Location: Orlando, FL
Join Date: Apr 2004
Re: Being your own teacher
David, it's pretty much just my opinion, but I also have a hard time buying into the 25/75 mathematical construct you have exhibited. If factual, no martial art could have lasted more than 50 years, yet many are quite recognizable after hundreds of years.
I think the fallacy is that the model assumes too much, such as that the human capability to absorb only 25% of what one is taught (or perhaps, be exposed to only 25% of what one's teacher knows) is constant. Or that one will ever only study from a single source or teacher.
While I agree that one never directly learns all that his teacher knows, I think it is a fairly universal reality that one has many teachers over a lifetime, and that, while a single teacher might pass on only part of O'Sensei's "legacy" of teaching, and a second teacher might do the same, those percentages might just a easily be comprised of different parts of the package. And the same goes for a third teacher, or source, and a fourth, fifth, and so on. Thus, the process becomes additive (cumulative) rather than divisive. It also becomes individual, rather than a matter of mathematical absolutes.
Consider also that simply reading a book about Aikido can expose a student to additional ideas and perspectives, beyond what he/she might be learning from their practice in the dojo, and that these different ideas presented also have their share of the root foundation that began with O'Sensei, and will further add to the knowledge base of the practitioner. Additionally, reading books or watching videos of original students of O'Sensei (or even of O'Sensei himself) takes one back to the "top of the ladder" so to speak, and offers a means of bypassing, or regenerating, much of the generational degradation that you have spoken of. We are fortunate in that Aikido was developed during a time where such technology was available to more completely document the ways of the Founder, and provide a better point of reference back to the beginning. Older arts do not have this luxury, and must rely so much more on the faithful reproduction and dissemination of the core teachings from generation to generation. Even the internet has broadened the knowledge network beyond geographical boundaries, and can connect one to ideas and paths of learning that one would have otherwise never been exposed to along the path in pre-web times.
With all that said, I will now say that I agree with the idea that a dilution of the knowledge of O'Sensei's Aikido will still inevitably occur over time. I just don't think we have to resign ourselves to go down without a fight. If Aikido people will take the attitude that we are stewards of the art, and that we should strive to learn as much as we can about all aspects of it, rather than just going in the dojo and rolling around a couple times a week, then the core foundations on which Aikido was based will last longer. This attitude toward "preservation" can be clearly seen in the teachings of Morihiro Saito Sensei, who, despite having his own ideas about Aikido, remained determined throughout his lifetime to preserve intact the teachings of the Founder.
Even O'Sensei has said that Aikido was not about HIM, but about the universal truths that exist in nature and the universe. These things are durable, and we must look past our noses and keep an eye on this "big picture". That way, much of that body of learning that each of us "improvises" to form our individual interpretations of Aikido, will have a similar exposure to the same benchmarks that O'Sensei used to so eloquently express the art.
Change is nonetheless inevitable. Even O'Sensei's Aikido evolved. Some of his students evolved with it, and some did not. Many found ways of their own. But if change must occur, it should be due to the thinking of the succeeding generations, rather than the lack of thinking. All any of us can do is arm ourselves with as much information as can be found, and make the most informed decisions we can. All the while, even when we disagree with, or have a hard time understanding him, we should maintain respect for the man who put it all together.