John Brockington wrote:
I again appreciate your illuminating response. O Sensei was a fascinating and complex individual, and I feel it is important for me to try to understand the "why" as well as the "how" of Aikido given the cultural and historical/chronological gap between us. I have read Sensei Stevens' book, and will look for Nadolski's thesis for comparison.
Thank you for your response.
It is my belief that O Sensei can be looked at in several ways: as a kind of saint, whose actions and utterances are understandable regardless of any historical context; or as a man who lived in a very interesting period of Japanese history. Of course, you can combine these two ways, but attempts to do so have not, in my opinion, been very successful so far.
Unfortunately, the writings we have in English, divorced from any context, tend to favor the first way and, as with most saints, there is a flourishing sub-industry designed to buttress and protect the sainthood. People will go to absurd lengths, in my opinion, to convince themselves that O Sensei could indeed do the miraculous things he has been credited with. I think this approach needs to be balanced with an approach that firmly places M Ueshiba in his proper historical context, and if any warts appear as a result, well, this has to be accepted.
I am simplifying a lot here, but unlike in Britain and Germany, the tradition of historical research that began in Japan with Hayashi Razan was not maintained after the Meiji Restoration and historians became afraid to pursue lines of enquiry that were not generally in favor. If you do a search for Tsuda Sokichi, I think you will see what I mean.