View Full Version : The Master Concept-Perception and Reality

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L. Camejo
11-09-2003, 10:30 AM
Hey Folks,

I recently read an interesting story in the book "Aikido and Randori: Reconciliation of two opposing forces" by Scott Allbright regarding an encounter with M. Ueshiba and Hideo Obha (9th Dan).

Apparently Obha was taking ukemi for M. Ueshiba at a demonstration in Manchuria. Obha, having heard the tales of Ueshiba's prowess, regarded Ueshiba as a "true master" (his words) and decided that since this were so, Ueshiba could handle some really full force attacks, from which Obha would have been only too happy to take falls. Holding high dan rank in Judo (as well as a few other budo), the falls were no problem for him I guess.

So Obha proceeded to attack O-Sensei with some really quick, dedicated attacks, providing ample energy to be redirected. It appeared however, that Ueshiba was having some difficulty in controlling and executing his technique as cleanly as he usually did with other Uke.

At the end of the demonstration Obha was surprised to find that Ueshiba was very unpleased at his performance, scolding him with words like "you idiot" (his words) even before they got back to their seats. It appeared that Obha's idea to attack Ueshiba with full force backfired. The reaction to their performance in the demo changed the view Obha had of Ueshiba as a "master" as he mistakenly thought that by coming out in full force against Ueshiba it would have given the old man a chance to really show his stuff as an Aikido master.

Interestingly enough the demo was very very well received, to the point where a renowned practitioner of the naginata came up and personally expressed his pleasure to Ueshiba of seeing techniques executed with such quality.

So what do you think? Personally I love it when I get a reality check.:)


Chuck Clark
11-09-2003, 01:12 PM

This attitude of training with strong attacks that give the tori a problem they have to solve is what we strive for within the Jiyushinkai. Of course this is done with appropriate levels of force, speed, and rhythm for the level of training that is desired. At yondan and above, we often work with full speed/force jabs and punches to the face and body. Kicks of any kind are also welcomed.

11-09-2003, 07:12 PM
So Obha proceeded to attack O-Sensei with some really quick, dedicated attacks, providing ample energy to be redirected. It appeared however, that Ueshiba was having some difficulty in controlling and executing his technique as cleanly as he usually did with other Uke.

really?:confused: , as far as i know once you give everything you got during an attack, its easier for nage to do techniques on uke.

11-09-2003, 07:23 PM
really?:confused: , as far as i know once you give everything you got during an attack, its easier for nage to do techniques on uke.
On paper, I agree to a point. Now factor human behavior (fear, over-confidence, panic, aggressiveness, etc.) and the ink starts to blur.


11-09-2003, 08:27 PM
perhaps you're right, Philip. happens sometimes during my jiyu-waza, actually.

Chris Birke
11-10-2003, 03:48 AM
The best defense against Aikido technique is knowing Aikido technique. If you want to mess someone up, it's not hard. Try throwing feings, then actually commit a kick to the leg and clench for judo...

This doesn't mean Aikido is bad or impractical, it's just reality. If someone is expecting committed attacks of a certain kind, delivering something different will disrupt them.

The theory of good ki goes, you will be ready for any attack because you expect none in particular. Is everyone's expirence always this? Perhaps not. We all have bad days, I suspect, even O Sensei.

On a different note, giving all you have to an attack, and giving all you have are different. If I put all my power behind a punch, I've left behind my brain. I would never throw a single reverse punch to the head and expect a magical knock out (except perhaps my own). In most fights, punches and kicks are only a means of finding distance and studying the footing of my opponent before I clench. If I were to truely use all power against an aikido practicioner, I would throw one fake committed punch and then clench. That's neither here nor there though.

If one truely resists Aikido with a knowledge of grappling, Aikido does not become easier. I've concluded this from testing. Do you disagree? Have others had different expirences?

L. Camejo
11-10-2003, 05:31 AM
Good replies so far.

Chuck, we are presently working with a similar idea, though with attacking options still a bit limited, but we are building to the "any attack" mode, then onto the "any attack with resistance" mode.

Chris, from my experience you are correct. A person who knows Aikido technique or is accustomed to the resistance based practice of Judo randori can easily make things difficult for Aikido techs to be executed. To me, this is the wake up call I get that defines the line between kata and free play.

Personally, this is the cue to raise my level of Aikido to meet the challenge. Which brings me to another question, which is somewhat related to Ueshiba M.'s reaction in the story - Does the compliance-oriented nature of Aikido kata practice alone entice one to get into a mindset where Uke "is obliged" to help us look good by going with technique, thus causing us to not be mentally (sometimes physically) prepared for the fluidity and unexpectedness of some attacks?

Also, had you any of us been in Ohba's (spelling check) place, how would you have felt? I have sometimes seen cases where Uke feel as if they did something wrong when attacking their Sensei honestly and end up "putting them on the spot" so to speak, forcing their Sensei to up the level of their technique.

Rambling thoughts at the moment I guess, but what do you folks think?


11-10-2003, 05:52 AM
Would be nice to know why Ueshiba thought Obha was an idiot. I have found, like others, that more forceful attacks are more easily dealy with. However sometimes the uke really takes a beating if the attacks are very forceful (very hard or sudden drops of really penetrating atemi). Maybe Ueshiba was actually worried about hurting him.

I have no doubt that Ueshiba was a fantastic martial artist and was quite capable of killing most challengers. Whether he could defend himself from everone without damaging them is another question.

Unfortunately the hierarchical structure of martial arts tends to result in good martial artists being given excessive undue praise, and any critics being castigated. Anyone who thinks Ueshiba was not fallible is dellusional (my apologies to John Stevens :-)). Although I think when Ueshiba referred to himself and others as 'unbeatable' he was really referring to the spiritual sense (i.e. understanding that there is no real enemy, and life and death are the same).


11-10-2003, 12:16 PM
Dealing with difficult ukes is a topic of Saotome's Oyo Henka-points of resistance are delt with in a practical manner. You take the energy were it is easiest to go.

11-10-2003, 12:46 PM
I can understand during practice that uke may and should attack with honesty. That is the nature of practice.

But during a demonstation, is it not better to attack honestly but harmoniously? A demonstration is usually done to gather interest.

Chuck Clark
11-10-2003, 01:37 PM
Depends on who the demonstration is for... for instance, a demo for a group of interested beginners should, in my opinion, have a part that "inspires" them and a part that shows them what they can expect in the beginning of practice.

I prefer to demonstrate the best quality I can do during embu. Anything less would be disrespectful to my art, my teachers, and whomever happens to be observing.

The word "harmoniously" is extremely difficult to define. I personally want my uke to be trying to give me a problem to solve so that the waza has very strong katachi.

Esteban Martinez
11-10-2003, 02:32 PM
If this story is true, I can imagine why O Sensei got upset with Oba Sensei's attack. First of all they were at an Aikido demonstration, the purpose was to show Aikido technique to a public, not to show that O Sensei was a master. Demonstrations are perfomed differently that a technique in the real world. You want your expectators to see the dynamic of Aikido, its harmony between uke and nage as well as the whole technique.

Taking ukemi for Toyoda sensei during a demonstration (class or public) was a moment of full awareness and complete blending and understanding of Sensei's technique and energy. Unlike O Sensei, Toyoda Sensei wouldn't call you idiot in that situation, he would instead slap you in the face as he threw you in an iriminage. It was one of his favorite techniques, and it was awesome to experience.

Aikido demonstrations are not coreograhed, but a mutual understanding of nage an uke is a most. That's what I try to develop with the ukes I use to demonstrate.


Lone Swordsman
11-10-2003, 07:39 PM
I have to say, while I'm extremely new to aikido, I prefer it when someone attacks me with full intensity. It shows commitment to the art. Not only that, it helps remind me that in a real fight my reaction could mean the difference between sweating a bit, injury, and/or death.

Yes, the purpose of a demonstration is indeed to show off a particular art, not test the particpants. But in theory a good martial artist can cope with the unexpected.

L. Camejo
11-11-2003, 06:04 AM
Good points.

Honestly though, I don't think that Ohba was trying to "test" O-Sensei per se, but may have been working with the same tenets indicated on this thread. He wanted to give dedicated attacks to make things easier for O-sensei (by providing ample energy) to really show off the Aikido techniques, but this demo was before a lot of very skilled martial artists as well (who would easily detect fake attacks), and so I think Ohba may have gone a little over the edge with the intensity of the attacks. Nothing worse than half-baked attacks in a demo... or training for that matter.

I agree with Chuck, if the attack does not provide a problem for Tori to solve, why even react to it? This is something I experience often with folks from striking arts who have been programmed to pull their punches before impact.

I think Ohba, understanding what would help make the techs look exceptionally good (being both an exceptional striker, breakfaller and aikidoka) tried a bit too hard to make it look too good. I mean, many of us know how a person may go flying into orbit when giving a really committed attack with no resistance. Even with my instructor, during demos I would attack as quickly and powerfully as possible being confident enough in my ukemi ability to take anything that would come my way. The result would be a very beautiful, but realistic looking technique, done at full power.

Ian has a very good point about O-Sensei not wanting to damage his Uke. IT is possible that O-Sensei did not feel confident that Ohba could take ukemi from his techniques at full force.

Alternatively though, is it possible that Ohba overestimated O-Sensei's abilities on this particular day? We are all human, and this was at a time when O-Sensei was getting on in age I think. We all have our bad days.

Good points all around. Relating to Esteban's point on "harmony between uke and nage" - should the skilled Aikidoka not be able to create harmony out of an "unharmonious" attacking uke? Isn't that what Aikido is all about? Having the skill and control to restore harmony out of conflict?

Just some thoughts. What are yours.



11-11-2003, 06:28 AM
It's funny...reading this thread made me think of the disparity between WWF style wrestling and the "no holds barred" type of events involving bjj and mma (and no, I don't want to start a discussion over which is better or more realistic).

On the one end of the spectrum you have a contrived event involving hihgly skilled, technical practitioners with a rehearsed and stipulated outcome. Is there some ad lib going on? sure! but standardized attacks and choreagraphed movements.....just like professional wrestling.

On the other extreme you have a controlled, chaotic event that rewards aggression, a willingness to inflict pain, physical conditioning and endurance....Can one lucky punch/throw/choke provide a victory? sure, but yu still better be prepared before you step into the ring.

Does Anyone else find the two extremes of this continuum interesting?

11-11-2003, 07:47 AM
"A person who knows Aikido technique or is accustomed to the resistance based practice of Judo randori can easily make things difficult for Aikido techs to be executed"

Larry: I worked out with a judo group one time and they had trouble getting past the unbendable arm to throw me unless I let them. They kept telling me to relax-I said I was but why should I let them in my red zone? Just different perspectives (I was pretty green at the time) but I thought there was little point in letting someone throw me without breaking my balance first (i.e., just come in and load me up).

L. Camejo
11-11-2003, 08:36 AM
I agree perfectly John.

I guess when I made the post I was thinking particularly of folks like Ohba who are both highly skilled in Aikido and Judo, so are accustomed to the kuzushi techniques of both systems (and their counters), combined with intimate knowledge of the peculiarities of Aikido techs as well. My bad, will descrie better next time :).

I also train with a Judo group pretty regularly and have the same situation, whenever I use Aikido technique/principles they cannot resist the techinque (this is in resistance based randori though). But this is because they don't understand the workings of the technique yet to nullify it it with proper tai sabaki and resistance imho. Also it depends on who gets the better balance break and how soon.

I have found however, that it is pretty difficult to disrupt the balance of some judoka and get off any technique (Aikido or Judo) if they are in "competition mode" (i.e. adamant not to go down), balance breaking alone is difficult, much less application of waza. This also applies to Aikido competitition (resistance randori) training as well - if you know how to position and keep your balance as an Uke, life for Tori gets rather difficult.

Just a few thoughts.


Esteban Martinez
11-11-2003, 09:47 AM
Relating to Esteban's point on "harmony between uke and nage" - should the skilled Aikidoka not be able to create harmony out of an "unharmonious" attacking uke? Isn't that what Aikido is all about? Having the skill and control to restore harmony out of conflict?

Larry - Definately a skilled aikidoka should be able to control an unharmonious attacker. The story does not say O sensei was not able to do so. He did, but it did not look the way he wanted to show the technique.

11-11-2003, 06:54 PM
yes, it's all about the audience. in demonstration we should look beautiful as the goal is to gather interest, so the cooperation from uke is somewhat important. although i'm a bit disagree of this as fully committed attacks can also be neutralized beautifully. i haven't seen the demo but i think O'sensei was furious because neutralizing Oba's attack might forced him to be 'violent', in which he didn't want to.

Logan Heinrichs
11-12-2003, 01:09 AM
I just got done with a seminar from Yamane Sensei, in which he told us to allow the Uke's energy to show you which technique to perform. Granted, this can't really be done while practicing a specific technique, but in a real situation that is the mindset that you want to have. You can't choose the technique before you recieve the attack. I have given a few small demonstrations, and usually the demonstrator has a number of techniqes that he/she wants to show. If you are being attacked with full force you might need to resort to letting the ukes energy choose the technique in order for any techniqe to work. If osensei wanted to demonstrate certain techniques, it could prove more difficult with too much energy. Perhaps that is why osensei's techniques weren't up to par.

L. Camejo
11-12-2003, 07:49 AM
Reza and Logan - Very good points. Makes perfect sense too.

We also train by allowing the situation to reveal the appropriate technique somewhat. But it makes sense that even though adaptation may bring out a particular technique based on the energy/direction of the attack, it may not be what the demonstrator wants to show on the day.

My only reference for this demo is what I read in the book. I have no personal reference as to its authenticity, but it was an interesting story, and one I had not heard of before, hence the reason I brought it up.

At the same time though, I think its realy a good test of one's mettle and technical ability to be able to adapt to the energy of the technique and still keep things looking pretty. Generally when we do resistance tanto randori things work, but beauty in technique comes off every once in a while. But it gives one a goal to strive for I guess.:)

Alternatively, does not aiki training teach us at some level to be in a position where we are in control before the attack is even launched? I.e. placing Uke in a position where his attack options are limited based on Tori's body positioning, ma ai and subtle movements.

In my experience this is seen often, especially during resistance randori where we may want to set up a particular attack so we can do what works best for us from that situation. Personally I have done this both in Aikido training and sparring against judoka and Tae Kwon Do folks, leading Uke to attack how you want them to in a sense, thereby allowing you to do the technique you want.

I guess its the yin/yang of Aikido again, allowing the attack to tell you how to respond on one hand, and you positioning to invite a particular attack, one that you have already prepared a response for, on the other end of the spectrum.

Any thoughts?


Mark Jakabcsin
11-12-2003, 08:26 AM

I have heard a different version of the story. My source is Jack Mumpower who trained with Oba in the late 50's and early 60's. His source of course was Oba.

Ueshiba hand picked Oba to be his uke on the trip to Manchuria. Oba had been training for serveral years with Tomiki and Ueshiba and was very skilled by this time. As you mentioned Oba was also very skilled in a number of other arts.

Ueshiba wished to demonstrate the harmonious nature of Aikido at this demonstration using large flowing motions. There was a cocktail party prior to the demo. During the party Oba talked with a number of the folks present who were military and police officers. He realized that they wouldn't understand nor appreciate what Ueshiba planned to demonstrate.

Not wanting his teacher to look bad he made the decision to attack harder and more realistic than orginally planned. According to Oba, Ueshiba had zero problem handling any of the attacks. However, due to the nature of the attacks Ueshiba was unable to use the larger flowing type motions he had planned to demonstrate and had to use the smaller, crisper motions he learned from Takeda.

Indeed the demonstration was a big success and folks in attendance were amazed. Yes, Ueshiba was apparently very upset with Oba since he couldn't show what he had wanted. The fact that the demonstration was well received didn't matter, Oba was in the dog house.

I wasn't there, nor did I know Oba or Ueshiba personally so I can't say which version is correct. Enjoy.


Chuck Clark
11-12-2003, 08:47 AM
Hi Mark,

This version of the story is very similar to what I've heard from a couple of people that were close to Ohba Sensei for many years.

It makes lots of sense to me. I suspect that Ueshiba M. was just as upset because a junior made a decision like this on his own.

I sure would like to have seen the demo.

Kensho Furuya
11-12-2003, 09:02 AM
From what I have heard about this episode, it was a very difficult situation for O'Sensei at the time. His audience was mainly military people, of whom many were high ranking Judoists. If O'Sensei demonstrated that Aikido was superior to Judo, he would have made the Judoists present, very proud military people, lose face. Of course, if he showed that Aikido lost, he would have defeated the purpose of trying to promote his art. It was a total no-win situation and this had frustrated O'Sensei very much. In those days, such matters as "face," and "honor" were held so importantly and this created such a delicate situation.

Mark Jakabcsin
11-12-2003, 09:03 AM
Chuck Clark wrote: "I sure would like to have seen the demo."

I have the same wish , I bet it was something else behold. To bad HandyCam's weren't around back then. I bet it would be a rock'n video.

mark j.

L. Camejo
11-12-2003, 10:30 AM
Hey thanks guys, it's very good to have another point of view of the original story. Like I said, all I have as reference is the book paragraph.

That would have been a hell of a demo to witness for sure.

Though I don't get how doing an Aikido demonstration could cause the military Judo guys to lose face. After all, didn't Kano J. himself see Aikido as the "ideal budo, true Judo" and send some of his top people to learn it? I guess though this may be a cultural thing that I don't quite grasp sufficiently as yet.

Just wondering is all.


Kensho Furuya
11-13-2003, 10:14 AM
Hello again! Please think in terms of history. Life in Japan around the turn of the century and in the 1920-30's is very much different than today. Even in the last 20 years it is almost unimaginable how much Japan has changed. In those days, when O'Sensei was young, life in Japan was very poor and tough. Although entering a new, so-called "modern" age for those times, Japan was still much in the feudal ages in thinking and in social customs. The Japanese army, very new then, was ultra right-wing and extremely conservative. Although the Japanese navy consisted of men who were very well-educated and from good families, the army gathered lesser educated people which caused many problems. . . . .

The martial arts world at that time was extremely tough and very difficult to get into and those who excelled were few and far between. O'Sensei, as an individual in that period, was an exceptional genius and very rare - I think he had an incredibly tough time trying to introduce such a "new" art into such a conservative and rigid society of those days. Of course, Kano Jigoro's acceptance of Aikido only shows him as an extremely well-educated and exceptional person as well. Please remember that Kano Sensei was a professor of physical (education) sciences at the first Western-style university ever established in Japan and a political stateman as well. Open-minded and innovative individuals such as Kano Sensei of Judo and O'Sensei were quite exceptional. Kano Sensei experienced the same kind of resentment and discrimination when he first tried to introduce Judo into the martial arts world of the day, perhaps he understood O'Sensei's position as well and sympathized with him and his situation.

As a personal footnote, when I was in Iwama training, I was also helping to clean-up O'Sensei's house-dojo and the Aiki-Shrine. This was shortly after O'Sensei's passing and the dojo had been unattended for a long while. During this clean-up, deep in one of the spaces under the kami-dana, I found two large stacks of letters tied very neatly with string. I imagine that each stack must have contained about fifty letters each. By how neatly they had been stacked and tied, I knew that they must have been very important to O'Sensei. When I glanced at the address, I realized that they were from Kano Sensei to O'Sensei and obviously, they had been communicating with each quite extensively. I immediately showed and handed them over to 2nd Doshu and that was the last I have ever seen of them. I always thought that they might be published someday but I have yet to see them yet. . . . . . . . . Just something I happened to remember just now. . . . . .

Chuck Clark
11-13-2003, 04:12 PM
After all, didn't Kano J. himself see Aikido as the "ideal budo, true Judo" and send some of his top people to learn it?

The Japanese language doesn't use the article "the". Kano probably said something more like, "this is ideal budo, true judo", not words to the effect, as many people think, that he said it was THE IDEAL BUDO, THE TRUE JUDO. Lots of difference in a little word like "the".

L. Camejo
11-14-2003, 05:52 AM
My apologies Chuck for the use of the word "the". I should know better actually:). Lack of verbal practice in nihon-go can have its ill effects sometimes. You are quite correct.

Furuya-san, your post was very very informative and has served to place another important point of view on the situation, an insight that may not be readily gleaned from reading the initial story in a book. I thank you greatly for your replies and willingness to share your personal experiences as well.

Domo Arigato Gozaimashita


Kensho Furuya
11-14-2003, 05:59 AM
Many thanks for your kind words. Just an old student of Aikido who, after many years, has gathered a lot of dust.