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kironin
05-06-2005, 10:02 AM
Well, Ellis's latest blog on Aikido Journal burned some bridges for me. :grr:

So when I cool off in a few days...

Austin is a good option too.

Dennis Hooker
05-06-2005, 01:45 PM
Well, Ellis's latest blog on Aikido Journal burned some bridges for me. :grr:

So when I cool off in a few days...

Austin is a good option too.


Craig, why are you upset? We all use the tools we have to try and understand and grow. I think Ellis is exploring his roots and expanding his understanding of the underpinnings of Aikido. He is doing it in an open forum and before God and everybody. That takes courage and there is nowhere to hide when you hang it all out there for the world to see. He is in a much better position to understand the original texts than may of us so he is sharing. I wish I could get my friend Francis Takahashi to interrupt some of O-Sensei's works and perhaps some of the Second Doshu's works as well. He was close to them, but he will just set back and smile that disarming smile of his and know he knows stuff we will never know. Hay, HAY he would be a good one for a Friendship Seminar. Ain't a friendlier guy around.

Ellis Amdur
05-06-2005, 02:06 PM
Dennis - thank you very much for your support. As I've gotten some personal emails from members of the Ki Society, I think what Craig is upset about is the statement at the beginning of my first essay.
I wrote: "When Tohei Koichi derisively comments on Ueshiba's explanations of aikido, saying that all he learned from O-Sensei was the concept of relaxation, but otherwise scorns Ueshibas statements as incoherent gibberish, is it possible that, although Tohei allegedly became a master at relaxing his body in martial arts training exercises, he simply did not understand that Ueshiba was using HIS relaxed body to accomplish very different aims?"
I based my statement on Tohei Koichi's own in his interview with Aikido Journal. As follows:
"became his student with the intention of learning that from him. To be honest, I never really listened to most of the other things he said."

"For my part, I have never had divine beings enter my body. I've never put much stock in that kind of illogical explanation."

"He was jealous and told people not to listen to me."

"I never paid as much attention to what Sensei said as to what he did. You could ask him all the questions you wanted and never understand his answers. He would just show you and say something to the effect of "It's done like this."  

"Actually, in that sense, Ueshiba Sensei was not able to control his own mind; he would easily lose his temper or start saying completely nonsensical things. He had something to say, but could not express it without falling back on the Omoto religion. In this sense, I think it is pointless to imitate Ueshiba Sensei's inability to control his own mind."

"The only thing of true value he taught was how to relax."

"The problem is, if you start talking about "divine techniques" or perfection, you can't discuss it in any rational way. You end up, as Ueshiba Sensei did, talking about all the gods of Heaven and Earth turning into purple smoke and entering completely into the hara (lower abdomen), or about teleportation, or about becoming a golden Buddha.
If you want to see a "golden Buddha," just go to rural Japan. That's what they call people there who accidentally fall into the outhouse after having one too many, (laughs)
The art of relaxing is itself a great enough gift to leave to the world, and there is no need to go talking about divine techniques or perfection or anything like that."

Let me be clear. I'm not questioning Tohei Koichi's technique. I'm not questioning the path he took. But I am saying this. He is an exemplar of the way most of the aikido world has dealt with Ueshiba Morihei. Tohei saw what he wanted to see, what was useful to him, and/or inspired him, and dismissed the rest as irrelevant or incomprehensible. And he made his own way.

I well appreciate standing up for one's teacher. But that also requires one stands up and faces what one's teacher says and does. What little reputation I have has been in doing just that. If that makes me unsuitable to teach in certain venue, I'm honestly quite at ease with that.

With respect

Ellis Amdur

Chuck Clark
05-06-2005, 03:03 PM
It takes a courageous person to follow their own perceptions and say out loud for all to hear that "the Emperor has no clothes on...".

It is equally courageous to then be continually open to new experience and be willing to change and voice your new understanding.

Thanks for your continuing courage and open heart, Ellis.

Best Regards,

kironin
05-06-2005, 03:26 PM
Let me be clear. I'm not questioning Tohei Koichi's technique. I'm not questioning the path he took. But I am saying this. He is an exemplar of the way most of the aikido world has dealt with Ueshiba Morihei. Tohei saw what he wanted to see, what was useful to him, and/or inspired him, and dismissed the rest as irrelevant or incomprehensible. And he made his own way.
...
With respect
Ellis Amdur

Yes, you pretty much hit it on the head. I didn't think you were questioning his technique, but you did come off as pretty arrogant to characterize their 30 year relationship and what Tohei Sensei did or did not understand in that way based on one interview. I read those interviews when they came out and I also read the letters sent in to AJ bashing Tohei Sensei afterwards. I don't think you first paragraph is a fair statement nor does what Stanely Pranin chose to print really portray a complete picture. You just sounded like another basher who misses the point that to Tohei Sensei, how to relax was a very, very big thing.

I could forgive all that, but then the rest of your blog pretty much proved Tohei Sensei right. In trying to explain Ueshiba Sensei thoughts on Aikido you pretty much proved what an illogical mess his writings were rather than shedding any actual light.

After reading what you wrote, I would say this quote still holds to be very true...

"The problem is, if you start talking about "divine techniques" or perfection, you can't discuss it in any rational way. You end up, as Ueshiba Sensei did, talking about all the gods of Heaven and Earth turning into purple smoke and entering completely into the hara (lower abdomen), or about teleportation, or about becoming a golden Buddha.
If you want to see a "golden Buddha," just go to rural Japan. That's what they call people there who accidentally fall into the outhouse after having one too many, (laughs)
The art of relaxing is itself a great enough gift to leave to the world, and there is no need to go talking about divine techniques or perfection or anything like that."



like I said, I will cool off in a few days about it.

kironin
05-06-2005, 03:40 PM
Hay, HAY he would be a good one for a Friendship Seminar. Ain't a friendlier guy around.

Hey both you guys can be irritating in your own ways. :D
I find some of what Tohei Sensei does or Ueshiba Sensei did irritating too.

I know I am a source of irritation to some people too.

I can separate that out from having respect for someone or listening to them when they are making sense.

That blog is all the more frustrating because Ellis has produced some really great stuff in the past. I suppose that's the nature of blog as opposed to a published book.

kironin
05-06-2005, 03:56 PM
It takes a courageous person to follow their own perceptions and say out loud for all to hear that "the Emperor has no clothes on...".


I am sorry I don't see the courage involved.

What does he possibly have to fear ?

-a few disgruntled Ki Society people sending him private emails?

-the usual readers of AJ where many in the past and currently go to voice all the things wrong with Aikido ?

-Stanely Pranin shutting down his blog ?

Ellis Amdur
05-06-2005, 05:54 PM
Craig - I don't know if anything will be served by continuing, but I'm struck by this. You state that I'm arrogant to hold a man, Tohei, to his words. This makes me a basher. Then you say I missed that point that to Tohei, "how to relax was a very, very big thing," when I state that he was "allegedly a master of relaxation." You say you could forgive me, but that my blog "proved Tohei sensei right," because my commentary proved "what an illogical mess his writings were rather than shedding any actual light." So if I have this straight, you are upset that I point out that Tohei spoke derisively regarding Osensei, and that he did not regard as important what Ueshiba said was, for him, of abiding importance, and that you, upon reading the blog, agree with Tohei that it was "an illogical mess," and you conclude by endorsing the most derisive of Tohei's quotes where he likens Ueshiba's claims of an enlightenment experience to drunks falling in the toilet.

Tohei can say whatever he likes. He may be right. I certainly never said I believed Ueshiba's view of the cosmos. Rather, as the creator of aikido it just might be possibly important to take him at his word of what aikido was to him. Otherwise, trying to figure out such things as why he selected the few techniques he did from the vast corpus of Daito-ryu, what he actually meant when he refered to aikido as love, what he himself meant when he talked about aikido as a manifestation of the sword, make little sense at all.

At this point, if you or anyone else has any further disagreement with me, I would invite either private emails, or request that Jun split this off into a new thread if people really think this is important enough to continue. The real concern of this particular thread was the Friendship Seminar.

Ellis Amdur

Chuck Clark
05-06-2005, 06:14 PM
I am sorry I don't see the courage involved.

What does he possibly have to fear ?

Actually, I had Tohei in mind when I wrote that sentence.

Ellis certainly has nothing to fear from what he writes as far as I'm concerned.

My statements were general in nature about anyone that has the courage to say things that they know will not please everyone and "win in the polls".

I think Ellis is right; this thread should be about the proposed seminar.

Dennis Hooker
05-09-2005, 06:57 AM
Actually, I had Tohei in mind when I wrote that sentence.

I think Ellis is right; this thread should be about the proposed seminar.


OK; suppose there is a seminar and suppose we three are ask to teach (by no means a forgone conclusion or even a necessity) and suppose the seminar is held in the Great Republic of Texas, do I need a passport? Do they have cold American beer? Is it true they only have one tree in Texas? Can I have lunch at a ranch I know about in Crawford Texas? Even though they don't got trees I understand they got Bushes.

Dennis

rob_liberti
05-09-2005, 07:40 PM
Interviews are difficult. If he wrote that as a thoughtful response to a written question I have a feeling that some of the sentences might have been edited.

For instance, doesn't it seem like the important aspect of this sentence:"The only thing of true value he taught was how to relax" could have been expressed like: "The only thing of true value I learned from him was how to relax." I assume that some people (at minimum the people who value the Omoto religion) wouldn't be offended that way.

And maybe: "The art of relaxing is itself a great enough gift to leave to the world, and there is no need to go talking about divine techniques or perfection or anything like that" could have been expressed as:"The art of relaxing is itself a great enough gift to leave to the world."

But it was an interview. If it also seemed to indicate some resentment, well that's a part of history too. I resent when my teacher picks on me sometimes. I also love him for it and try much harder than I would have if he choose to ruin me with praise.

Anyway, I hope that doesn't burn bridges with excellent aikido people like Craig, but I call them like I see them. I didn't read Ellis's blog, but I get the idea that that is a part of history too, and we should probably try to figure out how to accept it too.

Rob

Fred26
05-10-2005, 02:56 AM
This year it will be 65 years since Koichi Tohei started training aikido. He signed on after a failed attemp by him to try and grab Ueshiba on the dojo-mat using his Judo techniques. 65 years of aikido and ki until his retirement from the aikido part in the early 1990's. (if I remember correctly that is)

In my mind there is an essence to aikido which I can understand and relate to and that is balance, harmony and the power of ki. All of this requires relaxation of the body and mind, something which I strive for and is one of the reasons I started aikido to begin with. Koichi Tohei has spent more than 65 years trying to understand and cultivate harmony, balance and above all: ki.

I honestly don't know anything about Ueshibas mystical ideas, methods or rehtoric besides the few video-clips with interviews I've seen. I know some people literary believe God (or whoever) spoke through him and worship him like a prophet. As I prolly have said before in an earlier topic: these kinds of thoughts and ideas make me very nervous. Lets be serious: If the entire worlds aikido dojos would introduce mandatory studies of Ueshibas texts, how many would understand them if even the students directly under Ueshiba barely, if at all, understood what Ueshiba said? And above all: how many new students would remain?

This "art of relaxtion" is for me truly valueble, and I don't think I'm alone in this opinion regardless if you belong to aikikai, Iwama Ryu or ki-aikido. One look at the world today with all it's demands, troubles and stress will confirm that belif.

And if I had to choose between trying to spend my aikido lessons and free time trying to interpret the various texts and statments of Ueshiba, or cultivating ki, harmony and balance using both Koichi Tohei's aikido and his regular ki-excercises, I would choose Tohei without a hesitation. (Or in the case of Sweden: Kenjiro Yoshigasaki's methods.) Does this make me a disrespectful man? a heathen, heretic, apostate or does it make me a practical man? I didn't join a religion when I started training aikido, I joined a martial art with defenition on ki, harmony and balance. How many trainees today sign up for a religion rather than a martial art that will benefit your health, harmony and balance? All of which I believe is an excellent foundation for tolerance, love and compassion.

If I didn't believe in aikidos potential for personal growth and health, I would never have remained (I do believe I have touched the essence of these three during my training sessions eventhough I'm still a newbie). Instead I would have joined the local karate club and done Tai Chi in my free time (no disrespect towards karate though). I somehow get the impression that this is how Tohei reasons too.

He could have quit aikido anytime during these 65 years and returned to his various Zen excercises he performed before he joined, (misogi, zen-meditation and so on), and return to his judo studies. And yet he didn't. 65 years later he still hasn't.Yes he had issues with Ueshiba, but it seems to be that he wasn't the only student who had one.

As a conclusion: I honestly don't believe that a man who has no respect for aikido or Ueshiba and who is "clueless" of the spirit of aikido and ki, (like some people would like to believe), would spend all those decades promoting both aikido and ki throughout the world even when Ueshiba himself was doubting to go overseas with his knowledge.

tedehara
06-24-2005, 06:29 AM
Here is a concise description by Koichi Tohei as to what he learned from the founder. This is taken from an interview with William Reed on May 19, 2000. Reed is a member of the Ki Society and the interview was done in Japanese. He translated the interview and received K. Tohei's approval on the translation.

This information is posted to allow people to decide for themselves, what K. Tohei's position on the founder's teaching is.
...I studied Aikido from Morihei Ueshiba, here again doing everything first and questioning later. Ueshiba Sensei was a master of Ki, as well as the founder of Aikido. However he was also a devoted follower of the Omotokyo Religion, and this influenced the way he taught Aikido. Often it was impossible to make any sense of his esoteric explanations. I rigorously trained in all of the exercises he had us do, though many came from the Omotokyo Religion, and made no sense to us. For example, we were expected to recite the alphabet in a different order. Rather than saying the vowels of Japanese as ''AIUEO'' we were made to repeat them over and over as ''AOUEI,'' as if this new sequence had a deeper meaning. He would tell us that we should become one with the Ki of Heaven, but not how we were to do this. You could learn much more by watching him do Aikido than you could by listening to him explain it. The one essential thing I learned from Ueshiba Sensei was how to relax. He was always relaxed in the face of conflict, which is why his Aikido was so strong. He would do this himself, but he encouraged his young students to hold with as much strength as possible. In Aikido if you are not relaxed you cannot throw a person. It seemed a mystery to us that Ueshiba Sensei could always throw, could always get out of a hold. He would lead your Ki, and could always throw his opponent in the direction he was already going. I began to make rapid progress after I started copying what he did, and paid less attention to what he said. I ended up only keeping about 30% of the techniques I learned from Ueshiba Sensei, changing or dropping the rest. What I really learned from him was not technique, but the true secret of Aikido, non-dissension; not to resist your opponent's strength but to use it...
You can read the full interview here (http://www.b-smart.net/archive/tohei_intvw.html).

Rupert Atkinson
06-24-2005, 07:21 AM
That interview says more or less the same drift, except that he is being a little more diplomatic about it. Tohei is simply being honest - he never understood a word Ueshiba said, and probably neither did many others. I don't think you have to much more into it than that. Do what Tohei did, watch your teacher and learn :)

tedehara
06-24-2005, 08:27 AM
It's not only K. Tohei, but it seems everyone, didn't understand the founder's explanations. You can read about Nonaka Sensei's attempt to translate the founder's Japanese here (http://www.furyu.com/archives/issue4/nonaka.html).

MikeE
06-24-2005, 08:28 AM
I think Tohei Sensei should be held to his words but, the context should be explored. As we all know, family feuds are exceptionally enduring in Japanese culture. I'm sure somewhere in the back to Tohei Sensei's mind there is still a pang of *insert here*- guilt, anger, etc. concerning his separation from the Aikikai, Ueshiba family and relationship with the 2nd Doshu. This could easily flavor his responses.

To this day, Tohei Sensei has no picture at Hombu, and no Ki Society dojo I have attended has a picture of O'Sensei. Both of which I think are a travesty to the art, and about as petty as it gets.. Last week at a seminar I met a guy that trained at Hombu for a few years, when he learned that I left the Aikikai in lieu of a Tohei lineage instructor, he went out of his way to be derisive. This attitude, I would have to believe, was not instilled into him by his own but probably came downhill.

In short, I think the higher ups that preach O'Sensei's "way to reconcile the world" should quit playing lip service, and truly do it.

Ellis, keep up the good work. Piss some people off. See if they can at least see where you are coming from....which I guess would be the first step to reconciliation. :)

Jonathan
06-24-2005, 08:52 AM
It is one thing to say, "I don't understand you." It's quite another to say, "You're talking gibberish." K. Tohei Sensei goes beyond merely "being honest" about his own lack of understanding of O-Sensei's teachings to flatly criticizing them as nonsense and the result of an uncontrolled mind. He is not content simply to admit his own inability to understand O-Sensei, but must show that the reason for this lack of understanding lies, not with him, but with the failings of his teacher. Why does Tohei Sensei think it is appropriate to denigrate his Aikido teacher so? I can't read his mind, so I can't say unequivocally, but the impression he leaves is that he denigrates his teacher in order to elevate himself. Ironically, the effect of criticizing his teacher so unpleasantly and publicly serves not to inflate him in my thinking, but the opposite.

rob_liberti
06-24-2005, 09:03 AM
My take was that he honestly thought O-sensei was nuts. -Rob

rob_liberti
06-24-2005, 09:22 AM
Ted,

I read that article, and it also says:

And although he claims to not understanding the gist of O-sensei's talks, Nonaka was privy to a private lesson and some individual conversations with the elder Ueshiba that opened his eyes to the spiritual aspect of aikido. Between Tohei's clear concepts and Ueshiba's cryptic sayings, Nonaka realized that aikido went beyond mere physical throwing and pinning people.

Once, O-sensei visited Nonaka's home in 1960 and wandered through the orchid garden. It reminded him of his former home in Hokkaido, he said, and then, reflective, he told Nonaka, "Life is like a flowing river. Human beings are in the river. Some are going with the current. Some people swim nicely and others are struggling. He (Ueshiba) would like to help the struggling people, but won't jump into to river. He stays on the river bank and throws in ropes and runs up and down the river (to see if there's a waterfall up ahead). If he's in the water with them, he might get caught and can't see the waterfall. At that time, I didn't understand it," Nonaka says. Gradually, however, he feels he is beginning to comprehend O-sensei's symbolisms.

Chris Li
06-24-2005, 11:08 AM
My take was that he honestly thought O-sensei was nuts. -Rob

Mine too, and that's from other writings by Koichi Tohei in Japanese as well.

Now, if you accept the assumption that Morihei Ueshiba was not "nuts", then it would be logical to assume that Tohei misunderstood some or all of what was going on in his mind. I don't think that there's anything particularly offensive about that - certainly no more offensive than the implication by Tohei that Ueshiba was playing with less then a full deck.

Best,

Chris

tedehara
06-24-2005, 11:52 AM
Ted,

I read that article, and it also says:

And although he claims to not understanding the gist of O-sensei's talks, Nonaka was privy to a private lesson and some individual conversations with the elder Ueshiba that opened his eyes to the spiritual aspect of aikido. Between Tohei's clear concepts and Ueshiba's cryptic sayings, Nonaka realized that aikido went beyond mere physical throwing and pinning people.

Once, O-sensei visited Nonaka's home in 1960 and wandered through the orchid garden. It reminded him of his former home in Hokkaido, he said, and then, reflective, he told Nonaka, "Life is like a flowing river. Human beings are in the river. Some are going with the current. Some people swim nicely and others are struggling. He (Ueshiba) would like to help the struggling people, but won't jump into to river. He stays on the river bank and throws in ropes and runs up and down the river (to see if there's a waterfall up ahead). If he's in the water with them, he might get caught and can't see the waterfall. At that time, I didn't understand it," Nonaka says. Gradually, however, he feels he is beginning to comprehend O-sensei's symbolisms.If you read the article you will also recognize this:
...The story gets even funnier. When O-sensei returned to Japan, he called all of his top-ranking deshi (students) together. They thought he would be in a good mood. After all, he had just returned from a very eventful trip to Hawaii, a successful trip that O-sensei made to United States soil. But what they got was a dressing-down.

"What's the matter with all of you?" O-sensei stormed. "You never understand what jiji (the old man; an informal term O-sensei used for himself) is saying. But Nonaka-san in Hawaii understood everything clearly!"...I am sure his inability to communicate with his top-ranking students was a source of constant frustration for the founder.

rob_liberti
06-24-2005, 12:02 PM
Okay, but honestly, that's why I wrote "it also says:" as opposed to you are totally wrong which I wasn't trying to express.

I took engineering in school, and *almost* no one got what some of our professors were talking about either. Some of the people who didn't get what was being talking about in one class or another went on to be pretty good engineers. I'm not convinced that makes the teachers bad (but maybe they were a bit crazy).

Rob

Don_Modesto
06-24-2005, 05:32 PM
....Why does Tohei Sensei think it is appropriate to denigrate his Aikido teacher so?

Frankness?

It's SO politically incorrect to criticize powers that be in aikido that some--reasonably enough--have asked if aikido is a cult. Being an outsider no longer beholden to the main organization gives Tohei a freedom of expression denied others still dependant on Honbu for "grace". If that criticism is severe, maybe it needs to be.

Lan Powers
06-24-2005, 05:39 PM
That interview says more or less the same drift, except that he is being a little more diplomatic about it. Tohei is simply being honest - he never understood a word Ueshiba said, and probably neither did many others. I don't think you have to much more into it than that. Do what Tohei did, watch your teacher and learn :)

The doka's are tough for me.
I, frankly, have little use for them since I fail to comprehend the meanings. (My fault, the authors, the interpretors, who knows? )
The concept of benevelant interaction with others (even the violent)
is where the values lie. Rupert said it so very well.
FWIW
Lan

Jonathan
06-24-2005, 08:08 PM
Frankness?

It's SO politically incorrect to criticize powers that be in aikido that some--reasonably enough--have asked if aikido is a cult. Being an outsider no longer beholden to the main organization gives Tohei a freedom of expression denied others still dependant on Honbu for "grace". If that criticism is severe, maybe it needs to be.

It is being frank to say, "I don't understand his teachings." But what Tohei Sensei has said about O-Sensei is more than frank -- it's obnoxious.

I don't have a problem with Tohei Sensei disagreeing with O-Sensei's teaching methods. It is rather over the top, though, to state that O-Sensei's teaching was complete nonsense and the product of an uncontrolled mind. This isn't criticism of a method, but is an unnecessary personal attack on O-Sensei and as such reflects badly on Tohei Sensei (IMO).

Mike Sigman
06-24-2005, 09:51 PM
If you read the article you will also recognize this: (snip) Worse yet is this that has a lot to do with the concept of "paths" and the old idea that "ki does not go through bent joints": "What Tohei was trying to teach was the principal of ki. Ki is like a radio beam, you can direct it," Nonaka says. "Therefore, Tohei sensei's teachings is the waza from Ueshiba O-sensei and the mind part form Tempu. He put it together."

In properly executing aikido movements, you should be creating the ki no nagare, the "flow of ki," which Tohei explained to Nonaka was "Like a river, the flow of water. So there is no sharp angle in the river. It makes a nice curve. So we train not to cut the ki." ;)

Mike

wxyzabc
06-24-2005, 11:21 PM
mmm to be honest after reading this I have to say that I have a lot of admiration for Tohei...sure he said things people dont like but at least he`s being true to himself and saying what he thinks....something that is very rare in modern Japan. People question little things like why he doesn`t have a photo in the dojo?...why should he if as he says he took 30% of what was useful and then reinvented the rest?...do we demand that someone like Bruce Lee should have paid homage to every master of an art he extracted his techniques from? should every variation of Karate be called something else?

To invent something like Aikido is not to become it`s sole owner...indeed he would not have looked kindly upon people lke Nishio Sensei who went on to adapt his own techniques...surely something that must have been apparent at the time of instruction/training. Likewise Tohei would not have been awarded the highest level of 10th dan..this in itself say far more than any pulled apart analysis of a relationship in a culture very few people know much about. Indeed to award 10th dan was saying that Tohei was infact higher than himself imho...or at least achieved some degree of perfection...

True it "seems" somethings being said by Tohei are disresepectful...and perhaps they are... but as someone who was there, he has more authority than any of us in giving an accurate reflection on the past...all be it perhaps a little on sided...but who`s perfect? we seek to critisize and put the microscope on the words of everyone we deem to be in the "spotlight" we ingnore the good and focus on the negative..I have to question what single benefit we derive from doing this?

Don_Modesto
06-25-2005, 03:25 PM
It is being frank to say, "I don't understand his teachings." But what Tohei Sensei has said about O-Sensei is more than frank -- it's obnoxious.

I don't have a problem with Tohei Sensei disagreeing with O-Sensei's teaching methods. It is rather over the top, though, to state that O-Sensei's teaching was complete nonsense and the product of an uncontrolled mind. This isn't criticism of a method, but is an unnecessary personal attack on O-Sensei and as such reflects badly on Tohei Sensei (IMO).

If no one could understand him, what was he doing? Pretty self-indulgent having an in-joke that only HE understands. Frankly, I'd guess that a good case CAN be made for much of Osensei's teaching being nonsense. Why is it offensive to have someone say this?

People embracing Osensei's politics got executed in the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal; he was to the right of Attila the Hun. Does he get off scott-free on this in our estimation? Christopher Hitchens marvels at how gullible we are with religious leaders, e.g. Mother Theresa was a friend of brutal fascist dictators who had to escape their own people when they fell from power. He points out that we do things backwards--we judge our hero's actions by their reputations and not the other way around. It has been decided for us a priori that Osensei is some sort of unassailable saint and we take offense at someone who offers vigorous first-hand testimony contradicting the stereotype. Unhealthy, that. As you can see, I think we need more people speaking as honestly as Tohei, not fewer.

Drew Scott
06-25-2005, 04:51 PM
If no one could understand him, what was he doing? Pretty self-indulgent having an in-joke that only HE understands. Frankly, I'd guess that a good case CAN be made for much of Osensei's teaching being nonsense. Why is it offensive to have someone say this?


doesn't offend me, but I also know that understanding a thing and teaching it are vastly different things. it's possible he understood a great many complex things but was just crap as a teacher. the idea that what he taught was percieved as "nonsense" by many of his students could indicate a number of things, only one of which is that he was just spouting nonsense.


People embracing Osensei's politics got executed in the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal; he was to the right of Attila the Hun. Does he get off scott-free on this in our estimation?


This is very interesting information. In what way was he "to the right of Attila the Hun"? I'd be grateful for a link or reference to your sources, as I'd like to read about this for myself.

Christopher Hitchens marvels at how gullible we are with religious leaders, e.g. Mother Theresa was a friend of brutal fascist dictators who had to escape their own people when they fell from power. He points out that we do things backwards--we judge our hero's actions by their reputations and not the other way around. It has been decided for us a priori that Osensei is some sort of unassailable saint and we take offense at someone who offers vigorous first-hand testimony contradicting the stereotype. Unhealthy, that. As you can see, I think we need more people speaking as honestly as Tohei, not fewer.

I'm happy to take Tohei at his (hopefully correctly quoted) words, and trust that he was expressing his honest "opinion". But opinions are highly subjective. Many of Ueshiba's students have said in one way or another that a lot of what he said was obscure, but opinions seem to vary on the value of those teachings. Besides, an awful lot of "saints", if I recall correctly from various college courses, were rather obscure, anti-social, and bordering on just plain nuts, so I don't see that much of a contradiction. :-)

Speaking just for myself, I find dissenting voices very helpful. Without conflict, there'd really be no need for aikido, which I happen to enjoy!

Regards,
Drew

Don_Modesto
06-26-2005, 04:27 PM
....understanding a thing and teaching it are vastly different things. it's possible he understood a great many complex things but was just crap as a teacher. the idea that what he taught was percieved as "nonsense" by many of his students could indicate a number of things, only one of which is that he was just spouting nonsense.Well put.

Tis is very interesting information. In what way was he "to the right of Attila the Hun"? I'd be grateful for a link or reference to your sources, as I'd like to read about this for myself.A man after my own heart:

Budo Training in Aikido by Morihei Ueshiba (the founder of aikido ) $13.97.

Historical counterpoint to people like Stevens for whom the founder was an unblemished avatar of peace. This book has the founder waxing patriotic in the militarist 30's --"This 'way' realizes the genuiness of the Imperial Way.... The main purpose [of Bu, then] is to enhance the prestige of the Empire & to bring to light the whole nation." Intelligent translator's notes.

Dueling with O-sensei: Grappling with the Myth of the Warrior Sage By Ellis Amdur. $20.00 (http://www.ellisamdur.com/DuelingwithOsensei.htm)

This book is an unapologetically critical look at the contradiction & warts of aikido & the implication of aikido for our lives. Sine qua non for the independent thinker. The author is a counselor for kids at risk. See especially the essay with a title something like, "Head in the clouds, feet in the muck" for Ueshiba's unsavory associations.

Touching the Absolute: Aikido vs. Religion and Philosophy by Peter Goldsbury. (http://aikidojournal.com/article.php?articleID=2)

A rigorous no-nonsense examination of aikido by a philosophy professor (Hiroshima University) and aikido 6 DAN.

The Socio-Political Background Of The 1921 And 1935 Omoto Suppressions In Japan, By Thomas Peter Nadolski. I got and read it through ILL. but you can also purchase it at http://wwwlib.umi.com/dxweb/results for $36, order number 7524107.

This, an unpublished dissertation, is the best material available on Omoto, the New Religion in which the founder felt so at home. Predictably enough, less charitable than Omoto's own materials. It details Deguchi's machinations aimed at getting power and how far to the right he was (and led his followers, Ueshiba among them). There's actually a reference to Ueshiba Kenshi in a Col. Hahimoto's diary. It seems Deguchi had offered Hashimoto a personal bodyguard to insure his safety during the attempted coup for which GHQ executed him.

Aikido Journal Website (http://aikidojournal.com/subscribe.php) $29.75/year.

Cheap at twice the cost and better quality content than you'll find in most works on the subject. You'll find several books' worth of materials in the articles section as well as access to many valuable online videos.

Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II by John W. Dower

He speaks of how the political slogans of the 30's (while the Jpn marauded through China) were so wholesome and brotherly that the Jpn could just continue with them unedited after the war. Puts "the way of harmony" into a different light.

Enjoy.

Drew Scott
06-26-2005, 05:44 PM
A man after my own heart:

[snipped out list of bibliographic sources]

Enjoy.

Excellent! Thank you for taking the time to post your sources. I look forward to reading and thinking about them.

It's funny, but this echoes a conversation I had with a friend after watching "The Last Samurai". She was upset at the end of the movie, feeling like she was set up to like the protagonists only to have them die pointlessly. I said something along the lines of "well, in some ways the samurai were suicidal loonies by today's standards. you have to take into account the basic fatalism and self-denial of the ethos: that the samurai's purpose in life was to die, etc etc." Her response: "but they didn't SHOW you any of that. just these noble people living in their village". But it's similar to the romanticized view of "western" knights and the code of chivalry. I find a lot of inspiration in both eastern and western "knightly ideals", but I try to never forget the ugliness that surrounded them (or in most cases preceded them, since the romanticizing tends to be after the fact). Can't we be grateful that Ueshiba created Aikido, and that it speaks to us in some way, and let the man himself remain a man?

Again, many thanks for the references. I've read, with much interest, the public articles at AikidoJournal.com... perhaps it IS time to subscribe.

Regards,
Drew

Rupert Atkinson
06-26-2005, 06:36 PM
In my Jujutsu shodan grading (1987 I think) the teacher asked us lots of questions ranging from health and bodily functions to whatever - no limit. He asked one guy to define 'samurai' and he came up with some romantic nonesense to which the sensei apparently ot mad and bellowed right in his face, "Rubbish, many were barbaric murderers!" Actually, he was shouting more to check the students response to his feinted anger etc. - part of the parcel of the grading - but I thought it was a pretty good counter answer myself.

Peter Goldsbury
06-26-2005, 07:04 PM
Can't we be grateful that Ueshiba created Aikido, and that it speaks to us in some way, and let the man himself remain a man?

Hello,

I believe that this is very desirable, but to reach this position itself requires some training. It has to be remembered that M. Ueshiba created aikido as part of a culture with its own value system, the latter including such important concepts as training and nationhood. Aikido did not happen from nothing and its creation was also a lengthy process, punctuated by a world war.

I think that you are assuming that Ueshiba himself wanted to "remain a man", but was not allowed to. However, the point that comes over very clearly in his own writings is that he was was not able to do this: he had a divine mission to perform. Ellis Amdur's essays on Aikido & Three Peaches puts the issues very clearly.

You are also assuming that aikido can "speak to one", but your addition of "in some way" suggests that you believe that the language of the transaction does not really matter. I personally believe that the language does matter, very much. Perhaps disussing this further would require going well beyond the metaphor you have used.

Thus, another reference that I would add to Don's list is Peter Boylan's master's thesis on Aikido in America. There is also a book, put together by others, with the same title. These books show how certain Americans have incorporated aikido into their own value system.

It is not wrong to do this, of course. In fact, for the vast majority of people, who include aikido as one important aspect of their lives (among many others), there is no alternative. But there are other alternatives, of course.

Best regards,

Mike Sigman
06-26-2005, 07:26 PM
These books show how certain Americans have incorporated aikido into their own value system.

It is not wrong to do this, of course. In fact, for the vast majority of people, who include aikido as one important aspect of their lives (among many others), there is no alternative. But there are other alternatives, of course. I'm always uncomfortable with people who add Aikido or "The Tao" or whatever to their lives, often insisting that part is correct even though the rest of their Aikido may not be. I suppose my mind just rejects that idea that distorted interpretations or incomplete "philosophies" or "ways to handle conversations", etc., *must* be valid alternatives. In other words, I would stop short of saying "Americans have incorporated aikido into their own value system" without having been convinced that the thing they've incorporated is really Aikido.

Tohei purportedly said (according to the Nonaka article) something to Nonaka Sensei about not trying to interpret what O-Sensei was saying, but to look at what he did. Maybe that rule would apply to a lot of these interpretations of O-Sensei's Aikido and what the philosophy supposedly means? Look at what he did, not what he said. ;)

Mike

Rupert Atkinson
06-26-2005, 07:36 PM
We cannot really know what Ueshiba said in his classes on a general basis. The Doka on this site offer a clue to his thinking, and I find them interesting. However, when reading we have time to ponder, and read again and ponder. If someone told me such in an Aikido class it would likely be in one ear and out the other and I would neither understand nor remember anything.

Also, I have no particular problem with the fact that Ueshiba was embroiled in the war-machine - it was a world war and all were caught up in it. It was a martial age. However, it should not be hidden. Because it is, and because it is so obvious, I have always been suspicious of 'Aikido peace chatter.' The 'peace' came after the 'war' so to speak.

Far more compelling - in terms of peace - is the Sergeant York story -- a preacher who considers being a concientious objector finds himself on the frontline in WWI and becomes a hero by absolute necessity, to save the day, killing 28 Germans with 28 shots and capturing over a hundred in a single event. Here, the 'peaceman' status is documented prior to the fact thus is entirely credible, i.e. his peaceful nature is established prior to war. He could have killed more, yet he chose only to kill those he had to. Now that is peace, and might be aiki too. In fact, if he had been an Aikidoka he would have had Sokaku 'godlike' status.

Peter Goldsbury
06-26-2005, 09:44 PM
Tohei purportedly said (according to the Nonaka article) something to Nonaka Sensei about not trying to interpret what O-Sensei was saying, but to look at what he did. Maybe that rule would apply to a lot of these interpretations of O-Sensei's Aikido and what the philosophy supposedly means? Look at what he did, not what he said. ;)

Mike

That is one approach, of course. Another would be to look at both and see how they match, or not match. I never knew Tohei but I did know one other disciple of M Ueshiba who did this. This was Sadateru Arikawa.

Best,

Mike Sigman
06-27-2005, 06:09 AM
That is one approach, of course. Another would be to look at both and see how they match, or not match. I never knew Tohei but I did know one other disciple of M Ueshiba who did this. This was Sadateru Arikawa. In the case of Tohei and Ueshiba, both had ki skills, but Kohei has one way of explaining how these work and Ueshiba another. For example, from an interview with Tohei:

On one occasion the prince pointed at Ueshiba Sensei and said, "Try to lift up that old man." Four strong sailors tried their best to lift him but they couldn't do it.
Sensei said of that time, "All the many divine spirits of Heaven and Earth entered my body and I became as immovable as a heavy rock." Everybody took him literally and believed it. I heard him say that kind of thing hundreds of times.
For my part, I have never had divine beings enter my body. I've never put much stock in that kind of illogical explanation.
(snip)
In reality that sort of thing has nothing to do with any gods or spirits. It's just a matter of having a low center of gravity. I know this and it's what I teach all my students.

Tohei has one way of describing how to do a ki-type skill and Ueshiba another. Tohei's is more accurate than Ueshiba's, from a western science standpoint, but it is still lacking in important details. So "comparing" what they say versus what they do wouldn't be necessarily illuminating. ;)

That to which I was referring in my earlier post was this vague idea of an Aikido philosophy which people seem to interpret and attach so whimsically, justifying it with all the fervor of "the word of god". What O-Sensei may or may not have said about the personal (as opposed to the martial, etc.) approach to life should be looked at in light of his personal actions, IMO. Same with Tohei's actions, words, etc., in relation to his philosophical musing. What they actually did was more a reflection of their personalities and traditional Japanese culture than anything else, not an Aikido philosophy. A lot of the so-called philosophy and "using Aikido in daily situations" is really an ad hoc translation that revolves around an arbitrary assumption of what "harmony" means. The Asians tend to mean it (in the context of Aikido 'philosophies' that Ueshiba was using) more in the idea of "the natural order in the universe". When you understand that, IMO, you can focus more on Aikido and less on the ad hoc interpretations that underpin so much of the American Aikido you were earlier referring to. What Ueshiba and Tohei actually DID was not what they SAID, at least not in the off-base philosophical tangent in which so many things are being interpretted. My opinion.

Mike Sigman

rob_liberti
06-27-2005, 08:13 AM
If the Ki-Society is only 30% of the aikido he learned, I wonder why he didn't change the name to Ki no kenkyukai and not use the name "aikido" at all, (other than to explain an orgin of his new art?)
I was initially thinking it was maybe for marketing reasons, but as I considered that it doesn't make too much sense because "aikido" couldn't be some widely known thing in America when he split from hombu.

It is great to have many sources of inspiration for aikido training - especially for how to approach ki and kokyu training - regardless of any politics or of any preference for how to try to teach those things. I don't care if the source wants to talk about things in a spiritual (or overly spiritual) way, or with more of a phychological approach, or simply continuing to work on principles with increasing self honesty in your training, or if valuable things from qigongs or exercises from india or Russia can be used as sources. I wouldn't actually dismiss any of those ways. Growing is important and if any of those approaches helps to any degree, then great. I'm sure that there a various positive aspects of correctly understanding any of those ways, and negative aspects of misunderstanding any of those ways so I'm not sure that any one of them is the "best" way. I think people are different and those dedicated to improving will seek out whatever they can find to help them. It might require investigating and coming back and re-investigating all of those ways - or just sticking to one way. Figuring out the principles and sticking to them (which generally requires re-interpreting them many times) seems like the best approach for me.

Lastly, if Tohei sensei wants to say that one of his teachers was a nut and do it without much dipolmacy, he gets to but then he can probably expect to catch some flack it or he is a nut too - just in a different way.

Rob

rob_liberti
06-27-2005, 09:11 AM
Rather than saying the vowels of Japanese as ''AIUEO'' we were made to repeat them over and over as ''AOUEI,'' as if this new sequence had a deeper meaning. He would tell us that we should become one with the Ki of Heaven, but not how we were to do this

From Nakazono's book "Inochi", the "Three principles" set of three chanting orders are:
- The Amatsu Kanagi [AIUEO] is the physical order.
- The Amatsu Sugaso [AOUEI] is the spiritual order.
- The Amatsu Futonorito [(Su) AIEOU] is the unified order.

As I understand it, you chant the orders more as an exercise in the demonstration of the feeling created, not as a technique for attainment. "Inochi" says - very flatly - "The reader therefore must use it only as a reference, to help his practice and inner opening. Do not memorize this explanation as a computer would; do not make the mistake of studying in such a stupid way".

Again, as I understand it, it's not a mantra - anyway a mantra itself doesn't enlighten - it just entertains your monkey-mind while the god self gets some space to do the work.

Rob

Mike Sigman
06-27-2005, 11:15 AM
anyway a mantra itself doesn't enlighten - it just entertains your monkey-mind while the god self gets some space to do the work. What do you think "OM" does?

Mike

Don_Modesto
06-27-2005, 11:47 AM
Also, I have no particular problem with the fact that Ueshiba was embroiled in the war-machine - it was a world war and all were caught up in it. It was a martial age. However, it should not be hidden. Because it is, and because it is so obvious, I have always been suspicious of 'Aikido peace chatter.' The 'peace' came after the 'war' so to speak.

Far more compelling - in terms of peace - is the Sergeant York story -- a preacher who considers being a concientious objector finds himself on the frontline in WWI and becomes a hero by absolute necessity, to save the day, killing 28 Germans with 28 shots and capturing over a hundred in a single event. Here, the 'peaceman' status is documented prior to the fact thus is entirely credible, i.e. his peaceful nature is established prior to war. He could have killed more, yet he chose only to kill those he had to. Now that is peace, and might be aiki too. In fact, if he had been an Aikidoka he would have had Sokaku 'godlike' status.

Rupert, two posts in one day that I want to commend you on! Very nicely reasoned. You say it more concretely than I have conceived it. Thanks for this.

Don_Modesto
06-27-2005, 11:48 AM
I find a lot of inspiration in both eastern and western "knightly ideals", but I try to never forget the ugliness that surrounded them (or in most cases preceded them, since the romanticizing tends to be after the fact). Can't we be grateful that Ueshiba created Aikido, and that it speaks to us in some way, and let the man himself remain a man?

Peter and Rupert addressed this more eloquently than I could. Thanks for the thoughts.

Mike Sigman
06-27-2005, 12:06 PM
Far more compelling - in terms of peace - is the Sergeant York story -- a preacher who considers being a concientious objector finds himself on the frontline in WWI and becomes a hero by absolute necessity, to save the day, killing 28 Germans with 28 shots and capturing over a hundred in a single event. Here, the 'peaceman' status is documented prior to the fact thus is entirely credible, i.e. his peaceful nature is established prior to war. He could have killed more, yet he chose only to kill those he had to. Now that is peace, and might be aiki too. In fact, if he had been an Aikidoka he would have had Sokaku 'godlike' status. Well, to be honest, York was not a preacher, he was an "elder" (which is like 'member in good standing') in his church. He was not a conscientious objector in a clear sense and before the getting into active duty he had already decided that fighting for your country was OK. His "peaceful nature" was a given, but he'd spent some time sowing his wild oats, too. In other words, behind the legend was a normal person who did some unusual things... same as O-Sensei.

Mike

rob_liberti
06-27-2005, 01:12 PM
What do you think "OM" does?

Mike

Well, specifically, I'd have to say that it attempts to spell one of the stooges names in a mirror. :)

I read that the chanting of Om induces the alpha waves state at a frequency of ten cycles per second, corresponding to deep relaxation and awareness free of thoughts. I have also read that "Research shows that each separate part of the sound AUM has a separate effect on the mind." but they did not go on to explain the research.

I read an article a long while ago about how they set up some experiment where they brought in 5 different people who spent a considerable amount of time meditating. The experiment was to measure the brain waves (somehow) while they meditated - but there was a surprise in that they made some huge sound in the middle of the experiment. The graphs for the zen guy was incredible. His showed his mind get into a deep state, then there was a spike when the big noise suprised him, and then it went right back to the meditative state. Most ofthe others took a lot longer time to "recover". Honorable mention to the yogi who was so deep that there was no spike what-so-ever when the big noise happened. Anyone ever see that on the net? I have been looking for it to show people for a while now (I saw it like 8 years ago).

Rob

Mike Sigman
06-27-2005, 04:21 PM
I read that the chanting of Om induces the alpha waves state at a frequency of ten cycles per second, corresponding to deep relaxation and awareness free of thoughts. I have also read that "Research shows that each separate part of the sound AUM has a separate effect on the mind." but they did not go on to explain the research.It's amazing the kinds of BS that are floating around, ain't it? "Research" shows....??? Stop and think a minute about all the 'experts" and the misdirections they can head off to. Look at John Stevens translations which are excellent for translations but which miss the points in the doka because he has no real experience in that area (and I'm not saying my experience is very much, either, BTW). The same thing happens with a lot of the research you're reading, is my point.

OM is indeed composed of 3 sounds. Sort of like "Ah" "Uh" "MMMM". If you hold your hands about 3-4 inches apart, fingers facing skyward and place them slightly above (almost touching) your head and say "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh", you can tweak the distance between your hands so that you feel a sort of harmonic vibration between your hands and at the top of your head. At the best vibration point the "shen", the dantien in the head is supposedly stimulated. You can do the same in front of the throat with "uhhhhhhh" and in front of the dantien with the "mmmmm" (it's actually more like "hummmmmmmmmmmmmmm"). These resonant vibrations are part of the "stimulating" or "awakening" of these 3 centers. You could be more complete and go for the 5 centers using the Chinese, Indian, or Japanese versions of the sounds that best stimulate those centers. Then, if you want to get persnickety, you can start arguing about the best order to awaken those centers.... hence the AIUEO, AOUEI, AIEOU, and so on. Held sounds, whether including sacred phrases (mantras) or not, are meant to awaken parts of the body. The problem is that if someone wants to hold your feet to the fire, it is impossible to separate these "parts of the body" from the development of ki, etc. A lot of the "mysticism" of the Orient is actually based on long-term studies of the relationships of the body, and all these "sounds", like in the kotodama, have relationships to everything else.

FWIW

Mike

Chris Li
06-27-2005, 05:09 PM
Look at John Stevens translations which are excellent for translations but which miss the points in the doka because he has no real experience in that area (and I'm not saying my experience is very much, either, BTW).

Have you read the original Japanese? If you haven't, then how do you know that he's missed points?

Best,

Chris

Mike Sigman
06-27-2005, 05:26 PM
Have you read the original Japanese? If you haven't, then how do you know that he's missed points? No, I haven't read the original Japanese and I haven't read the original Chinese texts on these cultivations that go back around a thousand years at least.... but I was clear to say that I was talking about the translations. The doka don't contain just one or two references to the standard and traditional comments on qi development, they contain a number that is too big to ignore. Add that with the impossible-to-ignore -or-to-discount relationship between Japan and China in all things including martial arts and you have a point that can't be ignored... O-Sensei had access to Shaolin martial qigongs and he refers to them in his doka. Then, when you read Stevens' translations and annotations, it becomes clear that he does not recognize the references... probably because he has no background in Chinese qigong studies and doesn't realize that these are common references. Deducing all this doesn't require a literacy in written Japanese. In fact, if you think momentarily about it, a LOT of people with the ability to read Japanese (not to mention "expertise in Aikido") missed this relationship. It's not the literacy in Japanese that is paramount in this case. All you needed was somebody with some familiarity with the qi/ki things that are widespread in Asian martial arts. It's no big thing and it's no big reach..... however, if this no-big-thing is indeed surprising, then what does it say about things within the Aikido (and other martial arts) circle?

Regards,

Mike

Chris Li
06-27-2005, 05:49 PM
No, I haven't read the original Japanese and I haven't read the original Chinese texts on these cultivations that go back around a thousand years at least.... but I was clear to say that I was talking about the translations. The doka don't contain just one or two references to the standard and traditional comments on qi development, they contain a number that is too big to ignore. Add that with the impossible-to-ignore -or-to-discount relationship between Japan and China in all things including martial arts and you have a point that can't be ignored... O-Sensei had access to Shaolin martial qigongs and he refers to them in his doka. Then, when you read Stevens' translations and annotations, it becomes clear that he does not recognize the references... probably because he has no background in Chinese qigong studies and doesn't realize that these are common references. Deducing all this doesn't require a literacy in written Japanese. In fact, if you think momentarily about it, a LOT of people with the ability to read Japanese (not to mention "expertise in Aikido") missed this relationship. It's not the literacy in Japanese that is paramount in this case. All you needed was somebody with some familiarity with the qi/ki things that are widespread in Asian martial arts. It's no big thing and it's no big reach..... however, if this no-big-thing is indeed surprising, then what does it say about things within the Aikido (and other martial arts) circle?

Regards,

Mike

I ask because many (most) of the people who criticize the translations have never read the originals and therefore have, IMO, not much of a basis upon which to criticize. I've read many of the originals, and I would still be hesitant to criticize the translations, especially given the nature of the material. Maybe somebody who is both bi-lingual and has more academic depth in that subject would have more luck. Morihei Ueshiba had his own particular slant on things, so I would be careful about making a judgement based upon only "common references" and not on a reading of the original texts.

Best,

Chris

Mike Sigman
06-27-2005, 06:12 PM
I ask because many (most) of the people who criticize the translations have never read the originals and therefore have, IMO, not much of a basis upon which to criticize. I've read many of the originals, and I would still be hesitant to criticize the translations, especially given the nature of the material. Maybe somebody who is both bi-lingual and has more academic depth in that subject would have more luck. Morihei Ueshiba had his own particular slant on things, so I would be careful about making a judgement based upon only "common references" and not on a reading of the original texts.I don't see your logic, Chris. If a group of writings made repeated references to the point where it was obvious (for example) that acupuncture (and the Chinese viewpoint of it) was being discussed, even through the translations, why would you need to go back to the original texts? When the number of clues passes a certain level, certainty takes over... and that's what is happening because of the number of references in the doka.

The "common references" are pretty darned common and they're easy to spot across a number of translations from Chinese of different texts by different translators. They're easy to spot in this case, too.

Stevens' translations of the doka have too many word-for-word references to Buddhist qigongs to disregard, yet his annotations make zero mention of the obvious relationship to Buddhist qigong trainings, hence I made my comment that he "missed the point".

It's a no-brainer; I'm not saying anything earth-shaking. As I said, the more startling thing is that these references weren't picked up before. I'll bet (without knowing either way) that these references are common knowledge among a number of Japanese that cross this area of study. The question is why it's taking so long for it to get into English-speaking (as opposed to Japanese-speaking) circles.

Regards,

Mike

Chris Li
06-27-2005, 06:56 PM
I don't see your logic, Chris. If a group of writings made repeated references to the point where it was obvious (for example) that acupuncture (and the Chinese viewpoint of it) was being discussed, even through the translations, why would you need to go back to the original texts?

Because without seeing the originals there would be no way to determine exactly what the author's interpretation was - especially because we're talking about material that is largely interpretive rather than factual.

Best,

Chris

Mike Sigman
06-27-2005, 07:36 PM
Because without seeing the originals there would be no way to determine exactly what the author's interpretation was - especially because we're talking about material that is largely interpretive rather than factual. Where is it even remotely interpretive to that extent, though? Do you think the Japanese are talking about something different when they say "ki" and the Chinese say "qi"? Do you think the Japanese theory of medicine and the way the body functions using the word "ki" is different from the system using the word "qi"? Do you think that the Yin-Yang dichotomous universe is different in Japanese than it is in Chinese? Do you think the 6 directions, the eight powers, the use of ki, body, mind, the relaxation needed for training, and so on and so on are referring to interpretively different matters?

How about the constant references to "harmony of the universe", do you think it's to be interpretted from the same common thought in Chinese philosophy? How about the repeated references to the mixing of earth and heaven (sometimes even fire and water), the ki of earth and heaven, etc., that are found repeatedly in Chinese discussions of how to do qigongs? How about the constant indications of "emptying yourself"... do you think they are interpretations of something different? "Su" versus "Xu"? Pronouncing the character "Bu" as "Take"? Do you think that the use of the standard qi demonstrations being the same as the standard ki demonstrations is a matter of two different things being displayed? Honestly, Chris, I was looking for some sign that I was reading it wrong and that the Japanese hadn't been given access to the qi training regimens (like the westerners haven't), but it's simply to obvious to ignore. O-Sensei had access to Buddhist qigong trainings. ;)

Regards,


Mike

Chris Li
06-27-2005, 09:35 PM
Where is it even remotely interpretive to that extent, though? Do you think the Japanese are talking about something different when they say "ki" and the Chinese say "qi"? Do you think the Japanese theory of medicine and the way the body functions using the word "ki" is different from the system using the word "qi"? Do you think that the Yin-Yang dichotomous universe is different in Japanese than it is in Chinese? Do you think the 6 directions, the eight powers, the use of ki, body, mind, the relaxation needed for training, and so on and so on are referring to interpretively different matters?

How about the constant references to "harmony of the universe", do you think it's to be interpretted from the same common thought in Chinese philosophy? How about the repeated references to the mixing of earth and heaven (sometimes even fire and water), the ki of earth and heaven, etc., that are found repeatedly in Chinese discussions of how to do qigongs? How about the constant indications of "emptying yourself"... do you think they are interpretations of something different? "Su" versus "Xu"? Pronouncing the character "Bu" as "Take"? Do you think that the use of the standard qi demonstrations being the same as the standard ki demonstrations is a matter of two different things being displayed? Honestly, Chris, I was looking for some sign that I was reading it wrong and that the Japanese hadn't been given access to the qi training regimens (like the westerners haven't), but it's simply to obvious to ignore. O-Sensei had access to Buddhist qigong trainings. ;)

Regards,


Mike

There's no denying that there are ties between Japanese and Chinese thought. There's also no denying that what Morihei Ueshiba wrote is closer to poetry than engineering. If you've ever translated anything you would know how hard it is to translate that kind of thing, and how hard it is to know what's going on without seeing the originals, no matter how in depth your knowledge of the subject matter.

Morihei Ueshiba expressing himself in terms of esoteric Shinto, but it wasn't just normal Shinto, but an odd variant created by Deguchi. To make matters worse, he fooled around with Deguchi's cosmologies to suit himself. Become fluent in Japanese, read the Kojikki and the Reiki Monogatari in the original, and you're probably off to a good start with preparing yourself to read Ueshiba. But only a start.

Best,

Chris

rob_liberti
06-27-2005, 09:38 PM
O-Sensei had access to Buddhist qigong trainings. by means of Daiteryu jujitsu? Omoto kyo? a combination? or somewhere else?

Rob

Mike Sigman
06-27-2005, 10:19 PM
by means of Daiteryu jujitsu? Omoto kyo? a combination? or somewhere else? Who knows exactly what the source is? Ellis Amdur's post on the subject, while not by any means a final source, indicates that I'm probably underestimating when and how much of this information crept into Japanese training, thought, etc. If Ellis' source is to be believed, and I have a sinking feeling that it is, then I got lulled into the common legends as well and wound up not seeing how many arts, etc., all this could have come from in Japan. Of course, there was always the question of where Nakamura and others got their information, but again I was thinking Nakamura and a few others were extremely rare in their knowledge and so I was almost undoubtedly wrong in that first guess.

Mike

Mike Sigman
06-27-2005, 10:26 PM
Become fluent in Japanese, read the Kojikki and the Reiki Monogatari in the original, and you're probably off to a good start with preparing yourself to read Ueshiba. But only a start. Chris, I can only suggest in turn that you acquire some knowledge of functional qi things and take a look at some of the Chinese source material. It would complement your Aikido. ;)

From my perspective, I only started doing Aikido because I saw some odd physical skills and I wanted to know how to do them... I had to go to other sources because information is so scarce in Aikido. However, once I gained some knowledge and perspective, I realized that these things are not rarities or obscurities if you look in the right places. Recognizing the common phrases in Ueshiba's writings may be something to debate, but when you add it with all the other things I mentioned, it's not worth quibbling over. Believe what you want, but it would help you to learn what the 8 powers (written out in Steven's translation, so there's NO doubt this is all the same thing) means and how it applies to the training in Aikido. :)

Regards,

Mike

Chris Li
06-27-2005, 11:30 PM
Chris, I can only suggest in turn that you acquire some knowledge of functional qi things and take a look at some of the Chinese source material. It would complement your Aikido. ;)

And what's to say I haven't? :)

In any case, my comment wasn't on whether or not Chinese influences on Japanese thought exist, but on the validity of critiquing the accuracy of a translation without access to the original sources.

Best,

Chris

Joe Bowen
06-28-2005, 01:41 AM
Mike,

One might wonder whether or not you're seeing things in the DOKA that you want to be there. Often times in translation things take on a different meaning. This is influences by many different factors. For example, while talking to a Taiwanese friend about the Aikido :ai: :ki: :do: Kanji, she remarked that the Chinese would never use the character :ai: for harmony. :ai: in Chinese carries more of an "integration" connotation rather than a "harmonization" connotation. That's a big difference. If you have a Chinese dictionary look up the character for :ai: , then try to find it in your Japanese Kanji dictionary. The definitions may not match up. While the Japanese adopted a great many things from the Chinese, the separation of the two cultures eventually led to the evolution of these "borrowed" ideas, concepts and languages into something pretty distinctly Japanese. Look at the evolution of the Japanese sword as a good example. While it is a pretty safe bet that spiritual ideas and martial philosophies from China influenced the evolution of the spiritual and martial ideas in Japan, it would be a mistake to say that through studying Chinese you will understand Japanese.

Mike Sigman
06-28-2005, 07:16 AM
And what's to say I haven't? :)

In any case, my comment wasn't on whether or not Chinese influences on Japanese thought exist, but on the validity of critiquing the accuracy of a translation without access to the original sources. I understand your critique, Chris, and at a certain level, with limited clues, you're absolutely right. However, it's way beyond that. Do you think that O-Sensei's knowledge of some of the pet terms of qi development were actually terms that meant something else and derived from a different source? Do you think that he (and Tohei) used a lot of fairly standard qi demonstrations by some sort of coincidence? And so on?

It was interesting reading the Nonaka and Tohei interviews because I was left puzzled by the implications (actually it was pretty direct statements): O-Sensei used ki extensively in his Aikido. Tohei used ki in his Aikido but got his knowledge from Tempura Nakamura and re-added the used of ki into his Aikido so therefore Tohei's use of ki in Aikido was unique and different from O-Sensei's. In my personal opinion, that's a rather strange claim; the use of ki skills only covers a certain spectrum. Granted not everyone learns the full spectrum or the same spectrum that someone else learns, but ki skills are only fall into so many categories and if Tohei added ki back into his Aikido, he could generally speaking only catch up to O-Sensei, not claim to do something different, IMO.

In terms of common references, I meant to mention that one of the things about Chinese martial arts that surprised me (still surprises me, for that matter) is that while there is a level of my style against his style, overall there is a surprising codification of what is good, bad, body movements, attack strategies, and so on. They apply across the board and are considered traditional comments from earlier days. While the comments about qi are not as commonly seen, they're still pretty common and they tend to fall into well-known admonitions that once again apply across the styles, whether internal or external. And there are some specific ones that denote Buddhist derivation, Taoist derivation, and so on. I recommend Shouyu Liang's book "Qigong Empowerment" for people who want to get a great overview from a very qualified individual (note: he is one of my teachers, but he is well-known throughout China as a qigong and martial arts teacher).

Insofar as your first question, Chris: "And what's to say I haven't? :)", I would have to ask why, if you know these things, you don't share them to your fellow Aikido practitioners? Are you deliberately masking them? How about Stevens... do you think he knows how to do these ki and kokyu things but deliberately doesn't mention them in his books????? ;)

Regards,

Mike

rob_liberti
06-28-2005, 07:29 AM
While it is a pretty safe bet that spiritual ideas and martial philosophies from China influenced the evolution of the spiritual and martial ideas in Japan, it would be a mistake to say that through studying Chinese you will understand Japanese. Thanks, that was very well said. I was trying to develop that point for myself, but you got there directly, and I'm grateful. That's where I was trying to go with the idea of O-sensei not _directly_ leaning Chinese qigongs, but getting the influence indirectly from many sources that may have mutated, deconstructed, reconstructed, and evolved (not intending to mean better or worse because I couldn't possibly know) from whatever degree of depth that made it to Japan, over many generations according to Ellis's post about when the influences started.

My take on principles are that once you really "got it" you can express those ideas in many different ways. Some ways will favor the Japanese culture's approach to learning such things, and others will favor the Chinese culture's (or should I say cultures's - I don't know) way of learning things. I don't know if Steven's missed the point in his translations as much as maybe those things were very well translated, and they had already changed in expression to favor Japanese culture's ability to preserve the meaning by the time Stevens got to them. Maybe a little of both happened there...

Personally, I think we should study whatever we feel will help us most. I found a westerner who made a considerable amount demonstratable progress in his ability and that of his senior students. That's the path I follow most directly these days. I haven't found anyone willing/capable of teaching the degree of depth on these things from any other influence, but I'm always open to suggestions.

The only other (side line) point I want to make is that I keep reading the idea that these aspects of martial depth always eventually shake out to be on the physical level - sorry if I'm not expressing it just right. My point is that I cannot separate my physical body from my mind (assuming no body part is cut or torn off!). The model of mind, body, and spirit are one works for me. It makes sense to me that I learn aikido on every level. It's just that I trust the feedback I get from the physical level more at present - but I'm not sure that will always be the case.

Rob

Mike Sigman
06-28-2005, 07:32 AM
One might wonder whether or not you're seeing things in the DOKA that you want to be there. I agree that would be a possibility, Joseph, but as I pointed out the number of terms, the way they're grouped, the fact that they refer to "ki" often (unless you think "ki" is somehow different from "qi"????), the obvious usage of ki skills in O-Sensei's Aikido, and so on, make that possibility just about zero. There are enough people who are knowledgeable about these things agreeing offline, etc., that I don't consider it something I want to spend time defending. The main point is that someone really familiar with ki skills, how to develop them, etc., has no problem seeing that O-Sensei, Tohei, and some others in Aikido, are using fairly standard methods of training.... and they don't/didn't show them except to a limited few students. Anyone who thinks Tohei doesn't show more to his inner circle, for instance, is smoking whacky-tobaccy. Often times in translation things take on a different meaning. This is influences by many different factors. For example, while talking to a Taiwanese friend about the Aikido :ai: :ki: :do: Kanji, she remarked that the Chinese would never use the character :ai: for harmony. :ai: in Chinese carries more of an "integration" connotation rather than a "harmonization" connotation. That's a big difference. If you have a Chinese dictionary look up the character for :ai: , then try to find it in your Japanese Kanji dictionary. The definitions may not match up. While the Japanese adopted a great many things from the Chinese, the separation of the two cultures eventually led to the evolution of these "borrowed" ideas, concepts and languages into something pretty distinctly Japanese. Yet Bill Chen, an old friend of mine, born and raised on Taiwan and growing up doing martial arts, had no problem with Aikido usage of those 3 characters, except that it was a little old-fashioned. Although he did say that "he qi tao" was not a combination the Chinese would have picked to describe the same thing. Look at the evolution of the Japanese sword as a good example. While it is a pretty safe bet that spiritual ideas and martial philosophies from China influenced the evolution of the spiritual and martial ideas in Japan, it would be a mistake to say that through studying Chinese you will understand Japanese.You're aware that the Japanese sword and some of the earliest examples now in museums full of Japanese swords turn out to have been made in China and in Korea? In this case, perhaps the Japanese sword's understanding can be enhanced by taking a look at the history, martial strategies, etc., of the original weapon from China.

I have never said there is no modification of Chinese things in Japan, because there obviously is. I'm not sure why this suggestion keeps coming up! But that leads to the question of whether modifications are positive or negative or whether they represent positive addition to the knowledge or whether the represent incomplete training. :) Good thoughts, though, Joseph.

Regards,

Mike

Mike Sigman
06-28-2005, 07:48 AM
My take on principles are that once you really "got it" you can express those ideas in many different ways. Some ways will favor the Japanese culture's approach to learning such things, and others will favor the Chinese culture's (or should I say cultures's - I don't know) way of learning things. I don't know if Steven's missed the point in his translations as much as maybe those things were very well translated, and they had already changed in expression to favor Japanese culture's ability to preserve the meaning by the time Stevens got to them. Maybe a little of both happened there... And also, maybe Stevens simply doesn't know how to do these things, Rob. Frankly, from years of experience, I know that most people *don't* know how to do these things. And it's very easy to find out what and if they know from what they write or from a very quick physical demonstration. The *worst* think someone can do is pretend they do know because the charade fools no one who really knows. Seriously. It's a complete embarrassment to watch someone pretending they have some knowledge of some sort of skill when they don't even know enough about the skill to carry of the pretense. I cannot imagine being tolerated within the knowledgeable martial arts community if I was silly enough to let my ego lead me to that extreme.

I've tried to say a number of times that there are not many ways to "get it". There are many ways to say it and there are varying grades of doing it, but the ki skills are fixed and immutable. There is no "Japanese Way" and "Chinese Way" of doing these things. That's a forlorn hope and it is very telling when someone makes that kind of hopeful statement. ;) The real question is what kind of ki skills and how advanced are they among the various Japanese martial arts. Period. It's not something they can "modify" into something else. The real and potential distortions in terminology and descriptions are minor and they have little impact on the subject matter. Sooner or later, as I mentioned before, some people in Aikido will move forward and begin utilizing sophisticated ki and kokyu technology... they will be the path-breakers... but those skills will not be anything different than what Ueshiba used, Tohei uses, the Chinese use in some arts, etc.... because it's all the same thing. :)

FWIW

Mike

guest89893
06-28-2005, 09:02 AM
Sooner or later, as I mentioned before, some people in Aikido will move forward and begin utilizing sophisticated ki and kokyu technology... they will be the path-breakers... but those skills will not be anything different than what Ueshiba used, Tohei uses, the Chinese use in some arts, etc.... because it's all the same thing. :)
Mike

Yes, I agree Mike and it might even happen in countries other than China.

Gene

rob_liberti
06-28-2005, 09:06 AM
Mike,

I understand that we can say the human body and what it can do is common enough, but are you suggesting that you do not believe that the expression of any truth or set of truths can be represented differently by different people especially from different cultures?

It seems very unlikely that all of those expressions were written in Japanese - in a way that maintained the meaning as interpreted by the Chinese - and then were simply mis-translated. It seems more likely to me that of course the expression of any thing like that might change from one culture to another, and that the translation from where it was at that point in time to English might be just a bit off as well (but could be right on - I don't know about the translation as Chris explained better than I could).

I am sure that you believe there are only a very small number of ways to "get it" in its totality. You might be right. I don't know that to be true myself, and I suppose I question how it is that you "know" but that is not meant to be a personal attack.

Isn't that the point of calling it martial art as opposed to martial science. In science, there tends to be one way, or one of a very limited number of ways to approach a result. In art, the idea is that you are trying to express something that language isn't well designed for, so we have to make pictures, or poems, or dokas, etc. Expression would have to change from one culture to another - to my way of thinking - otherwise what exactly would be the difference between the different cultures?

Rob

Mike Sigman
06-28-2005, 09:10 AM
Yes, I agree Mike and it might even happen in countries other than China. I should have been clearer. The big problem in Aikido and many other arts is that there is this blockade of information (i.e., the ki and kokyu stuff). When I meant that Aikido would move forward, I actually meant that more of the "lay practitioners and teachers" (for want of a better term) would get and begin using these skills. China has nothing to do with it... they're just as bad, when it comes to hiding the information.

Mike

Mike Sigman
06-28-2005, 09:34 AM
I am sure that you believe there are only a very small number of ways to "get it" in its totality. You might be right. I don't know that to be true myself, and I suppose I question how it is that you "know" but that is not meant to be a personal attack. It's a set of physically demonstrable and reproducible skills, Rob, it's not a figurative concept that can be interpretted at whim. And I'm not taking offense or giving offense... we're discussing an issue on-topic. How do I "know" this? Hmmmm. I can support it with a progressive logic and demonstrations, but you'd have to take my word on it while we're relying on internet posts. ;)

Take a simple example (from the whole picture) like Tohei standing on one leg and letting his partner push against his forearm without being able to move him. Would you agree that to do that in a relaxed manner there's only an extremely limited way to do it and that the "best" demonstrations of it will always approach only one set manner of doing it? All of the demonstrable and reproducible aspects of ki and kokyu form a sophisticated grouping that forces how these things are done into set and immutable phenomena.

In other words, you might be able to cheat on a couple of "ki tests" like "unbendable arm", etc., but you couldn't cheat on ALL the demonstrable ki phenomena, at least not in the same way each time. The composite ki phenomena involve a singular conglomeration of related skills that can only be done in one way. If there was another way to do them, then yes, it would be a matter of interpretation.

Someone may happen onto a few of the phenomena and describe them with things like "water in a hose" or various other ways, but the method by which they're physically done, in toto, is fixed, even if the descriptions are not. When someone describes enough of the phenomena in a group such that it transcends reasonable probabilities, it doesn't matter what the descriptions are, providing they are reasonably close. That's why I've mentioned in the past that if someone really knows this subject, it will show in what they say or post, pretty quickly. The real problem, in my opinion, is that there's not enough information in the common pool for enough people to get started in a self-perpetuating way (for Aikido as a whole). These kinds of discussions and debates and worryings around the topic only serve a good purpose in delineating the baselines and, as Jun intended, disseminating what information there is within the pool. :)

Mike

rob_liberti
06-28-2005, 10:12 AM
I'm not questioning if you have any developed skills here. My basic disagreement is that while any set of physically demonstrable and reproducible skills can be common, the expression of how to learn/approach them, and how those expressions are interpreted is a major part of the "art" aspect which should necessarily be different in different cultures.

For a quick example, there was a Japanese kid that got shot in the States when trick-or-treating the wrong house. A friend in Japan was asked how this could happen. He couldn't explain it directly. He had to start with a series of suppositions like: Imagine you didn't have a job. The Japanese person looking for insight instantly responded with "I would get another job". Then he went on: Imagine if you couldn't get a new job. ... Then I would move to a bigger city. Imagine there were no new job in the bigger city or that you didn't have money to move and that you couldn't borrow money from any friends, and on and on, until the Japanese person looking for insight was totally out of options, and have that defeated "humph.." Then he could start to try to understand why someone like that might shoot a trespasser. This is just an example of some basic concepts that don't translate well from one culture to another. The idea of a kid getting needlessly shot is easy, and you could say there's no two ways about it, but the expression of the meaning of what happened is totally _foreign_ to that culture...

Anyway, I'll try to give more thought to this before jumping in again.

Rob

Mike Sigman
06-28-2005, 10:30 AM
I'm not questioning if you have any developed skills here. My basic disagreement is that while any set of physically demonstrable and reproducible skills can be common, the expression of how to learn/approach them, and how those expressions are interpreted is a major part of the "art" aspect which should necessarily be different in different cultures. Snip the story about trying to convey the idea of not having a job, robbery, etc. :) Rob.... Japanese understand the concepts of robbery and murder, yakuza, etc.

I don't think the problem is "different cultural concepts" in re the ki and kokyu things. I think it's more a matter of deliberately hidden and obscured information. O-Sensei was indicating certain general information in parts of his doka, but he was using terms that were also common in China to deliberately obscure the information. I don't think "art" has a lot to do with it or that "different cultures" should be the tangent.

Do you think that it's an accident or oversight that Tohei says "relax" and not a lot more, sometimes? Surely just "relaxing" won't give you ki skills and you and I know that. How about "use your center", "extend ki", "keep your one point", keep the heavy-side down", and so on. Do you think these are indicators of cultural phenomena or do you think they're ways of saying things while still obscuring them? I've seen that same "say a little, hide a lot" in the martial arts of most Asian countries, so my opinion is that focusing on exactly how Japanese people "say a little, hide a lot" is missing the point that it's a common phenomenon, IMO. When someone is "saying a little, hiding a lot" and the subject is ki and there appears a *series* of common obscuring phrases like "ki of heaven and earth", etc., I just don't see it as a big surprise.

Incidentally, I think we should make a list of all the phrases which "say a little, hide a lot" in Aikido. Like: "Relax", "use your center", "keep heavy side down", and so on. There's a great number of phrases that people should be saying, "explain this one to me" to their teachers, etc. Instead, everyone lets those obviously unclear statements go, just like everyone was afraid to say "but the emperor doesn't have any clothes on" because it might put them into the ranks of the innocent and honest. ;)

FWIW

Mike

Chris Li
06-28-2005, 11:16 AM
Insofar as your first question, Chris: "And what's to say I haven't? :)", I would have to ask why, if you know these things, you don't share them to your fellow Aikido practitioners? Are you deliberately masking them? How about Stevens... do you think he knows how to do these ki and kokyu things but deliberately doesn't mention them in his books????? ;)

Regards,

Mike

Well, I can't answer for Stevens, but I haven't shared methods of doing kote-gaeshi over the internet either - do you think that I'm deliberately masking them? Or maybe it's just not the best medium for that kind of thing.

Best,

Chris

Mike Sigman
06-28-2005, 11:40 AM
Well, I can't answer for Stevens, but I haven't shared methods of doing kote-gaeshi over the internet either - do you think that I'm deliberately masking them? Or maybe it's just not the best medium for that kind of thing. I don't think it's a good comparison, Chris. I know some interesting things about kote gaeshi that I might reveal if someone asked me and if it was a topic of the proportion in Aikido and *numerous other martial arts* that ki is. Besides, ki is such a big topic (compared to kote gaeshi) that the comparison simply dies.

Do a quick websearch on kote gaeshi (and "kotegaeshi") and you'll find that there is extensive how-to information on the internet, coupled with photographs. There's no such information on ki, though, is there? If someone starts talking about kote gaeshi on the internet, most of us can get a general idea of "knows nothing, knows OK amount, really knows his stuff" from reading the post. And so on. Like I said, the comparison dies. If someone knows an OK amount about ki things, which in turn are a huge part of what Aikido really is, it will be obvious in their writings. If someone avoids or skirts the topic of ki, which is (again) a huge part of Aikido, the probability is that they don't know much about it. :cool: Would you agree that the knowledge of ki things and how to develop them is dismally low in Aikido, BTW?

Regards,

Mike

rob_liberti
06-28-2005, 12:39 PM
According to that Tohei article, it seems that the ki and kokyu aspect of aikido was considered about 30% of what aikido was.

As I said, while I'm sure that Japanese understand the concept of murdering a foreign kid, and yet that does not mean there is a easy way to help someone in that culture really understand _why_ that kid got killed and have it be understood even if you speak fluent Japanese. I would actually be very surprised if it were any easier to explain it a member of the yakuza. The expression of ideas - even the same ideas - changes from culture to culture unless I'm completely misunderstanding what the meaning of culture is. If that expression results in a different translation into the westerner culture than you are expecting, I'm not convinced that the problem is with the understanding of the final translator.

The idea of collecting phrases that say a little and hide a lot is interesting. Filling in what is being hidden is going to be no small task. Maybe that would be something for the aiki wiki to let many people add how they understand those term, and maybe explain their background/context for that understanding - if possible.

Rob

Mike Sigman
06-28-2005, 12:53 PM
According to that Tohei article, it seems that the ki and kokyu aspect of aikido was considered about 30% of what aikido was. Sure, but it's like 30% or a car or 30% of a rifle, not 30% of a bag of jelly beans or 30% of an electorate. It's an indispensable 30%, in other words. ;) The idea of collecting phrases that say a little and hide a lot is interesting. Filling in what is being hidden is going to be no small task. Maybe that would be something for the aiki wiki to let many people add how they understand those term, and maybe explain their background/context for that understanding - if possible. I don't know about AikiWiki so much, but someone should start a separate thread and see how many words or phrases we can come up with. There was a post from someone in the recent past who said his teacher always said "extend ki" but never explained how to do it. That would be a prime example of one the things I'm talking about. Think about it. If you heard that teacher say it and you, as an outsider, walked up and asked them to explain it, I think you wouldn't find out the true meaning of the term "extend ki" but you'd almost certainly discover the meaning of "huffy". ;)

Mike

rob_liberti
06-28-2005, 01:02 PM
It's an indispensable 30% - no argument there. I wonder how much of the other 70% would have been there to support that development sans the external support ideas Tohei sensei came up from an alternate source.

I would expect that any request for such an explanation from anyone who owns it but never tried to put it into words would result in something that started with "grab my wrist." :) Probably because - in my opinion, the ability to express some things is a totally different skill than actually developing the skill.

Rob

Chris Li
06-28-2005, 02:02 PM
I don't think it's a good comparison, Chris. I know some interesting things about kote gaeshi that I might reveal if someone asked me and if it was a topic of the proportion in Aikido and *numerous other martial arts* that ki is. Besides, ki is such a big topic (compared to kote gaeshi) that the comparison simply dies.

Feel free to "reveal" away. I just don't feel (personally) that the medium is conducive to it, and even less so for "ki". A lot of people discuss abstract art on the internet as well, but I don't. It's not a matter of "secrets" or "revelation", just the way that I see the medium.

Would you agree that the knowledge of ki things and how to develop them is dismally low in Aikido, BTW?

Well, you'd have to define what "ki things" you're talking about, I suppose.

Best,

Chris

Mike Sigman
06-28-2005, 02:08 PM
- no argument there. I wonder how much of the other 70% would have been there to support that development sans the external support ideas Tohei sensei came up from an alternate source.
Well, I dunno. Think of Taiji for a moment to get your head outside the box. Without the "ki" part, it's not really Taiji, yet by far the most practitioners haven't got a clue that all the slow movement, etc., is purely for the development of ki and kokyu, etc. There will always be a core of Taiji that is focused around qi, jin, etc., and there will always be a larger number of people that do Taiji for looks, for "health" (although they misunderstand about qi and health, etc.), aesthetics, belief in magic, talk about the "Tao", exotica, esoterica, social, something to be a member of, etc. Aikido is pretty much the same way, in reality, except it's not quite as easy to do BS Aikido as it is BS Taiji, so Aikido will never have the numbers. Tohei's contributions were really only part of something that was already there... I haven't decided if he's really affected the big picture, though.

Mike

Mike Sigman
06-28-2005, 02:16 PM
Well, you'd have to define what "ki things" you're talking about, I suppose. Well, you know... like how ki actually works, kokyu works, how to do it, etc. ;) Don't you think, for instance, that the number of people who can exhibit simple kokyu-power is dismally low, considering the fact that kokyu-power is the basis for a huge number of the throws?

Mike

Mary Eastland
06-28-2005, 05:28 PM
Mike..... how do you know how people throw....have you been to every dojo? You make these blanket negative statements.
You come across as if only you and a select other few really get it.
Mary

Mike Sigman
06-28-2005, 06:04 PM
Mike..... how do you know how people throw....have you been to every dojo? You make these blanket negative statements. Hmmmmm... I didn't say anything about all people in all dojo's, Mary. I just said that the number of people who can exhibit simple kokyu-power is dismally low, considering the fact that kokyu-power is the basis for a huge number of the throws. Perhaps that statement doesn't apply to you. Just to show me that it doesn't, why not explain how kokyu-power is generated, the ki involved, and so forth?

Regards,

Mike Sigman

Chris Li
06-28-2005, 06:28 PM
Well, you know... like how ki actually works, kokyu works, how to do it, etc. ;) Don't you think, for instance, that the number of people who can exhibit simple kokyu-power is dismally low, considering the fact that kokyu-power is the basis for a huge number of the throws?

Mike

Well, you still have to define what "ki" and "kokyu" are, since there is no general agreement (even in Japan), despite your assertion that such things are seemingly not all that open to interpretation.

Best,

Chris

Mike Sigman
06-28-2005, 07:20 PM
Well, you still have to define what "ki" and "kokyu" are, since there is no general agreement (even in Japan), despite your assertion that such things are seemingly not all that open to interpretation. I *have* defined those things in plenty of other posts, Chris, and no, they're not all that open to interpretation unless someone doesn't know what they are and is just guessing. :)

What do you think about my direct question about kokyunage, BTW?

Regards,

Mike

Chris Li
06-28-2005, 07:25 PM
I *have* defined those things in plenty of other posts, Chris, and no, they're not all that open to interpretation unless someone doesn't know what they are and is just guessing. :)

What do you think about my direct question about kokyunage, BTW?

Regards,

Mike

You may have, but there are dozens of variant definitions and interpretations floating around, even in Japanese. Anyway, as I said before, I prefer not to discuss that kind of thing in this kind of medium.

Best,

Chris

Rupert Atkinson
06-28-2005, 07:26 PM
Don't you think, for instance, that the number of people who can exhibit simple kokyu-power is dismally low, considering the fact that kokyu-power is the basis for a huge number of the throws?

Mike

Absolutely spot on. And some of what some think to be kokyu is not so at all. Very difficult to judge though, and harder for even two to come to some agreement. And who is to say that I know what I'm on about?

Rupert Atkinson
06-28-2005, 07:36 PM
Do you think that it's an accident or oversight that Tohei says "relax" and not a lot more, sometimes? Surely just "relaxing" won't give you ki skills and you and I know that. How about "use your center", "extend ki", "keep your one point", keep the heavy-side down", and so on. Do you think these are indicators of cultural phenomena or do you think they're ways of saying things while still obscuring them? I've seen that same "say a little, hide a lot" in the martial arts of most Asian countries, so my opinion is that focusing on exactly how Japanese people "say a little, hide a lot" is missing the point that it's a common phenomenon, IMO. When someone is "saying a little, hiding a lot" and the subject is ki and there appears a *series* of common obscuring phrases like "ki of heaven and earth", etc., I just don't see it as a big surprise.

Incidentally, I think we should make a list of all the phrases which "say a little, hide a lot" in Aikido. Like: "Relax", "use your center", "keep heavy side down", and so on. There's a great number of phrases that people should be saying, "explain this one to me" to their teachers, etc. Instead, everyone lets those obviously unclear statements go, just like everyone was afraid to say "but the emperor doesn't have any clothes on" because it might put them into the ranks of the innocent and honest. ;)
Mike

Absolutely spot on again. I see it as a case of he probably knows how to do something, but does not know exactly what he knows and therefore cannot explain it. Either that, or, he is deliberatly not explaining it so as to keep the skill for himself.

I observed that my Judo teacher in Japan had great kokyu power. Naturally, I was quite impressed. But the point is, he did not know he had such power; he had no name for it, and it would therefore be impossible for him to pass it on. All he could say was, "Relax!" Yet, if he named it and targeted it for development, how much more powerful could he have become, I wonder?

I like to think I can pass my own limited knowledge on to my students. The only way I know how to do this is to do LOTS of kokyu-ho / kokyu-nage and then try to put those same movements into the techniques. As you get a better feel for kokyu, so you techniques slowly improve. As for the tricks - unbendable arm etc., as you say, it is important to explain what is going on elsewhere in the body - to just say "Relax!" is to admit you do not know. Further, what many fail to realise is that they should try to put 'whatever' it is they learned from their unbendable trick into their waza -- lest the whole thing become nothing more than a compete waste of time.

rob_liberti
06-29-2005, 06:07 AM
Well about the "tricks" - I think the important point to unbendable arm is that it is instantly bendable at any time you want. I see a lot of unbendable arm that is just a really strong and mentally stuck tricep muscle. I'm not complaining though - the more people trying the more chance people will get better.

The best taichi guy I know is a guy named James who came here from Taiwan. He and his father are out in the park every day at 5:30 am practicing. He does an astronomical number of slow one legged squats. He might have tremndous ki and kokyu skills, but I'd rather approach developing those skills by taking better and better ukemi, sticking to principle, learning to be more and more sensitive to my body and my partners body, and having self honesty about the amount of forcefullness I can get away from and still have things work in general. Maybe James's approach is better. I don't particularly care unless I hit a wall and I need to start looking for other inspiration to continue to improve.

As far as the immutable skills: I thought about it, and I'm convinced that descriptions across cultures of immutable things are mutable. We can get insight, but there are other factors that might have the effect of hiding things to an outsider, but are probably the only way to preserve things to the insider of that culture. The list of phrases might help shed light. I hate "just relax" myself. My feeling is "bother to come up with something I can practice and don't offer useless advice" and I represent that in Japanese with "hai" as I look down momentarily..

Rob

Mike Sigman
06-29-2005, 07:43 AM
Well about the "tricks" - I think the important point to unbendable arm is that it is instantly bendable at any time you want. I see a lot of unbendable arm that is just a really strong and mentally stuck tricep muscle. I'm not complaining though - the more people trying the more chance people will get better. I think the important thing about unbendable arm (remember I've said a few times that I don't like that trick because it's easy to fake and most people do) is that it allows the mind to assign the muscles that offer the resistance, if you know how to do it and keep your conscious self out of the equation (like in "relax"). Letting the mind recruit and assign muscles, etc., is paramount to ki and kokyu skills.The best taichi guy I know is a guy named James who came here from Taiwan. He and his father are out in the park every day at 5:30 am practicing. He does an astronomical number of slow one legged squats. He might have tremndous ki and kokyu skills, but I'd rather approach developing those skills by taking better and better ukemi, sticking to principle, learning to be more and more sensitive to my body and my partners body, and having self honesty about the amount of forcefullness I can get away from and still have things work in general. Maybe James's approach is better. I don't particularly care unless I hit a wall and I need to start looking for other inspiration to continue to improve.The one-legged squats bother me because that's a big deal among the shaolin practitioners on Taiwan. I know a Taiwan guy who teaches Taiji, does a huge amount of one-legged squats (with kids on his shoulders sometimes), does "push hands", etc., etc., and who doesn't have any internal strength skills at all... and he knows it, but thinks his other strengths are impressive enough (they're pretty good) that it doesn't make any difference. Taiwan is not noted for good Taiji, as a rule.

I dunno about the ukemi part. My thought is that wrong practice yields wrong results and I've found too many times that I spent years doing something wrong. My suggestion for people is to do a few simple things correctly and slowly on a consistent basis using high reps. However, I know that unless someone shows you how to do most of these things, it's almost impossible to get started. Someone who has done things wrong for a number of years has little chance of changing, my experience has shown me. Hence, all my free advice is mostly aimed at the up-and-coming practitioners who are actively seeking information (like I was) and willing to make the effort. ;) As far as the immutable skills: I thought about it, and I'm convinced that descriptions across cultures of immutable things are mutable. We can get insight, but there are other factors that might have the effect of hiding things to an outsider, but are probably the only way to preserve things to the insider of that culture. Remember when I attempted to get Ted Ehara to begin an analysis of someone standing ("rooting") while a partner pushes agains the forearm? As I said at the time, there is a force on the forearm and there is a force on the ground as a starting point to a reasonable discussion, regardless of "definitions". In other words, if you can do it, you can describe it in a piece by piece analysis, starting with forces. People who can't do and who want to go off into "definitions" are bullshitting. I've had a number of conversations with people who could barely speak English but who could say "force here", "pressure here", "relax this", etc. Teaching it is a different thing, but people who know how to really do these things can understand the analysis and talk past "definitions". The list of phrases might help shed light. I hate "just relax" myself. My feeling is "bother to come up with something I can practice and don't offer useless advice" and I represent that in Japanese with "hai" as I look down momentarily. I offered the suggestion once that the most helpful starting point, IMO, is to understand that the essence of moving this way is to let the lower body do all the work and the upper body is just a conveyor/transmitter (when you're starting out) of the force from the lower body. That means relax the upper body (let go of any attempts to use power in the upper body and try to figure how to make the lower body do all the work). Use little or no weight or effort in your practice (if I want to screw with someone, I simply tell them how heavy my bokken is without telling them I started out with one that was very light). The tricky part is letting "paths" or "connections" develop from the lower body (particularly from the middle area) to the extemities. For instance, if Tohei is hard to lift, he says "relax" and "keep a low center of gravity", but if you don't know how to will your weight to your extremities, the word "relax" is not helpful.

You can't learn this if you use a lot of weight or effort... but if you don't know how to do this sort of movement, saying "don't use effort" and "relax" don't do the person any good. That's why just telling someone to "relax", "extend ki", "keep your one point", "keep heavy side down", etc., are correct but not very helpful. The missing part is how to get the power from the middle to the extremities and how you have to "relax" and let the mind recruit and assign the paths.

FWIW

Mike

rob_liberti
06-29-2005, 09:47 AM
Well that is certainly fair enough. I totally agree that in English, even simple English like "force here" your point is absolutely valid. My point was more about the necessarily descriptive language like when we start getting into descriptions of 8 powers and needing to use symbols like fire, water, heaven, and earth then those descriptions are mutable across cultures no matter how immutable the application of that understanding might be. There can be five different Japanese people describing the same concept in kotodama all using symbology like fire, water, heaven, earth, etc. and all using different symbols - like what 1 guy used fire for, another guy is using water for, and some aren't even using the polar opposites (as I think about them anyway). Heck, just for a fun experiment, ask a Japanese person what color the traffic light is for "go" and get that translated. They will say "blue" - even though they know that color is "green" for some crazy reason they all "call" that color "blue" when it is in the context of "go at a traffic light". I can't explain that one. And they probably only have had traffic lights in Japan for a very short amount of time relative to how long they would have had descriptions of much harder/more sophisticated martial concepts. Anyway, that's my point about Steven's translations of doka.

That was an interesting comment on the Tai chi guy. I figure anyone who can do that much work seemingly effortlessly has something I don't understand. If you say those people don't typically have kokyu skills, I'll take your work for it. I really don't want to do thousands of one legged squats myself to find out for myself!

Of course, I think everyone would agree with the idea of letting the lower part of the body do the majority of the work, and opening up your mid section to allow that power to transfer through your arms. You can't do sword work for very long without discovering a lot about that. While I have no doubt that it is a good starting place, I have found many ways to achieve some success at this, and still it is not really what I would call great kokyu skills.

The most progress I've made in the area of kokyu skills with respect to unbendable arm is that I'm finding I have to not consciously power any part of my arm between my hand and my center, and I have to somehow let my resistance to the push of my grabber come more from how I continue to fit my arm to their grip. I set a direction with my hand (relative to where I need to go to maintain the "fit" of our connection, resist the urge to now just push my arm forward, and move my center - not necessarily in that exact same direction depending on what I want to accomplish). I can't do it very well at all if I'm leaning or bridging, I generally have to be squarely over my center, but I'm not sure if that is a requirement for the advanced kokyu folks. I agree that just taking ukemi in a mindless way will get you no where (maybe in shape) but, if you start taking ukemi and resisting in a mindful way where you practice your resistance in the way I'm describing above - as much as possible - I can assure you that habits change, and some progress is made. I can't say it's _the_ way, but I can tell you it has yeilded much better results for uke and nage than much of the other stuff I've tried so far.

Rob

Mike Sigman
06-29-2005, 10:00 AM
(snip)There can be five different Japanese people describing the same concept in kotodama all using symbology like fire, water, heaven, earth, etc. and all using different symbols - like what 1 guy used fire for, another guy is using water for, and some aren't even using the polar opposites (as I think about them anyway). Except I'm personally not talking about descriptions, I'm talking about how to do it. If someone knows how to do it, descritpions and definitions are a meaningless side topic. In terms of Stevens, fire, water, heaven, earth, etc., those are such well-known (if you have a background in things qi) allegories, that I stand on the point I made.... he missed it... and that's was simply an observation, not a denigration. Of course, I think everyone would agree with the idea of letting the lower part of the body do the majority of the work, and opening up your mid section to allow that power to transfer through your arms. You can't do sword work for very long without discovering a lot about that. (snip) Well, it's more difficult than it sounds. :)

Mike

rob_liberti
06-29-2005, 11:40 AM
No argument that improving fundamental movement is difficult.

Unless all of the ways those symbols have been used between the ultimate source(s) and John Steven's are equally "well known", we'll have to agree to disagree. Steven's was translating O-sensei descriptions based on the symbols O-sensei was currently using. They might match up 1 to 1 with the way the Chinese versions of those things that you recognize, but they really might not. I'd still say that even if they had the same ultimate source, it's much more likely that they do not match up 1 to 1 given cultural translations as well as the way several Japanese people have decided to change around their symbolic representation system. As noted, I believe on this very thread, O-sensei was know be someone to do that kind of thing. Just assuming any and all deviation you recognize must be Steven's work is highly suspicious to me. I can see some of that going on - no one is perfect and all - but it seems a bit unlikely _to me_ that no one else would have changed a thing as it made it from one person's understanding to another's in totally different contexts like crossing cultural boundaries, but again, feel free to disagree.

Rob