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George S. Ledyard
05-07-2008, 09:51 PM
Very good. I think your translation is an excellent translation of the Kojiki phrase. At the risk of enormous thread drift, I need to explain.

The name is the first part of the name of a deity who came into being when two major deities, Amaterasu and Susanoo, had an amazing competition (considered incest by some 'wicked' Confucian scholars, because they were brother and sister and yet bore children, but argued by the Shintoists to be pure, because they were standing on opposite sides of a river).

In the competition, Amaterasu asked for Susanoo's sword (the famous sword that was ten hands long) and broke the sword into three pieces, rinsed the pieces in a well, shaking them (like furitama) then chewed the pieces and spat them out. Three deities were created from the spittle (three female deities thought to be Susanoo's children).

Susanoo them did precisely the same with the magatama beads that Amaterasu wore in the long coils of her hair (the left coil). In this case the deity born from his spittle was Masakatsu agatsu katsu hayabi. But then Susanoo took the beads adorning other parts of her hair and body, spat them out and so produced four more (male) deities. These male deities were thought to be her children, but acres of argument have since been devoted to the issue of whether the sex of the children mattered.

Masakatsu agatsu katsu hayabi is clearly associated with Susanoo, because the latter then went into a sort of victory rage. Extraordinary things happened next. He committed eight 'heavenly sins':
1. He broke down the ridges between Amaterasu's rice paddies.
2. He covered up the ditches.
3. He opened the irrigation sluices.
4. He double planted.
5. He set up stakes.
6. He skinned a horse alive
7. He skinned the horse backwards. (And dropped it through the roof of Amaterasu's weaving hall, causing the death of the weaving maiden. The cause of death was the striking of her genitals against the weaving shuttle.)
8. He defecated and spread his faeces around the harvest festival hall.

All this led to Amaterasu's famous withdrawal into the cave.

However, masakatgsu agatsu katsu hayabi is only the first part of the deity's name The second part, which O Sensei conveniently forgot about, is Ame-no-oshi-ho-mimi-no-mikoto. This is the name of a rice deity, something like, Great Heavenly Deity who Rules the Rice Ears.

Actually, masakatsu agatsu katsu hayabi was something of a wimp. He was supposed to go down from heaven and rule the Central Lands of the Reed Plains (= Japan), but as he was preparing to descend, he suddenly fathered a child by another deity and this child took his place.
- Peter Goldsbury I moved this over to the Spiritual Thread so that I could continue the discussion without it being considered "drift".

This description points out just how difficult to understand what the Founder meant when he used used his various terms like "katsu hayabi" and "masakatsu agatsu".

First, there is the fairly incomprehensible mythology of the Kojiki in the first place. What of each of these characteristics possessed by this God mean? What is their spiritual significance? You see a set of incomprehensible actions, not at all admirable to our minds, by a deity which has all sorts of layers of attributes given to him in the Shinto religion. Scholars have spent quite a bit of effort trying to work these things out.

Then you have O-Sensei's interpretation of these things. In some cases we can go to the Omoto Religion for these answers. Deguchi had his own take on these things and O-Sensei, as an Omotokyo believer, incorporated them into his own world view.

Finally, the Founder himself, through his own insights derived from his personal training arrived at his own interpretations and used these in his teaching, thus making any linear direct association with the origin myths in the Kojiki and the manner in which the Founder used the terms in his instruction difficult if not impossible.

I know that many have the belief that modern Aikido became more removed from that of the Founder under his son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba. I am increasingly coming to the point of view that this isn't the case. I think that O-Sensei's son was in a unique position to understand his father's intentions, if not his rather obscure justifications for his beliefs. I have been reading the Secret Teachings of Aikido (terrible title)… Whereas this work is a translation from the Japanese by John Stevens of previously published material in Japanese (hence, not very secret at all), Peter Goldsbury was kind enough to make me aware that the Japanese text had been highly edited by O-Sensei's son. So as an example of O-Sensei's word, as my own teacher, Saotome Sensei, might have heard it in class. The work isn't very useful.

Peter suggested that I revisit the Take Musu Aiki material (which is available on the Aikido Journal site) which much more accurately reflects the exact words of the Founder (translation issues notwithstanding). I've been doing so and it has helped me reach my current understanding of the role K. Ueshiba has played in making Aikido an art that has spread world wide and affected so many people on a deep level.

The Take Musu Aiki material is virtually incomprehensible. I can only imagine a bunch of young deshi, just out of bed at dawn, on the mat with this old man talking like this. No wonder they mostly gave up on trying to get it and focused on technique. That stuff would have put me back to sleep in ten seconds. So I began to compare what meaning I could derive from the Take Musu Aiki material with what I was reading in the Secret Teachings of Aikido.

What I found was that O-Sensei's ideas were obscure in that his illustrations mostly came from sources that very few people, even the Japanese, would have understood. To make matters worse he rambled. There was absolutely no linear exposition of an idea; rather he moved from a concept to a myth to Kototama and back and switched concepts so rapidly that following any line of reason was impossible for someone without the kind of spiritual background which he had.

I once asked Stan Pranin and Saotome Sensei who, amongst the students of the Founder, had tried the hardest to understand the Founder from his own reference points. The answer was Hikitsuchi Sensei, Sunadomari Sensei, and Abe Sensei. That's three out of the how many deshi O-Sensei taught? The rest tried to come to their own conclusions, or not, based simply on their observations and the words of O-Sensei as they had heard them in context. With no real preparation to understand the Founder's precise concepts, they were stuck with puzzling them out in the context of his classes.

When I read the Secret Teachings of Aikido, I had a much different experience. Certainly, the material is still technical in that it refers to any number of Shinto and Buddhist concepts and deities. It refers frequently to the Kototama. It takes some background to derive a sense of what the material means. But it is has clearly been worked on, edited, and reorganized. Gone are the interminable explanations of Kototama sound associations. The thoughts flow in a far more linear fashion making it possible to actually finish a chapter with some sense of what was meant.

When I returned to the Take Musu Aikido material, I found, not that the reworking was inaccurate but that it had helped me understand much of what had been more obscure. That was when I came to appreciate what K Ueshiba had tried to do. He had done his best to make comprehensible to a modern audience the teachings possessed of tremendous insight put forth by a man from virtually another universe, temporally and spiritually.

I think that the idea that K Ueshiba didn't not have as good a sense of his father's intention, the meaning underlying his ideas doesn't play. He grew up with this man, was taught Aikido by him, lived with him, was groomed as his successor. I think he quite well understood O-Sensei's overall spiritual outlook and philosophy. His problem was to explain these ideas, to connect them to a physical practice, in a way that was true to the Founder's wishes for the art but also made sense to a public that would never acquire the kind of background his father simply assumed in his teachings.

So when we look at a term like masakatsu agatsu katsu hayabi it may be informative to know its origin in the Kojiki. It certainly sheds some degree of light on O-Sensei's use but it doesn't give us any kind of adequate understanding of the term as it related to the art of Aikido nor does it explain why the term was so important that it recurred over and over in O-Sensei's teachings.

The term masakatsu agatsu katsu hayabi is itself made up of two terms. Masakatsu agatsu is often translated as "true victory is self victory". It is used in the sense that the enemy in Aikido is not some external foe but rather the self which harbors ignorance. The practice of Aikido is seen as misogi or purification and is designed to polish that self and remove those impurities until correct wisdom is gained.

Katsu hayabi can be translated as "instant victory", "victory in this instant". Like many terms it has various aspects. In physical terms, as it relates to Aikido technique, it has the flavor of victory at the instant of contact. O-Sensei's various statements about Aikido technique being beyond time or outside of time relate to this usage. Kuzushi takes place the instant we touch. Even beyond that, it is over in the instant that my opponent even thinks of attacking.

In the spiritual sense it has the connotation of letting go of ignorance right now in this instant and perceive the true nature of things. In this guise it is often combined with Masakatsu agatsu to make masakatsu agatsu katsu hayabi or "true victory is the victory over the self of ignorance in this instant". This usage has a lot of the flavor of the idea of "sudden enlightenment" in Buddhism. It is an invitation to let go, to stop holding on to our stuff, right now!

So, which interpretation is the most accurate? The totally odd Shinto deity whose bad behavior caused the Sun Goddess to hide herself in a cave? Or these more comprehensible terms given to us by via Kisshomaru Ueshiba and other students of the Founder? Did they simply make this interpretation of these terms up in order to "sell" the art to a bunch of postwar folks or was it a very real effort to impart the essence of the Founder's teachings in a different way that would have real meaning to the modern practitioners of the art? I think it is the latter. When I compare the simplified and seemingly more user-friendly explanations of these concepts with the manner in which O-Sensei used them in context as shown by the Take Musu Aiki writings, I find that Kisshomaru was accurate to the intention, the essence of the Founder's ideas and successfully accomplished his mission of making these ideas more comprehensible to the modern mind.

It is my own experience that this effort made it possible for us to actually develop some connection between our physical training, the actual techniques of the art as we practice it, and the concepts and insights which the Founder tried to demonstrate and clearly felt were the point of training.

Erick Mead
05-07-2008, 09:52 PM
I moved this over to the Spiritual Thread so that I could continue the discussion without it being considered "drift".... First, there is the fairly incomprehensible mythology of the Kojiki in the first place. What of each of these characteristics possessed by this God mean? What is their spiritual significance? ... Then you have O-Sensei's interpretation of these things. ... Peter suggested that I revisit the Take Musu Aiki material ... it has helped me reach my current understanding of the role K. Ueshiba has played in making Aikido an art that has spread world wide and affected so many people on a deep level.

The Take Musu Aiki material is virtually incomprehensible. ... There was absolutely no linear exposition of an idea; rather he moved from a concept to a myth to Kototama and back and switched concepts so rapidly that following any line of reason was impossible ... It is my own experience that this effort made it possible for us to actually develop some connection between our physical training, the actual techniques of the art as we practice it, and the concepts and insights which the Founder tried to demonstrate and clearly felt were the point of training.I am of the opinion that much of what O Sensei tried to relate was theoretical in an particular idiom and that he percieved the essence of the concepts tying it together, but was unable, owing to his experience and personality, to express his theoretical understanding in any clearer way.

In that, I think his son, as you note, admirably took up the challenge to tie down those concepts in his own way. And so we in turn are obliged in our practice of the art to tie them down to a construct in our way also. To the extent that we do so, we help make the art more comprensehensible to its students. To the extent we have to struggle with it (and we do) we make it more our own as much as it is his.

The concepts that O Sensei relates are self-consistent, at least in physical terms of a number of images he relates in the Takemusu Aiki material and elsewhere. In the Doka he also speaks of some fairly concrete things expressed in poetic ways.

Yamabiko -- the mountain echo, ( i.e -- an echo that reinforces itself and goes on and on); He speaks of red and white jewels imparting control over the ebb and flow of tides, images of subtle, but irresistible, cyclic power. He speaks of the demon snake and the spirit of bees -- images relating very low frequency and very high frequency vibrations, also cycles, a concept actually called "harmonics."

He speaks of two concepts, the concept of juji 十字 -- the cross-- a joining of heaven and earth, forming a 90 degree angle, and of resonance of that self-reinforcing echo. Two pendular systems interacting at 90 degrees create complex harmonic motion -- plots of which have striking similarity to images captured of aikido in dynamic motion. Resonance, the over-driving of both positive and negative phases (ten-chi) occurs at 90 degrees phase difference between two interacting cycles. See here: http://techtv.mit.edu/file/874/

So if you are 90 degrees offset in phase interval (maai -- temporally or spatially) you drive the companion oscillation (the attack) to resonance. In addition to inreasing both highs and lows, it shifts the combined peak energy forward or back in time or space from what by the attacking signal alone would have done. Thus, as O Sensei said about disregarding sente entirely -- it does not matter if you are ahead or behind the attack -- as long as the interval is precisely correct at 90 degrees -- a resonance is driven in the system.

In short, there is much of concrete theoretical and practical relevance to pull out of his "spiritual" or mythological work and to see in parallel with an aspect of physical practices like furitama, funetori, or tekubi furi.

Peter Goldsbury
05-08-2008, 03:05 AM
George,

I suggest that you read The Secret Teachings of Aikido in concert with another recently published book by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, entitled The Art of Aikido: Principles and Essential Techniques. This, too, is a translation by John Stevens of a Japanese original work, entitled Aikido Shintei.

In some way, my experience has been different to yours. For the first ten years of my aikido life, I never studied anything about the Founder. His sayings, selected by Kisshomaru Ueshiba in his early book Aikido made very little sense, but I talked quite often with K Chiba about his life as a deshi. This is partly what made me decide to come to Japan: to learn Japanese so that I could study Morihei Ueshiba on his own terms, so to speak.

In this respect, I was making use of my previous training in the Classics. Aquinas wrote perceptive commentaries on Aristotle, which he read in Latin, translated from the Greek by the Arabs. And he was heavily biased, also. So I thought it best to start at the beginning and read Aristotle in Greek, which meant reading Plato and the Presocratics, also. Of course, you can benefit from reading Aristotle in English, but I think you need a commentary, if only to help you find your way. A complex text like his Metaphysics is very difficult to understand.

The most useful early texts for understanding O Sensei were the early Saito volumes and they were especially useful because they were written in Japanese and English. Then there was Budo Renshu, also in Japanese with an English translation. John Stevens published a translation of Budo and I was struck by the fact that the introduction to this work was almost identical to the introduction to Budo Renshu, but that the translations were quite different in style and tone.

My studies in Japanese coincided with teaching the Bible to Japanese students and I decided to study the early books of the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, also, to see how they differed in the treatment of creation, sin, death etc. Having read Takemusu Aiki, I could easily see that O Sensei made much use of the Kojiki, but could also see that he quarried this work for material to suit his own view of the world and the place of aikido within it. In other words, for aikido the Kojiki has to be coupled with Deguchi's Reikai Monogatari, which O Sensei also read. The other thing to remember is that Oomoto is very eclectic in its thinking, so it is quite possible that Masakatsu agatsu katsu hayabi was given a 'western' 'individual' meaning of TRUE victory is SELF victory: victory of oneself in a quasi-moral sense, which the original phrase never had.

My time in Japan has enabled me to meet and know two people who played a major role in the development of postwar aikido: Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Shigenobu Okumura. In all the discussions I had with Doshu, I had the strong impression that he felt it his mission to practise and teach genuine aikido (not an imitation of some prewar original), but divorced as much as possible from the personal and private contributions of O Sensei himself. So the kamidama disappeared and the preoccupation with kotodama etc were removed or played down in importance. I think the war played a fundamental role in this.

Kisshomaru wrote two seminal technical works on aikido and also a detailed biography of the Founder. He allowed Stan Pranin of Aiki News to SUMMARIZE this material in English, not to publish it in its entirety. So it does not really contain Kisshomaru's actual statements. An 'authorized' English translation of this biography is in progress. On the other hand, the English translation of Takemusu Aiki, begun by Tanaka Sonoko of Aiki News has come to a halt and my speculation (open to correction) is that this is because the Ueshiba family wanted to keep the translation of such an important work 'in house'.

The material published as The Secret Teachings of Aikido are secret only because they are regarded as gokui. The material appeared in the early issues of the Aikikai's Aikido Shimbun (=newspaper), which was edited for many years by Sadateru Arikawa. It was Arikawa Sensei who told me that the material was extensively edited.

Best wishes,

PAG

Peter Goldsbury
05-08-2008, 06:17 AM
George,

Further to my last post, I should add that for me, the interesting issue is to what extent O Sensei changed the meaning of Masakatsu Agatsu Katsu Hayabi and why he changed it. In this sense, to ask which interpretation is more accurate is to ask a non-question. How do you define accuracy here?

I have always argued that the sense of the original was as I have explained in the post that you quoted, and could support this argument with a much longer post that would summarize much of the first book of the Kojiki (and also explain how Susanoo was eventually cured of his bad habits. So that he become a good brother and supporter of Amaterasu). There is a major political dimension here, since many of the deities created when Amaterasu and Susanoo had their competition were Izumo deities. We know from other sources that the early clans centered on Izumo were reluctant to come under the control of Yamato (to prove the legitimacy of which was the whole purpose of the Kojiki).

Izumo Taisha is just over the mountains from Hiroshima and it was clearly a major center of worship. There is a shrine dedicated to Susanoo just behind the main shrine. I like to drive to Izumo occasionally and wander round the precincts. Tradition has it that the entire Shinto pantheon assembles there every October and holds a meeting. I joked about this with my students today. They all know that Japanese meetings are inevitably time-consuming, boring and achieve little. However, the purpose of the meeting in Izumo is to decide who will marry whom in the coming year. So thousands of young people and their boy/girlfriends travel to Izumo and pray that they will be one of the favored. Then, when I ask, "Do you really believe all this?", many really are loath to deny it. There is a vast weight of folk Shinto here, which O Sensei lived and breathed much more than my students.

So it is possible that O Sensei took the phrase, divorced it from its original context and used it as a mantra. Why otherwise did he scatter this phrase around his discourses and calligraphy? I am still doubtful whether he would have interpreted it quite as individualistically as a full-blooded western aikidoka, told by his sensei (or more usually by his sempai) to dedicate himself to self-victory and self-mastery, because O Sensei said so in so many words (thanks to John Stevens). This sounds too much like Silas chastizing his flesh in The DaVinci Code.

In this respect, I do not think that Kisshomaru Ueshiba himself contributed much to the meaning of the phrase in the new book.

In October, during the IAF Congress in Tanabe, we will hold a lecture course, to run in parallel with the aikido seminars. I am hoping that Okumura and Tada Senseis will talk about O Sensei and that those Aikiweb members attending will ask lots of difficult questions.

Best wishes,

PAG

Allen Beebe
05-08-2008, 09:24 AM
Dear George and Peter,

FWIW, I share a similar experience and opinion to Peter on this matter. Doug brought over the book in question and I began reading it. At first I was kind of excited because it seemed that there might have been a tide shift in what was being translated and published, but as I continued reading I began to get a strange feeling that somehow this wasn't O-sensei . . . yet it clearly was. I either looked around the book, or looked up the book from which it came (I don't remember) and realized that this was an edited collection of quotes. This explained, to me at least, why the work had a certain "feel" or direction to it slightly anomalous to O-sensei's un-edited voice. I have owned Takemusu Aiki for quite some time now, and the it is a "cat of a different stripe."

For a blown out of proportion view of the effects of creative quoting one need look no further than present American politics.

I will defer to Prof. Goldsbury's expertise in these matters. We went to Japan and studied Japanese for similar reasons but he clearly saw his goal to an admirable end. I'm just an amateur but thought I would lend my voice to his . . . once again FWIW.

(I'm also a big fan of bi-lingual publishing so that one can cross check easily.)

Best,
Allen

rob_liberti
05-08-2008, 04:42 PM
I have had Dan Harden lead me through how to stand so powerfully that anyone who came in contact with me instantly felt power and was almost lifted up off their feet as they tried to push into me (while I did not "move" anything other than my intention). As he has helped me get to that place several times now, each time I think of the phrase masakatsu agatsu katsu hayabi and I think maybe Osensei just got something "else" out of that phrase.

Rob

George S. Ledyard
05-08-2008, 05:21 PM
At first I was kind of excited because it seemed that there might have been a tide shift in what was being translated and published, but as I continued reading I began to get a strange feeling that somehow this wasn't O-sensei . . . yet it clearly was. I either looked around the book, or looked up the book from which it came (I don't remember) and realized that this was an edited collection of quotes.

Hi Allen,
You guys have a distinct advantage over me in the language department. I think that my real point here is the question of how "distorted" was the post-war Aikikai interpretation of the Founder's words?

It's not just the Aikikai that took O-Sensei's words to have the particular slant they have been given. I've trained quite a bit with the various folks who came out of the so-called Golden Age of Shingu under Hikitsuchi Sensei. Shingu was off the beaten track from the Hombu dojo and certainly was not part of some post-war effort to "market" Aikido which seems to be belief held in some quarters.

Nothing I have encountered training with Mary Heiny, Clint George, Tom Read, Linda Holiday would indicate that somehow O-Sensei's teaching wasn't consistent with the ideas put forth in a book like The Secret Teachings of Aikido. The interpretations given terms like masakatsu agatsu and katsuhayabi or the importance of the term Love in O-sensei's conception of Budo seem to have been used much the same way that has been presented by K Ueshiba and the other Aikikai seniors. Certainly Anno Sensei who is the senior at Shingu at this point is teaching these same principles.

Look at Sunadomari Sensei's book, Enlightenment Through Aikido. Was he part of some re-working of Aikido principles for the masses or was he trying to convey the same principles which had motivated O-Sensei's Aikido?

From an academically trained scholarship standpoint it is important to be able to make these distinctions, get to historical roots, trace different streams of influence, etc. But from a personal practice standpoint, I really only care if I understand the concepts as they apply to my own training, do they enhance my understanding of what the art is about, do they improve my life?

I am conscious of certain things being lost in Aikido. But having trained directly with a Japanese student of the Founder, done training with several other of the uchi deshi, and had a lot of exposure to Western students of a number of Japanese teachers it is my sense that most of these folks did not differ greatly from the Aikikai version of the Founder's philosophy but rather they took issue with the over simplification of the art in a technical sense.

In other words, I think that the editors of the Founder's words were, in fact, trying to be true to the essence of what the Founder was trying to get across and what he genuinely wanted the art to be, i.e. its mission. I think it was their call, and a correct one, that the Founder was incapable of getting that message across in any meaningful way. So an attempt was made to create a vehicle for that message that would actually work.

No question that Take Musu Aiki was the more authentic in the sense that it was more of an unedited voice of the Founder. It is also virtually incomprehensible. It is totally non-linear in progression, rambles all over the place, moves without pause from Shinto Myth to Kototama principles, to martial references and back again.

I do not see such a document as being very useful at all in presenting the essence of the art to the masses, even the general community of folks who are training. I think that the interpretors of these words didn't distort but rather distilled and reorganized the principles of the art in a way that was far more accessible. This gets presented very cynically as a sort of marketing ploy as if the Founder wouldn't have approved. I don't agree with that take on it.

The folks involved cared deeply about the Founder's legacy. Kisshomaru was handed an art which might be difficult for the average person to do in the way it had been done previously. It's Founder had explained the art in terms that simply didn't work for 99% of the folks who heard his words. And now it's his art to foster. He has been given the mission of taking Aikido to the world. The transformation of the world via Aikido was never going to take place if the art stayed as the property of a small elite. It had to be spread to fulfill its mission. Is this a distortion of O-Sensei's intention? I simply do not believe that.

Janet Rosen
05-08-2008, 06:40 PM
I simply want to thank George and Peter for having this cogent conversation on esoteric issues; I find it fascinating.

Allen Beebe
05-08-2008, 07:19 PM
Hi George,

I'm working on a reply respectful of your heartfelt response but I don't have the time it deserves right now so I have to ask you to be patient.

Thanks,
Allen

Carl Thompson
05-08-2008, 07:23 PM
I have a question about the reading of the characters 勝早日 which are Romanised "katsuhayabi" here.

Can we also read it kachihayabi? How about katsuhayahi?

I'm pretty sure I've heard the latter.

Allen Beebe
05-09-2008, 12:28 AM
Hi George,

First I should point out that Prof. Goldsbury has the lion’s share of “the distinct advantage” in the language department. Any advantage that I have is unfortunately rapidly fading away from lack of use.

Maybe I wasn’t clear in my post. I think “The Secret Teachings of Aikido” is a very valuable addition to a very slim collection of English language Aikido books sharing O-Sensei’s translated words. I had even planned to up a post just to raise awareness of the book’s existence because I felt like not much attention had been given it relative to its value as a unique addition to the English language Aikido library. Having said that, I also think that it is important to keep in mind that it is an edited collection of quotes and as such the editor had (any editor would) naturally selected quotes he thought conducive to the communication of a particular focal message. There needn’t be anything nefarious here; this simply is a part of good writing and good editing. Nevertheless, influence should be noted.

Trying to place the quotes into a context, the question to my mind is, “What was the goal of the communication sought by the Editor and why was this their goal?”

Considering the nature of the original publication and of the English edition I assume you stated the motivation when you said:

“He has been given the mission of taking Aikido to the world. The transformation of the world via Aikido was never going to take place if the art stayed as the property of a small elite. It had to be spread to fulfill its mission.”

As you stated:

“No question that Take Musu Aiki was the more authentic in the sense that it was more of an unedited voice of the Founder. {Again the particular target audience should be noted IMO – Allen} It is also virtually incomprehensible. It is totally non-linear in progression, rambles all over the place, moves without pause from Shinto Myth to Kototama principles, to martial references and back again.

I do not see such a document as being very useful at all in presenting the essence of the art to the masses, even the general community of folks who are training.”

And:

“It's Founder had explained the art in terms that simply didn't work for 99% of the folks who heard his words.”

So the message was simplified and translated for us:

“I think that the interpreters of these words didn't distort but rather distilled and reorganized the principles of the art in a way that was far more accessible.”

My only point is that one should recognize that interpretation/simplification/distillation has taken place (with all of the distortions great and small inherent in that process) rather than make claims to understanding the message and meaning of Aikido as the founder understood it. Rather, one more likely understands the message and meaning of the founder as presented by individuals trusted to deliver that message.

You state:

“I am conscious of certain things being lost in Aikido. But having trained directly with a Japanese student of the Founder, done training with several other of the uchi deshi, and had a lot of exposure to Western students of a number of Japanese teachers it is my sense that most of these folks did not differ greatly from the Aikikai version of the Founder's philosophy but rather they took issue with the over simplification of the art in a technical sense.”

I would point out that a) The vast majority of the individuals you reference are Post War, and Pre-War Hikitsuchi Sensei was a child during the war, so why wouldn’t they share a collective Post War experience and understanding? (Perhaps even a Post War understanding of Aikido delivered by a Post War O-sensei) And, b) does one find this same commonality and unification among Pre War students?

Also, isn’t it the same individual(s) with the same altruistic motivation, framing the interpretation of O-sensei’s core Aikido message that promoted the same “over simplification of the art in a technical sense” that you indicated as a problem?

My main cautionary note, point and opinion is that, just as I think that one should “think twice” before claiming to be the sole depository of the sum of “O-sensei’s Aikido” in a technical sense, one should also think twice before claiming the same for comprehending and sharing “O-sensei’s message” and/or philosophical understanding of Aikido.

Or more importantly for the Aikido consumer, “Caveat Emptor.”

Respectfully,
Allen Beebe

Allen Beebe
05-09-2008, 12:42 AM
One more thing to add. I suppose it should be noted that the "establishment" wasn't above "white washing" photos as well "authorized histories" to promote their version of the formation of Aikido. This is now established fact but wasn't recognized or questioned until Stanley Pranin "blew the lid off" so to speak.

So one is to implicitly trust the "establishment's" delivery of O-sensei's core message?

Lesson learned?

Caveat Emptor!

Peter Goldsbury
05-09-2008, 02:57 AM
The book published as The Secret Teaching of Aikido is an edited English translation of a Japanese work entitled 合気神髄 Aiki Shinzui, (Aiki Essence/Soul). In his preface to this work, Kisshomaru Ueshiba explains that the contents are taken from the Aikikai's publications, Aikido, and its continuation, Aikido Shimbun Nos 1 to 104.

Now it just so happens that the Aikikai produced a CD-ROM containing PDF files of the Aikido Shimbun Nos, 1-504 (with 100 pieces on each CD). So those with the leisure to go through this archive can see O Sensei's words exactly as they appeared in print.

For the publication of the book, what Kisshomaru then did was to put the various pieces (scattered at random throughout the various issues of Aikido / Aikido Shimbun) into eight groups, each with a title. Thus, the first group has the title 合気道は魂の学び and contains eight short pieces, each with its own subtitle.

John Stevens has translated these titles and the pieces, but has run them together as if they were one continuous lecture. So the title of the first group of articles is "Aikido is the Study of the Spirit" and this is followed by 16 pages of continuous text, like the chapter of a book.

The Japanese original of the last article in the first group can be found in Issue No 15 of the Aikido Shimbun, published on June 10, 1959. (In the same issue Koichi Tohei's 9th dan is announced on the back page.) The title of the article is 世界の和合への道 (The Way to World Harmony) and has a picture of O Sensei doing his famous jo trick with three deshi. The entire article is transcribed by Kisshomaru in his book with very minor changes (of kanji). The only major change is that he adds a short paragraph from another source.

This article appears on pages 24 & 25 of The Secret Teaching of Aikido. The paragraph begins, "Aiki fosters the spirit of harmony throughout the world. I speak as a member of the Japanese race and as a member of the family of humankind. We must bring all people of this world together so that they can live in harmony."

The Japanese original reads: "合気はこの世の大和魂の錬成であります。私はこの日本の家族の一人として、また世界の家族の一人として皆さま御話し申しますこれからは世界がひとつに和合していなければな りません。"

In his book, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, changes the paragraph very slighty. He adds the hiragana for 大和魂, which is yamato-damashii, and breaks the long second sentence into two, with a Japanese period (。) after 話申します.

"合気はこの世の大和魂の錬成であります。私はこの日本の家族の一人として、また世界の家族の一人として皆さまお話し申します。これからは世界がひとつに和合していなければ なりません。"

A more literal translation would be: "Aiki is training in yamatodamashii (the spirit of Japan) in this world. I make this statement to everybody as one of the family of this Japan and as one of the family of the world. Thus the world should be in harmony as one."

It is for others to judge to what extent John Stevens has changed the substance of O Sensei's statements. I am lucky to possess most of the original sources, Kisshomaru's book in Japanese, and also the English translation of the work. So I can see exactly what he and Kisshomaru have done. What I do not know is to what extent O Sensei's original discourse was previously edited for publication in the Aikido Shimbun.

I should add that I do not envy Mr Stevens at all. I can see his overall aim, which is to make O Sensei (and also the second Doshu) accessible to the modern western reader. The question of 'sanitization' is an issue for me, however.

Best wishes to all,

aikilouis
05-09-2008, 06:59 AM
Translation is a tricky, never fully satisfying task.

It gets even more difficult when :
- the cultural references are obscure to an ordinary reader and need to be explained,
- the content is of a very complex philosophical nature,
- the author expresses himself through symbolic, poetic language, in a form that is not mathematically organised,
- the readers already have an idea of what the message should be and will feel cheated if the translation does not satisfy their own agenda.

Here we have all these difficulties together, not unlike those faced with Nietzsche's works.

Erick Mead
05-09-2008, 09:48 AM
This article appears on pages 24 & 25 of The Secret Teaching of Aikido. The paragraph begins, "Aiki fosters the spirit of harmony throughout the world. I speak as a member of the Japanese race and as a member of the family of humankind. We must bring all people of this world together so that they can live in harmony."

The Japanese original reads: "合気はこの世の大和魂の錬成であります。私はこの日本の家族の一人として、また世界の家族の一人として皆さま御話し申しますこれからは世界がひとつに和合していなければな りません。"

In his book, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, changes the paragraph very slighty. ...

"合気はこの世の大和魂の錬成であります。私はこの日本の家族の一人として、また世界の家族の一人として皆さまお話し申します。これからは世界がひとつに和合していなければ なりません。"

A more literal translation would be: "Aiki is training in yamatodamashii (the spirit of Japan) in this world. I make this statement to everybody as one of the family of this Japan and as one of the family of the world. Thus the world should be in harmony as one."

It is for others to judge to what extent John Stevens has changed the substance of O Sensei's statements. ... The question of 'sanitization' is an issue for me, however. How much "sanitization" is necessary to remove the accumulated dross of modern connotations, however? The propaganda use of the term in the War and post war generations colors the meaning that it had for the older generation such as O Sensei.

It has been a deliberately ambiguous phrase poised between exceeding refinement and exceeding fierceness, between cultural nativism and cultural engagement since it was first used in Genji Monogatari. The view of a fully grounded western interpreter predating the War and contemporary with O Sensei's era of maturing, such as Hearn for example, is uncolored by the wartime abuses of propaganda. That is a likely more reliable guide to O Sensei's meaning in its use -- in western terms at any rate.

Demetrio Cereijo
05-09-2008, 03:12 PM
The question of 'sanitization' is an issue for me, however.

Prof. Goldsbury,

In what sense are you using the word "sanitization"?

Ron Tisdale
05-09-2008, 03:57 PM
Hi Erik, can you provide samples of Hearn's translation of the texts in question?
Best,
Ron

tuturuhan
05-09-2008, 04:44 PM
George,

In some way, my experience has been different to yours. For the first ten years of my aikido life, I never studied anything about the Founder. His sayings, selected by Kisshomaru Ueshiba in his early book Aikido made very little sense, but I talked quite often with K Chiba about his life as a deshi. This is partly what made me decide to come to Japan: to learn Japanese so that I could study Morihei Ueshiba on his own terms, so to speak.

In this respect, I was making use of my previous training in the Classics. Aquinas wrote perceptive commentaries on Aristotle, which he read in Latin, translated from the Greek by the Arabs. And he was heavily biased, also. So I thought it best to start at the beginning and read Aristotle in Greek, which meant reading Plato and the Presocratics, also. Of course, you can benefit from reading Aristotle in English, but I think you need a commentary, if only to help you find your way. A complex text like his Metaphysics is very difficult to understand.

PAG

Prof Goldsbury,

Given you process and prospective I am curious about many things. If you would so kindly give your opinions on the following:

1. You stated that you "didn't read any of the founders words until after 10 years of your aikido study." How did this affect your reading of his words? Would it have been beneficial to you to read them before or during your initial practice of martial art?

2. Did his words have a "physical affect" on the next ten years of your practice?

3. Did the "editing" by his family, and others give you a "compare and contrast" that made your "technique" better?

4. Did your prior knowledge of Plato, Socrates and the Greek classics through latin/arab/ and Greek make more clear the Founders "universal" words? Did it also give you a perspective that might have "prejudiced" your views of O'Sensei's words?

I wonder if there is a "truth" that speaks out through all the filters? Do our words of interpretation taint the meanings of said truth? Do you think that "body language through the exhibition of technique" is perhaps the closest we can get to O'Sensei's meanings.

Lastly, more boldly...how close do you think O'Sensei was to said truth...comparing him to past "masters"?

Thank you so much for your input and perspective.

Sincerely
Joseph T. Oliva Arriola

Erick Mead
05-09-2008, 05:54 PM
Hi Erik, can you provide samples of Hearn's translation of the texts in question? Well, since he died in 1904 before that text was written, very likely not, but I'll get my trusty weejy board and see what I can do ...

I was referring to his interpretation of the concept of "yamato damashii." He married into the (still) very prominent Koizumi family, became a Japanese citizen, translated a number of folk stories and wrote extensively about the contemporaneous culture of early modernizing Japan. He studied with Kano and introduced the first work on judo/jujitsu in English in 1897. He might just have some tangential contributions...

A general cultural overview:
http://books.google.com/books?id=CL0eAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA3&dq=Japan:+An+Attempt+at+Interpretation#PPP13,M1

Some letters are collected here:
http://books.google.com/books?id=N_QhAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA70&lpg=PA70&dq=hearn+jujutsu&source=web&ots=NFB6zVoNfQ&sig=VKBMojN9sdQoTcHoj16ZhgXQtlM&hl=en#PPA81,M1

Some thoughts in a chapter on jujutsu (not his book of that title) are here:
http://books.google.com/books?id=MlgCAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA343&dq=jujutsu+hearn#PPP13,M1

And a pertinent one to the topic here:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/890798/Glimpses-of-an-Unfamiliar-Japan-by-Lafcadio-Hearn

In the latter, he quoted a poem of Motoori Norinaga (who all but invented the concept of yamato-damashii in Kojiki-Den as a near-ideology for the Kokugaku). Referring to "Yamato-Gokoro" Hearn translated it as:

"If one should ask you
concerning the heart of a true Japanese,
point to the wild cherry flower
glowing in the sun."

The romaji is all that is given but it goes:

Shikishima no
Yamato-gokoro wo
Hito-towoba
Asa-hi ni niou
Yamazakura bana.

The wild cherry in the romaji he cites is "yamazakura" and he comments that unlike the cultivated types, it leafs before blossoming, and he also notes a pun associated with the word. in the passage following he also translated a proverb "As the cherry is first among flowers, so the warrior should be first among men."

The implication is plain -- first to will to live; first to will to die. "Asagao", the morning glory is one of the images used in some circles for the principle of aiki. It has a similar image of both bursting forth and ephemerality. (The dynamic of that blossom has other features of interest to me, in its physics, but I'll leave that aside.)

Peter Goldsbury
05-09-2008, 07:50 PM
Mr Arriola,

Here are some responses to your questions, signalled by PAG.

Prof Goldsbury,

Given you process and prospective I am curious about many things. If you would so kindly give your opinions on the following:

1. You stated that you "didn't read any of the founders words until after 10 years of your aikido study." How did this affect your reading of his words? Would it have been beneficial to you to read them before or during your initial practice of martial art?
PAG. I first read the Founder's words in English from Kisshomaru Ueshiba's Aikido. Given what these words were, I doubt very much if it would have been beneficial to have read them earlier. However, if I had met Mike Sigman or Minoru Akuzawa in those ten years and had talked (& trained) with them about 'internal' training, especially the Chinese aspects with Mike, then I might have been able to interpret the Founder's words differently. As it was, I was doing exercises like funakogi undo & furitama and ken & jo suburi in the way that my own teachers did and assumed that this was always the correct way (you know, the "Japanese" way).

2. Did his words have a "physical affect" on the next ten years of your practice?
PAG. No, they did not. You should remember that teachers like Mitsunari Kanai used to tell us not to read books about aikido: we had a living model in him. I think in the way we were taught, there was a rigid distinction made between training (which meant exercises, ukemi and waza) and all the other stuff ('academic' discussions about waza, aikido history, political issues etc). When I was in the US, I met Kisshomaru Doshu and Kisaburo Osawa, but I was still a white belt and there were no real discussions. The atmosphere in the dojo was like Pope Benedict paying a visit. Training was only for yudansha, but we were allowed to watch. Kanai Sensei was treated like a young & mischievous deshi, and we were shocked. But in a pleasant way, since it showed his human side more clearly.

When I came to Japan, I discovered that there was a serious gap between what I had been taught about aikido and what seemed actually to be the case. It had taken me many years to come to terms with that shock. What I mean is this.
When I started, I trained at dojos, with individual teachers: I did not 'join' organizations. So, my 'image' of aikido was a small collection of individuals around a teacher. Those teachers always stressed the individual and personal nature of aikido as committed training (it was always understood that this training was 'good' in a vague and general ethical sense--but always with the understanding that if you were ever attacked in the street, your aikido had to work, otherwise you might be dead). These teachers were Japanese and often talked of aikido in Japan and of the "Founder": a Shangri-la, created by a man who seemed to be a Japanese martial version of St Francis of Assisi.
In Japan, I discovered that the aikido world was not a collection of individuals, but a large and powerful organization, headed by the Founder's son (who did not seem like St Francis of Assisi at all). Of course there was a general benevolence about this organization, but in the way that the Japanese shogunate was considered benevolent. I also discovered that the control attempted by this organization also included the information flow concerning the Founder and the history of aikido--and that there was still a vast amount of material in Japanese, not translated. The organization also appeared to have definite views about the information flow. In a very real sense this was the ura of aikido. In the dojo, you train omote and ura, but these terms are also used in normal Japanese and the concept are fundamental to the view that the Japanese have of themselves.
Why did it take me so long to come to terms with the shock? Because over the years I realized that the 'aikido-as-organization' model had vast implications, but also realized that it was far too simple a model. It does not do simply to condemn organizations & 'politics' as somehow 'evil'. I also came to know the Founder's son much better and discovered that he was human, like everyone else, and--like the Japanese emperor--made mistakes that he could not easily admit.

3. Did the "editing" by his family, and others give you a "compare and contrast" that made your "technique" better?
PAG. No. I have always regarded training and the academic study of aikido as completely separate. Here in Hiroshima I have studied under an 'old-fashioned' teacher for many years and the academic study of aikido has virtually no effect on this. The dojo atmosphere was similar to what I had been used to in the UK and the US. I have come to know people like Stanley Pranin, Meik Skoss and Ellis Amdur, all of whom lived in Japan for a long period and trained in Japanese bujutsu and budo. They are all 'individuals' and also train according to the earlier image I had of aikido, before I came to Japan. Stan's studies in the history of aikido are very well-known, but what is less well-known is the inevitable conflict that this has caused with the Aikikai. I have seen both sides of this conflict, and the ways it has been dealt with.

4. Did your prior knowledge of Plato, Socrates and the Greek classics through latin/arab/ and Greek make more clear the Founders "universal" words? Did it also give you a perspective that might have "prejudiced" your views of O'Sensei's words?
PAG. 'No', to the first question; 'Possibly', to the second. Let me explain. I have studied theology and philosophy, but decided to study the Greeks because they were the first philosophers in a western sense. In a real sense the poem of Parmenides has similarities to O Sensei's discourses. The language is similar and the content deals in uninversals. Then there were the Pythagoreans: amazing people, perhaps like Deguchi and Omoto believers. Perhaps this "prejudiced" my views of the Founder's words, but "prejudiced" is too strong a term, implying that I had already made up my mind about them. I do not think this is the case.

I wonder if there is a "truth" that speaks out through all the filters? Do our words of interpretation taint the meanings of said truth? Do you think that "body language through the exhibition of technique" is perhaps the closest we can get to O'Sensei's meanings.
PAG. Well, you use terms like "speaks out through all the filters" and "taints the meanings". So, the truth that speaks out might well be tainted by our attempts to interpret it. However, I think that communicating in language is a major struggle anyway (and this is not because I have any Platonist views about language). The miscommunications and the non-communications seem to stand out much more than the successes. To say that there is a truth, that language is inadequate to capture or express is putting it far too simply, in my opinion.

Lastly, more boldly...how close do you think O'Sensei was to said truth...comparing him to past "masters"?

PAG. Morihei Ueshiba was a formidable martial artist, considered in his contemporary context. Given my previous response, it is hard for me to compare him with anyone. John Stevens has published a book entitled The Philosophy of Aikido, and he makes a plug for the book on the last page of The Secret Teachings of Aikido. He compares Morihei Ueshiba, mainly through his writings and photographs, with major cultural figures like Gandhi and Mother Teresa. This is one of a number of books written or edited by Mr Stevens and they all have prefaces written by the present Doshu or his father. So it is safe to conclude that the Aikikai supports the picture of the Founder conveyed by the books. In Japan the position of the Aikikai is less clear. It does not control the information flow in Japanese as successfully as it appears to do in English and there are no Japanese counterparts of Mr Stevens connected with the Hombu. My own view of the Founder is inevitably coloured by the years I have spent here.

Thank you so much for your input and perspective.

Sincerely
Joseph T. Oliva Arriola

Not all all.

Best wishes,

tuturuhan
05-09-2008, 08:28 PM
Mr Arriola,

PAG. Morihei Ueshiba was a formidable martial artist, considered in his contemporary context. Given my previous response, it is hard for me to compare him with anyone. John Stevens has published a book entitled The Philosophy of Aikido, and he makes a plug for the book on the last page of The Secret Teachings of Aikido. He compares Morihei Ueshiba, mainly through his writings and photographs, with major cultural figures like Gandhi and Mother Teresa. This is one of a number of books written or edited by Mr Stevens and they all have prefaces written by the present Doshu or his father. So it is safe to conclude that the Aikikai supports the picture of the Founder conveyed by the books. In Japan the position of the Aikikai is less clear. It does not control the information flow in Japanese as successfully as it appears to do in English and there are no Japanese counterparts of Mr Stevens connected with the Hombu. My own view of the Founder is inevitably coloured by the years I have spent here.

Not all all.

Best wishes,

Prof Goldsbury,

Thank you for your responses.

I must say I cringed at hearing the comparisons to Ghandi, Mother Teresa and St. Francis of Asissi.

I appreciate greatly your picture of Morihei Ueshiba as a man. The organization he founded, has much to do with the "public relations" of any famous figure. The mythology created is most often greater than the truth. Yet, IMHO, I believe that the "essence" certainly speaks through the body.

As such, I asked about whether or not your "individual technique" increased because I am always questioning whether or not "academic" inquiry has an affect on one's ability "to fight" (i.e. intellectually, spiritually or physically). I certainly believe that theory and concept, and understanding the lessons of history "can be accessed" to improve "fighting ability".

Though, many talk more than they do. As such, I am always wary of talk. That's why I enjoy studying the "observable physical motions" in the historical tapes of Morihei Ueshiba. (I am not an aikido stylist. Nor am I a japanese martial arts stylist. Nor do I speak Japanese. But, I learn from listening, observing and physically encountering.

Nonetheless, I greatly appreciate your analysis. (Though, I do question your assessment of some of those individuals you mentioned in earlier posts)

Sincerely
Joseph T. Oliva Arriola

Peter Goldsbury
05-09-2008, 08:30 PM
Prof. Goldsbury,

In what sense are you using the word "sanitization"?

Mr Cereijo,

I think you might have some idea from my longer response to Mr Arriola. Shakespeare was 'bowdlerized' and Basil Hall Chamberlain's translation of the Kojikiincluded several sections in Latin. Why? Because it was considered that the original might shock or offend.

To give some context, in Japan there is a long tradition of producing scholarly editions of major works. Iwanami Shoten is especially renowned in this respect. Perhaps this corresponds to the work of publishers like the presses of universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard or Tokyo. So, if you want to read the works of Shakespeare or Dickens or Mark Twain, or read the Kojiki as close to the original as possible, given the present state of knowledge, you will go to such works. Of course, you can read and enjoy Shakespeare, Dickens and Twain as literature, but I think this is supported by the scholarly work: the disinterested pursuit of the truth about what the author actually wrote and meant.

With Morihei Ueshiba, there is no such scholarly tradition. Nobody is collating manuscripts or doing research to produce a scholarly version of O Sensei's discourses and the likelihood of this happening is decreasing with the passage of time. The writings we have are not scholarly in this sense: they do not simply stand for what they are, but are seen as part of a wider enterprise to present O Sensei in a particular way.

This is what I have in mind by 'sanitization'.

Peter Goldsbury
05-10-2008, 07:29 AM
I have a question about the reading of the characters 勝早日 which are Romanised "katsuhayabi" here.

Can we also read it kachihayabi? How about katsuhayahi?

I'm pretty sure I've heard the latter.

Carl,

Sorry. I forgot your post.

As you probably know, the reading of the kanbun characters in the Kojiki is not an exact science. However, the reading masa-katsu-a-katsu-kachi-haya-hi is the preferred form in all the commentaries that I possess.

Your kanji are incorrect, by the way. The kanji of kachi-hayabi is 勝速日.

Here is the comment from Donald Philippi's translation of the Kojiki. "The first part of the name is 'Correct-victory-I (am)-victorious-victory-rapid-sun'. (p. 513.)

Concerning haya-hi, there is a reference to another deity with a similar name: Mika-haya-hi-no-kami, who came into existence when Izanagi killed the fire-deity. Philippi adds that the kanji for haya-hi is 'rapid sun'; 'since haya can mean fast, agile, vigorous, intrepid, thus haya-hi = vigorous force, intrepid working (analogous to kusubi, kushibi, musubi etc; hi = force, working, elan. This element is also found in the names of other deities and Philippi concludes his note with the suggestion that haya-hi is probably connected with lightning. (p. 518.)

However, if you want to go further and read Philippi's translation (or the translation of Basil Hall Chamberlain), you will find things very dull and sterile unless you have a Japanese text of the Kojiki, so you can match the explanations to the actual characters. And then you need a large Japanese monolingual dictionary, preferably the multi-volume Kokugo Daijiten, so that you can compare the explanations given by Philippi with a selection of the corpus of everyday Japanese.

Best wishes,

Dan Rubin
05-10-2008, 09:55 PM
I'm afraid that I have long been skeptical of translations by John Stevens, based on an interview that appeared in Aikido Today (v.2, #1, Spring 1988). In that interview, Professor Stevens was asked how he researched O Sensei's life for his book, Abundant Peace.

Professor Stevens replied that "the best, most interesting stories" were those told him by his various teachers over the years. He pointed out that O Sensei himself changed the descriptions of his enlightenment experience over time. He stated that the taped interviews of O Sensei were very difficult to understand, between the poor quality of the tapes and the difficulty in understanding O Sensei; studying the doka and looking at films helped him.

"But," he said, "I suppose I relied mostly on inspiration rather than on pure research. I looked for a unifying view instead of just looking at what O'sensei [sic] did and where."

The book is divided into three sections: The Man, The Martial Artist and The Message.

"The last and most important section is The Message," Professor Stevens said. "Here I tried, not to be objective, but to imagine what O'sensei would say to people if he were speaking English. This was very difficult for me because O'sensei lived in a different world—a world, now lost, peopled with gods and fairies and divinities. I had to appreciate that."

So it seems that Professor Stevens did not really translate O Sensei's words. Instead, he wrote what he thought O Sensei should have said, and would have said, if he could have said it in English.

Shoulda-woulda-coulda. That doesn't sound like great scholarship, to me. If this has been Professor Stevens research philosophy in all of his writing then I fear that, instead of helping readers understand O Sensei and aikido, he has done them both irreparable harm.

Dan

Carl Thompson
05-13-2008, 02:08 AM
As you probably know, the reading of the kanbun characters in the Kojiki is not an exact science. However, the reading masa-katsu-a-katsu-kachi-haya-hi is the preferred form in all the commentaries that I possess.

Hello Professor

Thank you very much for the explanation. Discussing the Kojiki is way over my head at this point but I am interested in the Aikido concept. I actually came across the kanji in a blog (http://blog.aikimaizuru.com/archives/200607-1.html) I was puzzling through, not the original text.

Thanks for the correction.

Carl

Ron Tisdale
05-13-2008, 08:43 AM
Well, since he died in 1904 before that text was written, very likely not, but I'll get my trusty weejy board and see what I can do ...

Uh...that was kind of my point... :D

Best,
Ron

Nicholas Eschenbruch
05-13-2008, 10:29 AM
Dear all,
thank you so much for this discussion, which, amongst other things, filled me in on a lot of editorial context I was really missing in the "Secret teachings".

One question that came to my mind was this: Was Kisshomaru's interpretation of his father's message actually informed by participation in his more esoteric or mystical non-waza practices? In a sense that he had similar mystical experiences? Is anything known about that? It appears to me that understanding of a figure like O-Sensei would probably depend a lot on that.

Any thoughts or information?

Erick Mead
05-13-2008, 11:10 AM
Uh...that was kind of my point... :D Sure, but where else is one to look for Western perspectives that are uncolored by later historical prejudices, of a time contemporary with O Sensei's formation of his basic thoughts and attitudes?

There are two major sources of bias that do not exist from the point of view of observers earlier than WWII There is 1) the War itself and all its fallout from the Western perspectives, both adulatory as well as prejudicial, and 2) the Japanese "editing" of their own cultural practices following what was, quite frankly, a culturally inadmissible defeat, on top of which was the censorial attitudes of the Occupation itself. Large portions of our concern in this discussion turn on those biases or presumed biases.

In Hearn's case, while he died in the middle of the Russo-Japanese War, it was before Tsushima when they eliminated the Russian Eastern Fleet. His view is therefore also not colored by the ascendant Japanese hypernationalism during the 20's and 30's that tended to increasingly dominate thereafter until the end of the War. Therefore, his views are of great value on common points such as Yamato Damashii, as O Sensei received it in his formative years, and which is a recurrent theme in Budo Renshu, for example.

Ron Tisdale
05-13-2008, 11:13 AM
Gives some good / interesting context, I must admit...

Best,
Ron

Fred Little
05-13-2008, 11:47 AM
"I can't see anything for Japan now but revolution or military domination. The latter would, I think, be best."

--Lafcadio Hearn

The compelling poetics of Hearn's body of work notwithstanding, those poetics included a wholesale embrace of Japanese militarism.

The claim that this embrace "is therefore also not colored by the ascendant Japanese hypernationalism during the 20's and 30's that tended to increasingly dominate thereafter until the end of the War," is technically correct, in much the same sense that one may correctly argue that a contemporaneous, but partial, diagram of a cause is not colored by a diagram drawn in fuller, but still partial, knowledge of the cause's consequent effects.

A look at some of these issues in Hearn's writing can be found in Daniel Stempel's 1948 article, titled Lafcadio Hearn: Interpreter of Japan here (http://www.jstor.org/sici?sici=0002-9831(194803)20%3A1%3C1%3ALHIOJ%3E2.0.CO%3B2-M&cookieSet=1), if you have JSTOR access.

Best,

Fred Little

Erick Mead
05-13-2008, 12:34 PM
"I can't see anything for Japan now but revolution or military domination. The latter would, I think, be best."

--Lafcadio Hearn

The compelling poetics of Hearn's body of work notwithstanding, those poetics included a wholesale embrace of Japanese militarism. Who said it didn't ? Your criticism illustrates the fruit of this kind of historical bias.

There is a distinct difference in perspective of the ascendant Japan of 1904, and the rabidly colonial Japan after 1931, Mukden and Nanjing. Hearn's idea of "military domination", (like O Sensei's, if you ask me) was informed by the relatively recent examples (thirteen years before 1890, when he arrived) of Saigo Takamori and the Satsuma Rebellion. That was the direct reference, he intended by the way. His sponsor Basil Chamberlain had been there in the middle of it), and the later and much different example of the zai-batsu driven maximal industrialization, militarization and fascistic organization of all aspects of public life and the drive for colonial resources, was a rather different affair. Even Toyama got out of public life after the Chinese Revolution, illustrating that the older set a had a different view of what they had intended and what the younger more fascist oriented crowd were intending to accomplish. That much more modern evil underlay the Japanese political economy of the 20's and 30's.

It is this same contemporaneous sensibility represetned by Hearn, as a Westerner that has greater affinity with O Sensie's own writings. The political defeat of his erstwhile more moderate political sponsors at the beginning of the War, and his physical withdrawal from public life during it, are testaments to a large difference of opinion on what "militarism" did or should mean.

The claim that this embrace "is therefore also not colored by the ascendant Japanese hypernationalism during the 20's and 30's that tended to increasingly dominate thereafter until the end of the War," is technically correct, in much the same sense that one may correctly argue that a contemporaneous, but partial, diagram of a cause is not colored by a diagram drawn in fuller, but still partial, knowledge of the cause's consequent effects. There is militarism and there is militarism. One of honor a sacrifice and one of greed and domination. The zaibatsu represented the latter and Satsuma -- Hearn's rerference point for a restored "military domination" was in light of the prior three hundred years of Tokugawa (warts and all) military dominated pacificity .

Fred Little
05-13-2008, 01:52 PM
There is militarism and there is militarism. One of honor a sacrifice and one of greed and domination. The zaibatsu represented the latter and Satsuma -- Hearn's rerference point for a restored "military domination" was in light of the prior three hundred years of Tokugawa (warts and all) military dominated pacificity .

President Chavez couldn't have said it better himself!

Best,

FL

Erick Mead
05-13-2008, 05:37 PM
President Chavez couldn't have said it better himself!Except for the substitution of supposition for pertinent fact to back it up. Real people, individually and collectively are far more interesting and complicated than any posterized versions that pass for facts among those for whom an agenda is more important than reality.

Present company specifically excepted, of course.

That's what I like about budo. A bokken swung at your head is no longer a representation of anything -- it is the thing. In that moment, all pretense is gone. Even though more than half of warfare is deception, it still has a basic honesty that politics sorely lacks.

See, the thing about history is, that it is contingent -- like combat. "The race is not always to the swift , etc. ... but time and chance happeneth to them all." The rudiments of exterior or cursory similarity do not answer the purpose, because often small, "meaningless" things in themselves, (the proverbial horsehoe nail, or say, a hobbit) do not answer to the rubric of any one's screed of propaganda, right or left. Of course, civilized society is not built on grand truths, but on lots of those small ones -- cushioned with the little lies we can all live with. We, in the West, have been the advocates of the many freely drawn small truths (and the many small, comforting lies) as against forcible grand ones -- of both types.

Aikido is not immune to any of these tendencies -- good or bad.

Allen Beebe
05-13-2008, 07:23 PM
Some historical context is offered below. Please feel free to correct any mistaken facts. I'm throwing this one together "off the cuff."

1894-1895 First Sino-Japanese War
1904 - 1905 Russo Japanese War
1914 World War 1 (Japan was a member of the Allies and also intervened in Russia during the russian Civil War)
1937 - 1945 Second Sino-japanese War

1883 - 1969 Ueshiba Morihei

Japan was engaging in war from when Ueshiba Morihei was 11 years of age until he was 62 years of age. His "formative years" were during the ascendancy of Japan's Imperial Military and a corresponding rise in national pride. By all accounts Ueshiba was eager to join the Imperial Army during the Russo Japanese War serving in the Wakayama 61st Infantry Regiment until 1906.

In 1924 as body guard for Deguchi Onisaburo, Ueshiba traveled to the Mongolia to set up a "utopian society." He and the others of his party are held prisoner by the Chinese military for plotting the overthrow of the existing government. By one account (according to Shioda Gozo as related to him by Ueshiba Morihei) during this "adventure" Ueshiba engaged in lethal combat using a sword from horse-top and learned that a sharp blade doesn't slice well after repeated use due to an accumulation of body fat and therefore thrusting is a more expedient means of dispatch.

In 1939 Ueshiba was invited to instruct in Manchuria (Manchukuo was a puppet state in Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia created by former Qing Dynasty officials with help from Imperial Japan in 1932. The state was founded and administered by Imperial Japan, with Puyi, the last Qing emperor, as the nominal regent and emperor. If I remember correctly there is a Puyi/Ueshiba connection and Puyi may have studied Aikido at some point. In fact I think there may be a group picture.) In 1940 Ueshiba attended a martial arts demonstration in Manchuria (Manchukuo) commemorating the 2600th anniversary of Japan. In 1941 Ueshiba gave a demonstration at the Sainenkan dojo on the Imperial grounds for members of the Imperial family, taught at various military and spy academies, was invited to Manchuria (Manchukuo) to instruct during University Martial Arts week, became martial arts advisor to the Shimbuden and Kenkoku universities in Manchuria (Manchukuo.) In 1942 he was invited to Manchuria (Manchukuo) as representative of Japanese martial arts to attend the Manchuria-Japanese Exchange Martial Arts demonstration in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of "Manchurian Independence." The Kobukan was also reported to have been used as a meeting place by politically/militarily influential groups who's members included certain members of the Kobukan dojo. Whether or not, and to what degree, Ueshiba was aware of, or involved in, these meetings is debated.

By his "senior years" Ueshiba had witnessed the "humbling" if not outright destruction of virtually every power structure (religious, military, martial, and political) that he had been engaged in or associated with.

Ueshiba retired to Iwama in 1942.

Here is a personage that certainly lived an incredibly interesting and eventful life. To look upon O-sensei as anything other than a complex multidimensional human being shows him, his life, and those closest to him great disrespect.

Personally I think it is a bit of a stretch to posit that one can assert the precise nuance that O-sensei intended for individual phrases in the doka and prose shared in Budo Renshu and Budo which were published in 1933 and 1938 respectively, as well as other works that were released in edited bits and pieces later on. Certainly an argument could be made that those closest to "the founder" would be best positioned to understand his core message and beliefs. However, it has been pointed out that individuals in that position have attempted, with a great deal of success, to regulate, sculpt, and/or spin what information and imagery has been shared. Considering the context and conditions of Occupied Japan and Post War Japan, and considering Japanese culture's (past at least) predisposition toward not speaking of that which might be considered sensitive or contradictory of authority, I think this isn't surprising in the least.

That's all my bleary mind has time or inclination to write for now.

Allen Beebe
05-28-2008, 08:56 AM
Prof. Goldsbury wrote this on another thread and I saw it after it was linked to on Aikido Journal. I thought that it was relevant to this thread so I re-post it here as well:

"Re: Fight does not work at all in Aikido.
I am currently finishing the next column for my Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation series and I had occasion to translate a substantial section of Hideo Takahashi's Takemusu Aiki. Up to now, the only available parts in English have been the few sections that have appeared in Stanley Pranin's AJ magazine & columns, which formed the basis of Ellis Amdur's Three Peaches and Hidden in Plain Sight essays.

One of the issues for my next TIE column is Ueshiba's contribution to the military prowess of the Japanese Imperial army & navy and there is good evidence that this was very impressive. The section of Takahashi's book that I have focused upon appears in Part 4 of Stan's summaries of Kisshomaru Ueshiba's biography.

The section deals with a mystical experience that O Sensei had in December 1940, two years before he escaped to Iwama, and at a time when he was playing a huge role in the activities of Japan's military government. Much has been made of the Golden Body episode that occurred much earlier, but the 1940 mystical experience is rarely mentioned. In this account, Ueshiba contrasts his knowledge previous to 1940 with the requirements enjoined by the vision. The account of the vision was couched in Oomoto terms and involved his own possession by the guardian deities of aikido. At one point Ueshiba states that he became (= was possessed by) Izanagi-no-mikoto, who played a pivotal role (literally) in creating the world (= Japan). (This was the era of ubuya = birth huts etc). But he had a truly awesome training regime.

The angst caused by his doubts about the authenticity of the vision supposedly caused an illness that lasted one year. I suspect that part of the angst was caused by the need to square the vision he experienced in 1940 with his pivotal role in the Japanese military before and afterwards. Note that the Budo manual was produced in 1938 and consisted of simple effective techniques that Ueshiba considered would have been effective for Japanese soldiers to kill the enemy in the field of battle.

As a result of the vision, Ueshiba explains his method of ascetic training to his audience in the Byakou Shinkoukai and mentions in passing just how wrong the Japanese army was, in its general interpretation of keiko. He resorts to mysterious kanji but basically argues that the military methods focused only on the body and not on the spirit, as he himself conceived this. If they had focused on the spirit, they would have realized that aikido was truly a divine work, dedicated to unifying the entire universe.

The relevant discourse in Hideo Takahashi's book is clearly a reflection made after the events. Ueshiba mentions the effects of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings and he obviously could not have made these remarks in 1940. However, the section is a sustained meditation on the essential divine aspects of training, as he saw it, and how the Japanese military largely missed all these aspects. The message appears to be that killing people does not figure at all in aikido, even for the military (though this is not explicitly stated).

Ueshiba came to this realization when he was closely involved with the Japanese military and as a result of sustained reflection on his training before 1940. He does not state whether there is an essential connection between the realization and his own military experience. Actually, since he believed he was an avatar, I suspect not.

Given the content of this thread, I thought that I should point out that Morihei Ueshiba's own thinking about the issue is by no means as clear as the title of the thread would lead us to believe.

Best wishes to all,
Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : Yesterday at 08:06 AM.
P A Goldsbury,
Professor Emeritus,
Hiroshima University"

I look forward to the next segment in Peter's column.

Peter Goldsbury
06-03-2008, 09:01 AM
Dear all,
thank you so much for this discussion, which, amongst other things, filled me in on a lot of editorial context I was really missing in the "Secret teachings".

One question that came to my mind was this: Was Kisshomaru's interpretation of his father's message actually informed by participation in his more esoteric or mystical non-waza practices? In a sense that he had similar mystical experiences? Is anything known about that? It appears to me that understanding of a figure like O-Sensei would probably depend a lot on that.

Any thoughts or information?

Mr Eschenbruch,

I am sorry that no one has responded to your questions, so far.

I think that there are three cultural issues here:
1. How a son regarded his father in the Meiji, Taishou, early Shouwa period in Japan;
2. How this particular son regarded his father's religious practices;
3. The impact of the war on the aikido training of both father and son.

A huge issue for interpreters of O Sensei is the extent to which his discourses are a kind of aikido DaVinci Code: the extent to which the Oomoto / yamato-damashii / I am the Universe / my mission is to unify the Universe aspects of his discourses/douka actually mask a comprehensive training manual, covering 'internal' training and waza.

I think that Ellis Amdur is the one who has explored these issues furthest, so far, but there is more to be done in researching both the actual training methods--and also the 'ideology' lying behind the training methods, of both Moriteru and Kisshomaru.

Best wishes,

PAG

PS. I should add that one of the great values of the Internet is that a large part of this is research is being done here, in forums such as this.

Peter Goldsbury
06-03-2008, 07:21 PM
EDIT.

I should have said "Morihei" in the previous post. Moriteru is the present Doshu and this presents a whole of different questions.

PAG

Mike Sigman
06-05-2008, 02:02 PM
I'm afraid that I have long been skeptical of translations by John Stevens, based on an interview that appeared in Aikido Today (v.2, #1, Spring 1988). In that interview, Professor Stevens was asked how he researched O Sensei's life for his book, Abundant Peace.

Professor Stevens replied that "the best, most interesting stories" were those told him by his various teachers over the years. He pointed out that O Sensei himself changed the descriptions of his enlightenment experience over time. He stated that the taped interviews of O Sensei were very difficult to understand, between the poor quality of the tapes and the difficulty in understanding O Sensei; studying the doka and looking at films helped him.

"But," he said, "I suppose I relied mostly on inspiration rather than on pure research. I looked for a unifying view instead of just looking at what O'sensei [sic] did and where."

The book is divided into three sections: The Man, The Martial Artist and The Message.

"The last and most important section is The Message," Professor Stevens said. "Here I tried, not to be objective, but to imagine what O'sensei would say to people if he were speaking English. This was very difficult for me because O'sensei lived in a different world—a world, now lost, peopled with gods and fairies and divinities. I had to appreciate that."

So it seems that Professor Stevens did not really translate O Sensei's words. Instead, he wrote what he thought O Sensei should have said, and would have said, if he could have said it in English.

Shoulda-woulda-coulda. That doesn't sound like great scholarship, to me. If this has been Professor Stevens research philosophy in all of his writing then I fear that, instead of helping readers understand O Sensei and aikido, he has done them both irreparable harm.

DanUh oh. But thanks for the story, Dan.

I don't read except for information, in terms of the translated Chinese and Japanese writings that have to do with martial-arts, ki/qi, training methods, and so on. In the old days a lot of the ki/qi stuff was gibberish and while a lot of it sounded similar, a lot of it sounded different. It was confusing and, like most people, I sort of tagged it to eccentricities of Asian thought ("they're different, y'know") and all that.

As I got more experienced and knowledgeable over the years, though, I found a lot of very practical nuggets in some of the writings. It depends on if you understand by what they mean physically by ki/qi. Now not all is useful; a lot of the stuff they're sayings is just parrot-like repetition of old classical sayings in order to show that they know the ropes. And some of the stuff is more cosmology-based. Not to mention that some of the stuff is so obscure *plus* screwed up by the translator's take on things that it's just gibberish.

In the case of John Stevens' translation "The Art of Aikido" Principles and Essential Techniques, I skimmed through it at first looking (as I always do) to see what Stevens did with the discussions on Ki. He totally misses what ki is, but he obfuscates enough in a scholarly manner that he would easily mislead someone who doesn't understand the topic. OK, so once I knew what he knew about the meanings, etc., of ki I went and read his translation, inserting my practical understanding of ki back into places where he used a fuzzy or "spiritual" translation of Ki. There's actually some good stuff in the book, although there was nothing really earthshaking and nothing that deviated from the classical descriptions of ki and what it can do.

The real point to make from the various things that are said is that much of the discussion about ki and kokyu/breath-power is that these things are meant to be physically practiced, not just dreamed and talked about. If you want the power of Aikido, you have to develop your ki through practice and mind and you have to develop the other part of your ki that is "breath power" through training, breathing practices, etc.

I probably should go through that book sometime and jot down the interesting nuggets as I see them and then post them somewhere. I'd have to caveat that a lot of the gokui comments might indeed be interesting to someone looking for Aikido pointers, but from my perspective, most of what is being said are classical admonitions that have to do with position, power, "aiki", and so forth.... stuff that I've encountered in Taiji, Xingyi, Bagua, and some other arts. I.e., the admonitions are very good, but they're also not Aikido-unique in any real sense. It's classical Asian martial arts, but I mean that in a sense that you wouldn't find it at your local karate school or Shaolin school, etc., because those things are "gokui" there, too.

Generally speaking, a lot of this stuff is like the theory of electromagnetism to an engineer versus the ritual how-to's of an electrical/electronic technician. If you understand the theory, no electrical machine is going to be using any new and unheard-of variation that will baffle anyone who knows the general theory. However, a technician might think that each electrical machine is different because he doesn't understand the overall theory and he's been taught by rote. The point is that while there may be some nuggets in the new book, I wouldn't expect anything to fall outside of the general theory of ki, how it's used and trained, how it relates to an opponent, how it relates (in the classical sense) to the known laws of the universe (and therefore "harmony" with all things), and so on.

Thanks again for the story. ;)

Best.

Mike Sigman

Mike Sigman
06-10-2008, 10:33 PM
I got my copy of the book today and started reading. Frankly, I'm not too hopeful, although I'll keep going when I can. It's a tough, mind-boggling read that is not like I imagined from more coherent commentaries on waza, general principles, and so forth.

Reading this book I think it's just gone through too many stages, some of which are unknown. Sure, I see fairly straightforward references to ki as a physical skill, but Stevens mixes up his translation of "ki", IMO, so that I have to sometimes go back to be sure which "ki" was "breath", which one was "spirit", which one was ki skill, kokyu skill, and so on.

What I think happened (note that this is just a first opinion) was something along the lines of: O-Sensei spoke obliquely (not clearly) and in some form of flowery language (whether he was affecting this, copying traditional form, etc., I don't know). This stuff was editted and Stevens then translated from the flowery with an indeterminate accuracy and was hindered by the fact that he didn't understand the physical and nuanced references to what "ki" is in the substantive sense (he seems to have the possible non-substantive parts covered). It's just too many steps.

What few things I can see reasonably clearly seem once again to be general "classical" observations. However, that's just my preliminary opinion and I'll keep reading. But my intuition is that this translation isn't going to yield much fruit in terms of substantive information. I'd be happy to hear other peoples' opinions if they've read the book.

FWIW

Mike Sigman

Gernot Hassenpflug
06-10-2008, 10:51 PM
the reading of the kanbun characters in the Kojiki is not an exact science. However, the reading masa-katsu-a-katsu-kachi-haya-hi is the preferred form in all the commentaries that I possess.

Dear Peter, in Abe Seiseki's dojo in Suita City, Osaka, there is a calligraphy scroll by Morihei Ueshiba with these characters. Abe sensei, in his explanation, invariably pronounces the characters individually as "katsu-haya-hi" with the intepretation, "To overcome, you must be as fast as light".

Best wishes,
Gernot Hassenpflug in Tokyo

Peter Goldsbury
06-11-2008, 05:10 PM
Hello Gernot,

I am pretty sure that O Sensei pronounced it Masakatsu Agatsu Katsu Hayabi. However, I am doing my own research on the Kojiki and I have found that there are broad differences even on how the late Edo kokugaku scholars read the text.

How are your studies with Akuzawa shi going? Give him my yoroshiku and tell him that if I lived closer to Tokyo, he would have another regular dojo member.

Best wishes,

Allen Beebe
06-14-2008, 12:22 AM
For those that haven't noticed yet . . .

Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 7
by Peter Goldsbury

is up, related and well worth a read.