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George S. Ledyard
07-06-2009, 12:10 PM
Some friends and I were joking about the idea of having someone do simultaneous translation for the Japanese teachers we train with. Between the English as a second language issue, the Japanese tendency to be oblique rather than direct, and the lack of Japanese language understanding on the part of most of the students, much instruction is murky at best and often the point is missed entirely.

As an example... Ikeda Sensei will say "now, make them light". What he means is to get them up off their base, to disconnect them from their grounding. When compared to the level of detail offered 15 years ago or so this is a great improvement. We went over a decade in which we were told to "just catch it". Then Sensei would show us. Over and over, he'd show us. But for most of us, it just didn't sink in. He kept getting better, more subtle, smaller and smaller movement, and it got harder and harder to "see" what he was doing.

So when we were joking about having simultaneous translation we decided that one of us would sit off to the side and "translate" what was said into more concrete terms. For instance, when Ikeda Sensei would say "make them light", I might say "what Sensei means to say is: reach in and touch their spine with your energy, now relax and receive the energy of the connection into your spine, run your energy up your back side to make them light and turn your hips to move them. Ok Sensei, please proceed..."

Some teachers simply don't explain. Some won't even show you more than once. O-Sensei was like that. You are expected to figure it out based on the combination of
observation (by watching) and feel (by taking ukemi). I think the success of this level of transmission is self evident based on the large numbers of people who mastered the principles at the level of the Founder. (That's a joke, son, aah say, that's a joke).

But even when many Japanese teachers try to break out of how they, themselves, were trained, you often find that people who trained largely on the intuitive model are not very good at breaking things down, at least verbally. My own teacher, Saotome Sensei, sees things holistically. When he tries to be helpful, he'll give you an instruction which I might recognize as having five or six different components, all of which are crucial to the successful execution of the technique in question, but which most folks simply won't understand.

It's not just in the technical arena that there is the "translation gap". We were at a seminar once at which testing took place. One person's weapons work was particularly abyssal. I mean, really truly, off the charts bad. I would have flunked him and read his teacher the riot act. But often, in these situations, the whole Japanese "group cohesion" thing kicks in. No one wants to embarrass the student, his teacher, cast a negative pall over the event, etc. So Sensei got up after the test and took the katana off the shomen and proceeded to give a twenty minute lecture...

"Japanese sword, so beautiful, but so deadly. Life and death so close together..." etc. Now, I got the point of the lecture, but it was clear that most of the folks present were completely mystified. If I had been able to translate I would have said, "What Sensei means to say is that your sword work was truly awful, you should go out on the parking lot and commit seppuku and if any teacher here EVER sends someone to test in front of me who is this unprepared again, I'll send that teacher back to the kyu ranks...."

Or the time when Sensei stopped everyone right in the middle of a technique and delivered another long lecture on "makoto". The cause of this was a complete lack of intention in the attacks on the part of most of the participants. He went on at length on the subject. The problem was that most of the folks either didn't know what "makoto" was at all, or they only understood the term in its narrow form translated as "sincerity". IKt was a truly amazing lecture I must say... but only the most senior folks understood what he was getting at and they weren't the big offenders. Had I been able to translate for him, I might have said "Your attacks are completely lacking in intention, they have no power or function, energetically they are completely false. Training with you when you attack that way is not only not beneficial for your partner but it is actively detrimental." That was pretty much the gist of what Sensei meant with his lecture but it went right over most folks heads. I over heard one fairly experienced person comment afterwords comment that he felt that he didn't understand why Sensei thought people didn't care about what they were doing... The larger meaning of "makoto" as single minded, clear intention, commitment, etc escaped hhim. And he was one of the worst offenders in terms of delivering what we fondly refer to as "shomen no uchi" style attacks.

Then there is the misunderstanding about what is meant when Sensei smiles or looks disgusted and harangues you. Most folks like it when Sensei comes by and smiles and moves on. "Hah! I must have it right..." They really hated it when Sensei gets on their case about something. "Oh, I am a total screwup... I'll never get this..." They go home happy when Sensei seems happy and they feel incompetent when Sensei comes down on them for something.

In fact what is often happening is that when the teacher doesn't correct you, it means that he has given up on you. You have been relegated to the category of hopeless. So he smiles and wonders to himself why the kami have sent him such incompetents as students? When the Sensei decides to actually take notice of you and rain all over your technique, questioning your competence, commitment, ability, and perhaps suggesting that quitting might be a less painful path for both you and him, he is actually thinking that there might be some kernel of hope that you will turn out ok and you are worth his effort.

Since it is pretty much out of the question for the "simultaneous translation" thing to actually happen, students really need to take responsibility for their owqn understanding of what is being taught. If you don't think you got it, ask someone who did. Try to read as widely as possible so that you have a broader understanding of what the Japanese terms mean. Read everything Peter Goldsbury Sensei has written about how the Japanese process things. Assume Sensei is talking about you when he is lecturing. Find someone with good technical and verbal skills to break down what the teacher is saying for you. Grab these seniors after class and ask them to explain, don't just walk off in a haze. Between language issues, different models of what constitutes "teaching", and a tendency towards making things oblique rather than clear, folks are missing out of an awful of instruction that is being put forth but not connecting with the intended target. And in the Japanes model, that's your problem, not theirs.https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/8994761102223176865-2489908680814514136?l=aikieast.blogspot.com


More... (http://aikieast.blogspot.com/2009/07/japanese-aikido-teachers-translation.html)

Marc Abrams
07-06-2009, 12:30 PM
George:

No wonder they describe that learning process as "stealing the technique." The real test will be to see if our providing more "understandable" instructions to the students will result in quicker improvement and overall high level of student abilities over time.

I had the image of an old Saturday Night Live skit in which Garrett Morris was helping out for the hearing impaired. How do you think that would work at a seminar :D !

Marc Abrams

Cliff Judge
07-07-2009, 09:12 AM
So we have a very old Japanese model of teaching - where the teacher is an exemplar of the art, and the students are each responsible for developing the observational and analytical skills necessary to extract as much information from watching the teacher "be" the art as possible, then process that information.

I am reading David Lowry's book _Autumn Lightning_ right now and part of the picture of how bushi lived in 16th century Japan that he relates is the idea that if there was a duel, every swordsman in the area would flock to watch in the hopes of seeing what kind of moves the other ryuha had. Because otherwise, you'd have to "ask for a lesson" from somebody which could be fatal.

As modern westerners, most Aikido people on this forum were raised with a different student-teacher relationship. We expect the teacher to come across the void and pull us forward. (I recall Ellis Amdur describing this as the American sense of entitlement.)

Thing is, I believe that if our Japanese senseis changed their methods to suit our cultural tendencies, they would not spend as much time manifesting the spirit of the art, but we would also not have as much claim to ownership of the skills we eventually developed.

And it still wouldn't work out very well. Ikeda Sensei has spent the last decade trying to develop a method to teach how to develop soft, internal skills, how to connect and break partner's balance, partner is already out, etc. And you, sir, have done an inspiring job of organizing such material into a more structured framework. But there is just no magic bullet. If we want to be able to do these things we still need to cultivate the mindset of being a bushi on a street corner in Osaka or something circa the late 1500s, watching two exponents of unfamiliar ryuha engage. How good we can be is defined by how much we can observe, analyze, and synthesize from what we see.

(Yeah yeah and then we need to develop the skill of figuring out why we're not getting inside our sempai's energy field rather than making the same mistake twelve times in a row too.)

chuunen baka
07-07-2009, 09:42 AM
I might say "what Sensei means to say is: reach in and touch their spine with your energy, now relax and receive the energy of the connection into your spine, run your energy up your back side to make them light and turn your hips to move them."
Is there going to be somebody else to translate your translation into normal English? ;)

George S. Ledyard
07-07-2009, 10:24 AM
Is there going to be somebody else to translate your translation into normal English? ;)

It's not my English that's the problem... it's that we are talking about something that has no vocabulary in English. So you have to work with someone who can do it and explain what he or she is doing. Then you will know what the description means. You have to feel it. You can't see it until you really know what you are looking for.

This is what I have to do with the folks at my dojo and at the seminars I teach. I have worked out a vocabulary which is body centered and quite specific. When I instruct I have to teach the students this new (for most of them) language. So when I say "touch the spine" I have to grab you and give you specific feedback about what that is and is not.

That's why this stuff really doesn't lend itself to mass transmission. There's a reason that O-Sensei basically taught either privately or in very small groups which allowed the students to get their hands on him multiple times every class. Even then, due to lack of systematic explanation, there was a huge variance in the extent to which they got it.

I believe that, if Aikido is going to regain some of the content which has been disappearing over time, we have to do a better job of breaking down and teaching these principles. This is an uphill battle as there are only so many folks functioning on this level... That's one of the reasons so many folks are trying to work with teachers from outside Aikido like Mike S, Dan H, Akuzawa, Toby Threadgill, Howard Popkin, the Systema folks, etc.

I just came back from the ASU Summer Camp in DC. I would say there is a fundamental shift taking place. It's gradual but building steam. There were far more folks whose Aikido is starting to contain these elements than just a few years ago. Despite my complaints about lack of specific how-to instruction, our teachers have been placing increasing emphasis on showing these principles in action. If you attend a seminar with Ikeda Sensei these days, you will do nothing else... it's the whole focus of what he is teaching.

Another optimistic sign is that there are an increasing number of senior American teachers who are no longer letting the Japanese Shihan hold them back. There has been a steady exodus of folks who have chosen to affiliate directly with Hombu Dojo and pursue their own course, find their own Aikido. And even those who have not taken quite such a radical step are sneaking off and getting training without telling their teachers they are doing so. I periodically run into these folks at various events. I've even had some come train with me. When people are serious about their training, they get to the point at which they won't let anything stand in their way any more. As the Aikido public gets better educated about what higher level skills actually are, there will be quite a few senior teachers who are going to find themselves marginalized. Personally, I think that will be wonderful to see. I want to see the Aikido here be better than anything available in the homeland and I think that's possible given what is going on.

George S. Ledyard
07-07-2009, 10:49 AM
But there is just no magic bullet. If we want to be able to do these things we still need to cultivate the mindset of being a bushi on a street corner in Osaka or something circa the late 1500s, watching two exponents of unfamiliar ryuha engage. How good we can be is defined by how much we can observe, analyze, and synthesize from what we see.

(Yeah yeah and then we need to develop the skill of figuring out why we're not getting inside our sempai's energy field rather than making the same mistake twelve times in a row too.)

Hi Cliff,
You are right that there is no magic bullet. Even with the best explanation in the world, there simply is no substitute for practice, practice, practice.

However, the point of putting together systematic, principle based instruction is to keep people from spending years doing thousands of repetitions wrong. Every time you do a technique, you are imprinting something in your mind and body. It is far harder to change that imprinting, once done, than it is to imprint it right in the first place.

You and I have worked together a number of times. I have explained the technique and you have done it successfully. But that didn't mean you could duplicate it when I wasn't offering the step by step explanation. That's because the outline of the principles still isn't totally clear in your head. So, like everybody else, you catch it and then lose it and then catch it again.

Once the sequence of actions in any technique are clear to you, you will still miss it at times until you have made those principles your default setting rather than something you have to think about. Then you will still miss it as you keep upping the intensity of the training and trying to apply the principles in more varied contexts. Then you die... oh, well. Perfection is a motivation, not a goal you attain.

The most important thing about principle based instruction is that it allows you to become your own teacher. If something goes wrong, you are able to "reverse engineer" and figure out what went wrong and change it. You don't have to sit there waiting for some teacher to tell you. This is also what is required to be able to "see" when presented with the opportunity to train with really high level people. If you do not understand what is going on, you won't even see what is important about what they are doing. Ikeda Sensei barely moves at times and his partner falls down. I can assure you that everything you and I have talked about when we have trained is operating there but your chance of seeing it if you didn't know what you were looking at is remote at best.

In a way, that is really what I am doing. I am trying to train people's "eye" so that they can see. I can't do their Aikido for them... I have enough trouble working on this stuff myself. But if I can help people understand what is really happening in the "aiki" interaction, then they can then benefit from training with all of these amazing teachers we have access to; instead of repeatedly going off to seminars and at the end having no more idea of what was happening than when they arrived.

Walker
07-07-2009, 11:21 AM
George, you have brought to mind something that happened many many years ago when I was a young no rank.

The very first time I saw Saotomi sensei I was alone in an aikido club office in a school gymnasium when sensei appeared in full mountain man garb. Not wanting to get in his way I mumbled something and left him so he could have some privacy. A few minutes later after bowing in sensei gave a pointed lecture on how greeting another person, matching their intensity and presence was the entire basis of the uke nage relationship and budo itself.

Now I'm sure no one understood why sensei decided to address this topic because no one else had been present when he arrived, but I knew exactly what he was talking about and have remembered it all these years later.

So sometimes there is an audience of one. Or perhaps, it is always an audience of one.

Suru
07-07-2009, 12:15 PM
When I was training with one of my first sensei, who is Japanese, I had little difficulty comprehending his meaning. He would say in English only a word or two, sometimes a few, but they were almost always the exact proper words for the situation. I was curious for years how this worked out, only to eventually discover he is near-fluent, if not totally fluent, in English!

Drew

George S. Ledyard
07-07-2009, 01:17 PM
George, you have brought to mind something that happened many many years ago when I was a young no rank.

The very first time I saw Saotomi sensei I was alone in an aikido club office in a school gymnasium when sensei appeared in full mountain man garb. Not wanting to get in his way I mumbled something and left him so he could have some privacy. A few minutes later after bowing in sensei gave a pointed lecture on how greeting another person, matching their intensity and presence was the entire basis of the uke nage relationship and budo itself.

Now I'm sure no one understood why sensei decided to address this topic because no one else had been present when he arrived, but I knew exactly what he was talking about and have remembered it all these years later.

So sometimes there is an audience of one. Or perhaps, it is always an audience of one.

Hi Doug,
The lessons from a great teacher can go beyond anything technical and they can come when you least expect it. I say this in both a positive and negative way. Since our teachers are flawed human beings, like all of us, the lessons can be about what you want to emulate and what you do not. The trick is to always be paying attention so you get the lesson when it appears. Then you choose what to do with it. Great to hear from you...
- George

Lee Salzman
07-07-2009, 06:49 PM
It's not my English that's the problem... it's that we are talking about something that has no vocabulary in English. So you have to work with someone who can do it and explain what he or she is doing. Then you will know what the description means. You have to feel it. You can't see it until you really know what you are looking for.

This is what I have to do with the folks at my dojo and at the seminars I teach. I have worked out a vocabulary which is body centered and quite specific. When I instruct I have to teach the students this new (for most of them) language. So when I say "touch the spine" I have to grab you and give you specific feedback about what that is and is not.

That's why this stuff really doesn't lend itself to mass transmission. There's a reason that O-Sensei basically taught either privately or in very small groups which allowed the students to get their hands on him multiple times every class. Even then, due to lack of systematic explanation, there was a huge variance in the extent to which they got it.


Stuff like this is why when I came across yiquan, or at least one interpretation of it, after floundering in my aikido practice, I found it so intensely refreshing. It was this very idea played out systematically - that whether you put it in English, Japanese, Chinese, or Greek - that so long as explanation in words precedes intuitive understanding of a concept, you are always going to set the stage for misunderstanding more often than not as the listener fishes in his own pre-existing experience for a best fit of what is being said. That even indicts the idea that if you feel someone else skilled at a concept (playing uke), that you are also expected to gain nage's personal intuition of the concept. I always wondered why I felt so unsure of what I had learned, why I kept discarding and relearning things all the time only to go in circles on many concepts; the longer I trained the shakier my foundational understanding seemed to be.

But the training was structured very differently with this, such that it tried to assume as little vocabulary as possible, verbal or even physical. Like when conveying the idea of relaxation, there is no one saying to "be relaxed" or having you see or feel someone who is relaxed and immediately trying to just reproduce that in yourself. It takes the tack of trying to directly induce the feeling or at least something similar to it in you directly, by a tool that can be objectively verified initially. Once the feeling is there, the tool is discarded in favor of deeping the initial sensation and expanding the situations in which it can be employed.

One example tool for introducing relaxation of the shoulder is to have the person extend one arm out straight to the side, bending over at the waist somewhat so the arm has a clear path to swing, then letting the arm suddenly relax and drop, swinging until it stops on its own. The person can then place their other hand on the shoulder muscles of that arm and feel any tensing or twitching of the muscles as the arm is swinging to a stop. The person can also feel someone else's shoulder as they do the exercise to see what the result feels like there and also have someone else feel their shoulder muscles to likewise externally verify. So long as both people using the tool are getting a similar external result, and one of the people is designated as having understood what relaxation is in the first place, then the idea of relaxation of the shoulder has been transmitted from that one person to the other. The student can then connect the intuitive feeling of his shoulder having been relaxed in using the tool to the general idea of relaxation throughout the body, deepening the feeling and expanding its scope. The tool is discarded afterwards, its only purpose being to transmit the idea of relaxation, and instead relaxation is practiced by just practicing the feeling itself so that the feeling can become pattern-less. That is where you have things like standing in postures, or slow movement, so the feeling can just be practiced in context.

I liked how for everything there were distinct exercises/tools for each stage - some are for transmitting a concept, others are for verifying the expression of the concept (sometimes the same as those for transmitting), and distinct others are for actually training the concept into the body. It didn't try to have all-in-one super exercises like kata or form sets where you were expected to do all of the above, understand, practice, and verify, all at the same time. You weren't trying to reproduce the teacher's skill, you were just trying to understand it for yourself, practice to improve, and then use the tools to verify that you were really improving. When that is systematically applied to all concepts in the training, the entire feel of training is just almost inexplicably different. It doesn't automatically make a better student, but it sure as hell feels empowering in making you feel like you have control over what you are learning.

Mike Sigman
07-09-2009, 04:17 PM
I believe that, if Aikido is going to regain some of the content which has been disappearing over time, we have to do a better job of breaking down and teaching these principles. This is an uphill battle as there are only so many folks functioning on this level... That's one of the reasons so many folks are trying to work with teachers from outside Aikido like Mike S, Dan H, Akuzawa, Toby Threadgill, Howard Popkin, the Systema folks, etc.

I just came back from the ASU Summer Camp in DC. I would say there is a fundamental shift taking place. It's gradual but building steam. There were far more folks whose Aikido is starting to contain these elements than just a few years ago. Despite my complaints about lack of specific how-to instruction, our teachers have been placing increasing emphasis on showing these principles in action. If you attend a seminar with Ikeda Sensei these days, you will do nothing else... it's the whole focus of what he is teaching.
One of the problems within the JMA communities (and CMA's, too) about ki/kokyu skills is not only just "translation", although that's a big problem admittedly, but also the fact that initial terms and explanations are simply not there. If you learn something from someone by feel and intuition, it's difficult to pass it on in any way except through feel and intuition. And of course without more precise ways of describing things, a lot can be lost in the transmission.

While sources outside of Aikido can contribute to various facets of the ki/kokyu skills, I think the growth of knowledge within the Aikido community will grow beyond those sources in a few years ... although probably most of that knowledge is going to be confined to the people who at this moment are making serious efforts to get the information. What I'd suggest is that people begin to isolate and define the skills that are applicable to Aikido. Make a list. Start with Ueshiba, Tohei, and others standing relaxedly against a push and saying "this is an example of ki". OK, so you have a physical phenomenon that you can label "this is ki". Then start looking for other legitimate examples of what ki is that have been demonstrated and discussed by acknowledged Aikido experts.

What I'm suggesting is that now would be a good time to begin a definition that works from the demonstrable phenomena and add that information to whatever can be gleaned from "translation", and so on. Begin building a public repository of ki-related information in perhaps the AikiWiki so that it is available to everyone, especially as it becomes more complete. I think it would be very helpful to the art for people to contribute by gathering information and making it publicly available.

FWIW

Mike Sigman

Suru
07-09-2009, 06:21 PM
George, you have brought to mind something that happened many many years ago when I was a young no rank.

The very first time I saw Saotomi sensei I was alone in an aikido club office in a school gymnasium when sensei appeared in full mountain man garb. Not wanting to get in his way I mumbled something and left him so he could have some privacy. A few minutes later after bowing in sensei gave a pointed lecture on how greeting another person, matching their intensity and presence was the entire basis of the uke nage relationship and budo itself.

Now I'm sure no one understood why sensei decided to address this topic because no one else had been present when he arrived, but I knew exactly what he was talking about and have remembered it all these years later.

So sometimes there is an audience of one. Or perhaps, it is always an audience of one.

Once, I began speaking with Saotome Shihan. I didn't bow because I had a cigarette in my hand. I hope to this day that he did not take it as disrespect since that's exactly what I wanted to avoid. I said, "Hello, Sensei," partly because it's more formal, and partly because I didn't want him to mistake "Hi" for "Hai." What's the general Japanese rule on this? Is it okay to bow with cigarette or anything else in hand? Fortunately, he didn't get into a lecture on the subject, but these East-West differences can be confusing to me. I suppose I just went with my heart by not bowing.

Drew

Josh Reyer
07-09-2009, 06:49 PM
What's the general Japanese rule on this? Is it okay to bow with cigarette or anything else in hand? Of course. Japanese people, being a modern people, often have something in their hand in the course of their daily lives. A great deal of them are smokers, as well. The bowing continues unabated.

Cliff Judge
07-10-2009, 02:09 PM
Once, I began speaking with Saotome Shihan. I didn't bow because I had a cigarette in my hand. I hope to this day that he did not take it as disrespect since that's exactly what I wanted to avoid. I said, "Hello, Sensei," partly because it's more formal, and partly because I didn't want him to mistake "Hi" for "Hai." What's the general Japanese rule on this? Is it okay to bow with cigarette or anything else in hand? Fortunately, he didn't get into a lecture on the subject, but these East-West differences can be confusing to me. I suppose I just went with my heart by not bowing.

Drew

FYI, Saotome Sensei knows you're not Japanese and doesn't expect you to try to be something you are not. He's lived in the USA for 30 years, has been a citizen since, I believe, the 1980s. He very often responds to bows with an outstretched hand, and I don't believe he is trying to say "you can't bow right" or anything like that.

Suru
07-10-2009, 02:36 PM
FYI, Saotome Sensei knows you're not Japanese and doesn't expect you to try to be something you are not. He's lived in the USA for 30 years, has been a citizen since, I believe, the 1980s. He very often responds to bows with an outstretched hand, and I don't believe he is trying to say "you can't bow right" or anything like that.

Thanks because that is somewhat of a relief. I suppose he's really good at seeing the whole picture, including the fact that I do not look Japanese at all. Also, he doesn't seem the type to make mountains out of molehills. I appreciate your words, Cliff.

Drew

gdandscompserv
07-11-2009, 03:33 AM
One of the problems within the JMA communities (and CMA's, too) about ki/kokyu skills is not only just "translation", although that's a big problem admittedly, but also the fact that initial terms and explanations are simply not there. If you learn something from someone by feel and intuition, it's difficult to pass it on in any way except through feel and intuition. And of course without more precise ways of describing things, a lot can be lost in the transmission.

While sources outside of Aikido can contribute to various facets of the ki/kokyu skills, I think the growth of knowledge within the Aikido community will grow beyond those sources in a few years ... although probably most of that knowledge is going to be confined to the people who at this moment are making serious efforts to get the information. What I'd suggest is that people begin to isolate and define the skills that are applicable to Aikido. Make a list. Start with Ueshiba, Tohei, and others standing relaxedly against a push and saying "this is an example of ki". OK, so you have a physical phenomenon that you can label "this is ki". Then start looking for other legitimate examples of what ki is that have been demonstrated and discussed by acknowledged Aikido experts.

What I'm suggesting is that now would be a good time to begin a definition that works from the demonstrable phenomena and add that information to whatever can be gleaned from "translation", and so on. Begin building a public repository of ki-related information in perhaps the AikiWiki so that it is available to everyone, especially as it becomes more complete. I think it would be very helpful to the art for people to contribute by gathering information and making it publicly available.

FWIW

Mike Sigman
That's some very excellent advice Mike, thank you! I do hope those that are learning these skills will do as you have suggested.

MM
07-11-2009, 07:06 AM
That's some very excellent advice Mike, thank you! I do hope those that are learning these skills will do as you have suggested.

So short the memory. It's already started. :)

Ricky, check the non-aikido forum.

Start with:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15035

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=14991

I still don't think people truly understand the significance of Ueshiba doing Daito ryu. Even in his 60s on video, he is still filmed doing a lot of Daito ryu techniques.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XTlWDOQBno
Wakayama 1952, Ueshiba age 69.
3:19-3:21 Ueshiba has hands in heaven/earth pose.
3:48 - Ueshiba starts with hands in heaven/earth pose.
3:48-3:51 - Two person shiho nage
3:52 - Ueshiba has hands in heaven/earth pose.
3:53 - Ueshiba starts with hands in heaven/earth pose.
3:53 - 4:02 - Two person shiho nage.
4:03 - Ueshiba has hands in heaven/earth pose.
4:05 - 4:20 DR technique (pin multiples)
4:20 - Ueshiba has hands in heaven/earth pose.
5:10 - 6:13 Doing some kind of internal exercises.
6:22 - 7:30 All internal exercises.
8:59 - Ueshiba starts with hands in heaven/earth pose.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kNviv37kfo
5:47 - Ueshiba has hands in heaven/earth pose.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79PMWGtl0qM
6:00 - 6:06 DR technique (pin multiples)
8:50 - 9:02 DR technique (pin multiples)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7Cfpay1X2c
Ueshiba 1935
Multiple instances of Ueshiba has hands in heaven/earth pose.

All of Ueshiba's exploits are things that other Daito ryu masters did. You can even see Kodo and Okamoto on video replicating some of them. That heaven/earth pose? Check out pictures of Takeda and Hisa. They're both shown doing that.

If you want to start listing "physical phenomenon" that you label as ki, then check out the Daito ryu masters and their students who have gotten aiki. The real aiki, not move aside and harmonize.

George S. Ledyard
07-11-2009, 01:45 PM
All of Ueshiba's exploits are things that other Daito ryu masters did.

The implication in all these posts is always, "O-Sensei was really a Daito Ryu man and everything good got lost because we lost the Daito Ryu connection."

O-Sensei quite consciously changed what he did from what went before. O-Sensei himself introduced the larger movement that distinguishes Aikido from any other martial art. If he had thought that Daito Ryu was the ultimate expression of what he wanted to convey, we'd all be doing Daito Ryu.

What was different about O-Sensei from the other great "aiki" masters of his time was not technical. It was largely mental and there were others who had much the same skill. The combination of the Founder's spiritual ideas with the physical technique derived primarily from Daito Ryu became something else.

If you want to start listing "physical phenomenon" that you label as ki, then check out the Daito ryu masters and their students who have gotten aiki. The real aiki, not move aside and harmonize.

One of the amazing things about how ideas get taken on and become something beyond just an idea is how folks latch on to something and invest their own stuff in that idea. Eric Hoffer talked about the True Believer.

Amongst the students of the Founder one notices an unfortunate tendency for each to think that he was the only one who understood the Founder and the "other guys" missed it. Now that other "aiki" training is available and a new generation of teachers is out there you can see the same thing. The Daito Ryu folks think that O-Sensei was simply a Daito Ryu guy and tell themselves that they have everything we do (and more). The thirties "Aiki Budo" folks think that they had it right and what came after was somehow less. The Iwama folks are convinced that they alone are doing O-Sensei's Aikido and that everything that came after about 1952 was someone else's influence, not the Founder's Aikido. Even the folks who came AFTER the Founder feel that they have the "real" Aikido, often marginalizing the Founder's ideas as "old fashioned" and not suitable for the modern age.

I don't buy it at all. Aikido evolved as the Founder evolved. I don't take issue with the fact that an awful lot of very deep stuff has largely disappeared from the art and serious practitioners will have to work to get it back again. My dojo has a Daito Ryu Study Group going under Howard Popkin Sensei. We also have a fine Systema Group under Kaizen Taki. I make sure that my students and I are exposed to outside folks of the highest skill. My Facebook page has a whole list of people I consider as my teachers and many of them are not Aikido folks.

But at the end of the day we take what we get and we put it back into our Aikido. These other folks are not doing Aikido, regardless of how skilled they are at "aiki". Aikido has a form. As a very good friend of mine said recently, "If it doesn't look like Aikido, smell like Aikido, and taste like Aikido, it's not Aikido."

Folks interested in fighting generally don't like the form of the art and find ways of changing it, usually backwards towards something that went before. If fighting is your goal this is an almost inevitable process. O-Sensei's goal was "not fighting". Not fighting with yourself, not fighting with others, not fighting the "will of the Kami"... It's not about fighting , it's about not fighting.

If people have no sense of this, then they are doing the wrong art. I do not think that Aikido is for everyone. Rather than try to devolve the art to make it something it's not, why not just go do an art that better fits what you want? It's not like there aren't choices out there now. Every time I hear an Aikido person going on and on about Daito Ryu, Systema, whatever... as being superior, I ask myself why they don't simply go do those arts? Why stick around Aikido and bitch about it all the time?

I don't even disagree with the criticisms leveled at Aikido. Most Aikido being done today is almost devoid of "aiki" and that includes folks with numbers as high as 8th Dan after their names. But it is not completely true. There are some really amazing teachers and there are many people working hard to re-introduce some of the skills, both mental and physical into the art while maintaining it's identity as a distinct form with unique characteristics.

Aikido is far more than the "bad Daito Ryu" some folks seem to think it is.

Lee Salzman
07-11-2009, 02:18 PM
If people have no sense of this, then they are doing the wrong art. I do not think that Aikido is for everyone. Rather than try to devolve the art to make it something it's not, why not just go do an art that better fits what you want? It's not like there aren't choices out there now. Every time I hear an Aikido person going on and on about Daito Ryu, Systema, whatever... as being superior, I ask myself why they don't simply go do those arts? Why stick around Aikido and bitch about it all the time?

I don't even disagree with the criticisms leveled at Aikido. Most Aikido being done today is almost devoid of "aiki" and that includes folks with numbers as high as 8th Dan after their names. But it is not completely true. There are some really amazing teachers and there are many people working hard to re-introduce some of the skills, both mental and physical into the art while maintaining it's identity as a distinct form with unique characteristics.

Aikido is far more than the "bad Daito Ryu" some folks seem to think it is.

That would seem to be the heart of the matter. So, in a vague attempt to keep the thread on-topic... It is that what aikido "is" is hazy enough that it allows people to imprint extremely liberal interpretations of what it "is" back onto it. It's hard to single out something people can use as a yardstick to say what exactly even a "liberal" interpretation is. Everyone has to be all the more dogmatic about theirs because every other interpretation becomes a threat to what they see is right, even if they have severed their attachments to aikido in the end. It all comes back to the "how" of transmission, not the "what".

I felt very strongly about aikido while I was practicing it more actively. Then I became disillusioned with it... why? Was it the art itself, was it the founder (O'Sensei), was it the teachers, what is how they were teaching, was it what they were teaching, etc. etc. or was it simply just me? Where was I to peg the fault?

That comes back to why I pointed out yiquan in my example - not to discuss the merit of the content of that skill set, but of the what light it shed on aikido for me and the problems of the learning process itself. When I first came to yiquan, and other Chinese martial arts, I saw the same things played out there. I had the same doubts running through my head. It was the same scenario all over again, just spread out differently, and I was pretty much ready to give up.

Then I came across just one teacher of yiquan, who I thought was slicing through all these issues. It had nothing to do with "what" he was teaching - he could have been teaching me to play golf, it wouldn't have mattered. It was exactly "how" he was teaching that made me want to learn from this guy.

It was a method built off the idea that the real problem of martial arts was not what you were doing, but how you're supposed to teach it. Not only that, but it took the standpoint that everything and anything was open to being questioned, nothing is beyond being objectively tested, nothing is beyond being thrown out, replaced, or reinvented. There was no appeal to the history of the method, there was no appeal to other people who were "greats" of their time, and there was no appeal to even the skill of this guy teaching it. Everything was expected to stand on its own, its value self-apparent - and if it wasn't, you were free to do with it as you pleased to make it so.

So I took that and looked through that lens to my aikido training - past, present, and future. I look at the little nuggets of information I was being taught. How were they being used? How were they "intended" to be used by what was being said? How were they being used in other things totally unrelated? What results could be achieved with these things?

That made it apparent that just as a matter of "what" was being taught, there were lots of ways that I could have been using all of these things - without changing the content and training tools of aikido - that would have made me far more satisfied with them.

And then I went back and I looked at my teachers. What were they able to do? How were they explaining themselves doing it? How were the students receiving it, at least as they understood it conceptually? How were they doing it in the end?

That also made it apparent to me that there was truly not enough attention being paid to just how ideas were being transmitted, let alone what was being transmitted.

George S. Ledyard
07-11-2009, 03:26 PM
That would seem to be the heart of the matter. So, in a vague attempt to keep the thread on-topic... It is that what aikido "is" is hazy enough that it allows people to imprint extremely liberal interpretations of what it "is" back onto it. It's hard to single out something people can use as a yardstick to say what exactly even a "liberal" interpretation is. Everyone has to be all the more dogmatic about theirs because every other interpretation becomes a threat to what they see is right, even if they have severed their attachments to aikido in the end. It all comes back to the "how" of transmission, not the "what".

I felt very strongly about aikido while I was practicing it more actively. Then I became disillusioned with it... why? Was it the art itself, was it the founder (O'Sensei), was it the teachers, what is how they were teaching, was it what they were teaching, etc. etc. or was it simply just me? Where was I to peg the fault?

That comes back to why I pointed out yiquan in my example - not to discuss the merit of the content of that skill set, but of the what light it shed on aikido for me and the problems of the learning process itself. When I first came to yiquan, and other Chinese martial arts, I saw the same things played out there. I had the same doubts running through my head. It was the same scenario all over again, just spread out differently, and I was pretty much ready to give up.

Then I came across just one teacher of yiquan, who I thought was slicing through all these issues. It had nothing to do with "what" he was teaching - he could have been teaching me to play golf, it wouldn't have mattered. It was exactly "how" he was teaching that made me want to learn from this guy.

It was a method built off the idea that the real problem of martial arts was not what you were doing, but how you're supposed to teach it. Not only that, but it took the standpoint that everything and anything was open to being questioned, nothing is beyond being objectively tested, nothing is beyond being thrown out, replaced, or reinvented. There was no appeal to the history of the method, there was no appeal to other people who were "greats" of their time, and there was no appeal to even the skill of this guy teaching it. Everything was expected to stand on its own, its value self-apparent - and if it wasn't, you were free to do with it as you pleased to make it so.

So I took that and looked through that lens to my aikido training - past, present, and future. I look at the little nuggets of information I was being taught. How were they being used? How were they "intended" to be used by what was being said? How were they being used in other things totally unrelated? What results could be achieved with these things?

That made it apparent that just as a matter of "what" was being taught, there were lots of ways that I could have been using all of these things - without changing the content and training tools of aikido - that would have made me far more satisfied with them.

And then I went back and I looked at my teachers. What were they able to do? How were they explaining themselves doing it? How were the students receiving it, at least as they understood it conceptually? How were they doing it in the end?

That also made it apparent to me that there was truly not enough attention being paid to just how ideas were being transmitted, let alone what was being transmitted.

Fisrt of all, I agree with your premise that ascribing a set identity to something we call Aikido is difficult. I wrote and article about this year's ago on AJ.

Does Aikido Exist (http://www.aikidojournal.com/blog/2009/06/28/does-%E2%80%9Caikido%E2%80%9D-even-exist-by-george-ledyard/)

A level of dissatisfaction is normal, even crucial to training. Ushiro Kenji in his latest book states that "Understanding is the enemy of learning". Our own feeling that our ability and understanding is inadequate is what drives us on.

I think that few teachers I know are happy with the state of Aikido. For the Japanese teachers that often means that they despair of the students today and resign themselves to the loss of the true art. They do not tend to change what they do very radically, in order to adjust to different circumstances. In Japan this has lead to whole styles simply disappearing because no one made the grade to inherit the style.

In Aikido, where there are a million or so people training world wide, it is different. There are many people teaching and training. There is no chance of Aikido simply disappearing. But one should recognize that, as a Japanese art, the transmission is viewed in a hierarchical manner.

For most Japanese teachers there are two Aikidos. There is the Aikido that is being passed on to ones personal, direct deshi. There is active investment in their quality and understanding. I think that most Japanese teachers have made their best effort at passing on what they know to these students.

But folks need to understand that, outside of this fairly small group of direct students, everyone else is an outsider on some level. All those big organizations started by the various Japanese Shihan... people think that when they join those groups they are students of the "big guy". Well, it's simply not true. They are merely members, not deshi. There is nothing like the investment in the training of these members. No one particularly cares if they "get it". They largely exist to support that folks at the top.

"I show you. You get it, not get it, not my problem."

This is the basic Japanese mindset. It has lead to a whole generation of people teaching who are not "teachers" in the way we think of the word in the West. The current hot thing in educational circles is trying to find ways of measuring teacher effectiveness. What a concept!!! How would we "evaluate" O-Sensei from that standpoint? Or any of the other real giants in the art?

In my opinion, the great hope for Aikido is that it has traveled the globe and there are teachers starting to attain some higher level of skill who are not stuck in the Japanese paradigm. I asked someone the other day what he thought his organization would be like if the folks at the top actually cared whether the members got it or not. Wouldn't virtually everything be different? He allowed that yes, it would be completely different.

I love Aikido. I think it is an amazing art and as much as I want it to get better, I have no intention of leaving for greener pastures. But I totally get it when people do leave. People who REALLY want it, have a burning desire for it, are literally driven from the art by the lack of effective transmission. We have teachers who are not accomplished, so they can't teach what they don't know. We have teachers who are quite accomplished but don't know how to teach it effectively. All sorts of hierarchical bs works against effective transmission of substance rather than form. It's a mess.

But I think that things are starting to change. We now have a generation of non-Japanese teachers poised to take the reigns from their Japanese teachers. Many of these folks have been and continue to train outside the art and are developing some real technical depth to what they do. And they have a different mindset about teaching. Many of these folks are quite good at teaching something once they understand it. And they actually care if people get it, so they invest in a way that wasn't happening before.

It'll be twenty years before things have really changed a lot but I am optimistic in a way that I wasn't a few years ago. Hopefully we won't have people leaving because they can't get the goods, which are supposed to be in our art, from the teachers of the art itself.

MM
07-11-2009, 04:57 PM
The implication in all these posts is always, "O-Sensei was really a Daito Ryu man and everything good got lost because we lost the Daito Ryu connection."

O-Sensei quite consciously changed what he did from what went before. O-Sensei himself introduced the larger movement that distinguishes Aikido from any other martial art. If he had thought that Daito Ryu was the ultimate expression of what he wanted to convey, we'd all be doing Daito Ryu.


I think you completely missed my point. I was specifically talking about Ricky and Mike's post about "listing physical phenomenon" in relation to "ki". And all this "ki" stuff that Ueshiba is doing is really Daito ryu aiki. It certainly isn't Oomoto kyo aiki, now is it? It certainly isn't judo aiki. It certainly isn't tons of other martial art aiki. Now, you want to apply some Ueshiba "ki" physical phenomenons and put them into some sort of listing, then check out Ueshiba and the Daito ryu greats because they all did the same stuff -- they used aiki as taught to them by Takeda.

What do you think is really going on when you see pictures of Takeda, Hisa, and Ueshiba in that pose with one arm up and one down? Aiki.

What do you think is going on when both Ueshiba and Kodo are on video sitting on the ground and people trying (and failing) to push them over? Aiki.

What do you think Ueshiba, Kodo, Okamoto are accomplishing when they are demonstrating multiple person pins? Aiki.

Hence, my post that showed videos and threads on where that list was started and where it can be added to.

I see where people get this lost "Daito ryu" connection thing. If you read my posts, I try to state that Ueshiba never quite doing Daito ryu aiki. NOT "Daito ryu", but "Daito ryu aiki". There is a major difference. That's my mistake as I didn't explicitly put that in my post. Sorry. I'll try to not do that again.

And I have *never* denigrated Ueshiba or Aikido. In fact, check my posts as I have always thought highly of both Ueshiba and Aikido. It isn't "bad Daito ryu".


What was different about O-Sensei from the other great "aiki" masters of his time was not technical. It was largely mental and there were others who had much the same skill. The combination of the Founder's spiritual ideas with the physical technique derived primarily from Daito Ryu became something else.


I'd disagree. It was never a "combination of the Founder's spiritual ideas with the physical technique". In fact, Ueshiba trimmed Daito ryu's syllabus quite a bit. It was a combination of the Founder's spiritual ideas with Daito ryu aiki. Not physical technique. There is a vastly huge difference and that is what creates confusion in the Aikido world.

Suru
07-11-2009, 05:38 PM
I'm curious why O'Sensei became a Japanese National Hero, and I haven't heard the same of Takeda.

Drew

gdandscompserv
07-11-2009, 05:51 PM
I'm curious why O'Sensei became a Japanese National Hero, and I haven't heard the same of Takeda.
I think that is due to 'politics' and public relations Drew.

Mike Sigman
07-11-2009, 06:29 PM
I think you completely missed my point. I was specifically talking about Ricky and Mike's post about "listing physical phenomenon" in relation to "ki". And all this "ki" stuff that Ueshiba is doing is really Daito ryu aiki. It certainly isn't Oomoto kyo aiki, now is it? It certainly isn't judo aiki. It certainly isn't tons of other martial art aiki. Now, you want to apply some Ueshiba "ki" physical phenomenons and put them into some sort of listing, then check out Ueshiba and the Daito ryu greats because they all did the same stuff -- they used aiki as taught to them by Takeda. And where did Takeda get the "aiki" stuff? He certainly didn't invent it himself...it's been around for many generations. I think this constant BS about insinuating DR into discussions about ki/kokyu has a limited utility and after that it is clearly a "my style" sort of tangent that wastes time. Ueshiba certainly got some of his training from DR, but if you look at his douka he gives the credit where it belongs.... to a classical and traditional study of these skills that far precedes DR. I'm frankly embarrassed that the "Ueshiba owes everything to DR" stuff has gone on so long. I say let the people who keep bringing it up live with it from now on for what it is and what they are.

I see where people get this lost "Daito ryu" connection thing. If you read my posts, I try to state that Ueshiba never quite doing Daito ryu aiki. NOT "Daito ryu", but "Daito ryu aiki". There is a major difference. That's my mistake as I didn't explicitly put that in my post. Sorry. I'll try to not do that again. I think it's too late. You and Dan have way overplayed the issue of DR and Ueshiba. It's yours now. How many times have diplomatic indications been made that it's time to stop?

In terms of the list I was talking about of ki/kokyu skills in Aikido, it's got nothing to do with DR, Chinese predecessors, and so on... it's a clinical list of what we see people in Aikido doing. I have a contribution of something I saw Ueshiba doing that certainly did not come from DR, but I'll save it until I see a legitimate functional effort about *Aikido* being made in something like the AikiWiki. If I don't save it, it's a certainty that "Oh, we do that, too" will surface in a revised history, so I'll pass for the moment. Aikido is Aikido... let's drop the idea that Aikido is its precursors in the same good spirit that we don't mention that DR is its precursors.

FWIW

Mike Sigman

dps
07-12-2009, 12:07 AM
I think that is due to 'politics' and public relations Drew.

And if it weren't for his political connections and public relations would O'sensei just be another Daito Ryu teacher?

David

George S. Ledyard
07-12-2009, 02:00 AM
I'm curious why O'Sensei became a Japanese National Hero, and I haven't heard the same of Takeda.

Drew

In my opinion, the message of the Founder (as it was perceived anyway) gave him and his art an appeal that spoke to people all over the world. If it had just been about technical sophistication, there would have been far more "household names". There were certainly a number of people whose "aiki" was as good, or even perhaps better.

We know so much more now than we did when i started Aikido. Stan Pranin almost single-handedly lifted Daito Ryu out of relative obscurity using his magazine, Aikido Journal, to spread awareness of the art, its history, and the surviving exponents.

In terms of modern Japanese, and even Korean martial arts, it would be hard to over estimate the influence of Takeda and Daito Ryu. Many of the top martial artists of his day trained with him for some period of time. Ueshiba and Aikido are only the best known of these. Hakko Ryu, Shorinji Kempo, Hapkido, Yanagi Ryu, etc all were influenced by Takeda and Daito Ryu.

But most of these styles are relatively unknown outside of Japan, some are obscure even in their homelands. Whereas, Aikido is one of the best known and widely dispersed martial arts, perhaps the most popular of the non-sport martial arts.

I can only attribute this to two factors... First, Aikido has an aesthetic which more practically oriented martial arts do not have. While the impractical nature of Aikido movements may be a source of criticism by some, I think it is a main source of appeal for many of the art's practitioners.

Second, the message of the Founder, no matter how bowdlerized by his successors, spoke to thousands of people on a very deep level. This may have been less true in Japan but it was certainly true overseas. Teachers like Mary Heiny Sensei have told me that it was this precisely which attracted them to the art. The figure of the Founder himself was tremendously inspiring. The man clearly had a kind of charisma to attract and hold so many strong personalities.

I think it is different now. You can see it on the forums... When I came out of school it was the the tale end of the Hippy days. We all grew up on Joseph Campbell telling us to follow our bliss. We didn't see anything strange about deciding to devote our lives to an art with no commercial potential. Of the people in my first dojo in DC back in 1976, at least five have become senior teachers. Of my second dojo in Seattle under Mary Heiny, at least six have gone the distance. Of all these people, I would say that the person of the Founder and our perception of his message was central to all but one or two.

Yet now, most of the young men seem to want only to fight. They want to do what they see on prime time cable. Movies like Fight Club spoke to this generation, not messages of peace and harmony as it did to ours. My generation had Woodstock without a single act of violence amidst a half million people. At Woodstock II they tore the place apart. I see the average age in most of the dojos I teach at rising significantly. We just don't have the young folks coming along like we did 15 years ago.

Anyway, that's why O-Sensei was famous in a way that others were not. His message was broader by far, it spoke to people all over the world in many different cultures. I don't think that any art or teacher, no matter how sophisticated or effective could ever match the appeal of an art with a great idea behind it.

jss
07-12-2009, 02:24 AM
What do you think is really going on when you see pictures of Takeda, Hisa, and Ueshiba in that pose with one arm up and one down? Aiki.
That's funny, because when Tamura has one arm up and one down (http://www.theqigongsite.com/images/e3.gif), he's doing the ba duan jin (http://www.theqigongsite.com/eightpiecesbrocade.html).:)

gdandscompserv
07-12-2009, 05:15 AM
And if it weren't for his political connections and public relations would O'sensei just be another Daito Ryu teacher?
Of course not. He would still be the founder of Aikido.

gdandscompserv
07-12-2009, 05:20 AM
I see the average age in most of the dojos I teach at rising significantly. We just don't have the young folks coming along like we did 15 years ago.
George, there might be hope yet. Most of my students are under the age of 12!:D

MM
07-12-2009, 06:32 AM
And where did Takeda get the "aiki" stuff? He certainly didn't invent it himself...it's been around for many generations. I think this constant BS about insinuating DR into discussions about ki/kokyu has a limited utility and after that it is clearly a "my style" sort of tangent that wastes time. Ueshiba certainly got some of his training from DR, but if you look at his douka he gives the credit where it belongs.... to a classical and traditional study of these skills that far precedes DR. I'm frankly embarrassed that the "Ueshiba owes everything to DR" stuff has gone on so long. I say let the people who keep bringing it up live with it from now on for what it is and what they are.

I think it's too late. You and Dan have way overplayed the issue of DR and Ueshiba. It's yours now. How many times have diplomatic indications been made that it's time to stop?

In terms of the list I was talking about of ki/kokyu skills in Aikido, it's got nothing to do with DR, Chinese predecessors, and so on... it's a clinical list of what we see people in Aikido doing. I have a contribution of something I saw Ueshiba doing that certainly did not come from DR, but I'll save it until I see a legitimate functional effort about *Aikido* being made in something like the AikiWiki. If I don't save it, it's a certainty that "Oh, we do that, too" will surface in a revised history, so I'll pass for the moment. Aikido is Aikido... let's drop the idea that Aikido is its precursors in the same good spirit that we don't mention that DR is its precursors.

FWIW

Mike Sigman

Reread Ledyard's post about "If it doesn't look like Aikido, smell like Aikido, and taste like Aikido, it's not Aikido."

Now, I'm the first to state that I know very little of the Chinese arts, but here's a short list of things I've never seen in the Chinese arts that can be found by those doing Daito ryu aiki:

Lying on the ground with people holding arms, feet, and neck and then throwing them off of you.

Sitting on the ground cross legged and having people push your head and try to push you over.

Holding a piece of paper or cloth and throwing someone who grabs that paper or cloth.

Ueshiba did these things. You wanted some sort of list and I started one. Now, you're stating that this list, just because it reflects Daito ryu aiki should be renamed and all connections to "Daito ryu" should be dropped.

1. If you're going to research how Ueshiba did these "physical phenomenon" to show ki, then you should be looking at his peers, too, who also did the exact same things. You want to look and feel like Ueshiba's aikido? Then you have to have at least the foundation to do that *and* you have to understand how he was using those skills. So far, there's only one other area that replicates the "physical phenomenon" of Ueshiba -- his Daito ryu aiki peers.

2. I posted, put the info out there, showed where to look, what was being done. You post that I should stop saying Daito ryu aiki. But you gave exactly no references to Chinese arts doing the "physical phenomenon" that Ueshiba had done. You have said that while the basics are the same, the way it is used can be different. Well, I'm taking you at your word and showing where people can go to see how Ueshiba learned to use Daito ryu aiki. It would be very helpful that, rather than keep harping on and on about how you don't like Daito ryu aiki mentioned, if you'd provide examples of any other art doing the same things. Not just suggesting that there are.

3. If we started talking about Ueshiba's spiritual views, we'd have to focus a great bit on Oomoto kyo. It's that simple. While we would be talking about ancient kotodama, we'd still be talking about Ueshiba's kotodama through the filter of Oomoto kyo. Sure you'd get a better understanding of kotodama basics from studying other sources, but in the end, when you wanted to use kotodama the way Ueshiba used it, you're going to have to filter it through Oomoto kyo. Same-same with Daito ryu aiki. Yeah, it's nice that you can get the skills from other sources, like Taiji, but when you want to know how Ueshiba utilized those skills, you have to do them from the filter of Daito ryu aiki.

Otherwise, you'll be setting up a list of "physical phenomenon" of ki skills that would be like someone else, for instance - Tohei.

NOTE: PLEASE don't take that sentence as disparaging Tohei. I'm NOT! I have great respect for him. But, he didn't do all the same things that Ueshiba did (as far as I know) in terms of "physical phenomenon" of ki skills. Can you do some great Aikido without replicating Ueshiba's "physical phenomenon" of ki skills? Sure. Just look at Tohei, Tomiki, Shioda, Shirata, Saotome, etc, etc. But this part of the thread wasn't about doing good Aikido. :)

MM
07-12-2009, 06:41 AM
That's funny, because when Tamura has one arm up and one down (http://www.theqigongsite.com/images/e3.gif), he's doing the ba duan jin (http://www.theqigongsite.com/eightpiecesbrocade.html).:)

Yep. Could be the same. Since it's internal and it's from a Chinese art, I wouldn't know. For instance, is there just a ground connection going from palm to feet? The reference doesn't say. Is the connection going from right hand to left foot? Reference doesn't say. Are there spirals happening? Reference doesn't say. Are you deliberately tucking the tailbone like some Chinese arts do? Doesn't say. They have palms facing up and down while Ueshiba has closed hand with a single finger pointing up and one down.

So, while I agree that they could be the same, how do I cross reference that pose which is done by yourself with how Ueshiba used the aiki in a martial context against other people? See what I mean? Yes, the basic skills can be there. But if their usage is different, then where is that link of usage in the Chinese arts? I've at least showed where that usage is listed with Ueshiba and his Daito ryu aiki peers. (sorry, I just had to get in at least one "Daito ryu aiki" phrase. Oops, that's two.) :D

MM
07-12-2009, 07:11 AM
In my opinion, the message of the Founder (as it was perceived anyway) gave him and his art an appeal that spoke to people all over the world. If it had just been about technical sophistication, there would have been far more "household names". There were certainly a number of people whose "aiki" was as good, or even perhaps better.

We know so much more now than we did when i started Aikido. Stan Pranin almost single-handedly lifted Daito Ryu out of relative obscurity using his magazine, Aikido Journal, to spread awareness of the art, its history, and the surviving exponents.

In terms of modern Japanese, and even Korean martial arts, it would be hard to over estimate the influence of Takeda and Daito Ryu. Many of the top martial artists of his day trained with him for some period of time. Ueshiba and Aikido are only the best known of these. Hakko Ryu, Shorinji Kempo, Hapkido, Yanagi Ryu, etc all were influenced by Takeda and Daito Ryu.

But most of these styles are relatively unknown outside of Japan, some are obscure even in their homelands. Whereas, Aikido is one of the best known and widely dispersed martial arts, perhaps the most popular of the non-sport martial arts.

I can only attribute this to two factors... First, Aikido has an aesthetic which more practically oriented martial arts do not have. While the impractical nature of Aikido movements may be a source of criticism by some, I think it is a main source of appeal for many of the art's practitioners.

Second, the message of the Founder, no matter how bowdlerized by his successors, spoke to thousands of people on a very deep level. This may have been less true in Japan but it was certainly true overseas. Teachers like Mary Heiny Sensei have told me that it was this precisely which attracted them to the art. The figure of the Founder himself was tremendously inspiring. The man clearly had a kind of charisma to attract and hold so many strong personalities.


Directly related to your thread title, there are some very in depth questions that I think are being asked recently. Most of them are becoming more and more pronounced because of Peter Goldsbury's columns and research.

Just whose vision of Aikido was it during those times: Founder or son?

When Aikido went worldwide, whose vision led the way: Founder or son?

And just what exactly was a good translation of Ueshiba's vision? As you note, unless you understand, major things can be lost in translation. And as a few have noted, the early books on Aikido were rife with mis-translations of one sort or another. How can we trust that other information in those books are good?

IF the ideal of aikido came from the son, how can we trust that it was really the father's vision? What kind of translation from either of them came through to us? What did we miss? Take out of context?


I think it is different now. You can see it on the forums... When I came out of school it was the the tale end of the Hippy days. We all grew up on Joseph Campbell telling us to follow our bliss. We didn't see anything strange about deciding to devote our lives to an art with no commercial potential. Of the people in my first dojo in DC back in 1976, at least five have become senior teachers. Of my second dojo in Seattle under Mary Heiny, at least six have gone the distance. Of all these people, I would say that the person of the Founder and our perception of his message was central to all but one or two.


For the first part of your para, I agree. But, there are questions here that I'm going to ask. Respectfully.

How do you know that your perception of his message was the right one? Have you kept that same perception over time? How do you know that your perception of his message is the correct one, right now?

To be fair, my answers. I grew up reading the books, listening to people. I learned Aikido. I had perceptions of the martial and spiritual outlook of the founder. My aikido training followed those perceptions. And then, one day, I was handed a stick of dynamite that blew my martial perceptions out of the water. I was wrong. I didn't know that I didn't know that I was wrong. And so, I have discarded my earlier spiritual perceptions of Ueshiba until I can research that, too. I don't really know enough of the martial underpinnings, yet, to get a grasp on how that could have helpbed build Ueshiba's overall vision. I'll get there.

jss
07-12-2009, 07:15 AM
Lying on the ground with people holding arms, feet, and neck and then throwing them off of you.

Sitting on the ground cross legged and having people push your head and try to push you over.
There are videos of Chinese guys doing this while standing. So you're saying the mechanics of doing this while lying down or sitting are substantially different from doing it while standing up?

Holding a piece of paper or cloth and throwing someone who grabs that paper or cloth.
And what about this encounter (http://neigong.net/2006/06/05/anecdotes-of-dachengquan-founder-wang-xiangzhai-by-wang-xuanjie/) between Wang Xiangzhai and Kenichi Sawai:
Not admitting defeat, Sawai wanted to have a swordplay contest with Wang because he was so skilled at it that he could cut an apple on the head of a man into two without hurting the head. Considering that Sawai should get an idea of what Chinese swordplay was, Wang agreed to have another contest.With a sword held overhead in his hands, Sawai delivered a hard blow at Wang’s head. Wang stepped a bit to the right and wielded his sword to block the opposing sword. As the two swords clanked, Sawai was also thrown several feet away and flattened with his palms benumbed. (According to the son of Sawai, they did not fight with swords but with sticks.)
Not exactly the same, but both entail throwing someone with skin-object-skin contact. Using cloth or paper limits the possibilities ('pushing' will not work), but I don't think that's the substantial part of the demonstration.

Yeah, it's nice that you can get the skills from other sources, like Taiji, but when you want to know how Ueshiba utilized those skills, you have to do them from the filter of Daito ryu aiki.
As you said in your other post, the same indeed applies to the ba duan jin I mentioned.

George S. Ledyard
07-12-2009, 10:49 AM
Directly related to your thread title, there are some very in depth questions that I think are being asked recently. Most of them are becoming more and more pronounced because of Peter Goldsbury's columns and research.

Just whose vision of Aikido was it during those times: Founder or son?

When Aikido went worldwide, whose vision led the way: Founder or son?

And just what exactly was a good translation of Ueshiba's vision? As you note, unless you understand, major things can be lost in translation. And as a few have noted, the early books on Aikido were rife with mis-translations of one sort or another. How can we trust that other information in those books are good?

IF the ideal of aikido came from the son, how can we trust that it was really the father's vision? What kind of translation from either of them came through to us? What did we miss? Take out of context?

For the first part of your para, I agree. But, there are questions here that I'm going to ask. Respectfully.

How do you know that your perception of his message was the right one? Have you kept that same perception over time? How do you know that your perception of his message is the correct one, right now?

To be fair, my answers. I grew up reading the books, listening to people. I learned Aikido. I had perceptions of the martial and spiritual outlook of the founder. My aikido training followed those perceptions. And then, one day, I was handed a stick of dynamite that blew my martial perceptions out of the water. I was wrong. I didn't know that I didn't know that I was wrong. And so, I have discarded my earlier spiritual perceptions of Ueshiba until I can research that, too. I don't really know enough of the martial underpinnings, yet, to get a grasp on how that could have helpbed build Ueshiba's overall vision. I'll get there.

When O-Sensei handed off the responsibility for post war Aikido to his son, the only caveat he placed on the whole thing was that Kisshomaru do justice to the spiritual side of the art. K Ueshiba documents this in his bio of the Founder's life which is on AJ (I don't have time to find the reference. This was in the late forties or early fifties. O-Sensei lived until 1969 and was actively teaching right up until the end.

If the Father had not been happy with how his legacy was handled, he had ample time to set things straight. In my opinion, Kisshomaru certainly simplified the Founder's philosophical and spiritual ideas. That was pretty much an essential due to the extreme arcane nature of the Founder's beliefs. But I also believe that he tried hard to do them justice. I do not think that, somehow, as some folks seem to believe, that the entire group of O-Sensei's students conspired to insert some watered down message into the art after the war. These people were his students and they treated his legacy very seriously. It's just that some of it didn't translate well for modern Japanese much less folks from all over the world.

I think that the idea that the spiritual message of Aikido that so touched people's hearts after the war was not really that of the Founder is simply unfounded. It is a revisionist idea that is held by a small minority of folks; sort of like the few folks left who still think global warming isn't proven yet.

The oft quoted statement by the Founder that "no one was doing his Aikido" did not, in my opinion, refer to some idea that no one was using "internal power" but rather that few of the deshi in the late years of his life seemed interested in his spiritual ideas and that their practice was simply physical.

There are innumerable statements that would corroborate this but I take most of my info from Saotome Sensei who was with the Founder for 15 years, right until the end. Saotome Sensei was one of the ones who actually did make an effort to understand the Founder's ideas. His book, Aikido and the Harmony of Nature was the result of his attempt to make these ideas more comprehensible. I do not see anything at all in conflict between what Sensei wrote and what K Ueshiba put forth as the philosophical underpinning of Aikido. But Sensei got this straight from the Founder.

I am the first to lament that certain aspects of the Founder's martial skill did not get taught and more less disappeared fro Aikido. But the idea that the whole post war period represented some hi-jacking of O-Sensei's real Aikido by his son and senior students is simply not the case.

DH
07-12-2009, 11:16 AM
On Mikes comments and misquotes

I'll state it flatly and complete.
"Aikido IS NOT Daito ryu." It's Ueshiba's school-and it is a different model from DR so continuing to misquote that does little good. I admire what Ueshiba did with his change in direction.
But,
"Aikido's aiki...IS...Daito ryu aiki." Something which most know little about, but more and more aikido teachers are catching on to.
I initially dismissed Mike's view when he came on the scene because he simply could not address how and where the two arts differed in his past offerings here as he went through his many phases; from denial, grudging agreement, to apology and eventual (albeit limited) agreement that there even were internal components in DR. The internal training aspects of DR directly correlate to usage in Aikido's movement and approach to create aiki in defined ways and for specific reasons in applicable use. George was sharp enough to have seen it, so was Gleason and an increasing number of other Aikido teachers. It generally speaks for itself and requires no defense for experienced teachers in aikido. I'm not sure anyone elses opinion matters. Teachers will do what they think is best.
We could say
"Enough already!!"...
Lets say it again
"Enough already!!"...:D
And I would agree, except that the discussion here and there goes to "Where do we find what Ueshiba had?" And that leads back to the history.

History
Many have enjoyed and benefitted from the contention, and information in the debates here regarding the history and origin of Aikido's aiki; with me stating "Aikido's aiki is Daito ryu aiki" Against Mike's "Aikido's aiki is Ueshiba's research into some (undefined, no school, little known and undisclosed source of "generalized internal training Mike theory" that Ueshiba sprung from.
When I compared the "ideas" as a model, in the end I find one inescapable truth:
The nebulous, undefined "catch all" Asian training model that Ueshiba supposedly trained in produced no one else, (in that generation ) of any significant notability for anyone to consider to stand next to Ueshiba, Takeda, Sagawa, Kodo, and Hisa.
Takeda, on the other hand made each of them. All budo giants in a classification of aiki usage that was unique at the time.
So,I find Mike's "unified asian arts theory" on the history and origins of Ueshiba's power to have little credibility worth further consideration.

Current training
A better discussion today is whether it is better for aikido people to try and find what is generally (but not completely) agreed is missing from the art from just anywhere…or anyone at all who has got something internal; Karate, Taiji, Bagua, Yoga, the kitchen sink, whatever. Or, whether it is probably smarter-as George points out -to go to a school from which the art, and the man, sprang, as it will more directly relate; not only in building the internal componants but also a) what is worked on and why, but b) what is or isn't stressed and why c) what is unrelated but could be brought in and how it can be expressed in motion that directly relates to Aikido.

I could agree that continuing to talk about DR as a source for Aikido's aiki can be a distraction, except that I have experience with training with students and teachers alike from both arts -with decades of experience- who, not surprisingly completely disagree with Mike as to what, where, and how, the Aiki of those arts ARE connected.

George
I think it is good to continue to point out there is not only technical differences but spiritual ones as well. But....you also need to begin to discuss a separation of aiki itself from technique. This is a deeper discussion that I believe you would benefit from. Aiki is not waza. It is not small circle VS big circle or anything of the like. As some might tell you the training they do with me is affecting ...them...spiritually and emotionally. So I find it difficult to see you place the spiritual componant as a dividing issue when I wonder if it is something we might come closer to agreement on with further discussion. No, not that they are the same, I'm not saying that at all, just that you can separate internal training and Aiki and what it does to you out from both arts DR and Aikido and or make them inexorable componants of the arts.
Aiki is not about just about your quote that "Aikido missing out on some of Ueshiba's "martial" aspects" It is deeper than that.
Sadly we can all probably continue to "read into" Ueshiba's comments and find what we want to hear one way or another. What is interesting is that we continue to do so all these years later. Isn't that interesting in itself?
You continue to point to some interesting dilemmas in training and raise good questions.
With teachers, I wonder how much the problem is in
1. lack of translation
2. lack of ability to teach details-it is a fairly common problem with Japanese teachers
3. lack of correct information in the first place
4. lack of real intent to teach everyone the same in the first place (holding back)
In other words a translator isn't going to help you much if the correct words were never there to begin with. I think several have pointed this out on different forums with their own teachers.
I will agree that going around and experiencing different arts is a good thing, but going around and trying to pick up pieces here and there of this or that art does what?
Has it occurred to anyone that each source they went to (that impressed them) contained men who NEVER went around piecing together things in the first place? That these sources dug-in and burned individual methods to arrive at a point that they had something that was impressive in the first place? What part was dogged repetition and insight from years-in and what part was a true gem in the art to have. In other words are some methods really after all just so, so methods, but the impressive guy burned it into genius? Compared to other arts that have jewels of more complete information available that many squander and never dig in to get? What part is consistent what part is perseverance?
In the end, what if all these "researchers" end up just screwing up and doing even more stuff in the same half hearted way they do their art now, or where they see some real jewel and successfully incorporate it into their being.
It's a tough task that can be a monumental waste of time. And who's opinion do we want to consider for what we should bring into our individual art or methods, Or who can say this is the best for us and don't pursue that other as it is a contradiction.
Or when we find out this or that actually IS the best thing we ever did what to do.... with that!
Interesting questions as always George.
Good luck in your training
Cheers
Dan

jss
07-12-2009, 12:18 PM
Many have enjoyed and benefitted from the contention, and information in the debates here regarding the history and origin of Aikido's aiki; with me stating "Aikido's aiki is Daito ryu aiki" Against Mike's "Aikido's aiki is Ueshiba's research into some (undefined, no school, little known and undisclosed source of "generalized internal training Mike theory" that Ueshiba sprung from.
Nice misrepresentation of what Mike said, but yeah ... like whatever.
Only when Mike makes a list of stuff that Ueshiba did and that (as far as he knows) is not trained in daito ryu and when you then say "It is trained in daito ryu like so-and-so", only then this discussion will rise above the level of two six year olds playing the games of "Is not!" - "Is too!" In the mean time you can cut it out, I don't think anybody here really cares anymore...

Mike Sigman
07-12-2009, 12:26 PM
Reread Ledyard's post about "If it doesn't look like Aikido, smell like Aikido, and taste like Aikido, it's not Aikido."

Now, I'm the first to state that I know very little of the Chinese arts, but here's a short list of things I've never seen in the Chinese arts that can be found by those doing Daito ryu aiki:

Lying on the ground with people holding arms, feet, and neck and then throwing them off of you.

Sitting on the ground cross legged and having people push your head and try to push you over.

Holding a piece of paper or cloth and throwing someone who grabs that paper or cloth.

Ueshiba did these things. You wanted some sort of list and I started one. Now, you're stating that this list, just because it reflects Daito ryu aiki should be renamed and all connections to "Daito ryu" should be dropped. You're talking about simple techniques that are ubiquitous in Asian martial arts, Mark. But since Joep has already begin to point you in that direction, I'm not going to belabor the point.

My point is that all the ki/kokyu/qi/jin skills Ueshiba got did not necessarily come only from Aikido, but worse than that, what ki/kokyu/qi/jin skills that Takeda had he certainly didn't invent himself, either. If you want to worry about Takeda, start worrying about that part of it. My position is that the skills in Aikido and DR that are being called "aiki" or "kokyu" or "ki" simply come from a very ancient tradition throughout Asia. To keep hammering that Ueshiba owed all he had to Takeda is one of the great absurdities I've seen on a martial-arts forum. No one has ever argued that Ueshiba didn't get a lot of his information from DR. I doubt that he got it all. If you want to talk about "techniques", then the argument becomes absurd. Start another thread and start naming DR techniques that aren't just variations of techniques already found in Chinese martial arts (and of course I mean martial, functional ones, not dive-bunny techniques).


1. If you're going to research how Ueshiba did these "physical phenomenon" to show ki, then you should be looking at his peers, too, who also did the exact same things. You want to look and feel like Ueshiba's aikido? Then you have to have at least the foundation to do that *and* you have to understand how he was using those skills. So far, there's only one other area that replicates the "physical phenomenon" of Ueshiba -- his Daito ryu aiki peers. Are you serious? Seriously? You may need to do a little research on this, Mark, but I don't see anything in DR or Aikido that is outside the mainstream of skills and techniques found in older Asian martial arts.
2. I posted, put the info out there, showed where to look, what was being done. You post that I should stop saying Daito ryu aiki. But you gave exactly no references to Chinese arts doing the "physical phenomenon" that Ueshiba had done. You have said that while the basics are the same, the way it is used can be different. Well, I'm taking you at your word and showing where people can go to see how Ueshiba learned to use Daito ryu aiki. It would be very helpful that, rather than keep harping on and on about how you don't like Daito ryu aiki mentioned, if you'd provide examples of any other art doing the same things. Not just suggesting that there are. OK, that's easy. Look in Shuai Jiao; look in Bagua. Notice how many people think Ueshiba got his techniques from Bagua because they look so similar. Actually, the techniques in Bagua are still, at best, techniques that have been in many ancient Chinese martial arts. Again, though... you seem to think I'm talking about tecniques. I'm not. I'm talking about people making a list of the ki/kokyu/qi/jin skills that are defining aspects of Aikido's usage of those skills. You misunderstood me and went off on a tangent. Otherwise, you'll be setting up a list of "physical phenomenon" of ki skills that would be like someone else, for instance - Tohei. That's what I was suggesting.
NOTE: PLEASE don't take that sentence as disparaging Tohei. I'm NOT! I have great respect for him. But, he didn't do all the same things that Ueshiba did (as far as I know) in terms of "physical phenomenon" of ki skills. Can you do some great Aikido without replicating Ueshiba's "physical phenomenon" of ki skills? Sure. Just look at Tohei, Tomiki, Shioda, Shirata, Saotome, etc, etc. But this part of the thread wasn't about doing good Aikido. :)

So list what Ueshiba could do that Tohei couldn't do. Ultimately, that's part of the "list" I was talking about.

Mike

Mike Sigman
07-12-2009, 12:40 PM
On Mikes comments and misquotes

I'll state it flatly and complete.
"Aikido IS NOT Daito ryu." It's Ueshiba's school-and it is a different model from DR so continuing to misquote that does little good. I admire what Ueshiba did with his change in direction.
But,
"Aikido's aiki...IS...Daito ryu aiki." Something which most know little about, but more and more aikido teachers are catching on to.
I initially dismissed Mike's view when he came on the scene because he simply could not address how and where the two arts differed in his past offerings here as he went through his many phases; from denial, grudging agreement, to apology and eventual (albeit limited) agreement that there even were internal components in DR. The internal training aspects of DR directly correlate to usage in Aikido's movement and approach to create aiki in defined ways and for specific reasons in applicable use. George was sharp enough to have seen it, so was Gleason and an increasing number of other Aikido teachers. It generally speaks for itself and requires no defense for experienced teachers in aikido. I'm not sure anyone elses opinion matters. Teachers will do what they think is best.
We could say
"Enough already!!"...
Lets say it again
"Enough already!!"...:D
And I would agree, except that the discussion here and there goes to "Where do we find what Ueshiba had?" And that leads back to the history.

History
Many have enjoyed and benefitted from the contention, and information in the debates here regarding the history and origin of Aikido's aiki; with me stating "Aikido's aiki is Daito ryu aiki" Against Mike's "Aikido's aiki is Ueshiba's research into some (undefined, no school, little known and undisclosed source of "generalized internal training Mike theory" that Ueshiba sprung from.
When I compared the "ideas" as a model, in the end I find one inescapable truth:
The nebulous, undefined "catch all" Asian training model that Ueshiba supposedly trained in produced no one else, (in that generation ) of any significant notability for anyone to consider to stand next to Ueshiba, Takeda, Sagawa, Kodo, and Hisa.
Takeda, on the other hand made each of them. All budo giants in a classification of aiki usage that was unique at the time.
So,I find Mike's "unified asian arts theory" on the history and origins of Ueshiba's power to have little credibility worth further consideration.

Current training
A better discussion today is whether it is better for aikido people to try and find what is generally (but not completely) agreed is missing from the art from just anywhere…or anyone at all who has got something internal; Karate, Taiji, Bagua, Yoga, the kitchen sink, whatever. Or, whether it is probably smarter-as George points out -to go to a school from which the art, and the man, sprang, as it will more directly relate; not only in building the internal componants but also a) what is worked on and why, but b) what is or isn't stressed and why c) what is unrelated but could be brought in and how it can be expressed in motion that directly relates to Aikido.

I could agree that continuing to talk about DR as a source for Aikido's aiki can be a distraction, except that I have experience with training with students and teachers alike from both arts -with decades of experience- who, not surprisingly completely disagree with Mike as to what, where, and how, the Aiki of those arts ARE connected.
Once again, Dan... if you're going to represent *anything* you think I said or anything you think I think..... give a reference to where I said something. You have gone beyond mischaracterization to the point that you simply make it up. I.e., you do not tell the truth. Do not use my name and assert what I have said without a reference. This is how many times you've been told the same thing? Source? Cite? Or more probably, silence, right?

In terms of the subject at hand, maybe I'm missing a rather obvious absurdity from the DR hyperbolists: Is it the position of Dan and Mark and others that the "aiki" skills are only found in DR and Aikido and that they are not common skills found in a number of Asian martial arts? Is that the position? If so then you're missing a lot of obvious clues, even in Ueshiba's writings. The reason Ueshiba referenced ancient traditional Chinese sayings about his skills was because he knew full well that these skills he was using were the same ones used throughout Chinese martial arts. Takeda would have known it, too. So to try and maintain the position that Ueshiba could only have gotten his skills from DR is absurd and untenable, if that's the position.

Some skills, yes.... but everyone has agreed for years that some degree of Ueshiba's knowledge of the ancient skills probably came from DR. Did *all* of the total skills Ueshiba had come only from DR? Probably not. I'm holding a couple of examples in my hot little hands and I'll bring them out sometime in the future publicly. Meantime, when the topic comes up I continue to show these things to Aikido people so we can get around the DR advocacy. DR had a place in Aikido's past. DR had predecessor arts in its past. How far back do we have to go?

FWIW

Mike Sigman

DH
07-12-2009, 02:19 PM
Nice misrepresentation of what Mike said, but yeah ... like whatever.
Only when Mike makes a list of stuff that Ueshiba did and that (as far as he knows) is not trained in daito ryu and when you then say "It is trained in daito ryu like so-and-so", only then this discussion will rise above the level of two six year olds playing the games of "Is not!" - "Is too!" In the mean time you can cut it out, I don't think anybody here really cares anymore...
I was pretty clear that I was discussing the fact that as far Ueshiba's internal training, other than Daito ryu no one -including Mike has produced anything.
There is:
no school attributable
nor any source definable
nor any group named that produced anyone
To rival Ueshiba's skill's at the time except for his peers in DR. How'd that happen?
Not the least of which is the fact that he started to be noted for these skills ONLY after training with Takeda, most notably in 1922.

Ueshiba can fully stand on his own and did after the early thirties and he did so remarkably well. He made some very significant changes and developments; both in the art itself, and in the way it was transmitted, that Takeda could NEVER have pulled off nor even "saw" with his mindset. Most of which made Ueshiba's art more accessible not only to the Japanese of the day but as George noted to the many foreigners coming in at the time. I don't think it was just a spiritual component though that drew people in. It was also the aspect of being able to do budo and not get quite so wrecked in the long run as many other budo did to the body AS WELL as the spiritual aspects that drew people in. I think in the long run it was that combination of Ueshiba's power and skill, rarely displayed in public, and the hopefulleness and openess that drew just as many as the budo aspects.

Anyway, I don't care enough to debate it anymore, except for the revisionist history portion that keeps popping up. Ueshiba went the way he went for good reasons. I remain a fan for some of those reasons. Sorry you see a a fight when it isn't nearly as serious as that-it's more of a tempest in a tea pot.
I see it that:
Many "read-into" his doka and his words things that really aren't there-Peter continually adddresses that
Just as well...many "read -into" his physical art looking for things that simply are not there and looking for influences that never happened-such as BKF and other thinking it was from Bagua.
Others look at his waza and look for a composite history that never occurred
Cheers
Dan

Lee Salzman
07-12-2009, 02:39 PM
This moment of deja vu brought to you by Monty Python (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb_qHP7VaZE).

Since this is a thread about teaching and translation, why not set aside the factual matter of the propositions for the moment, since no one can seem to agree on those?

Let's ask instead: what is the utility of each of these two propositions to the practicioner of aikido?

The first proposition says that aikido either resembles or descends from skills evident in the Chinese and whatever other nearby martial arts. So what will the practicioner find there? A bunch of insular camps of martial artists all doing their own thing, with no one providing any single skill set that anyone will peg as Morihei Ueshiba's practice. They will find things that may cause some small insight into what they were doing, but nothing that illuminates the whole, or anyone willing or able to teach such a thing (meaning - to be exactly as skilled as Morihei Ueshiba).

The second proposition says that aikido is most directly derived from Daito Ryu, that Morihei Ueshiba had no real significant investment in other martial arts, whether Japanese or foreign in origin, and that where he differed from Daito Ryu at all is his own progression of things he learned from there. What's a practicioner to find there? A bunch of insular camps of martial artists all doing their own thing, with no one providing any single skill set that anyone will peg as Morihei Ueshiba's practice. They will find things that may cause some small insight into what they were doing, but nothing that illuminates the whole, or anyone willing or able to teach such a thing (again, meaning - to be exactly as skilled as Morihei Ueshiba).

And if you want to be extra ironic, pose a third proposition, the excluded middle, of the practicioner just studying aikido. What will he find there? A bunch of insular camps of martial artists all doing their own thing, with no one providing any single skill set that anyone will peg as Morihei Ueshiba's practice. They will find things that may cause some small insight into what they were doing, but nothing that illuminates the whole, or anyone willing or able to teach such a thing (again, meaning - to be exactly as skilled as Morihei Ueshiba).

You're back to... what is aikido? I think the way they structure obscenity laws already figured this out, the judge just says: "I'll know it when I see it". Let a thousand flowers bloom. When the people advancing one proposition or another produce people of sufficient skill (and to their credit, they are all trying), and if other people see something in them that catches their interest enough to say "that is what aikido should be", I think that is the only way anything will ever be solved. Proof in pudding. Do the work and let the results stand on their own. Might makes right. Yada yada.

DH
07-12-2009, 02:54 PM
Hah!
Good points Lee. Heck you might even add where the heck did Takeda get it in the first place? What if it's ALL Chinese? And it probably is.
At a certain point who cares. It's where can we find it, what do we want to do with it and what do we want it to look like in experession.
None if which means though that historically Ueshiba studied Chinese Martial arts to get it.

http://www.aikiweb.com/interviews/pranin0800.html
Cheers
Dan

Mike Sigman
07-12-2009, 03:12 PM
Let's ask instead: what is the utility of each of these two propositions to the practicioner of aikido?

The first proposition says that aikido either resembles or descends from skills evident in the Chinese and whatever other nearby martial arts. So what will the practicioner find there? A bunch of insular camps of martial artists all doing their own thing, with no one providing any single skill set that anyone will peg as Morihei Ueshiba's practice. They will find things that may cause some small insight into what they were doing, but nothing that illuminates the whole, or anyone willing or able to teach such a thing (meaning - to be exactly as skilled as Morihei Ueshiba).

The second proposition says that aikido is most directly derived from Daito Ryu, that Morihei Ueshiba had no real significant investment in other martial arts, whether Japanese or foreign in origin, and that where he differed from Daito Ryu at all is his own progression of things he learned from there. What's a practicioner to find there? A bunch of insular camps of martial artists all doing their own thing, with no one providing any single skill set that anyone will peg as Morihei Ueshiba's practice. They will find things that may cause some small insight into what they were doing, but nothing that illuminates the whole, or anyone willing or able to teach such a thing (again, meaning - to be exactly as skilled as Morihei Ueshiba).
I think the DR aspect is sort of a misleading strawman to the discussion. Why even go there? George Ledyard was talking about skills that are becoming more and more known in Aikido. I suggested that people make a list of the skills that are and were historically in Aikido because I think it is very important that the actual Aikido skillsets be delineated from the whole set of available skills in the ki/qi paradigm of physical skills. Within an accurate set of ki-related skills for Aikido will of course be a large overlay with the skills within an accurate DR definition involving ki skills. However, since the ki-related skills in DR are only a subset of the full and much larger set of ki skills in toto, there is no real need to involve DR in the discussion.

If you look at a the list of actual skills contained in Aikido as being measured by what Ueshiba could do (and IMO I still think he could do some things not found in DR, even though a lot of what he got was from DR), then you have a list that does much to define what is contained in good Aikido. Now, having a list like this doesn't do much more than define the general outter parameters of Aikido *in relation to the ki-strengths skillset*. There is more to Aikido than just the ki-strengths, although the other aspects are defined by that baseline skillset. What I mean, for example, is that Yoshinkan Aikido is going to be within the same parameters of ki-skills that Ueshiba used, although Yoshinkan may have/stress different techniques, and of course people doing Yoshinkan are just as susceptible to using muscle instead of ki, and so on.

And as I said, since Ueshiba himself defined Aikido against the larger vehicle of In-Yo, A-Un, 8 Gates, and so on, there is no need in this discussion about the skills as George meant them to digress into "techniques and where they came from". If Ueshiba got additional information from Misogi training, from a kendo school, and so on, none of that is important in relation to the total list of the skills he knew and used in Aikido.

Rather than continue on this tangent of who got what from whom, why not just make a list of the skills? That cuts to the chase. We know that Ueshiba used "aiki" (a technique known by a number of different names in a number of arts going back to ancient times). We know that Ueshiba demonstrated static postures. We know that Ueshiba used breathing techniques and postures to build his powers. And so on. By first listing all the known skills Ueshiba demonstrated or that we can legitiamately infer, we can approach the "translation" problem and perhaps get around it with that extra information. Currently there is a problem with some ki-skills techniques being shown but the Japanese teachers involved can't seem to articulate how they're doing them. If we begin to formulate a baseline definition of the available skills, defining and then teaching the skills should become a lot easier, eh?

FWIW

Mike Sigman

Suru
07-12-2009, 03:39 PM
With a current world population that I believe can be truncated to 6,600,000,000, with about 1,000,000 in the year 1 (it's been a while since I saw the correct number, but my gut thinks this is correct), I find it incredible that over the centuries, relatively few come along and - on a super large scale - better the world for many. I just thought of a John Michael Montgomery song, "What I do the best" that I last heard on a CD before losing it a decade ago. The lyrics are really close to the following.

"Some men live to change the world,
And that's alright with me;
My hat's off to those chosen few
Who rewrite history...
But lovin' you is what I do the best."

I remember this quote from high school English class:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

- Margaret Mead

O'Sensei had his groups; there is no way he could have accomplished nearly as much without hardcore assistance from brutally committed co-workers.

Drew

George S. Ledyard
07-12-2009, 08:06 PM
What if it's ALL Chinese? And it probably is.


I would certainly agree. As a student of archaic religions in my younger days, what stood out for me was not the differences between the different manifestations around the world but the underlying similarities.

I think a lot of this stuff started farther back than anyone realizes or that could possibly be proven or disproved. But what happens as people move around the globe and distinct cultures emerge? Ellis used to talk about various obscure martial arts which served a very narrowly defined function within a given society. So an African tribe may take whacking each other with a long, flexible stick to a very high level or another might create an entire art around a movement that looks just like giving someone a noogie. Totally culturally specific.

So what happens to these skills when they go from China to Japan? They take on a form that is culturally specific. Pretty much anything that the Japanese samurai did involved an underlying foundation of weapons. The samurai was a walking weapons system. Additionally, he had to be bale to move wearing armor. So the form these principles took was based on the requirements of the users. What weapons did they carry, how did they carry them, armor, no armor, etc.

That's one of the reasons I have a hard time with the folks that look at Aikido and want it to be something it never was. It isn't, and never was in my opinion, an empty hand fighting art. The guys who developed the ancestor form(s) of Aikido were samurai. Their world revolved around weapons. That continued into Daito Ryu and then into Aikido. By the time that O-Sensei starts to change his ideas about what the fundamental purpose of training is, you start to see a gradual and accelerating divorce of the form of the art from any awareness of how the training exercise translated into applied technique.

It's not that you can't apply the principles of aiki in different forms... of course you can. But not in the form they exist in the art as we practice it. As any 14 year old twit on Bullshido will be happy to point out "No one attacks like that"! Absolutely correct, if by that they mean no one focusing on empty hand single combat in a sport context. But put the weapons back into the equation, as in the case of a member law enforcement who, like his samurai cousin, is a walking weapons system, and they get grabbed all the time. Many of the simplest Aikido forms translate directly in to weapons retention, weapons takeaways, etc.

So my point is that yes, I do believe that this stuff came from China. It may very well have come from India before that but I don't expect anyone to prove that either way. The Chinese manifested these principles in their martial arts as they fit their personal, social, political, technological and military context. The same thing happens to these skills when they travel to Japan. You can see forms that closely resemble the Chinese and you can see forms that are distinctly Japanese and would never be mistaken for anyone else's. Yet, these forms can share the underlying principle base.

I don't see any of this as controversial... more like a big, Duh! The question for us as modern practitioners of these arts is whether we are going to try to change them to make them fit our contemporary personal and societal requirements, which I would say we have already been doing, or whether we want to preserve a form, which may have intrinsic value in itself, but which might be somewhat divorced from practical applicability.

In the case of Aikido, if ones interest is in application in a contemporary self defense context, or especially if you want the art to apply against sport style martial arts (for some reason I still don't exactly understand), then you will have to change the form and the art will become something entirely different.

O-Sensei had volumes to say about how the form of our art manifested various principles of nature in an energetic sense. His "The movements of Aikido are the movements of the Universe" should not be taken lightly. I think that this understanding is crucial to keeping our Aikido on track as a personal practice that is in accord with what the Founder created the art for in the first place.

Dan points out that there is a huge amount to be understood about the spiritual implications of developing the internal principles of the art. I absolutely agree. Any time you place such focused attention on integrating the mind and the body, there are all sorts of things which happen on a spiritual level. That should be part of our Aikido; absolutely.

But I simply caution people against changing the outer form of the art before they have trained long enough to start to have a real feel for what prolonged execution of these forms over years and years can do for you. There isn't one single thing that Daito Ryu aiki has that won't serve to make your Aikido form better. But don't, in my opinion, do it because you want your Aikido to be more effective (although I am sure it will be) but rather because you want to understand connection on a far deeper level. That's the whole point of the art - connection. Getting to the place at which a feeling of connection is your default setting.

Mike Sigman
07-12-2009, 08:24 PM
So my point is that yes, I do believe that this stuff came from China. It may very well have come from India before that but I don't expect anyone to prove that either way. The Chinese manifested these principles in their martial arts as they fit their personal, social, political, technological and military context. "This stuff" (meaning the so-called 'internal' skills) probably originated in India and spread gradually to China and from there to the area of influence China had as a dominant power. My personal suspicion is that "this stuff" originated (not whole, but gradually) as an adjunct to agrarian work necessities. Both the forces and "ki" skills are so suitable for work efficiency that I can easily picture them as being quasi-religious skills at a time when religions had a lot to do with planting, harvest, fertility, food production, and so forth.

Regardless, "this stuff", as physical skills, is an intertwined system of logic and physical phenomena in which one thing implies another. In other words, it is a stand-alone system of logic. There is not really a "Chinese system" and a "Japanese system" and a "DR system" and an "Aikido System" and a "Taiji system", or any of that. There is only one system. If there are differences, those differences represent different levels of understanding and ability... nothing more.

Yes, someone can devise his own system of techniques and apply any vouchsafed 'philosophy' of his choosing, and so on, but the system of logic and skills is immutable. That's one of the reasons why you see the same ki demonstrations (or their variations) all over Asia; ki skills are ultimately defined and limited by what they can do. Once you grasp the bigger picture of what is going on, this immutability becomes obvious.

Also, because of the way the system works, you begin to see some very simple and clear principles such as motion reducing to stillness, such as "form approaches no form", such as "my opponent moves first but I arrive first", and so on. The same simple principles that Ueshiba referred to in his douka. This system of body skills is not Chinese or Indian or Japanese or whatever... it simply is what it is and it is an important basis for what "Dao" is.

FWIW

Mike Sigman

thisisnotreal
07-12-2009, 11:39 PM
[snip]
I think it is good to continue to point out there is not only technical differences but spiritual ones as well. But....you also need to begin to discuss a separation of aiki itself from technique. This is a deeper discussion that I believe you would benefit from. Aiki is not waza. It is not small circle VS big circle or anything of the like. As some might tell you the training they do with me is affecting ...them...spiritually and emotionally.

No, not that they are the same, I'm not saying that at all, just that you can separate internal training and Aiki and what it does to you out from both arts DR and Aikido and or make them inexorable componants of the arts.
Aiki is not about just about your quote that "Aikido missing out on some of Ueshiba's "martial" aspects" It is deeper than that.
...
Cheers
Dan

Hi Dan,
Could you please say a little bit more about this? This seems deeply insightful but I cannot grasp your meaning.
With Respect,
Josh