PDA

View Full Version : Terry Dobson's Training History


Please visit our sponsor:
 

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!


Ellis Amdur
12-05-2011, 04:30 AM
History's a funny thing. On the one hand, some are claiming that the post-war Aikikai misrepresented Ueshiba Morihei's role and that post-war aikido was largely the creation of a group of senior shihan under the clear leadership of Ueshiba Kisshomaru. In a sense, there is an allegation here of a level of dishonesty. Yet at the same time, when it comes to post-war resident students of the Aikikai, they are no-longer "uchi-deshi." Why? Because that same individual, who some choose to not "trust" in some respects trust him now. Ueshiba Kisshomaru is quoted, on one occasion, of said they weren't "uchi-deshi," so that makes it so, and therefore, their careers are open to being debunked as trivial compared to a "real" uchi-deshi.

There is no doubt that the pre-war Kobukan was a far different place than the post-war Aikikai. But there is no doubt whatsoever - truly - that the live-in students of the Aikikai were uchi-deshi. For goodness sakes, all the word means is "inside student." They were so referred to by others. And they were not all "apprentice teachers." The proof is Terry Dobson (who Osensei ORDERED be admitted to the Aikikai as an uchi-deshi over the objections of the cabal who allegedly controlled the old man - really, think of this. Terry was, at that time, a psychologically disturbed guy, almost out of control emotionally, and a foreigner to boot, and Ueshiba simply said "I want him in here." And so he was - in - "uchi"

Truly, with the exception of Tohei Koichi, who offered him the continental United States (as his cat's paw - something Terry wisely turned down), no one was preparing Terry Dobson to be an Aikikai teacher. Yet, he was regarded very differently than other foreigners. Here's some examples"
1. He, alone, I believe, among non-Japanese, was called to Ueshiba's death-bed. Osensei's last words to him, which Terry believed contained his mandate to transmit aikido in the way that he did, were "onegai shimasu."
2. When Doshu came to America in an attempt to heal a rift between the California group (which Terry was advising, in what was regarded by some as an adversarial role), Doshu entered the dojo and all the "uchi-deshi" ran up and knelt, bowing. Terry, because he was on the "opposing side," felt it was improper to join the group. This was regarded by some as a mortal insult. That the other non-Japanese teachers were not in the group was irrelevant. Terry was different to ALL the Japanese. One could hate him, regard him as an inconvenience, whatever, but he was part of a select group. They couldn't escape that.
3. The uchi-deshi travelled with O-sensei. Interestingly, even when he was in Iwama, he'd get lonely and call up Tokyo and asked for one of the deshi to come up and keep him company (I can't remember which shihan reminesced on this one). I think this is significant - if Saito wasn't around, Osensei was apparently largely alone, as the other Iwama students were locals, and they had homes to go back to and families to care for. Iwama was not a commune!
4. When I lived at the Kuwamori dojo (and was referred to as "our uchi-deshi," Terry came to Japan. The dojo head, Kuwamori Yasunori, had never heard of him. Yet when he heard that he was an uchi-deshi, he a sixth dan, asked Terry - then demanded that Terry - a 4th dan (politics) - teach the class. And when the class heard he had been an uchi-deshi, no one batted an eye.

The uchi-deshi trained together, ate together, and just like the pre-war students, were drafted to carry Osensei's bags. Terry and Chiba Kazuo are two I recall right off the bat who described their duties to wake in the middle of the night whenever the old man stirred. This was part of training, and was exactly, by the way, what Ueshiba did with Takeda Sokaku. The men who lived IN the dojo actually regard the soto-deshi, like Yamada Yoshimitsu, as - not being less, per se - but having missed out on a vital, essential experience.

To be clear, I think that Ueshiba Kisshomaru WAS highlighting a real difference in organizational attitude and role towards the uchi-deshi compared to prewar, but this quibbling in various threads that the Tokyo uchi-deshi were "not really" so is truly splitting hairs. (By the way, Kobayashi sensei referred to HIS live-in students as uchi-deshi, as I recall).

Now, the reason I really posted this. Relevant to this debate is how much time some of the post-war disciples spent with Ueshiba. I've seen something similar in discussions about how many training hours Ueshiba had with Takeda Sokaku! In both cases, this is to either discount the student or discount the teacher! For me, the most interesting riddle is Feng Zhi Qiang, a titan of Chen t'ai chi (sort of the Saito sensei of the art). In his own story, he says he studied six years with Chen Fake. But detractors say he only studied two (and me - I think - how could he get so incredibly good and powerful with just two years training - maybe he expanded the years to be modest!!!!)

The point I'm really making is that there is a qualitative question here that is more important than the quantitative. When I started aikido, I started asking Terry about other teachers, whom he'd met during travels with Osensei to Osaka - Tanaka Bansen, Kobayashi Hirokazu, ABe Seiseki,and Hikitsuchi Michio in Shingu, to name just four. Terry said, "I didn't notice them. All I saw was Osensei." He literally couldn't recall them - these 8th dan giants. To be sure, he had stories about Saito-sensei, Yamaguchi-sensei, Osawa sensei and Tohei sensei, and all the uchi-deshi, but they were, to him, big brothers, or if "larger," uncles. Were I to have asked Terry how many days Ueshiba was out of Tokyo, I don't think he could have answered. All his stories were about classes with Osensei, or taking ukemi for him, or traveling with him, doing farming chores at Iwama, etc. Does the reader get what I'm saying? Terry (and by implication others like him) may have taken classes from the senior shihan, but they were stand-ins - not replacements, but place-holders. They were still studying with Osensei. He was, to them, of such pervasive influence, that the days he was gone, were not days they "didn't study with him." They were studying with him - with him not there. In other words, when Arikawa sensei had Terry do a shihonage in practice, in his mind it was Osensei's shihonage he was doing. (Some of the deshii were surely different - but I think Chiba, Dobson and Saotome, to name three, were subjectively Osensei's students - don't know enough about the others to speculate).

There is less "lying" going on that some might assume. Subjective truth is where one places one's mind. I have dreamt about one of my teachers at least three times a week for the last 23 years since I've left Japan. I get lessons from him, arguments, criticism and approval. Sometimes I practice with him, and sometimes I'm in combat with him. I've actually seen him one time in that time period. As far as I'm concerned, I have 36 years of direct instruction from him.Everything I've learned since is filtered through that lens, of how he'd react, if what I'm doing is stronger that what he taught, or a fundamental deviation, which would be a betrayal

This last account may read strange to some of you. But that's because you are not uchi-deshi.

Ellis Amdur

SeiserL
12-05-2011, 05:20 AM
IMHO, the context makes a difference in the meaning of a communication.

I worry less about other's training history and more about my own training present and future.

Thanks for the insightful thoughts.

Cliff Judge
12-05-2011, 09:42 AM
Thanks for posting this, Ellis.

raul rodrigo
12-05-2011, 09:49 AM
Thanks, Ellis.

Demetrio Cereijo
12-05-2011, 10:02 AM
Very well written, as usual.

There is less "lying" going on that some might assume. Subjective truth is where one places one's mind.

It doesn't matter what you believe just so long as you're sincere, isn't it?

Janet Rosen
12-05-2011, 10:43 AM
Very well written, as usual.

It doesn't matter what you believe just so long as you're sincere, isn't it?

I think there is another issue at play besides purely memory and how it changes over the years with the way we codify our memories as stories. There is also the framing of the narrative.

If you ask me about my leaving the first dojo I trained at, or why I decided to return to nursing after taking a hiatus, how I came to my political beliefs, or any number of things about my life, it is easy for me to frame my reply in very different terms. Not a single one will have a falsehood, each will essentially be the truth about it. Yet by focusing on a different aspect of the contributing factors, I can relate a cogent narrative that iis completely different from the one I relate tomorrow. So different people who chat with me or interview me may end up walking away with a very different understanding of my history.

Ellis Amdur
12-05-2011, 10:49 AM
Demetrio - I'm not sure if you are being sarcastic or not. Let me address both options.

1. From one perspective, in many ways, a classic Japanese one, that is true. The quality of one's actions are determined by their heartfelt nature - or not. One of the most dismissive comments the teacher I referred to above could make about someone was, "he has no ideology." Another way of putting that is, "he has nothing he considers worth dying for." That's classic bushi ethics, and whether aikido is or is not, technically, a bushi-derived/associated martial training, that ethos is certainly held by some people - particularly Japanese - who practiced aikido post-war - and perhaps to this day.

That said, I was not talking about a "belief." I was talking about an experience. Terry was Ueshiba Morihei's student - unambiguously. Not just because he wished it so - that was the nature of his relationship - and, I think, many, if not all of the uchi-deshi. (I'm not speaking for them - I'm observing, as best as I can). Not all - to be sure - because a number of them split with Tohei when he left. They considered themselves primarily Tohei's deshi, and from what I've read, that was true for some who stayed, who were torn - because as far as their experience went, they viewed themselves as primarily Tohei's student, but 'structurally,' they felt required to stay within the Ueshiba family's aegis
I won't go into what was a long story, but Kuroiwa Yoshio, at one point in the 1950's, decided to leave the Aikikai and make common cause with the Yoshinkan, because of a dispute he was having with Tohei Koichi. Osawa sensei and Doshu (Kisshomaru) took him out for coffee and Kuroiwa remembers Osawa remonstrating with him, saying, "Since when did this become Tohei's aikido. Aikido is Osensei's" - that's why he stayed.
2. If you ARE being sarcastic, then you've missed the point of what I wrote entirely.

Ellis Amdur

phitruong
12-05-2011, 10:54 AM
There is less "lying" going on that some might assume. Subjective truth is where one places one's mind. I have dreamt about one of my teachers at least three times a week for the last 23 years since I've left Japan. I get lessons from him, arguments, criticism and approval. Sometimes I practice with him, and sometimes I'm in combat with him. I've actually seen him one time in that time period. As far as I'm concerned, I have 36 years of direct instruction from him.Everything I've learned since is filtered through that lens, of how he'd react, if what I'm doing is stronger that what he taught, or a fundamental deviation, which would be a betrayal

This last account may read strange to some of you. But that's because you are not uchi-deshi.

Ellis Amdur

it's an asian attitude, methink. there is a saying in asia that translated to something along the line: teacher for a day, father for life. i believed that the word shifu meant in chinese.

Chuck Clark
12-05-2011, 11:16 AM
Ellis, well put, and one of those that comes "right from the gut" rather than "a writer's head"... Your memories of your teacher and the "current visits" are powerful. Unless someone has had a relationship that close with a teacher these fresh lessons don't seem possible to others. I still get those lessons from two of my teachers. One of them is still alive and I often call him and relate the lesson and he says, "Well, obviously you're still listening to what I have to offer." Or something to that effect... On at least two occasions he's said, "Oh good, you've pulled your head outta your ass!" I miss both of them every day. He has said that he now views me as a colleague... and I still view him as my sensei.

And... additionally, thinking about how long I was with either of these two is almost impossible to think or count in days, weeks, or months. Another thought, I learned more from Miyake Tsunako Sensei in a double handful of encounters that might seem like a trivial amount to some, but was huge for me. She is not one of the two mentioned above.

Thanks for your input.

Chuck

George S. Ledyard
12-05-2011, 11:23 AM
History's a funny thing. On the one hand, some are claiming that the post-war Aikikai misrepresented Ueshiba Morihei's role and that post-war aikido was largely the creation of a group of senior shihan under the clear leadership of Ueshiba Kisshomaru. In a sense, there is an allegation here of a level of dishonesty. Yet at the same time, when it comes to post-war resident students of the Aikikai, they are no-longer "uchi-deshi." Why? Because that same individual, who some choose to not "trust" in some respects trust him now. Ueshiba Kisshomaru is quoted, on one occasion, of said they weren't "uchi-deshi," so that makes it so, and therefore, their careers are open to being debunked as trivial compared to a "real" uchi-deshi.

There is no doubt that the pre-war Kobukan was a far different place than the post-war Aikikai. But there is no doubt whatsoever - truly - that the live-in students of the Aikikai were uchi-deshi. For goodness sakes, all the word means is "inside student." They were so referred to by others. And they were not all "apprentice teachers." The proof is Terry Dobson (who Osensei ORDERED be admitted to the Aikikai as an uchi-deshi over the objections of the cabal who allegedly controlled the old man - really, think of this. Terry was, at that time, a psychologically disturbed guy, almost out of control emotionally, and a foreigner to boot, and Ueshiba simply said "I want him in here." And so he was - in - "uchi"

Truly, with the exception of Tohei Koichi, who offered him the continental United States (as his cat's paw - something Terry wisely turned down), no one was preparing Terry Dobson to be an Aikikai teacher. Yet, he was regarded very differently than other foreigners. Here's some examples"
1. He, alone, I believe, among non-Japanese, was called to Ueshiba's death-bed. Osensei's last words to him, which Terry believed contained his mandate to transmit aikido in the way that he did, were "onegai shimasu."
2. When Doshu came to America in an attempt to heal a rift between the California group (which Terry was advising, in what was regarded by some as an adversarial role), Doshu entered the dojo and all the "uchi-deshi" ran up and knelt, bowing. Terry, because he was on the "opposing side," felt it was improper to join the group. This was regarded by some as a mortal insult. That the other non-Japanese teachers were not in the group was irrelevant. Terry was different to ALL the Japanese. One could hate him, regard him as an inconvenience, whatever, but he was part of a select group. They couldn't escape that.
3. The uchi-deshi travelled with O-sensei. Interestingly, even when he was in Iwama, he'd get lonely and call up Tokyo and asked for one of the deshi to come up and keep him company (I can't remember which shihan reminesced on this one). I think this is significant - if Saito wasn't around, Osensei was apparently largely alone, as the other Iwama students were locals, and they had homes to go back to and families to care for. Iwama was not a commune!
4. When I lived at the Kuwamori dojo (and was referred to as "our uchi-deshi," Terry came to Japan. The dojo head, Kuwamori Yasunori, had never heard of him. Yet when he heard that he was an uchi-deshi, he a sixth dan, asked Terry - then demanded that Terry - a 4th dan (politics) - teach the class. And when the class heard he had been an uchi-deshi, no one batted an eye.

The uchi-deshi trained together, ate together, and just like the pre-war students, were drafted to carry Osensei's bags. Terry and Chiba Kazuo are two I recall right off the bat who described their duties to wake in the middle of the night whenever the old man stirred. This was part of training, and was exactly, by the way, what Ueshiba did with Takeda Sokaku. The men who lived IN the dojo actually regard the soto-deshi, like Yamada Yoshimitsu, as - not being less, per se - but having missed out on a vital, essential experience.

To be clear, I think that Ueshiba Kisshomaru WAS highlighting a real difference in organizational attitude and role towards the uchi-deshi compared to prewar, but this quibbling in various threads that the Tokyo uchi-deshi were "not really" so is truly splitting hairs. (By the way, Kobayashi sensei referred to HIS live-in students as uchi-deshi, as I recall).

Now, the reason I really posted this. Relevant to this debate is how much time some of the post-war disciples spent with Ueshiba. I've seen something similar in discussions about how many training hours Ueshiba had with Takeda Sokaku! In both cases, this is to either discount the student or discount the teacher! For me, the most interesting riddle is Feng Zhi Qiang, a titan of Chen t'ai chi (sort of the Saito sensei of the art). In his own story, he says he studied six years with Chen Fake. But detractors say he only studied two (and me - I think - how could he get so incredibly good and powerful with just two years training - maybe he expanded the years to be modest!!!!)

The point I'm really making is that there is a qualitative question here that is more important than the quantitative. When I started aikido, I started asking Terry about other teachers, whom he'd met during travels with Osensei to Osaka - Tanaka Bansen, Kobayashi Hirokazu, ABe Seiseki,and Hikitsuchi Michio in Shingu, to name just four. Terry said, "I didn't notice them. All I saw was Osensei." He literally couldn't recall them - these 8th dan giants. To be sure, he had stories about Saito-sensei, Yamaguchi-sensei, Osawa sensei and Tohei sensei, and all the uchi-deshi, but they were, to him, big brothers, or if "larger," uncles. Were I to have asked Terry how many days Ueshiba was out of Tokyo, I don't think he could have answered. All his stories were about classes with Osensei, or taking ukemi for him, or traveling with him, doing farming chores at Iwama, etc. Does the reader get what I'm saying? Terry (and by implication others like him) may have taken classes from the senior shihan, but they were stand-ins - not replacements, but place-holders. They were still studying with Osensei. He was, to them, of such pervasive influence, that the days he was gone, were not days they "didn't study with him." They were studying with him - with him not there. In other words, when Arikawa sensei had Terry do a shihonage in practice, in his mind it was Osensei's shihonage he was doing. (Some of the deshii were surely different - but I think Chiba, Dobson and Saotome, to name three, were subjectively Osensei's students - don't know enough about the others to speculate).

There is less "lying" going on that some might assume. Subjective truth is where one places one's mind. I have dreamt about one of my teachers at least three times a week for the last 23 years since I've left Japan. I get lessons from him, arguments, criticism and approval. Sometimes I practice with him, and sometimes I'm in combat with him. I've actually seen him one time in that time period. As far as I'm concerned, I have 36 years of direct instruction from him.Everything I've learned since is filtered through that lens, of how he'd react, if what I'm doing is stronger that what he taught, or a fundamental deviation, which would be a betrayal

This last account may read strange to some of you. But that's because you are not uchi-deshi.

Ellis Amdur

That's the best description I have ever seen of how I perceive Saotome Sensei's (and the other uchi deshi I have talked to) relationship to the Founder to have been. In many ways it describes my own relationship with my teacher. I may have been in his dojo from 1976 to 1981 but everything I have done in my training since that time was simply to try to expand my understanding of what I understand Saotome Sensei to be doing.

It is interesting... When I first moved to Seattle in '81 for career reasons, I was so worried that I had left DC and Sensei too early. I felt that the students who had stayed behind had an "advantage" over me and I would "fall behind". So, I trained with anyone I thought could offer me something, Ellis, Bruce Bookman, Mary Heiny, etc

Later on, when I would return to DC for seminars or camps, I started to realize that in many ways, leaving DC was the best thing that could have happened to me. It forced me to really go after my own training. For many who were in the dojo on a daily basis, practice remained an imitation of someone else's Aikido. They'd go to class every night, and Sensei would do these amazing things, and they would do their level best to duplicate that. Then they'd go home and say "Great class tonight!". They didn't necessarily dream about it all night or torture themselves over "not getting it" the night before... Sensei would be there again the next night.

For me, anything I got from Sensei after I left was a special "gift". For instance he created his kumitachi after I left the dojo. So, I never learned them when I was at the dojo but afterwards when I returned for training. I then had to return to Seattle, take them apart, put them back together, practice them, analyze them, and then repeat the process. No one was there to do his for me. When I returned to DC again, I was surprised to find only a very few of the most motivated had been doing anything similar. Most simply came to class, did whatever Sensei showed that night, and went home again.

My point on this is that I can just see how some Aikido researcher in the future would say that George Ledyard was really only with Saotome for five years... and compare me to some guy who had been at the DC dojo continuously until Sensei left for Florida later on. Numerically it might make sense but it simply wouldn't in any way reflect the reality. I remember Sensei saying on many occasions "I am not your entertainment". Now I understand what he meant. For many folks, nightly training with Saotome Sensei was "entertainment", an interesting thing to do, good exercise, etc But they never took it past the "imitation" of Sensei's Aikido to making it truly their own. And that was what Sensei was really waiting for. On the other hand, because I was far away... I valued every instant I had with Sensei after I left. Once videos were available, I had every one, I worked off them, I worked off my notes, I was far "hungrier" in some sense than many of the folks that were there with their dose of Sensei every day. I think many did not appreciate what they really had until Sensei moved to Florida and the no longer had him there.

I think that one of the things that gets forgotten or was never really discussed in the first place, was the extent to which the various uchi deshi did their own work, trying to master what they had been taught. Saotome Sensei would talk about constantly having questions for O-Sensei, which the old man found amusing from the young kid on some level but never refused to answer. But his answer would be to grab a bokken, do something once, say, "there you go" and walk off. Then Sensei would take that one thing and tear it apart. I have friends who were at Hombu back in the day who remember seeing Sensei coming out of a private practice room with blood streaming off his head from working on sword takeaways. In other words, a moment with O-Sensei could occasion many hours of practice. How could one possibly quantify that?

One of the things that has seemed to frame these discussions over the past couple of years is the issue of internal power training in the pre-war as opposed to the past war Aikido. Often the implication was that O-Sensei's Aikido could be defined as his mastery of internal power. While I do not dispute that these skills were central to his somewhat legendary reputation, these skills were in no way the sum of his Aikido. What the Founder taught was vastly greater than what can be defined as internal power skills. There is much of what he taught after the war that represented an evolution in his thinking about things. This is evident in the fact that most of the pre-war deshi went off and did their own thing after the war. The Aikido (or Aikibudo) that they had been taught was morphing and they didn't wish to go along. What they wanted was O-Sensei at 50 not O-Sensei at 70 something.

I think it is a huge mistake to make the IP issue the defining criterion for judging the art and its practitioners. I am the first one to say, by all means we should get as much experience as we can in the area. But it isn't the benchmark that defines the art. It is a piece, albeit an important one, of a much larger whole. The post war deshi received a "direct transmission" of principle, technique, philosophical / spiritual framework, etc every instant they were with the Founder. The most mundane task was turned into a lesson for the deshi by the Founder. These "lessons" were often an instant of teaching with a lifelong impact and they were highly individual, taking place in some random moment between the Founder and a student. Many of our discussions fail to incorporate any understanding of this.

Ellis's exposition here is a wonderful, and surprisingly sympathetic expression of this I think.. thanks so much to Ellis for this.

Demetrio Cereijo
12-05-2011, 11:23 AM
If you ask me about my leaving the first dojo I trained at, or why I decided to return to nursing after taking a hiatus, how I came to my political beliefs, or any number of things about my life, it is easy for me to frame my reply in very different terms. Not a single one will have a falsehood, each will essentially be the truth about it. Yet by focusing on a different aspect of the contributing factors, I can relate a cogent narrative that iis completely different from the one I relate tomorrow. So different people who chat with me or interview me may end up walking away with a very different understanding of my history.

So Janet, if you were to tell me you decided to return to nursery after having been kidnapped by a team of circus ponies who put you in a flying saucer and took you on tour around the Tannhauser Gates I don't have to doubt about the veracity of your story.

If truth is subjective falsehood can not exist.

Ellis,

I wasn't being sarcastic.

However, I'd like to point that following your "Subjective truth is where one places one's mind", Dobson can be regarded both as Ueshiba uchi deshi and not as one at the same time, depending on the various "subjective truths" around. Both positions (Kisshomaru saying there was not uchi deshi and Dobson Saying he was one) are true.

kewms
12-05-2011, 11:26 AM
If your parents stopped influencing your life when you stopped living at home, please raise your hand.

Given the towering personality that Ueshiba Sensei clearly was, the idea that his closest students were only influenced by him while in his physical presence is ludicrous.

Katherine

kewms
12-05-2011, 11:42 AM
However, I'd like to point that following your "Subjective truth is where one places one's mind", Dobson can be regarded both as Ueshiba uchi deshi and not as one at the same time, depending on the various "subjective truths" around. Both positions (Kisshomaru saying there was not uchi deshi and Dobson Saying he was one) are true.

Sure. See also Ledyard Sensei's post about Saotome Sensei introducing him as an uchi deshi, despite having said that the uchi deshi system is impossible in America.

One of the first lessons one learns as a writer is the extent to which viewpoint defines a story -- whether fiction or non-fiction. That's just as true in the real world as on the page. Even the "objective" truth that journalists and historians seek is going to be defined by the sources they are (or are not) able to consult.

When one considers a figure like Ueshiba Sensei, one also must consider the difference between history and myth. Though myth may not reflect objective reality, it still describes a different kind of truth.

Katherine

Janet Rosen
12-05-2011, 12:49 PM
So Janet, if you were to tell me you decided to return to nursery after having been kidnapped by a team of circus ponies who put you in a flying saucer and took you on tour around the Tannhauser Gates I don't have to doubt about the veracity of your story.

If truth is subjective falsehood can not exist..

Of course not.That wasn't my point.
Truth is objective in terms of an action that happened, the dates things happened, etc. I left the dojo on such and such a date. I returned to nursing on such and such a date. In terms of the reasons action occured however, even the first person narrator chooses to frame a certain context by highlighting some things and omitting others or varying the relationship between things - these are not lies or falsehoods - to large degree nonconsciously, in forming memories over time, each of us does this and ends up "codifying" a specific story of our life. But depending on audience, the story may change in terms of what is highlighted or left out. And all the stories are still true.

Keith Larman
12-05-2011, 01:57 PM
If truth is subjective falsehood can not exist.

True or truth can be subjective depending on what is being considered. It is true that I remember doing something 10 years ago. That statement can very well be true even if I do not remember it "correctly". Or if I remember it differently. Remember that most of the interesting things we talk about are not exactly amenable to precise and absolute quantification or description. As such they all suffer from perspective issues and the "weighting" the observer places on various aspects.

How often have we all taken classes where we walk away with some lesson that we thought was profound and critical only to talk with others in the class and find they came away with something completely different? Is it the case that only one person can be right? Sometimes. Is it the case that maybe they can all be right? Sometimes. Where does truth lie here?

Truth, for most people, aren't just absolutes. And are often open to debate and perspective. I think Ellis' posts points to that very strongly. Some want absolute. Some treat all things as absolute. Some will do that to a level where they lose all nuance, subtlety and shading. Which IMHO gets them vastly further away from a higher level of truth.

I would rephrase your quote to "If *ALL* truth is subjective *absolute* falsehood cannot exist." Okay, but the really interesting stuff are usually the things that aren't absolutes or easily quantifiable or precisely described. Some things we take to be true are very colored by subjectivity. Most non-trivial things require a perspective, an observation, a re-coding in to linguistic representation, or something that introduces some degree of subjective/cultural/whatever bias. That's why we have conversations, debates, and discussion. To flesh out the more subtle stuff. To decide how much weight to put on the "truth" of various things.

But my recounting of memories of my training are truthful to the best of my memory. But they are also absolutely subjective, even if I wrote them down. Because they are my impressions. My experiences. My "understanding" of those experiences.

Philosophers have been arguing about truth forever. Scientists generally avoid the topic altogether as it is a minefield since each person tends to apply their own standard of what might make something the "truth".

Back to your regularly scheduled discussion... :)

phitruong
12-05-2011, 02:01 PM
Truth, for most people, aren't just absolutes. And are often open to debate and perspective. I think Ellis' posts points to that very strongly. Some want absolute. Some treat all things as absolute. Some will do that to a level where they lose all nuance, subtlety and shading. Which IMHO gets them vastly further away from a higher level of truth.


"only the Sith deals in absolute"

*sorry couldn't help meself. please resume the resumed schedule of regular discussion*

sorokod
12-05-2011, 02:03 PM
Sure. See also Ledyard Sensei's post about Saotome Sensei introducing him as an uchi deshi, despite having said that the uchi deshi system is impossible in America.

One of the first lessons one learns as a writer is the extent to which viewpoint defines a story -- whether fiction or non-fiction. That's just as true in the real world as on the page. Even the "objective" truth that journalists and historians seek is going to be defined by the sources they are (or are not) able to consult.

When one considers a figure like Ueshiba Sensei, one also must consider the difference between history and myth. Though myth may not reflect objective reality, it still describes a different kind of truth.

Katherine

I do not think that a reasonable person will consider http://asu.org/Saotome.html to be a work of fiction. On the contrary, I imagine that a prospective student will consider this information accurate and use it as a basis to a decision to join the ASU.

kewms
12-05-2011, 02:12 PM
I do not think that a reasonable person will consider http://asu.org/Saotome.html to be a work of fiction. On the contrary, I imagine that a prospective student will consider this information accurate and use it as a basis to a decision to join the ASU.

Non-fiction is just as viewpoint dependent. That's why they say history is written by the winners. That's why eyewitnesses to the same event will differ on important details. That's why a politician's speech will be seen completely differently by his supporters and his opponents.

Katherine

Janet Rosen
12-05-2011, 02:25 PM
Non-fiction is just as viewpoint dependent. That's why they say history is written by the winners. That's why eyewitnesses to the same event will differ on important details. That's why a politician's speech will be seen completely differently by his supporters and his opponents.

Katherine

Exactly.
I once had a young adult during the fairly early days of our war on Iraq tell me that the newspaper is unbiased.
After I stopped laughing, I said, ok: let's select a photo of an olive skinned person with dark hair in green fatigues carrying a gun. Let's further posit that it was taken in Iraq. Among the captions the editor might select to describe the photo are...Terrorist - Armed insurgent- Patriot- Freedom fighter - Rebel- Militia member - Not to mention father of four, pissed off unemployed oil rig worker, doctor trying to get to his hospital....

Objective truth is, this man was there at this time and (if witnessed) had just done this thing. All else is the framing of narrative.

Demetrio Cereijo
12-05-2011, 02:25 PM
Keith,

I don't disagree with your points, but my problem is not specifically about Dobson (or any individual history) but about a perceived attitude of every claim, every remembrance, every statement is true and valid because there is not objective reality and nuances, subtleties and details are not needed.

Keith Larman
12-05-2011, 02:34 PM
Keith,

I don't disagree with your points, but my problem is not specifically about Dobson (or any individual history) but about a perceived attitude of every claim, every remembrance, every statement is true and valid because there is not objective reality and nuances, subtleties and details are not needed.

Of course that's not true as well. The problem is that it can be very difficult at times to evaluate many claims after the fact because of the mixing of a variety of issues, not the least of which is the faulty nature of memory, confirmation bias, and any number of other things.

We can't sit back and say "nothing is resolvable" because of these issues. However, we also can't become like some of the rabid "I drank the koolaid" folk that simply can't see past their own (often very limited) range of experience and knowledge. Forgive the phrasing, but the "truth" is somewhere in between. And it is often fuzzy, open to discussion, and usually the most interesting truths are also most vexing and difficult to pin down.

Sure, some thing are just flat out false. Some are "conveniently remembered in a self-aggrandizing way". Some are seen through thick goggles. And a few, hopefully, are seen clearly. Standing on any extreme side, however, is usually off the mark...

Keith Larman
12-05-2011, 02:50 PM
I'll also add... Sometimes the most insidious and misleading histories are not due to the words of the people involved. But how subsequent students choose to interpret those words.

WRT to Saotome's brief history on their website. I have no argument with anything there. But I've also been to a seminar and paired up with some fella (apparently mid-yudansha ranked in that org) who spent a lot of time telling me how "we" were able to do this real stuff unlike those people who came from Ki Society lineages. And how Saotome had special access for over a decade which meant he got oh-so-much more than anyone else. I just smiled a lot, kept training, and never mentioned that I had only crashed a couple ASU seminars over the years but was actually myself in a Tohei lineage. Of course many in the Tohei lineage claim some degree of direct authenticity due to Tohei being the chief instructor under O-sensei for all those years. You see it's not the underlying history, it is the interpretation of it and the use of those interpretations as justifications for further judgments and evaluations.

mathewjgano
12-05-2011, 03:26 PM
Nothing much to add, but wanted to say thank you for a great thread! It's somewhat cathartic after some of the other recent discussions.
Take care,
Matthew

kewms
12-05-2011, 03:50 PM
Keith,

I don't disagree with your points, but my problem is not specifically about Dobson (or any individual history) but about a perceived attitude of every claim, every remembrance, every statement is true and valid because there is not objective reality and nuances, subtleties and details are not needed.

I can't speak for anyone else, but my point is just the opposite: that nuances, subtleties, and details are critical because the objectively reportable facts don't tell you much. But also that those nuances and subtleties will be filtered by the person telling the story.

At a much smaller scale, consider any aikido technique. There's what nage is actually doing, as it might be measured by an objective device like a camera or a motion capture system. There's what nage thinks he's doing. There's what uke feels. And there's what a human third-party observer sees (or thinks he sees).

Katherine

kewms
12-05-2011, 03:57 PM
Exactly.
I once had a young adult during the fairly early days of our war on Iraq tell me that the newspaper is unbiased.
After I stopped laughing, I said, ok: let's select a photo of an olive skinned person with dark hair in green fatigues carrying a gun. Let's further posit that it was taken in Iraq. Among the captions the editor might select to describe the photo are...Terrorist - Armed insurgent- Patriot- Freedom fighter - Rebel- Militia member - Not to mention father of four, pissed off unemployed oil rig worker, doctor trying to get to his hospital....

Objective truth is, this man was there at this time and (if witnessed) had just done this thing. All else is the framing of narrative.

As is the decision to publish that particular photo in the first place, as opposed to a different photo of the same person sitting and drinking coffee, or a similar photo of an olive-skinned American soldier, or a photo of an olive-skinned female in civilian clothing.

And these are decisions by journalists, who (mostly) have training in objective reporting and (mostly) consciously try to be aware of and compensate for their own biases and those of their sources. Read the diaries of ordinary people involved in news-making events and you'll get yet a different view.

Katherine

Keith Larman
12-05-2011, 04:20 PM
I wish I could remember the exact quote and who said it, but I had it on my wall in my office for years when I did psych research. Paraphrased it essentially said that every experiment is biased simply by the questions we decide to ask. Very Heisenberg, but I'm not finding it...

Keith Larman
12-05-2011, 04:21 PM
I can't speak for anyone else, but my point is just the opposite: that nuances, subtleties, and details are critical because the objectively reportable facts don't tell you much. But also that those nuances and subtleties will be filtered by the person telling the story.

Same here.

crbateman
12-05-2011, 06:43 PM
I certainly feel like I continue to learn from teachers long past, and not just MA's, but in many other arenas as well. This is because I tend to examine problems or situations with an eye (or ear) to the thought of "What would Prof. so-and-so think?" or "How would Sensei what's-his-name approach this?". I often don't have my own answers, but can formulate them from my perceptions of those past teachers, and examination of what their wisdom on the subject has impressed upon me. It may be old knowledge re-lived, but it seems more like fresh learning to me.

I would stop short of saying that this could be characterized or claimed as long-term time-in-training, but it certainly represents a continuation of the relationships.

Ellis Amdur
12-05-2011, 07:13 PM
One final point comes to mind. Actually a couple:
1. When I trained in the Aikikai, the uchi-deshi were Shibata, Seki, Miyamoto (and I believe Yasuno, although I don't recall if he was living in the dojo). They were clearly considered a different breed - I'm not saying that each of them were the best three young aikidoka at the time, but they had a special status, in part because they were assistant instructors, and second, because they lived/breathed/ate aikido.
2. When I first started training at Honbu, I was living at the Kuwamori Dojo. My visa letter was actually signed by Doshu, at the request of Terry Dobson. I thought this made me a "deshi" of Honbu dojo. I was there a week, and someone asked me my particulars. I said that I was an uchi-deshi of Kuwamori Dojo, but also a deshi at Honbu. After ascertaining that I did live at the former, he said, re the latter, you aren't a deshi here. You don't have a personal relationship with anyone in the Ueshiba family, they aren't feeding you - you just take classes here.
3. About a year later, I was eating/drinking with Shibata & Miyamoto at a local restaurant, and Shibata said, "You are around here all the time. Would you like me to put in a word for you so you can live in the dojo?" I thought about that long and hard - I'd taught the younger Osawa to lift weights, all the teachers were calling me out for demonstration ukemi in their classes - but I was already focusing on other training, so I decided not to do it. The option was there. And it was not, "would you like to become a professional assistant teacher of the Aikikai, groomed to teach classes, etc." It was a recognition of seriousness about training, and an offering of an opportunity to do more.

Ellis Amdur

raul rodrigo
12-05-2011, 08:22 PM
Ellis, who was the dojo enforcer in your day?

Ellis Amdur
12-05-2011, 08:59 PM
I guess you are recalling something I wrote in a previous thread, Raul.

So I arrived in Japan in January of 1976. I had an introduction to Kuwamori Dojo from Saotome Mitsugi. I had a letter to Honbu from Terry Dobson and I didn't know that this was not very important or noticed. So, one morning, Kuwamori Yasunori gts up and says, "let's go to Honbu dojo." But Yasunori was always late and he never got up early.

So we walk into Doshu (nidai) class 20 minutes late. Doshu sees him, calls us over, and says, "You never get up this early. What are you doing here for - late?" Kuwamori says, "Well, this young guy is living at my dojo now. He's a student of Saotome sensei." (This, by the way, was the height of the rift between Saotome and Dobson with the Aikikai)

Now to me, this was a problem. Saotome and I, at that time, had become, in a strange way, kind of friends, but he was not my teacher. And I knew whatever was first said about you was who you were, forever, in Japan. So, I interrupted and in very broken Japanese, said, "Excuse - please. Not Mr. Saotome student, No, you big mistake. Terry Dobson student."

Doshu looks up at me - and he had to look up a long way, given our heights, considers me for a minute and calls over Shibata Ichiro. He says, Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah Terry Dobson, blah, blah Terry Dobson. And the next thing I knew, I was grabbed and smashed and crushed and mangled, and every technique I tried, he stopped, and I thought I might die.

So, Kuwamori had a good time working out with someone and at the end of the class, walks up to me, laughing, and says, "Ellis-kun. I gotta go home and sleep. Why don't you stay the day. I'll see you this evening at class."

So, I'm just hanging around in the half hour between classes - no one knows me, no one's talking to me, and just before the next class starts, Shibata walks over with Seki, saying, "Blah, blah, blah Saotome, blah Dobson, Saotome, Blah, blah, blah, blah." And then class started and Seki grabbed and smashed and crushed and mangled me, but because he was a different kind of guy, he guided me, sort of through the proper form of a technique when it was my turn to throw.

Next day I'm back. Doshu's class. I walk in and Doshu looks at me, and there's Miyamoto, grinning like a demented jack-o-lantern, and he looks at Doshu and Doshu nods, and class starts and he grabs me and I didn't get to do nage. He did all the throwing - continuously for one hour, half the time I was taking ukemi on the wooden floor off the mat, and sometimes on the walls, and everyone just gave us a lot of room, and Doshu watched benignly.

Second class - some sixth dan I never saw again. He was watching Miyamoto manhandling me, and he grabbed me for Osawa sensei's class, and he threw me - I counted - 264 shihonage in one hour (and that was not a technique that Osawa called for - and truly, that time I thought I'd die - I was prepared to throw myself out the window in case I began to throw up on the mat). And then Friday, and I only went to Doshu's class, and some other sixth dan, I don't know who, he just did yonkyo on me for the entire hour (that wasn't the technique for that class either, and his forearms were bigger than my biceps, I could barely get my hands around his wrists - he let me try on him, one out of twenty - but I couldn't make an impression, and by the end of the hour, it felt like two very sensitive areas of a man's body had split up and migrated, one settling in each wrist, and I couldn't even use chop-sticks to eat, cause my fingers wouldn't work (and all the while, I was taking evening classes at Kuwamori Dojo).

After that first week, it was just normal rugged practice. The answer, I guess, is that there was a collective enforcement - they were just making sure, before I did anything.

Doshu started regularly calling me out to take ukemi for him in waza demonstrations, about two months later.

Ellis Amdur

raul rodrigo
12-05-2011, 09:50 PM
Great story, Ellis. They were a different breed indeed—authorized to fold, spindle and mutilate.

I asked because a Japanese teacher of mine once had a run-in with Miyamoto in Hombu in the late 1970s during Watanabe's class. M seems to have wanted to put my Japanese teacher in his place. This man was responding to M in kind, though, and the pace escalated until Watanabe had to intervene. It is stories like these that make me realize the truth of Tissier's statement: "In those days, Miyamoto only trained to destroy his partner."

Ellis Amdur
12-05-2011, 10:23 PM
But notice that I was not injured the entire week. (I do have other stories, to be sure, but that one, Doshu just decided to drop me in the washing machine, just to make sure that I didn't shrink under high heat).

E

David Yap
12-06-2011, 03:20 AM
...It is stories like these that make me realize the truth of Tissier's statement: "In those days, Miyamoto only trained to destroy his partner."

I attended his class at the 9th IAF in Tokyo. Nothing has changed by then. There was this ramen place across the road from the hostel where we frequented during the seminar. I believed that it was after the farewell dinner when a few of us, after having our favorite ramen, happened to see a not quite sober M on the other end of overhead walkway coming towards us. We stopped in our track and could feel ourselves melting into the side railings, not uttering a sound or making any slight movement as he passed us by. :o

raul rodrigo
12-06-2011, 03:55 AM
To be fair, David, Tissier himself says that today Miyamoto is a different man. And when I took uke for him in Hombu, he was gentle. But to demonstrate waza for that class, he had some big Caucausian ukes who took quite a pounding. As did the deshi, Uchida, who was assisting him for that class.

Marc Abrams
12-06-2011, 07:48 AM
It is beyond comical when you hear people who genuinely know nothing of what training at the Hombu dojo was like, wax on about the peaceful air of Aikido under the guidance of O'Sensei. Ellis' historical recounting is consistent with all of the other people who trained there. The totality of that history paints an entirely different picture than the one that delusional crowds likes to believe and goes a long way in helping people to understand how their teacher evolved into the people that they are today.

Marc Abrams

Keith Larman
12-06-2011, 08:56 AM
I think it also makes another point that many would do well to consider. History is almost always a mess of memories, victor-bias (the winner writes the history), random chance (some end up "important" simply because of who they were around), etc. So in the end I thank the guys Stan Pranin for taking the time to record as much as he could going back to original sources (and by that I mean not just interviews, but finding substantiation (and otherwise) for things he learned. Training logs, etc.). What this leaves a fella like me is to consider the variety of people I know and have learned from and then I get my flabby butt out and train with as many people from within and from without as I can, feeling, learning, listening, trying to empty that sometimes resiliently full cup of mine. Less chat, more mat as they say, because on the mat it's kinda hard to argue with someone you simply can't move. Or someone who can reach in to your center and move you but none of the tricks up your own sleeve can seem to find their center.

So I go to seminars. I go learn. I find all sorts of value in a variety of people. Some, not so much. Others, quite a bit.

And I end up subscribing to Stan's site to try to expand my background and more subtle, nuanced understanding. But in the end... It's to the mat again.

There is a real history. Then there are all the ways it was perceived. Then there was how it was explained in private. And then there was how it was explained in public. Over time hopefully an open minded somewhat objective person will get some clue as to what was really going on.

And then it's to the mat again... Cause that's where the final questions get answered. Or at least the final questions that matter to me...

Chris Li
12-06-2011, 09:09 AM
It is beyond comical when you hear people who genuinely know nothing of what training at the Hombu dojo was like, wax on about the peaceful air of Aikido under the guidance of O'Sensei. Ellis' historical recounting is consistent with all of the other people who trained there. The totality of that history paints an entirely different picture than the one that delusional crowds likes to believe and goes a long way in helping people to understand how their teacher evolved into the people that they are today.

Marc Abrams

From an interview in Japanese with Yasuo Kobayashi:

When being thrown by O-Sensei power would be added to the center of your body. When we were thrown in normal practice it would feel like a ball bouncing, but only with O-Sensei it would feel as if we were being crushed when being thrown. That was extremely mysterious.

Best,

Chris

David Yap
12-06-2011, 10:23 AM
To be fair, David, Tissier himself says that today Miyamoto is a different man. And when I took uke for him in Hombu, he was gentle. But to demonstrate waza for that class, he had some big Caucausian ukes who took quite a pounding. As did the deshi, Uchida, who was assisting him for that class.

Have you experienced his double or triple nikyo?:D

raul rodrigo
12-06-2011, 07:02 PM
Have you experienced his double or triple nikyo?:D

No, but a good friend of mine, a yudansha from British Birankai, has felt Miyamoto's waza many times. Punishing, he says.