Shaun wrote: I ask this question over and over and really don't get a satisfactory answer (read: I get answers contrary to mine…) Do you believe that O-Sensei would be able to watch someone practice Aikido and say, "that is not aikido" My answer is a resounding yes, there are things that are not aikido. As an example, as many Daito-Ryu practitioners would have us believe, Aikido is just watered down, or a pared down practice of DRAJ. Of course, you and I do not really support that view. As such we believe that even if on the surface if a specific Aikido & DRAJ technique looks the same, in fact, one is Aikido and one is not. Therefore, is it not empirically logical to say that one is Aikido and the other (being DRAJ) is not. From there is it not plausible to say with some certainty that two Aikido dojos, while have Aikido in their name, may in fact also be doing different things, and for the sake of this argument, one of them is Aikido and the other is not…
David's Reply: I can agree with this -- at a personal level. That is to say, for me, I believe what I do is Aikido. I believe this because I feel that I am doing Aikido. For those folks that do what I do, personally, naturally, I feel they do Aikido too. For those folks that do something close to what I do, I feel they do Aikido too, only I dismiss the notable differences to variations on a single theme (which I note by what I do). For folks that do not do anything close to what I do, I do not think they are doing Aikido -- even if they claim to be doing Aikido. For the latter, group, if I thought that they WERE doing Aikido, I would stop what I am doing and then do what they are doing, but then they would not be in this group at all -- rather they would fall into the first group. However, this is all purely subjective. The historian must seek to transcend his/her own subjectivity and thus his/her own limited point of view. This is the angle I am coming from.
My Reply: I would have to disagree to a certain extent here. While those who practice Aikido in one way, others may practice Aikido in another way. The two may not overlap in their teaching methodologies nor their curriculum, but the two can be Aikido. As the founder knew when he gave his blessing to several people to go out and teach their Aikido. Tomiki style is definitely not the same as Tohei style, yet both were and are acceptable. I think this is from Yagyu Munenori - "To reach a house you must first enter the gate. Learning is a gate, the way to a house. Do not mistake the gate for the house." Each dojo is merely a gate. The training merely a gate, but the destination is Aikido. Just because training looks different from what one is doing, doesn't mean the path won't take you to Aikido.
Shaun wrote: Like Erick, I too would have such a long road if either of us tried to prove such a thing on our own. Fortunately we do not have to do any such thing. I am not sure that Erick was even attempting to say that O-Sensei did such a thing, as from what I gathered he was merely another type of revisionist, the one that says we do not need to travel along the path O-Sensei traveled in order to come to the place O-Sensei ended up. As you might have guessed, I don't concur with that view of history, at least not lock, stack and barrel. My own opinion is that while we certainly don't need to travel exactly the same path, there are certain points along that path that must be visited, taken in and digested in order to understand what the next point along the path must be. I do believe that you fall somewhere in between Erick's and my view, but I could very well be mistaken.
David's Reply: I am not sure Erick has tried to address this point at all -- of how close we have to get to Osensei's exact path. So I do not think we really can speak for him. For me, however, I would say that I am in 100% agreement with your position: That while we do not have to travel exactly the same path, there are certain points along that path that must be visited, taken in, and digested in order to understand what the next point along the path must be. I am sensing that our only disagreement here is that you feel (I am assuming based upon what your teacher has told you, etc.) Osensei consciously not only distanced himself from Omoto-kyo socially but also epistemologically.
My reply: I don't believe you have to travel Osensei's exact path, but saying that there are points along the path that must be visited, is like saying that grass is green. Every art has these "points along the path that must be visited", no matter what art it is. Could either one of you, or both, address that issue in more specific terms? Personally, I believe that you don't have to be part of Omoto-kyo to gain understanding of Aikido. However, I do believe that if you are to progress to the higher levels, that you must have some understanding of spirituality. That you must progress to a place where you know without knowing how or why, just that you know. There are many examples of this in Budo where a martial artist knew what his opponent's attack was even before the opponent attacked. I believe that if you train long enough, you can become very proficient in Aikido. But you won't reach any higher than that unless you add the spiritual aspect. I don't think Osensei spoke about this because of the time period he lived in. A lot of his peers went through much the same training and life that he did. There were very good martial artists who attained a level of physical prowess and spiritual prowess. I believe that's why Osensei never talked about having to join Omoto-kyo as part of Aikido. I believe he understood that each martial artist takes his/her own path in that area. In that, I believe there are points along the path. From what I've seen and from the people I've talked to, shodan ranking is one of those points. It's a pinnacle where one starts to see Aikido in a new light and begins to understand things on a different level. Although that level is still mostly physical training related. I also believe the yondan level is another point. That's an area where one starts to catch sen sen no sen timing and that is the start of knowing without knowing. I don't believe that spirituality plays an important part in Aikido until some time after shodan level. While it may start there, it slowly progresses to playing a more vital role as one climbs in rank. And one can certainly avoid spirituality and achieve a purely physically proficiency and gain higher ranks. But others who add spirituality will progress beyond that point. My opinion anyway.