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mathewjgano
05-31-2011, 01:49 PM
In the recent training thread Shirata sensei was mentioned, and being that he's one of those guys who has always stood out to me, I decided to do some reading to refresh my memory. I found this (http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=302) very nice bit of reading on Aikido Journal and thought I'd share.

There are some very interesting things touched on by Nidai Doshu and the part by Seibi Yonekawa somehow got some dust in my eye.

I've also started rereading Aikido: Way of Harmony, by Stevens under the direction of Shirata Rinjiro. I remember really liking it before, so it will be interesting to look at it anew; a bit further down the line, as it were.

Allen Beebe
05-31-2011, 02:38 PM
In the recent training thread Shirata sensei was mentioned, and being that he's one of those guys who has always stood out to me, I decided to do some reading to refresh my memory. I found this (http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=302) very nice bit of reading on Aikido Journal and thought I'd share.

There are some very interesting things touched on by Nidai Doshu and the part by Seibi Yonekawa somehow got some dust in my eye.

I've also started rereading Aikido: Way of Harmony, by Stevens under the direction of Shirata Rinjiro. I remember really liking it before, so it will be interesting to look at it anew; a bit further down the line, as it were.

Hi Matthew,

Thanks for posting this. I remember reading this the first time and being blown away. If one reads Nidai Doshu's words "Japanese Style" where the explicit text points to the, more significant *implied* message, what he wrote is (still) pretty astounding. What he wrote was significant either way, but the implication is what floored me. Not that it was news to anyone close to Shirata sensei, rather that Nidai Doshu stated it so clearly. It is probably cheeky for me to say so but, I gained a whole new level of appreciation for both men.

Yonekawa's words are, of course, very touching.

I keep this posted on the dojo bulletin board, so that I can stop and read it regularly. It is a nice reminder.

Once again, thanks!

Allen

I have this pinned next to the article as well BTW:

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.

William Shakespeare, "Julius Caesar", Act 2 scene 2
Greatest English dramatist & poet (1564 - 1616)

Ernesto Lemke
05-31-2011, 03:06 PM
Hello Matthew,

Thank you as well. (Al, you beat me to it, I was still writing when you posted).
Apart from reading Shirata Sensei's name here and there, there is really very little public information available. Over the years I posted requests on various boards in my search for more information on the man. Besides a tremendous amount of information, it got me in contact with some of the nicest and authoritive (in a budo sense) people. I never regret pursueing my interest.
Most of what I collected thus came through personal communication and is anecdotal by nature (though not all).

You may want to try Ellis Amdur's HIPS for some additional perspective on Shirata Sensei's weaponry. There is also a nice recollection by Saotome Sensei in an older aikido magazine the name of which escapes me.
But in English, that's basically all there is, though there are some interviews with John Stevens Sensei that provide information too.

It's a shame there is so little out there. Especially since the man left such a tremendous legacy behind that is so rich and width by nature , I seriously doubt whether in my lifetime as a budo amateur, I'll ever make it through. But I keep trying!
Best

Ernesto

Charles Hill
05-31-2011, 04:25 PM
I remember reading this the first time and being blown away. If one reads Nidai Doshu's words "Japanese Style" where the explicit text points to the, more significant *implied* message, what he wrote is (still) pretty astounding. What he wrote was significant either way, but the implication is what floored me.

Hi Allen,

Could you explain a little more on what you mean by "the implication"? I am guessing you mean the point that Shirata Sensei was dedicated to Kisshomaru Ueshiba rather than the Aikikai. Is that right? How are you taking that to mean?

Thanks,
Charles

Allen Beebe
05-31-2011, 06:39 PM
Hi Allen,

Could you explain a little more on what you mean by "the implication"? I am guessing you mean the point that Shirata Sensei was dedicated to Kisshomaru Ueshiba rather than the Aikikai. Is that right? How are you taking that to mean?

Thanks,
Charles

Hi Charles,

It is perfectly reasonable that you should ask that. I don't know if I can do your question service.

First of all, I'll point out that IMHO the ambiguity of the Japanese language allows for one to get one's meaning across sometimes in a very pointed way while a) allowing for a complete obfuscation/refutation of the original intent of the sentence or message by the end, if one discerns that impending doom is approaching. and, b) being imbedded in a structure of "plausible deniability" which is standardized and accepted. [This is just my opinion, but I suspect this is so due to the vary nature of the society in which the language developed. There needed to be escape valves and structured indirectness or the culture would implode. As a consequence one can be "told off" in a very artful and indirect way. In fact, one can receive the gravest of insults via a compliment. Or one can simply change ones original meaning for purposes of self (or other) preservation or simply be artfully (maddeningly) vague. ]

Secondly, I would prefer to copy the English translation and give my take on each line (Japanese would be even better I suppose, but I don't need the homework thank you very much!) . . . but I don't wish to step on anybody's toes, so I will refrain from doing that.

Third, it should be very clear that this is simply MY interpretation of a linguistic interpretation of a message that was knowingly delivered for public consumption so therefore would have been self-centured at the very least, under circumstances (death) that protocol would demand be handled with discretion and taste (further self-centuring).

With this third point in mind, I think it is remarkable that the Nidai Doshu chose to begin his memorial with the subject matter of the first paragraph. The second through fourth paragraphs would be much more the norm with the first and last paragraphs usually containing rather banal summations. Instead the following points are made, and in this order:

1. Shirata Shihan was one of the best of the Founder's deshi.
2. Shirata Shihan was faithful to the Founder (1st) and Nidai Doshu (2nd)
3. That faithfulness was of a personal order. (There was personal devotion to the father that necessitated faithfulness to the son. This was a product of Shirata sensei's relationship with his teacher, but also was, I am convinced, due to his family's relationship and involvement with Omoto Kyo, the Ueshiba family, and other highly influential personages involved in Daito Ryu and what was to become Aikido.)
4. That faithfulness wasn't invested in the organization of the Aikikai (and the the fine Way that it promotes.)
5. Shirata Shihan devoted himself to the WAY, not an organization.
6. Shirata Shihan was devoted to the FOUNDER (see point #2) and to the WAY, the WAY that the FOUNDER had established, as opposed to the organization (and the organization's Way!)
7. Due to this, (Shirata's personal devotion to the Founder and the Way the founder had established), he did much for Nidai Doshu and for Aikido.

These points may seem to contradict what is stated in the fourth paragraph, but I think not. I believe that that Nidai Doshu accurately claims that Shirata sensei hoped his actions of support for him and the organizational roll that he (Shirata) fulfilled, would bring, "respect to the founder, and in the end would lead aikido to correct and pure development."

Whether or not he felt that his hope was fulfilled in his lifetime I don't believe Shirata sensei expressed publicly for the very same reasons that he held offices in an organization he, according to Nidai Doshu, felt no personal devotion to and (it is my understanding) allowed himself to be censured by the son of his teacher while many of his peers (BTW, read the memorial again to see where Shirata sensei stood among his peers.) left to form alternate organizations with an outcome that produced (and this isn't a criticism, rather an observation) far more material and personal reward and recognition than Shirata sensei ever received while staying in "his own" organization, not to mention his juniors that came decades later.

Of course, one should keep in mind that I am speaking about my teacher so I am biased. I know for a fact that Shirata sensei would be terribly embarrassed by the boastfulness of my post. He was an incredibly humble man. But I tell myself that if Nidai Doshu can say that he was "one of the best" of the FOUNDER'S uchi deshi (read between the lines folks . . . there are uchi deshi and "the FOUNDER'S uchi deshi.") and "different from the present younger members and the post-war shihan." I stand in good company. I certainly agree with Nidai Doshu's last line. To my mind one of the greatest compliments that could be paid would be the simple statement, "He was a good man." He was!

Here is a quote that I think typifies my remembrance of Shirata sensei:

Patience and gentleness are power
Nothing is so strong as gentleness,
nothing so gentle as real strength.

Power is so characteristically calm,
that calmness in itself has the aspect of power,
and forbearance implies strength.

I think Shirata sensei was I silent giant within Aikido and worked selflessly and with great devotion to his teacher Ueshiba Morihei by practicing, preserving and promoting what he understood to be the WAY as established by the FOUNDER.

Thanks for asking,
Allen

Ernesto Lemke
06-01-2011, 12:47 AM
Wow Al, you never cease to amaze me. Thank you for posting this.

Charles Hill
06-01-2011, 06:40 AM
Thank you Allen, a very informative post.

Alberto_Italiano
06-01-2011, 11:25 AM
Here is a quote that I think typifies my remembrance of Shirata sensei:

Patience and gentleness are power
Nothing is so strong as gentleness,
nothing so gentle as real strength.

Power is so characteristically calm,
that calmness in itself has the aspect of power,
and forbearance implies strength.


Perhaps I am too susceptible to intellectual stimulation, and regrettably inclined then to read it through my own filters - for the good and wrong parts they may have both.

I think this Sensei, without any claim to speak on his behalf of course, was implying a thing that he did not state.
Because what he says is so true - but - but - but you don't begin with it, you arrive at it.

When you are in a fight, at first you are frantic and forceful. Only when the holistic experience of fighting as a phenomenon in itself is engraved into your mind as something composed of brutality, once you get acquainted with its night and thunder and its fire and flames - then you start mastering it.
Fire doesn't intimidate you any more. In any given situation, you not only have an arsenal of options, but you can foresee what is coming, becaus eyou know how the thunderstorm behaves.

then you are calm, you are self confident - you know that whatever an attacker may throw at you, you have been already there.
But, first, you need to have been there - many times.

Omniscience under fire comes only by a long attendance of fiery volcanoes.

Alberto_Italiano
06-01-2011, 11:30 AM
In the recent training thread Shirata sensei was mentioned, and being that he's one of those guys who has always stood out to me, I decided to do some reading to refresh my memory. I found this (http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=302) very nice bit of reading on Aikido Journal and thought I'd share.

«Because of the severity and toughness of the training, our dojo was known as “Hell Dojo”»

Training emphasis? :)

scott.swank
06-01-2011, 11:43 AM
Look who Akira Tohei sensei had as the guest instructor at the 1984 Midwest Aikido Federation summer camp.

http://www.aikidonc.org/videos.html

philipsmith
06-01-2011, 12:43 PM
I unfortunately only had the opportunity to meet and train with Shirata Sensei one time; at the IAF Congress in 1988.

He was an impressive individual both an and off the mat and it was a privilege to meet and interact with him in both situations. As people have said who know better than me he was a true giant of Aikido.

Ernesto Lemke
06-01-2011, 01:18 PM
I apologize if the following request strikes anyone as tactless but may I ask those who ever met/saw Shirata Sensei whether they would be willing to share their experience either here or through PM (if you prefer).

My reasons for asking are not solely of a personal nature (though I’m driven by a personal desire of course).
Being part of such a small group of people working through Shirata Sensei’s ‘curriculum’ (for lack of a better word) we are also still very much in the process of trying to establish our own history, so to speak. Of course the outline is there, but as I mentioned before, there is very little material available in English and even in Japanese information is rather scarce, as are translators. :D

All help, any help would be greatly appreciated.

mathewjgano
06-01-2011, 01:32 PM
Cool! I'm glad you guys enjoyed reading it as much as I did! Thank you for that post Allen! It put more clearly what I had a vague notion of. What primarily caught my eye was the distinction between the Way and the organization meant to support it, along with the intended purpose of the organization as being to spread the Way.
Nidai Doshu seemed to be suggesting it's natural for divergences, but as long as we remain dedicated to the learning of the Way, organizational issues tend to fall into the background, or perhaps even work themselves out.

Training emphasis? :)
Most definately! :D
One man's "hell" is another's "heaven."


I apologize if the following request strikes anyone as tactless but may I ask those who ever met/saw Shirata Sensei whether they would be willing to share their experience either here or through PM (if you prefer).
Ditto! I believe an important measure of a person can be found in the impressions they leave on other people. Part of the reason I really liked the letter by Yonekawa-san was in how it described the impression(s) Shirata Shihan had on him.

Allen Beebe
06-01-2011, 01:37 PM
Just for clarity’s sake, because I’m afraid that I wasn’t clear at all, the quote:

Patience and gentleness are power
Nothing is so strong as gentleness,
nothing so gentle as real strength.

Power is so characteristically calm,
that calmness in itself has the aspect of power,
and forbearance implies strength.

Is not a quote of Shirata sensei. I found that quote 30 years ago (along with several others, at a moment of existential crisis), wrote it down and have kept it in my wallet ever since. Unfortunately I didn’t write down the source.

Nevertheless, I do think it typifies my memory of Shirata sensei.
I agree with Alberto, and I think sensei would too, that the depth of strength and power that exudes gentleness, patience, gentleness and forbearance is quite often born of an equally severe “tempering” process.

However, I think it is VITALY important to note that heating and beating alone do not produce a cool, strong, sharp, high quality steel. One must start with base materials that possess the potential to be forged into something greater. An expert, experienced, careful guiding hand is required. One that knows the proper procedure required, timing of application and proper amount of force to be used to achieve the desired result. And even then, there is a lot of polishing to be done.

If hardship were the only requirement to produce the kind of strength that has the wisdom and compassion required to exhibit abiding patience, gentleness and forbearance, hell would be the greatest producer of Saints and Saviors. Last time I checked hell may vet the saints and saviors from the pretenders but it doesn’t produce any.

Without wisdom and compassion, usually delivered in a form of skilled, forbearing guidance, hardship only serves to reinforce habituated interactions with perceived threats, force, and violence. Our habituated (natural) responses tend to be the least efficacious in dealing with these; in fact they tend to engender more fear, force and violence both within and without our beings.

One must rebuild from the roots up, so to speak, learning new mental/physical ways of being that are not yet habitual (natural) that DO serve to neutralize fear, force and violence both within and without our being and preserve balance.

This is process best takes place in a mental/physical environment that is both low stress and low threat because stress and fear, suppresses valid perception, and therefore sublimates new learning while calling out for, all to eager to respond, old habits. Over time, one can gradually grow into new mental/physical habits that become “natural.” Over time, as one seeks to grow further one can welcome greater and greater amounts of mental/physical force, with that force actually serving to strengthen the new habits.

I’m guessing that Shirata sensei came to the Kobukan with “the right stuff.” He also had a great teacher and the support of his family. He also had experienced “tempering,” of more than one kind, to the extreme of which I am sure he would never wish for anybody to endure, but which never the less served to form his character no doubt.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out, that he pointed out that, yes, if one wants to be able to perform under duress one needs to train up to, or beyond, what one hopes to prepare for. BUT, duress is the training aid NOT the training.

Just for clarity’s sake! ;-p

(Sorry if this post is hacked up. I'm in a rush. )

mathewjgano
06-01-2011, 01:47 PM
Dang! Very nice! Thank you for that, Allen!!!

Demetrio Cereijo
06-01-2011, 02:10 PM
Just for clarity's sake, because I'm afraid that I wasn't clear at all, the quote:

Patience and gentleness are power
Nothing is so strong as gentleness,
nothing so gentle as real strength.

Power is so characteristically calm,
that calmness in itself has the aspect of power,
and forbearance implies strength.

Is not a quote of Shirata sensei. I found that quote 30 years ago (along with several others, at a moment of existential crisis), wrote it down and have kept it in my wallet ever since. Unfortunately I didn't write down the source.

"Patience and gentleness are power" is attributed to James Henry Leigh Hunt.

"Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength." to St. Francis de Sales and

"Power is so characteristically calm, that calmness in itself has the aspect of power, and forbearance implies strength." to E G Bulwer-Lytton.

Allen Beebe
06-01-2011, 02:42 PM
"Patience and gentleness are power" is attributed to James Henry Leigh Hunt.

"Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength." to St. Francis de Sales and

"Power is so characteristically calm, that calmness in itself has the aspect of power, and forbearance implies strength." to E G Bulwer-Lytton.

Thanks!

Allen

Eric in Denver
06-02-2011, 04:09 AM
Look who Akira Tohei sensei had as the guest instructor at the 1984 Midwest Aikido Federation summer camp.

http://www.aikidonc.org/videos.html

Wow, thanks for that link. I had always wondered if there were videos of that seminar. Has anyone seen them?

Ernesto Lemke
06-02-2011, 03:12 PM
I have. I purchased them years ago. It appears as if Shirata Sensei didn't use an interpretor/translator which is actually very cool. Why? Because it didn't stop him from talking, in Japanese, to an almost exclusive non speaking japanese crowd. If anything, his enthusiasm for teaching/training comes across.
It's a very informative seminar, three tape set if I recall. It covers a lot of Shirata Sensei's approach, definetely worth buying (lest people start thinking I get paid for promoting this tape, I'm not).

Charles Hill
06-02-2011, 04:02 PM
I also have them. They are excellent. I think they are a great bridge to understanding what is going on in the Way of Harmony book, which admittedly confused me at first.

mathewjgano
06-02-2011, 04:31 PM
I also have them. They are excellent. I think they are a great bridge to understanding what is going on in the Way of Harmony book, which admittedly confused me at first.

Do you mean how to do the specific waza shown in the book or something else?

TomW
06-02-2011, 07:17 PM
Some of you may remember this conversation that occurred a while back on Aikido Journal, but I think it's worth re-posting. The whole conversation (on page 7) merits reading, but Ellis Amdur's anecdote (fourth post from the bottom) is particularly nice.

TomW
06-02-2011, 09:03 PM
Some of you may remember this conversation that occurred a while back on Aikido Journal, but I think it's worth re-posting. The whole conversation (on page 7) merits reading, but Ellis Amdur's anecdote (fourth post from the bottom) is particularly nice.

OOps, forgot to post the link :eek: :blush: :sorry:

http://www.aikidojournal.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=5962&start=90&sid=20e1a495dfa47447af5b26c4c9135e42

And, I'd also point out that, along with a wealth of information, Allen posts a nice anecdote by Meik Skoss, 8th post down.

Allen Beebe
06-03-2011, 02:23 PM
Just a word of caution:

Preamble: I recommend to anybody to look at videos of individuals that exhibit high quality. I think careful observation of such videos very beneficial.

Disclosure: The individual that first introduced me to Shirata Sensei also gave me my first video of Otake sensei (of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu.) I remember looking at that video and thinking "Wow! Now here is a man that knows how to use a Ken!" In fact, Otake sensei became, and remains, an archetypal image of martial quality (not just Ken) for me. Ask me what martial quality looks like and Otake sensei is one of the first images to pop into my mind.

I purchased and read "The Way of Harmony" before meeting Shirata sensei. Actually, when I first met him I didn't put "the guy in the book" together with "the guy I met" until after my return from Japan. (I consider the book is a treasure BTW, but I could never have learned technique from it in a way that would do justice to Shirata sensei. I doubt that Prof. Stevens or Shirata sensei intended for the work to be used in that manner.)

Soap Box (AKA Preaching to the Choir): I would never look at Otake sensei's video in an attempt to learn technique. First of all, what is publicly shown is, in all likelihood, not true KSR . . . or at least it is the "public face" of KSR and the most substantive and meaningful "face" of KSR is for KSR initiates not to be shared publicly. So I would essentially be studying their "cast offs."

Second, I have enough experience to know that one cannot learn meaningfully from video. I know that this is a generalization, but I think it true for all intents and purposes. One can, in some circumstances, use video to as a tool for recognition or as a reference for what one already knows.

Third, the stuff of greatest importance is the stuff that Video and books inevitably leave out, the "good stuff," the "real stuff," the "important stuff," left for oral transmission (Kuden: Allen's definition = I'll show you, make sure you feel what I want you to feel and then referent that experience with a name or verbal construct. In other words, I'll say, "You now know "it," (to some degree) "it" is called "X.")

If I were to copy technique from an Otake sensei tape, I am confident that most any KSR initiate could look at me doing my "KSR" and instantly know "That's not it!," even if I were copying a common public form.

Video and books are no substitute for hands on with the real thing. And "hands on" with the real thing is no substitute for "hands on "with the real thing and they want you to learn, know, and do what they do. (I think that is a very valid point in the context of Daito Ryu/Aikido BTW.)

Forth, one can have "hands on" with someone that is truly trying to transmit "it" and STILL not get "it," or at least not all of it clearly. This is why it is common to see disparity in the dojo or among students of the same teacher.

Bottom Line: Want to learn some new "moves" for taijutsu, kenjutsu, Jojutsu, etc. Look at a video or book of Shirata sensei. Better still; look at a video of his teacher or the antecedents of his teacher's techniques. Cool! You've got some new moves!

Want to learn what it was that enabled Shirata, Shirata's teacher Ueshiba, or Ueshiba's teacher Takeda to take "borrowed" techniques or inspired techniques and take on licensed experts of old established schools in free application? And better them? Better figure out the difference that MADE the difference.

I don't think THAT will come from a video or book. It didn't for them! ☺

If you are into techniques, why not do what experts have been doing for centuries? Join the koryu school of your interest and study hard!

As one student of Shirata sensei (and I certainly am not the person to have most exposure to Shirata sensei BTW, that would probably be someone virtually unknown) I'd say the best of what he had to teach can't be taught via video or book (Yeah, I know he approved the making of videos and a book.) nor in large seminars, nor via waza (although his waza was very cool especially the stuff he shared personally.)

I will say, he tried very hard to transmit what he learned, and I continuously discover that he was clear and explicit in instruction, . . . and I was/am just a bit dense.

Charles Hill
06-04-2011, 12:52 AM
Do you mean how to do the specific waza shown in the book or something else?

The specific waza/sword kata.

I certainly understand what Allen is talking about with his warning. I learned what I know from my time with John Stevens in Sendai and the book and videos make very nice reminders. The good thing about the videos is that they were taken from a MAF summer camp. Everyone there was a "beginner" in terms of Shirata Sensei's style. If I remember correctly, there is detailed instruction in how to sit and stand correctly.

What I learned was that what Shirata Sensei did was quite different from what everyone else was doing in the Aikikai. For me, the photos in the book were far from adequate in showing that. the videos are much better.

Chuck Clark
06-04-2011, 03:55 PM
Allen, powerful and, at the same time, tender words for your teacher and your memory of him. Nicely done and, again, powerful. Thanks

Best regards,

Allen Beebe
06-04-2011, 10:13 PM
It is great to hear from you Chuck!

Thank you for your kind words. I have no doubt having had the pleasure of training with your guys on several occasions they feel similarly about you! And, of course, Aaron does you proud.

I'll never forget the last time I saw Shirata sensei. It was summer, so of course it was oppressively hot and humid, when we finished training at the Yamagata Budokan. I was in a hurry so as not to miss my ride back to Sendai. So I paid my respects, changed quickly (Who cares if I'm sweaty? I'm going to be sweaty as soon as you come out of a bath anyway!) and hurried down the two or three floors to the street where I would catch my ride back to Sendai.

I stood their panting in the heavy air. I dropped my bag, too tired to hold it while I waited. And then I felt something . . .

I turned to see who was coming, and jumped because there was Shirata sensei already standing by my left side . . . standing as if waiting too! He had come down just to see me off. I stammered, my Keigo always stunk and this moment was no exception! Nevertheless, he sensed my situation (Yes, I can't speak well in multiple languages!) thanked me for coming and wished me a safe trip back to America and good training.

My ride appeared with sensei helping with the door and waving goodbye as I drove away. I didn't know it would be the last time I would see him, but somehow I think he knew. He died of cancer not long afterward.

The first time I met sensei he gave me two calligraphy. One was Masa Gatsu A Gatsu Aikido, the other was Gen Rei Shin Ai no Ki no Do. I'm sure most are familiar with the first, the latter is Manifest/Physical, Spirit/Ghost, God/Devine (the Holy Trinity) Love, Joy, Way (the Way of Love and Joy).

What a wonderful sensei and human being! How lucky I was to know him. Here I sit typing, almost 20 years after his passing, and I'm still inspired and moved!

Hoping you are well and happy,
Allen

Alex Megann
06-05-2011, 06:02 AM
I have long had an interest in Shirata Sensei - I have had a copy of "The Way of Harmony" (with personal annotations by Kanetsuka Sensei, to give it added interest!) for many years, and have read through it several times. I was attracted by the combination of serenity and complete technical mastery that Shirata radiated, and also intrigued that his execution of techniques was in many cases a little different from the Aikikai "norm".

I like the way that in his demonstrations there is no trace of any desire to "show off" - even watching two of my aikido heroes, Seigo Yamaguchi and Gozo Shioda, you get the feeling that they were from time to time thinking "hey, look what I can do". This is something he had in common with Saito Sensei and also with Kisaburo Osawa.

I know Kanetsuka Sensei held Shirata Sensei in high regard, although I am not aware of whether he ever met him personally. Many years ago he said that he would very much have liked to invite him to to UK to teach, although at that time Shirata was too frail to travel.

Alex

Peter Goldsbury
06-05-2011, 07:36 AM
Hello Alex,

I hope Kanetsuka Sensei's comments were complimentary. I have a copy of a book written by a certain eminent shihan, whose name it is perhaps politic not to reveal, with handwritten notes by M Sekiya Sensei. The comments were highly critical.

In another thread Ellis Amdur has mentioned the first IAF meeting in 1976. My own introduction to the darker side of aikido occurred four years later, at the 3rd IAF meeting. Shirata Sensei attended, as did another member of the old Kobukan Dojo, Ikkusai Iwata Sensei. These days Iwata Sensei is never mentioned--I doubt whether he is still alive. If he is, he would be very old. I was too busy with meetings to do much training, but since the Congress was held in Paris, I am sure that any classes taught by these two sensei would have been interesting, to say the least. Some idea of the flavor of the meetings can be given by the fact that the police were called to arrest the participants of one of the meetings attended by the two senseis, on the grounds that the meeting was illegal.

When Shirata Sensei came to Hiroshima around 1984, he taught for nine hours in total and the first three were entirely suwari-waza: a softening up process for the second and third days. In his explanations he made a point of stating that some waza were "prewar" and some were "postwar". It was not hard to see where his own preferences lay. Shigenobu Okumura Sensei, who was younger than Shirata Sensei, also occasionally made the same distinction. The difference between the two is that Okumura Sensei played a major role in the development of postwar aikido at the Hombu Dojo. Shirata Sensei played no role whatever.

In Aikido: The Way of Harmony, John Stevens slides over the question of the hiatus in Shirata Sensei's aikido training, but the hiatus is clearly alluded to in other sources. One might ask, what kind of personal training did Shirata Sensei do, in the 19 years when he was not practising aikido (at least publicly). Ernesto, the only way to find out is to go to Tohoku and talk to Shirata Sensei's old students. I had enough conversations in 2001 to know that there is still much to be learned, if you ask nicely. But time is running out.

Allen, have you come across the publications of みちのく合気? Shirata Sensei was the first head of this amalgamation of groups that organized aikido in the Tohoku region. This would have begun around 1965 and the two leading lights were R Shirata in Yamagata and M Saito in Iwama: two completely different types, but united by a sense of local pride. It was clearly a very strong grouping and enjoyed an 'aikido life', both technically and 'spiritually' (the quotes indicate a problem of meaning) that was quite separate and distinct from the aikido practiced by the 'city boys' in the Tokyo Hombu Dojo. Hence there is a huge context to O Sensei's request to Shirata Sensei to 'look after / help Kisshomaru'. He made the same request to Saito Sensei and his other old disciples.

Best wishes,

PAG

Ernesto Lemke
06-05-2011, 10:41 AM
Hello Peter,

Nice to see you posting again. As an in between question; is there a next TIE on the way?

Allow me to address a couple of points in response to your post.


I Some idea of the flavor of the meetings can be given by the fact that the police were called to arrest the participants of one of the meetings attended by the two senseis, on the grounds that the meeting was illegal.

It's a first I heard of that and it's quite interesting in that plenty of those who participated should still be alive today. I have the distinct impression not a whole lot of French aikidoka are on aikiweb or if they are, they are either in the French language section and or don't post much in the English sections.
It would be nice to read an account from one of the participants.


In Aikido: The Way of Harmony, John Stevens slides over the question of the hiatus in Shirata Sensei's aikido training, but the hiatus is clearly alluded to in other sources.

Clearly.

One might ask, what kind of personal training did Shirata Sensei do, in the 19 years when he was not practising aikido (at least publicly).

Well, one option, and one that isn't at all that unlikely, would be solo training in the form that was later distilled as Tandokudosa. Recently I went over these with Dan Harden (as did Allen) and his take on the matter was quite encouraging as revealing. (Lest I'm mistaken by some readers, it wasn't the case of asking Dan to enrich Shirata Sensei's Tandokudosa with an IS flavor. Dan seemed to confirm that Tandokudosa=IT, something which was encouraging as coming from Dan's expertise).

Ernesto, the only way to find out is to go to Tohoku and talk to Shirata Sensei's old students. I had enough conversations in 2001 to know that there is still much to be learned, if you ask nicely. But time is running out.

Yes, I'm painfully aware it is. You've mentioned this before and I have not forgotten. Thankfully my life is not the whirlwind it was so in that sense it's an endeavour I now could make, in theory. It then becomes a matter of priorities and finances. Unfortunately I have one more priority at hand which forces me to postpone any trip to Japan. Fortunately the priority is getting married :D

Best wishes and thanks for the response!

Allen Beebe
06-05-2011, 10:43 AM
Hello Peter,

They called the POLICE! :eek:

(Governmentally sanctioned and enforced budo eugenics in action??)

Thank you for sharing. As always, you are a wealth of information and good humored stories.

Peter, Ernesto doesn't speak Japanese, and I don't know how to be polite in English, much less Japanese, even when I try. (Shut up! :grr: You know who you are!! evileyes ) However, if we were to be accompanied by a trusted adviser . . . Or do you think the presence of such an august adviser might appear too politically charged and defeat the entire purpose? I'm serious. I haven't been back to Yamagata in about 20 years, but I'd eagerly go back for this. Might your curiosity help to clear your undoubtedly busy schedule??

Thank you very much for the みちのく合気 tip. There are, as I'm sure you are aware, recent issues online, and I'll dredge around for past ones . . . especially the more distant past ones! The remarks you shared about R. Shirata and M Saito in Tohoku are just as you say. I'll leave the "context" of their relationship to Nidai Doshu to your authoritative voice.

BTW, I will be in the Netherlands from the end of July through the beginning of August. Will you happen to be around? I greatly enjoyed our last chin wag! (You wag and I'll listen!)

All the best,
Allen

Ernesto,

Congratulations on your BIG NEWS!

Sincerely,
Allen

Allen Beebe
06-05-2011, 12:23 PM
Hello Peter,

Nice to see you posting again. As an in between question; is there a next TIE on the way?

Allow me to address a couple of points in response to your post.

It's a first I heard of that and it's quite interesting in that plenty of those who participated should still be alive today. I have the distinct impression not a whole lot of French aikidoka are on aikiweb or if they are, they are either in the French language section and or don't post much in the English sections.
It would be nice to read an account from one of the participants.

Clearly.

Well, one option, and one that isn't at all that unlikely, would be solo training in the form that was later distilled as Tandokudosa. Recently I went over these with Dan Harden (as did Allen) and his take on the matter was quite encouraging as revealing. (Lest I'm mistaken by some readers, it wasn't the case of asking Dan to enrich Shirata Sensei's Tandokudosa with an IS flavor. Dan seemed to confirm that Tandokudosa=IT, something which was encouraging as coming from Dan's expertise).

Yes, I'm painfully aware it is. You've mentioned this before and I have not forgotten. Thankfully my life is not the whirlwind it was so in that sense it's an endeavour I now could make, in theory. It then becomes a matter of priorities and finances. Unfortunately I have one more priority at hand which forces me to postpone any trip to Japan. Fortunately the priority is getting married :D

Best wishes and thanks for the response!

Perhaps the following information should be added at this moment:

Tandokudosa is a rather generic term meaning "solo body movement exercise." However, for me the term refers to 13 solo body movement exercises that were developed by Shirata sensei to "unlock" Aikido. They directly relate to both Taijutsu and Kenjutsu. There is a Ken Kata called Niho Zenshin Zengo Giri, developed by Shirata sensei that directly reflects the Tandokudosa. So Tandokudosa is related to the "unlocking" of both taijutsu and kenjutsu. (BTW, there are further Ken kata developed by Shirata sensei that do this as well, as opposed to the many Ken kata "borrowed" from classical Kenjutsu which we practice as well, which are in turn, to be "unlocked" such that one isn't doing the classical ken kata per se (see my previous post with regards to that), rather one is doing the classical ken kata with Aiki.) (This, BTW, is IMHO [Rant mode fully on now!] a world apart from waving a stick to emulate a waza.)

"This is how we do it with Aiki."

So, I believe that for Shirata sensei his Tandokudosa and Ken Kata are of inestimable importance to the understanding and unlocking of Aikido, they are his effort to "unpack" Aikido as taught to him and I cannot imagine understanding Aikido without this treasure.

That having been said, I am, after several decades of having been introduced to the practice, still discovering the treasures contained therein.

But that isn't the purpose of this post. Here I wish to point out that when Nakajima Masanori first taught me the Tandokudosa and Ken Kata of Shirata sensei (which I later practiced in EVERY class taught by Shirata sensei in my recollection) he also taught me to do certain other exercises taught by Shirata sensei "to build my hips" or to build "Kokyu" or to build "Ki." I didn't know it at the time, but most, if not all, of these came directly from Ueshiba Morihei's Daito Ryu training. Many of these will be familiar to readers: Koshi no Furite, Shiko (Sumo Stomp), Tai no Henko, Aiki InYo Ho, Furibo Suburi, etc. Lest our my Daito Ryu friends become apoplectic, my realization that these are Daito Ryu practices came from a cumulative effect of a) Ueshiba Morihei openly crediting his teacher and his teacher's art, b) Public demonstrations by recognized heads of Daito Ryu (forgive me for not using specific titles, the complexities of Daito Ryu politics and organizations are far beyond my comprehension), c) the generous input and teaching from licensed teachers of Daito Ryu, and d) the general and sustained outcry of a, to my mind in many cases justifiably outraged at being maliciously maligned, collective Daito Ryu voice declaring, "That's our stuff!" I was taught this with the specific instruction to practice these for a specified amount of times (in the tens of thousands) first with no power (the largest time investment), then with speed (the next largest time investment), and then with power and speed (the least necessary time investment).

So, Shirata sensei taught the "stuff" to "build the hips," "Develop Kokyu, Ki and Aiki" and also a hermeneutic (His Tandokudosa and his Ken and Jo Kata) to "unpack" the Kokyu, Ki, and Aiki development into taijutsu or buki waza.

Of course the punch line is . . . to a degree one could practice the outer form of these exercises and one would attain a certain development and understanding . . . or one could miss the boat entirely, or one could "get it." How does one "separate the men from the boys?" IMO the manifestation is the "tell." Those who know can DO. (They can DO the stuff told in the stories that typify what made the renowned of the Aiki arts renowned.)

As for me, I have tens of thousands of reps to do PROPERLY (sorry sensei!) and still unpacking yet to do! (It helps to have someone look in your "suit case" and declare, "Damn! What have you been hiding!!!" Of course one has to also have a full "suit case" and the wisdom (bequeathed from the former suit case holder) to recognize a fellow "suit case" holder and ask, "What do you see in my "suit case"?"

Thank goodness for friends pointing the Way. It seems the "good stuff" is always available and there are always "none so blind and those that will not see." I'm seemingly persistent proof enough of that!

Allen

Ernesto Lemke
06-05-2011, 12:30 PM
Hi Al,

Thanks! And all within five years....isn't life full of surprises?

Yes, the idea of running the countryside of Japan in the company of such an eminent, good humored and all round nice guy who also happens to be a walking wealth of information, and all in search of bits and pieces to put together the puzzle surrounding Shirata Sensei....sounds good to me!!!

Maybe combined with a joined Kodokan/Seikokan get-together-in-Japan trip? Better start saving!
Cheers

Ernesto Lemke
06-05-2011, 01:05 PM
Oh btw wanted to add a little to the Chicago tapes. I watched some of it this afternoon. I hadn't seen it in years.

Indeed, Shirata Sensei talks at length (as Al mentioned, I don't speak Japanese) without an interpretor. I find it so intrigueing (sp?) to watch because it appears as if he really doesn't mind. It's not that he doesn't seem to care, in fact, he talks on at length almost as if to really make sure people understand what he wants to convey.
As I'm familiar with the waza, I (think) I can tell what he's trying to point out at times and I can also tell that he really tries to get people to get it. (As is noted in The Way of Harmony, Shirata Sensei illustrates how shiho-nage is equated with four grattitudes and he illustrates this by loudy saying "arigato" with his hands in gassho in four directions, plus he shows waza from ken to taijutsu). His passion for teaching and aikido is contagious to watch, as is the energetic expression on his face.

Another thing I found startling is the fact his (Japanese) uke take their ukemi on the solid gymfloor. No tatami! I can't recall noticing that before.
I'll watch some more later today. Can't believe it's been so long I watched it at all.

Ernesto Lemke
06-05-2011, 01:42 PM
Plus his suwari-waza shikko is truly a-ma-zing...he moves (with and without ken) in a completely relaxed, fluent but solid and also very fast way and he was 72 at the time!

I just recalled Harvey Konigsberg recollections on this (the waza, not the Chicago event)

From http://www.aikidoonline.com/articles/more_shihan/harvey.html
You'd take a class that was physically demanding, then all of a sudden you'd take a class with somebody like Shirata Sensei whose movements looked simple but you almost couldn't follow what he was doing, and it took an intense kind of concentration to see what, exactly, he was doing, and trying to convey. I remember his demonstration. It was really amazing. He was in his 70s then, and he got up, he was on the stage and started doing it with bokken - like swariwaza with bokken. And he was very slow and methodical, and I'm in the audience and I'm thinking 'Oh, that's nice that an older man can do that.' Then all of a sudden this kiai, this noise emanated from him, and he leaped up from that position, I don't know how high. It was like a demon was let loose and he went into this whole different thing. It was very impressive. It turned my thinking around.


PS
just watched again on the ukemi on the floor thing. It appears as though the floor does seem to budge a little. It's the apparent basketball courtlines that confuses me and leads me to believe it's not a soft board floor. It's not concrete either but then it's no tatami for sure!

Ernesto Lemke
06-05-2011, 03:02 PM
I apologize for posting four times in a row (am I talking to myself? Hmmm, now what does that remind me of?) but in the light of both Allen and Peter sharing their recollections, I failed to recognize there are other esteemed Voices of Experience on this board too who, considering there training time spent in, most likely would have run into Shirata Sensei (be it in name, demo, seminar or what have you) during their career.

I really do not mean to put anyone on the spot, but may I once more ask, humbly but pressing nonetheless, whether they are willing to share whatever they might recall of Shirata Sensei?

Peter Goldsbury
06-05-2011, 09:03 PM
Hello Ernesto,

Actually, the police did not appear and the meeting passed without incident. Shirata and Iwata Senseis attended and followed the discussion as translated by K Chiba Shihan. The contentious issue was French law governing meetings of foreign organizations held in France. To circumvent this issue, this particular meeting was held in the US embassy.

TIE 20 is on the way. I am trying to finish it before leaving for the Netherlands on July 31. I will be there until August 17. Like TIE 19, TIE 20 and the next few columns will deal with general issues relating to Japan, though there will be a clear connection with aikido.

Best wishes,

PAG

Ernesto Lemke
06-06-2011, 12:34 AM
Hello Peter,

From the looks of it Allen will be leaving August 3rd so there is some small overlap for a possible meeting. You can send me a PM if you are so inclined.
Best,

Ernesto

Allen Beebe
06-06-2011, 06:25 PM
Hello,

Not that it will matter to most Aiki web readers, but I made an unintentional omission when I said that Shirata sensei's 13 Tandokudosa reflect his Niho Zenshin Zengo Giri Ken Kata. It does, particularly Tandokudosa 4 - 6. However, Shirata sensei's Kaiten Ken kata is reflected in Tandokudosa 7 - 12 (although 9 & 10 are better represented elsewhere.)

My omission created confusion for one of my students so I thought I'd better attempt to clean up my mess for posterity's sake. :uch:

Allen

Marc Abrams
06-06-2011, 07:27 PM
Allen:

Would ever consider publishing something on those 13 exercises. The Aikido world could benefit immensely from that knowledge being disseminated. Dan talked about then and they seem like a very important component to fill in with our training.

Regards,

marc abrams

Allen Beebe
06-06-2011, 10:41 PM
Hi Marc,

In brief, In my view and understanding the 13 tandokudosa and everything else that Shirata sensei taught (and there is a LOT BTW . . . I mean more than most would probably even begin to imagine) are certainly not meant to be exclusive or proprietary. Although they were clearly developed by Shirata sensei as a hermeneutic for Shirata sensei's waza, which as noted more than once on this thread differs greatly from post war Aikido (for lack of a better description.)

The question to my mind is how best to share such that there is real transference of knowledge and value. It is the contents of the vessel not the vessel per se that is of greatest value. The vessel is valuable only when it transfers "the goods." Otherwise it is just "more of the same" "piled higher and deeper."

I'm sure you understand what I'm trying to say.

Or another way to answer would be, "What? Do you really think I want Dan mad at me?" :eek: :D

Sincerely,
Allen

Peter Goldsbury
06-07-2011, 06:31 AM
Hello Allen,

I commend the unusual delicacy with which you responded to Marc's question. You are clearly caught between a rock and a hard place, or between Scylla and Charybdis, whichever is more appropriate. :D

However, another way of looking at the matter is to think of yourself as the Angel Gabriel (I know this might be difficult if you are a Buddhist: I was once compared to the Angel Gabriel myself, and in an aikido context: clearly, God was shortsighted on the day of the comparison) :D :D , sent from heaven (currently in Yamagata) to announce good tidings to the waiting multitudes, searching for the one key (or are there 13?) that will unlock the secrets governing access to "the goods" or "the gods"--this could be your finest hour. ;) ;)

Have you seen this website, by the way?
http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/
I think I might submit that last sentence. :)

Hope to meet you in the Netherlands soon.

PAG

DH
06-07-2011, 06:52 AM
Hello Allen,

I commend the unusual delicacy with which you responded to Marc's question. You are clearly caught between a rock and a hard place, or between Scylla and Charybdis, whichever is more appropriate. :D

However, another way of looking at the matter is to think of yourself as the Angel Gabriel (I know this might be difficult if you are a Buddhist: I was once compared to the Angel Gabriel myself, and in an aikido context: clearly, God was shortsighted on the day of the comparison) :D :D , sent from heaven (currently in Yamagata) to announce good tidings to the waiting multitudes, searching for the one key (or are there 13?) that will unlock the secrets governing access to "the goods" or "the gods"--this could be your finest hour. ;) ;)

Have you seen this website, by the way?
http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/
I think I might submit that last sentence. :)

Hope to meet you in the Netherlands soon.

PAG
I think Allen's point was that the tandokudosa will reveal nothing and do little...without the keys to understanding them. Then...magically, they make an incredible amount of sense. Otherwise, as is the case with many things seen in budo, we see good men wasting a whole lot of time doing so much that yielded so little. So why would he contribute to just another pile of...well..what he said. It would appear that Shirata himself did not reveal them to just anybody.

This is a compelling body of work, by someone I had always admired. It was sheer luck that Allen and I even met and formed a friendship. We had to get to know and trust each other for a dialogue to ensue. I understood Allen's hesitation to show them to me, and I hesitated to show what was in them and what they were for to the two Shirata dojo. Out of respect for Shirata, we don't want to see his work turned into yet more crap in the hands of far to casual budo people,
Cheers
Dan

Peter Goldsbury
06-07-2011, 08:17 AM
Hello Dan,

Yes, absolutely.

However, one of the reasons why I entered this discussion was to suggest to Ernesto that he should visit Yamagata himself and talk (and, of course, train, but I think that was implied) with longtime students of Shirata Sensei, who keep themselves to themselves and do not suffer fools gladly. My reason for thinking this is that probably Allen was not the only recipient of Shirata Sensei's more recently expressed teachings.

PAG

Allen Beebe
06-07-2011, 08:36 AM
Peter,

As usual, I enjoy your sense of humor and insight. As far as "longtime students of Shirata Sensei, who keep themselves to themselves and do not suffer fools gladly. My reason for thinking this is that probably Allen was not the only recipient of Shirata Sensei's more recently expressed teachings" Indeed, as I have said repeatedly here and elsewhere.

Looking forward to talking in the Netherlands,
Allen

Dan,

Yes, that was my point precisely. (And I meant it when I said there was more, but Tandokudosa is, to my mind, of central importance . . . as are other of Shirata's solo Kata. :o )

You don't strike me as the type to believe or rely on luck though! ;)

Kindly,
Allen

DH
06-07-2011, 09:22 AM
Hello Dan,

Yes, absolutely.

However, one of the reasons why I entered this discussion was to suggest to Ernesto that he should visit Yamagata himself and talk (and, of course, train, but I think that was implied) with longtime students of Shirata Sensei, who keep themselves to themselves and do not suffer fools gladly. My reason for thinking this is that probably Allen was not the only recipient of Shirata Sensei's more recently expressed teachings.

PAG

Hello Pter
While it's good to hear, it would be interesting to feel them as well. I know too many groups who "Don't suffer fools gladly" either, who never- the- less did not realize how off-track they had become. Wouldn't it be great to see a group that got what he was doing and were preserving it?
Keeping in mind that just about everybody I know was somehow convinced they were all preserving their teachers " real stuff" as well. I think what really goes on -with all of us- is in fact all over the map. I suspect it's always been that way.

Allen
Yes you're right. I don't believe it was dumb luck that brought us together.
I look forward to our explorations of many things together, not the least of which is finding out how to get that damn Japanese flute to even make a sound!!! What is this..some sort of trade secret?
All the best
Dan

Allen Beebe
06-07-2011, 06:13 PM
I look forward to our explorations of many things together, not the least of which is finding out how to get that damn Japanese flute to even make a sound!!! What is this..some sort of trade secret?
All the best
Dan

Eh hem :o . . . well . . . I of course understand your confusion. Most individuals are unfamiliar with the little understood nature of Japanese Shakuhachi Ryu Ha and how they operate. You see, here in the West one might, for example, happen to be on a rafting trip and decide to engage a local banjo player in a friendly duel with one's guitar and expect no repercussion or ill will to come from it.

In Japan, however , . . . there are these old lineages such as Kinko Ryu, Kinpu Ryu, and even modern (Ryu) lineages such as the Tozan, Ueda, and Chikuho. Also, there are tributaries from these lineages such as the Nezasa ha Kinpu ryu, or the Kinko Ryu Araki Ha. Each of these lineages is unique in their own way and, yes, they have "trade secrets" even in so simple a thing as naming tunes or note signification (some have specialized note signification and some don't have note names at all.) When one joins one of these schools one is often required to swear an oath. In fact, in the learning of Shakuhachi some have been known to swear many an oath! :p Anyway, no worries about "trade secrets" with me. I learned in a modern open system . . . which of course was derived from an older system. (Funny how that happens!)

Now, truth be told, the flute that I shared with you is American made not Japanese. It is built basically the same though, and although it has worked fine for me in the past, it is, I regret to say, substantially smaller than the average. :sorry: Here in lies the problem I'm afraid. Although I assure you it CAN make beautiful music of a sort. The size of the instrument influences its depth of tone, but the person doing the blowing determines the quality of the music!!!

Honestly there is some technique involved, particularly in playing well. There is a commonly known saying, "Kubi furi, san nen" or "it takes three years to learn how to shake the head." But to first begin it really comes down to solo training and body development. :eek:

In this case it is probably the development of proper ombature. That shakuhachi isn't very forgiving. You have to have your ombature dead right or you'll get nothing at all. Let's see if we can set you up a bit better in the future!