Re: Article: Aikido - What It Is and What It Isn't by George S. Ledyard
I also was somewhat surprised by Mr Ledyard's assertion that the best aikido in the world was being practised outside Japan.
I would not want to commit myself so far. I suppose that to amass the evidence to make such an assertion, one would have to do a world tour and also visit all the main centres in Japan.
In Japan there are a large nunber of centres, so to speak, run by people who were direct disciples of the Founder and/or his immediate disciples. I am thinking of the large federation in the Tohoku district, trained by Rinjiro Shirata & Morihiro Saito and their senior students. There is Iwama, run by Hiroshi Isoyama and senior students of M Saito Shihan. There are Osaka and Shingu in Wakayama. There is Kyushu, where K Sunadomari and M Suganuma practise and train able students. And there is still a large accumulation of expertise in the Kanto area, centred on Tokyo. This is just the Aikikai.
The Aiki Expo might be a good basis on which to judge the quality of aikido in the USA. I do not know. The All-Japan Demonstration is not really a good basis for judging the level of aikido in Japan and the the demonstrations & training given at the recent IAF Congresses are not a good basis for judging the level of aikido outside Japan.
There are a number of people who were direct disciples of the Founder and of Kisshomaru Doshu. Many of these deshi chose to live and teach aikido outside Japan. Of course, anyone who wishes to judge the quality of aikido outside Japan will point to these shihans, their training methods and the senior students they have trained.
However, many of these deshi chose to remain in Japan and teach abroad for shorter lengths of time. Take Tada Hiroshi Shihan, for example. He lived in Italy for some years and established the Aikikai of Italy. He returned to Japan and established his home dojo near Tokyo, but taught regular classes at the Hombu for many years. Arikawa Sensei did the same, but never lived abroad.
Compare these shihans with a shihan like Chiba Sensei, for example. Chiba Sensei was unique in returning to Japan because he felt the training in the Aikikai Hombu was not up to scratch. Note this was when Kisshomaru Doshu and Kisaburo Osawa were still active and Yamaguchi, Tada, Arikawa still conducted their evening classes, as they had been doing for decades.
So I think that a such a judgment is rather premature and we need to wait a few more generations. As it stands we would need to praise those immediate disciples of the Founder for teaching students overseas so well and condemn the very same people for teaching students in Japan so badly.
I myself planned to discuss this same issue in a future column. When I do so, I will have Mr Ledyard's comments in mind.
Of course, I am well aware that Mr Ledyard is not the only one to express worries about the quality of aikido being practised and taught in Japan (= at the Aikikai Hombu). I am less and less sure that events like the All-Japan Demonstration are a good basis for such a worry.