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08-26-2012, 10:58 AM
Unfortunately, Aikido is riddled with politics. O-Sensei would probably roll over in his grave if he could see it.
I personally hate politics and never got involved at all. I never even joined a federation.
The only thing that ever meant anything to me is actual ability. I've seen too many people with high rank and pathetic technique. One would think that these people would be ashamed to be ranked above their ability, but it seems that all they want is more rank.
Rank never meant anything to me. The only reason I was promoted to rokudan is because Saito-sensei periodically told me it was time to be moved up to the next level. He was my teacher and mentor; what was I supposed to say? No? But there are many who think that rank actually means something and gives them political power over others.
As described in my article entitled "Constructive and Counterproductive Use of Resistance in Aikido Training", after training under a good teacher for several years, it is possible to develop "Kokyu ryoku" (loosely translated as "abdominal breath power").
Most trainees do not get Kokyu, especially if they omit "Katai" (rigid) training and practice "Ki no Nagare" (flowing style) exclusively. If many of them are grabbed with strong power, they can't even move. On the contrary, in Iwama in the 70's, for a student who trained hard, getting Kokyu was almost a given.
For someone with good, clean technique and Kokyu Ryoku, he or she is able to perform a technique effortlessly against a strong person who is resisting with full power. This is real Aikido, and would make O-Sensei proud.
So, this is my definition of elegance in technique; "Effortless against full power".

09-04-2012, 05:34 AM
I have no problem with your points about politics and rank and ability and resistance and kokyu ryoku.

But I don't like your title or your definition of elegance. First it implies aestheticism for the sake of aestheticism. Second perhaps a very few budo teachers have had a certain elegance in their movements. But Morihiro Saito Sensei? Powerful? Yes. Effective? Yes. Elegant? No.

09-05-2012, 09:56 PM
I would like to thank Mr. Matthews for his reply to my posting. I was hoping to get more replies, but since most of my postings are anecdotes from my time in Iwama rather than topics for discussion, it seems reasonable that there are not more replies.
However, I respectfully submit that Mr. Matthews missed the point of this particular posting. It has nothing to do with Saito-sensei, aestheticism, or visually graceful technique. It is very simple and summed up in the last sentence of the posting; it is my personal opinion that being able to perform a technique effortlessly against a strong person who is resisting with full power is elegance in technique.
But since Mr. Matthews raised the point, I believe that Saito-sensei's technique is elegant in a different way. O-sensei spent decades perfecting his Aikido techniques so that they would be in harmony with and an expression of Ki. Saito-sensei told me about his early days in the dojo where O-sensei would work on a single technique for weeks until he finally felt that it was right. This can be summed up as "Takemusu Aiki", which means "the Aiki spirit that creates a martial art". The result is Aikido, which was born from Ki.
Saito-sensei learned these techniques directly from O-sensei over a period of 23 years. His techniques are not flashy or spectacular; instead they are extremely tight, efficient and effective with no wasted movement, and in harmony with Ki.
A person watching might see only the power and effectiveness since the movements are so abbreviated, but a closer look (slow motion would be great) will show how clean and graceful his movements actually are.
Every time he threw me it was kind of surreal. I never felt any physical force being exerted on my body. I would go from attacking him to flat on my back on the mat with no idea of what happened in between.
It's subtle and not readily apparent, but it is my humble opinion that Saito-sensei's technique is elegant.

09-09-2012, 08:10 AM
My difficulty is because you seem to be using idiosyncratic definitions of elegant and elegance. But anyway this is a link to a video of Saito Sensei (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRJW_zATzok). People can make up their own minds.

09-09-2012, 09:05 AM
I don't know what an idiosyncratic definition is and can't respond to that.

However, I remember the video well because I am in it. We made it for NHK Japanese national television in 1973, and it was distributed to countries all over the world. I am the person attacking Saito-sensei with a tanken in the beginning of the video, and appear throughout it.

And yes, I agree; let people watch and make up their own minds.

09-10-2012, 09:27 AM
I didn't know you were in the video when I put the link. That was completely by chance. Very cool. And the story is an elegant addition to this thread.