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Old 08-01-2007, 03:27 PM   #60
Erick Mead
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Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
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Re: Ellis Amdur's Post on Aikido Journal

Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
Oh please, Mother of God... - not again!!! AGGHHGHGHGHGH ....
[Deep breath] Excellent piece, BTW. More please.

Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
The subject of what I'VE been writing and curious about is exemplified by the following quote of Okamoto Seigo.
"Kodo Horikawa Sensei used to say: 'Once you reach a level such as yours, you become able to execute your own techniques based on what I have taught you. I didn't learn all the techniques I do now from Sokaku Takeda Sensei.' Once you master a certain level and grasp the key points you become able to execute techniques of your own. Then these techniques of yours gradually sprout branches."
I am going to go out a limb here to pitch one for Ellis Amdur to hopefully expand on or critically deconstruct.

The thing that most plainly distinguishes O Sensei's art from DTR technically from my perspective, and post-dates his DTR training, certainly in the eyes of his son and in the words of his father on the realization of aikido is "...the old form of the posture in kenjutsu." While some have emphasized that Daito was a complete art together with sword forms, O Sensei specifically uses that phrase to describe the advent of Aikido, and his son, in The Spirit of Aikido, specifically distinguishes the admixture of the sword principles as the the key technical factor in the evolution. He ascribes his father's sword work mainly to Shinkage, which the experience of aikido and the reference to the "old form of the posture in kenjutsu" suggests is a natural fit to the sensibilities of the Yagyu muto techniques and the doctrine of katsujinto.

[deep breath again] (as an collateral aside to Amdur on a point he has tried to correct here before -- Wikipedia still has O Sensei being granted menkyo kaiden by Masakatsu in 1908 -- you may wish to edit it or comment)

Now what I think:

It is the attention to "form" and "posture" in this description that interests me in regard to the other word that many (including Amdur) have mentioned as their desire or goal -- "Power" -- power as they perceive O Sensei to have had power. And therein lies what I believe is a great misunderstanding of what Doshu's project was about.

The internal arts perspective of ki development as a change in the body's substantial neuro-physiological makeup may well be correct; it may also not be what the art is, exactly. Making a tougher, more responsive body clearly makes for more power.

But form is power also. And strength of form is superior to strength of material. Those are lessons of the sword as well as the architect.

Ellis Amdur very charitably addresses the problem set for Doshu at his father's death. As a sixteen year-old high school kid he played mediator to prominent Nationalists with whom his father philosophically disagreed during the War years. That was not a place to put a person whose basic temperament was -- unsubtle -- or lacking in careful thought.

The means he sought to translate that intent had to be couched in a manner that was perceptible and attractive to a audience, in Japan and around the world, that was, at best, initially likely to be indifferent to it. O Sensei dealt in some fairly esoteric, even idiosyncratic material concepts (even for modern Japanese). In attempting to formulate a means by which to make the proverbial "it" accessible to such a wide audience he had to answer some basic questions about the nature of the fidelity he would maintain:

1) Did those who followed O Sensei have to essentially duplicate his training journey or praxis, and

2) Did they have to replicate his personal understanding and concepts,

all in order to arrive at substantially the result intended by O Sensei for his followers on the path of aikido.

Plainly, a merely rote fidelity (however great a task that may have been) might have accomplished preservation of the bones of a few of the things that Ellis Amdur is looking for. I do not think that is the kind of fidelity Doshu decided on. O Sensei's dispensing with anything like a kata-type presentation in his teaching made plain it was not his intent to transmit it that way (if not impossible to derive secondarily). Pranin and Ellis Amdur seem to agree on that.

On the strength of what takemusu aiki purports to represent, I do not believe that O Sensei intended rote fidelity. He certainly did not make it possible or very probable to acheive, either. My question about Doshu and his task of developing aikido and spreading it, is whether there is anything intended by O Sensei to be kept that is "lost" in the art transmitted by his son in the sense that Ellis Amdur seems to mean.

In other words, is it the lack of knowledge, or a lack of practice that causes the present problem of "lesser" seeming aikido in some places these days. I tend to the latter and conclude that more practice leads to less problem. Expanding the art to the great mass of people results inevitably in the spread of dilettantish practice (at times - Guilty). So, more practice. If O Sensei had one motto it would be "Practice!"

Kata represent attempts to "code" the essence of an art. Doshu was left with no "code," and likely no way to "code" aikido in any traditional manner. Aikido is, in informational terms, very hard to code. That is to say, there is not any very obvious way to represent it rigorously in terms that are less than the whole of what it is. The variety and proliferation of attempts to code it by many exceedingly gifted students of the Founder, from many different perspectives, only prove the point.

Form and perception of form of a variable dynamic but clearly identifiable type is what Doshu expounded as the basis from which the creativity of techniques could spring -- from practice, not a secret formula or reducible knowledge. "Not being spoon fed," the knowledge comes intuitively from the form of action and from no other place.

That does not make it easy, but that also does not mean that there was any simpler way to do what Doshu set about doing. DTR techniques are the part of the rubric in which this essential form was laid originally, as are the weapons curricula of Saito or Saotome, and the basis for the ki explorations of Tohei. Given Ellis's initial plea to the Virgin, he may well understand when I say that while the rubric is always there and may change -- it should never be mistaken for the liturgy that never changes -- but is always new.

The form is to join oneself in one body with the opponent -- and from this to join all things within your perception as one body -- and this is aikido and nothing more. That does not tell you how to put into practice, of course. Many people initially have grave difficulty making a collection of their own limbs into one body, much less an opponent. This may be accomplished in a number of ways in solo or partnered practice. But the principles are the same in either case, and the learning may progress by practice along either gradient. The endless variations are but aspects of a single inchoate form, which does not have, and cannot have, one faithful, reducible concrete representation, individually or collectively.

Last edited by Erick Mead : 08-01-2007 at 03:36 PM.


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