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Old 02-08-2007, 11:45 PM   #65
Peter Ralls
Dojo: Suganami Aikikai SF
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 32
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

This thread certainly covers a lot of issues in aikido, but getting back to how Arikawa Sensei taught, what interests me is what he was trying pass on, and how. He was obviously an intelligent man who put a lot of thought into what he was doing, and what the art was. So why did he teach the way he did?

My guess is that he was not trying to pass down his own style of aikido in terms of a way of doing techniques, or a methodology, but instead trying to create a training environment that would result in the students experiencing certain things that would deepen their understanding of aikido. Obviously Arikawa Sensei thought that the training environment had to be severe. We all have our own opinions of what constitutes an acceptable level of severity, and what constitutes abuse. I don't think Arikawa Sensei was too worried about people getting injured. I think most of us in the west teaching now are concerned about injuries.

Since Arikawa Sensei was an equal opportunity pain inflictor, and I never thought there was the slightest racial malice behind what he did, I didn't find it abusive. The way he taught, and threw his ukes was clearly the way he felt necessary to impart what he was trying to teach. This in turn meant usually that your partner for the class was going to be throwing as hard as they could also, and I think that was the environment he was trying to create.

This was very different from say, a certain other senior teacher's class, which wasn't generally so severe, but in which I had an experience I did think was abusive. My training partner was an attractive blond American woman who I knew slightly, and this teacher came over to "instruct" her, which translated to him smashing me repeatedly into the mat to impress her. Was it any more painful than some of the training in Arikawa Sensei's class? No, but the intent was totally different, and left me feeling angry and disgusted.

Anyway, when we think about trying to teach aikido, I think as westerners, we try and create a rational, methodical curriculum based on what we think will benefit the majority of our students, as George Ledyard touched on above. I think this is based on our western value system, and understanding of how the world works. We also want to avoid injuries. But it seems to me that a lot of Japanese teachers I have trained with seem to have a different value system. And Osensei, by all accounts, didn't have the most rational system of teaching either.

I often think that in aikido, that quality which has been a major topic in this forum, the quality that transcends physical technique that we refer to as kokyu, has been passed on by experiencing kokyu taking falls from ones teacher, rather than any set method of teaching. Thus, Osensei had a lot of kokyu. His students, that experienced him directly, got some of it, though not nearly to the degree Osensei had. And their students in turn, often got a whole lot less. And as the the number of people training in aikido became greater and greater, the less people proportionately have had the experience of being thrown with kokyu, to the point now that a lot of people just don't believe in it at all.

So maybe that's what Arikawa Sensei was up to, trying to pass on what he had by letting people feel it from him. I never got the feeling that he was throwing the way he did because he enjoyed hurting people. My guess is he did it to create a training environment where people would get something, and to try and pass something on that he didn't feel could be passed on by explanation.

Last of all, I think the Second Doshu must have had some of this thought process also, as the training in pretty much all the classes at Hombu Dojo in the period I lived in Japan in 1979 and 1980 was a lot rougher than is the norm at Hombu Dojo now. My impression is that the Third Doshu doesn't want things to be as severe. I personally find it a lot more enjoyable now.
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