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Old 06-24-2007, 12:53 PM   #11
Dojo: TNBBC (Icho Ryu Aiki Budo), Shinto Ryu IaiBattojutsu
Location: Seattle, WA
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 927
Re: Evaluation of "Spirit of Aikido"

First, thanks to those who took the time to post. I very much look forward to your further columns Peter, if your previous ones are any indication, they will be worth the wait! A few comments/responses:

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
In my opinion, the reason that Aikido exists world wide, with an estimated 1 million people training, is due entirely to Kisshomaru. His father may have created the art, but what he created was largely not well understood by his own students and was too arcane to spread widely amongst modern Japanese, much less overseas.
I totally agree. The question becomes however, is that spread a good thing? Any teacher of a martial art has at some point to face the choice to expand and spread the word, or focus on a small group and pass on the tradition to the fullest extent. I would argue that these strategies are mutually exclusive, and certainly there are risks to either path. If you look at OSensei and Takeda Sensei, they obviously struggled with this in their own lives. Takeda Sensei had an enormous number of students (particularly for his time), I've heard some estimates around 30,000. But how many of those received the highest certificates of transmission from him? A handful at best. And while the golden age of Aikido may have been the post war period, where the art went from an obscure throwback to world wide phenomenon, if one looks at the Hell Dojo period, we see a small number of very dedicated students. We also frequently consider the graduates of this period as the greatest of OSensei's students, the Titans as it were.

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
If you want to see what Aikido would have been without Kisshomaru, just look at Inoue Sensei and his art Shinei Taido (formerly Aiki Budo). It is generally agreed that Inoue (O-Sensei's nephew and main student in the early years) looked more like O-Sensei than any of his other students. Further, he was a life long follower of the Omotokyo Faith and therefore was aligned much more on a spiritual level with O-Sensei's own beliefs.

So you have a guy who was, arguably, the closest thing to Morihei Ueshiba you could find, and yet his art is practiced in Japan by only a small number of folks and world wide, if there are any, I haven't heard about them. I certainly do not know of any in the States. Now, that doesn't mean there aren't any but it shows, I think, what Aikido would have been like if the art had simply been presided over by O-Sensei throughout the post war years.
Interesting you bring him up. I have one of AJ's videos of Shinei Taido, and was pretty amazed with just how much he looked like OSensei. I've fooled a number of Aikidoka into thinking I'd found some footage of OSensei that they hadn't seen before by showing them parts of that video. In some respect I consider them the Aikido mainline, perhaps what it should have been. In shaping the marketability/understandability of OSensei's vision of Aikido, I feel what actually made it unique, has been largely left behind. It is Daito Ryu lite. Perhaps that's why it serves as such a gateway drug to the koryu. It should be pretty obvious at this point on which side of the spread/preserve fence I fall on. A similar example can be found in Wado Ryu and Shindo Yoshin Ryu. More people in the world know something of the movements of TSYR than ever would have through the direct transmission/ menkyo system by studying those aspects of the art incorporated into Wado Ryu. However, even the senior practitioners of Wado Ryu admit that they don't fully understand many aspects of these kata. That which isn't understood is doomed to be lost to time, no matter how many people it has been passed on to.

Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
You should also look at Aikido Shintei, a large-format, lavishly illustrated book published in 1986. An English translation appeared in 2004, entitled The Art of Aikido. Unfortunately, the illustrations are monochrome, probably for reasons of cost, but the book presents a clearer picture of Kisshomaru Ueshiba's ideas about postwar aikido than Aikido no Kokoro. The English translation of this earlier book presents a very superficial picture of overseas aikido. I mean by this that the mindset, for want of a better word, of non-Japanese who train very seriously in a martial art like aikido, is rarely understood by Japanese.
Thanks, I'll look into that.

Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
I note that the three persons mentioned by George in his post all became 'independent' to varying degrees. One person who did not, and who started almost from the very beginning, was Rinjiro Shirata. There are issues here that I am trying to explain in my columns. Shirata decided to support the Aikikai and so he accepted the iemoto system for what it was. In other words, he decided against independence and so, for example, his technical explorations of aikido have never been published.
I have some good friends from the Shirata line, so I have a bit of background to appreciate where you're going here. I find something of a parallel between how I perceive Shirata to have interacted with the Aikikai and Takeda Yoshinobu, anther teacher whose own training and teaching differs greatly from what would be considered ‘mainline'/hombu/aikikai Aikido despite his close ties with that very institution. How Shirata chose to teach his own students (and frankly, even WHAT he taught his students) differs enormously from what I have seen from the Aikikai/hombu/USAF. As you point out, this was all while being a staunch supporter/member of that institution.

I'm curious if anyone cares to comment on the second of my assertions, that one of the defining features of OSensei's aiKido was the use of Ki as a primary teaching tool over technique, and how that relates to the current mode of transmission? If this was one of THE defining features of what made aiKido unique, what do we have when that very insight is de-emphasized to the level that we (often) see now? I should point out that I ask these questions as a curious observer, not a zealot who wishes to return the Truth of OSensei's original teaching system. In the interest of full disclosure, I have personally found next to no use for the two main distinctions that I presented in my own training, but rather found the older definitions of aiki and teaching methodologies that do not rely on Ki to be more in keeping with my own world view and teaching models.

Chris Moses
TNBBC, "Putting the ME in MEdiocre!"
Budo Tanren at Seattle School of Aikido
Shinto Ryu Iai-Battojutsu
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