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Old 09-05-2005, 07:39 AM   #23
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

Mr Leavitt,

Many thanks for your response. As with my earlier post, I am concerned with commitment, rather than the question of people leaving aikido (so there will be some inevitable thread drift).

I am not sure whether one can construct a spectrum in the way that you have suggested. I would like to furnish several examples and leave you to judge whether the spectrum model will fit.

1. The case of a prewar Japanese uchi-deshi. The only direct disciples of O Sensei with whom I have discussed this question in depth are H Tada and K Chiba and with Chiba Sensei this was 20 years ago. I believe that Chiba Sensei's decision to become a Hombu deshi is closely related to the aftermath of World War II. He camped outside the Hombu until they let him in and embarked on a lifestyle that we might call monastic, except that there is a wide cultural difference between eastern and western concepts of this state (and I speak with four years of direct experience of the western version). However, Tada Sensei and Chiba Sensei entered the Aikikai Hombu directly after the war and Kisshomaru Doshu told me personally that O Sensei had no postwar uchideshi. Thus, perhaps total, lifelong commitment to aikido can no longer be expressed in terms of the concept of 'uchideshi'.

For Tada Sensei and Chiba Sensei, to talk of an 'aikido lifestyle' would make immeditate sense, but I suspect that this would have no ethical connotation. The primary way in which they understood whether aikido would or would not work as a 'lifestyle' is parallel to the degree to which a samurai would be ready for ANY attack, no matter whence it came. We know that O Sensei's uchideshi regularly, though secretly, went out to test their prowess, and that O Sensei silently acquiesced in this practice (boys will be boys). However, there are no ethical issues here.

2. The case of a presentday Japanese uchideshi in Japan. In the Aikikai Hombu there are no uchideshi, period. So this is quite different from the days of O Sensei. However, there are several dojo outside the Hombu, but connected to the Hombu, that accept uchideshi, even foreign uchideshi. However, I have grave doubts whether such a system is really authentic (i.e., can actually reproduce the conditions that the prewar uchideshi of O Sensei actually experienced).

3. The case of a Japanese who never lives in the house of the Master, or in his 'ie', but has a committed and lifelong commitment to training. The case of the deshi who trains every day in one class for 40 years is an example. Katsuaki Asai, resident in Germany, is a good example of this model, but he actually trained as often as the uchi deshi in (1), mentiomed above.

4. The case of a Japanese who makes a total commitrment to aikido as much as he/she can, given family repsonsibilities. In Japan, this pattern usually takes the form of a young man, who practises aikido as a high school student and, when he is young and single, devotes his entire life to aikido. However, in Japan, even the monastic life is a married life and so the young deshi is constrained to find a life partner and marry. Actually, the uchideshi mentioned above in (1) must also marry, but I suspect that the expected commitment of the wife to her husband's aikido calling would not be acceptable in the west. In the case of this guy, the commitment to aikido is very strong, but he has chosen to put his wife and family first. I mention this because you are in the US military. How do you distinguish between those men who want to train for the hell of it and those who have an deeper commitment to aikido, but find themselves in the US military.

Now, transpose these scenarios to a western context.

5. Recently, I was asked by an instructor in the US if I accepted uchideshi. The instructor was a member of the US Marine Corps and wanted me to look after his student, who would be spending three years in Japan. Of course, I replied that there was no way that I could accept uchideshi, but that I would be happy to look after his student, on the understanding that he would be able to train at my dojo regularly. Well, the student and I have met, we have trained togather and I have told his instructor, who is now in Iraq, that I will take responsibility for his student for the time he is under my care in Japan. However this student is in no way an uchi-deshi.

6. In Japan there are various schemes available for students to become uchideshi. There are at least two questions here: (1) whether the uchi dehsi experience can be compared to that experienced by O Sensei's prewar uchideshi; (2) whether it is possible to become an uchi deshi for a limited period and still have an 'authentic' uchi deshi experience. On the boards we hear that people claim that they came to Japan and were 'uchideshi' for six months. I think that, given the idea of uchideshi with which I am familoiar in Japan, this is impossible. An uchideshi does not make a six-month contract: he/sje signs a blank cheque.

7. Then you have the Japanese version of the member of a lay religious organization like Opus Dei: who is committed to a lifelong commitment to aikido. I know that the members of the Byakko Shinkoukai (created by Masahisa Goi, who became a close aquaintance of O Sensei) were commited members of that organization, but there is no specific organization of 'lay' aikido members. So I can well imagine members of Byakko Shinkoukai who choose toexpress their commitment to their organization through their aikido training. I have no idea whether there are aikido organizations outside Japan that could correspond to Byakko Shinkoukai or Opus Dei members.

8. Then you have individual aikido practitioners who have a wife and familiy and who train as hard as family commitmentd allow. In my opinion these are different from uchi deshi and Opus Dei types. Their commitment is different.

Now, I can think of people in all these categories stopping aikido praqctice, but their reasons for stopping might be quite different. But this is another issue.

But this post has become very long, so I will end it here. Please feel free to pursue issues further, if you think I have not covered your immediate concerns.

Best regards,

Peter Goldsbury

P A Goldsbury
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