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09-29-2002, 11:44 AM
I have recently returned to the practice of aikido after nearly a two year hiatus. Prior to that, I studied for about four years. Aikido has changed my life, and I hope to have the oppurtunity to study for many years to come.
I will pose my question now, but please forgive my long-winded approach to explaining why and how I am thinking: in the US, because of the seniority and experience of our own shidoin and aikido in America in general, will Japan continue (or reinstate?) the dispatching of Japanese shihan to the US, or will our own shidoin rise to replace the current shihan when they (and how unfortunate that they will some day) pass away? Will "American Aikido" develop from this?

Now that I am back in aikido, it is startling to see how techniques have evolved. From shihan level to shidoin down to my own dojo. I would like to think that this is what O'Sensei wanted, for people to find their own aikido. I believe that he actually said this, if I am not mistaken. One case in point is Donovan Waite sensei's unique style of ukemi. This is from someone who has been out of the aikido "loop" for the last two years. I can remember seminars where only a handful of people were doing his style of ukemi. Now, it seems everyone (from my small perspective) is doing it. I am only using this as an example of course, because ukemi is such an integral part of aikido, and as such, an obvious example of change (when it does change.)
Now, I greatly respect Waite sensei's aikido, and especially his ukemi. In fact, if I ever get a chance to learn it, I would like to. I think saving your body from repeated impacts with the earth is a good idea. But, through this example, one can see that things are changing in aikido.
At some point, there will be no one left that knew O'Sensei or studied under him. No one left than can directly translate or transmit O'Sensei's aikido (with reference to technique.) Of course, the shihan all have their own individual nuances anyway. And their student's (our shidoin) have their's as well. And so the process of change goes on. Someday, will O'Sensei's aikido (with ref. to technique) even be known except for in rare film footage? I would like to think that the current Doshu is the key to this. Personally, his technique is my favorite, because I think it is the most pure, clean... his "style" of aikido is the nameless "style." Not Yamada's "style", or Kanai's hip/power "style", not "West Coast Chiba/Shibata "style", etc, etc. PLEASE PLEASE do not think that I lack any respect for any of these shihan or any others as well; when I go to seminars that they teach I try to replicate what they teach as best as possible, and am in complete awe when they give demos/do randoori. But I think Doshu's is the most direct translation. I know many people will have to disagree with this, but am I the only one that feels this way?. I hope that my point (or fear) is now starting (even a tad?) to become clear.
I am very much a beginner in aikido, and will remain for many years to come, I feel. I realize that ultimately, attaining truth in aikido means attaining functional use of aikido's spitiual principles and philosophies in our daily lives; the techniques are really secondary in importance. But as a beginner, I recognize that the means to achieve this spiritual knowledge is by technique. And for some reason, whether because I am missing the point of aikido, or because I am too close-minded, I want to hold onto the aikido technique that I see in O'Sensei's footage, and that I saw in the former Dochu, and in the current Doshu. If I had one wish in life, it would be that I was born 40 or 50 years ago, so I could have been there to see it all with my own eyes, and to have had the chance to learn from O'Sensei. I am sure I am not alone in this way of thinking.
I hate to use labels, but one has to admit that there are fundamental differences between "Japanese aikido" and "American aikido." Physical adaptations due to differences in size and body type, and most significantly, cultural differences. By our very different culture do we practice and perhaps, perceive aikido differently.
If there every will be a line of Ueshiba's to minimize the dilution of aikido, or some shihans that were their uchidechis, would they ever again be dispatched to the US, to our good fortune?
To note: I am only referring to technique only. I think that the spiritual principles of aikido have been maintained very well since O'Sensei passed. But then, how long will this last? Already there is rivaly, competition, politics, and bad blood and feelings in aikido, both at the larger levels between association/affiliation, and even at the minor levels between local dojos in Anycity/town, USA. In the larger scope, this "corruption" already started even 30 years ago with the whole Tohei vs. Aikikai affair. How long will aikido last before we are reduced to another sport "martial art" doing nothing but promoting for money, and bickering between ourselves.
At the end of the day, I will just try to practice hard and diligently. For now, the dictating the future of aikido is out of my control.

Choku Tsuki
09-29-2002, 07:10 PM
In this thread (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=2577) the discussion is around the race of teachers, and the question of whether it matters.

If we study aikido's principles, I will bet theories will come and go, and the practices which illustrate them will come and go, only to come around again. Then perhaps we'll discover the waza (and the underlying principles) really didn't go anywhere.

I'll bet the principles will stay alive forever. As far as the principles' transmission from generation to generation, my bet is also that this will become a more relevant to the teacher's cultural and technical background and influences.


09-29-2002, 11:13 PM
Looks the same might not equate to being the same.

Still, interesting post. Exactly how different is Sensei Waite's ukemi? Any description you can throw at me?

Bruce Baker
09-30-2002, 06:54 AM
Yes, it is watered down to the effect we don't teach the death, or serious injury that could be used ...

No it is not watered down, but it is your job to see what is hidden right out in the open.

As for Donovan Waite sensei, I haven't had the opportunity to practice with him yet, or attend a seminar, but that is only a matter of time.

One of our junior students, who has had the chance to teach a class or two was learning to impart the rolls and falls of his ukemi, and mistakenly, he described that there was only one way to fall or take a roll for ukemi. That,and other little hints I have injected were the crux of his resentment for many months until he got around to see a few more styles of ukemi, in Aikido, Judo, and jujitsu.

It has always been a wonder to me why such loud slaps are necessary for a good ukemi, and I have gotten more than a few sour looks from instructors for trying to be silent. Maybe it is from my childhood years of playing cowboys and indians, or shoot'em up soldier with sneaking around the bushes, rolling, jumping and falling like stuntmen until mom had a fit because of so much dirt on my clothes. Rolling softly, and quietly reduced the grime and hence reduced the amount of grief I got from mom for playing the guerilla warfare sneaky games.

If you do any type of sports on grassy fields, and there is running with falling involved, you learn how to fall or roll ... or you get hurt. Natural ability to go with the flow in practice, practice, and oops I tripped and fell, accidental practice of practice.

Aikido is no different, but the majority of my early rolls were over the head gymnastic rolls, which did create some apprehension from the teachers ... especially when a double wide middleaged guy is trying to roll like a teenager.

So long as you aren't jerking your neck to cause your head to hit, have some type of round form in rolling, and learn to disperse the energy of a breakfall without causing anyone particular area to absorb the impact of a fall, you will learn many ways to fall and roll as the situations warrant ... or you will go splat, and we all know how splat feels.

I know how you feel being away from Aikido for a while, although my longest away time has been two months, and not years, but just the same, I had the same concerns about the quality of training within my own dojo.

I spoke to my sensei about how many of the basic elements were becoming sloppy, or forgotten, and within a month, the two assistant instructors were again sharp and to the point without missing the elements of a technique from beginning to completion. Half the time they don't see the pressure points, the strikes or distractions, or the opportunity for adding atemi to return to the true roots of a technique, but the fact that they were emphisizing the circle, square, triangle, the simularity of hand to hand to weapons practice, and taking the time to break down the movements so each movement proved a logical step to the next movement, did indeed prove that even the watered down version of Aikido is still valid on its own merit.

(excuse me while I diverge)

When I was in second grade, in the 1950s, an old man came to our school in Red Bank, NJ to demonstrate his martial art, which was judo, but it resembled the Aikido we do today. I remember watching him do many of the incredible feats of strength we attribute to O'Sensei, but later finding out that O'Sensei never came to the USA east, I find he was another teacher from a Judo/Jujitsu school who was quite adept. Not only did he show the unbendable arm, but sat and held back three men who pushed on his forehead, walked on brittle teacups where none of his students could walk with out breaking them, and demonstrated bokken and empty hand techniques simular to our modern Aikido practice.

I have thought about my question of " ... did you hypnotize those people on stage, you were moving very slowly..." which drew a laugh from the master practitioner.

For many years I wondered about my question to the this master, and without realizing it, the same skeptical remarks have been written many responses here on the Aikiweb.

Maybe we are hypnotized to the extent that we don't try hard enough to find the information that validates our practice in both scientific field, and our spiritual / moral well being? Being away from practice, or watching practice from the sidelines, has a sobering affect upon one to initiate a search to find such things beyond, "shut up and practice" answer for all questions where the teacher is not apprised as to how to find the answers?

Maybe, in questioning if Aikido is watered down ... you have taken this first step to finding the answers.

Choku Tsuki
09-30-2002, 10:26 AM
Exactly how different is Sensei Waite's ukemi? Any description you can throw at me?
Sure (http://www.carbonecho.com/media/aikido/ukemi_side.mov) , why (http://www.carbonecho.com/media/aikido/ukemi_forward.mov) not (http://www.carbonecho.com/media/aikido/ukemi_back.mov) ?

10-01-2002, 10:28 PM
Thanks chuck. have not seen it yet since its an invalid file here at the office pc. but will check it out at home.

10-04-2002, 09:53 AM
I was hoping for some more active discussion on this. It is a very important subject for me. However, if anyone thinks that this is a moot point, please say so. Then atleast I would figure out that my arguments go nowhere.

However, I would like to clarify something.

It is overly simplistic to say that this is just a matter of race. I could careless what color my teacher is as long as the teachings are sound.

I am more concerned about where aikido is going. Am I overly fearful (or even pessimistic) that aikido is becoming "diluted?" Moreover, is it even a bad thing that this dilution is occurring?

What do you people out there think about the future of aikido?

I am asking based on a very general and elementary observation of what has happened to martial arts in the US and since they arrived in the US. I think that I can make a general observation that martial arts in the US (and for that matter, even in their countries of origin) have been corrupted. Principles and philosophies have not been held true to. Techniques have vanished or deteriorated. Competition, greed, arrogance, ill-will... must I go on?

I am quite young, and will live to see aikido exist for many years. How will I see it when the time comes that I am old (probably too old to practice), and can still remember former Doshu, current Doshu, Tamura, Saotome, Yamada, etc...?

10-04-2002, 10:04 AM
I think you're overly worried about nothing. Aikido will continue to evole. Some of it will devolve. It is the way of things and the only way we can prevent it if from learning all we can from those who are here. Find a good teacher and learn. Then find others. Then you know that Aiki cannot die while you live. What more can you do?

10-06-2002, 01:13 AM

The evolution of aikido is going as it should be. Keep your crap-detector finely tuned as you progress through your life, and remember, there's more than just old age out there to kill you. :)

I had a similar series of thoughts about the direction of aikido when I was only 3 years into training. But now, today, I think of the change in aikido this way...

The change isn't good or bad, it's change. It's what things do. We often judge change as good or bad, but really it only aggravates the truth: change happens. Aikido is a perfect fit for our world -- we can change the technique, the thoughts, but it will [usually] mimic the events of the natural world.

Now, what about some of those "unscrupulous" teachers or students? I choose to think of humanity's time on earth as a little window. This timeframe is insignificant compared to the rest of eternity. These people will only be around for the crumb of a speck of time on this planet, so I try not to sweat them.

The short of the long (before I fall asleep!) is that aikido is perfect for change because it embodies the change around us. And, for the changes we don't "like", well, the inappropriate things will likely filter out over long periods of time, long after we die by old age (or delivery truck). ;)

Jim ashby
10-06-2002, 01:35 PM
Just finished a weekend seminar with Donovan Waite Sensei. No dilution there!

Have fun.

BTW are you still lurking there Bob?

Bob Dhammi
10-13-2002, 11:50 AM
BTW are you still lurking there Bob?[/QUOTE]
Yes Jim I am still here.

cu next Sunday.

Bruce Baker
10-15-2002, 05:38 AM
There is another thing to consider, "...there is no dilution of Aikido here," especially when the practitioners find the practice more than satisfys their curiosity.

The fact that we become satisfied with the practice, and are satisfied with the present goals sets our minds in a finite goal that will not allow for the growth and understanding of Aikido as a martial art.

Yes it is a wonderfull thing to have a goal, and to reach that goal, but shouldn't there always be horizons to reach for, even if you travel to them in your mind?

To prevent Aikido from becoming stagnant, we must continue to bring valadation to new or even old techniques found in practice, or other arts that compliment and broaden Aikido practice.

Sean Moffatt
10-22-2002, 02:29 PM
I am more concerned about where aikido is going. Am I overly fearful (or even pessimistic) that aikido is becoming "diluted?" Moreover, is it even a bad thing that this dilution is occurring?

Hey Eugene,

You've come to the top of a mountain only to see in the distance there are more mountains to climb. Aikido IS becoming diluted without a doubt. It is a style where creativity is encouraged. Even the direct students of O'Sensei have there own styles. Why? O'Sensei showed one technique too fast then moved onto the next. The Students were left to fill in the holes; to come up with there own interpretation. In other words, to steal his technique. I believe only those who spent most of there lives with him got the best translation.

But we don't have that luxury.

However, we do have mountains of information we can dig through. We have books, videos, eye witness accounts, and (drum roll) teachers of aikido. You'll find that it will be entirely up to you how Aikido should be interpreted. Even if you go to Japan in search of undilluted technique you will find frustration, doubt, lies. Some teachers will have one answer, others will have another. The Friendship demonstrations showed this better then anything. Every high ranking demostrator either said they do technique this way or others would say this is correct technique, not that. What I saw was they were all doing it correctly. Only there egos were incorrect.

I have been doing Aikido for over seven years, young in an art that demands much more time to master. But I too have seen the dillution of technique. More correctly, I can feel the dillution of technique. Wherever I could, I have looked at other arts for answers and to fill in the holes of MY aikido. I've looked at Kendo and that has improved my reaction time. I am studying Iaido which helps with posture and pose. I have looked at striking arts to see the underlying mechanics of atemi and evasion. I have trained in judo and jujitsu and discovered the power of patiencence and relaxation (imagine that. Dosen't Aikido training do that? Sure, if you're not frustrated).

And I have trained in some tai chi and hurt my knee. Which lead me to Aikido (sorry, but that really did happen... that and "Above the Law").

So now, I am training the most in Aikido. I don't adhere to any one dogma of what aikido is supposed to be because what one person does, another may do better. I have been training with the same sensei for 4 years now and adhere to most of his techniques. But what I don't like, I do differently. This may hurt in a dan test later but so what. I'll have peace of mind.

Happy Training (You are too SERIOUS!)


10-22-2002, 09:33 PM
I am more concerned about where aikido is going. Am I overly fearful (or even pessimistic) that aikido is becoming "diluted?" Moreover, is it even a bad thing that this dilution is occurring?
Is the basis by which you reach this conclusion based upon the assumption that you have ever really seen, or felt (in either case, directly experienced) "real" aikido? I am not challenging any particular style/teacher/organization, however I have seen quite a bit (more often than not) what many would call Aikido that wouldn't even pass for dance classes at an old-aged home.

If you had asked O-Sensei, "Well, who really knows Aikido?" and he answered, "These ten people over here..." wouldn't you then begin to wonder about the tens of thousands of students who were trying to learn it from someone else??? I would!
What do you people out there think about the future of aikido?
A good answer is - it will be what YOU make of it. Find the greatest master you can - and spend your life seeking the depths of his soul.
I am asking based on a very general and elementary observation of what has happened to martial arts in the US and since they arrived in the US. I think that I can make a general observation that martial arts in the US (and for that matter, even in their countries of origin) have been corrupted. Principles and philosophies have not been held true to. Techniques have vanished or deteriorated. Competition, greed, arrogance, ill-will... must I go on?
When I read that, It made me think of what my teacher told me he was thinking when he began to train under Seagal Sensei, back at the Osaka Tenshin Dojo. He said, "It was really difficult to confront the fact that he felt he had to study with a "non-Japanese" to get a true representation of the art. One of my senpai, Craig Dunn Sensei, from Taos New Mexico, who came over with Seagal to open the Taos Dojo back in 1981 said something very similar. He said, he found it quite bizarre that after looking high and low for the best Aikido teacher for what he wanted to learn, that he had ended up traveling thousands of miles to study with a Westerner. My point - many of the Japanese teachers, both here and in Japan are the reason for the decline you speak of. I would go as far to say that they are the cracked foundation upon which the international community teeters.

As with everything else - there is always much more mediocrity than good, when you add in the really downright poor attitude of the typical student/apprentice (of any nationality) you get the sorry state of affairs that adds up to the crock of a world we live in. What to do? Live in a cave, vote for new bunch of crooked-lying politicians, encourage anarchy? Well those are certainly the options of 99% of the world's population. I think the bottom line here is - if Mastery were easy, than everybody would be a master. It just isn't that way, nor should it be. If it were, then what would be the value of mastery? Given that, as a choice, we have on the one hand, be like everything else, and help flush the world down the ever-spinning toilet, or take on truly becoming a master on your own. If we really look at O-Sensei, we can see that this is what he did. I believe that he, through aikido, has asked us to do the same. Stand on his shoulders and reach a little higher.

I would say more, but then I would be "Bruce Baker" and he seems to do a better job of that than I ever could...

10-23-2002, 07:49 AM
The dig at Bruce is, of course, gratuitous and unnecessary and really a shame after such a well expressed (if slightly self-aggrandizing) post. On the other hand, I suspect Bruce is not the type to get too offended ...

10-23-2002, 07:58 AM
IMHO, Aikido is evolving, not ncessarily diluting. If you want a stronger concentration, find a school that trains hat way. If you want a different concentration, there are those schools too. Its nice to have choices. So many doors that open into Aikido.

Until again,


Sean Moffatt
10-23-2002, 09:11 AM
Stanley Pranin, editor of Aikido Journal has good article up concerning this current topic. This is the mission statement for next years Aiki Expo. No matter what style you do, this is great advice. http://www.aikidojournal.com/new/article.asp?ArticleID=112

10-23-2002, 07:43 PM
The dig at Bruce is, of course, gratuitous and unnecessary and really a shame after such a well expressed (if slightly self-aggrandizing) post. On the other hand, I suspect Bruce is not the type to get too offended ...
Hmmm? Not a dig at all. I was just noticing that my post was very lengthy, and is becoming typical of my more recent posts. This is something which Bruce can, and often does as well. Bruce tends to speak at great length on subjects he has obviously spent a long time considering. I don't see a problem with length, if the original subject matter, or reply warrant it. Notice I never said anything about the content of Bruce's posts - because I do not have a problem with the content of Bruce's posts. End of story.

I am sure Bruce is happy to know that he has a protector out here on the aikiweb message board <------- Now that "was" a jab. Just to show you how I do it so that next time you get it right. <------- (another jab)

In any case - apologies to Bruce, and to you, too, Opher should either of you have taken even the smallest slight from my remarks. How bout we don't sabotage the thread?

10-23-2002, 08:58 PM
What really makes Aikido dilluted? Is it people wanting to change the art to suit themselves, and the way they feel it should be done? Or is it about those who dont fully understand the art; their knowledge is a product of passing through many, and thus they pass this dillution onto others?

I guess what we really have to look at are the main ideas that will always get passed on because they are essential to what Aikido is. I would think this would involve the basics and the concepts that go along with them. ex. chushin-ryoku, shuchu-ryoku, kokyu-ryoku, ki, irimi, kaiten, ukemi, kihon dosa, kihon waza. Although these principles and techniques may differ from person to person, the idea should still be there. Most importantly though, Aikido should teach someone how to connect the body, mind, and spirit and I would hope that this is something that will not become blurry over time. I believe that if these things are lost then it is not Aikido.

I think the art is safe though. Aikido, in my experience, attracts a certain kind of person. It quickly weeds those out who are not fully intune with themselves and others around them. It takes dedication, commitment, hard work, will to succeed, and a strong heart to develop in Aikido. Aikido is not for the faint at heart. :)

10-23-2002, 10:46 PM
Dilution is a weakening. I don't think that is happening. If Aikido was "going the way of the dodo" instead of flourishing you probably would have a good argument that it was a stagnant, dead art.

Fear not...Aikido is alive and well.

10-28-2002, 10:32 AM
[Aikido is evolving, not ncessarily diluting. If you want a stronger concentration, find a school that trains hat way. If you want a different concentration, there are those schools too. Its nice to have choices. So many doors that open into Aikido.]

-quote from L.Seiser

Is this just semantics then? You use "evolving", which connotates a positive change. I use "dilution" which can be neutral but in this sense, I feel it is my negative connotation.

I understand that there is a multitude of styles/attitudes/philosophies/dojos/teachers out there all revolving around aikido. These are the "choices" you refer to, yes?

Maybe this is the problem; maybe this is the dilution. Dilution implies weakening; however, I am not implying that EVERYWHERE you go, you will see a weakening in the philosophy and technique of aikido. But, it is there, and it is a significant presence. It is plainly evident in some of the discussion topics here on this very forum. (Need I point out examples: UFC vs. aikido, separating the sexes, I'm worried my sensei has not taught enough of the test, and a year from now I will have not made any progress, etc, etc.) It is plainly clear how angry some people get just talking about these things, and how stauchly defensive they get about them, even to the point of throwing childish, personal insults.

Maybe the problem is that we think we have the liberty to have a wide variation and selection. That we can create our own niche in aikido, our own "style", and split off from there. Granted, styles will naturally change as aikido progresses from personality to personality. But maybe we should be doing something to retard this.

Could our culture have anything to do with this? I study cross-cultural interrelations, and am happy to be able to find connections (even mistaken) between aikido and my work. We are taking a Japanese art, created and developed in a Japanese cultural context, and are modifiying it, deliberately or not, in an American cultural context. The very existence of aikido in America implies inevitability of change. Could our very innate (and thus almost undetectable to our own judgement) value of individuality and freedom be the reason that we so value the "choices" we have in aikido, instead of looking at them as a dilution process?

Maybe we need the constraints applied by history; maybe we need the framework set by the older generation, by the Founder. Maybe we do need to look back as far as we can at what O'Sensei said and did, as well as his son and grandson. For me, the opportunity to train with or observe one of O'Sensei's uchideschi is rare; outside of the dojo, I live on videos and books showing O'Sensei, his students, current Doshu, etc.

For me, the dilution is very real. And I do not refer to what I witness in my own dojo, but, it is there at times as well.

Some might say this: What dilution? What are you talking about? I've seen/felt Donovan Waite's (just an example pulled out of the air from my first post)/Dennis Hooker's/pick your favorite shidoin. No dilution there, as one guy put it. So why worry? Even if there is dilution, maybe I'll be dead before I see it. NOTE: For me, not likely; I've got another good 50 years on this planet before I take the final "breakfall."

First off, my intention was not criticism of their technique; I am no one to criticize technique. And, actually, Waite Sensei's technique, I feel, is almost carbon copy of Yamada's, so maybe a bad example.

My point is, dilution is there. You see the differences. To ignore it... well, would be ignorant. O'Sensei said to make aikido your own, or something to that effect. IMHO, he didn't mean to only look out for aikido in your lifetime. He meant to preserve it for others. But I also feel that he didn't mean we all get carte blanche to branch off "literally and mentally" as we please. He would have never forseen the change in aikido as it exists today. He never would have imagined the change in humanity as it has become today. WW2 was only a taste for him, and enough to prompt him to pursue the spirituality of aikido fervently.

So, what's my point? What is wrong with sticking to tradition, in the strictest sense? Why look forward to see how we can continue to modify aikido to serve our needs? Why not go back to the roots, and stay there/ Will aikido become "stagnant" if we do not make it modern? Japanese, Asian in general, culture remains intact despite deeply rooted values of tradition and reverence for the past. Aikido was nurtured in this framework. What is the fear, what will we lose if this is continued?

IMHO, the dilution will stop.

Once again, sorry about the length. This is VERY important to me, and I don't just want to walk away from aikido for all it has given me.

Sean Moffatt
10-28-2002, 12:03 PM

Unfortunately, there is no one orthodox style of Aikido. Everyone will have there say in what is right and wrong. Even at Hombu, this is true.

What people do is find the instructor they enjoy the best and stick with him or her. I hate to say this, but you are going to run face first in into disappointment. Aikido does not have a standard set in stone for transmission of the art. It exploits the philosophy of Takemusu; spontaneous creation.

What you are demanding and will have difficulty finding is direct transmission of techniques that are set in stone. Those who study the old tradtional styles of Jujitsu and other Koryus study this way. But they preserving an ancient and sometimes outdated art. Aikido is built upon principles which uses techniques to teach those principles. It is somewhat similar to Tai chi and Baqua in that respect.

For now, you should focus on principles no matter how the technique is done. Then later on, find an instructor who mirrors the prinicples you have learned.

If the "Principles of Aikido", to quote a book cover, is forgotten, then Aikido will truely become dilluted.


10-29-2002, 07:35 AM

Reading your long post I was left a little confused: what is it that you see as valuable in a 'blind' adherence to tradition? What, specifically, are you interested in preserving when you seek to preserve the 'ancient' Japanese martial art that Ueshiba invented 50 years ago?

10-29-2002, 12:11 PM
Some would argue that Aikido is a "dilution" of Daito Ryu Aikijutsu.......others would argue that the reverse is true...that Aikido is a distillation of Daito Ryu. Who cares, if you get something out of it. Indeed I find it hard to talk about tradition for a martial entity that is less than half a century old.

Alan Drysdale
10-29-2002, 12:54 PM
I think that one reason we worry about dilution of aikido is that we are getting better at it, individually, and it is not as mysterious to us any more. We've passed the stage where we worry about which foot to put forward, when our sensei did things we didn't understand and could neither immitate not resist, to where we are competent martial artists. Of course, we see that there is more to learn, and we want to keep moving forwards, but now we see what sensei is doing, and sometimes he (or she) makes mistakes.

Not that I disagree with a lot of what Stan Pranin wrote. I just think it is partly our perspective that has changed.


10-29-2002, 12:54 PM
What's wrong with evolution- its human nature (at least here in the West) for people to try and move things forward. Nothing can hold to tradition forever. Everything falls apart in the end. Things that are unable to change get left behind and are of no interest to the next generation. It is to Aikidos credit that it is being evolved. This shows new generations are interested in it and can see its relevance.

I can't think of many things that have stayed the way they always were that are still looked upon are useful and relevant. They are normally thought of as against rational thought and enlightened progress. Examples are fundamentalist religion, creationism, communism and doing reverse punches from the hip while standing in a deep horse stance. You cannot want aikido to come to this.

The important thing for aikido is to maintain the essential ideas that made it good in the first place- centredness, breathing, relaxed power, flow- and adapt them for the current climate in martial arts. In my opinion this should involve more interaction with the martial arts community at large through mixed training and sparring etc, but this doesn't seem a popular idea.


Paul Smith
10-29-2002, 01:52 PM
Eugene, I understand your concerns, and agree with you in that I think our cultural context of individualism has tended to make ownership of true budo difficult in our society. And, unlike Opher, I do not equate "sticking to tradition" with blindness. In fact, I think quite the opposite. I've said it elsewhere, but I think to enter into a student-disciple relationship with eyes wide open is the only way to obtain a direct transmission of the art.


10-30-2002, 08:49 AM

Well, umm, first of all, what does your name mean anyway?

Secondly, and to the point, I do not recall using the word "ancient." As a matter of fact, it was someone's else's reply that used that word, and not even in reference to aikido.

What is the measure that you and other people here use to determine what is old enough to be tradition? Certainly 60 some years cannot qualify as ancient history. But seems quite enough time to be classified as tradition. Of course, this is also an Asian cultural perspective; Asians in general value tradition much more than Westerners. For good reason: compare 200 some years of US history to over 5000 years of Chinese history. Although I don't know the exact number off the top of my head, a couple millenia of European history does not compare either.

Before I can answer why I feel it is important to "blindly" follow tradition, first I need to know why is is blind to do so? Part of the answer I am sure lies simply in different cultural values.

But let us look specifically at aikido. Will anyone here say that aikido has improved or flourished beyond its form left immediately after O'Sensei died? Is aikido getting "better?" Are people getting closer to attaining the level that he did? And when I say people, I mean those quite far removed from O'Sensei. Not his uchideschi. They perhaps are close themselves, but even so, would never admit it, even if they really believe it. Or will you say that aikido has declined? Most replies I have read have implied that evolution, in the negative form, is inevitable. That is human nature, the nature of change, so people have said. I agree. Such is the case with all things humans get their hands on. Other's have implied that aikido IS flourishing. Thus growing in a positive manner? How is this so? because of the "selection" we have now of all the types of aikido to choose from? "Martial" aikido, dance aikido, aikido for self-defence, ki aikido tai-gi's, "new-age" aikido.... Soon won't we see Billy Blanks types of aikido tapes out there? Or is it too late?

This is the dilution. This is not flourishing. Because of our desire to "make it our own", we have separated this budo into too many entities, all missing the point of aikido if not integrated. Case-in-point: you pick your favorite martial art (well, I guess aside from aikido) and tell me how many types there are that exist. Sport, cardio, meditative, exhibition. Same instance, same process, same dilution.

Direct result: lack of martial attitude in practice, lack or deficiency in martial effectiveness, loss or deemphasis in spiritual development, pre-mature so-called "understanding" of ki, argument and bickering as to whose style/system/dojo/affiliation is better.

THIS is why we need to follow tradition. Because, aikido was not meant to change anymore. When O'Sensei died, after he gave us the aikido characterized as "post-war" it was "perfected", changed enough. It was, it is already something that we need to work with and study, NOT study how we can make it characteristic to ourselves. This is tradition. The proof obviously shows what happens when we don't follow it. I am biased, that is evident especially when you all read this: who are we to think we can start modifying this art until we reach the level that we first found it at? Mastered the art? Fine, then you get to start changing it. And face it, mastery of aikido is an unfathomable task to us mere humans. Or maybe herein lies another problem: those people out there that do think they are attaining mastery.

I have not mentioned at all that this is an epidemic only in the US or the West in general. It's happening in Japan too. I would venture, and I may be wrong, but that the severity is less in Japan than in the West, especially the US ("We are colonizers, Pilgrims, forgers of a new path in the America's").

Asia, and Asian culture is not perfect. Following tradition is not perfect. The socioeconomic muck plagueing China plainly shows this. But that is another story, for another forum, another website.

But, WE WERE GIVEN A WORKING MODEL. Not a prototype. It worked, in EVERY aspect. Not everyone could make it work, but the one guy that figured it out made it work. That is why we need to follow tradition. It is not blind, we are blind from our own ambitions.

Sean Moffatt
10-30-2002, 10:04 AM
"THIS is why we need to follow tradition. Because, aikido was not meant to change anymore. When O'Sensei died, after he gave us the aikido characterized as "post-war" it was "perfected", changed enough. It was, it is already something that we need to work with and study, NOT study how we can make it characteristic to ourselves. This is tradition. The proof obviously shows what happens when we don't follow it. I am biased, that is evident especially when you all read this: who are we to think we can start modifying this art until we reach the level that we first found it at? Mastered the art? Fine, then you get to start changing it. And face it, mastery of aikido is an unfathomable task to us mere humans. Or maybe herein lies another problem: those people out there that do think they are attaining mastery."

Be careful what you say here. O'Sensei never defined technique. It was all "Kame-waza", devine technique. He was inspired by God (or whatever invisible man in the sky we ask help from)at the execution of the technique. Then it was forgotten until the next attack. The Aikido we train in today is really the styles of Kishomaru Ueshiba, Osawa, Tohei, Mochizuki, Tomiki, Shioda, Saito, Shirata... all the others who opened up a school in the name of Teaching Aikido. THEY ALL DID IT DIFFERENTLY. THEY ALL HAVE THEIR OWN TRADITIONS. O'Sensei DID NOT set anything in stone. THEY DID! IT IS THERE TRANSLATIONS OF O'SENSEI'S TECHNIQUE. Listening to what O'Sensie said is like reading the Bible; everyone has there own interpretation. Read "Aikido Masters" by Aiki News (Stan Pranin). In each interview, when asked how O'Sensei taught technique, all of O'Sensie's students commented on how difficult it was to make sense of his explanations. He used a lot of spiritual analogies.

O'Sensei Perfected his own Aikido. The Aikido that only he could do. All the others developed there own interpretations.

I'm sorry Eugene. But you are wrong in this respect.


Paul Smith
10-30-2002, 10:38 AM
I think we may all be saying essentially the same thing, but missing the interceptive threads...Sean, all the Shihan you mentioned did indeed create their "own" Aikido, but, to my knowledge, not one of them did so until they had so selflessly and completely pursued the art directly under O'Sensei, that they came up with something, a true creation, only after this period of discipleship. (See the history of Saito Sensei during the Iwama years). Read Chiba Sensei's account of his being in the next room to O'Sensei as his otomo, sensitive enough to know when O'Sensei would waken...

I think this may be ultimately Eugene's point (Eugene, please correct me if I'm wrong). I think what he's responding to, and I happen to agree with him, is that there is a pathway of traditional study - Shu-ha-ri. Ri, the period of one's training when one breaks from one's master to create something unique, an expression of one's "own," comes only after Shu, and ha - stages of so completely emulating one's master (and, again, emptying one's own notion of how things should be)that one's vessel, one's receptor of training, is clean, and can then take anything and make it one's own. This process cannot be circumvented if one is to train in a traditional manner. And I agree with Eugene, if I am reading him right, that this process is the only way to preserve budo via isshin-den-shin, mind transmission, for future generations.


Sean Moffatt
10-30-2002, 12:45 PM
I agree. All those Shihan (and others I did not mention)selflessly trained with O'Sensei, receiving the isshin-den-shin, mind transmission, for future generations. But each one does technique and teaches it differently. Why? Then it is my understanding that Eugene doesn't feel we are sticking to tradition or traditional technique. Well, as I said, what tradtion are we talking about? Post war Aikido had the most variations. Before that, kata was the method of transmission; little to no variations. In order to catalog the technique, the late Doshu systemized Aikido removing the more dangerous techniques. From there we have something that is similar to what everybody trains in today.

In this forum, are we focusing on technical transmission? That has been my interpretation. If that's not it, please forgive my lack of attention.


Paul Smith
10-30-2002, 01:50 PM
Sean, I agree - given one source (O'Sensei), we have seen a plethora of aikido offshoots. Why? My belief is that all of them...and all of us...do the right thing by passing on what they (or we) know of Aikido, after long, personal and arduous study. And this will necessarily result in many flavors; and I don't equate this with dilution, in the way I think Eugene is speaking of, and I think Eugene would agree.

My only beef is that I think it impossible to really know one's Aikido until one has removed the impediments to what Toyoda Sensei used to call the discovery of "your true self." He also used to say, with proper training, it did not matter what one did - everything became an expression of one's own art. And he was adamant about owing one's own Aikido, not forever aping him in empty replication.

But along with urging his students to "make our own Aikido" was our absolute commitment to him and to constantly work the forge, constantly seek to return to the moment - in other words, constantly let go of one's facile notions or surface understanding while pursuing the budo he offered. In other words, paradoxically, in order to eventually own an expression of the art, one first had to commit to ridding oneself of attachment to one's own idea of it; this is the subject of many other threads and literature on the relationship of zen to budo. And, I think he was right...I see it when I see people of budo, such as Chiba Sensei...nothing mystic or veil-glazed eyes, but I see a deeply truthful power and kiai in stillness from these Shihan that cannot come, I truly believe, but by the path they followed.

These Shihan did not talk their way through to an understanding of O'Sensei's Aikido - apparently, this was an impossible feat because, as you say, O'Sensei often lost his students in his religious and philosophical discourses - they simply worked their asses off and eventually their body owned it, their "deep self" owned it, and they created their Aikido.

So, that's my quick (and I hope not flippant) answer as to "one source, many versions." All true, but all began first with direct transmission and absolute commitment to a master.

Sean Moffatt
10-30-2002, 02:03 PM
Thanks for the reply. Well said. And to hear that Toyoda Sensei said that means alot to me. He was a very personable person and I hope the Aikido Association of America are doing well after his passing.


Paul Smith
10-30-2002, 02:36 PM
Thank you, Sean. If I can be so presumptive as to speak for many, his students deeply miss him and continue to train as we believe he would have hoped we would.

Paul Smith

Aikido Shinjinkai


10-30-2002, 06:48 PM
Well, Sean, you do have a good point. The aikido that we practice today is probably that of O’Sensei’s students. Though I do think that many people, including myself, make too much of a distinction between “pre” and “post-war” aikido. I think that all the principles, and most of the movements are the same. You can see this in the films, and in the pictures. Post-war “techniques” are just harder to dissect. For us modern students, this is especially true, because our eyes are not trained nor accustomed to “picking out” the technique of aikido where the transitions are so well hidden. You speak of this divine aikido.

The aikido that exists today is credited to Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Gozo Shioda, Kenji Tomiki, Rinjiro Shirata, Yamada, Chiba, Saotome, and the list goes on. Their aikido is what is recognizable to modern eyes. Moreover, yes, due to different backgrounds, periods of training, and personalities, their styles vary. So far, I completely agree with you. At least I am trying to. So let me modify my stance: O’Sensei DID leave us a working model. However, we may not be perceptive of it, and its details. Technically, definitely not. Spiritually, we sincerely try. In short, we have difficulty with transmission of technique via this model. Ok, so I concede that the models should then be those aforementioned. The modification should stop there then. We will allow this small, initial degree of “dilution” (and I use this word very loosely.) Only because O’Sensei’s post-war aikido, especially in the decade preceding his death, is so esoteric to us. It existed on a spiritual plane, a plane that probably no one alive has yet reached. How about this proposition?

HOWEVER: So far, I see no argument that suffices to justify the degree of dilution that we witness today, or to justify the continuing dilution. JUST BECAUSE O’Sensei’s final stages of aikido departed from the kihon or kata that we normally train by, doesn’t mean that we get to say, “Well, since I can’t recognize it, I’ll reinvent it.” Besides, how arrogant is it for those out there that claim to practice at even a hint of a divine level? You can see this in the demos at the Aiki Expo. People want their aikido to be clean, pretty. O’Sensei’s post-war aikido was extremely “clean” and “pretty.” What is the relationship? That some of those out there are getting close to reaching a divine state of aikido? Part of the problem, to which one of your argument points me towards: O’Sensei’s often long and esoteric lectures that no one could understand. As Paul said, “they simply worked their asses off and eventually their body owned [aikido.]” Our problem: we are too busy trying to cognitively “muscle through” the spiritual aspect instead of just sticking to intensive physical training. We have given ourselves this psychological notion that we’ll figure it all out if we think and talk about it long enough. And this has carried over into how we view our own learning of aikido. Pre-mature, VERY pre-mature tackling of the most advanced aspect of the problem. When we haven’t even finished with the fundamentals. Did his students toil as we do over such issues in aikido that we present repeatedly in these forums? (Well, if they had Internet access, maybe…) In the final analysis, again, this is characteristic of our culture that derives security and knowledge in being an individual and different from everybody else. But I really, really don’t think that aikido can work within this framework and this attitude.

So, what is wrong with sticking to tradition? If you want to classify this as pre-war or post-war, then ok. I don’t think it needs classification. That’s not important. That pre-war aikido contains killing techniques and post-war doesn’t is not important. The message shifted, yes. But the principles, the discipline is the same. We don’t need to go back to the martial extreme of practicing warfare and killing. But, how about following those models we mentioned? That is what is defined as tradition. That is what I mean when I say tradition. And how about a conscious effort NOT to try to envision aikido for ourselves? We are not ready for that. O’Sensei endured years of hard training, meditation, misogi, suffering, and not to mention eye-witnessing a World War unfold in his own backyard before he even envisioned his aikido. How is it that we consider ourselves qualified to do the same?

Unfortunately, my opinion goes public 20 years to late. The uchideschi are getting old; soon they will not be around to be models. Too bad Doshu doesn’t live here in the US. He’d be a great model. I know you agree with me here, Sean.

Well… catch-22. To pose a question against my own arguments: what are we to do now? How exactly and who exactly do we use as models, at least after the last generation of uchideschi pass?

Oh, by the way Sean, you know that I do not mean we do not practice traditional aikido right now. I cannot and will not speak for every single dojo in the entire world. You and I are lucky; we happen to have a sensei that does teach traditional aikido, at least as best as he knows how (I am sure we have Furuya sensei to thank for this!) But the numerous other dojos out there that are not as lucky as we are… they are who I refer to.

Paul, you have read me like a book so far. I am in complete agreement of what you have said. And I agree that our arguments may be overlapping in some areas. Sean, I read Stanley Pranin’s article you recommended. One of the best articles on aikido yet.

By the way, I humbly request for other responses. I would like to hear what everyone thinks, even if they think this issue is all a bunch of cr*p. In which case, just be polite about it.

Sean Moffatt
10-31-2002, 06:45 AM
Ok, ok, fine. Is anyone else getting a migraine? When it is time for me to lead, I will endeavor to bring Aikido back to the correct path (Correct Path? Boy, I'm asking for it there). But until then I'll just train in Aikido and whatever arts I feel will fill any holes.

Eugene, go to Japan, live like a pauper, and train your ass off. Then after years of training, open a school (here in America) and write a book (or make a movie). But until then, less of the talk and more of the walk.

It's my fault to have been sucked into this debate.

By the way, where the hell were you last night, only three other people showed up at Aikido. Judging by the "Last edited by eugene_lo on 10-30-2002 at 08:52 PM

" you had time to at least watch. You don't leave until today.

Remember Sensei's words: "Shutup and train."

Have fun at the Seminar.


Adam Garrison
10-31-2002, 04:10 PM
:p :ai:

I was asked by a good friend of mine to add my own meager comments as they relate to this very complicated discussion. Let me begin by apologizing in advance for anything that I write that may offend or possibly contradict a truth that another aikidoka holds dear. I have been training faithfully for over five years now, and I regret that I am no closer to mastery of aikido than I was when I f fumbled around to tie on my obi for the first time. So with that being said, I will offer a few thoughts that I have had concerning the question at hand: Is aikido becoming diluted?

I believe that quite a bit of excellent discussion has already taken place, and so I will not attempt to refute or support anything that has been previously presented here in this thread, but rather offer up something of my own. I agree with Eugene, that the aikido we practice to day is a distillation of what was once a much more comprehensive budo. As a caveat...let me interject that aikido is what each individual chooses to make it.

Take, for instance, the training at our dojo. Many consider ours a very martial dojo that places great emphasis on traditional training and efficacy of technique...but take a moment to recollect a time when you observed everyone in class performing the techniques differently. Certain individuals (who shall remain nameless) choose to simply do the technique the way that they are comfortable with...right or wrong. Every individual in the dojo witnessed Sensei demonstrating the same irimi-nage, yet you inevitably end up with a dozen variations as the class attempts to duplicate what they THINK they saw happen. What it boils down to is a matter of perception. A student can sit at the feet of the world’s most talented martial artist, and after years of practice glean practically nothing of martial value. How is this?? This phenomenon can be witnessed more often in America given our existing cultural tendencies, conceptions, and misconceptions. We tend to crave instant gratification and demand to be shown "how to do" things...NOW. I show up to class; now teach me aikido! How many times have you heard that the public schools in a particular area are woefully inadequate in their performance with standardized testing? The administration immediately begins to look at the teaching staff and how to improve their methods of instruction and curriculum.

What about the students, I ask???? Is it not their responsibility to learn...to hunger for knowledge? Do they even care about becoming educated at all? I believe that a large part of the responsibility is often not shouldered be those who would wish to learn. We must train to develop and refine our powers of perception in conjunction with the physical and spiritual facets of our training. I have often heard it noted that a truly great teacher forces his/her students to steal the technique from them...intentionally veiling certain crucial elements that proceed revelation & letting a student discover it for themselves.

In summation, the purpose of my rambling here is to say that an exemplary martial artist is not created simply by studying at the feet of a true master. This can certainly contribute to dilution of an art in itself. I am hungry enough, and I love what I have found in aikido enough to not get bothered anymore with the dilution that I have seen & the B.S. that I find so often (the egos, the contradictions, the endless argument over who's way is the "right" way). I simply forge on in my own pursuit to understand all I possibly can through training until I can train no longer.

I agree with Sean that you are certainly bound for additional disappointment as well, Gene, but I challenge you not to let it change what you have burning in your heart. I believe that much of the reason that we do not have something comparable to O-Sensei today is that no one deserves to have attained that level but Morihei Ueshiba. No one else has walked the walk COMPLETELY to understand the things that he just kind of knew. How many of us are prepared to dedicate everything to get there...train in multiple koryus, study swordsmanship, spearmanship, bayonet, & various schools of Ju-jitsu, devote ourselves to Omoto-kyo, perform excruciating exercises in misogi, train three to four times everyday...waking early and going to bed each night drained spiritually, mentally, & physically. Sadly, I am certainly not surprised that no one else can do what O-Sensei could. I pray that one day I will be able to understand some of what he did after a lifetime of training, but I do not expect to ever reach his level. That does not discourage me because I love the art, and I will put together what pieces of the puzzle that I can in the time allowed.

Who knows, Gene, you may be the very one someday who can come back after you find what you are looking for and explain it all to me! Give it your everything though, and if it is your destiny...perhaps you will understand what we have ALL been striving to understand all these years...ever since O-Sensei stopped trying to tell us. Just don't forget your friends at home who will have your back & a place to come home to no matter what. Keep your eyes on the instructors out there that are on fire with the spirit of true budo (you know who they are) - like Doshu, and just KEEP ON TRAINING, my friend. The dilution can continue around us, but we will refuse to let it affect us and what we wish to accomplish through our training...


Adam G.

Tidewater Aikikai / Okinawa Aikikai

10-31-2002, 09:59 PM
This thread doesn't need more long posts, and I'll try to keep mine short, but there are some issues that have banging around in my head for a couple of days and I wanted to share them.

Mostly I want to say that I'm not sure if I really understood what Eugene was trying to explain about the importance of tradition. If I understood him properly (and I'm really not sure I did), then the idea is that O'Sensei created something of intrinsic worth and that we, as AiKiDoka should have a commitment to it because of its intrinsic worth or beauty or completeness. The question of its relevance to each of us as individuals or as a community of aikidoka is secondary.

So, maybe that's not quite right. Maybe Eugene meant more (I'm thinking out loud here) that we will have more to gain from it if we preserve it in its pristine state than if we try to learn take from it what we, individually, are interested in. Leaving Paul Smith's "loss of self at the feet of the master" ideas aside for a second (I'm going to say something about them in a bit), I wonder how we would know or who would assure us that the idealized pristine AiKiDo we can not have access to is any better than the AiKiDo that we learn from and that helps us here and now? All we really have to go on for this is the stories of others, who are imperfect and nostalgic and sentimental and looking for inspiration and flawed in all of the ways that we are.

Maybe AiKiDo at some particular time was perfect, but we'll never kknow. All we have is what we have, and our responsiblity (at least as I understand it) is to get the most out of it to the best of our understanding. This would inevitably involve some ongoing balance between believing what we are told and experimenting and finding out for ourselves. How do we strike that balance? Well, each of us may have a different balance, and even within that some of us will balance the way we are told to balance and others will balance in the way that makes sense to them. Some people choose to become replicas of their senseis as much as possible although the sensei specifically teaches finding your own style. Other people will insist on experimenting despite their sensei's insistence on a well defined and rigorously trained style.

Ultimately, we answer to no one for our training except to ourselves. Nothing gives it value except the value we give it. This is a simple truism. The really interesting thing, Eugene, is what your attitude towards tradition and training says about you, and not what it says about 'what AiKiDoka should do.'
I see a deeply truthful power and kiai in stillness from these Shihan that cannot come, I truly believe, but by the path they followed.I believe that what you see is their, but I (obstinately?) refuse to understand why this needs to be the only true path. Or, maybe we can look at it differently: maybe their path is the only way to become them and to have their particular stilness and kiai. Still, so many of us are not them. So many of the things that they are, that they liked and disliked, that they had difficulty learning and that came easily to them will be different for some people. Is it so hard to believe that these people will, by giving themselves over completely to wherever their path takes them, achieve a stillness and kiai that is at once completely differen and also essentially the same as these people who impressed you so strongly?

Paul Smith
11-01-2002, 06:42 AM
Yes, Opher, from my perspective, it is hard to believe. But ultimately, as Sean has eloquently alluded to above, this discussion is all useless. Like doing 1000 suburi, eventually, no matter what we blather on about, our bodies will tire such that all conjecture will fall by the wayside and we will discover the truth. So, like our masters before us, let's simply "train our asses off." Hard to hold on to much of anything when exhausted.

11-01-2002, 07:41 AM
Just my two cents...

If "technical dilution" is the question, I read in an article somewhere that the 2nd Doshu simplified the aikido curriculum and that weapons training is not as emphasized there. So in terms of quantity of techniques, there is some "dilution" compared to what O-Sensei originally taught.

I don't think however that this has necessarily decreased the value or utility of the art since I still read some posts by people saying that aikido saved their lives in a self-defense situation. I guess the value that some people attach to the original technical curriculum is the same as the value that we (or at least the historians) attach to historical items or places. They preserve it so that they get an idea and appreciation of what it was like then.

One could argue of course that back in the time aiki-jujutsu was first created, some of the techniques we know now were probably not even invented at that time. Or that the sankyo as O-Sensei learned it might not be the same sankyo as it was done hundreds of years ago when the technique was still young. So change or improvements on technique are inevitable.

So the concern would actually be, how much can the techniques be safely mutated without them eventually turning into a mere dance or coordinated stretching exercise. At least in feudal Japan, there was the battlefield to serve as a check and balance to weed out ineffective techniques or ineffective mutations of techniques.

As has been said already, no one can safely answer that question. But it's nice to ponder about it now and then.

02-07-2006, 11:22 AM
All arts have been 'diluted' ever since Bodhidharma went east. The best anyone can hope for is to make their art their own.