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Peter Goldsbury
12-25-2007, 06:38 PM
NOTE: Though to some extent speculative and without the space to quote or cite sources and secondary references, these columns are really intended as a sort of preliminary sketch for a history of aikido as a martial art. No such history has ever been published, though I know that at least one person is planning to write one. The biography written by Kisshomaru Ueshiba offers the most detailed evidence of the actual life of Morihei Ueshiba, but this was written as a biography or monument to a great man (admittedly with the occasional warts and blemishes allowed to appear) and not as a dispassionate record of the creation of aikido. Even so, these columns have a slightly different focus than a general history. I am concerned to study the dynamics of the evolution of the art, how it changed from being an expression of the personal training of one individual to becoming a self-standing entity in its own right. I think that Morihei Ueshiba and aikido is a prime example of what Pierre Bourdieu called a habitus: a complex disposition to behave in a certain way, viewed from the viewpoint of both the individual and the social context in which the individual is embedded.

The last column discussed the seeming irresponsibility of Morihei Ueshiba in being relatively unconcerned about whether or not his students understood what he had been showing them. How much better things would have been if he had behaved like his son and grandson, for example, and produced detailed teaching material—and also had taken the trouble to make sure that his students did exactly what he showed them.

By contrast, I visited the Aikikai Hombu recently and met the present Doshu. He gave me his latest book, published in Japanese with an accompanying DVD. The book is a training manual in the martial art called aikido. That is, it is a book about an established art, not about the personal training methods of any one person: this is the point of the book. It is written as efficiently as any written training manual could be, with color photographs and arrowed explanations of the key points and is supplemented by the DVD, where the key points of each technique explained in the book are demonstrated. The contrast with his grandfather, and even his father, is striking.

From all the evidence I have read, Morihei Ueshiba did not think at all like his grandson does. What primarily occupied him from the time he started practicing martial arts as a youth was his own training as an individual. (The present Doshu no doubt also thinks about his own training as an individual, but the context is entirely different and both Moriteru Doshu and his father have occasionally stressed this to me in private conversations.) After meeting Onisaburo Deguchi, Ueshiba eventually came to see himself as a pioneer: as having a mission that was unique in its originality and exclusivity. Of course, the concept of Morihei Ueshiba as a pioneer also needs to be seen in a certain context. He was a student of Sokaku Takeda (about whose place in the history of Daito-ryu similar questions may be asked) and the core art in which he was training was Daito-ryu. Right up to the time of Budo Renshu (discussed further below), his students, at least, believed that this was the art being practiced. Nevertheless, at this time, too, other names were also used, such as Ueshiba-ryu or Aioi-ryu.

There was a gradual evolution going on here, not a sudden change of art, and the association with Onisaburo Deguchi was crucial in the evolution. My point here is that the evolution has to be seen as a habitus: an evolution of Morihei Ueshiba himself; and an evolution of what he believed he was creating, which gradually took on a life of its own.

Morihei Ueshiba's mission was expressed in several powerful metaphors, mainly taken from the Kojiki. One was to be the ubuya or birth hut, mentioned in a very serious discussion between the two deities Izanagi and Izanami in Kojiki Chapter 10 (Donald Philippi's translation). Another was to be the famous bridge connecting heaven and earth, also depicted in the Kojiki.

His creation as a birth-hut and Morihei Ueshiba as a bridge is, of course, also an example of metonymy as well as metaphor. A birth-hut is a place, but the expectant mother usually needs a midwife or helper. Similarly, a normal bridge functions best of all when traffic going over it passes safely: it has an essentially transient relationship with what passes over it. Ueshiba, on the other hand, was not only the birth-hut, but also the midwife. He was not only the bridge, but also the messenger passing over the bridge and in one direction only—downwards. As Ellis Amdur recently suggested in an article in Aikido Journal, Ueshiba cast himself in the role of being a conduit to others. However, his roles and ours are somewhat different. We are brought into our ‘aikido-existence' in the hut and by the midwife, but we have no pretensions to becoming either the hut or the midwife. Similarly, like the prisoners in Plato's Republic, we see reality only to the extent that we are shown. We ourselves never pass over the bridge: we simply receive what the messenger who has crossed over the bridge reveals to us.

Of course, to practice most martial arts one needs a partner, but in this case the partner is seen as a means to the development of one's own technical skill: in fact one can argue that training with one or more opponents or partners (the Japanese word is aite 相手) simply represents the icing on the cake, the cake itself being rigorous personal, private, training. Without the latter, the former is rather pointless. This is actually a controversial point, to which I will return in a later column.

Like all masters of Japanese martial arts, Morihei Ueshiba accepted uchi-deshi and, as the last few columns have been concerned to show, taught them according to the traditional model: the Master allowed these disciples an intimate share in his own life as a Master, so that they would be in a position to ‘steal' what they could of his knowledge. As Ueshiba became more famous and taught more widely, however, and as the Pacific War being waged by Japan grew more intense, these live-in disciples became fewer and fewer in number and were replaced by more ordinary soldiers or students.

The deshi with whom I have talked about these things have all made it a point of dogma, almost, that Morihei Ueshiba did not teach in a way that we are used to nowadays. His way was fundamentally ‘teacher-centered', not ‘technique-centered' or even ‘principle-centered', and was designed to tease and challenge, rather than clarify. Nevertheless, there are several pieces of evidence that, even in the Kobukan period, Ueshiba was coming to see his brainchild as a distinct art: a self-contained entity that he had created, and not simply as the expression or residue of his own personal training regime. In the rest of this column I will briefly discuss these pieces of evidence in chronological order.

The first is the work made in 1933, under the title of Budo Renshu. This book is a technical manual for those who already have some proficiency in the art. It is a collection of line drawings of some 200 waza, the drawings and the introduction both made by students: the drawings by Takako Kunigoshi and the introduction by the ‘brains' of the dojo, Kenji Tomiki. (The introduction is required reading for those who believe that a sophisticated martial art like aiki-budo or aikido is of no use in a ‘real' situation.) The book appears to be the result of one of those intensive training sessions called gasshuku, much loved in Japan for their focus and ‘spiritual' intensity. It was made with Morihei Ueshiba's approval and he even held special training sessions to make sure that the waza depicted were correct. The book was hand-bound in traditional Japanese style and circulated privately. An English translation was made when Kisshomaru Ueshiba was the second Doshu and this edition, with the translation alongside the original handwritten Japanese, is now a rarity.

The second piece of evidence is the Noma Dojo archive of photographs. There is a crucial discussion about this archive on pp.139-142 of Stanley Pranin's Aikido Masters, from which the extracts that follow are taken. (A two-volume revised edition of the Japanese original of this book appeared in 2006, entitled Morihei Ueshiba to Aikido: Kaiso wo Kataru Jiki-deshi-tachi, and the relevant sections are on pp.123-126 of Vol. I.) The discussion forms part of an interview with Shigemi Yonekawa, who was Ueshiba's uke when the photographs were taken. Yonekawa gave his explanation why the photographs were taken: I believe the reason that the Noma Dojo photos were taken was that Hisashi Noma, the only son of Seiji Noma, suggested to Ueshiba Sensei that some photos be taken in order to preserve his techniques for posterity. Ueshiba Sensei would not himself have suggested that photos be taken at the Noma Dojo… They weren't taken every day, but they were taken in a series of intensive sessions. I still don't know even today why they were taken.
The Noma Dojo archive was made in 1936 and covered a vast range of waza. The techniques start with basic seated techniques and cover all the way to advanced techniques—variations are included too. They were the techniques we practiced in my time. I think the techniques have changed considerably since then. (The interviews were originally published in 1979 and 1992.)
(Ueshiba Sensei) was in a very good mood when the photos were taken. When Ueshiba Sensei was in a good mood, he would show many variations of techniques. He was a wonderfully talented man. He could execute techniques spontaneously. He shows a splendid face in these photos.

The photos were not taken consecutively but one at a time. We had planned to make a complete series progressing from suwari-waza on to hanmi-handachi, tachiwaza, ushirowaza and, finally, multiple attacks, but for some reason we had to break off before we could finish.
Stanley Pranin briefly discusses the Noma Dojo archive in the second of his two seminal articles dealing with the Kodokan Dojo era. Actually, Stan is the person I referred to earlier as planning to write a history of aikido, and his Aiki News / Aikido Journal articles constitute a substantial foundation for such a history. In this article Mr Pranin discusses the Noma Dojo archive as evidence that Morihei Ueshiba was still practicing Daito-ryu and I agree that the evidence for this is very strong. Incidentally, this might also explain why the Nomo Dojo archive has never been published.

However, my focus in these columns is a little different. I want to focus on the question to what extent Ueshiba saw himself as the centre of a creative process and also to what extent he saw himself as creating something new (the two questions are not quite the same). This leads to the further question, also relevant to Daito-ryu, to what extent this creation becomes a freestanding entity in its own right, with its own internal principles, quite separate from the mind of its creator. This question, in turn, leads to yet another crucial question: that of the creator surrendering this entity, still as yet inchoate, to someone else with completely different aims and objectives from those of the creator.

The third piece of evidence is the work made in 1938, with the title of Budo. In his edition of this work Stanley Pranin has given an illuminating explanation of the book's provenance: it was a manual of essential waza compiled at the request of a member of the Japanese imperial family who was the head of the Toyama military school. It is reasonable to assume that the waza illustrated and explained therein were considered suitable for soldiers who were fighting the Pacific War. Again, the Japanese original of this work has never been published, but there are two English translations available.

Budo Renshu and Budo are separated by only five years, but it is clear from a comparison of the waza shown in the two volumes that they had changed somewhat. Of course, there is plenty of evidence that Morihei Ueshiba changed technically, even during the relatively short Kodokan period, and that he was aware of the changes. Here is an illuminating statement from Rinjiro Shirata (Aikido Masters, pp.154-155): (Beginners) learned techniques from the uchi-deshi starting with the ikkajo of Daito-ryu jujutsu. Techniques like ikkajo, nikajo shiho-nage… There wasn't any irimi-nage then, only techniques which, on later reflection, can be considered to be the antecedents of irimi-nage. Irimi-nage was originally developped by O Sensei. Sensei's techniques were always changing. Techniques which had their origin in Daito-ryu were transformed into aiki and as he trained gradually his techniques changed as well. That is why the techniques Tomiki Sensei learned, and the techniques we learned, the techniques Shioda Sensei learned and the techniques that Murashige Sensei learned before that, were all completely different. Sensei himself sometimes said to me, "Shirata, my techniques have changed. Look!" So I watched him. They became circular in a way completely different from his earlier techniques. Doshu [Kissomaru Ueshiba] systemtized and perfected those techniques.
On the other hand, there is the story of the amazement shown by the late Morihiro Saito, when was first shown the book by Stanley Pranin. The techniques shown in the book were what he had been practicing with the Founder in Iwama from 1946 onwards. So the changes were more like the gradual infusion of a chemical in a liquid, rather than an immediate transformation.

The fourth piece of evidence is the creation of the Zaidan Houjin Kobukai in 1940 and the designation of the name aikido in 1942. The first is discussed by Kisshomaru Ueshiba at the beginning of the sixth chapter of his biography of the Founder (pp.230-235). Morihei Ueshiba is fondly pictured as giving his all for us on the Floating Bridge of Heaven, totally unblemished and unencumbered by the murky business of running organizations and engaging in ‘politics', which business was left to his supporters—and especially his hapless son. I think this picture is an unduly romantic one and does not take account of the actual context of the martial arts in prewar Japan, especially the power of the military in the 1930s and their influence on the Dai Nippon Butokukai.

Ueshiba had powerful supporters right from the time he began his association with Omoto-kyo and even more so when he moved to Tokyo. Most of these supporters trained under him and some became his students. It was these supporters who advised Ueshiba to create an organization that was a legal entity (a ‘legal person', in Japanese). In Japan, one does not walk into a government office and simply request that one's art become a zaidan houjin. The process is complex and time-consuming and, given the weight attached to status in Japan's vertically structured society, can be advanced or hindered by the presence or absence of powerful sponsors. Ueshiba clearly had these and these supporters were the ones who actually ran the organization, in the sense that there was a 寄付行為 (Constitution) with a purpose, directors and rules of operation. So the dojo officially ceased to be a band of disciples gathered round the Master.

Mention of Kisshomaru Ueshiba leads to the last piece of evidence: the efforts that Morihei Ueshiba himself made to find a successor. It is sometimes stated that Kisshomaru Ueshiba became Doshu because he was a good administrator, rather than a good aikido technician, but we need to step back a little and consider what options Morihei Ueshiba had.

The interviews in Aikido Masters show that Ueshiba approached Mochizuki, Nakakura, Sugino and perhaps others, to marry into his family and become his heir. This suggests that Ueshiba already saw himself as an iemoto: the head of an ie (or house). Ueshiba had two sons who died in infancy and Kisshomaru was only ten years old when the Kobukan Dojo was founded in Ushigome, Tokyo, and who appears to have shown no interest in training until he was older. He did show interest—much interest, and so when he was still a student in 1942, Morihei Ueshiba made Kisshomaru head of the Tokyo dojo, giving him an order to maintain the dojo on pain of his life, and moved to Iwama. I think this act effectively marks the transmission from father to son.

Peter Goldsbury (b. 28 April 1944). Aikido 6th dan Aikikai, Professor at Hiroshima University, teaching philosophy and comparative culture. B. in UK. Began aikido as a student and practiced at various dojo. Became a student of Mitsunari Kanai at the New England Aikikai in 1973. After moving back to the UK in 1975, trained in the Ryushinkan Dojo under Minoru Kanetsuka. Also trained with K Chiba on his frequent visits to the UK. Moved to Hiroshima, Japan, in 1980 and continued training with the resident Shihan, Mazakazu Kitahira, 7th dan Also trained regularly with Seigo Yamaguchi, Hiroshi Tada, Sadateru Arikawa and Masatake Fujita, both in Hiroshima and at the Aikikai Hombu. Was elected Chairman of the IAF in 1998. With two German colleagues, opened a small dojo in Higashi-Hiroshima City in 2001. Instructed at Aiki Expo 2002 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

ChrisMoses
12-26-2007, 09:06 AM
Thanks for the X-mas present Peter! Another great article. This series should be considered required reading along with many of the books you cite in this piece.

Walker
12-26-2007, 10:41 AM
Thank you professor. Sad to say, each one of these makes me long for the next.

Waiting patiently.

MM
12-26-2007, 07:51 PM
I have to echo the above posts, sensei. :)

Thanks!

Walker
12-27-2007, 12:51 AM
OK, you've had your kudos, now for some questions. :)

The first one is pretty simple:
It is a collection of line drawings of some 200 waza, the drawings and the introduction both made by students: the drawings by Takako Kunigoshi and the introduction by the ‘brains' of the dojo, Kenji Tomiki.
To your knowledge did Tomiki also do the technical descriptions? I think this is what I was told by Shishida during a conversation, but I wanted to confirm it if you are able to.

Second, a little tougher:
In this article Mr Pranin discusses the Noma Dojo archive as evidence that Morihei Ueshiba was still practicing Daito-ryu and I agree that the evidence for this is very strong. Incidentally, this might also explain why the Nomo Dojo archive has never been published.
A few things. It was my recollection that Stan has said that the Noma Dojo photos were dismounted for copying and that their order was lost. He gave this as a reason for them not being published. It occurs to me that this might not conflict with your surmise -- they sat unpublished for so long (due to your explanation) that any negatives were lost necessitating copying and the loss of the archive as a technical reference.

All that being said, as one of the more interesting statements of this installment, could you expand on your reasoning a bit.

We could also discuss the timing of translation and release of the two available texts -- Budo Renshu 1978, and Budo not until 1991.

SeiserL
12-27-2007, 06:44 AM
Osu,
Another great installment.
Thank you for your insights.
Compliments and appreciation.
Rei, Domo.

Peter Goldsbury
12-27-2007, 05:28 PM
OK, you've had your kudos, now for some questions. :)

Douzo.

The first one is pretty simple:

To your knowledge did Tomiki also do the technical descriptions? I think this is what I was told by Shishida during a conversation, but I wanted to confirm it if you are able to.
This is my understanding, also. I note that the handwriting of the technical descriptions is the same as that of the general introduction, not that this means that Tomiki actually did the writing. My Japanese colleagues at Hirodai believe the handwriting was done by a woman.

Second, a little tougher:

A few things. It was my recollection that Stan has said that the Noma Dojo photos were dismounted for copying and that their order was lost. He gave this as a reason for them not being published. It occurs to me that this might not conflict with your surmise -- they sat unpublished for so long (due to your explanation) that any negatives were lost necessitating copying and the loss of the archive as a technical reference.
This is the explanation also given by John Stevens on p.74 of his edition of Budo and there is no reason to doubt it.

All that being said, as one of the more interesting statements of this installment, could you expand on your reasoning a bit.
The archive was made because Noma thought that there should be a record for posterity. Ueshiba did not disagree, but did not initiate the project himself and it was never completed. Since it was never made for publication anyway, there would be even less point in circulating copies privately, as was done with Budo Renshu and Budo, than for these latter books. After the war, however, there was a distinctly different regime at the Aikikai and I know that it was Kisshomaru Ueshiba who controlled the dissemination of information about aikido. The connection with Daito-ryu was left unemphasized.

We could also discuss the timing of translation and release of the two available texts -- Budo Renshu 1978, and Budo not until 1991.
Budo Renshu was published at the initiative of Tetsutaka Sugawara, of Minato Research, who had just previously published the five volumes of Saito's Traditional Aikido. Minato Research then disappeared from the map and all the other recent publications in English have been done by Kodansha International. I myself was approached by Kodansha to translate Kisshomaru's big biography of the Founder. I did not have the time and the project is being done by others (not John Stevens).

Best wishes,

Walker
12-28-2007, 05:28 PM
Thanks for the confirmation on Budo Renshu.

So you think it was nothing more than the vagaries of publishing that accounts for the timing of Budo. That seems reasonable barring any other revelations.

One more question. Do you think there is any current opposition to publishing the Noma photographs? For example, if the archive was still organized and ready to go to layout with maybe an introduction would a project like that get a green light from the family?

Peter Goldsbury
12-28-2007, 08:48 PM
One more question. Do you think there is any current opposition to publishing the Noma photographs? For example, if the archive was still organized and ready to go to layout with maybe an introduction would a project like that get a green light from the family?

The present Doshu has been unusually ready to publish translations of key books. The latest one to appear is The Secret Teachings of Aikido, which is a translation by John Stevens of Aiki Shinzui, a collection of O Sensei's articles published in the Aikikai's Aikido Shimbun. Stevens also translated Aikido Shintei, a large, illustrated book written by Kisshomaru Ueshiba. As I stated earlier, all the recent books have been published by Kodansha, which, I suppose, renews the connection with the Noma Dojo.

The present Doshu has also republished two early Japanese texts written by his father. Aikido and Aikido Giho were the originals of the English volume Aikido, which appeared around 1970. For this English edition the photographs were changed and the text edited. However, the Japanese originals give a very clear idea of Kisshomaru Ueshiba's aikido as it was immediately after the war.

As for publishing the Noma photo archive, when I meet Doshu again I will ask him.

Charles Hill
12-28-2007, 10:59 PM
Some of the Noma photos were published in the English version of Budo. According to John Stevens, it was a big process to put them into the correct order and this took a lot of help from Rinjiro Shirata, a resource which is no longer available. I think it would be close to impossible to do this without help that really does not exist anymore.

Charles

Peter Goldsbury
12-29-2007, 04:56 PM
Yes, I think that Charles has a point. Since Arikawa Sensei passed away there are no more 'historians' in the Hombu (unless any of the younger shihans have interest or expertise).

My earlier point about Kodansha implied that it is a large commercial publishing house, where questions of cost also count. Japan Publications Trading was not a large company.

I once asked the present Doshu some question about the origins of aikido. He did hot have an answer and added that there were many old documents and archive in the Hombu that no one had looked at, probably due to lack of time or inclination.

I think that publishing the Noma archive in the form in which it was created would be a very difficult undertaking.

Walker
12-29-2007, 07:08 PM
Peter, thanks for the replies. I agree that if the order is indeed lost it would be a huge undertaking hence the stipulation in my question. I think there are very few people that have been taken through the techniques in Budo Renshu -- Stevens is one -- and that would be a minimum for working with the Noma archive.

My bright idea would be to create a combined text using the Noma photographs to illustrate Budo Renshu. Renshu giving the structure to hang the photographs on, but Renshu by itself probably does not contain enough information to proceed unless the person had knowledge of the techniques to draw upon.

Peter Goldsbury
12-29-2007, 09:17 PM
Peter, thanks for the replies.
Not all. Japan is winding down for the New Year and so I have a little time. Actually, I am trying to complete Installment 6 in time for Jun's new deadline. This installment looks at the general effects of World War II on the development of aikido.

I agree that if the order is indeed lost it would be a huge undertaking hence the stipulation in my question. I think there are very few people that have been taken through the techniques in Budo Renshu -- Stevens is one -- and that would be a minimum for working with the Noma archive.
I think Budo Renshu offers a selection of waza that were done in the Kobukan and many of the techniques therein have been done right here in Hiroshima by my own teacher. (I also have a tape--never published--of Rinjiro Shirata doing loads of variations.)

My bright idea would be to create a combined text using the Noma photographs to illustrate Budo Renshu. Renshu giving the structure to hang the photographs on, but Renshu by itself probably does not contain enough information to proceed unless the person had knowledge of the techniques to draw upon.
Perhaps this might be a project for a Ph.D in budo history. I doubt whether there would be much enthusiasm for a new general edition of Budo Renshu. The Shirata tape was never published because Kisshomaru did not agree. He wanted to emphasize the new beginning and to systematize aikido into an art that could be practiced by anybody. Actually this is the main message of these columns I am writing.

I have heard it stated so often in official circles that O Sensei continuously changed his waza, but the implications of this seemingly obvious statement are rarely grasped--or even more rarely stated.

Charles Hill
12-29-2007, 09:30 PM
He did hot have an answer and added that there were many old documents and archive in the Hombu that no one had looked at, probably due to lack of time or inclination.

This is completely just one person's opinion, but I think that all aikidoists should look at the two main points in the above sentence.

Apologies to Prof. Goldsbury for hijacking one sentence in his reply. I am very much looking forward to part 6.

Charles

Walker
12-30-2007, 12:30 AM
...(I also have a tape--never published--of Rinjiro Shirata doing loads of variations.)...

Perhaps this might be a project for a Ph.D in budo history. I doubt whether there would be much enthusiasm for a new general edition of Budo Renshu. The Shirata tape was never published because Kisshomaru did not agree. He wanted to emphasize the new beginning and to systematize aikido into an art that could be practiced by anybody. Actually this is the main message of these columns I am writing...
You're preaching to the choir here (ref. my signature below). I know the series of videos you are referencing, and the curriculum goes deeper and more basic than even what is shown on those tapes. But all of that is just talk for me, I've barely scratched the surface and it's slow going. :(

Peter Goldsbury
12-31-2007, 04:07 AM
Hello Doug,

I train in a relative backwater, here in Hiroshima, well outside the glare of the bright lights of the Tokyo Hombu. One of the nice things I have found here is the importance of the tatemae/honne distinction in daily activities, which extend well beyond the confines of the dojo. Aikido-wise, everyone turns out for an 'imperial state visit' from the Hombu, and then quietly goes back to the older forms of training.

I think that Kisshomaru Ueshiba understood this clearly and ran the Aikikai as an association of primi inter pares, composed of all the people who would accept his role as Doshu. He discharged this role brilliantly, given the situation he inherited, but he realized, far more than his father ever did, the importance of communication.

O Sensei's discourses actively challenge the reader/hearer to discover what on earth he is talking about and it is a pity that they have been translated into English so 'unimaginatively'.

(I have no intention of attacking John Stevens here, by the way, since he has stuck his neck out and done an admirable job of making translations as accessible as possible to a reader who has no clue as to their cultural context. I can well imagine the choices he had to make. By training I am a classicist, used to analyzing texts written in ancient Greek and O Sensei's discourses bear comparison with anything that Heraclitus or Parmenides are alleged to have written.)

In a future column I plan to analyze the contents of the two books that Kisshomaru Ueshiba wrote, soon after the war. They are Aikido and Aikido Giho and they give a clear indication of what Kisshomaru was doling at the time. They are worlds apart from anything written by O Sensei and also from the Shirata tapes, but Shirata Sensei had no problems with accepting the tatemae of Kisshomaru's direction of the Aikikai and confining his aikido studies to his own confines in the Tohoku region.

I think this is a good illustration of the power of the iemoto model.

All good wishes for 2008,

PAG

Walker
12-31-2007, 11:26 AM
Peter,
明けましておめでとうございます。
One of the interesting things Shirata did for us in my opinion was to free us in a way from the obligation of tatemae -- to take what he gave and to wither or thrive on the outside so to speak.

Peter Goldsbury
01-01-2008, 07:46 AM
Peter,
明けましておめでとうございます。
One of the interesting things Shirata did for us in my opinion was to free us in a way from the obligation of tatemae -- to take what he gave and to wither or thrive on the outside so to speak.

今年もよろしくお願い致します。

Shirata Sensei is one of the few students of O Sensei from the very early Kobukan years who did not create their own organizations. After the war, when he returned to aikido after a long interval, he publicly supported Kisshomaru Ueshiba. In fact, I knew Shirata Sensei as a member of the Superior Council of the IAF, which Kisshomaru created. Like a few other postwar shihans he supported the Ueshiba family as a way of preserving and developing aikido.

In my opinion this public support was a tatemae and was the public face of the honne: his own private study of the inheritance he received from O Sensei at the Kobukan. Nearly all the shihans I know well exhibit this division to some degree.

Best wishes,

Peter Goldsbury
01-03-2008, 04:25 AM
This is completely just one person's opinion, but I think that all aikidoists should look at the two main points in the above sentence.

Apologies to Prof. Goldsbury for hijacking one sentence in his reply. I am very much looking forward to part 6.

Charles

Hello Charles,

Happy New Year,

I never knew O Sensei and so all my information about him is at second hand. I did, however, know Kisshomaru Doshu as well as one can from sporadic meetings, and the same is true of the present Doshu.

Kisshomaru Doshu was an immense source of information on aikido and Aikido Ichiroh clearly shows he had something of an agenda, which was really given him by the circumstances in which he was placed from 1942 onwards.

By comparison, the present Doshu seems to have less of an agenda, perhaps because of the circumstances in which he also has been placed. He has been happy to publish translations of his father's and grandfather's works, but his own publishing output has been rather different in content.

Of course, this is something I want to explore and discuss in future columns. As an additional luxury, we can occasionally speculate on what would have happened to aikido had Japan won the war.

Best wishes,

George S. Ledyard
01-07-2008, 03:20 PM
Thanks Peter! This is fascinating material.

I think that what you see with Aikido is an evolution from "style", as in ryu, to "approach", as in a personal take on the art. If you look at the main teachers from the 30's, their training was far more systematic than what came later. Initially they were all doing a "style" i.e. Daito Ryu. Their certificates were Daito Ryu certificates. In that sense there was a far more agreed upon central core technically with the various students like Shirata, Mochizuki, Tomiki, and Shioda (not to mention Inoue) adding elements from their own training in other arts so that each had a particular individual approach. But, even as they differed I would say they had more in common than the teachers of later years.

Each one of these teachers started his own "style" in order to preserve and propagate what he had learned. You can look at each of these styles and readily see what is similar and what is different. In each case an effort was made to create a system for passing on those teachings, although in every case adjustments were made in the curriculum to allow the art to be taught broadly and not just to a small group of deshi.

Clearly, this was an important development for the survival of what we might call "classical" practice. Of the teachers mentioned, the only one that did not go off on his own and start what we would recognize as a separate "style" was Shirata Sensei. Consequently, his line is by far the most obscure. It never had an organization to expand its teachings; it stayed personal with him.

Once you get to Post War Aikido, you basically have different teachers who exist under one umbrella, following their own paths. I think that this has had grave implications for the "transmission" of the art. You have teachers who trained a life time under the Founder passing away with literally no one trained to keep their hard won knowledge alive. Only Saito and Tohei Senseis set up their own large organizational structures to put forth their takes on the art.

I think the whole approach of training at Honbu Dojo under multiple teachers tended to make less likely the direct transmission from a certain teacher to a certain student. Of course, certain people decided on a particular teacher and simply followed him. Endo Sensei told us that at a certain point he simply ceased training with anyone other than Yamaguchi Sensei because he wanted specifically what Yamaguchi was offering. But the smorgasborg offered at the home dojo allowed people to train with many teachers while not necessarily being seen as a "deshi" of a particular one. So some teachers at the Honbu Dojo taught their whole careers without formalizing any "transmission" to any of the students who passed through their classes.

The current development of the art is very much as you mentioned... There is a Honbu Dojo way of doing things. The teachers who teach there adhere to that format for the most part. The current Doshu seems more interested than in the past in formalizing this instruction. Yet, many of those very same teachers do something quite a bit different at their own dojos and those of the students with whom they are associated.

I think people have a natural desire for structure. You can see how folks have naturally tried to create structure, even when there isn't one. Saito Sensei's Iwama Ryu was the direct result of Saito Sensei's desire to develop a "transmission" for what he had been taught. But as it developed it ran directly up against the desire of the Ueshiba family to be the hub from which their version of the "transmission" would proceed around the world.

But if you look at the success the Iwama Ryu had in propagating itself, I think it becomes clear that a formalized structure i.e. something like a "style" is the best way to keep the knowledge of a particular teacher alive.

My own teacher, Saotome Sensei, is adamant that Aikido has no "style". He has taught us in much the same way he was taught. He has steadfastly refused to spell out technical details, has only generally called our attention to various principles at work. This has resulted in much the same situation you had with the Founder. No one has "mastered" anything close to what this man knows. Only a very few have any real idea what he is doing. None of us look like each other because its been left up to each of us to develop our own understanding. When Sensei passes, it's gone. His knowledge and experience will never be duplicated. We each will carry a part of it and in some cases will add something of our own to it. But much of what he has will simply be lost.

I don't know what the answer is... If the art is to be taught widely to the "masses" so to speak, then the Aikikai approach to simplifying and modernizing the curriculum would seem inevitable. But then the real question becomes "where does the depth come from"? In the old days, the teachers had tremendous depth. Even if their students created larger organizations and simplified curriculum for the members, there was still the opportunity for the gifted, serious student to get access to that greater depth if they wanted to make the commitment.

What I see now is that the teachers of the future are being trained to teach the modern curriculum. They will not have the same depth as the previous generation of teachers. When that happens it will become increasingly difficult for anyone, regardless of talent or desire, to rediscover what has been lost. I think we may see the time when people will be looking for input from the older styles which have done a better job of keeping a certain transmission. I see an increasing demand for the small number of people who have kept alive the Mochizuki line, the Shirata line, the Hikitsuchi line; people who have focused on the teachings of one teacher and attempted to preserve the depth of that teaching. The rest of Aikido will require an infusion of that knowledge to reverse the "dumbing down" of the art as a whole.

Erick Mead
01-07-2008, 09:44 PM
Each one of these teachers started his own "style" in order to preserve and propagate what he had learned. ... an effort was made to create a system for passing on those teachings, ... I think people have a natural desire for structure. You can see how folks have naturally tried to create structure, even when there isn't one. Saito Sensei's Iwama Ryu was the direct result of Saito Sensei's desire to develop a "transmission" for what he had been taught... But if you look at the success the Iwama Ryu had in propagating itself, I think it becomes clear that a formalized structure i.e. something like a "style" is the best way to keep the knowledge of a particular teacher alive.

My own teacher, Saotome Sensei, is adamant that Aikido has no "style". He has taught us in much the same way he was taught. He has steadfastly refused to spell out technical details, has only generally called our attention to various principles at work. This has resulted in much the same situation you had with the Founder. No one has "mastered" anything close to what this man knows. Only a very few have any real idea what he is doing. ... But much of what he has will simply be lost.You have just illustrated a fundamental dichotomy that is larger than Aikido, and therefore is also reflected within it. Knowledge is commonly expressed in two different ways: one is linear, systematic, schematic; the other non-linear, holographic and chaotic (in the technical sense). In fact, both are highly ordered, but ordered in different ways.

Saito represents one tendency on this spectrum and Saotome another. Having begun in Saotome's lineage, and returned there, and spent substantial time under an uchi deshi of Saito, I feel these observations are well-grounded, if not particularly privileged. I think these differences are more reflective of psychologically driven biases in learning and teaching, than they are of real difference in either intent or performance,. Understanding this, I think both approaches have things to recommend them.

I don't know what the answer is... But then the real question becomes "where does the depth come from"? In the old days, the teachers had tremendous depth. ... teachers of the future are being trained to teach the modern curriculum. They will not have the same depth as the previous generation of teachers. When that happens it will become increasingly difficult for anyone, regardless of talent or desire, to rediscover what has been lost. ... The rest of Aikido will require an infusion of that knowledge to reverse the "dumbing down" of the art as a whole.The schematic bias teaches knowledge in progressive stages, the image of the knowledge being built up line by line, like a television scan building an image in lines of pixels from bottom to top. It emphasizes a solid grasp of what is transmitted, but omitting any real sense of what lies beyond the strict lesson. In its output it is simpler than the holographic.

The holographic bias builds up knowledge chaotically, as in this image : [http://www.geocities.com/bmw328driver/JavaFern.htm]. While it appears more random, in fact the points are are all drive by the algorithm (principle, in Saotome's terminology) that generates them. Computationally speaking, the input algorithm that generates it is actually mathematically simpler than the one that generates the linear progressive image.

Following Saotome's method, the premise and the promise is that whatever seems to be missing in the image at any stage of development is assuredly provided by continued iterations according to the principle set out. The random dots, at a certain point, pass the threshold of recognition and the WHOLE picture takes on an identifiable shape and the details remain to be filled in, by the same principles.

This early holistic sense is lacking in Saito's approach, but what it lacks in the sense of the forest it gains in intimacy with the nature of the trees that make it up. Both perspectives are necessary in weighted proportion according to the proclivities of the learner/teacher. It is silly to speak of forests without trees -- or to forget that a single tree may found a forest.

On balance, my practice has been informed by both and I value both. Like life, practice ought to be an interleaving of chaos and order, determinacy and chance. Structure without a sense of living beyond its immediate environs is ultimately stiff and dead. Life without structure is a gooey mess, and highly vulnerable in other ways.

On balance I think the art has good representatives working to maintain coherence, and a weighted balance, within both generic schools of thought typified by Saotome and Saito. What is needed is more sharing among them to enliven both, and more serious thought about how they do and should relate.

Erick Mead
01-08-2008, 01:40 PM
The holographic bias builds up knowledge chaotically, as in this image : So sorry. Malformed url. It really is worth seeing:

http://www.geocities.com/bmw328driver/JavaFern.htm

Peter Goldsbury
01-09-2008, 05:52 AM
George, Erick,

Many thanks. There are a lot of issues in your two posts which I have made a conscious decision not to try to cover in these columns. (Otherwise they'll go on indefinitely :) ).

I am convinced that O Sensei exhibited a particular teaching model that conforms in some respects to what I have seen in Japan outside aikido. The latter tends to be 'kata' based in a broad sense, but I am not at all convinced that O Sensei consciously taught 'principles' in preference to 'kata'. I think it is more complex than this, but have not organized my thoughts sufficiently to express them in a clear way. Even the issues of transmission and inheritance in aikido are perhaps not as clear as they are, say, in Daito-ryu.

Best wishes,

RonRagusa
01-11-2008, 08:58 AM
George S. Ledyard wrote:
None of us look like each other because its been left up to each of us to develop our own understanding.

Yes! And that's the whole point. We don't look like each other on the mat because we aren't each other. Saotome Sensei must realize that teaching, in the traditional sense, can carry a student only so far. For the student to plumb the deeper levels of Aikido understanding must come from an awakening that cannot be spoon fed by an instructor.

George S. Ledyard wrote:
When Sensei passes, it's gone. His knowledge and experience will never be duplicated. We each will carry a part of it and in some cases will add something of our own to it. But much of what he has will simply be lost.
Aikido isn't like math where knowledge can be written down, codified and transmitted across generations. To preserve all of what Saotome has it would be necessary to recreate Saotome complete with all his relevant life experience. All of our teachers will take some of their knowledge to the grave with them, as will we, as will our students.

George S. Ledyard wrote:
I don't know what the answer is... But then the real question becomes "where does the depth come from"?
A student's growth and maturity as a person and as a student of aikido are so intertwined as to be indistinguishable. The study of aikido can be viewed as a process of maturation wherein the student's life experience helps shape his or hers aikido development and vice versa. The depth comes from the individual turning inward, experiencing Aikido from the inside out. I believe aikido is primarily a process of self-discovery; a pursuit of one's relationship to the universe, one's own spirit and one's fellow human beings. As such, understanding of aikido grows from within the student as a result of many years of training and contemplation. While aikido techniques can be taught relatively easily the deeper knowledge that is there for the taking must be experienced individually. The depth you are referring to cannot be ‘taught'; it must be felt, recognized it is being felt, then developed and honed via one's own training. While technique can be demonstrated and learned via repetition how is an instructor to be expected to teach his life experience? How does he teach students to experience the lifetime of learning that has gone into shaping his Aikido?

George S. Ledyard
01-11-2008, 11:51 AM
Yes! And that's the whole point. We don't look like each other on the mat because we aren't each other. Saotome Sensei must realize that teaching, in the traditional sense, can carry a student only so far. For the student to plumb the deeper levels of Aikido understanding must come from an awakening that cannot be spoon fed by an instructor.

I don't disagree that the "deeper" levels of understanding only come through individual effort and investigation... But, depth is only possible when starting with a strong foundation.

If you look at the students O-Sensei produced in the 30's they stand out as giants. Despite O-Sensei's less than systematic teaching methods, he turned out a disproportionate number of students who functioned at an extremely high level.

What produced this unique circumstance? A very small number of students, training daily with their teacher (the Founder himself), with extreme intensity (Hell Dojo). Each of them put his hands on the Founder every day, each took ukemi from him daily.

This is not the case now. How many of the students training in Aikido currently put their hands on a teacher of Shihan level caliber daily? At seminars and camps, how often do the attendees get a chance to put their hands on the Shihan teaching?

Aikido isn't like math where knowledge can be written down, codified and transmitted across generations. To preserve all of what Saotome has it would be necessary to recreate Saotome complete with all his relevant life experience. All of our teachers will take some of their knowledge to the grave with them, as will we, as will our students.

Actually, this is where I start to disagree... the principles involved in "aiki" are straight forward and teachable. The principles are the same for everyone; it is the outer form they take when manifested that varies. Aikido has an outer form which makes it Aikido. But the principles that make it work, when it right, are the same ones used in T'ai Chi, Systema, etc That why Ikeda Sensei invited Ushiro Sensei to teach at Rocky Mountain Summer Camp even though the outer form of what he does is Karate. The inner principles operating were "aiki".

Knowledge is a product of both ones experience and what is inherited from those who have gone before. The depth of knowledge attained by earlier teachers was not simply the result of their personal effort. They were given the basic material and ran with it. That's why lineage and transmission are so important. Their kind of knowledge is like and endangered species. Once it is lost, it will not evolve again. The Japanese Koryu have recognized this and have developed a systematic method for the transmission of the core elements of the style across generations. While there are isolated pockets of Aikido being taught in this manner, most Aikido is not.

The depth comes from the individual turning inward, experiencing Aikido from the inside out. I believe aikido is primarily a process of self-discovery; a pursuit of one's relationship to the universe, one's own spirit and one's fellow human beings. As such, understanding of aikido grows from within the student as a result of many years of training and contemplation. While aikido techniques can be taught relatively easily the deeper knowledge that is there for the taking must be experienced individually. The depth you are referring to cannot be ‘taught'; it must be felt, recognized it is being felt, then developed and honed via one's own training. While technique can be demonstrated and learned via repetition how is an instructor to be expected to teach his life experience? How does he teach students to experience the lifetime of learning that has gone into shaping his Aikido?

In my opinion, real depth is based on a deep understanding of the principles of the art. There is no separation between technique and character. A shallow understanding of the principles simply cannot result in deep spiritual understanding. Now some people have adjunct spiritual practices they do alongside their Aikido. These practices may be transformative. But, in my opinion, if this is not coupled with a deep understanding of the principles of aiki, this accrued personal wisdom cannot make ones Aikido deeper. You end up with a wise person whose Aikido is still shallow.

As I have said before on this forum, you know you have an essential issue when most of the people who are teaching the art of Aikido cannot adequately define the term "aiki". I don't mean agreeing on a dictionary definition as in whether "harmony" or "joining" is a better translation... I mean what does "aiki" mean when we talk about technique. How many folks can tell you what the difference would be between basic jiu jutsu and aiki? What does it mean to execute a technique using "aiki".

Until the post war period, these principles were considered "secret". They were not taught to the public. They normally weren't even shown to the public. Aikido went from an art which numbered practitioners in the hundreds, at most, to an art with a million folks training world wide in one lifetime. That necessitated the rapid development of an instructor base in mass quantity. In other words, the vast majority of folks doing Aikido, the vast majority of the folks teaching Aikido, have nothing like the level of understanding of the early practitioners. Most look at the post war generation of teachers as representing some sort of unattainable level of skill. This is a direct result of the breakdown of the transmission.

The idea that training enthusiastically will result eventually in great skill is simply wrong. That is the "50 million monkeys typing Shakespeare" idea. As I said once before, while statistically it might be true that eventually one of the monkeys will randomly reproduce what went before, the operative concept at work here is that the rest of the monkeys are all typing gibberish.

The principles involved in "aiki" have been systematically handed down over hundreds of years. As in nature, their discovery and development resulted from very specific environmental circumstances. If these principles are lost, it is highly unlikely they will be rediscovered or redeveloped through normal practice.

It's not that there aren't people still around who understand these things. It's just that they are in such a small minority that Aikido is in danger of being redefined by the vast majority of folks who simply have no real awareness of what real depth is.

The understanding of aiki principles will be kept alive by folks doing various arts in great depth, whether Chinese, Russian, Japanese; Karate, Systema, T'ai Chi, Aikijutsu... My concern is that the Aikido community will remain unaware that anything is even missing from what they are doing. As the art is further simplified to make it teachable to the masses, as instructors are trained specifically teach the new simplified curriculum, we are in danger of losing our awareness of what "high level" actually meant at one time.

As I said before, in my opinion, for any individual to take his Aikido to a deep level, there has to be a deep foundation. Endless repetition of incorrect principles will not ever result in correct principle. It simply imprints bad habits. It is the purpose of a method of transmission to prevent this. A systematic exposition of the principles at work coupled with daily practice with someone who can give immediate and direct feedback about whether what you are doing is on track or not is required to create the strong foundation upon which all of the later personal development and variation will rest. Yes, I do not look like Ikeda Sensei or Saotome Sensei. But my technique works for precisely the same reasons their technique does. They are better at it than I am, true. But I can tell you exactly what the principles are that are operating in what they are doing. I can describe them and I can teach them. So I know precisely what I need to work on, which lets me give direction to my practice. And because I can describe them, I can create a systematic teaching methodology for my students which will create the foundation for their practice after I am gone. I look at the awareness my students have of what it is that they are trying to do in their practice and it is decades ahead of my own at the same rank, literally decades.

The transmission has been broken in Aikido for some time. Fortunately, there are still places one can go to acquire the blocks of knowledge that seem to be disappearing from mainstream Aikido. Angier Sensei is still alive, Toby Threadgill will be going strong for many years, I am sure. People like Dan Hardin, Mike Sigman, and Akuzawa are working with Aikido folks to reintroduce the solo training aspect of the art which has been neglected. No one teaches the psychological aspect of aiki better than the Systema folks. Howard Popkin continues to both teach himself and bring his teacher Okamoto Sensei from Japan (he is in his 80's). It is for us to master some of this and get the knowledge back into Aikido. There simply aren't that many folks who have it... they have to create a transmission as well or it will disappear when they pass on. I've talked to a few of the folks from other arts who are teaching around the country doing open seminars... The bulk of the folks attending these events are Aikido people. That says to me that there are many folks within our community who recognize that we need outside input to get our art on track. That makes me hopeful.

What I am afraid of, and I have been seeing this happen, that people discover these veins of "lost knowledge" and simply leave Aikido to pursue others forms of training. That will condemn Aikido absolutely.

Aikido has 30 to 40 thousand people training in the US. If there is no available systematic exposition of the principles which govern "aiki", then the majority of these people are condemned to doing Aikido-lite. A lifetime of training will not make that a deep practice, period. No amount of wishful thinking will make it so.

ChrisMoses
01-11-2008, 12:39 PM
Very well said George.

Peter Goldsbury
01-12-2008, 04:18 AM
George, and Ron,

Looking at your contributions to this thread, I have an interesting question to ask you both.

Compare the first generation of O Sensei's deshi with the second and third generations (though I admit there is a problem of where exactly you make the break).

(1) The first generation includes Inoue, Tomiki, Shirata, Mochizuki, Shioda: the mainstays of the Kobukan and its satellites in Takeda and Osaka. I think K Ueshiba, Tohei and K Abbe also come in somewhere here.

(2) Then you have a second generation, that includes people like Okumura, Saito, K Osawa, Arikawa, Yamaguchi, Tada and probably Noro, with other people wandering around on the periphery like H Kobayashi, Nakazono and perhaps Hikitsuchi.

(3) Finally, you have the third generation of shihans, probably beginning with Tamura, which also includes Isoyama, Yamada, Tohei (in Chicago), Chiba, Kanai, Sugano, Saotome, Asai, Kurita, all of whom chose to live overseas, together with all the other people (like Fujita, my own 8th dan teacher) who never left Japan.

My question really is: where did the rot start? Some people point the finger at Kisshomaru, but forget that the third generation were basically trained by him, as much as by O Sensei. Chiba Sensei's articles are quite instructive here. His obituary of Saito Sensei needs to be compared with his obituary of Kisshomaru Doshu.

The next few episodes of my columns deal with Kisshomaru Ueshiba, so I look forward to your thoughts on this issue with great interest.

Best wishes to you both,

PAG

RonRagusa
01-14-2008, 02:09 PM
Peter -

To try to answer your question: where did the rot start?

We have an art, Aikido, created by one "charismatic man" who, according to your earlier column:

"… made no attempt to ‘teach' the knowledge and skills he possessed to his deshi."

Certainly, from what you previously stated, Ueshiba Sensei didn't "teach" in the western sense of the word. The reason for this, I think, is that Ueshiba Sensei didn't "do" Aikido; he lived it. One might as well ask did Michelangelo "do" sculpture or Albert Einstein "do" physics? Ueshiba Sensei's art was so entwined with his daily life that he eventually became defined by it as much as it was defined by him. Ueshiba's Aikido was Ueshiba as Ueshiba was his Aikido.

O Sensei lived the principles of Aiki. As such he, perhaps, felt no need to explain what he already had internalized through his training regimen. It's possible that he felt demonstration of waza was enough of a clue to get his deshi started on the road of self discovery, accepting the fact that they would, to varying degrees and in different ways, eventually acquire a portion of the knowledge he already possessed. Or maybe he just didn't care whether they got it or not.

From your second column:

"In fact, what he showed his deshi during practice almost continually and exclusively were waza, without any technical explanation, and he also left them to work out for themselves, not only what they had been shown and the principles lying behind this, but also the training regime that resulted in such waza."

So here we have the first generation deshi, those people closest to the source, who apparently were given the least amount of instruction. Yet these students went on to become the preeminent teachers of Ueshiba Sensei's art. Because Ueshiba Sensei forced his deshi to discover Aikido for themselves we can see that even in its early stage of development the art must have evolved along different branches defined by the understanding gleaned by the first generation deshi. The first Doshu, Kisshomaru and the emphasis of blending with uke, Tohei Sensei and ki development as a discipline unto itself, Tomiki Sensei and the introduction of competitive Aikido, Saito Sensei and the heavy reliance on weapons training, Shioda Sensei and the martial applicability of waza come to mind. Each of the first generation deshi who went on to teach became a branch off the trunk of Ueshiba Sensei's Aikido. Students of the first generation deshi will each come to possess a portion of the knowledge of their teachers, modify it with their own personal touch and so the branches will continue to divide.

One would expect that as a consequence of endless fracturing of the bedrock of the art that Aikido will eventually disappear. Will the art not just someday fade away and become unrecognizable? One must answer the question: just what is being lost when a master dies?

This is where George and I differ in regards to the transmission of Aikido from teacher to student. George lamented that much of Saotome Sensei's knowledge will go with him when he passes and this is due largely to the teaching methodology employed by Saotome Sensei which lacks a lot of detailed explanation of how he does what he does. My point is that much of Saotome Sensei's knowledge is bound to who he is and where he has come from in his life. And while, as George states: "the principles involved in "aiki" are straight forward and teachable." (I agree), I think Aikido is much more than the principles of Aiki. The resultant amalgamation of learned principles and life experience produces Aikido that is unique in very fundamental ways to each individual. To my way of thinking this is the combination of the physical and spiritual aspects of Aikido within the individual.

Chiba Sensei, in an interview with Peter Bernath and David Halprin of Aikido On-Line conducted at the US Aikido Federation Eastern Region Summer Camp held at Hampshire Collage in Amherst, Massachusetts in August 2000, says:

"Well, you'd better not try to separate between spiritual discipline and physical discipline. You cannot separate them. Like any individual human substance, the substantial nature cannot be divided into aspects, body and spirit. They are one. So you take Aikido's form, we train, there's spirit already there. Without spirit there is no form. Through the form, spirit is manifested; it's already there."

A person's spirit is a product of that person's life history. It's what is unique about that person, what is irreplaceable and not reproducible. A person's spirit is what uniquely defines that person's Aikido.

Now if , as George contends, Aiki principles are invariant with regard to styles and teachable, they should naturally transcend the death of the instructor presuming they have been passed on to at least one student. What will be naturally lost is the personalization of the instructors Aikido, the spirit of it.

This has gotten somewhat longer than I originally intended so let me sum things up:

1. Ueshiba Sensei left it to his deshi to discover their own Aikido, i.e. Aikido from the inside out,

From 1. we see that:

2. We can infer that the splintering of Aikido began while Ueshiba was still alive,
3. To accuse Kisshomaru Ueshiba originating the onset of the alleged decline of Aikido does him a disservice,
4. The splintering of Aikido into many different branches is a direct consequence,
5. The splitting of Aikido into many different branches is not evidence of rot just evolution.

Regards,

Ron

aikilouis
01-15-2008, 08:17 AM
It would be a good analysis if the level of the top practitioners remained constant through the ages. However, it seems that aikido does not impress the world of martial arts the way it did before the war.

Why is that ? Here are a few possible explanations :
1- The world of martial arts "caught up", and produced better practitioners, and now fares better compared to aikido.
2- The sheer number of beginning and intermediate level aikido practitioners (due to its worldwide spread) offsets the quality of the aikido elite, that remained constant over the years.
3- aikido transmitted pretty much as completely as it was by O Sensei, but very few people now can afford practicing 6 hours a day, every day, with the same intensity as found in the Kobukai, and living the very formative life of ushi-deshi.
4- Some essential teachings of aikido are not transmitted anymore, which means the quality of today's aikido (even at the top level) is lower than it was decades ago.

I don't have the answers(s), but this community is a good place for that debate.

Peter Goldsbury
01-19-2008, 06:16 AM
Mr Neveu,

Thank you for your interesting post.

I have a few comments/questions, placed at various points in your post:

It would be a good analysis if the level of the top practitioners remained constant through the ages. However, it seems that aikido does not impress the world of martial arts the way it did before the war.
PAG. I suppose the evidence is to be found in Internet chat forums, but the issue for me is to what extent the general availability of aikido training for far more people, who are completely unversed in any martial culture, was a major factor in the supposed overall decline in quality.

In addition, to what extent is it possible to measure the level before and after?

Why is that ? Here are a few possible explanations :
PAG. I think that Kisshomaru Ueshiba saw the opening up of aikido as the only means of its survival.

1- The world of martial arts "caught up", and produced better practitioners, and now fares better compared to aikido.
PAG. Again, how do we measure this? Is it that martial arts as sports, such as judo and kendo, have surpassed, in numbers and quality, the older koryu arts and those ‘gendai' arts like aikido and shorinji kempo that are not sports?

2- The sheer number of beginning and intermediate level aikido practitioners (due to its worldwide spread) offsets the quality of the aikido elite, that remained constant over the years.
PAG. I think the issue here is (also) the quality of the aikido elite.

3- aikido transmitted pretty much as completely as it was by O Sensei, but very few people now can afford practicing 6 hours a day, every day, with the same intensity as found in the Kobukai, and living the very formative life of ushi-deshi.
PAG. I think this has always been the case, and also in other traditional arts. In aikido the training of uchi-deshi, considered as O Sensei's personal training regime, stopped after World War II. The third generation of deshi, some of whom reside abroad, were trained as much by Kisshomaru as by O Sensei.

4- Some essential teachings of aikido are not transmitted anymore, which means the quality of today's aikido (even at the top level) is lower than it was decades ago.
PAG. It was sometimes stated by the first disciples of O Sensei that you do not need to know many techniques: if you can do the ‘core' techniques well, you will be OK. The issue is what you need to be able to do besides the techniques. I believe that one major issue here is the role of individual training in aikido: the training you need to do without a partner. This has long been a subject of Internet chat forums, but there is a limit to what can be learned practically from such discussions. In any case, it seems to me that O Sensei did not explicitly teach this, but many of his top uchi-deshi learned it / discovered it.

I don't have the answers(s), but this community is a good place for that debate.

Yes. Thank you.

aikilouis
01-19-2008, 10:42 AM
Prof. Goldsbury,

Thank you for examining my thoughts, and for the effort you put in for the benefit of the aikido community.

I am well aware of the difficulty of giving comparative value to different practices (even within aikido, this is the object of fierce debate). Also, the 4 hypotheses are not exactly mine, rather some of the possible (sometimes contradictory) explanations that can be found on the internet, expressed by more or less informed or advanced people.

George S. Ledyard
01-19-2008, 07:12 PM
George, and Ron,

Looking at your contributions to this thread, I have an interesting question to ask you both.

Compare the first generation of O Sensei's deshi with the second and third generations (though I admit there is a problem of where exactly you make the break).

(1) The first generation includes Inoue, Tomiki, Shirata, Mochizuki, Shioda: the mainstays of the Kobukan and its satellites in Takeda and Osaka. I think K Ueshiba, Tohei and K Abbe also come in somewhere here.

(2) Then you have a second generation, that includes people like Okumura, Saito, K Osawa, Arikawa, Yamaguchi, Tada and probably Noro, with other people wandering around on the periphery like H Kobayashi, Nakazono and perhaps Hikitsuchi.

(3) Finally, you have the third generation of shihans, probably beginning with Tamura, which also includes Isoyama, Yamada, Tohei (in Chicago), Chiba, Kanai, Sugano, Saotome, Asai, Kurita, all of whom chose to live overseas, together with all the other people (like Fujita, my own 8th dan teacher) who never left Japan.

My question really is: where did the rot start? Some people point the finger at Kisshomaru, but forget that the third generation were basically trained by him, as much as by O Sensei. Chiba Sensei's articles are quite instructive here. His obituary of Saito Sensei needs to be compared with his obituary of Kisshomaru Doshu.

The next few episodes of my columns deal with Kisshomaru Ueshiba, so I look forward to your thoughts on this issue with great interest.

Best wishes to you both,

PAG

I don't really feel like it's a matter of "rot" really... It's more complex than that. Various people do an excellent job with pieces of what O-Sensei presented. Some few seem to have understood well what he presented at a certain time but did not seem to evolve alongside the Founder as he changed. Those who trained at the beginning did not get taught what those who trained at the end got, those who trained at the end didn't get taught what was presented at the beginning.

In many ways the development of Aikido is not unlike the development of early Christianity. You have a group of "disciples" who did train directly with the Founder. Apparently they were told different things at different times but there are certain threads that seem to carry through all of their narratives.

But the "gospel" of Aikido spreads like wild fire... far faster than anyone anticipated. Soon most of the folks spreading the "gospel" never actually trained with the Founder. In fact most never trained for any length of time with one of his disciples.

What writings there are, are not really the Founder's but were written by the disciples. There seems to have been quite a bit of editing to make the presentation palatable to the wider audience. It is difficult to be sure exactly what the Founder himself said.

Fairly quickly you find drastically different interpretations of the teachings both philosophically and technically. There is a "Pope" sitting on the "throne of Peter" but quite a large number of folks do not submit to his authority. Different groups exist, each believing strongly that they understood the "real" meaning of the art as transmitted to their particular disciple. You even have, heresy of heresies, people who maintain that none of the disciples really understood but they, through the direct experience of their own practices, have been able to do so.

There was a time when this would have resulted in a crusade resulting in a purge of the heretics... But there can be no Council of Nicea for Aikido, no Athanasius, or Irenaeus for Aikido. This is the day of the internet and each instructor, perhaps even each practitioner will share in the debate and exchange between the "bishops" and decide for himself or herself.

I see Aikido as having experienced a schism which broke it into roughly four groups:

1) There are those for whom the art is pretty simply about self defense or physical technique. There is little if any interest in the spiritual teachings of the Founder, just an interest in developing his skill set. There is no believe that his spiritual beliefs actually contributed to his skill set. The techniques of the art ARE THE ART. Effectiveness is really the sole measure of worth. These people often find themselves looking outside the art for more input... they generally tend to be unconcerned with Orthodoxy, just practicality. These are the materialists within the Aikido camp. They tend to disdain the energetic type techniques in favor of more physical, power oriented technique. While these folks respect the great skill the Founder displayed, they do not elevate him to some special status relative to his spiritual vision. Often they view the Founder as incredibly talented but a bit loopy.

2) There are those for whom the "message" is paramount. O-Sensei pointed out the way for us and it is our purpose to keep moving along that path. This, despite the fact that much of his "message" was a highly edited presentation of his teachings put together by his disciples. For these folks, technique is subordinate to the message. In other words, the message is not revealed through the practice but rather the practice is shaped by the message. There is an almost total lack of concern in the martial effectiveness of technique, in fact too much focus on effectiveness is seen as a failure to see the higher principles of the art. Physical technique is really a way to manifest ones spiritual understanding in ones body and by extension in the social world. It is also a way to show others how "spiritual" one is. These folks show a marked disdain for technique that is too physical and prefer to do more energetic type work on the mat. These are the folks who prefer the spirit to the body. They tend to elevate the Founder to a sort of semi-divine status because of his spiritual insights but seem to believe that attaining his martial skill is unnecessary.

3) The third and final group believes that the Founder's intention was clearly that the art would be a spiritual practice but that the means of gaining understanding was THROUGH practicing the physical techniques of the art. The principles which operate in the art require the practitioner to change in such a way that spiritual truth will become evident in the techniques themselves. There is no material / spiritual dichotomy here. One cannot exist without the other. So technique which works goes hand in hand with the development of an understanding of the spiritual / trans-formative purpose of the art. Great technical skill cannot exist without deep spiritual understanding. This group seems to value O-Sensei's skill as well as his "vision".

It is my opinion that many of the early deshi from the thirties would have fallen within the first group (Mochizuki, Tomiki, Shioda) while the rest would have fallen in the third group (Inoue, Shirata, Abbe). I can't off hand think of any who would seem to have fallen into the 2nd group.

The same could be said for the second and third generation disciples. Most would probably consider themselves to have been within the 3rd grouping however I would place some of them a bit more in group 1 than group 3. I'm not so familiar with how each of these teachers trained or what they thought so I won't try to categorize each of them.

The development of a substantial number of folks in group 2 really doesn't start until after O-Sensei's death. Much of this group exists in foreign countries where there hasn't been enough high level technical instruction as compared to the number of active practitioners. O-Sensei's written words as sparse as they were have been selectively translated and put out to a world wide audience. The phenomenal growth of the art has more to do with the presentation of these ideas as being central to the practice than perhaps it was in Japan where discussion of the philosophical / spiritual aspects of the art seems to be much less common.

Aikido is practiced by a million people world wide, most of whom have never encountered a highly skilled practitioner of the 1st, 2nd or even 3rd generation of disciples with any frequency. At best they may, if they are lucky, train with a direct student of one of these disciples. This leads to a new situation in which one could say that the majority of the folks practicing have no real idea what high level skill really is. Nor do they have more than the foggiest notion about the spiritual ideas put forth by the Founder regarding his art. This leads to the development of a substantial group of folks in group 2. The way in which Aikido is presented leads to the art picking up a huge following of folks who, if they weren’t doing Aikido, wouldn’t be doing martial arts at all.

So this brings me to the Post O-Sensei era. His son Kisshomaru is now Doshu. As the Nidai Doshu he looks at what Aikido has been, and he has a good solid picture of that from direct, personal experience, and he looks at the face of change in Japan and around the world and he sees that he will be forced to re-interpret the art for modern consumption. I believe he saw this as necessary for the survival of the art ( as mentioned by Peter) But I do believe the K Ueshiba was firmly in the 3rd group as far as how he saw the art. I think he quite realistically saw that the modern environment for the art would involve mass transmission of the physical and spiritual principles of the art. He decides, quite rightly I think, that it will be impossible and perhaps even inappropriate, to attempt to pass on the entire body of work his father had presented over the course of over 50 years of teaching and redeveloping his art to the broad masses.

Since he did, I believe, fall into the camp of folks who felt that the spiritual insights of the art derived directly from an understanding of the principles revealed through the physical practice of the art he set about creating a presentation of those physical techniques and principles which could be understood and appreciated by modern people, people with few, if any, ties to the traditional world of his Father, the Founder. So the art gets simplified and the focus is adjusted for people living in the modern, post war world. There is increasingly less emphasis on understanding weapons work, there is virtually no emphasis on the applied side of the art. Just as in physics there is a bias on the part of the theoretical folks towards the applied folks, we start to see a sort of “spiritual” aikido evolving which rather prides itself on it’s lack of concern for application. This really opens the door for the creation of group 2 in that it is just a small step from technique using correct principles but with no focus on practicality to technique using incorrect principles. With a complete lack of concern for whether technique works or not, we start to see Aikido being practiced and spread by people who don’t actually know the difference.

Different teachers reacted to this development in their own manners. Saito Sensei assigned himself the role of preserving the technical side of the art as it existed at a particular moment in time right after the war. He adjusted his teaching methodology a bit over the years but he changed very little of the technique. He was famous for systematizing, preserving, and spreading weapons work at a time when the “orthodox” presentation of the art was virtually devoid of these elements.

Nishio saw the loss of the martial side of Aikido as a tragedy and started his own style albeit within the umbrella of Hombu Dojo. It placed the emphasis heavily on understanding technique from a very broad standpoint placing a strong emphasis on his unique presentation of the relationship between weapons and empty hand, between martial arts like karate and aikido. It was his paramount concern that people practicing the highly stylized art being championed at the Honbu Dojo, should also understand what was really contained within those techniques.

Hikitsuchi Sensei, never part of the main stream as he was way out in the country I Shingu and was quite isolated from the goings on at the Hombu Dojo, carried on a very traditional brand of practice which emphasized the martial / spiritual balance of O-Sensei’s teachings. He also overtly maintained the Shinto structure to the spiritual concepts underlying the practice. Perhaps because of this, he never turned out enough students that he has had a major influence on Japanese Aikido. But he did have a substantial influence on American Aikido. Two of the most senior female practitioners of American Aikido were trained at Shingu, Mary Heiny Sensei and Linda Holiday Sensei. His student Clint George Sensei has done the most perhaps, in trying to preserve the balance between the martial and the spiritual that Shingu was able to keep going long after it changed at the headquarters.

Teachers like Saotome Sensei, Chiba Sensei, and Tamura took their individual takes on the art overseas and each put out an Aikido quite at variance with the direction being taken back in Tokyo. They preserved, even expanded the use of weapons in the practice. They constantly reminded their students that O-Sensei was the source for their technique and the inspiration for their practice. As the Founder seemed to increasingly be seen as an anachronism in the Aikido at headquarters, he was an ever present force in the presentation these teachers made of what the art was and would be.

So what do we have now? We are on the brink of the great change. Within only a few more years, there will be no more teachers left who trained directly under the Founder. Given that the senior foreign teachers are also largely of that same generation, we are facing a complete change of guard, a wholesale passing of the responsibility for the transmission of the art to a generation that never knew O-Sensei, perhaps, never even trained with any of the first or second generation teachers.

There seems to be an increasing understanding of just what has been lost in getting the art to the place it is. The place of solo practice (of some not well defined as yet sort), skill in weapons, especially the sword, knowledge of older combat applications of technique, even a deep understanding of what constitutes “aiki” (as contrasted with the largely physical technique being done in most Aikido) are all problem areas. The generation of Aikido teachers who could have passed on this knowledge is fast disappearing.

But I find myself hopeful. I see people from other arts, for various reasons, being willing to share what they know with Aikido people. Many of the teachers who have spent their lives acquiring what, for want of a better term, I will call classical knowledge, are finding that the majority of the folks who are interested in what they have to offer are the Aikido folks. It worries me that the folks who seem most inclined to take advantage of these opportunities are not to a large extent the next generation of teachers but rather the folks in the next tier down. If they are not careful we might see a generation of Aikido teachers who have waited thirty years for their “turn” at the helm finding they are steering an empty boat. I see a large number of folks at the mid dan levels getting out and finding ways to augment their training. I see a certain frustration with many of the seniors who toed the official line and did what was asked but now show glaring holes in their knowledge and stagnation in their own practice.

But at least there are places a dedicated Aikido person can go to find some of the knowledge that has passed out of our art. The Aiki Expos will, I believe, eventually be seen as truly pivotal events in American Aikido. The folks who went and really took advantage of the wealth that was laid on the table at these three events came away changed on a really deep level. My own Aikido has been changing at an exponential pace since the first Expo. I know other senior teachers who are in that same place. Even a teacher like Ikeda Sensei, came away from the Expos having made connections with teachers who have changed his Aikido completely.

It is not just a matter of developing a better and more systematic method for the transmission of our art. Aikido is in need of an infusion of knowledge from outside the art. Folks are training with people like Dan Hardin, Mike Sigman, Akuzawa, and the Systema folks developing various methods of solo training. These teachers are all doing adaptations of their training specifically for Aikido folks or are at least welcoming Aikido folks at their events.

There are teachers like Howard Popkin Sensei, a student of Okamoto Sensei who is bringing Okamoto Sensei over from Japan and holding “open” seminars. You can’t find a clearer, more concise presentation of "aiki" principles than what these folks give. Popkin Sensei is young and will clearly be around for a long time and he is more than willing to share his knowledge with the Aikido community.

Ushiro Kenji Sensei continues to influence the Aikido community; he’s appearing once again as a guest instructor at the Rocky Mountain Summer Camp which Ikeda Sensei hosts in Colorado.

What is needed most is teachers who have been well trained by the uchi deshi, who have digested much of the best which Aikido has had to offer, to take advantage of the fact that, for the first time in history, there is a cross style, cross cultural exchange going on. They have the solid foundation to take these various strands of knowledge and weave them back into Aikido. They have the position of authority it will take to pass this knowledge to the wider community. This certainly requires a shift in the old paradigm… perhaps they won’t meet the challenge. But if they don’t, I see a generation of future teachers coming along who aren’t waiting to be told it’s ok to doctor their Aikido. I think that teachers who are stuck in old ways of thinking about the art will find themselves marginalized.

With all of this happening, it’s difficult to envision what the role will be for the current Doshu and the Honbu Dojo, I understand that they see the need to develop a more systematic method for passing on the techniques of the art and perhaps standardizing what the basic techniques of the art actually are. But the focus on training teachers specifically to teach this standardized but also simplified curriculum may result in a fairly uninspiring set of instructors when contrasted with a group of folks who have been far wider reaching in their training. I foresee a day, not too far in the future, when it will be a challenge for the Honbu Dojo and the Doshu to maintain their view of being the center from which Aikido flows out to the various groups and individuals around the world. You can already see European teachers like Tissier, Nevelius, and Ostoff Senseis coming here to teach. American teachers are traveling to Europe and South America… I think this will only increase. Much of this will simply bypass Japan and I don’t know if they are prepared for that. It will be an interesting time I think.

One of the things I would very much like to see is for the various students who have been training in Japan with teachers who have been off the beaten track to get out and teach. I have no idea if any foreigners trained with Inoue Sensei (now passed away) but I think there would be an interest here in seeing what direction they took their aiki budo. I have to believe that there are folks around who trained with non-mainstream teachers who have been trained very differently than the current generation of instructors at Honbu. I’d love to see what they have been doing. As far as I am concerned, the more exchange, the better.

Peter Goldsbury
01-19-2008, 08:31 PM
George,

Very interesting analysis.

You announced a schism of four groups and gave three, the third being the final one. Was this a misprint, or did you modify your thinking as you were writing (I sometimes do this)?

I am certain my understanding is a little different from yours, mainly because I have not had prolonged exposure to aikido in the United States, indeed, anywhere else except Japan, and the few countries I have visited.

I am also certain that in Japan there is not such an explicit distinction made between the 'physical' and the 'spiritual'. There is also far less overt preoccupation with the 'effectiveness' of aikido and there are many reasons for this.

RonRagusa
01-19-2008, 09:50 PM
George -

Your mentioning four groups and noting three leaves an opening for another to be entered; namely the group that treats Ki development as an independent discipline to be studied in conjunction with Aikido waza. Tohei's break from Hombu was a major fracturing of the Aikido establishment and Ki Aikido has become a widely practiced branch of Aikido with offshoots of its own (Shuji Maruyama Sensei, Fumio Toyoda Sensei and Shizuo Imaizumi Sensei all came to America at the behest of Tohei and eventually founded their own organizations).

Best,

Ron

George S. Ledyard
01-19-2008, 11:20 PM
George -

Your mentioning four groups and noting three leaves an opening for another to be entered; namely the group that treats Ki development as an independent discipline to be studied in conjunction with Aikido waza. Tohei's break from Hombu was a major fracturing of the Aikido establishment and Ki Aikido has become a widely practiced branch of Aikido with offshoots of its own (Shuji Maruyama Sensei, Fumio Toyoda Sensei and Shizuo Imaizumi Sensei all came to America at the behest of Tohei and eventually founded their own organizations).

Best,

Ron
Saying four was a mistake on my part which I didn't catch... I never trained with any of these teachers other than Imaizumi Sensei but I would put him squarely in the third group which sees a unity between the physical practice and the spiritual side. Based on what we saw at the Expos and at Rocky Mountain Summer camp when he was a guest instructor, he is very much a picture of early Tohei; as he was just before the break up. His is exactly what I consider to me a balanced practice with a deep spiritual connection coming directly from the practice, solid technique, highly developed sensitivity and solid weapons training. I consider him to be one of the greats... I will be in New York teaching in March and I am hoping to have dinner with him while I am there.

I don't see these teachers as a fourth way although I have certainly encountered a number of Ki Society people who would definitely fall into my 2nd group. Lots of ki exercises etc and no ability to apply the principals at all. This was not true of the early teachers. So once again we have an issue of the transmission being broken...

George S. Ledyard
01-20-2008, 12:05 AM
George,

Was this a misprint, or did you modify your thinking as you were writing (I sometimes do this)?
Exactly, I had something in mind... it came out differently in the end and I didn't go back and adjust my intro. Duh...

I have found the lack of concern about martial effectiveness I have seen creep in to Aikido to be disturbing. I really do not think that "application" is the central issue at all. But I do think that the martial paradigm is important because it is the way you get immediate feedback about your level of understanding. I can't see how one develops the attitude of "shin ken shobu" without putting some attention on the martial aspect. Although I do believe that the point of Aikido is basically trans-formative, it was always said by the Founder to be a Budo. I really think it either loses its power to transform or the transformation is of a quite different nature when you lose the martial aspect.

I have my own thoughts about the way things should be and am busy going my way and putting these ideas to the test. I am 56 this year and I had to tell my students that they are basically my guinea pigs in that if I am wrong about being able to do things better than much of what I have experienced before, they are stuck because I won't have time for a second try. I can't say that this is a very scientific experiment... for one thing there really isn't a good control group. I don't find the same number of people who want to make the commitment that many of us made to our training as we had back in the seventies and eighties. So although I think I am on the right track instructionally, it remains unclear which of my students will be able to go the distance and train enough to really get deep into the art even with my more systematic presentation of the principles I have been working on. These folks have serious jobs, relationships, kids, etc It's a different time... They are way ahead of where I was at the same point in time, it's just unclear who will keep up the pace over the next decade or so. I feel good about the process so far but if I am wrong its a done deal... there's no do-overs on this.

Mike Sigman
01-20-2008, 08:07 AM
But I find myself hopeful. I see people from other arts, for various reasons, being willing to share what they know with Aikido people. Many of the teachers who have spent their lives acquiring what, for want of a better term, I will call classical knowledge, are finding that the majority of the folks who are interested in what they have to offer are the Aikido folks. It worries me that the folks who seem most inclined to take advantage of these opportunities are not to a large extent the next generation of teachers but rather the folks in the next tier down. If they are not careful we might see a generation of Aikido teachers who have waited thirty years for their "turn" at the helm finding they are steering an empty boat. I see a large number of folks at the mid dan levels getting out and finding ways to augment their training. I see a certain frustration with many of the seniors who toed the official line and did what was asked but now show glaring holes in their knowledge and stagnation in their own practice.Hi George:

I think we agree that there's going to be a gap. Partially, IMO, there will be a gap because some people won't grasp that there's a change. Some people will suddenly see that there's a credible "change" but that the change is actually just a filling in of the blanks and it makes a lot of the old discussions suddenly make sense.... but they won't be able to do it, even though they understand it academically, because the change is not really that easy to do (as is born out in comments by Ueshiba, Tohei, Inaba, and many others).

It's too bad, in a way, that Ueshiba Sensei couched a lot of his discussion in spiritual terms, because in function he was preaching an ideal which has been around a long time.... defeating and attacking enemy by utilizing and conforming with the "natural laws of the universe". It tends to make some people focus on the wrong target when they interpret everything in terms of spirituality (Aikido is not the first or only martial art to do this with the ki aspects, BTW... a lot of the older martial arts did this, too.).

Personally, I think you're going to see a schism develop. There will be many people who won't change and there will be a slowly growing number of people who do change. The people in the "gap" will undoubtedly find various ways to go, but there's little anyone can do to stop the change. Besides, what real enthusiast of Aikido would really want to miss filling in the gaps? ;)

In terms of finding that the majority of people who are interested in these things are Aikido people, I'm not sure if that's really true, although I understand your perspective. From a personal perspective, I see more people interested (and I've done these kinds of things for years) from other arts like Chinese martial arts. But those people are fragmented in their beliefs, training methods, perceptions, etc. Aikido, even though it has a certain amount of fragementation, still represents a more disciplined monolith than the wide spectrum of people doing various Chinese martial arts. I.e., as a place to experiment with teaching methodologies, Aikido is a good "out of the box" place to do it, particularly for me since I have some Aikido background.

Other people of course have different motivations. I think the main commonality is that as people get their foot in the door with the ki/kokyu skills, the "of course!" epiphany becomes so obvious that there is a compulsion to point it out. However, pointing out a missing essential is not the same thing as being an expert, either in the skills themselves or in Aikido. So ultimately, Aikido is going to have to move forward under the tutelage of people who not only have these skills but who also have true Aikido skills (these two must become one). That's the fun part that is hopefully coming down the pike.

Best.

Mike Sigman

Mike Sigman
01-20-2008, 08:19 AM
Your mentioning four groups and noting three leaves an opening for another to be entered; namely the group that treats Ki development as an independent discipline to be studied in conjunction with Aikido waza. Tohei's break from Hombu was a major fracturing of the Aikido establishment and Ki Aikido has become a widely practiced branch of Aikido with offshoots of its own (Shuji Maruyama Sensei, Fumio Toyoda Sensei and Shizuo Imaizumi Sensei all came to America at the behest of Tohei and eventually founded their own organizations).I watched the Tohei initial film on Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido on YouTube recently. I hadn't seen it for many, many years and at the time I first saw it, I didn't really understand what he was showing. Now I understand it and, to be honest, I sort of admire his approach to things (although I don't think he was as explicative as he could have been, but that's simply a personal viewpoint).

The idea that "Ki development is an independent discipline" is actually the gist of the argument by not only Tohei, but by Akuzawa, Dan Harden, Inaba Sensei, Abe Sensei, Ushiro Sensei, and many, many others, if you think about it. It's not unique to Tohei... Tohei simply tried to codify an approach and make it an overtly visible part of Aikido training (at first. Later he went off on his own thing).

I like Tohei's approach, particularly as I saw it in that film (it's on YouTube in 5 parts; easy to find if you enter "Koichi Tohei"). The film approach is more coherent than the eclectically-mixed stuff you see at so many Ki-Aikido dojos. In fact, the way that Tohei explains the combination of Ki-training and Aikido is pretty darned logical, on that film. If you understand what he's talking about, of course. The way to add Ki back into a lot of Aikido is actually going to have to be done very similarly to the way Tohei laid it out... it's just going to have to be a lot more clearly explained, in terms of the basics.

My 2 cents.

Mike Sigman

Peter Goldsbury
01-20-2008, 09:33 PM
Exactly, I had something in mind... it came out differently in the end and I didn't go back and adjust my intro. Duh...

I have found the lack of concern about martial effectiveness I have seen creep in to Aikido to be disturbing. I really do not think that "application" is the central issue at all. But I do think that the martial paradigm is important because it is the way you get immediate feedback about your level of understanding. I can't see how one develops the attitude of "shin ken shobu" without putting some attention on the martial aspect. Although I do believe that the point of Aikido is basically trans-formative, it was always said by the Founder to be a Budo. I really think it either loses its power to transform or the transformation is of a quite different nature when you lose the martial aspect.



George,

Have you seen the two recent movies made by Clint Eastwood on the Battle of Iwojima? One depicts the American side and the other depicts the Japanese side. I have used the second in one of my classes and have studied the reactions of the 120 Japanese students who took my class (two of whom are ardent members of the local Ki Aikido club).

Apart from these two (who have been heavily brainwashed on the importance of KI over any kind of effectiveness), my students have virtually no concept of the value of fighting to defend principles and have even less clue of the value of martial arts, which they equate with prewar militarism that is no longer relevant to them.

The English version of the Aikikai website has this entry under ‘Organization’. (I should add that the content of the same heading of the Japanese-language section of the website is quite different.)

Aikido is a new Japanese martial art created during the 1920s by Morihei Ueshiba, an expert who reached the highest level of mastery in the classical Japanese martial arts. Officially recognized by the Japanese government in 1940, the Aikikai Foundation (Aikido World Headquarters) is the parent organization for the development and popularization of Aikido throughout the world. Under the leadership of Moriteru Ueshiba Doshu, instructors are teaching Aikido according to the ideals of the Founder (Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei) to students in Japan and throughout the world.

Current Activities
Since contemporary values stress respect for human life, Aikido is a highly relevant form of the Japanese martial arts. Aikido is popular not just in Japan but throughout the world because people accept and agree with the underlying philosophy of Aikido. Instructors from the Aikido World Headquarters are dispatched to countries throughout North and South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Transcending boundaries of race and nationality, Aikido is practiced and loved by over 1.2 million people in more than fifty countries around the world.

Future Prospects
As travel, work, and study abroad have now become commonplace, Aikido is spreading internationally because it can be viewed as a "product of a shared cultural heritage," culture not bound to any one nation or people-a legacy which can contribute to peace and prosperity. Seen as such, expectations for Aikido's role in the coming century are great.

It is very difficult for me to make public comments about this website because my own name appears in the Japanese version. However, I am struck by the awkward combination of (1) a ‘shared cultural heritage’ and (2) the ‘dispatch of Hombu instructors throughout the world’. There are no non-Japanese instructors in the Hombu and there is no mention of the work of the non-Hombu instructors around the world. I know myself that there is no thought of what a “culture not bound to any one nation or people” actually entails. All the research I have encountered points in the opposite direction—to culture espousing a set of values that can be expressed in national(ist) terms, which is eminently true of Japan. All my Japanese graduate students regard culture in its deepest sense as essentially bound up with the concept of nation and nationhood.

Whereas Kisshomaru Doshu wanted to spread aikido around the world as 'good' Japanese culture and always regarded aikido as quintessentially Japanese (see the last part of my column), as did Morihei Ueshiba, the author of the English statement above has fudged the issue and suggested that aikido is no longer fully Japanese. What he means is that the 'shared cultural heritage' is shared because people all over the world practice a Japanese martial art.

DH
01-20-2008, 11:00 PM
From the Aikikai website
Aikido is a new Japanese martial art created during the 1920s by Morihei Ueshiba, an expert who reached the highest level of mastery in the classical Japanese martial arts. Officially recognized by the Japanese government in 1940,
Hi Peter
I recognize what I am about to say will fall on deaf ears and the party line will never -change. BUT...

1. Ueshiba never reached the highest level of mastery in any art, much less a classical Japanese one.
2. What did he train in to any appreciable depth? Daito ryu Aikijujutsu.
3. What did he teach? Only one art. Daito ryu Aikijujutsu.
4. As for founding Aikido in the 1920's? This is untrue. It is either a deliberate fabrication or yet another error disseminated internationally through materials issued by the hombu. He teaching the waza from the Hiden Mokuroku , and handing out scrolls to virtually ALL of his early students in...Daito ryu Aikijutsu? And that into the late 1930’s? The Scrolls and interviews validating the training of virtually all of the Aikikai founding members have been publicly acknowledged.
5. The founding of Aikido happened after a gradual process of change. And that not until sometime in the early 1940's

I can't help but wonder- does the Aikikai foundation or the Ueshiba family-now including the Grandson have any sense of how they look -even to the most casual researchers -in making such obvious and egregious errors on their own web site? Can they be truly this “out of it” in the modern era? And/or so dismissive of the general publics access to knowledge and information that they think they have no responsibility for placing accurate information into the hands of their own members?

Since you are being so forthcoming- is it possible for you to publicly speculate as to why they continue placing this disinformation in an international format?

On the whole, I am enjoying the articles immensely. Thank you.
I remain a fan of his vision, just not what became of it in the hands of so many.
Cheers
Dan

DH
01-20-2008, 11:32 PM
Hi Peter
Some how I missed addressing you directly in the post above. My apologies. Of course I was directing my comments to you, and would be delighted in any views you care to share.
BTW Outside of the obvious and well documented “vision of peace” after the war and influence of Omoto-are you going to consider covering how Ueshiba's vision might have been birthed and given substance by his growing internal skills having the ability to manage aggression without having to attack back? How the generation of internal power became the embodiment of a truly defensive and peaceful art?

Were you considering this-any thoughts as to which of these realizations might have been the real prime motivator? The body skills awakened a new vision, or the vision made him change his approach to the Martial arts?
Cheers
Dan

George S. Ledyard
01-21-2008, 01:59 AM
George,

Have you seen the two recent movies made by Clint Eastwood on the Battle of Iwojima? One depicts the American side and the other depicts the Japanese side. I have used the second in one of my classes and have studied the reactions of the 120 Japanese students who took my class (two of whom are ardent members of the local Ki Aikido club).

Apart from these two (who have been heavily brainwashed on the importance of KI over any kind of effectiveness), my students have virtually no concept of the value of fighting to defend principles and have even less clue of the value of martial arts, which they equate with prewar militarism that is no longer relevant to them.

The English version of the Aikikai website has this entry under ‘Organization'. (I should add that the content of the same heading of the Japanese-language section of the website is quite different.)

Aikido is a new Japanese martial art created during the 1920s by Morihei Ueshiba, an expert who reached the highest level of mastery in the classical Japanese martial arts. Officially recognized by the Japanese government in 1940, the Aikikai Foundation (Aikido World Headquarters) is the parent organization for the development and popularization of Aikido throughout the world. Under the leadership of Moriteru Ueshiba Doshu, instructors are teaching Aikido according to the ideals of the Founder (Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei) to students in Japan and throughout the world.

Current Activities
Since contemporary values stress respect for human life, Aikido is a highly relevant form of the Japanese martial arts. Aikido is popular not just in Japan but throughout the world because people accept and agree with the underlying philosophy of Aikido. Instructors from the Aikido World Headquarters are dispatched to countries throughout North and South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Transcending boundaries of race and nationality, Aikido is practiced and loved by over 1.2 million people in more than fifty countries around the world.

Future Prospects
As travel, work, and study abroad have now become commonplace, Aikido is spreading internationally because it can be viewed as a "product of a shared cultural heritage," culture not bound to any one nation or people-a legacy which can contribute to peace and prosperity. Seen as such, expectations for Aikido's role in the coming century are great.

It is very difficult for me to make public comments about this website because my own name appears in the Japanese version. However, I am struck by the awkward combination of (1) a ‘shared cultural heritage' and (2) the ‘dispatch of Hombu instructors throughout the world'. There are no non-Japanese instructors in the Hombu and there is no mention of the work of the non-Hombu instructors around the world. I know myself that there is no thought of what a "culture not bound to any one nation or people" actually entails. All the research I have encountered points in the opposite direction—to culture espousing a set of values that can be expressed in national(ist) terms, which is eminently true of Japan. All my Japanese graduate students regard culture in its deepest sense as essentially bound up with the concept of nation and nationhood.

Whereas Kisshomaru Doshu wanted to spread aikido around the world as 'good' Japanese culture and always regarded aikido as quintessentially Japanese (see the last part of my column), as did Morihei Ueshiba, the author of the English statement above has fudged the issue and suggested that aikido is no longer fully Japanese. What he means is that the 'shared cultural heritage' is shared because people all over the world practice a Japanese martial art.

Yes Peter, I have seen the Eastwood films... I thought the concept of doing two films about the same event from the opposite points of view was brilliant.

Japan finds itself in a very difficult position. Not only the martial arts, but many of their other cultural arts from paper dolls, traditional crafts, tea ceremony, you name it, are finding that many, if not most, of their senior students are foreigners. When they are interested in doing them, the native Japanese tend to look at these arts as "hobbies". The foreign students are people who packed up everything and moved ten thousand miles to live and study these arts in Japan. The Japanese have had to deal with the phenomenon of foreigners in many cases having a better understanding of certain aspects their traditional cultural heritage than they do.

I think that the classical martial arts have handled this far better than they have in Aikido... The classical arts have accepted foreign students and brought them into the traditional structure. Ellis Amdur and Phil Relnick Senseis are good friends. Each has certification in a couple of classical styles as well as Dan ranks in other arts. They have recognized seniority in their styles. I think that because they have been accepted in this way they are, in some ways, at least as traditional as the Japanese practitioners of their arts. In other words, by really investing authority in these teachers their Japanese teachers ensured that they have functioned from within to preserve the styles as passed on over generations.

Aikido is quite different... It's quite apparent that the powers that be at headquarters still see the art radiating outward from a central source, that this source is Japanese, and the center of that source is the Ueshiba family. Unlike the Yoshinkan Aikido folks who have invested pretty heavily in their foreign teachers (they have actually had teachers, Robert Mustard for example, who have actually functioned as instructors at their headquarters dojo. The Aikikai on the other hand, doesn't even list their foreign Shihan on their website. When Doran and Nadeau Senseis asked their management committee about this during a visit to Japan, they were told that when people are traveling, they are looking for Japanese teachers to train with. So much for their 7th dans and Shihan papers...

I think that the Aikikai is missing the boat completely... If they were to bestow real authority and recognition to the most experienced of the foreign teachers, they would find that it would cement their relationships in a way that would never be broken. As Lyndon Johnson said of hwy he asked Hubert Humphrey to be his VP "It's better to have him on the inside pissing out, than on the outside pissing in". But they consistently place even their most accomplished foreign teachers in a secondary position.

I have been teaching Aikido full time since 1986. I teach seminars all over the US and Canada. The chance that I would ever teach a class at the headquarters dojo is about zero. the fact is that the headquarters folks do not view my experience and my rank as equal to that of the instructors they have home grown. I don't see that as changing in the future... Consequently, I don't feel the attachment to the Aikikai that my friends from the classical arts feel for their home dojos where they are acknowledged teachers.

If these guys had their acts together, they would have a class at Hombu taught by foreign teachers who they would bring in for a month or so at a time. The exchange would be valuable for them in that they might actually get a sense of what is happening overseas. It would certainly do wonders for nurturing a connection with the headquarters dojo amongst the foreign Aikido communities.

Can you imagine? Not just the idea that the foreign folks should return to the source for training.... but that they might, after many decades of practice and teaching, have something of valuable to offer back... what a concept!

There is now a generation of overseas teachers who have been teaching for 20 to 40 years. Aikido is hitting the point at which these teachers have to ask themselves what they need from Hombu Dojo. It certainly isn't instruction from teachers who are their juniors in age and experience. By failing to truly invest in the foreign teachers, they risk losing all influence over the course Aikido takes. There are already more people, in absolute numbers, in both France and the US who do Aikido than there are in Japan. Headquarters needs to ask itself what it thinks we need from them. It might not like the answers it comes up with.

Erick Mead
01-21-2008, 08:06 AM
... my students have virtually no concept of the value of fighting to defend principles and have even less clue of the value of martial arts, which they equate with prewar militarism that is no longer relevant to them... I am struck by the awkward combination of (1) a ‘shared cultural heritage' This is worth looking at. http://www.livescience.com/health/080118-culture-brain.html
The fMRI revealed that Americans' brains worked harder while making relative judgments, because brain regions that reflect mentally demanding tasks lit up. Conversely, East Asians activated the brain's system for difficult jobs while making absolute judgments. Both groups showed less activation in those brain areas while doing tasks that researchers believe are in their cultural comfort zones.
...
In both groups, participants whose views were most aligned with their culture's values showed stronger brain effects.

From my perspective Aikido presents a set of problems that challenge both the relativist and the absolute understandings of reality, and so it is a good meeting ground, actually.

... I know myself that there is no thought of what a "culture not bound to any one nation or people" actually entails. All the research I have encountered points in the opposite direction—to culture espousing a set of values that can be expressed in national(ist) terms, which is eminently true of Japan. ... Plainly, the cultural intensity underlying "yamato damashii" has been put to other ends, some good, some not, just as the original concept was put to different ends, some good and others absolutely not. That transformation is plainly evident among your students. To less salutary results, it is a far larger problem that does in fact transcend cultures. For our Columbines, Japan has hikikomori and parasaito shinguru, and less negatively, but no less concerning, otaku.

Can nothing change or can the understanding of one thing in one time not be understood another way at a different time? In Aiki, who is attacking who, exactly? So what if the nationalist associations existed, there were nationalists and then there were the Sakurakai and League of Blood. There is context even in that arena, which I have tried to point out.

But even if it were once so does not mean it was always or remained so. Why then do both Omoto and O Sensei explicitly adhere to universalist sentiments transcending particular cultures? Why then go to the length to relate the HIGHLY idiosyncratic Japanese concept of kotodama, to the Divine Logos, the fundamental concept of Western theology AND philosophy (Rene Descartes, call your service). And why is any of this troubling merely in the context of aikido?

Why is a transformation of purpose in Aikido so troubling, or an acknowledgment that people with good and interesting ideas may have unsavory associations that taint their achievments? I will put it to you that the concern of poor associations is vastly more inflated in the context of Japan, than in the context of the United States. Respected mavericks and inveterate ne'er-do-wells are often associated and very often only a few critical decisions seperates the one from the other. That scandal is vastly greater in Japan of a certain day, certainly more than it ever was here, or even there, now.

It is the very modern sense (and bothersome, East and West) that personal sacrifice for higher ends is an atavism, and the darker pages of history have somehow ended. It isn't and they haven't; but you try telling people that and they'll think you're a nut, whether in Japan or not.

Not having Wii's in stock -- there's your modern sense of crisis, East and West. Material abundance and desert of moral purpose. Only personal tragedy or a will to dwell on the darkness of soul in which budo exists shakes the modern mind from that, if then.

MM
01-21-2008, 08:21 AM
Japan finds itself in a very difficult position.



I snipped the rest because I think your very first sentence is *the* major point.

Aikikai HQ allowing non-Japanese instructors to teach or mentioning them on the website? Bah, doesn't matter one whit until they change something else.

Non-Japanese having something to teach hombu? Bah, doesn't matter one whit until something else changes.

Etc, etc.

That change is in *what* they teach to others. How many non-Japanese students were taught those important skills? In Shioda's lineage, how many non-Japanese students came even close to being as good as Shioda? How many Japanese? Tohei's lineage? Tomiki's lineage? Ueshiba's lineage? In your own organization, who, out of all of Saotome sensei's long time students, has reached closest to Saotome sensei's skill level? One person of Japanese heritage or many of various heritages? (I'm not in the ASU, so I really don't have an answer to that question. But it's an important question that should be answered by every student in every organization.)

Out of 20-40 years of training, why hasn't anyone reached their teacher's level? Why aren't people asking this question more often? Why is it that in the Japanese organizations, only a sparse few ever go beyond the norm? In 20-40 years, Takeda, Ueshiba, Sagawa, Hisa, Tomiki, Shioda, Tohei, Mifune, etc, etc, were all giants. Some better than others, but all were giants.

Anyone with researching ability can dig up and find that a sparse few people have gone beyond the norm because they were *taught* how to. Not because they were special. Because they were *taught* other things. Takeda and Ueshiba rarely taught the same technique twice. When asked why, Ueshiba answered they were all the same.

Until people are actually *taught*, it won't matter one iota what the Aikikai Hombu does in regards to non-Japanese. These people will just be tokens with no real substance.

I'm starting to get the idea that the Japanese only taught these powerful basics to a very select few -- maybe even amongst themselves. Until *that* changes, nothing else will really matter.

All IMO,
Mark

George S. Ledyard
01-21-2008, 12:30 PM
I snipped the rest because I think your very first sentence is *the* major point.

Aikikai HQ allowing non-Japanese instructors to teach or mentioning them on the website? Bah, doesn't matter one whit until they change something else.

Non-Japanese having something to teach hombu? Bah, doesn't matter one whit until something else changes.

Etc, etc.

That change is in *what* they teach to others. How many non-Japanese students were taught those important skills? In Shioda's lineage, how many non-Japanese students came even close to being as good as Shioda? How many Japanese? Tohei's lineage? Tomiki's lineage? Ueshiba's lineage? In your own organization, who, out of all of Saotome sensei's long time students, has reached closest to Saotome sensei's skill level? One person of Japanese heritage or many of various heritages? (I'm not in the ASU, so I really don't have an answer to that question. But it's an important question that should be answered by every student in every organization.)

Out of 20-40 years of training, why hasn't anyone reached their teacher's level? Why aren't people asking this question more often? Why is it that in the Japanese organizations, only a sparse few ever go beyond the norm? In 20-40 years, Takeda, Ueshiba, Sagawa, Hisa, Tomiki, Shioda, Tohei, Mifune, etc, etc, were all giants. Some better than others, but all were giants.

Anyone with researching ability can dig up and find that a sparse few people have gone beyond the norm because they were *taught* how to. Not because they were special. Because they were *taught* other things. Takeda and Ueshiba rarely taught the same technique twice. When asked why, Ueshiba answered they were all the same.

Until people are actually *taught*, it won't matter one iota what the Aikikai Hombu does in regards to non-Japanese. These people will just be tokens with no real substance.

I'm starting to get the idea that the Japanese only taught these powerful basics to a very select few -- maybe even amongst themselves. Until *that* changes, nothing else will really matter.

All IMO,
Mark

Hi Mark,
I understand where you are coming from... however, I think you are starting to cross into the area of "lost" knowledge rather than dealing with a Japanese / Foreigner separation. If you ask th question who amongst the Japanese teachers have the skills which the pre-war and early post war deshi had, the answer would be very few. It's not as if this knowledge is being "kept" from us... If it were only that, the current Doshu would have dazzling skill because he'd have had access to the "secrets" which other people have had. The Honbu cadre of professional teachers would have been taught the secrets so that they would always be superior to the rest of us...

This is simply not the case. I don't debate that whole blocks of knowledge have passed out of the art.... I simply question if it's a matter of something being purposely held back. I just don't see it. I know that there are some folks who believe that Saotome Sensei purposely held back knowledge from us in order that he always seem a bit magical in his skill level.

I flat out do not believe that this is true. I think that he has passed on to us everything he has been able to. Over the years I have seen virtually all of the solo exercises of the type Mike referred us to on Tohei's YouTube clips plus more. It's simply that he never stated that these were somehow central to developing skill in some aspect of our training. It was all thrown out there as one big jumble along with obscure combat applications of the art, details of atemi waza, etc. That was the way he learned it. Frankly, I believe that Sensei learned this stuff "holistically" in a very intuitive way. I do not believe that he even conceptualizes what he knows in a way that would be very meaningful to us. So I do believe that he has done his level best to pass on 15 years of daily experience being on the mat 6 - 8 hours each day, 7 days a week to a group of students who had jobs, families, etc and who were on the mat 2 - 3 hours a day seven days a week. (Now we are trying to pass that knowledge on to a bunch of folks who are on the mat 2 hours a night, 2 - 3 days a week - do the math).

I think Dan H is correct that putting this knowledge out there is not going to change things for most of the Aikido community because it is difficult and requires commitment in terms of time and effort. Aikido is such a complex art with so many techniques and variations that the typical modern practitioner feels overwhelmed by the task of mastering even the reduced and simplified curriculum offered. After having a spouse who doesn't support your training, I think this is the main reason that we lose students. They simply do not feel that they can make the commitment in time it takes to master what we are asking of them.

As in any business school, or organizational setting, people in Aikido tend to put their attention specifically on what they have to do to get ahead i.e. "what am I responsible for on the test?" Typically, focusing on extraneous elements has no perceivable payback for most folks since, because of the relative infrequency of their training, if they focus on one thing, then they are not focusing on another. That will typically not be rewarded behavior within the group.

I think this is where Tohei's split into Ki development and technical is brilliant. It so accords with human nature. By creating a separate block of instruction focusing on the Ki development aspect and actually going all the way to having separate ranking in these skills, he sets up an organizational structure which rewards focus on these elements. Without that, the mere knowledge that this knowledge is out there won't change much because folks already feel overwhelmed by what they are asked to do.

Take a look at the successful McDojos; we have a local chain that consistently has 1000 people training between their various locations, for instance. How do they do that? They drastically simplify what is expected of the students so that the curriculum is master-able by the average person making the average commitment in time and effort. Then they reward the heck out of the students for each block of that curriculum they work through.

So what happens if we decide that some set of solo exercises is crucial in developing skills in Aikido. Every hour we devote to that practice is an hour we don't devote to some other aspect. People simply do not want to know there needs to be more because they don't feel they have time to do what they are already trying to master.

I think that this is the main reason these skills have not been incorporated here or in Japan to any large degree. It's not some conspiracy to hold back this knowledge. It's that most folks simply will not train enough to make it worthwhile adding in more elements for them to master. The art is rapidly being simplified to fit the lifestyles and predispositions of the "market" to whom the art is being "sold".

If merely developing a practice with focus on ki development exercises a la Tohei was the answer to our problems, the Ki Society would be famous as the organization turning out the most capable Aikido teachers. Not only is this not the case but I think that the general perception is much the opposite. By creating a track devoted to ki development, it becomes possible to focus on that and perhaps not put the emphasis on technical application. That would be my take on what has happened with their group. The old guys like Imaizumi Sensei are another matter entirely, but I don't see people of that caliber coming out of their system now despite their focus on Ki development.

I agree that there are elements that have dropped out of Aikido that need to be in there if it will ever be possible to create students of the caliber we once saw. I think that it will be the Aikido being developed in foreign countries that will be the most likely to re-incorporate these elements (although it's quite possible there are out of the way dojos in Japan where they have never disappeared). But I remain unclear what shape the art will take as we go through this process due to the inherent limitations imposed by the commitment which the larger community will make to their training.

The Japanese have always readily accepted that there are levels and levels of revelation in their arts. They have always seemed comfortable with the idea that only those at the very top get "all the goods". If only one or two people in each generation get "all the goods", it is impossible from the start to have an expansion of the art on the scale Aikido has expanded.

It is pretty clear that even the teachers who have spread the art so widely were not of the caliber of that small group of pre-war students. What we see now is that the people at the very top of the Aikido pyramid are not amongst those who "got all the goods". It's not that some thing's being held back, it's that folks simply don't know any more. One can still train with the remaining "old masters" who have at least some of this juice but they will soon be all gone.

When you couple the belief that our art is transmitted outward from a central hub in Japan with the fact that the folks at that hub are not those who seem to be possessed of the knowledge and ability of these "old masters" you can see the problem for Aikido. The solution will be a continuation of what is already happening, namely, a horizontal sharing of knowledge with Daito Ryu, Aunkai, Systema, Yanagi Ryu, Kuroda, Ushiro, Okamoto (Popkin), Threadgill, Chinese internal arts, etc. The people who are serious about their training will seek out these elements and the teachers who can show them. This is going to result in Aikido going in many individual directions. The folks who bring in knowledge they got from Dan Hardin will be different than the folks who have been heavily influenced by the Systema folks. Ushiro Sensei will have a different effect on those within his circle than those who seek out Mike Sigman.

It's all in the process of changing now. In 20 years we won't recognize the art for what it's been. Honbu's efforts to simplify and standardize will be to no avail because I do not see the real "happening" teachers being interested in that direction. I see the art becoming even more individual than it has been due to the many different streams flowing into what has been our art. The result will be an increasing branching off from the mainstream rather than some sort of unification or standardization. The seeds are being planted right now and we will be here to see the result...

Tim Fong
01-22-2008, 12:33 AM
It is the very modern sense (and bothersome, East and West) that personal sacrifice for higher ends is an atavism, and the darker pages of history have somehow ended. It isn't and they haven't; but you try telling people that and they'll think you're a nut, whether in Japan or not.

Not having Wii's in stock -- there's your modern sense of crisis, East and West. Material abundance and desert of moral purpose. Only personal tragedy or a will to dwell on the darkness of soul in which budo exists shakes the modern mind from that, if then.

Erick,

I know that I've disagreed very strongly with you in the past. But I agree with you here.


Best,
Tim

Nicholas Eschenbruch
01-22-2008, 01:08 AM
Folks,
thank you so much for this discussion, I am very happy to be able to listen in!
N.

Peter Goldsbury
01-22-2008, 04:01 AM
Hello Erick,

A few more comments.

From my perspective Aikido presents a set of problems that challenge both the relativist and the absolute understandings of reality, and so it is a good meeting ground, actually.
PAG. Yes. This is my perspective, also.

Plainly, the cultural intensity underlying "yamato damashii" has been put to other ends, some good, some not, just as the original concept was put to different ends, some good and others absolutely not. That transformation is plainly evident among your students. To less salutary results, it is a far larger problem that does in fact transcend cultures. For our Columbines, Japan has hikikomori and parasaito shinguru, and less negatively, but no less concerning, otaku.
PAG. I tend to agree with you here. However, I suggest that the transformation is evident, not just among the students, but among those who teach them, especially in Japan's high schools. The 'cultural intensity' began much earlier that World War II and is the result of a large number of factors. I think that hikikomori, parasaito shinguru and otaku are different manifestations of a certain cultural mania, as are bosozoku, kyouiku mama, ijime, and study groups that teach earnest participants how to sing karaoke songs correctly.

The other point I would make here is that in the US aikido is clearly seen as a 'counter-culture' to a large degree. Here, aikido is eminently 'cultural'. It is part of the cultural furniture, but more a liitle-used piece with pretensions to antiquity, than an item in constant daily use.

Best wishes,

PAG

Josh Reyer
01-22-2008, 08:11 AM
If I may request that the truck be put in reverse for a moment, I fear some unnecessarily broad cultural generalizations are being made here. And while that's fine (this thread, and Professor Goldsbury's articles in general are basically about cultural generalizations as seen through aikido), I think it's important to provide some specific context to the terms being thrown about here, lest people get the wrong idea.

"Hikikomori", for example, is merely a Japanese term for a worldwide phenomenon of social withdrawal seen in many first world countries. It's prevalence in Japan has been distinctly overstated, first by the professor who coined the term and then by the BBC when reporting on it.

"Parasite singles" are, IMO, a tempest in a teapot, and perhaps don't really belong in this discussion. Single children living with their parents until marriage, even into their 20s and 30s, has long been entirely normal in Japan. Then some academic uses a catchy phrase to criticize this practice in the face of the impending aging crisis, the press picks up on the term, and off we go.

As for otaku, what is concerning about geek culture? Particularly on an internet message board filled with, if I may say, what could certainly be considered many "budo otaku".

Bosozoku, ijime, and to a lesser extent kyoiku mama, I see as definite social issues that Japan faces these days. However, if I may take up the (much trodden on) banner of cultural relativity, I don't know if I can agree with Professor Goldsbury's characterization of this as "cultural mania". (Although I suspect we are actually close together in our views, and this more a quibble over semantics.)

There's a tendency, I think, to make the fundamental attribution error (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error) on a cultural scale. It's all too easy to look at some ephemeral social phenomenon and believe it says something about the culture in which it was born. I try instead to look at the economic and systemic context in which these phenomenon are born. Does Japan have "kyoiku mama" because of a particular cultural intensity? Or is it perhaps because mothers, naturally concerned about the future of their children, see this as the best way to work/game the system? And perhaps if we transplanted this system to another country, we might see a similar result.

Which is not to say that there aren't cultural factors involved, and that they aren't looking into. But just as it behooves us not to judge a man's character without considering the contextual impetus for his actions, so it does for us to consider the wider context of cultural phenomena.

Josh Reyer
01-22-2008, 08:45 AM
Japan finds itself in a very difficult position. Not only the martial arts, but many of their other cultural arts from paper dolls, traditional crafts, tea ceremony, you name it, are finding that many, if not most, of their senior students are foreigners. When they are interested in doing them, the native Japanese tend to look at these arts as "hobbies". The foreign students are people who packed up everything and moved ten thousand miles to live and study these arts in Japan. The Japanese have had to deal with the phenomenon of foreigners in many cases having a better understanding of certain aspects their traditional cultural heritage than they do.

Mr. Ledyard, could I get you to elaborate on this? I feel this is at odds with my own experience here on the ground in Japan, but you are obviously seeing things from a very different perspective.

For example, I'm a sumo fan. A big sumo fan. And thus, when I talk to a typical Japanese person about sumo, my knowledge far outstrips theirs. The typical (practically scripted) reaction to this is for the self-deprecating Japanese person to say something like, "Wow, you are more Japanese than I am!" Which of course is a very silly idea. I simply possess a cache of specialized knowledge that reflects an interest of mine. The typical Japanese person still knows far more about sumo than the typical American, and more to the point, even as an avid sumo enthusiast, when it comes to sumo knowledge I get my clock routinely cleaned by Japanese sumo enthusiasts. And of course this goes both ways, as there are Japanese enthusiasts of certain American cultural aspects who know far more about baseball, jazz, etc. than the average American.

This seems to be my experience here with other aspects of traditional Japanese culture. The average non-Japanese practioner certainly falls to the right of the mean on an average distribution, but your statement "many if not most of the senior students are foreigners" seems somewhat hyperbolic. I understand this to be the situation in Toda-ha Buko-ryu, and that Katori Shinto Ryu is experiencing a heavy influx of non-Japanese, but in most other classical arts it seems to me that for every dedicated-more-than-average foreign student, there are a number of dedicated-more-than-average Japanese students.

OTOH, the budo world that I know on the English language internet is certainly different from the budo world that I know in real life. So I'm very interested in your perspective.

George S. Ledyard
01-22-2008, 10:11 AM
Mr. Ledyard, could I get you to elaborate on this? I feel this is at odds with my own experience here on the ground in Japan, but you are obviously seeing things from a very different perspective.

For example, I'm a sumo fan. A big sumo fan. And thus, when I talk to a typical Japanese person about sumo, my knowledge far outstrips theirs. The typical (practically scripted) reaction to this is for the self-deprecating Japanese person to say something like, "Wow, you are more Japanese than I am!" Which of course is a very silly idea. I simply possess a cache of specialized knowledge that reflects an interest of mine. The typical Japanese person still knows far more about sumo than the typical American, and more to the point, even as an avid sumo enthusiast, when it comes to sumo knowledge I get my clock routinely cleaned by Japanese sumo enthusiasts. And of course this goes both ways, as there are Japanese enthusiasts of certain American cultural aspects who know far more about baseball, jazz, etc. than the average American.

This seems to be my experience here with other aspects of traditional Japanese culture. The average non-Japanese practioner certainly falls to the right of the mean on an average distribution, but your statement "many if not most of the senior students are foreigners" seems somewhat hyperbolic. I understand this to be the situation in Toda-ha Buko-ryu, and that Katori Shinto Ryu is experiencing a heavy influx of non-Japanese, but in most other classical arts it seems to me that for every dedicated-more-than-average foreign student, there are a number of dedicated-more-than-average Japanese students.

OTOH, the budo world that I know on the English language internet is certainly different from the budo world that I know in real life. So I'm very interested in your perspective.

Hi Josh,
Of course, I only get to see a slice of the various arts, martial and otherwise, and that slice is based on my conversations with friends and acquaintances who have lived in Japan and trained or have done certain arts here. There's no question I'm painting with a very broad brush here.

One of my good friends has lived over there for 20 years now, I believe. She went over initially to do Aikido at Honbu and trained with Mitsuzuka Sensei in Iaido as well. Eventually, she drifted away from the martial arts in favor of studying various non-martial arts. Last i talked to her she studying traditional indigo dying and was heavily into the art of paper dolls. What she told me was that, whereas there were certainly Japanese women in the classes, they tended to have a different perspective on things. For them the classes were a culturally relevant hobby. The teachers came from a generation which considered these art to be Michi, paths that one pursued as a form of personal development. The younger generation didn't seem to have the same feeling and therefore were not as serious. Her paper doll teacher actually asked her to take the instructor class because she seemed to have a deeper commitment. This is not surprising as she gave up everything in her homeland to move to Japan and live. She went there specifically to study.

I know several people who are either senior or close to senior in some of the martial arts. Ellis Amdur is technically the top parctitioner of the Toda Ha Buko Ryu Naginata style. A number of the other menkyo kaidens are Americans and French. I believe they outnumber the Japanese instructors. There is a Japanese Soke because they felt that it wouldn't be appropriate to have the Soke not living in Japan. But on technical matters Ellis is senior.

Ellis is also one of only a handful, Japanese or foreign to have studied the Araki Ryu. It's obscure even in Japan and is in danger of passing away I believe as I am not sure there is a generation of instructors in the pipeline. Ellis has trained one person to take over from him here and a couple other fellows have also trained with him for many years now. It could easily come to pass that one or more lines of the Araki Ryu in Japan (I think there are three?) could simply fade away leaving an American based line as crucial the art's preservation.

Katori Shinto Ryu is another example... Otake Sensei has a son who will succeed him and by all accounts he his quite capable. But after him it's Relnick Sensei, if I'm not mistaken.

Jodo also has some very high ranking foreigners with Quentin Chambers and Phil Relnick Senseis being the senior Americans as far as I know. Relnick Sensei travels all over the world teaching Jodo, quite an unusual thing compared to the attitude shown by the folks at Aikido headquarters who would never, as far as I can see, have a foreigner acting on their behalf. if someone contacts the aikikai for an instructor, they are not getting a referral to a non-Japanese teacher.

Other than Ellis, the only other case with which I am directly familiar is Angier Sensei, Soke of the Yanagi Ryu. By historical happenstance he ended up as the legitimate Soke of the style. The family wasn't happy about it. His visit to Japan wasn't satisfactory as he was not treated well by the other Japanese martial arts teachers. Apparently they had a hard time with the idea that a foreigner could get to be a Soke.

I have another friend who is a blade maker. He is quite skilled and is known for his beautiful tantos. He's had a couple on the cover of Knife Magazine. We are talking about $6000 tantos here... Anyway, he also makes swords, I have one of his live blades. He has two Japanese teachers that he goes back to train with periodically.

The saya on for my live blade has a special lacquer that my friend made a trip to Japan just to learn the technique. That entails a level of commitment that is unusual. But if you consider that there are actually quite a few people like my friend in the states and then other countries also have their equivalents, you can start to see that it's quite possible to have more serious exponents of an art outside the country than in. I'm not saying that there won't be a Japanese Head of whatever style we are talking about but it's quite possible that the number of serious practitioners may outnumber the Japanese. Or there may be foreign students who have been taught specific techniques which all or most of the Japanese students haven't been taught...

Rev. Koichi Barrish was the first American to bee certified as a Shrine Shinto Priest. He trained under the head of the Grand Tsubaki Shrine. He was taught the same Chinkon exercises which O-Sensei did daily, probably because of his connection with Aikido. These are not generally taught to the young Priests in training these days. Rev Barrish has found himself in the position of having young Japanese Priests ask him to teach them these exercises because there are so few Japanese Priests who know them.

These are just examples; I am sure that there are more. Collectively, given the fact that there are students from all over the world who journey to train in Japan, the pure numbers can outbalance the number of serious practitioners in Japan itself. I hear from virtually every quarter that the young people in Japan are increasingly less interested in many of their traditional arts, martial and otherwise. If the Japanese can handle this well, as in the case of arts like KSR, then it will only benefit the arts. But Aikido has not yet come to terms with this I believe, at least not the Aikikai. They ar happy to have folks overseas do their art but I don't see them accepting foreign teachers at par with their Japanese peers.

Erick Mead
01-22-2008, 11:28 AM
... I suggest that the transformation is evident, not just among the students, but among those who teach them, especially in Japan's high schools. The 'cultural intensity' began much earlier that World War II and is the result of a large number of factors. I think that hikikomori, parasaito shinguru and otaku are different manifestations of a certain cultural mania, as are bosozoku, kyouiku mama, ijime, and study groups that teach earnest participants how to sing karaoke songs correctly.They are trying to find something they have lost and do not even know, really, how to identify so as to know when they have found it. They are trying to rebuild something they have never actually seen.

Ise-Jinja is rebuilt every twenty years for more than one reason. It is not merely the renewing of the structure, but the renewing and evolution of the process and the mentality that generates the structure from the foundation up. Saotome, I think, understands this. Saito understood it. While different, they seem to have the same essential purpose -- to oppose the determinant of truth as pretense (whether as hierarchical validation, feel-goodism or many, many others, East and West) and keep the sense of real instantaneous encounter in the art.

Whether, overgeneralizing, the art as a physical form is taught as form-preserves-principle (Saito) or principle-generates-form (Saotome) the intensity that drives a true encounter must be present or nothing will be gained in those -- or any other -- training paradigm. It is that aspect, more so than any "lost" quantum of "art," that is the problem. It is the engine that both preserves and generates anew. Musubi, I think, is the correct word here.

The clarity of true encounter is unmistakable -- and it is the antidote. It does not require the competitive contest, although I understand why those who seek it verge into that territory. It is the reason for training, in my opinion.

I will not try to hold forth on my own technical art, as I well know its flaws, and its place. But I know when I feel a true encounter. I know when it is absent, and I know that even the most meager art in that true spirit will defeat the false one, however technically "advanced." When my art fails me, it is generally because I first failed the art, and this is why.

It will not be regained in Japan the manner that it was created. Though not wholly different, they are also not the same. It will not be regained here in the same manner as it was gained there, because we are also not the same. The forms are there. The principles are there. They work. I see them, and make them steadily work better in my own practice. For this I deeply thank my teachers, of every lineage. But what has extended my art, and built upon their foundation of both form and principle has been attending to them in true encounters in practice. Without that it is just dead repetition -- with it, everything is both tantalizingly new and yet increasingly familiar.

We rebuild the shrine. We remake, in every life and every generation, something both continuous and yet new with only pieces of what preceded. It is true in every katachi, in the instant of one cut and in the passing of generations. We always build new with broken or raw parts. It is the way our bodies re-structure and restore themselves -- it is the way we stay in dynamic balance -- always one step from falling down. And when we stop building new, we die, literally and figuratively, whether in the instant of attack or in the history of an art.

Very few, East or West are comfortable with this precarious perch we all occupy. Far more are comforted by carefully maintained illusions of security or "unbroken" continuity, whether social or individual. The breaking of these illusions is a cause for anger, despair or hope, depending on one's approach. The radical reality and immediacy of the true encounter -- what Levinas described as the irreducible Other -- is a thing of awe, and awe is a source of both wonder and fear. Little in modern society prepares us to meet it, and much that did prepare us has in varying degrees been discarded, abused or perverted.

We cannot usefully mourn "lost" master carpenters (though they well deserve our remembrance), or their sketch notes, who did the rebuilding twenty years ago. They, like us started where we are. They, like us all, turned out to be ultimately frail, and notes fade and rot. We cannot pack up their knowledge complete and unpack it again, every twenty years. The most we can hope is to keep seeds, sprout them new again, and give faithful tending.

Responding to awe in wonder and invitation, radically accepting the Other is Aikido. Refusing true encounter, or accepting it in less than complete terms, leads to many pathologies, some we have mentioned, and many others besides, individually and collectively. And none of us are immune to that, at any moment, except through diligently developed habits of better response. That is not lost, but each of us can lose it.

Erick Mead
01-22-2008, 11:49 AM
Erick,

I know that I've disagreed very strongly with you in the past. But I agree with you here.

Best,
TimTim:

I disagree with your agreeing with me.

It's far less interesting. :D

Erick Mead
01-22-2008, 12:30 PM
If I may request that the truck be put in reverse for a moment, I fear some unnecessarily broad cultural generalizations are being made here. ..
"Hikikomori", ... It's prevalence in Japan has been distinctly overstated, ... "Parasite singles" are, IMO, a tempest in a teapot, ...

Bosozoku, ijime, and to a lesser extent kyoiku mama, I see as definite social issues that Japan faces these days. ... There's a tendency, I think, to make the fundamental attribution error (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error) on a cultural scale.

It's all too easy to look at some ephemeral social phenomenon and believe it says something about the culture in which it was born. I come from a tradition where "the least of these" are important in their own right, regardless of their absolute or relative number. But the pace and scale of spreading anomie is quite beyond historical precedent, especially in societies as unprecedentedly prosperous as ours are.

It is a problem larger than one culture, although the effects of the problems are felt differently according to culture -- and aikido lives in both of them. The margins of the nonadaptive are growing -- not shrinking. Thomas Sowell said it best: "Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late." The work of civilizing has been falling down on the job, around the world, for some time now. The canaries are not the miners but the miners had best value the health of the canaries -- as they value their own.

As for otaku, what is concerning about geek culture? ... Umm. "Beware Geeks airing miffs ..." ? :p

MM
01-22-2008, 12:47 PM
It is a very tough thing to let go of one's ancestry, one's heritage, one's sense of ... place.

Take, for example, the American Civil War. We have thousands of Americans who delve deeply into reenactments of that period. Some of them have very close ties with those who fought and died. These reenactments are not just idle time killers. Some people put in long hours of sweat and blood to try to get things as close to real as possible. While it is also a social activity and brings people closer together.

Now, imagine, someplace in Japan studying these reenactments and putting on their very own Civil War Reenactment involving only Japanese. While they could get very nearly to perfection in details, history, clothing, and sense of the Civil War, they, nor their ancestors had anything to do with the Civil War.

It isn't a great example/analogy/whatever, but it gives food for thought.

While I understand that non-Japanese can delve just as deeply into Budo as Japanese, Aikido is still relatively new enough to have the kinds of hurdles I illustrated above. This up and coming generation of Aikido teachers are going to have their work cut out for them. Not only are they removed from founder and first generation, but they are going to have to stand on their own without the myriad of support from Japanese instructors as we have now, all the while having to deal with Japan hombu dojos and the Japanese view that the source/center/base of aikido is there.

Really, the one thing I find hopeful about this is that Americans can do what the Japanese choose not to -- Americans can build bridges between organizations, no matter what level of difference (The Aiki Expos are prime examples of this). As long as politics do not interfere. :) We have an opportunity with the next gen of teachers to bring things together rather than fracture them more. But, will we?

IMO,
Mark

Peter Goldsbury
01-22-2008, 09:29 PM
Bosozoku, ijime, and to a lesser extent kyoiku mama, I see as definite social issues that Japan faces these days. However, if I may take up the (much trodden on) banner of cultural relativity, I don't know if I can agree with Professor Goldsbury's characterization of this as "cultural mania". (Although I suspect we are actually close together in our views, and this more a quibble over semantics.)

Hello Josh,

I spent much of my time explaining to my students here the grave perils involved in making supposedly 'objective' cultural comparisons. My working hypotheses concerning culture come from Hofstede (Culture's Consequences, Culture and Organizations: Software of the Mind) and the research on which these works are based. I have very little time for the usual run of books on 'Japanese' 'culture'.

PAG

Peter Goldsbury
01-23-2008, 04:34 AM
Hi Peter
Some how I missed addressing you directly in the post above. My apologies. Of course I was directing my comments to you, and would be delighted in any views you care to share.
BTW Outside of the obvious and well documented "vision of peace" after the war and influence of Omoto-are you going to consider covering how Ueshiba's vision might have been birthed and given substance by his growing internal skills having the ability to manage aggression without having to attack back? How the generation of internal power became the embodiment of a truly defensive and peaceful art?

Were you considering this-any thoughts as to which of these realizations might have been the real prime motivator? The body skills awakened a new vision, or the vision made him change his approach to the Martial arts?
Cheers
Dan

Hello Dan,

Very interesting questions. I will keep these and your earlier comments / questions in mind as I write further columns.

I think the Oomoto 'vision of peace' was clearly prewar and though M Ueshiba virtually stopped contact with Deguchi after the 2nd Oomoto Incident, I do not think he abandoned his beliefs or changed his 'vision'. I do not know, for example, whether he did chinkon kishin training before he met Deguchi (it does not seem Takeda's style somehow), but from the material I have read in Japanese, meeting Deguchi was an important spur to his own private training.

I plan to discuss this more when I consider Kisshomaru Ueshiba's ideas about personal training.

Best wishes,

PAG

DH
01-23-2008, 09:21 AM
Hello Dan,

Very interesting questions. I will keep these and your earlier comments / questions in mind as I write further columns.

I think the Oomoto 'vision of peace' was clearly prewar and though M Ueshiba virtually stopped contact with Deguchi after the 2nd Oomoto Incident, I do not think he abandoned his beliefs or changed his 'vision'. I do not know, for example, whether he did chinkon kishin training before he met Deguchi (it does not seem Takeda's style somehow), but from the material I have read in Japanese, meeting Deguchi was an important spur to his own private training.

I plan to discuss this more when I consider Kisshomaru Ueshiba's ideas about personal training.

Best wishes,

PAG

Hello Peter
I guess the flip side of the coin is whether the solo tanren that exists in Daito ryu were meant for strictly martial purposes and developed the power that Ueshiba had, and where his later chinkon kishin came into play to either blend, morph, or actually -in the end-to do nothing to add to his physical powers.
I've long held a view that it was Ushiba's realization that he could use the internal power-to control and cast away rather than use the associated DR jujutsu waza to draw-in, immobilize and kill, that opened a window into his new vision of peace. That it was this match of the spiritual and physical expression that created *his* Aikido. And it was this that gave Aikido its true testament of power. What Aikido was meant to be all along.

As for Takeda- lest it be ignored- he stated many times that the power of Daito ryu was always meant for defense. Even stating how terrible it would be for this knowldege to be passed into the hands of the wrong type of people.

Why consider Takeda?
While much is made of Ueshiba's personal journey and morphing of Takeda's teachings- it is worth considering that NONE of the schools of Daito ryu look the same either. There were what, five of them who founded schools? Four of the five stated that *they* had seen past Takeda's work and changed themselves. It was their understanding of Daito ryus true power, power that Sagawa openly stated that Takeda told him never to reveal, that was the catalyst for *their* personal expressions. Personally, I think it is the nature of the work itself. That it is so highly individual in nature that it can join a mans personal nature and pursuits to his waza. At any rate IMO it places Ueshiba's work in a more revealing light-to see it along side his peers. That each of them ended up with a powerful, yet highly personalized expression of what was supposed to be a single art- bears testament to this idea.
In the end Ueshiba's journey may not have been as *unique* as previously thought, just more well known, and more attractive to the populace at that time.

I do think "the rot" set in to Aikido long ago, but I have born witness to it being reversed. All that is needed is a begginers mind and a firm belief in change. Were good teachers, good men with a caring and honest soul to learn these skills, then there is no way to lose. These skills, simply work.

Cheers
Dan

Ellis Amdur
01-23-2008, 10:56 AM
Re George's post above:
In Toda-ha Buko-ryu, we have four shihan. I am "first" among equals only in the sense that I'm first to be made shihan, but I'm not even senior among us. None of us does the kata exactly the same, and that's fine. There will be a next generation soke as well, and it will not be a Westerner, about which all of us, to my knowledge are very happy. A Westerner could not fulfill that post. I do not want to go any further into this, as that would drift the thread.

Best
Ellis

George S. Ledyard
01-23-2008, 02:04 PM
Re George's post above:
In Toda-ha Buko-ryu, we have four shihan. I am "first" among equals only in the sense that I'm first to be made shihan, but I'm not even senior among us. None of us does the kata exactly the same, and that's fine. There will be a next generation soke as well, and it will not be a Westerner, about which all of us, to my knowledge are very happy. A Westerner could not fulfill that post. I do not want to go any further into this, as that would drift the thread.

Best
Ellis

Thanks Ellis,
My memory on these things gets a bit murky at times. Are any / all of the Shihan Westerners? I'd be interested...
- George

Ellis Amdur
01-23-2008, 02:17 PM
All are - me, Meik Skoss, Liam Keeley, Pierre Simon.
Best

Peter Goldsbury
01-23-2008, 04:34 PM
Hello Dan,

Thanks for the response. A few additional comments.

Hello Peter
I guess the flip side of the coin is whether the solo tanren that exists in Daito ryu were meant for strictly martial purposes and developed the power that Ueshiba had, and where his later chinkon kishin came into play to either blend, morph, or actually -in the end-to do nothing to add to his physical powers.
I've long held a view that it was Ushiba's realization that he could use the internal power-to control and cast away rather than use the associated DR jujutsu waza to draw-in, immobilize and kill, that opened a window into his new vision of peace. That it was this match of the spiritual and physical expression that created *his* Aikido. And it was this that gave Aikido its true testament of power. What Aikido was meant to be all along.
PAG. This is a very attractive view. In the two biographies we have of Ueshiba (Kisshomaru Ueshiba's and Kanemoto Sunadomari's), there is constant emphasis placed on Ueshiba's own personal training regime, which was there right from the very beginning and which was refined as he went along. However, and I have heard this from Kisshomaru directly, he appears never to have systematized this for teaching purposes and thus his students 'got' it, only to the extent that they were able to realize for themselves the importance of what he was doing: what lay behind the waza he was constantly showing.

As for Takeda- lest it be ignored- he stated many times that the power of Daito ryu was always meant for defense. Even stating how terrible it would be for this knowldege to be passed into the hands of the wrong type of people.
PAG. Yes. Ueshiba is also alleged to have stated that aikido should not be taught to the 'wrong' people: most people assume that he simply meant the waza.

Why consider Takeda?
While much is made of Ueshiba's personal journey and morphing of Takeda's teachings- it is worth considering that NONE of the schools of Daito ryu look the same either. There were what, five of them who founded schools? Four of the five stated that *they* had seen past Takeda's work and changed themselves. It was their understanding of Daito ryus true power, power that Sagawa openly stated that Takeda told him never to reveal, that was the catalyst for *their* personal expressions. Personally, I think it is the nature of the work itself. That it is so highly individual in nature that it can join a mans personal nature and pursuits to his waza. At any rate IMO it places Ueshiba's work in a more revealing light-to see it along side his peers. That each of them ended up with a powerful, yet highly personalized expression of what was supposed to be a single art- bears testament to this idea.
In the end Ueshiba's journey may not have been as *unique* as previously thought, just more well known, and more attractive to the populace at that time.
PAG. Did you know that that a new book has come out on Sagawa? It is much more detailed than Kimura's material and is by another of Sagawa's students, Masaru Takahashi. The title is Sagawa Yukiyoshi Sensei-den: Daito-ryu Aiki no Shinshitsu. It is worth having just for the photographs and the diagrams.

I do think "the rot" set in to Aikido long ago, but I have born witness to it being reversed. All that is needed is a begginers mind and a firm belief in change. Were good teachers, good men with a caring and honest soul to learn these skills, then there is no way to lose. These skills, simply work.

Cheers
Dan
PAG. I have read everything I can about Ueshiba and asked questions of those surviving deshi I know. I do not think his life followed a fixed course, in the sense that he found a vision in his youth and consistently followed it. Then there is the fact of the war. I have often wondered what would have happened if he had not moved to Iwama in 1942.

Best wishes,

PAG

MM
01-23-2008, 08:06 PM
PAG. This is a very attractive view. In the two biographies we have of Ueshiba (Kisshomaru Ueshiba's and Kanemoto Sunadomari's), there is constant emphasis placed on Ueshiba's own personal training regime, which was there right from the very beginning and which was refined as he went along. However, and I have heard this from Kisshomaru directly, he appears never to have systematized this for teaching purposes and thus his students 'got' it, only to the extent that they were able to realize for themselves the importance of what he was doing: what lay behind the waza he was constantly showing.

Best wishes,

PAG

I've read a similar thing elsewhere, but can't remember where or who wrote it (Most likely it was either you or Ellis). And although we know that Ueshiba had his own personal regime, I don't think I've ever seen anyone state what it was. Does anyone know what that personal regime was?

aikilouis
01-24-2008, 01:29 AM
I think he exposed a little of his praying routines in a text titled Accord with the totality of the Universe (Aikidojournal aritcle). And Hikitsuchi sensei definitely stated that chinkonkishin no ho ( http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~mckellar/aiki/1999/0.html ) was transmitted to him by O Sensei and was a daily practice of his.

Ron Tisdale
01-24-2008, 08:11 AM
It may well be that the bona fide uchideshi (pre-war) were the ones who were able to witness the personal training. Same for Ueshiba in the time spent with Takeda Sensei in Hokkaido. I wonder how, without that live in, bath, take care of experience, you would pick those personal training regimes up.

Best,
Ron

akiy
01-29-2008, 09:37 AM
The posts relating to the discussion of "Chinkon Kishin" have been moved here (with the thread split authorized by Peter Goldsbury):

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=13877

-- Jun

DH
01-29-2008, 10:58 AM
It may well be that the bona fide uchideshi (pre-war) were the ones who were able to witness the personal training. Same for Ueshiba in the time spent with Takeda Sensei in Hokkaido. I wonder how, without that live in, bath, take care of experience, you would pick those personal training regimes up.

Best,
Ron

Thats another good question Ron and feeds directly into the transmission question. If we put aside who got what where, we are left with a very obvious outcome. Somebody, somewhere, was able to show and teach or nobody would have "gotten" anything.;) But why the live in, take a bath, eat the same food idea? Obviously that didn't work either. I think in the end it was always there to be had if someone either knew how to teach it or even wanted to. IMO it is, and always was, best pursued as a separate study from kata.

--------------Takeda---------------Takeda/Deguchi?
----I--------------I----------------I--------------I
Sagawa-----Kodo---------Hisa------Ueshiba
----I--------------I----------------I--------------I
Kimura----Okomoto------Mori--------???-----Nakamura------Kodo
-------------------I-----------------------------------------------I--------------I
-----------------Inue----------------------------------------Tohei-------Shioda
----------------------------------------------------I
---------------------------------------Saotome/Ushiro
---------------------------------------------------I
------------------------------------------------Ikeda

If we say that Tohei went elsewhere- then he most certainly got it?
We know Shioda stepped outside and he got it as well.
Now Ikeda is looking and researching and he is getting it.

So it is there to be gotten. So why isn't it being taught-in Aikido? George makes interesting points with his teacher. That maybe Saotome doesn't know how to transfer or convey the internal information or what he knows of it into a teachable model. Knowing a thing and being able to teach it amidst all the other stuff you are trying to teach might be VERY distracting. And it will not draw most people to it. It is not immediate, and requires an intuitive, creative and obsessive mindset. Maybe Ellis is right you either were an oddduck to pursue it or you became one in the end.

Since a series of Aikidoka are now looking elsewhere; at DR methods, Ushiro's methods, etc, why would their bring-back information be seen as anything different than what these earlier men have been doing all along. Including keeping Mum about it (which is what I tell them to do) till -they- become the new seniors.
Then viola...fixed.
By a series of oddducks.
But here's the rub. Ask them about it. It certainly seems they have found some things that they are convinced are worth having and training...too bring back, but they can't yet. They are getting all obsessive and odd about "getting it" first.
Cheers
Dan

aikidoc
01-29-2008, 05:07 PM
Some piece of the following interview with Kato sensei apply to some of the comments. http://www.rockyvalleyaikido.com/interview2.html. As noted by PAG (roughly paraphrased by me), those that got it figured it out for themselves.

Mike Sigman
01-29-2008, 05:47 PM
As noted by PAG (roughly paraphrased by me), those that got it figured it out for themselves.Hi John:

The way I would phrase it is that everyone grabs as much information wherever they can and then the rest depends on how hard they work at it and how well they can figure out the gaps.

There is a broad spectrum of abilities and understanding and there is a broad spectrum of specialized ways to apply these skills. To give an example of what I'm trying to say, even though they all understood "aiki", Shioda, Ueshiba, and Tohei (to grab examples), those three still had varying degrees of the other things they could do with those skills. If it comes to "aiki" itself, the one that I see on film having the widest repertoire of aiki applications seems to be Shioda.... he apparently revelled in that part of it. Ueshiba appears (to my eyes) to have something about power-release skills that Tohei and Shioda didn't have. And so on.

"Figure it out" is certainly part of it. My opinion is that these are the early days of western Aikido people beginning to acquire and apply these skills into Aikido and it should be interesting to watch the developments by some of the up and coming crowd. Good times.

Best.

Mike Sigman

Tony Wagstaffe
12-31-2008, 11:41 AM
Knowledge is a product of both ones experience and what is inherited from those who have gone before. The depth of knowledge attained by earlier teachers was not simply the result of their personal effort. They were given the basic material and ran with it. That's why lineage and transmission are so important. Their kind of knowledge is like and endangered species. Once it is lost, it will not evolve again. The Japanese Koryu have recognized this and have developed a systematic method for the transmission of the core elements of the style across generations. While there are isolated pockets of Aikido being taught in this manner, most Aikido is not.

I think and feel George, you have summed this up here in one paragraph as something fundamental and that which is missing in most of today's aikido..... It reflects my feelings accurately....

Tony