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Nicholas Eschenbruch
12-29-2010, 06:40 AM
With deliberate one-sidedness (and a broad reference to Amdur, Goldsbury, Hobsbawm & Ranger) I would like to make the proposition that speaking of tradition in aikido is an unneccessary obfuscation that serves to cloud issues rather than clarify them. Let’s just do without it.

First of all, Morihei Ueshiba himself was an innovator. If he had been a traditionalist, he would have studied a koryu and remained there. Instead, he expanded and revolutionised the practice of Takeda Sokakus Daito Ruy (which, as Ellis Amdur argues in HIPS, was quite probably an innovation itself). Also, in his spiritual quest, he joined a new religious movement (not an old one), and even went beyond that in his later years. To my knowledge, there are no indications that Ueshiba himself wanted or furthered the creation of a „traditional“ canon of aikido.

Second, the giants amongst his close personal students were mostly innovators themselves – for the simple fact that Ueshiba’s practice was too multi-faceted (and in parts even obscure), too complex, and his teaching too unstructured to lend itself to simple copying. Even Saito Sensei states quite clearly that he himself structured (and thus „traditionalised“) what he was taught by Ueshiba. Ueshiba simply had no clear practice to copy.

Third, as Keith Larman pointed out in another thread, the spread of aikido was such that „tradition“ would mean something completely different in different parts of the world. In Scandinavia, Nishio Sensei’s aikido could be called tradition, in Britain Kenshiro Abe’s. On the US West coast, ki aikido is tradition, in Germany that came quite late. In France, tradition could be Tadashi Abe’s take on aikido. There is no universal tradition in aikido.

That many claims to tradition - from the Scottish bagpipe, sponsored as a nationalist symbol against the Irish harp, to South German "traditional" carnival, institutionalised in many places by the folklorising Nazis - are made to legitimise invention has really been common knowledge in historical research since the eighties. Why should aikido be any different?

Tradition is often just a way of saying my lineage is better than yours.
Tradition is often just a way of claiming unquestioned authority.
Tradition is often just a way of glorifying the old days.

Whoever came up with tradition was an innovator.
What exactly do you mean when you speak of tradition in aikido?
The future of aikido is not „tradition“ – or is it?

Thoughts, opinions, objections?

Demetrio Cereijo
12-29-2010, 06:54 AM
With deliberate one-sidedness (and a broad reference to Amdur, Goldsbury, Hobsbawm & Ranger) I would like to make the proposition that speaking of tradition in aikido is a neccessary obfuscation that serves to cloud issues rather than clarify them.

Fixed :)

Peter Goldsbury
12-29-2010, 07:11 AM
With deliberate one-sidedness (and a broad reference to Amdur, Goldsbury, Hobsbawm & Ranger) I would like to make the proposition that speaking of tradition in aikido is an unneccessary obfuscation that serves to cloud issues rather than clarify them. Let's just do without it.

Thoughts, opinions, objections?

Hello Nicholas,

Would you make a similar judgments about other martial arts or ways, apart from Daito-ryu and aikido? Judo and kendo obviously come to mind here, as do some koryu bujutsu, such as Kashima / Katori Shin / to Ryu.

All good wishes for 2011.

PAG

Nicholas Eschenbruch
12-29-2010, 07:12 AM
Fixed :)

Oopsss :-)

meant "unneccessary" of course.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
12-29-2010, 07:17 AM
Hello Nicholas,

Would you make a similar judgments about other martial arts or ways, apart from Daito-ryu and aikido? Judo and kendo obviously come to mind here, as do some koryu bujutsu, such as Kashima / Katori Shin / to Ryu.

All good wishes for 2011.

PAG

Peter (if I may),

I lack knowledge about those arts - though I am following some discussions on German forums about tradition and innovation in Judo. Those debates are very interesting, but overshadowed by a dichotomy between competitive sport vs. martial art, which we mostly dont have in aikido. So the traditionalists there claim to go back to the roots of Jigoro Kano's Judo. I would tend to claim they are re-inventing Judo though, with a lot of conscious and unconscious references to MMA in fact. But then, my knowledge of Kano and what he intended is very limited.

Good wishes for the New Year

N

Gorgeous George
12-29-2010, 07:20 AM
With deliberate one-sidedness (and a broad reference to Amdur, Goldsbury, Hobsbawm & Ranger) I would like to make the proposition that speaking of tradition in aikido is an unneccessary obfuscation that serves to cloud issues rather than clarify them. Let's just do without it.

First of all, Morihei Ueshiba himself was an innovator. If he had been a traditionalist, he would have studied a koryu and remained there. Instead, he expanded and revolutionised the practice of Takeda Sokakus Daito Ruy (which, as Ellis Amdur argues in HIPS, was quite probably an innovation itself). Also, in his spiritual quest, he joined a new religious movement (not an old one), and even went beyond that in his later years. To my knowledge, there are no indications that Ueshiba himself wanted or furthered the creation of a „traditional" canon of aikido.

Second, the giants amongst his close personal students were mostly innovators themselves -- for the simple fact that Ueshiba's practice was too multi-faceted (and in parts even obscure), too complex, and his teaching too unstructured to lend itself to simple copying. Even Saito Sensei states quite clearly that he himself structured (and thus „traditionalised") what he was taught by Ueshiba. Ueshiba simply had no clear practice to copy.

Third, as Keith Larman pointed out in another thread, the spread of aikido was such that „tradition" would mean something completely different in different parts of the world. In Scandinavia, Nishio Sensei's aikido could be called tradition, in Britain Kenshiro Abe's. On the US West coast, ki aikido is tradition, in Germany that came quite late. In France, tradition could be Tadashi Abe's take on aikido. There is no universal tradition in aikido.

That many claims to tradition - from the Scottish bagpipe, sponsored as a nationalist symbol against the Irish harp, to South German "traditional" carnival, institutionalised in many places by the folklorising Nazis - are made to legitimise invention has really been common knowledge in historical research since the eighties. Why should aikido be any different?

Tradition is often just a way of saying my lineage is better than yours.
Tradition is often just a way of claiming unquestioned authority.
Tradition is often just a way of glorifying the old days.

Whoever came up with tradition was an innovator.
What exactly do you mean when you speak of tradition in aikido?
The future of aikido is not „tradition" -- or is it?

Thoughts, opinions, objections?

Thus Spake Zarathustra.

Adam Huss
12-29-2010, 08:01 AM
I've always felt M. Ueshiba, and others, trained in a rigorous traditional manner before striking out on their own and becoming innovative. Having that solid, "standardized" background where core basics (like "spiritual" and self development....we are talking "do" not "jutsu" after all) creates a base from which one can eventually start making the art their own. I've always felt those who try to start their training where the greats finished, risk pursuing a hollow practice of the art that only plays lip service to its original intent; growth and self-development, vice actually developing these attributes through the struggle and difficulties that must be overcome in traditionalism-based training. But that's what I pursue in my training...I say whatever training one feels is the equivalent worth of their time and money is just fine for them. Everyone trains for their own reasons, after all.

Demetrio Cereijo
12-29-2010, 08:34 AM
Oopsss :-)

meant "unneccessary" of course.

You wrote unnecessary. The "fixed" was somewhat in jest.

I think obfuscation is necessary.

BTW, have you read Green "Sense in Nonsense: The Role of Folk History in the Martial Arts" in Martial Arts in the Modern World (http://www.amazon.com/Martial-Modern-World-Thomas-Green/dp/0275981533/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top/181-1272491-3208523) or Inoue Shun "The Invention of the Martial Arts: Kanō Jigorō and Kōdōkan Judo" in Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan (http://www.amazon.com/Mirror-Modernity-Traditions-Twentieth-Emergence/dp/0520206371).?

DarkShodan
12-29-2010, 10:15 AM
Interesting. I have had a few students from another dojo come into our dojo and tell me "I practice traditional Aikido. You don't really do Aikido, rather what you do is Hawaiian Aikido." To be honest this really insults me and my school. So I try to practice what my Sensei taught me by asking them to explain to me what is the difference between traditional Aikido and our Hawaiian Non-Aikido. I cannot get a straight answer from these people. I realize this is an idea and an attitude being passed on by their sensei, very unfortunate.

What we try is to preserve the Japanese Traditions that are a part of Aikido. IMHO Aikido is a moving concept not a rigid set of techniques. I have experienced many arts and the concepts are the same. Even in the hard style striking arts, once you get past the kata and forms, you need to expand to find the techniques within the techniques. Find the block within the strike, and the strike within the block. If you are perfecting the kata or form for the sake of the kata, then I think you're missing the point.

dave9nine
12-29-2010, 10:51 AM
I've always felt M. Ueshiba, and others, trained in a rigorous traditional manner before striking out on their own and becoming innovative. Having that solid, "standardized" background where core basics (like "spiritual" and self development....we are talking "do" not "jutsu" after all) creates a base from which one can eventually start making the art their own. I've always felt those who try to start their training where the greats finished, risk pursuing a hollow practice of the art that only plays lip service to its original intent; growth and self-development, vice actually developing these attributes through the struggle and difficulties that must be overcome in traditionalism-based training. But that's what I pursue in my training...I say whatever training one feels is the equivalent worth of their time and money is just fine for them. Everyone trains for their own reasons, after all.

well said.

i think the spirit behind the thoughts of the OP is good--aikido is an alive art and thus it necessarily should have room to grow...
but, it seems immensly important to put oneself through the same training as the person(s) who we hold up as models.

im always pondering this "tradition" thing, and i imagine i always will....while innovation is good, i shudder at the thought of someone walking into a dojo and saying "it's great that you guys have been training like this for so many years, but after you allow me to join, i think ill go ahead and follow my own model that i just thought of..."

Nicholas Eschenbruch
12-29-2010, 10:56 AM
BTW, have you read Green "Sense in Nonsense: The Role of Folk History in the Martial Arts" in Martial Arts in the Modern World (http://www.amazon.com/Martial-Modern-World-Thomas-Green/dp/0275981533/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top/181-1272491-3208523) or Inoue Shun "The Invention of the Martial Arts: Kanō Jigorō and Kōdōkan Judo" in Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan (http://www.amazon.com/Mirror-Modernity-Traditions-Twentieth-Emergence/dp/0520206371).?

No, but will as soon as the martial arts books budget allows - which may be a while :(
Thanks!

Nicholas Eschenbruch
12-29-2010, 11:03 AM
well said.

i think the spirit behind the thoughts of the OP is good--aikido is an alive art and thus it necessarily should have room to grow...
but, it seems immensly important to put oneself through the same training as the person(s) who we hold up as models.

im always pondering this "tradition" thing, and i imagine i always will....while innovation is good, i shudder at the thought of someone walking into a dojo and saying "it's great that you guys have been training like this for so many years, but after you allow me to join, i think ill go ahead and follow my own model that i just thought of..."

Agree, it's a very fine line to walk - but, just to make sure, I was not questioning the importance of rigorous structured training, neither was I advocating laissez-faire and fantasising oneself to be a master already. It's sort of interesting that should come up as reaction.

Is rigourous structured training necessarily "traditional"? Or is it maybe just what a good teacher in a credible lineage teaches as basics, regardless of "tradition"? What I am contemplating is, sort of, the side-effects of the use of the word tradition.

Or, in a different perspective again, is shu-ha-ri a one generation thing, or does it involve several generations' tradition?

C. David Henderson
12-29-2010, 11:10 AM
I think obfuscation is necessary.


There is a lot potentially lurking in that sentence -- I've the feeling designedly so, although it's been left a bit obscure, as if in illustration....

:cool:

Happy New Year to all.

SeiserL
12-29-2010, 11:16 AM
IMHO, simplistically, saying I have no tradition would mean I have not history, no lineage, no established path I am following lead by those who came before me.

I am not that talented or innovative (or egotistical) to think it starts with me or that I could come up with this stuff on my own..

Tradition is not an unnecessary obscurity, but an appreciated clarity.

Keith Larman
12-29-2010, 11:51 AM
Nicholas:

I think you have an interesting point. I would further it by saying that we must be careful to distinguish which meaning we're using when we say traditional. We can talk about our Aikido as being part of the Aikido tradition meaning we're saying we come from a defined lineage that goes back to the founder of Aikido. As you pointed out (and as I mentioned elsewhere) those traditions tended to have different "nodes" along the way depending on who introduced Aikido in various locations.

The second meaning of "traditional" is subtly different. Some use the word to signify a claim of "correctness" of authenticity with what was "actually" being done by O-Sensei. This is quite a different usage of the term. The prior usage implies that the "lineage" simply goes back to Ueshiba Morihei. The latter usage implies that there is some "way" that is in fact more correct or more authentic than others. This latter view of course begs a lot of questions of how you define such a thing.

I wouldn't challenge tradition in the prior sense. It is in essence a term used somewhat similarly to saying one has a lineage that can be verified and traced back to the founder. The latter sense is a loaded usage of the term which carries implications of correctness, right/wrong, validity and authenticity independent of lineage. The latter involves a series of value-judgments about what is correct, what is right, etc. Of course there may very well be value in discussing the latter case as well. And I think that is an ongoing discussion and lately the work of Mr. Amdur as well as Dr. Goldsbury are shedding a tremendous amount of light on those points.

So... A "traditional" form of aikido (first sense -- lineage) may not be accepted by all as "traditional" (the latter sense - doing what it is perceived that the founder was *really* doing).

All that said, to those who dismiss much of Aikido as not being traditional in the latter sense, I really don't have much to say or argue about as any disagreement is really about the very nature of what Aikido *is* or *was* or *should be*. I think that is an open question and there are sincere people who believe very different things for very good reasons of their own.

So I'm left in a weird limbo. I feel that that Aikido morphed into a wide variety of things and continues to do so. *I* personally have some very strong opinions about what it *should* be, but I don't begrudge those who are following different paths themselves. I've said it many times -- the biggest strength of Aikido was its ability to reach far and wide gaining tremendous popularity. But at the same time that is its greatest weakness -- it became virtually all things to all people.

Back to work for me. Enough deep thoughts for one day. :)

Demetrio Cereijo
12-29-2010, 12:07 PM
No, but will as soon as the martial arts books budget allows - which may be a while :(
Thanks!
Meanwhile, you can try the previews in amazon and googlebooks to get a gist of them.

Adam Huss
12-29-2010, 06:04 PM
Agree, it's a very fine line to walk - but, just to make sure, I was not questioning the importance of rigorous structured training, neither was I advocating laissez-faire and fantasising oneself to be a master already. It's sort of interesting that should come up as reaction.

Is rigourous structured training necessarily "traditional"? Or is it maybe just what a good teacher in a credible lineage teaches as basics, regardless of "tradition"? What I am contemplating is, sort of, the side-effects of the use of the word tradition.

Or, in a different perspective again, is shu-ha-ri a one generation thing, or does it involve several generations' tradition?

Good distinction. In my experience the two are synonymous but, of course, my experience is limited. Doing shihonage or warmups the way Shioda, Saito, or whomever taught it doesn't necessarily mean you are doing traditional aikido....its the way in which training is conducted and transferred to the students. Maybe replace the term 'traditional' with 'serious' study. You can certainly get some value out of training in a passive manner. For my training, however, I find I get more value out of highly involved, rigorous training where there are elements of risk, adversity, difficulty, and perseverance to overcome any personal limitations....in other words working to eliminate imperfections. The analogy being a student who is an unfinished sword, whose teacher is a knowledgable and talented sword smith that works with the student to polish away imperfections....and a teacher who works to know each student well enough to guide some level of their training to suit their individual needs. I equate this to traditional aikido, but again, the term traditional is just a word...its how training is gone about that counts. More so than the actual techniques.

graham christian
12-29-2010, 08:33 PM
Hi Nicholas,
The future of Aikido being tradition or not?

I would say you look at the various aspects of your Aikido and see which parts are tradition and which parts are innovations.

Do you wear traditional Aikido Gi or an Hakama? You may get innovative and wear a hat as well.

Do you call the names of the techniques in japanese? Why?

Do you bow? The point is I guarantee you will keep certain traditions no matter how innovative you feel you are being and I also guarantee you will innovate no matter how traditional you think you are being.

I think you probably disagree with people becoming too robotic or like sheep rather than what you said. (Just my opinion)

Hope this is added food for thought.

Happy new year. G.

Lyle Laizure
12-29-2010, 09:11 PM
Tradition is passed from one generation to another either by direct transmission, like those that trained directly with O'Sensei, or indirectly by those that train with someone that trained directly with O'Sensei or with someone who trained with someone who trained with O'Sensei and so on. Most of us are in the latter. For those of us who did train directly with O'Sensei we have to rely on what our sensei shares with us. This is from their interpretation, their understanding of what they learned from their sensei who taught them from their interpretation and understanding of what they were taught. I think it can be like playing the telephone game sometimes.

I beleive I teach traditional martial arts at my dojo but I am sure that I do not teach in a traditional manner at all times.

mathewjgano
12-29-2010, 10:33 PM
Any time "traditional" comes up I have to wonder at which tradition; How far back do they mean? Every tradition changes somewhat over time, some more slowly than others. Tradition is just the name we give to describe the things that were done before us; innovation is just the name we give to things we didn't know about before their invention (e.g. When my dad was a kid, he invented the bow and arrow; he was innovative for his situation, despite the fact that the concept had existed for thousands of years elsewhere).
Space flight innovative? I heard about some stuff that happened long long ago in a place far far away that makes our space flight look a bit weak.:D

dps
12-30-2010, 02:36 AM
With deliberate one-sidedness (and a broad reference to Amdur, Goldsbury, Hobsbawm & Ranger) I would like to make the proposition that speaking of tradition in aikido is an unneccessary obfuscation that serves to cloud issues rather than clarify them. Let's just do without it.

There are no traditions in Aikido.

There are traditions in the Japanese culture that Aikido was created in and some try to obeserve these traditions as a part of Aikido.

The martial art of O'Sense is an eclectic modern art with no traditions.

David

Tony Wagstaffe
12-30-2010, 03:10 AM
Tradition is something passed on...... things do get added, changed, chucked out, in the course of time......

It's a bit like names. The "traditional" thing is to pass it on to your offspring, unless they hate your guts and get it changed...... ;) :D

Randall Lim
12-30-2010, 03:20 AM
With deliberate one-sidedness (and a broad reference to Amdur, Goldsbury, Hobsbawm & Ranger) I would like to make the proposition that speaking of tradition in aikido is an unneccessary obfuscation that serves to cloud issues rather than clarify them. Let's just do without it.

First of all, Morihei Ueshiba himself was an innovator. If he had been a traditionalist, he would have studied a koryu and remained there. Instead, he expanded and revolutionised the practice of Takeda Sokakus Daito Ruy (which, as Ellis Amdur argues in HIPS, was quite probably an innovation itself). Also, in his spiritual quest, he joined a new religious movement (not an old one), and even went beyond that in his later years. To my knowledge, there are no indications that Ueshiba himself wanted or furthered the creation of a „traditional" canon of aikido.

Second, the giants amongst his close personal students were mostly innovators themselves -- for the simple fact that Ueshiba's practice was too multi-faceted (and in parts even obscure), too complex, and his teaching too unstructured to lend itself to simple copying. Even Saito Sensei states quite clearly that he himself structured (and thus „traditionalised") what he was taught by Ueshiba. Ueshiba simply had no clear practice to copy.

Third, as Keith Larman pointed out in another thread, the spread of aikido was such that „tradition" would mean something completely different in different parts of the world. In Scandinavia, Nishio Sensei's aikido could be called tradition, in Britain Kenshiro Abe's. On the US West coast, ki aikido is tradition, in Germany that came quite late. In France, tradition could be Tadashi Abe's take on aikido. There is no universal tradition in aikido.

That many claims to tradition - from the Scottish bagpipe, sponsored as a nationalist symbol against the Irish harp, to South German "traditional" carnival, institutionalised in many places by the folklorising Nazis - are made to legitimise invention has really been common knowledge in historical research since the eighties. Why should aikido be any different?

Tradition is often just a way of saying my lineage is better than yours.
Tradition is often just a way of claiming unquestioned authority.
Tradition is often just a way of glorifying the old days.

Whoever came up with tradition was an innovator.
What exactly do you mean when you speak of tradition in aikido?
The future of aikido is not „tradition" -- or is it?

Thoughts, opinions, objections?

In my opinion, O'Sensei's own personal style changed, refined & evolved over the many phases of his life. Along with this continual refinement, came along changes in the "original tradition" which he started.

As O'Sensei took in a number of live-in students in the different phases of his life, each of these students took back with himself the "tradition" with O'Sensei imparted at that particular stage in his life. The "tradition" which each student took back would then be different.

In my opinion, Aikido has not real tradition. It is understanding, practising & passing on its Essence that really matters.

Ellis Amdur
12-30-2010, 03:48 AM
This question has so many ramifications.
Koryu is usually considered a "living museum piece" - inviolate, unchanged. Some are maintained that way. Others, however, are not. I have participated in the renovation of old kata, and the creation of new kata in two ryu. I've seen other ryu do the same. When I practice outside, (sometimes in the rain and the ground gets wet), we usually wear shoes and street clothes (just as the bushi did back when kimono and hakama were street clothes. But what point is too much? I use weapons made of woods the Japanese never used, and construction methods the same (laminated spears of vera wood, for example). But "improving" a kusarigama by changing the chain to piano wire, for example, just seems wrong. When one asserts that one is attempting to train in "combatively sound" methods, then what is one doing with weapons that were archaic 500 years ago? At what point would my Araki-ryu no longer be Araki-ryu? Shall I replace bokken with aluminum baseball bats? If not, why not? To be quite honest, it's hard to explain why not? The maintenance of tradition (the clothes, the etiquette, the roots in Japanese culture) circumscribes the art in a way that enables one to use kan - a kind of intuitive sense - to say, "that's not x-ryu." I remember when I was detailed to revive some kusarigama kata for Toda-ha Buko-ryu, and after a year, showed them to Nitta sensei, and she said, "Buko-ryu rashiku-nai n desu ga . . ." which mean, "It somehow doesn't have the essential quality of Buko-ryu." It took me another half-year to extinguish what she correctly perceived as subtle contaminants from Araki-ryu. Paradoxically, the kata were, in some senses, stronger in the original version, but the latter version contributed to the development of technique throughout ALL the techniques of the school in a way that the former did not.
Aikido Nicholas, in his original note, outlined the critique on tradition well. But here is the problem. Yokomen-uchi, Shomen-uchi, tsuki, etc. Ushiro-dori (double wrist grab from behind), ryote-mochi (two hands on one wrist grab), etc.
If one says, "Well, we don't need the keikko gi and hakama, and the bowing in and the Japanese formalism, then why the impractical attacks, which are very culture bound. .
However, if my theory of HIPS is correct, then the formalism is, in fact, [I]necessary. Those particular attacks and techniques are for the purpose of a) softening all the joints, as Ueshiba M. stated b) developing the kind of ki/kokyu that Ueshiba M. manifested.
In a way, the cultural formalism creates, for both non-Japanese and Japanese a feeling of being "somewhere else," outside of day-to-day life, with it's considerations of street boxing and aluminum baseball bats. It becomes a kind of a laboratory, where one can possibly study "something else," that is only possible when one abandons the logic of the modern day exercise physiology, combat sport world. Terry Dobson retorted to other uchi-deshi, who criticized him for training with Wang Shu Chin, "I don't want to be Osensei's student. I want to BE Osensei." Maybe, just maybe, the tradition is necessary to make that possible. . .. to be sure, there are other ways of training in internal strength, but Morihei's particular amalgam of skills may require tradition.

Ellis Amdur

Nicholas Eschenbruch
12-30-2010, 04:32 AM
This question has so many ramifications.
(...)
The maintenance of tradition (the clothes, the etiquette, the roots in Japanese culture) circumscribes the art in a way that enables one to use kan - a kind of intuitive sense - to say, "that's not x-ryu." I remember when I was detailed to revive some kusarigama kata for Toda-ha Buko-ryu, and after a year, showed them to Nitta sensei, and she said, "Buko-ryu rashiku-nai n desu ga . . ." which mean, "It somehow doesn't have the essential quality of Buko-ryu." It took me another half-year to extinguish what she correctly perceived as subtle contaminants from Araki-ryu. Paradoxically, the kata were, in some senses, stronger in the original version, but the latter version contributed to the development of technique throughout ALL the techniques of the school in a way that the former did not.
(...)
Ellis Amdur

That is a very intriguing direction, thank you very much! So, in addition to the two very helpful meanings of tradition that Keith outlined, I would like to expand your point into a third one (reminding me of a dormant academic hobby, "social aesthetics"): an insistence on tradition could be an insistence on wanting to pass on all the elements of an art - not only its techniques thought of in a utilitarian sense, but its whole presentation: the atmosphere of the space it is practiced in, its manners, bodily attitudes, and the like. All its elements that are sensuous, felt, possibly pre-linguistic, yet make an essential contribution to the art in ways that one possibly only understands much later on. Its style, in a way, its aesthetics in an older sense of the term. Sorry for the rambling, this is by definition difficult to put into words.

Of course, that would assume one studies with a teacher who embodied all that, which in Koryu may be the norm, but in aikido, for reasons discussed very often, is rarely the case.

Thanks, everybody, for a very interesting discussion, and all the best for your life and training in 2011.

Demetrio Cereijo
12-30-2010, 08:25 AM
If one says, "Well, we don't need the keikko gi and hakama, and the bowing in and the Japanese formalism, then why the impractical attacks, which are very culture bound. [I think that if one did abandon all of that, you'd have something like Systema].

Which also has developed his own traditions, narratives and cultural trappings.

Resistence is futile...

dps
12-30-2010, 09:27 AM
What are the traditions of Aikido?

dps

jimbaker
12-30-2010, 10:13 AM
Which brings us to the subject of Whisky.

In many Scottish distilleries, when the still begins to wear out, they replace it with a still of the exact same capacity and shape. The distiller holds such a nearly holy reverence for their stills that they will go so far as making a mold of the old still and using that to make the new one. They are not sure if all the bumps and dents on the inside have something vital to do with the final taste of the Whisky.

The distilleries are modern, computerized and have introduced a number of innovations, such as bolting parts of the still rather than welding them. But the still remains the same. The Glenmorangie Distillery has traditionally used only 16 men, the Sixteen Men of Tain" to produce their single malt. They sill use 16 men, but they run the computers.

The "Do" of Aikido is a road. It was paved for us by a series of pioneers. There are still some pathfinders out there, but most of us are just plodding along. I don't know the road ahead, so I don't know what is important to bring along. What if I leave something behind only to find out it's really important later on? So I drag along a bunch of stuff. Maybe at some point I'll drop the bag of marbles I've been carrying, but I'll keep the skies.

I'm not talented enough to drop tradition.

Jim in Norfolk

Lyle Bogin
12-30-2010, 10:54 AM
Having no "tradition" is like having no parents.

dave9nine
12-30-2010, 10:55 AM
This question has so many ramifications.
Koryu is usually considered a "living museum piece" - inviolate, unchanged. Some are maintained that way. Others, however, are not. I have participated in the renovation of old kata, and the creation of new kata in two ryu. I've seen other ryu do the same. When I practice outside, (sometimes in the rain and the ground gets wet), we usually wear shoes and street clothes (just as the bushi did back when kimono and hakama were street clothes. But what point is too much? I use weapons made of woods the Japanese never used, and construction methods the same (laminated spears of vera wood, for example). But "improving" a kusarigama by changing the chain to piano wire, for example, just seems wrong. When one asserts that one is attempting to train in "combatively sound" methods, then what is one doing with weapons that were archaic 500 years ago? At what point would my Araki-ryu no longer be Araki-ryu? Shall I replace bokken with aluminum baseball bats? If not, why not? To be quite honest, it's hard to explain why not? The maintenance of tradition (the clothes, the etiquette, the roots in Japanese culture) circumscribes the art in a way that enables one to use kan - a kind of intuitive sense - to say, "that's not x-ryu." I remember when I was detailed to revive some kusarigama kata for Toda-ha Buko-ryu, and after a year, showed them to Nitta sensei, and she said, "Buko-ryu rashiku-nai n desu ga . . ." which mean, "It somehow doesn't have the essential quality of Buko-ryu." It took me another half-year to extinguish what she correctly perceived as subtle contaminants from Araki-ryu. Paradoxically, the kata were, in some senses, stronger in the original version, but the latter version contributed to the development of technique throughout ALL the techniques of the school in a way that the former did not.
Aikido Nicholas, in his original note, outlined the critique on tradition well. But here is the problem. Yokomen-uchi, Shomen-uchi, tsuki, etc. Ushiro-dori (double wrist grab from behind), ryote-mochi (two hands on one wrist grab), etc.
If one says, "Well, we don't need the keikko gi and hakama, and the bowing in and the Japanese formalism, then why the impractical attacks, which are very culture bound. .
However, if my theory of HIPS is correct, then the formalism is, in fact, [I]necessary. Those particular attacks and techniques are for the purpose of a) softening all the joints, as Ueshiba M. stated b) developing the kind of ki/kokyu that Ueshiba M. manifested.
In a way, the cultural formalism creates, for both non-Japanese and Japanese a feeling of being "somewhere else," outside of day-to-day life, with it's considerations of street boxing and aluminum baseball bats. It becomes a kind of a laboratory, where one can possibly study "something else," that is only possible when one abandons the logic of the modern day exercise physiology, combat sport world. Terry Dobson retorted to other uchi-deshi, who criticized him for training with Wang Shu Chin, "I don't want to be Osensei's student. I want to BE Osensei." Maybe, just maybe, the tradition is necessary to make that possible. . .. to be sure, there are other ways of training in internal strength, but Morihei's particular amalgam of skills may require tradition.

Ellis Amdur

indeed--thanks for that discussion!
that helps tremendously

Keith Larman
12-30-2010, 11:41 AM
Okay, I'm kinda getting lost. I *thought* Nicolas was originally referring to disposing of conversations about 'traditional' using the word in the sense of "my lineage is 'better' than yours because mine goes back to this time/event/space and yours ties back to another time/event/space that isn't what I like". To give an example (and not meaning to be judgmental), take someone who is in the Tomiki line complaining about a group in the Tohei line not doing a technique 'correctly' (i.e., not doing the way they do it). This is especially evident when you consider how each of the significant deshi seemed to have different models and means of teaching what they considered the "real deal" (or replace that phrase with the phrase "traditional aikido" to make the point).

I am beginning to feel like a language philosopher here, but it seems we've now introduced a third meaning to "traditional" to include the often very important rituals, mannerisms, "proper etiquette", and so forth. What Mr. Amdur rightly points out is that there is often a lot of deeply important meaning and rationale for why some things are done "hidden away" underneath all those traditions. I've used the example before in my training in sword restoration. There are so many things that never made sense to me when I started that only became clear years later. Often subtle things, often inextricably intertwined with a thousand other things. An example I've used is seppa on a sword. Seppa are essentially little "washers" that are placed between the tsuba (hand guard) and habaki (blade collar) and on the other side between the tsuba and the fuchi (front 'cap' of the handle). I saw a modern done piece where the maker had left out the seppa. The argument made was that seppa were used to compensate for a loosening fit hence a new sword didn't really need them. Well, that was in contradiction to what I was taught, but I'd never really thought about why I was taught differently. But after some thought I realized that the seppa weren't *just* for taking up slack. They provide a soft interface between a habaki (which is a critical part you don't want damaged) and the often hard metal tsuba (which would deform the habaki if left in direct contact). Same was true for the interface between the face of the fuchi and the harder tsuba. I also realized that the fuchi and tsuba often aren't perfectly fit to the blade itself. Which means the contact between the two was in a rather small surface area which means even more likelihood of damage of the softer, more expensive parts. Then the question became how to add a seppa to a sword that never had them to begin with if it developed some looseness. I can remove a 1mm thick seppa and replace it with a 1.1mm seppa. But on a sword without seppa to begin with that develops .1mm of slop, putting a microthin seppa at .1mm would be useless -- essentially a piece of foil that would deform instantly. I also thought of a variety of other reasons why they were used.

So the example's point is that while most consider seppa to be "washers to take up space to adjust fit", they actually function on multiple levels that most will never consider. I was never taught all the reasons why seppa are put in originally -- they just are. Maybe I'm slow on the uptake and everyone else was told exactly why, but that has not been my experience in most of these things. Things become apparent over time. The value of small "traditions" like these become evident only over time if they become evident at all. But you run a significant risk of screwing things up if you decide that the tradition is superfluous or trivial. So in the case of traditional crafts one needs to be *very* careful about making changes. The problem usually involved the fact that you simply don't know what you don't know. So you can't be sure you're not accidentally changing something that will ripple throughout the overall quality of your work.

Phew. Okay, that said... That's another usage of the word "Tradition". I *think* (and Nicolas can correct me if I'm wrong) Nicolas was focusing on the discussion of "mine is traditional, yours is not" when talking about an art that had multiple branches appear directly from the source. So a Tomiki fella discounting a Tohei fella and vice versa. Or someone inside Aikikai saying the only "traditional" aikido is Aikikai because it is the only one that stayed with the Ueshiba family -- i.e., it is the "official" version of Aikido.

If I'm reading it correctly I think Nicolas' point is well taken. But I also think we have to be very clear about what we're talking about so we don't throw away more than we should. I am very much a supporter of maintaining "traditions" (in the sense of practices, habits, etc.) within each line to ensure a proper transmission of that particular "tradition" (in the sense of lineage). But then avoiding the dismissal of any particular "tradition" (in the sense of lineage) because it isn't the same as my view of what is "traditional" (meaning they're from a different lineage assuming it is legit).

Ouch. I think I sprained a frontal lobe. Too much nitpicking... Happy New Year everybody!

Janet Rosen
12-30-2010, 12:05 PM
Keith, my take on the OP topic and the thread drifts based on semantics is much as your's.
I think tradition based on solid lineage and what works is good - your example from swords is great! -- whether it is in martial arts or sewing or visual arts, I enjoy the sense of being part of a history, a lineage, and partaking in certain kata or ritual based on that, but I do object to relying on "tradition!" when it flies in the face of better, newer information (my ongoing and probably futile campaign against mindless pre-training static stretching, for instance).

Nicholas Eschenbruch
12-30-2010, 12:38 PM
Keith,
maybe I am a much sloppier thinker than you are (its continental vs analytical after all :D )- my intention with the OP was to take a deliberately one-sided perspective (which I can, to a degree, identify with) to start a discussion - precisely in order to explore what "tradition" means to different people, especially aspects I am not yet aware of. So from my part, I must confess, some thread drift is welcome (and its not "my" thread anway...), and I have realised stuff I was not aware of.

Thanks for the great sword example and a wonderful New Year.

RED
12-30-2010, 01:53 PM
What are the traditions of Aikido?

dps

Good question. I'm seeing people who have an issue with the "traditionalism" but not too many people defining which traditions the issue is with.

Demetrio Cereijo
12-30-2010, 02:29 PM
What are the traditions of Aikido?

dps

The ones you bought as them.

Ryan Seznee
12-30-2010, 07:00 PM
What are you even talking about? Traditions as in what? You taking about bowing and referring to things in Japanese, not incorporating boxing into the martial system, applying Shinto spiritual principles verses Mormon ones... What are you trying to say? What "Traditions"? I feel like you are asking "how long is a piece of string?"

Nicholas Eschenbruch
12-31-2010, 03:54 AM
What are you even talking about? Traditions as in what? You taking about bowing and referring to things in Japanese, not incorporating boxing into the martial system, applying Shinto spiritual principles verses Mormon ones... What are you trying to say? What "Traditions"? I feel like you are asking "how long is a piece of string?"

When I google the string "traditional aikido" without any further specification I get 98 000 hits, the first page already has examples from the Netherlands, California, the UK and Dubai, plus Saito Sensei's famous book. I, for one, am talking about that.

So the question "which exact traditions" is an interesting additonal pespective, but it should be asked to the people who make the blanket statements about their stuff being "traditional", I feel. Its part of the discussion, really, not part of a rebuttal of its purpose.

danj
12-31-2010, 05:50 AM
The "Do" of Aikido is a road. It was paved for us by a series of pioneers. There are still some pathfinders out there, but most of us are just plodding along. I don't know the road ahead, so I don't know what is important to bring along. What if I leave something behind only to find out it's really important later on? So I drag along a bunch of stuff. Maybe at some point I'll drop the bag of marbles I've been carrying, but I'll keep the skies.

I'm not talented enough to drop tradition.

Jim in Norfolk

My first (and very cheap) lesson in tradition
I never used to let students fold my hakama after class even though it was a tradition in my school, it was embarrassing. One day a very senior instructor came to our dojo and no-one folded his hakama....

Adam Huss
12-31-2010, 07:48 AM
My first (and very cheap) lesson in tradition
I never used to let students fold my hakama after class even though it was a tradition in my school, it was embarrassing. One day a very senior instructor came to our dojo and no-one folded his hakama....

Where traditional training would teach understanding why some of these things are not, rather than just emulating them.

danj
12-31-2010, 07:01 PM
I think tradition serves to preserve even when the understanding is not present. Understanding may come and when it does the kata and other aspects are ready to support the emerging understanding. My personal though somewhat limited experience of eastern learning methods are that the 'copy' rather than the asking 'why' or teaching the 'why' is more common.

Adam Huss
01-01-2011, 04:37 PM
Where traditional training would teach understanding why some of these things are not, rather than just emulating them.

*correction*

...why some of these things are, rather than just...