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stratcat 11-17-2000 04:46 PM

I'm going to state a disclaimer first: this post is in no way, shape or form meant to be disrespectful, and the questions I ask aren't rhetorical or intended to start an argument; they are sincere. I've been practicing Aikido for about 8 months, which makes me pretty much a newcomer to the Art. Throughout my "career" (so far)I've heard all sorts of things regarding O'Sensei's abilities as a martial artist, as well as a philosopher (or "Warrior- Sage" as Ellis Amdur's book cals him). I've also read the biographies on O'Sensei by John Stevens Sensei, as well as several other sources (such as books by his disciples like Saotome Sensei). Basically I've heard he used to do some pretty far out stuff, like jumping straight up 5 meters in the air and scamper away on rooftops like a "ninja"; or the story about being 25 meters away from a rifle squad about to fire on him, when they do fire on him he's behind them in a split second WITHOUT ANYONE SEEING HIM MOVE! Or the story of how a stage performer friend asked him to teach her Naginata movements; he told her to come back the next day, which she did, and he later claimed an old hero of a book on feudal Japan appeared as he meditated and taught him to master the Naginata. Stuff like this is, of course, hard to account for; not to mention hard to believe: even Kisshomaru Ueshiba Doshu said it was bunk. Still, many people swear by these ocurrences, according to what has been published.

Furthermore, I understand that O'Sensei was an extremely spiritual person, to the point that he claimed to actually be, or at least be possesed by, any number of Shinto/ Omoto-Kyo deities, such as Ame-no-murakumo-kuki-samuhara Ryu-o. He was also said to have an volatile temper and a very excentric disposition, sometimes to the detriment of those closest to him. I can understand, for example his retreats to the woods for days at a time to train: this type of ritual is almost as old as humankind itself and is found in many peoples, the Australian Aborigines and Native American peoples being but two relevant examples. But being actually taught by Tengu? Strange and thunderous sounds emanating from the mountain, heard from miles around, and the Shinto shrine in his home shakingwhen he went to train? Huh????:confused:

Basically what I'm asking is this:
1.- How many of us actually give much weight to these stories? Are they important to you, do you believe them?

2.- What was O'Sensei? Divinely Inspired, as in Truly Possesed? Was he mad? Y'know, a few sashimi short of a sushi? Was he a shrewd promoter of himself and his Art- as in, he would start or encourage these stories to draw attention to his Art and message, perhaps to use a religious basis to rationalize or justify his political/religious views/ excentricities.

3.- There is no question as to his martial arts capabilities: Was O'Sensei just a man who, extremely talented as he was, after years of rigurous training, created Aikido as a distillation of many martial arts. Or was he truly "illuminated" in the sociological sense, and that enabled him to create something completely new and theretofore unseen?

4.- Are there any Aikido-ka out there, possibly sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, historians (scientific types) out there who have researched O'Sensei and his history in any scientific detail, particularly in reference to his socio-psycho-cultural background (i.e. the end of post-feudal Japanese History and the final dying of the warrior caste as exemplified by Sokaku Takeda or Tesshu Sensei)?

Gomen Nasai on this huge post, but these are questions which I'm seeking the answers to, and I would appreciate your help tremendously.

akiy 11-17-2000 10:09 PM

I think it just comes down to "Don't believe everything you read" (especially on the Internet -- ahem).

In my mind, deifying Morihei Ueshiba sensei in any way is kind of sad. It places him above and beyond our reach and makes it otherwise impossible for any of us to be able to reach his abilities.

Was he talented? I think so. Was he insane? Sometimes, I think so. But, there's always that fine line between genius and insanity.

You may want to read the interview with Stan Pranin that I did over the summer. He talks about his feelings on the tall tales, and I'd have to say that his knowledge about aikido history is perhaps unsurpassed.

-- Jun

PS: As to question number three, I'll be posting a new article that a friend of mine wrote on just that subject soon, maybe this weekend.

Kevin73 11-17-2000 11:18 PM

I don't claim to be an expert on Ueshiba by any means, but from reading books by 2 authors Suenaka and Tohei, both of whom were close to Ueshiba. Say that they never saw him do alot of those tricks.

Tohei states that many of the concepts that Ueshiba talked about were heavily influenced by his religious beliefs and that Tohei learned the most when he watched what Ueshiba did instead of his explanation for it.

Suenaka says that while Ueshiba did amazing things as a martial artist he never once saw him disappear or do anything else mystical or superhuman.

I've never read an account by an actual close student of Ueshiba's that spent alot of time with him say anything like that, it's usually authors like John Stevens who heard it from someone who heard it from someone etc. that the stories are told.


crystalwizard 11-18-2000 02:45 AM

Amazing how legends grow isn't it? heros of folk lore abound every where, most based on some real person and then embelished either because the teller misunderstood something, wanted to captivate an audience or other factors. Robin hood, King Arthur, Jonny appleseed, on and on. Did O'sensei leap tall buildings in a single bound? not likely, humans can leap well but at a certain point you need a pole to help you jump that high. Did he devote himself to perfecting what he considered a very important set of skills? definately. Could he dodge bullets? maybe...(gotta wonder how good the shooters were though).

shrug. He was a man. A master at his craft and someone with a lot to offer. Like Mozart, Picasso, and other masters of other crafts. He wasn't a god and shouldn't be worshiped. But treated with deep respect? yes..well yes if the student of his life work finds any value in it that is.

using just a tad of common sense when reading the stories of his supposed feats, looking at what top athletes around the world can do and can't do .... it might be just a little eaiser to see the truth that was embelished in a lot of cases.


tedehara 11-18-2000 04:50 AM

Deleting O Sensei
 
Quote:

crystalwizard wrote:
...
shrug. He was a man. A master at his craft and someone with a lot to offer. Like Mozart, Picasso, and other masters of other crafts. He wasn't a god and shouldn't be worshiped. But treated with deep respect? yes..well yes if the student of his life work finds any value in it that is.

using just a tad of common sense when reading the stories of his supposed feats, looking at what top athletes around the world can do and can't do .... it might be just a little eaiser to see the truth that was embelished in a lot of cases.

I just got through deleting a message to this forum because it (possibly) could be interpeted as showing O Sensei as a real person. Although I know the incident is accurate, I just didn't want to go though the hassle of being told that I was "disrespectful" of "Aikido" or "O Sensei".

There seems to be two approaches you can take towards understanding. You can take the non-thinking way and deify people like Morihei Ueshiba and cite authorities who agree with your viewpoint The other way is to use all your experiences and think about what is really going on. Don't take things on face value, but try and find out what really happened.

For myself, the thinking way is the hardest way and most reliable approach to understanding. A person should take Aikido seriously enough to not leave it to others.

crystalwizard 11-18-2000 05:31 AM

Re: Deleting O Sensei
 
Quote:

tedehara wrote:

I just got through deleting a message to this forum because it (possibly) could be interpeted as showing O Sensei as a real person. Although I know the incident is accurate, I just didn't want to go though the hassle of being told that I was "disrespectful" of "Aikido" or "O Sensei".


The only response I have to that is that if someone wants to flame me for saying he was a man and imperfect at that, they're welcome to. It will change nothing and frankly, anyone that is so over the edge as to get insulted because someone else dared to suggest that he was human needs to seriously consider how unbalanced they've become themself.


aikilouis 11-18-2000 07:35 AM

1- Concerning the near superhuman feats O-sensei is credited for, I advise you to watch his films : what you will see is incredible enough. Morihei Ueshiba must be the best documented Budo master ever (through film, writings, living students...) thanks to many passionate people.
2- About the divine inspiration : Hikitsushi sensei, 10th dan and Shinto priest, received the spiritual teachings of O-sensei. Through his testimony, one can understand that 'deities' do not have the same meaning in Japanese and in Western languages. When O-sensei talked about learning from the kami, he doesn't mean to say he met a strange creature that showed him irimi ; he means that direct contact with deep nature (the yamabushi experience) and observation of its forces (water, wind, trees, rocks...)gave him a global vision of Budo and its place in the world.
3- About O-sensei seeking publicity for himself : though he never refused to demonstrate his art, he kept a dignified attitude towards temptations of self promotion. For example, the dictatorship in power before WW2 could have made of him a perfect icon of traditional and martial values for propaganda purposes. Instead O-sensei stayed home.
4- If you allow me a personal POV, I'd say that he actually was an enlightened person (in the Buddhic sense of the word), which gave him the ability to see through mere technique and build a complete set of spiritual values : Aikido.
Louis

akiy 11-18-2000 09:41 AM

Quote:

aikilouis wrote:
1- Concerning the near superhuman feats O-sensei is credited for, I advise you to watch his films : what you will see is incredible enough.
Although I agree that some of the footage is pretty interesting (like his holding off two or three people pushing perpendicularly against a jo that he's holding outstretched with one hand), there's also evidence in these films that he's very much human. Ever see the clip of him not being able to put on an effective shihonage on an MP on the roof of a building?
Quote:

2- About the divine inspiration : Hikitsushi sensei, 10th dan and Shinto priest, received the spiritual teachings of O-sensei.
As did others.
Quote:

For example, the dictatorship in power before WW2 could have made of him a perfect icon of traditional and martial values for propaganda purposes. Instead O-sensei stayed home.
I seem to remember that in his younger days, he went out to Mongolia and such with the Omotokyo folks to incite rebellions and such.
Quote:

4- If you allow me a personal POV, I'd say that he actually was an enlightened person (in the Buddhic sense of the word), which gave him the ability to see through mere technique and build a complete set of spiritual values : Aikido.
Other people like Jigoro Kano also had the same kind of vision. To me, Morihei Ueshiba was very much a human with the same qualities and faults that any of us have. He ate, slept, went to the bathroom, and looked at members of the opposite sex. As such, I agree with people like Kelly and Ted above.

-- Jun

aikilouis 11-18-2000 01:40 PM

I'm not deifying anyone, but I find it funny to defend O-sensei in an Aikido forum. C'mon ! He didn't just invent some method for self defense ! If many people spend a lifetime trying to figure out what Aikido is, maybe it's because it's deeper than mere fighting.

REK 11-18-2000 09:31 PM

(n)O-Sensei
 
Andy asked if anyone (e.g. psychologist)had considered O-Sensei's behavior and legends in light of the times. I don't know. However, I can speak to the general phenomenon being addressed.

Across generations and cultures, we humans have a penchant for creating heroes. Some earn their reputations, some create it for themselves and still "...others have it thrust upon them". Did we create O-Sensei? Yes and no. O-Sensei was undisputedly (at least to me) one of the greatest budoka of all time. Most believe he earned that reputation. However, if we can't believe that he was greater than us in some way, perhaps in many ways, how can we justify all the time and money we pour into this chase after a command of the true meaning of aiki? We don't just want to believe, we HAVE to, or everything we are doing is a waste of time.

I can see you out there squinting your eyes, protesting. "I don't HAVE to believe O-Sensei was a GOD to want to do good aikido". True. But if the leader does not inspire, there will be no followers. There is something about what Ueshiba O-Sensei created that is compelling and puzzling. That is why you follow. Because you believe that it represents a force, power or ability greater than you. And one that speaks to you. So you "believe in" O-Sensei. Some have "believed in" him so much that they saw him vanish, dodge bullets, and leap tall buildings in a single bound. When you don't understand what you are watching, you might create a rather fantastic explanation for it.

Long winded answer to a short question.

crystalwizard 11-19-2000 02:23 AM

Quote:

REK wrote:
So you "believe in" O-Sensei. Some have "believed in" him so much that they saw him vanish, dodge bullets, and leap tall buildings in a single bound. When you don't understand what you are watching, you might create a rather fantastic explanation for it.

"Any sufficently advanced technology is indistiguishable from magic"
(forget who said that, Asmiov or Clark I think).

Not everyone's studying Aikido, and studying it with the intention of becoming as good as they possibly can, because of O'Sensei or anyone else involved in it. Some of us can justify the expense and time by stateing that we want to develop the skill set because we LIKE the skill and want to be good at it.

shadow 11-19-2000 05:18 AM

why be sceptical?
who's to say what is possible, the human mind is an amazing thing. Nature is an amazing thing.......this basing everything down to science and thinking everything has some kind of scientific explanation, or that it is not possible to master your mind in such a way that you can perform exceptional feats is a very closed minded view in my opinion.
I mean where does science come from? There is too much unexplained for me to shut off the possibility that humans aren't capable of these kind of things. One such example I like is....what is electricity? I mean we all know how it is generated etc, but how the fuck (excuse language) do we manage to make it do all these amazing things like tv and computers and lights and everything? I mean there is no real reason behind it is there? I don't think it is possible to really explain how some wind, or some moving water can make me be able to type a message on here and be seen by everyone else from anywhere is there? It all comes from nature, or as I think I have read Tohei put it, the power of the universal. What's to say that we can't harness this power ourself and skip the intermediates, like the windmills etc huh? Being sceptical and denying the fact that it is possible, is just denying yourself the chance to maybe someday experience it.
So in my opinion, yes it is a very real chance that o'sensei was able to perform such amazing things, but if you are able to, what is the need to demonstrate other than to prove something to yourself, and if you can already, why do you need to prove it to yourself?

Anyways I hope you are able to understand what I am trying to say in my rather long winded idea, and please by all means, keep your minds open :)

damien

crystalwizard 11-19-2000 05:28 AM

Quote:

shadow wrote:
why be sceptical?
who's to say what is possible, the human mind is an amazing thing. Nature is an amazing thing.......this basing everything down to science and thinking
everything has some kind of scientific explanation, or that it is not possible to master your mind in such a way that you can perform exceptional feats is a
very closed minded view in my opinion.
<snip>
So in my opinion, yes it is a very real chance that o'sensei was able to perform such amazing things, but if you are able to, what is the need to demonstrate other than to prove something to yourself, and if you can already, why do you need to prove it to yourself?

Because O'Sensei, regardless of the kind of physical shape he was in, was still a human being and the human body does have limits. An athlete in excellent physical shape can jump quite high, but not 5 stories. Not even 1 story. they need a pole for that. It's possible to dodge missles moving at a fast velocity and
considering the tech level of firearms in his day it's probably quite possible that he dodged bullets but NOT so fast that he appeared to teleport..so fast that the human eye could not detect his moving. Human beings CANT do that.
yes, you can sit at a keyboard and type and your message appear instantly half way around the world...to your perception. But even though the message moves so fast you can't detect the length of time it takes, it still takes time and regardless of how fast you personaly can type, you will NEVER be able to type so fast that your fingers can not be detected to be moving while entire pages of text magicaly appear on your screen.

And regardless of how much you want to believe in the ability of a human being to perform incredible feats, you'll never find one that can walk out a 6th story window and walk on air or fly away, not even if they, and you and everyone in the city firmly believes with total conviction that they can. Gravity is a law that can only be broken by specific scientific means and human beings are not endowed with those means. A man could strap on a jetpack and fly away, or a hang-glider but he wont be doing it by himself.

O'sensei probably did some pretty impressive things and no one's saying he didn't but in the end he was still human and there's a limit to what any human body can actualy do.

[Edited by crystalwizard on November 19, 2000 at 04:30am]

akiy 11-19-2000 10:32 AM

Quote:

shadow wrote:
why be sceptical?
Because, in my mind, you can't not be skeptical.

In your aikido training, have you ever been fooled into thinking something "worked" when, in truth, it didn't? I have. These days, I'm a bit more skeptical about things and very much prefer being able to "test out" the subject (usually the teacher) so I can feel it for myself.

This is not to say that "incredible" things aren't out there. Have you ever been thrown around by one finger? Or been thrown into breakfalls from ikkyo? Or been pinned from just the weight of a hand? I have. Before, I was skeptical that such things could happen, but now I know.

I think it's important to be skeptical in our training. Otherwise, we'll just end up believing every teacher, swallowing tall tales, and being mislead in our training and our lives...

Just my thoughts,

-- Jun

shadow 11-19-2000 08:15 PM

Quote:

crystalwizard wrote:
And regardless of how much you want to believe in the ability of a human being to perform incredible feats, you'll never find one that can walk out a 6th story window and walk on air or fly away, not even if they, and you and everyone in the city firmly believes with total conviction that they can. Gravity is a law that can only be broken by specific scientific means and human beings are not endowed with those means. A man could strap on a jetpack and fly away, or a hang-glider but he wont be doing it by himself.

O'sensei probably did some pretty impressive things and no one's saying he didn't but in the end he was still human and there's a limit to what any human body can actualy do.

[Edited by crystalwizard on November 19, 2000 at 04:30am]

as I was saying.....where does this technology come from? Where does this science come from? Sure we can explain it scientifically.......go any further than that though, and there is no reason why a plane can fly....or a jetpack can.........why is it not possible to eliminate the intermediate and do it ourselves? I'm not saying I go out there blindly following everything that is said, as everyone I can really only believe what is proven to me or that I see with my own eyes, but I don't put down the idea that it is possible. And until someone proves to me that it isn't, I'll still see it that way.
I'm not talking about deifing o'sensei or thinking of him as a god......he was a man, but a man who was in touch with the universe, so who's to say what can and can't be possible? Why do you study Aikido? Ai- harmony ki-universe do-way (I know you all know what it means) ......in harmony with the universe...that's why I do :) we are lucky to be human and have this incredible form of intelligence and mind......I intend to use mine, or at least try and figure it out.

But maybe I'm crazy or stupid....but I'd much rather search for something more, or maybe it's less....than work! hehe

by the way, very interesting thread.

damien

guest1234 11-19-2000 10:25 PM

gravity...it's not just a good idea, it's the law...
;)



shadow 11-20-2000 01:12 AM

who's law?

George S. Ledyard 11-20-2000 06:20 AM

Magic Waza
 
Saotome Sensei said that in fifteen years of training with the Founder on a daily basis he never witnessed any kind of "magic waza" like disappearing and reappearing etc. He said that to make up stories like that detracted from understanding his real achievement.

In my own opinion I think that this kind of deification is extremely harmful because it allows the rest of us to accept mediocrity from ourselves and our training. We aren't "special" so we can never attain what he did. We do the same thing with the uchi deshi who trained with him. We make them out to be special, something above us that we can't ourseleves expect to match.

If that's what is really true then we might as well kiss off the whole thing. Aikido is doomed to get watered down after several generations and cease to be anything really deep either spiritually or technically. Some people would say that this is actually happening.

O-Sensei was a man whose major trait that separated him from others was the dedication to his training, martial and spiritual. Very few people trained with more dedication than he did. That should be the inspiration we derive from his experience as Founder. And the same is true for the UchiDeshi. They aren't people any different than we are. They just had the opportunity to train harder directunder the Founder. We can't dupliacte that experience and that does make them special. But they are not special because of some inherent superiority. Once again we need to look at them as inspirations for our own training rather than as representing some unattainable height.

So we should educate ourselves about the Founder's life and his ideas and experiences but only to point the way for our training. Forget all this stuff about how the guy was magic or some sort of super Saint. Unless you wan't to worship rather than train yourself, those things are irrelevant.

Magma 11-20-2000 09:59 AM

[quote]akiy wrote:
Quote:

aikilouis wrote:
Quote:

For example, the dictatorship in power before WW2 could have made of him a perfect icon of traditional and martial values for propaganda purposes. Instead O-sensei stayed home.
I seem to remember that in his younger days, he went out to Mongolia and such with the Omotokyo folks to incite rebellions and such.
Jun, I'm sorry for whatever bad day you were having when you posted that response, because that's how your post reads. You could have expressed the exact same disagreement in a post devoid of the "I seem to remember..." sarcasm, pointing out something that you obviously believe aikilouis - and the rest of this posting board - already knows, since you didn't take the time to explain it. But instead, you rolled it all into "rebellions and such." Regardless of the validity of your belief that many people reading this thread have already heard of the Mongolian expedition, your tone during that post seemed to you set you up as the guardian of the Golden Aikido Cookie Jar, slapping away the hands of those aikidoka who have come for their sweets.

In truth, I think you have taken aikilouis' quote out of context. AikiLoius didn't offer that example of o'sensei staying at home as an example of not taking action or being not hot-blooded. He offerred it as a comparison of a time when O'sensei could have gained propaganda for his aikido and chose not to. Therefore your reference to the Mongolian expedition to show that at one time O'sensei was hot-blooded misses the mark. The purpose of the Mongolian expedition was clearly not publicity for aikido. Morihei was also in the army for a time... but that is just as non-topical.

And, by the way....
Quote:

akiy wrote:
Quote:

shadow wrote:
why be sceptical?
Because, in my mind, you can't not be skeptical.

Does anyone else see the irony in that?

As for what I believe, I think that a great many of the stories of O'sensei are exagerations of real events, or tales that grew with each retelling. However I don't buy the argument that we can look at modern athletes and plumb the depths of human ability. To say that we know everything that the human body is capable of because of our perceptions of our "test-subjects" is arrogance in the highest degree. We know that only about ten percent of the human brain potential is ever tapped within one person. So what do we not know about what the human body is capable of? I reject these stories of O'sensei because those closest to him during those days say they never witnessed these things, not because I think I know what the human body is and is not capable of.

Just my thoughts.

Tim

ian 11-20-2000 10:44 AM

I hate all the esoteric rubbish that often attatches to aikido. I can understand that there are some things which science cannot at present explain - but that doesn't mean I'm going to believe everything anyone tells me. I always think you have to be dubious until you experience something yourself.

Mysticism and strange religious beliefs are all too often used to subdue others. Through the pretense of extraordinary powers, one can try to hold sway over other people. I think as sensible Aikidoists/Aikidoka, we should focus only on the reality of Aikido.

I've never experienced any magical aspects of aikido - when a technique works it is from precise technique (through years of training) and a positive attitude (through mental discipline). I think an attatchment to mysticism can lead to self-delusion, whereby we believe ourselves to be more powerful than we are - and maybe try to convince others the same.

Ian

akiy 11-20-2000 10:59 AM

Quote:

Magma wrote:
Jun, I'm sorry for whatever bad day you were having when you posted that response, because that's how your post reads.
I'm sorry that you read so much into my post, really; I didn't mean it to be "sarcastic" or anything of the like. I just, as you wrote, assumed everyone here knew about said Mongolian rebellion stuff so I kept it short. I apologize if I caused any harm.

-- Jun

Kevin73 11-20-2000 11:11 AM

I was thinking about the story that Ueshiba would disappear from several yards away. Has anyone ever had their master/sensei stand in front of them and then disappear behind you?
I have, it's not a flash of smoke and then they are gone. It's a perceptual illusion using the eyes natural blind spots. You throw atemi at their face causing them to blink and then move and suddenly you are behind them, this is taught extensively in Ba-Gua (or pa-kua) although I know other styles have it also (this is mentioned because of stories I have read saying that Ueshiba trained in that style while in China and that is where he learned many concepts of aikido that aren't found in japanese martial arts but are in the internal chinese arts)

Maybe he did move behind someone and as someone else mentioned the story just grew from there until he was 50 ft. away.

Aikidoka2000 11-20-2000 11:50 AM

I agree with shadow on one note.
It may be considered that true human arrogance lies heavily when one thinks
that he or she has any real firm grasp on what life, the universe or reality is.
We construct a common reality through "science" which also requires
belief, as none of us has personally conducted every experiment available that
construes our modern scientific outlook. This is not to say that science is wrong
either, but merely to point out that we do not know one billionth of what the truth
really is, regardless of our conviction. It may serve a person better to not fall into
the trap of total belief in the words or writings of others, yet mainly to build
one's one set of truths from personal experience.
My case and point?
I often ponder this:
What is a rock?
Even the most brilliant scholar has trouble to answer this.
-Akidoka

crystalwizard 11-20-2000 03:19 PM

Quote:

shadow wrote:
who's law?
Tell you what shadow...since you're going to inisist on this, you tell me when you have managed to fly and defy the law of gravity WITHOUT aid from anything other than your mind. I'll come watch you demonstrate this.

who's law indeed.

(flying is the art of throwing yourself at the ground and missing)

crystalwizard 11-20-2000 03:26 PM

in answer to shadows previous comments about science, I'd like to point out that when aikido works, it is precisely because of certain scientific principals. Things involving gravity, physics and the dynamics of motion. Things that are known in great detail because a lot of years of study have gone into them and things you can study and witness yourself at home without having to involve any scientists. Things that dont change.

It's one thing to be open minded and explore into the realm of the unknown and the unexplained. it is a totaly different matter to just like an idea and then 'believe' in it to the point of refusing to examine whether it is actualy a truth or not. Call that skeptecisim if you like. The first one of you to learn to fly and or teleport can come hold a class and i'm sure we'll all benifit.

[Edited by crystalwizard on November 20, 2000 at 02:31pm]


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