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John Brockington 01-31-2007 02:24 PM

Re: Hypocrisy in Aikido
Sensei Amdur-
I am curious- did Terry Dobson ever say much to you about his treatment by Ueshiba and whether or not there was much evidence of anti-gaijin thinking or behavior? Do you think this may have been what Arikawa was doing to Dobson? And, if so, to what extent does this still exist?


Ellis Amdur 01-31-2007 04:53 PM

Re: Hypocrisy in Aikido
1. Certainly to Ueshiba, Terry was a curious beast - but then again, he truly was a curious beast. There were days that had the blessed wildness of a drunken Irish poet in full flight, others where he had the kindness of the father you wished you always had, and other times when he could have shambled out of a bog with a small rodent on a skewer for his dinner. From all I heard, Ueshiba was far beyond any anti-gaijin stuff. When Terry was invited as an uchi-deshi (Tamura was the one who suggested it, as I recall), there was some objection. Ueshiba himself put his foot down and said it would be so. Ueshiba was, as best as I can tell, beyond all the usual stereotypes - he kept violent people in the dojo and scummy politicians and wacky mystics and some of the finest, sweetest men and women you'd ever want to me. And per Terry, he either saw through to the heart of each of them, or he simply accepted anyone as they were. Sounds kind of blissed out, but I think it was true - not because Ueshiba was "nice," but he just wasn't in that particular game.
2. I remember, by the way, a sincere American once asking Nidai Doshu what led his father to pacifism, and it took three tries at translation for Doshu to get the question, and he started giggling and said, "What? My father was never a pacifist. He was beyond all that, good and evil, that sort of stuff." PAUSE "It's a martial art he was doing. People get hurt. If you want to do something where there is no chance of getting hurt, then you should do ikebana or shogi."
3. Re Arikawa - I also do not think Arikawa sensei was anti-foreigner. He hurt lots of Japanese too. I remember the first time I took his class, and I got puzzled by one of his techniques and I signaled to him for help, and my partner, a young Japanese, said and I quote, "Please. Please put your hand down. Please. He'll come over and help us and that will be very bad." And Arikawa explained the technique on the body of the poor young Japanese guy and it was very bad. Yet I truly got the sense that he liked me and meant me well in his own way - he, too, seemed beyond the foreigner/Japanese dichotomy. When I took his ukemi, I never got hurt. I was absolutely aware what he was putting out, and where it was going. If you read him, I found you were fine. If not, he just kept going.
Two encounters - he sidled up to me behind the curtain at Meiji shrine and said, "Oh, you're doing Araki-ryu. Remember, when you go out there, SMASH THEM! SMASH THEM!" And once, I dropped by the bookstore where my wife worked, the only hippie bookstore in Tokyo, and there was Arikawa in the back, his hair dishelved, with a pile of books on the interface of Shingon Mikkyo and quantum physics. I tapped him on the shoulder and said "hi sensei." And he sort of hid the books like most guys would do if they were caught reading Playboy.
I really liked the man - he had a sincerity, an odd genuine innocence, but he seemed profoundly existentially alone in some ways, and I had a sense that he was a desperate purist, that there had to be a right way to do aikido, which he loved, and he couldn't forgive people who went through the motions. At the same time, I didn't trust him - he wasn't a brute or a thug, like some people who come to mind - but I sensed he was, what I would now see in clinical terms, perhaps a little autistic - he was in his own world, and as kind as he could be, acts of kindness that I'd never expect from most of the other shihan, he didn't see people on the same terms that most people would. And of all the shihan who have recently died, I somehow felt saddest about Arikawa sensei. I can't really explain it, but he, I firmly believe, would have been someone I would have benefited from knowing in more depth - that I didn't had something to do, however, with his propinquity for burying his fist in your throat.


Lorien Lowe 01-31-2007 05:14 PM

Re: Hypocrisy in Aikido
Amdur Sensei,
that's one of the nicest eulogies I've ever read. Thanks.

Peter Goldsbury 01-31-2007 06:00 PM

Re: Hypocrisy in Aikido
Hello Ellis,

Your post brings back memories. I never knew Arikawa Sensei like Terry Dobson, Stan Pranin and you yourself did, but I knew him in a different way, I suppose, from different goalposts. I fought with him at IAF meetings and he was just as scary off the mat as he was on it.

On one occasion he wanted the IAF statutes to be changed to take account of the special position of certain Japanese shihans. I refused. We had a vigorous argument, in which Arikawa Sensei ignored the normal rules of meeting procedure and simply blasted away, ignoring the pleas of the hapless General Secretary to keep to the agenda. But he made the whole thing very personal, as if the whole thing was simply between Arikawa and Goldsbury. I am sure you can imagine the scene.

These were battles that I felt I just had to win, for the kind of reasons that George intimates in his post about Bruce Bookman. Aikido 'gaijin' are tested everywhere in Japan, not just at the Hombu Dojo, and I think the reason has to do with how most Japanese have been mentally programmed to deal with foreigners. If you are an 'outside person', then the goalposts are very rarely level: they always tilt, but, and this is important, not always in the same direction. However, aikido is willy-nilly no longer an art based solely and simply on Japanese values. Like judo, it has been opened to the world at large, and the Japanese alone are not capable of ensuring that it does not also go the way of judo. But this real 'internationalizing' of aikido, in a way that does not result in any serious splits, will take much longer than one or two generations.

As bookshop encounters. I once bumped into Arikawa Sensei in the Kinokuniya store in Times Square, Shinjuku. I was with Christian Tisser and some others and they quietly 'disappeared', leaving me with Arikawa Sensei. I had just bought some books on early Japanese history and we had a long discussion. I think he was a little surprised that I was studying such a subject, and even more surprised when I told him I taught a course to Japanese students in Hiroshima on the Kojiki and the Bible.

I think I mentioned somewhere at the time that when Arikawa Sensei died, Stan and I visited him at the hospital. There was no one else there and we paid our respective farewells. From the recorded time of death, I think he died just a few minutes after we left and I also believe that we were the last visitors to see him before the end.

Best, PAG

gdandscompserv 01-31-2007 06:37 PM

Re: Hypocrisy in Aikido
Ellis & Peter,
Thank you for sharing.

John Brockington 02-01-2007 06:48 AM

Re: Hypocrisy in Aikido
Sensei Amdur-

Thank you very much for your thoughtful response to my question. I deeply appreciate it.


Ron Tisdale 02-01-2007 06:55 AM

Re: Hypocrisy in Aikido
Hi Jun, any chance we can archive the significant posts to their own thread? I think it would be a shame for them to get lost in the shuffle.

Ellis and Peter,


Michael Douglas 02-01-2007 03:19 PM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei
This thread is short and sweet, real gold.
If there is any chance of some more reminiscences on the same lines, please go ahead!

rulemaker 02-01-2007 05:54 PM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei
Arikawa Sensei is in the The 8th International Aikido Congress (Sept. 2000) Video produced by Aikikai Hombu Dojo. This is the only video that I saw him in action. Are there any others?


Alex Megann 02-02-2007 04:55 AM

Re: Arikawa Sensei
I never saw Arikawa Sensei - when I went to Hombu Dojo three or four years ago his name was still on the teaching roster, but when I finally plucked up the courage to go to one of his classes Toriumi Sensei was teaching in his place. I think he died a few months later. I was disappointed, as I felt, from what I had read and heard about him, that he was one of the true originals in aikido.

I remember years ago Kanetsuka Sensei was musing on who to invite as visiting instructor for the BAF Summer School. He said that he would very much like to invite Arikawa, but he felt the BAF was "not ready yet" for him!


George S. Ledyard 02-02-2007 09:14 AM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei
I once asked Ikeda Sensei if there was anyone at Hombu he was scared of. He didn't even hesitate when he replied "Airikawa Sensei". I don't even want to consider what someone would have to be like to actually scare Ikeda Sensei.

Arikawa was one of the old school folks who basically believed that there was Aikido and there were the students of Aikido and one didn't adjust the art to the student, the student had to adjust to the art. He was a force of nature in a way and when he was doing his technique he was just about as impersonal. It's a hard aspect for us to understand I think.

thisisnotreal 02-02-2007 10:20 AM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

i would transcribe the text here, but i'm afraid i'd be violating the copyright; and disrespecting Daniel Linden, the author, if I did so (but I'd love sorry..). The book is "On Mastering Aikido"

There is an amazing story which i cannot forget about Arikawa sensei manifesting some non-contact force holding some Aikido dude down on the mat at a seminar, after he slammed him down to the mat the old-fashioned way. His hand was splayed out in front of the dude's face, but a few feet away. The author and his buddy were on the sidelines. Author's buddy is some toughguy (the real thing); says that is BS. Somehow Arikawa senses this, calls toughguy up and repeats it on him. Toughguy has the scare of his life, gets up off the mat, leaves the seminar, and quits aikido. It was real. It was not viewed as a good thing by Toughguy.

This is of course in the chapter on 'KI'.

This deep solitariness and existential aloneness is an indication that he became these (mikkyo) principles. Essentially, internally, i believe he was committed, from moment-to-moment to his 'enlightenment'. I personally am not sure this is truly a good thing. i don't know. Sometimes i think this withdrawnness or religious commitment to Fudoshin can just lead us 100 miles an hour into a brick wall.

This is now the third time i have heard someone describe a shihan as being truly alone. I find it interesting. And kind of a bit sad. But that is just me...of course.


Fred Little 02-02-2007 11:40 AM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

George S. Ledyard wrote:
I. He was a force of nature in a way and when he was doing his technique he was just about as impersonal. It's a hard aspect for us to understand I think.

I took one class from Arikawa Sensei in the mid-nineties at Hombu Dojo, and the phrase that came to mind when I saw his technique was "inexorable force of nature." It was clear that any failure to follow his technique with immediate timing that was dead on could have very bad results for uke.

The other thing that struck me was the absolutely flat blackness of his pupils, which I have only seen in two other people in the last fifty years. Eyes like that are so far out of the normal range that I don't doubt for a second that more than a few people found him quite frightening indeed.


raul rodrigo 02-02-2007 06:31 PM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei
I heard from an Italian friend, a yondan who trained in Hombu, that Arikawa would now and then break his uke's arm in demonstrations. He once picked an uke who wasn't all that used to his movement and perhaps inevitably, uke came to grief. My question is, why did people put up with it? What makes behavior like this if not okay, then tolerable? I've read what Stan Pranin and Ellis Amdur have written about his being kind and generous and sweet spirited off the mat--but all that sweetness doesnt make a difference when you're being methodically disassembled on the mat.

DH 02-02-2007 07:26 PM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei
Frankly, I'm disgusted. I can't believe I am even reading this here. I saw this crap with Chiba and hoped that he was the only screwball getting away with this abuse from his own students.

It would be more fun to see abusers try this in a Judo or jujutsu freestyle format where these have no chance for that kind of abuse. Where they would have to fight for the chance to maim a lesser player, and maybe have it cost them for their effort.

Read between the lines of his own "supposed" attititude. Like what he said to Ellis. "You're Araki ryu. Smash them smash them!"
I say fine by me. I understand that. TAKE HIS ADVICE. Do what he commands and suggests!.
Offer a shomen-uchi-as a fient- then kick him right in the teeth or balls. Kick him in the ribs while he is layed out. When he wakes up look at him and say...... "What?"
"Its MY aikido."
"Deal with it! "
"Smash them! Smash them!.... Thanks for the advice."

Simply disgusting

For newer students
Please do not be confused.
Do not accept this garbage from a teacher.
Some folks think its some sort of right of passage or some how "cool" to have survived some Dojo tough guy twit because they have a legend for hurting folks. There's a type of structured support they create where they get you to actually believe its OK.
Don't you believe it!!

Couple of ground rules
1. No one, anywhere, needs to demonstrate the martial veracity of either themselves or their art by hurting students regularly. It may happen by accident. It's happend to me and I felt terrible. But accidents are not the norm. And heres a clue "Demonstrations should be safer then freestlye." Listen to your innner voice. If you KNOW you are cooperating to some extent then it means there is an agreed trust. You make damn sure anyone pays for violating it.
2. To state things like "Smash them"openly and then to hurt folks in demonstrations ...IS....abuse. Don't validate or support it. It smacks of a personality dissorder. It matters not if he has authority.
3. Never be afraid to fight back when it happens. Even if you lose.
They are demonstrating the ultimate disdain for you and your classmates. Utter disgregard for your safety. What they are doing- at that time- is the equivalant of battery. Of criminal intent. Screw them! Go all out and defend yourself. Kick the living crap out of the teacher in front of everyone. Stand up for your self and make a change for those others he has left in his wake.
4.Or just leave. But never, ever, accept abuse like that. From anyone. Particularly and pointedly from some Japanese Shihan. Position does not warrant and legitimize personality dissorders and abuse as "teaching style" with broken bones and wreckage in its wake
5. If they try to use "presumed risk" as a defense. Use it right back when they get out of the hospital. You were just doing martial arts and defending yourself.

I hope no one is "looking up" to this type of behaviour from a teacher and calling it good.


Chris Li 02-02-2007 07:42 PM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Dan Harden wrote:
Frankly, I'm disgusted. I can't believe I am even reading this here. I saw this crap with Chiba and hoped that he was the only screwball getting away with this abuse from his own students.

I used to go to a lot of Arikawa's class at hombu. He always applied technique very strongly, but I never felt unsafe. I never saw him deliberately abuse anybody (much less break an arm). I will say that we was one of the only one of the old guard at hombu who would work with anybody and everybody as long as they were serious, whether he knew you or not - most of the others had their "inner circle".

He was also extremely knowledgeable if you could get through his Japanese.



raul rodrigo 02-02-2007 07:55 PM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Dan Harden wrote:
Frankly, I'm disgusted. I can't believe I am even reading this here. I saw this crap with Chiba and hoped that he was the only screwball getting away with this abuse from his own students.

What did you see Chiba do, specifically?

Gernot Hassenpflug 02-03-2007 05:40 AM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei
I remember in about 2000 or so spending a week in Tokyo to train daily at honbu dojo, and taking all of Arikawa sensei's classes. I got the impression he was a little different after about 5 seconds into the warm up which consisted of moving forwards and backwards doing shomen, yokomen cutting movement and tsuki, plus some taisabaki (alone). Now I get an idea what he was doing. Anyway, when uke was asked to attack him, the difference was as vast as the sea - it truly looked as though uke was afraid for his life. And yet the technique was always gentle, any sudden moves to demonstrate strikes, or limb manipulations were done sliding off uke if necessary, and when I took ukemi for sensei his touch was so light that I could adjust in his grip for the position - it was like having my arm surrounded by two steel loops attached to a solid machine.

I remember Arikawa sensei twiddling his thumbs constantly, hands placed one palm over the other at his hara, or behind his back like an old Chinese :-) When we were at the railway station (in Hiroshima IIRC) he would walk up to some of his students and remonstrate them for standing with their hands in their pockets, they ought to do what he was doing for their martial training and well-being. He was the teacher I would most have liked to train with regularly at Honbu. I shall miss him a lot.

Peter Ralls 02-03-2007 06:02 AM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei
I trained in Arikawa Sensei's classes many times in 1979 and 1980. Though training in those classes was very rough, and a lot of people got injured, I don't remember Arikawa Sensei himself ever injuring his ukes. When he threw me, though the experience was usually pretty painful, I never got injured, in that the joint in question didn't hurt the next day. This was not always true with some of the other teachers who had a less fearsome reputation.

I also did some training with Terry Dobson Sensei. While Terry was very good, very strong, pretty tough, and had some unresolved anger issues, my own belief is that in a real fight Arikawa Sensei would have destroyed him, even though Terry was three times Arikawa Sensei's size. Though Terry isn't around anymore to ask, I doubt if he would have disagreed.

Although Arikawa Sensei's practice was very intense and severe, and Arikawa Sensei was definitely very eccentric, I always found him to be a gentleman, again, not my experience with all the teachers.

Ellis Amdur 02-03-2007 06:46 AM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei
Dan - You are right in your outrage at abuse. Hence the several "layers" at my post.
At the same time, I remain puzzled and curious about this man, because there was something different going on than with the typical bullying aiki-thug cheap-shot artist - regarding the latter type, both then young teachers at the Aikikai, I replied to such an attempt with one individual by nearly breaking his wrist (we were in Doshu's class together, working out - he, a teacher, was always ingratiatingly friendly to me afterwards) and another, I took down and nearly choked out - he also never tried to hurt me again. Of course, it didn't change their overall behavior in the slightest. I left aikido very early in my time in Japan - I was there 13 years, and only two of them in aikido - and part of the reason for my disinterested was that such bullying, particularly by unimpressive individuals who could get away with things because of the context, was permitted in the aikido world. I do not know what my response Arikawa would have been had he done something gratuitous to me, particularly as I matured. I trust the last sentence of my post makes clear why I kept my distance. But similar to my contact with what I called the "undamaged self" to individuals of far greater capacity for violence that I've dealt with on my job, I saw something in Arikawa that caught my attention.
And going back to context, my original post was in response to what i considered an unjustifiable deification of the Founder and of aikido as "peaceful." Arikawa's behavior, and that of the many others, is as much intrinsic to aikido, particularly in Japan in my day, as the integrity and kindness of such individuals as Kuwamori Yasunori, whom I also have spoken. That the former is worthy of contempt is something you and I both agree.


柘植富安 02-03-2007 08:25 AM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei
"It would be more fun to see abusers try this in a Judo or jujutsu freestyle format where these have no chance for that kind of abuse. Where they would have to fight for the chance to maim a lesser player, and maybe have it cost them for their effort."

My money would have been on Arikawa Sensei.

Ellis and Goldsbury's comments are incredibly astute and accurate I think.

But, to each their own. There is tons of "other" AIkido out there to satisfy the less martial. Actually most of it looks that way now. :hypno:

raul rodrigo 02-03-2007 10:05 AM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei
Its not about being more or less martial, or a waza being more or less painful. Ellis's post points out the key concept: the issue here is gratuitous pain, hurting uke one iota more than you have to. Aikido is a budo, yes, and therefore inherently dangerous. But why should it be deliberately made more dangerous or painful than it has to be?

Peter Goldsbury 02-03-2007 08:35 PM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Raul Rodrigo wrote:
Its not about being more or less martial, or a waza being more or less painful. Ellis's post points out the key concept: the issue here is gratuitous pain, hurting uke one iota more than you have to. Aikido is a budo, yes, and therefore inherently dangerous. But why should it be deliberately made more dangerous or painful than it has to be?

I think the posts were originally in the Hypocrisy in Aikido thread and the posts on Terry Dobson and Arikawa Sensei were split off. The particular context was the treatment of foreigners in the Aikikai Hombu Dojo.

None of the shihans of Arikawa Sensei's vintage teaches there any more, but foreigners are still regarded as something of a separate community there, and therefore as something of a target in Japan's ijime-based culture. Ijime is usually translated as bullying or persecution and exists everywhere, but in Japan it has a wider connotation that this and especially focuses on those who are, or are perceived to be, different. The crude and boisterous humor of some TV shows has an element of it.

I cannot stress too much that aikido's pretensions to be a JAPANESE art based on harmony and peace have to be understood in a certain context. The AI of aikido does not really mean harmony, which is usually rendered in Japanese as WA. WA a is the second character in the word Yamato a, which is the ancient name for Japan. A conclusion drawn by some is that non-Japanese do not really understand WA.

raul rodrigo 02-03-2007 08:44 PM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei
I meant Ellis Amdur's second post, where he talks about cheap shot artists who were young instructors during his time in Hombu decades ago. And as he points out Arikawa hurt some non-Japanese too, so its not about race, I think. Arikawa dealt out pain democratically.

Peter Goldsbury 02-04-2007 02:20 AM

Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei
And I was thinking of George Ledyard's post (#74 in the other thread) about Bruce Bookman's experience in the Hombu, which was not moved to this thread. In my experience, in the way he trained Arikawa Sensei was neither hypocritical, in the sense that his words and actions did not match, nor discriminatory against foreign aikidouka. The same is true of Chiba Sensei also.

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