007, 07:16 PM
Not to speak for Chris, But I think his point-and mine, is that everything-in its technical syllabus is Daito ryu.
Some? Many? Most?
No...everything.
Ueshiba was not only handing out Daito ryu scrolls but teaching the art openly. Change a name, change its origins? Nope.

Including, but not limited to, the internal aspects that most -it seems- will not openly show, but were in fact what gave the arts it reputation to begin with. Remove them and it would not have gotten off the ground.
Again its why, following traditional models, it can be considered Ueshiba-ha Daito ryu, without even a second thought.

Cheers
Dan

raul rodrigo
02-10-2007, 07:19 PM
No argument there about the origins, Dan. I was only talking about how some DR material got eliminated from mainstream aikido instruction, and now only survives in a few of the traditions left by some shihan.

Chris Li
02-10-2007, 07:24 PM
Since Hombu had a testing system that focused on certain waza and not on others that also came from DR. i meant the standard approach to waza, the curriculum that is embodied these days in the books and videos of Moriteru. the same standard approach that no longer includes DR material like bouncing away a push to the chest that you see in Shioda and in the 1935 Asahi demo of Morihei. Asagao isnt shown in nearly all the aikido books i've seen (except in a book by Yamaguchi's deshi, William Gleason) and hasnt been taught by any of the shihan i have had the good fortune to meet.

My point about the syllabus was that the hombu testing system is not really a "syllabus", which would be an outline of material to be covered, so much as it is a set of very minimum requirements. That is, Aikikai members are required to cover at least what is on the list - but the list doesn't even touch on 90% of the practice in most Aikikai dojo that I've trained at.

Best,

Chris

Chris Li
02-10-2007, 07:26 PM
No argument there about the origins, Dan. I was only talking about how some DR material got eliminated from mainstream aikido instruction, and now only survives in a few of the traditions left by some shihan.

Since there's really no standard curriculum in Aikido, people practice (and teach) more or less what they like, or what they see other people practicing, and the other stuff falls by the wayside. One reason for a structured curriculum that you see in many (most) martial traditions is to prevent that from occurring.

Best,

Chris

raul rodrigo
02-10-2007, 07:43 PM
Since there's really no standard curriculum in Aikido, people practice (and teach) more or less what they like, or what they see other people practicing, and the other stuff falls by the wayside. One reason for a structured curriculum that you see in many (most) martial traditions is to prevent that from occurring.

Okay, i get your point. This is one of the advantages of judo, that they have this structured curriculum, and a consistent core of knowledge is preserved. There are higher levels that the shihan will only teach yudansha, but there is always agreement on what the basic waza are.

Peter Ralls
02-10-2007, 08:21 PM
Jan Hermansson, AKA "Jan the Swede". The Americans and English at Hombu when I was there used to call Jan "The foreigner's revenge." That should be a very entertaining book. I wonder if he will relate his escapades on the fire escape.

raul rodrigo
02-10-2007, 09:01 PM
Jan Hermansson, AKA "Jan the Swede". The Americans and English at Hombu when I was there used to call Jan "The foreigner's revenge." That should be a very entertaining book. I wonder if he will relate his escapades on the fire escape.

Would this have to do with his holding "one of the people training at Hombu dojo, known for being cruel to beginners," out from a window, and asking "Hard or soft?"



R

Peter Ralls
02-10-2007, 09:13 PM
Yes, but actually, since it happened before I arrived at Hombu, and I didn't actually witness it, just heard about it, I think that I should not say anything more about the subject. I have embarrassed myself in the past by relating stories that I heard about but didn't actually witness, so I think I shall endeavor to keep my big yap shut.

Peter

Ellis Amdur
02-10-2007, 09:48 PM
Oh Lord - I used to train with Jan when I was 24-25 years old. Actually,the proper nickname was "The Swedish Meatball." Jan was, per Donn Draeger, originally a skinny kid, but he simultaneously started weight training with Donn and he got a job at Tokyo's only Swedish Smorgasboard, which included as much as he wanted to eat. Or so the story goes. Honbu dojo had canvas covered tatami, that were infested with mold, and when one took ukemi, the mats exhaled fungus. I had asthma. I very frequently thought I would die of lack of oxygen in some classes. Jan had a side job as a professional wrestler - or, once again, so the story goes - but at any rate, he liked to practice such waza on me. He'd throw me in an irimi-nage, for example, and then execute a flying pancake on top of me (did I mention that he was, to the best of my memory, about 5'10" (I really can't estimate the height of short people below 6'), and at least 280, if not 300 pounds, with the widest back I have ever seen in my life. He'd smack on top of me like a huge - - - - - meatball - and all the mold impregnated air would gush out of my asthmatic lungs and I'd wheeze, my legs and arms twitching. Jan, perplexed at my lack of movement, would always say, in a heavy Swedish accent, "Choost bench press me oop! Choost bench press me ooopp!" I gasp and try and he wouldn't move. Finally he'd get up, shaking his head sadly. I'd get up too. Then, god help me, we'd do it again.
I remember telling this account to Donn Draeger at the time, and then HE shook his head sadly at me, looking perplexed, and said, "But Jan's like a big turtle when you get him on his back."


Best

crbateman
02-10-2007, 10:34 PM
...to the best of my memory, about 5'10" (I really can't estimate the height of short people below 6'), and at least 280, if not 300 pounds......like a big turtle when you get him on his back.OK Ellis... I'm starting to resemble some of these remarks! http://www.websmileys.com/sm/happy/1016.gif

Aikilove
02-11-2007, 06:59 AM
Jepp, that's Jan, and maybe not irrelevent to the topic. He would by some be considered a bully and/or abusing training partner, and by other some kind of hero.

Here's a segment already published, as a teaser, from the book that I tried to translate as best as I could without spending any time on it.
I also trained a lot for Tohei. He was somewhat of a legend already back then, and the one most known of in aikido. His aikido was more like a dance, a soft dance. Up and down. I liked him. We were a couple of guys, perhaps six or seven, who took extra classes with him in another dojo.
We each pitched in some money and it was fun. He had a lot of interesting things going on.
The limitation about him was that he would show one thing, then talk, then show something else and when it was time to train he would break after 20 seconds. He then started to talk and show some more and there was no time to actually train. It became, so to say, enervating. One would like for them to show, talk and then let you train it for a while.
But he had a lot of interesting things going on. He made me think in different lines about training. On could say in a (more) functional way. It was functional aikido. That is scenario based: What do I do if the person sitting there suddenly stands up and try to clock me in the face? Things like that. And the opposite scenario: What do I do if he doesn$B!G(Bt want to stand up and I want him to? That type of scenario you had to film, visualize and build on.
If someone is sitting on a chair, there are aikido techniques you can use to prevent him from standing up. Then he will not be able to get up. It also depend on if the chair has an arm rest or not. You have to do different things depending on all situations like that.
It$B!G(Bs the same if someone sitting at a table is trying to stand up. If the person tries to stand up, and I don$B!G(Bt want him to, I have to know how he has to use his body standing up that position. The guy try to stand up and punch me in the face, but I stand behind him and to his side and apply iriminage grip on his neck and against the jugular vein. He will then not be able to stand up.
These days you apply iriminage at the neck or the collar, but people generally have strong necks, so it might not be possible. Then you have to know what to do.
Iriminage should be like brushing off the cuff links against the shoulder. The movements should simply be like when you brush off your cuff links against the shoulder. Then one doesn$B!G(Bt need the pressure against the jugular vein. But it$B!G(Bs there and one should know the principle.
If the person doesn$B!G(Bt want to stand up but I want him to, well then it$B!G(Bs the sankyo principle on the fingertips that does it. I will then control his whole body.
But one has to be careful however. If one come in to abrupt there will be a counter reaction, like when you touch a clam, it will close or a hedgehog, it will roll up. If instead I come in calmly and relaxed and say: Hey isn$B!G(Bt it time to stand up, and the person rejects, I use the sankyo-principle. And then there is only one way to go. Straight up toward the sky! He will stand up.
It was a lot of stuff like that Tohei showed. Applications of sequences that appear now and then, so to say. Like $B!H(BAikido in real life$B!I(B or functional aikido. He didn$B!G(Bt just do ki-exercises and unbendable arm and that sort of thing. At least not back then.

There are others when he went to Iwama in the 70's to visit one of his favourite teachers (Saito Sr.) and ended up giving one of the students there a serious concussion with an iriminage version where he simply lifted the guy up and slammed him down the mat (after the guy consistently tried to counter Jan's techniques). Oni san (Saito sensei's wife) was apperently furious, but Saito himself didn't seem to care one bit. In fact they all had a party that night.

And there's the time where he trained with Chiba (whom he also have high regards for) and countered Chiba's Iriminage, just stepping back and lifted him off the mat. All in good fun (from Jan's perspective - 'We have to have some action right?'). Chiba ended up challenging Jan for a "duell" outside! The class teacher apparantly stopped the whole thing.

Etc etc.

Peter Goldsbury
02-11-2007, 07:05 AM
Arikawa Sensei is in the The 8th International Aikido Congress (Sept. 2000) Video produced by Aikikai Hombu Dojo. This is the only video that I saw him in action. Are there any others?

Mel

Arikawa Sensei taught at every IAF Congress held in Japan in which I was involved, but there are tapes only of the 7th and 8th Congresses. They were made by Elcom and were/are available from the Aikikai Hombu. His uke at the 8th Congress was his student Niall, who has been mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, almost all of what he said was lost in the 'translation': I think the lady simply realized that she couldn't really say anything useful.

Much of it is slow and deliberate, but then he does something unforeseen and dramatic, rather like in the photo Ellis mentioned above. The DR provenance is so clear that in my opinion it hardly needs to be argued. However, since other Hombu shihans did/do similar techniques (though not quite in the combine-harvester manner of Arikawa Sensei), I do not think that what he showed was solely the result of his visits to Kondo Sensei's dojo and Abashiri.

Actually, as Arikawa Sensei got older, he became softer but more good-humored and on his visits to Hiroshima he would occasionally tie people in knots just for fun: the sort of stuff that John Goss did at the Aiki Expo. Again, clearly of DR provenance.

Whether you call this 'DR' or 'aikido' depends on the value you give to the 'correctness of names', as Plato once argued.

柘植富安
02-13-2007, 11:02 AM
Some very interesting stuff in this thread.

Ellis Amdur wrote:

Quote:
Arikawa sensei's uke - Niall - I wonder if he a) is still in Japan b) might not have some valuable things to say/write about Arikawa sensei.
Does anyone have contact details for Niall?


Nile is still in Japan. I will make him aware of this thread but I doubt he will participate.

dxnguyen
02-19-2007, 06:52 PM
Hello Raul,

There is a famous photograph of Terry in western clothes sitting in sitting in seiza presumably listening to O Sensei discoursing from a book. Or he might have just been reading the book in silence. One cannot help wondering, what is this guy doing here? .

I saw a video clip on YouTube from which this picture was taken. Dobson was taking notes while O Sensei was talking.

Zung

Ellis Amdur
02-19-2007, 07:35 PM
Terry told me that it was part of the movie. It was a posed shot, he was simply holding a book looking studious, unable to read a word of what was on the page.

Best

saltlakeaiki
02-19-2007, 11:36 PM
Forgive me for somewhat selfishly wanting to post my own, sorta,
eulogy to Arikawa Sensei, along with a bit of catharsis :)

During the 90s I was a member of a Hombu satellite dojo,
a "company club", and Arikawa Sensei was our chief instructor.
I arrived as an 1-kyu, already with a lot of my own, very much
American-influenced ideas about what aikido is supposed to be
(most of which I still hold to this day). Arikawa Sensei
seemed to be the antithesis of all that. What's more, his
classes were rather unpleasant, not, interestingly enough,
because of his brutal technique, but because he would make us sit
in seiza for interminable periods and listen while he mumbled on about
something, and when he would finally let us get up and practice,
it would last about one minute (or less!) and bang, we'd be back
down listening for another 10 minutes. I'm a bit surprised to
hear from Goldsbury Sensei that his teaching style in Hiroshima
was apparently the polar opposite, all throw and no talk.

And in spite of the fact that our dojo was an enclosed area in
a fairly small room, Sensei's mumbling was so soft that even
my Japanese sempai would often have trouble understanding him
(as has been reported by others).

At our place, it was usual that only a particular daisempai
was the one who took Sensei's ukemi. If he had to work late
or wasn't able to attend for some reason, there would be a
certain amount of frantic finger-pointing in an attempt
to determine who would take ukemi :) ) (it was never me).
And yet even so, Sensei generally did not treat us the way
he did the ukes at Hombu.

Sensei only came to teach once a month, and I'm now a bit
ashamed to admit that after I got the idea of what he was
about, I started avoiding his classes. In fact, I rarely
attended his classes for many years, after the first year
or so at that dojo. I was a young guy who thought he knew
better, and anyway I wanted to train, not just listen (my
Japanese even then was pretty good but not good enough to
get very much out of Sensei's talks, esp. with the mumbling)

Sensei even once agreed to break his rule of "no seminars"
and gave us a weekend seminar up in the mountains. I went
along because it seemed like it might be fun, but after the
first class turned out to be "same old same old", I started
"cutting" and spent most of the time taking walks with my
wife. I'm really not proud of it, and at this point (more
than 10 years later) it's hard to clearly remember what
I was thinking.

The question came up in this thread about Arikawa Sensei's
desire or lack thereof to create a legacy. From my experience
it certainly seems that he had no concern for that at all.
It is clear if you look at my (former) dojo. No one there
practices like him. They all respected him and followed his
directions - no one resented him as far as I know - but no one
actually emulates his style either. In fact, the aforementioned
ukemi-taking daisempai, who has been with the club for
decades, is one of the softest, gentlest stylists I've ever
seen - far softer even than me :) )

After Arikawa Sensei died (by which point I was back in the
US), I started hearing people (as in this thread) saying all
kinds of nice things about him. It makes me wish I hadn't
been quite so headstrong, and had tried to get more out of
the opportunities I had to learn from him, even though there
were no doubt very many places where I would have disagreed
strongly with his teachings. One thing I believe I recall
correctly was that he insisted that atemi was an integral
part of pretty much every technique, and although now I
would accept it in more cases than I did then, I still
don't buy it as a kind of universal. Still... you've gotta
respect a guy who had trained hard for so many years, been
through so much, and pursued his vision of the aikido ideal
so sincerely, even though you might not share the vision.
And when you've gained a little maturity, as I have, and
realize that these guys who learned directly from the Founder
are a resource that's being lost forever as they die off,
you regret not having paid more attention :(

Speaking of resources, as many of you may know, Arikawa
Sensei was known for having an enormous collection of
documents, photos and other memorabilia related to aikido.
His job as the editor of the Aikikai's newspaper no doubt
put him in a good position to get his hands on that sort of
thing. I heard from my daisempai that the only family that
Sensei had when he died was a brother, who had no interest in
the collection at all. Last I heard (shortly after his death)
the brother was prepared to chuck all of it out in processing
Sensei's estate, and Hombu wasn't necessarily going to put up
a fight for it. I haven't heard how it turned out.

Interesting anecdote: once at the April 29 festivities at
Iwama, several of us were sitting with Sensei on the grass
eating lunch and talking, and Sensei made the comment
(although I can't recall the context) "I've always liked to fight."
(俺は喧嘩が好きだ or something very similar to that)

I feel sorta honored to have been able to be the one to
create his article on Wikipedia (at least the English one).
It's still a very short stub, though, and I'd like to
encourage anyone here with good information to contribute
to do so. And I feel more honored than I used to that his
name is listed as examiner in my yuudansha passport next
to my shodan and nidan. No matter how I felt about him
personally, though, I have always enjoyed the looks of
sudden apprehension that I would sometimes get from people
(not knowing me well) who would happen to open the passport
and see his name there :D

Dave

Peter Goldsbury
02-20-2007, 03:35 AM
Forgive me for somewhat selfishly wanting to post my own, sorta,
eulogy to Arikawa Sensei, along with a bit of catharsis :)

During the 90s I was a member of a Hombu satellite dojo,
a "company club", and Arikawa Sensei was our chief instructor.
I arrived as an 1-kyu, already with a lot of my own, very much
American-influenced ideas about what aikido is supposed to be
(most of which I still hold to this day). Arikawa Sensei
seemed to be the antithesis of all that. What's more, his
classes were rather unpleasant, not, interestingly enough,
because of his brutal technique, but because he would make us sit
in seiza for interminable periods and listen while he mumbled on about
something, and when he would finally let us get up and practice,
it would last about one minute (or less!) and bang, we'd be back
down listening for another 10 minutes. I'm a bit surprised to
hear from Goldsbury Sensei that his teaching style in Hiroshima
was apparently the polar opposite, all throw and no talk.

Dave

Hello David,

He was like that when he first started coming to Hiroshima, but the explanations gradually began to appear and to become longer as the years passed.

Allen Beebe
08-30-2007, 10:43 AM
If it is the same technique (and I am used to the pinning with the leg version, but it depends on what you do it from), I first saw it used by Rinjiro Shirata here in Japan, who talked about such techniques being "prewar". Everything that Dan states, including the difficulty of pulling it off with a non-cooperative uke, rings true from my own experience. However, I know that Arikawa Sensei was a good friend of Katsuyuki Kondo and used to watch his training, but he (Arikawa) once stated to me that he had not actually trained in DR.

I am sure the provenance is DR, but I also believe that much of what would nowadays be more strictly DR was practised in aikido dojos and it was only with the emphasis on kihon techniques, with the ambiguity implied by this term, that this other stuff was lost. Well, it is not completely lost, since it is still practised in some aikido dojos.

I just noticed this thread and post, so I'm a little late.

Yes, indeed, Shirata sensei both demonstrated and taught this kind of pin. There is a whole variety of them actually. In my experience the difficulty isn't so much in applying the pin on an uncooperative opponent (Does one call a cooperative partner an opponent?). Rather, it is getting to the point where one can effectively apply the pin that is the "Art" proper. Kind of like tachi dori, it is surviving and gaining control over the initial threshold interval that is the hard part, what comes afterwards is relatively easy. Get through that and one can choose to dispatch in time, dispatch upon consolidation, or bind (pin, tie). With a cooperative "opponent" this gets all turned around on its head and one is left entraining themselves with human macramé. Or, I'm guessing in the cases of accomplished "masters," one might amuse themselves with the "macramé' aspect when the opening interval becomes old hat . . . I wouldn't know.

Dan's comment about sealing the breath is interesting. I don't know that I can replicate this with this type of pin. I've never really paid attention to that. When it was applied to me the experience was so all consuming that I don't think I gave it much thought and rather went for the "all consuming" aspect when trying to replicate the pin myself. It is interesting to think about what discreet elements combine to constitute that affective experience. Hmmm . . .

Specifically with this pin, not necessarily with others BTW, I've always thought about it in terms of skeletal (tendons and ligaments in so far as then apply to the skeleton) mechanics. I never really considered applying Kokyu Ryoku in any specific way as I would in say an Ikkyo pin (which I consider a transitional pin BTW.)

This is interesting to me. But I gotta go. Maybe one of you will see this and pick the thread back up.

Allen

chris wright
03-12-2010, 05:02 AM
[QUOTE=Peter A Goldsbury;167741]Hello Ellis,

Everything went well, but Arikawa Sensei, like Yamaguchi Sensei before him, never used students as ukes. On his first visit he brought his own uke, a man named Niall. (I think this is the person you mean, Charles.)

Hi Sensei Goldsbury, Niall would have been - Niall Matthes, he trained for many years in Japan, and was a close friend of my Sensei Billy McAuley (Aikikai 3rd Dan).
Niall took shodan to Yondan under Aso Sensei and his 5th Dan under Arikawa Sensei.
I beleive Niall is back in Europe, unfortunately he no longer teaches traditional Aikido.