View Single Post
Old 05-18-2005, 12:04 PM   #16
Mike Sigman
Location: Durango, CO
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 4,123
Re: Basic elements of Aikido

George S. Ledyard wrote:
I don't know what you are looking for in the way of qualifications but having a Phd in Buddhist studies, living in Japan for decades, being the first foriegner to be a full professor in a Japanese university, and training for many years under one of the giants of early Aikido (Shirata Sensei) ought to give him an edge in this respect, certainly compared to most of us...
It may be helpful to think of it like this: A number of native Japanese live in Japan for decades, know Buddhism and its history quite well in a context that a westerner will never "know" because he hasn't lived it or had it as part of his daily life, some even teach at university level and have done Aikido under respected masters for life.... but they don't know or understand the qi skills and traditions unless they have been introduced to them deliberately by someone who really knows them. It's not a disparagement of Stevens that I was making, it was simply an educated and fairly obvious observation based on his annotations of Ueshiba's doka.

To give Stevens his due, he did note that the doka have meaning on several levels. But despite his other credentials, it is almost completely doubtful that Stevens was also well-versed in the Chinese classical sayings about the training of qi, jin, etc., from which O-Sensei borrowed a number of his words, phrases, euphemisms, etc. Would you agree that is probable?

It's particularly probable since it takes many years and correct teachers who are willing to share *a small number of things with westerners* before Stevens would have had access to and understood what those references mean. My point being that the credentials you're mentioning have little to do with Stevens' ability to decipher comments about "heaven and earth" in relation to ki, the importance of the "six directions", how the "mind intent" (aka "Divine Will") substantively controls the power such that it is the main power of Aikido, and so on.

In other words, if Stevens had understood these things he would have made the translations and annotations quite a bit different. As I mentioned once before, the literal words of many translations belie the actual idiomatic meaning within the closed martial arts societies...if you don't already know those things you don't know what they refer to; if you already know them, you recognize them (they're always so general that you could never learn how to do anything from them, though).

Traditionally only a very few close disciples are normally shown these things whose descriptions are always couched in flowery and obscure terms. Many people seem to take Ueshiba's doka's as the sort of "incoherent ramblings" discussed by some of the uchideshi during some earlier interviews; the terms and phrases meaning little or nothing is the implication. In actuality, Ueshiba is using so many exact wordings from classical descriptions of qi and jin training that it's impossible to ascribe his selected use of those terms as accidental or coincidental. Additionally, when you read the Abe-Sensei-related Misogi translation via John Warner, it's equally obvious that the Japanese had access to some of the Chinese martial qigongs with Buddhist roots. Being an expert on Buddhism does not make someone an expert on Buddhist martial qigongs... those are not part of the common Buddhist fare, even in India and China.

I'd like to meet Stevens. If he ever comes to the U.S. I'd appreciate it if someone would let me know (I'm also in Europe occasionally, so I'd be interested there, as well). This sort of knowledge is not academic, BTW.... an experienced person would know if Stevens knew how to do these things the moment they shook his hand. As odd as that sounds (at one time I didn't believe it either), it's true.

There's an interesting part of these discussions about "ki", etc., that I've noticed over the years and I'd like to point it out. I'm an amateur in respect to real martial arts as the expert Asians viewed them for many generations. I've done martial arts for more than 4 decades and I have "rank" in assorted arts, but I'm an amateur who really has an interest mainly in how these ki-related things work. The problem with most westerners is that they've never really experienced the *massive* power that some of these people (there's many levels) can generate, so the whole discussion of "ki" and related topics is, to them, a fairy tale or has something to do with "parlor tricks" that are a negligible aside to any particular martial art. So what happens in discussions like this is that we tend to be talking about different things, based on our perceptions *and* on what we can physically do and demonstrate.

In my world, which is not a high-level world but more of a journeyman world, I realize that ki and kokyu expertise usually floats among a select few in many/most martial arts. By bringing attention to the topics (remember, this mind-directed ability is what Ueshiba termed "the blade of Aiki"), I'm firstly trying to stick to a thread of logic that I can look back upon in 10 years and not be embarrassed by "what I didn't know then"; secondly, I'm offering a suggested direction to those few who, like me, are not satisfied with the amount of information available on ki-related matters.

At the same time, I'm well aware that not having access to this sort of information is not at all unusual (nor is it anything to be embarrassed about, IMO), but given the fact that it is mentioned in so many Aikido (and other arts, too) writings and given that it's also demonstrated at various levels, it's curious to me that so many "ranked" people who think of themselves as knowledgeable in Aikido and other arts are not any more focused on this "blade of Aiki". In fact, it seems to me very often that most martial arts (I don't mean to single out Aikido in all these discussions, BTW... this happens everywhere) in which the ki things are involved, there is a mindset of "playing to the peanut gallery" rather than playing to the experts. For instance, I could easily "teach" what I know and display my rankings, but on a practical level I know that I'm an amateur... and I wouldn't impress a real expert in these topics or the involved martial arts. If I wanted to impress someone, I'd want to impress the experts, not my fellow students and neophytes as I see so many trying to do. That's the interesting part of some of these discussions I've noted... and I'm not trying to be offensive or belittling in mentioning it, but I wish all the pecking-order, status seeking, peer-forced viewpoints, etc., weren't such big driving forces in the martial arts.


  Reply With Quote