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aikishihan 01-21-2011 12:20 PM

Legacy and the Founder
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Morihei Ueshiba, O'Sensei to most, was responsible for developing several generations of quality students who in turn, became well respected instructors and representatives of the Founder's teachings. Certain number of these went on to form stand alone organizations that, while giving due and full credit to the influence and inspiration derived from the Founder, developed original characteristics that were magnificent and genuine in their own right. After all, the Founder himself was a product of various influences, martial and cultural in origin, that may have been a precursor of how his direct students themselves ultimately grew and developed. In retrospect, what could be more natural, logical and to be expected, as similar scenarios play out throughout the history of the human species.

In any generational transfer, the resultant product never imitates the original exactly or completely, and occasionally is attended by paradigm shifts that result in changes in history, tradition and the human penchant for innovation.

And so it would seem that the "legacy" of the Founder replicates the undeniable reality of inevitable change, and the new birth of fundamental understanding, systemic re-creation, and the resultant transmission of new truths and ideas.

At this juncture, I would like to implore those special few who posses proven familiarity and who have achieved levels of understanding of those special giants of Aiki and Aikido, that place them in unique positions of being able to explain, demonstrate and communicate the essence of these pioneers and their own respective legacies to the rest of us. All in all, it is my viewpoint that the essence and value of the Founder's initial creation is but the beginning of what will probably become a multi generational research project on Aiki.

So, let us begin by casting an intense and discriminating light on the actual progeny of the Founder, who were in the unique position of being his direct students, in order to appreciate as accurately as possible what the Founder's intent, purpose and discoveries were really like. Perhaps we can understand more intimately what drove the Founder to undertake the tasks he did, which influences and associations meant more to him for certain subjects, and to understand more openly what he meant by preparing his Aikido for the world at large. If not this purpose, then what were his true vision and dreams leading him to discover and to achieve.

No, I don't for a second believe that this unique and fabulously talented group of individuals had all the answers to questions we currently have, and will continue to have in the future. Nonetheless, they are the most logical and appropriate starting points for us to respect and to utilize. Even as we study the geological history of the Earth one deposited layer at a time, so may we glean more of the Founder's true identity one direct student at a time.

Lest there be any confusion on this point, this legion of direct students may not be found only in the Aikikai family as currently or historically constituted. As Stanley Pranin has aptly discovered and pointed out, there are vast amounts of material about those giants who either left the Aikikai, or who were never even included at any time in history. Their legitimacy is directly tied to their personal connection to the Founder during their lifetimes, and are as legitimate and vital as any other verifiable source of provenance and authenticity.

The true and complete legacy of this gift of Aikido from the Founder is yet to be fully discovered, revealed, examined and appropriately transcribed and transmitted. This work will require generations of honest and painstaking work by talented, committed persons of the highest integrity, training and motives.

Yes, what has been discovered to date is immense and amazing. Why stop now? The aforementioned Stanley Pranin will never get the proper credit he so richly deserves for initiating the process of discovering this phenomenon we call O Sensei. Using a decidedly non Japanese approach, he has helped to keep accessible and empirically valid, the open door to discovering O Sensei for ourselves, and for future generations.

It is time, I do believe, for the Aikido leaders of today to seriously consider the forging of responsible associations of courageous intent and non compromising legitimacy. These attempts must remain free from arbitrary claims of historical entitlement and the patently false assumption of hierarchical legitimacy by birth or by proclamation. It must be our firm resolution to then carry on the ongoing search for the real and complete O Sensei and his legacy. Perhaps in this way, we can inspire and encourage successive generations to do the same when their time comes due.
Francis Takahashi was born in 1943, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Francis began his Aikido journey in 1953, simultaneously with the introduction of Aikido to Hawaii by Koichi Tohei, a representative sent from Aikikai Foundation in Tokyo, Japan. This event was sponsored by the Hawaii Nishi System of Health Engineering, with Noriyasu Kagesa as president. Mr. Kagesa was Francis's grandfather, and was a life long supporter of Mr. Tohei, and of Aikido. In 1961, the Founder visited Hawaii to help commemorate the opening of the new dojo in Honolulu. This was the first, and only time Francis had the opportunity to train with the Founder. In 1963, Francis was inducted into the U.S. Army, and was stationed for two years in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second instructor for the fledgling Chicago Aikido Club, succeeding his childhood friend, Chester Sasaki, who had graduated from the University of Illinois, and was entering the Air Force. Francis is currently ranked 7th dan Aikikai, and enjoys a direct affiliation with Aikikai Foundation for the recommending and granting of dan ranks via his organization, Aikikai Associates West Coast. Francis is the current dojo-cho of Aikido Academy in Alhambra, California.

Demetrio Cereijo 01-21-2011 01:41 PM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Where is the I like button?

George S. Ledyard 01-21-2011 08:11 PM

Re: Legacy and the Founder

It is time, I do believe, for the Aikido leaders of today to seriously consider the forging of responsible associations of courageous intent and non compromising legitimacy. These attempts must remain free from arbitrary claims of historical entitlement and the patently false assumption of hierarchical legitimacy by birth or by proclamation. It must be our firm resolution to then carry on the ongoing search for the real and complete O Sensei and his legacy. Perhaps in this way, we can inspire and encourage successive generations to do the same when their time comes due.
It is in our own self interest to do so... The older generation is passing away as we speak. We lose another direct connection to the Founder or one of his long time students every year now. Many of these pioneers set up large organizations to promote the spread of Aikido, and in the best circumstances, create a systematic transmission of what that teacher understood of the Founder and his art.

The first generation of Japanese teachers who had actually trained under O-Sensei were invested with a mystique that none of us will ever be accorded. Those of us who have relied for our authority and positions of importance on our connections with these various teachers will be sadly surprised when they are totally marginalized after the passing of these authority figures.

Anyone who has not stepped up and developed himself or herself as a world class instructor in their own right, will find no one really cares that they trained with so and so Sensei back in 60's and 70's. This is not a competitive endeavor but rather one of supporting each other and sharing. Every ushi deshi admitted that he only got a portion of what the Founder knew. So each of us really only got a portion. The best way for us to develop and Aikido that on some level replicates the Aikido created by the Founder is to combine our efforts and share what we know. By putting all these pieces together, we might actually come up with something that the Founder wouldn't complain that "no one is doing my Aikido".

And the support and respect we previously got by standing in close proximity to some teacher who had trained with the Founder would be there, first and foremost because we gave it to each other. I think the worst thing we could do would be to attempt to take old thinking and outdated organizational structures in to the future. We need to make ourselves as good as we possibly can as practitioners, develop our ability to teach what we understand, and we need to work with each other to support each other and to share the fruits of our efforts collectively. Then I think Aikido could well live up to it's promise of being a truly amazing art.

My experience at the Aikido Bridge Seminar in San Diego is an example of what I mean. I got to hang with and share with some fabulous senior teachers, train with folks from a number of backgrounds and organizations, and came away with a number of relationships that I fully expect to last the rest of my life. And everyone was so welcoming and happy that I was there. That's the beginning of the process I think.

Thanks for the article Francis. I think we are on the same page on this endeavor.

crbateman 01-22-2011 02:41 AM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Thank you, Francis Sensei, for your steadfast passion to this ideal. As George Sensei has pointed out, time is running out for those in generational proximity to O'Sensei to speak out. Many have left this plane of existence without passing on all that they knew and experienced. Many still with us think that it is the younger ones' responsibility to somehow absorb these things on their own. Many others who are clouded with politics or ego will simply not be moved.

As one who wants to know, I can't possibly find out by myself. The teachers must put themselves "out there", or at least get their thoughts organized and recorded in some tangible and durable fashion. Aikidoka of today don't have to do everything as the Founder did (although one could do worse), but should at least have access to enough accurate and objective information to fashion their own choices. This can be done, if undertaken for the greater good. I hope it happens, as time moves on in spite of the need, and sources are inexorably dwindling.

Thanks again for your unwavering voice.

niall 01-22-2011 06:28 AM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Thank you. It's a pleasure to read the inclusive and open and positive approach you always embrace, Takahashi Sensei.

aikishihan 01-23-2011 01:27 AM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
It is definitely logical to grant the original pioneer instructors from Japan due credit for their magnificent work over the decades. Short of granting them a “mystique”, I feel that it is more appropriate to grant them deep respect and genuine gratitude for their efforts, having little to compare them with at the time. It is no secret that we have been witnesses as well to their human frailties along with their proven strengths over time, recognizing them to be just as human as we are in every way imaginable and observed.

Since then, the Aikido movement in the United States, and throughout the world, has witnessed immense growth and increased stature as an authentic martial art, accepted as a positive choice of study for many, and recognized widely as a cultural phenomenon with unique emphasis on harmonious interaction and social responsibility.

Inevitably, we have been witnessing the loss of most of these pioneers to illness, incapacity and death. I do not believe that regret, feelings of inadequacy, or even profound sadness over the passing of these early mentors is appropriate or helpful. Rather, let us rejoice in the fact that we did have them to guide us, and to gratefully acknowledge that they were instrumental in grooming excellent replacements for the future of Aikido’s growth and stability in the ongoing teaching of correct Aiki principles and techniques.

There is no argument that those fortunate enough to have trained under one or more direct disciples of the Founder undoubtedly received a rare, unique and even priceless education for their persistence. Yet I cannot accept any notion that this very fact places these fortunate students in any preeminent position of implied authority, expertise or entitlement for special status. The range of teaching styles and actual teaching abilities of these direct students is so wide and varied as to discount any necessary favorable advantage over those who did not have that privilege. It is my viewpoint that culture, social development and human capacity for wisdom and knowledge is cumulative in nature, kind of like fine wine that improves with age and accumulated experience.

At the San Diego Bridge, the AI Seminar in New Jersey, and other venues of bridge building attempts to expose previously isolated groups of Aikido practitioners is indeed the way to go for preserving the varied legacies of the original uchi deshi of the Founder, as well as the legacies of their respective progeny and the instructors we are now cultivating through our dojos. The upcoming Bridge in Orlando, Florida in March promises to be awesome!

This bodes well indeed for the future of Aikido, not as it originally was, but as it was envisioned to become in the eyes of the Founder and his son, the late Doshu. We have merely scratched the proverbial surface of the true nature of Aiki, its potential, and the opportunities for present and future giants to make their mark and enhance the magic of Aikido and its relevance to humanity.

Yes, I do believe that we are on the same paragraph at least, George, if not necessarily on the same page. I thoroughly enjoyed our brief time together in San Diego, and look forward to even more stimulating exchanges in the future.

Thank you too, Clark, for the important points you make, although they appear to be tantalizingly beyond reach and of our control at the present time. We simply must humbly accept the inevitability of loss and change.

But lo, let us remember to include the promise of renewal, rebirth and regeneration of the traditional concepts via the fresh minds, energetic creativity and passionate sense of purpose from our current and future crop of students of Aikido.

O'Sensei's legacy, along with the legacies of his direct students both from within and beyond Aikikai, should serve as the foundation for future legacies to be formed from our current and future pool of geniuses and innovators. I have every confidence that this has been already happening, is happening and will continue to happen, primarily because the benefits from studying Aiki Principles are too evident and enticing to ignore.

And Niall, call me Francis.

crbateman 01-23-2011 06:14 AM

Re: Legacy and the Founder

Francis Takahashi wrote: (Post 274093)
We simply must humbly accept the inevitability of loss and change.

This is true, of course. What I cannot accept is that we can have no effect on how fast and how severe these changes will be. But everybody must try to pull in the same direction...

Mary Eastland 01-23-2011 02:28 PM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Dear Francis:
I read this over twice and and am so sorry to say I don't understand. It could be because Ron and I are so isolated in our independent training. Being from Kokikai and now independant I feel I miss a bit of the inner workings of the Aikido world. Can you help me indersatnd what you are talking about?
thank you,

graham christian 01-23-2011 04:52 PM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Hi Francis. Like Mary I am not sure exactly what you're saying as I too am not part of a big organization but as such may have or may not have a helpful different perspective on the envisioned scene.

I would say that many times a person of some extraordinary quality comes along and it is this that attracts a multitude of interest and thus people. The point here is that the person concerned is not usually interested in organizational matters but is interested in communicating or teaching what they have discovered.

Organization is formed after the event usually by others who see how to make a buck or 'keep it pure' or add infinitum.

For me the purpose of organization is simply to make it possible to deliver for those many who are interested.

However, how many stick to or even understand what he said and can demonstrate what he said for that is what attracts people to that art. That is the basic of it all.

He was a deeply spiritual man through which he came to his 'enlightenment' which then caused such a stir and change in the field of martial arts. Yet how many freak out at the mere mention of spiritual? Yet they try to say it's all down to his physical training.

So the answer to the problem, if indeed there is one lies with each person getting to know what he continuously said and to learn how that equals Aikido rather than say he didn't mean it that way for that is what attracted people in the first place.

Anyway, that's my two cents.

Regards, G.

Mary Eastland 01-23-2011 06:21 PM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Hi Francis:
Ron and I just read it out loud together. I understand better now.
Thank you,

George S. Ledyard 01-23-2011 09:26 PM

Re: Legacy and the Founder

There is no argument that those fortunate enough to have trained under one or more direct disciples of the Founder undoubtedly received a rare, unique and even priceless education for their persistence. Yet I cannot accept any notion that this very fact places these fortunate students in any preeminent position of implied authority, expertise or entitlement for special status. The range of teaching styles and actual teaching abilities of these direct students is so wide and varied as to discount any necessary favorable advantage over those who did not have that privilege. It is my viewpoint that culture, social development and human capacity for wisdom and knowledge is cumulative in nature, kind of like fine wine that improves with age and accumulated experience.
I think we are talking about the nature of leadership here. The first generation of teachers was largely imposed, in the sense that they were either sent over from Japan or were the very first Americans to start training and were therefore the only choices. They were truly pioneers. But now, the situation is completely different.

The ASU alone has 25 or so Rokudans right now , and Saotome Sensei is still quite active. By the time he retires or passes on and Ikeda Sensei takes up the senior leadership position, there will likely be a few more. I think the other najor organizations are pretty much in the same boat, perhaps with a few 7th Dans now.

I don't think a one of us has

any preeminent position of implied authority, expertise or entitlement for special status
, not a single one. Right now, any status or authority we might have has been conferred by our teacher. When he is gone, no one will care.

There is a huge community of Aikido people who are out there who have trained for 35 - 50 years. I absolutely do not think that any hereditary entitlement for future leadership exists. There will be folks who end up as leaders but this time it won't be imposed.

Next time around folks will be picking their leaders. They will have a very wide set of choices, not with the political constraints that existed back in the sixties and seventies. So the folks that end up as leaders next time around will be the folks that rose to the occasion and provided leadership. I am talking about the kind of leadership that "attracts" because the leader walks his talk. It will be a leadership that concerns itself with the welfare of the folks being led, because if it doesn't people will simply leave. There will be lots of choices.

Respect, which is essential for people to feel about their leadership, is earned, not conferred or inherited. I remember a person I worked with once haranguing her assistants, "You WILL respect me." All I could think was, by the time it gets to the point at which you have to even say that, it's too late.

I do think that it is the time now to start, for those who have aspirations in this direction. I do not think it is appropriate or necessary to wait until those who have gone before get out of the way to start. We have had training over the years from a number of world class teachers. If there isn't to be a huge hole left by their passing, we need to start acting like world class teachers ourselves. People who may have had the habit of hiding their light because they were in the shadow of some big kahuna need to start letting themselves shine now.

People naturally want leadership... if you do not provide good leadership, they will follow bad leaders. I look at the senior teachers, Japanese and American, who will be passed or retired within a short time. Ask yourselves who amongst them has a student or students who looks as "big" as they are? Who looks to have the stature, the skill, the charisma? In many cases you will see folks who look like they might eventually develop that, but the passing of the responsibility for the transmission is imminent. People need to step up now and become the leaders that will be needed in the future.

In a corporate setting, a manager is reviewed partly on his ability to develop talent. In the military, leadership is developed and trained, it doesn't just happen. Aikido is a bit different. Rank has been a big factor in determining who the leaders are. Their preparation for being leaders might have been based soley on their abilities to drop an opponent on the mat at will. Some folks figured it out and some folks clearly did not. But we sure as hell never had a good leadership development program. So without that, the next generation of leaders will be the folks who figure it out for themselves. That needs to be happening right now and not later when it's too late.

No, the next time around it will be the Aikido community that confers authority in the leaders who step up and provide the kind of leadership that speaks to people. No one will invest in someone just because they trained Japan, or had a Shihan teacher. Francis is a leader not because of his background, in fact many folks aren't that familiar with his background, but because of who he is. He consistently moves through life trying to leave every interaction he has with another person with that person feeling enhance somehow because of it. This is a man who wakes up every day and "fights the good fight". It's going to be people like this that folks will gravitate towards when the old order of imposed structures disintegrates.

It's going to be interesting to watch this process over the next ten years. The other thing to remember is that the folks mostly likely to step in on the short run aren't young either, so we should be looking out and making sure we are developing the next generation of folks by mentoring them and providing good leadership examples.

aikishihan 01-23-2011 09:53 PM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Hello Mary and Ron.

Congratulations on successfully running your own independent dojo, and for having faith in the Aiki Principles, applying them in the manner of your own choosing. I can imagine how happy and content your lucky students must be.

Aikido's amazing history in the United States has run for over 58 years, and I suspect that volumes could be and should be recorded to adequately and fairly give a full accounting. This work is way beyond my knowledge or talent, and would indeed require a collaboration of the many who have been studying and cataloging this information over the years.

My fortune and identity has continually been defined by my unbroken association with Aikikai Foundation and its leadership, beginning with Koichi Tohei, up to the current Doshu, Moriteru Ueshiba. If you have specific questions about those years, perhaps I can attempt to respond.

I am at somewhat of a loss as to where to begin, to identify any particular questions or clarifications you are seeking answers for, and am not sure that this is the forum for such discussions.

One purpose for my commenting about "Legacy and the Founder", and those of his most prominent direct students, is to encourage viewpoints and stories from those who knew them, learned directly from them and were entrusted with the transmission of such lessons.

I feel that it is vitally important to not only give due credit to these pioneers, but to glean and preserve the essence of what they themselves learned, digested and used to create their own interpretations of the original teachings.

As we inevitably lose these individuals over time, we must do what we can to ask questions, record answers and to accumulate such invaluable knowledge in a manner made available to any who wish to study them.

The sheer size of the data involved requires a group effort to sift through, catalogue and to preserve for succeeding generations. As both George and Clark have pointed out, we need to begin yesterday, to identify and encourage those who have been reticent to date to contribute to this worthy project.

I am sorry for not answering your request adequately, and I look forward to more specific questions that allow me to return bite size responses that do address specific points.

aikishihan 01-23-2011 10:17 PM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Greetings Graham,

It is so kind of you to express interest in matters concerning the history of Aikido's progress in the United States. In turn, I hope to learn more of the impact of Aikido's introduction to the continent, and to enjoy the stories from folks such as yourself, Henry Ellis, Peter Goldsbury, Neil Matthews, amongst others who I do not know of yet.

The appearance that distance can indeed dilute reality, while enhancing the romance of fantasy and illusion, must not be taken casually. I have found that many people are inclined to believe to be true, whatever they desire to be true, or are afraid may be true. It takes a rare individual indeed to break through this state of incompetence and non accountability to actually do the due diligence required to appropriately and fully examine the facts, test them empirically, and understand them through first hand experience. This does not describe the average Aikido player in the least.

It is acceptable to me that the vast majority of folks who practice Aikido do so for the simplest of reasons, wanting little more than a safe and reputable place to train. They would have no real interest in the proven pedigree of their instructors, and would show little affection for the Doshu or for the Founder. It is enough that the few that demonstrate a keen curiosity and interest in the quality of their Aikido understanding, proficiency and commitment, are allowed to do so without the burden of competing political or philosophical interference and obstruction.

KISS SIB is an American slogan for business, meaning Keep It Simple Stupid and Show It Big. Aikido to me is simple. It is the accomplishment of it that is difficult. So, I like to keep things simple.

In any reference to the Founder, however, I do have a request. Before uttering any cavalier or simplistic description of the Founder's real identity, his mission, his vision or his impact on the Budo world, the utterer should be sure of facts, references and be respectful of the impression it can have on those who do have such knowledge, and would appreciate greater care and compassion when speaking.

Thank you again for posting,

SeiserL 01-24-2011 03:05 AM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Yes agreed.

A legacy is a transmission or gift from an ancestor or predecessor.

In FMA I was taught the the system was complete bu not finished because it could continue to grow based on people continuing to study and the "add what is uniquely theirs".

The choice often is how we honor that gift and in what direction we evolve.

Like any family, "we" all win or "we" all lose.

From experience, you walk your talk.

Compliments and appreciation.

graham christian 01-24-2011 03:12 AM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Hi Francis. Thank you for your generous reply to my comments. I am abit surprised by your last paragraph though as I thought with relation to the founder I had kept it simple and yet shown him as a very special rare individual. So I feel I may have a blind spot here as to what you mean. This granted is a view by someone who never personally trained with him.
No doubt I'm missing something here.


graham christian 01-24-2011 03:28 AM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Hi Francis once again. After writing the above response I think I see what I'm missing. The whole point of this column. Indeed from that perspective I have no real input to add and someone like Ellis Sensei would be more to the point as far as british history is concerned as well as those who personally trained with the likes of Noro Sensei and others who came over here in the early days.
Apologies for my misunderstanding. I will look foreward to reading others experiences.

aikishihan 01-24-2011 04:04 AM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Hello Graham,

Thank you for your gracious and most generous reply to my post. I certainly did not mean any disrespect to you or to anyone else with my previous "last paragraph", which in retrospect, comes off as a bit harsh. Please accept my apology here.

I too look forward to the input from those who knew first hand of Noro Sensei, both Abe Sensei's, Asai Sensei, Chiba Sensei, Tada Sensei, Tamura Sensei, etc. What a rich heritage to be proud of, and to share with the rest of the Aikido world.

Sorry Niall, for the misspelling of your name. I have been told that the sweetest sound to a person's ear is the (correct) sound of their own name being heard.

Warmest regards to all!

in oneness,


graham christian 01-24-2011 05:17 AM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Hello again Francis. Just read your reply and thank you very much for the communication, However, although I accept your apology I feel it is not needed for you were quite straight and upfront with me and it was me who had the misunderstanding.
More than that, in your first reply it was of such quality that it reached through to me and made me think, to reconsider my views so for that I am thankful. In fact it made me realize quite a few things including knowing your place,(regarding the topic you did put me in my place) which was needed so I can only thank you for that. I also realized that commenting on a persons charachter who you only know of second hand and third hand is actually not necessary even if all you have to say about the person is good. Finally the fact that your communication was so free of negativity and yet direct (if that's the right word) that I couldn't help but admire it and feel it and take the responsibility to fully understand it. You may be surprised at such an effect but nonetheless I felt I needed to say it. Thank you.
As a possible contribution to this topic I did have an idea I would like to share with you before I sign off and go to work.
It occured to me that a person could write a series of books about the people to which you refer from this perspective: 'Memories of.'
These books would have peoples accounts of their experiences and memories of those people and times. For example if one book was called 'Memories of O'Sensei in America' then a writer could go and meet people in America who had the good fortune to so do and get a record of their experiences. It would have to be a writer I would imagine, someone familiar with doing what is required.
Also right here in this column maybe you could gather videos of people giving their personal experiences as I know I was fascinated by two such videos I found on youtube.
Anyway, just a couple of ideas that may or may not be relevent to your purpose but given as a gift.

Diana Frese 01-25-2011 10:32 AM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
I hope it's okay to call you Francis. I think I met you years ago, but
I've been mostly out of practice for many years for many of the usual reasons, job change, (non aikido related) injuries, marriage and other family responsibilities.... posted way too much on what some may call excuses and others might view with understanding having stopped training at least for a while, themselves.

Well, there's my intro. I occasionally have posted some memories of training years ago, in the past couple of months or so, starting with the Thanksgiving thread. But for you, I've been meaning to someday send you respect for being the teacher of Father Joseph Miller who was a fan of effective waza, and didn't like me teaching with beach balls. I'm sure there are many who use this effectively, but to go on with my story, I had to listen to him because he was, I think, first kyu and I was only shodan in a small YMCA dojo. As a matter of fact, I should have listened whoever he was, but in this case it was easy. He was your direct student and said he was going to Boston to pay his respects to one of your teachers. I don't even remember if he mentioned any others, but that was great we were going to Boston, and Yamada Sensei always hinted to people to visit Kanai Sensei's dojo. Kanai Sensei was kind of quiet (except when he felt a person needed advice, but that's another possible thread, but yes he usually spoke quietly) i think Yamada Sensei meant that even though Kanai Sensei seemed kind of quiet, not to forget to visit Boston, or something like that, I don't remember his exact words.

Kanai Sensei, in my impression from seminars and training camps, emphasized hanmi. He was not tall, but I later noticed that many of his senior students were tall. From personal experience of being relatively tall, I said, maybe it's because it's a way for people like me to figure out how not to get our feet tangled up.

I feel kind of shy mentioning these small stories in a history-oriented thread, but I hope this post and any others I have made or will make may help others realize just another instance of how valuable training in Aikido can be to individual people as well, Father Joe in the few alternating weeks he spent with our dojo while on loan to a local affiliate of the company in California, was a great help both at the Y classes and for taking a couple of us with him to Boston.

I went to Boston about once a month or to Western Massachusetts seminars for about a year, after being brought with another friend from the YMCA dojo that visit I mentioned. I had a friend from summer camp who invited me to visit in Marblehead, and I stayed there most times,and another friend near central square (the new dojo had moved to Porter Square I think it was called) I stayed with once or twice.

Some things in life just work out, but we have to take the opportunity.

Anyway, respectfully submitted, and I hope to be able to make some small contribution that will lead to some beautiful recollections from others. I know I enjoy reading posts from those who contribute their memories.

In closing, thanks for your generosity and inspiration to us all.

aikishihan 01-25-2011 11:42 AM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Hello Diane,

Thank you for posting, and by all means, call me Francis. It is after all my name, and the one that I respond to most of the time. Your side trip down memory lane is much appreciated and welcome.

You list quite an eclectic row of primary instructors on your brief bio, and I can't help wondering which one stands out as being the most influential and important to you. No need to answer as it is privileged information. Just curious.

You reveal that your history of doing Aikido correctly was beset by physical challenges. Kanai Sensei could very well have been the poster child of magnificent Aikido despite the awesome challenges he had to contend with during the time I knew him. No doubt, he used them to fuel his burning desire for daily improvement of his art and craft.

Since this post revolves around the legacy of the Founder as it relates to his direct students, it is indeed appropriate to include Kanai Sensei, who intimates called "Hambei", to this discussion of how his direct students fared after leaving the Founder in Japan. It is my wish that more stories will be shared by those with similar experiences of training with these direct disciples of the Founder of Aikido.

In his own quiet, yet dynamic and almost nihilistic manner, Kanai Sensei did his utmost to internalize his lessons from O Sensei, and attempted to fulfill his "Giri" and "On" to the Founder, and correctly transmit the essence of his teachings to the rest of us. It is my belief that I did actually catch glimpses of what the Founder was like through the often agonized demonstrations by and rare conversations with Kanai Sensei. I treasure those moments dearly.

Thank you for sharing your memories, and this opportunity to remind us of the gift of Kanai Sensei's living tribute to the Founder.

Diana Frese 01-30-2011 07:17 AM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Thank you so much, Francis. I am still studying your column and the responses of the others, and I will answer your question the best way I can a bit later, but for now, I will pick the word pioneers and open up a small window into the past. Yamada sensei traveling by bus all over the Eastern Seaboard. He may have flown sometimes, but he rode the bus a lot, as a standee sometimes.

About Kanai Sensei, I read and re read the beautiful tributes his students wrote and there is other historical information around, regarding his early days in Cambridge. Similar to my memories that Yamada Sensei took buses a lot, I read that Kanai Sensei ate a lot of potatoes (rather than other, more expensive things)

These are small details, but I think they show so much about the character of these people. Others, who came over later from Japan also faced hardships of their own....

But for now, I'd like to mention Mary Heiney (not sure of the spelling) one of the pioneer Americans, whom I met in Sacramento at a seminar years ago. She studied with Hikitsuchi Sensei and Arikawa Sensei many years ago and is still teaching as you know. One of my former students has taken classes with her and recommends her warmly. Shindai Dojo in Orlando has written beautiful reports of her seminars.

I'll be back to read and maybe share a few more memories, but for now I've given two resources Mary, and the New England Aikikai articles for the further investigation of readers who share your feelings.

Thanks again for your kind words

George S. Ledyard 01-30-2011 05:09 PM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Reminiscences of the pioneers...

Saotome Sensei was invited over to the US by a group in Florida. They had the money and set up everything so he could get his Green Card... He showed up, after having served in a senior leadership role at Hombu Dojo only to find that the guy with the money had absconded with the funds. So he found an eclectic mix of martial artists, hippies, ex-bikers, groupies, etc.

Supporting Sensei was a group effort. No one had any money to speak of and what they had they put into the dojo and their training. Someone fed Sensei breakfast, someone else fed him lunch. I am pretty sure that initially he didn't even have his own place to stay.

When Sensei had first announced that he would be leaving Hombu Dojo for the States, Osawa Sensei first tried to talk him out of leaving, and then negotiated that Sensei be given Hombu's blessing and the South East as his "territory". Due to political maneuverings, this deal fell through and was withdrawn. Sensei chose to come over anyway.

So initially, Sensei was cut off from any support from Japan. In those days it was still the "One organization per country rule" so anyone who went with Sensei was unable to get his rank recognized in Japan.

The existing organization here wasn't enthusiastic about the appearance of an uchi deshi whom had stayed in Japan when most of the others had gone overseas to teach. I guess they felt it was threatening.

Anyway, a variety of things happened that were designed to hinder his ability to attract students. I guess it's not appropriate on the internet to get into these things. I only mention it to illustrate just how hard it was to come over here and get started. Not only was there no money but, in Sensei's case, there were forces acting against him, which only made it harder. Those of us from the old days remember having an "us against the world" that made the training we ere getting from Sensei even more special. We had to chose Sensei or getting our ranks registered and we chose Sensei. I know he still has a soft spot for the folks who chose to stand with him back when the going was tough. Later, after the rapprochement with Headquarters, lots of folks came out of the woodwork and said they'd like to affiliate... I know for many of us the feeling was, where were you when it cost you something to be part of our organization?

Sensei moved from Florida up to DC in 1975. Five Yudansha moved from various parts of the country to help him open that dojo. Raso Hultgren, Glenn and Sara Bluestone, Carl Larkin, and Megan Reisel. Linda Holiday Sensei and Dave Hurley came and trained a bit. Of that original core of yudansha, all shodans at the time, Raso is Chief Instructor of a hugely successful dojo in Missoula, Linda Holiday has had a dojo in Santa Cruz for decades. John Messores,Sensei's first student when he came to the US came up for a while... he is now Chief Instructor of a dojo in St Pete, FL. Sara Bluestone is still at the DC dojo. Dave Hurley is a professor and still teaches classes at Kimberly Richardson Sensei's dojo in Seattle. The rest have gone on to other things...

They found this great space on Butternut St which was a residence that had been owned by an electrical contractor and he had added a warehouse space attached to the residence that was big enough to drive two panel trucks into. The residence had been turned into offices and the dojo only rented the warehouse space and the basement. I started when the dojo was only six months old. There were about eight of us in that first group of students who were the serious white belts. Everyone trained six or seven days a week. The space hadn't even been finished, half the space was still old cable reel racks, old reels, leftover cable and wire. We had half the space matted...

Well, mat was a bit of an exaggeration... everyone was still broke. So what little money could be had was put into making a two by four & plywood frame, and the mat cover. Foam was really expensive so the students went out and scrounged old rugs at garage sales, recycled cardboard boxes at the super market, anything that might cushion that floor a bit. Bit by bit we managed to put the place together and I am sure that Sensei himself put every dime he made traveling and teaching seminars into that dojo.

Training with Sensei was easily the best thing I had ever done. I was beat up, exhausted, frustrated by how hard it was for me and how easy it seemed for the yudansha (remember, they were shodans). But I loved every second of it, every nano second. I thought that if I could only be as good as those black belts I would have arrived.

Then I noticed that Sensei would whip a class on us and I wouldn't have a clue from start to finish,what he had done. Then I'd overhear the yudansha saying "What the hell was that? I have no idea what he just did" Sensei would then proceed to tell us, "yes, this class I do for Shihan at Hombu dojo." We were getting classes from him that he had done back in Japan in which no one in the class was under 6th Dan. You had to have a high tolerance for feeling lost but it was vastly exciting.

Initially, we just trained our brains out. There was no testing, there were no requirements. There was no ASU. We were simply a group of folks centered around this unbelievable teacher training every moment we got. I was the very first Shodan test ever done in DC. I had never seen a test before. Since there were no requirements written down any where, Sensei simply called out stuff and you had to do something that hopefully looked something like what he wanted. The eight of us actually thought we were there for our 1st Kyu Tests. But in typical Saotome Sensei fashion, he threw us a curve ball. When we finished, Sensei said "Ah, good tests. Take ten minute break and come back for another test." He sparng the Shodan test on us by surprise... There's one one thing I remember about that test. Sensei called for three people with shinai.

I had no idea what was happening when they surrounded me. The only thing I had ever seen that looked anything like this was the films of O-Sensei doing an irimi to get outside the circle of attackers. So when Sensei said start, that's what I did. A picture perfect irimi to the side of the guy behind me, a true work of art irimi. He then proceeded to hit me over the head with his shinai on his second try. I suddenly realized that I hadn't quite understood the program and the rest of my randori was me running wildly about the dojo, trying to hide behind the posts, etc. with three ukes beating the hell out of me while Sensei laughed his ass off. Afterwords, he told us,"Hah, hah, hah... you all died".

I realized that Sensei had specifically thrown the whole thing in precisely because there was no way we'd succeed. He wanted to make sure that none of the new Shodans had any unrealistic notions of how good were actually were. Every once in a while he'll still look at me and start laughing, remembering that first test. I have learned to take some consolation in having provided my teacher with so much amusement.

What's interesting about those early days is that most of the folks I know from back then, look at those days as a sort of magical time, easily the best time of our training lives. Sensei was on a mission to pass on what he had learned from O-Sensei. Not a night passed when we didn't sit with Sensei by the side of the mat after class over a few beers and listen to him talk about his time with the Founder. He clearly felt that he had an obligation to repay what he had been give by O-Sensei by passing his art along to another generation. And we felt the same way about the gift we had received in being able to train with this amazing man. You were always conscious that this man was an irreplaceable resource. He could be gone tomorrow and what he knew would be gone with him.

This wasn't a hobby for us. It wasn't just something you did when it was convenient or in your "spare" time. You trained every day, when you weren't at the dojo , you were thinking about it, you owned every book written about the art, you'd seen every clip of O-Sensei that Stan Pranin had made available. We all had jobs designed to support our training and a couple of us were married. So it wasn't like Sensei had trained in Japan 8 hours a day, seven days a week. But we did two or more hours every day but Sunday and some of us would go in the and do solo work.

I think it's hard now to see how different things are now. You never experience that excitement of being there at the very beginning again , unless you start your own place. It would be impossible to duplicate the training we got from Saotome Sensei in those days. I travel across the country and pay a thousand dollars to get three days with Sensei, along with 80 or more other folks. We had him every day with ten or so in the class. That will never come again and it was the best. Can't even come close to expressing how "the best" it was.

Stephen Fasen 01-30-2011 07:16 PM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Can't even come close to expressing how "the best" it was.

Perhaps not. Maybe words are inadequate. Perhaps the complexity of the Japanese concept of Kokoro and Giri is an illuminating analogy which in a way shows the ineffectiveness of our own words to explain the full weight of what fills our hearts in respect to this art of ours. I have not met many however, who try as diligently as you. I do know that you attempt to express that feeling, the magnitude of the experience, for all you train with every time you step on the floor. Your articulation is a gift to us all, even if we occasionally get to pay for it. You inspire, as Sensei does. You carry his growing legacy as very few can and then some. I will publicly declare without any reservation that the future of aikido in the hands of men like you and Francis is well guarded. You are a champions of the way, and your way grows constantly.
Thank you for the glimpse into a personal history.

aikishihan 01-30-2011 08:37 PM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
Hello again Diana,

There can be no doubt that pioneers of any worthwhile endeavor were indeed willing to endure and persevere through many a hardship and challenge to their noble attempts to introduce and establish beachheads for new ideas and movements.

I do remember Hambei recounting his Van Gogh like “potato eater” days, swearing to never eat another potato after becoming able to eat other foods. His was a true fondness as well for ice cream, and for the preparing of Japanese dishes from his memory of home.

Thank you for reminding us of the American pioneers as well, for their amazing stories of the “early days”, as they contributed significantly to Aikido’s growth in America. Although not necessarily direct students of the Founder (except for Messrs Terry Dobson, Robert Nadeau, Isao Takahashi and perhaps others), names like Alan Groh, Bruce Klickstein, Bill Witt, Frank Doran, Jon Mori, Mike Mamura, Robert “Red” Sakamoto, Clyde Takeguchi, Virginia Mayhew, Rod Kobayashi, come readily to mind. I apologize for forgetting other worthy names and individuals that escape me, and ask for help from the greater Aiki Web family in honoring those as well.

Mary Heiny indeed deserves special mention, not only as a premier female Aikido presence, but specifically for her unique longevity, perseverance, talent and teaching skills that endear her to many.

Along with the next wave of groundbreaking “imports” like Dang Thang Tri, Dang Thang Phong, Mark Murashige, Mitsugi Saotome, and Hiroshi Ikeda, we may want to go back into history a bit to include certain Hawaiian pioneers like Shiniichi Suzuki, Yukiso Yamamoto, Sadao Yoshioka, the late Robert H. Aoyagi, again amongst others I fail to name.

Volumes can and should be written to preserve the priceless memory of all of our American Aikido pioneers, linking their unique legacies to an expanded one for the Founder, for whom a special commemoration this year in Honolulu marks the 50th year anniversary of his historic visit back in 1961.

The Founder would be justly proud of these priceless testimonials to his overall legacy.

aikishihan 01-31-2011 10:45 AM

Re: Legacy and the Founder
George, your admirable sense of loyalty and respect for truth is both admirable and welcome in this age of seeming cynicism and poor social etiquette.

Thank you for your impassioned and educating response resulting in illuminating the contributions of a major influence and standard of Ueshiba Aikido, Mitsugi Saotome Shihan. Having a cadre of 25 6th dans, and captained by a preeminent 7th dan, the ASU has certainly done its share in raising the quality of Aikido in the United States and beyond.

As is usually the case, there will always be material facts and events that are not revealed in respect to principles of appropriateness, privacy, relevance, and timing of disclosure. Even as more firsthand accounts surface detailing the significant contributions of the other major influences on American Aikido, both Japanese in origin as well as our own home grown products, a much clearer vision of what has transpired in the building of our Aikido legacy here will emerge. We can only wait with bated breath for such future revelations shared by those in the know, and who have the courage and generosity to share.

Thank you again, George, for helping to establish a sort of template or blueprint, as it were, of accurately, humbly and respectfully revealing an appropriate and workable basis for choosing our leaders, and supporting them in every way possible. Legacies are established by being both correctly and properly acknowledged, and clearly recorded in a way for anyone with an interest to study and to appreciate.

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