I really enjoyed your post. I can really empathize with your statement:
"Was what I was doing aikido? Of course. My training lineage is very clear. Was it Aikikai? Of course, for the same reasons."
I don't know how many times I heard, "That isn't Aikido!" So often that I began to wonder if others were right . . . but in the end, it is as you say.
I sent the following to George some time ago and never bothered to post it, but maybe it will be of use to somebody here.
Thanks again for sharing your insights here. (And thanks to Jun for the opportunity.)
I didn't mean to ignore this. I REALLY appreciate your thoughts. I think you
should post this, it's excellent. I've just been so busy. Just got back from
DC and Saotome sensei's 70th birthday bash and seminar. Been booking my
flights for my tow East Coast trips coming up in May and July... Anyway,
thanks for this and stay in touch.
Sent: Friday, March 23, 2007 4:42 PM
Subject: Beebe's Babble
I wrote a bunch of crap and decided not to post it. Still, maybe you might
find parts interesting.
All the best,
After reading the comments by George here and elsewhere, it made me think of
a post I had made on my own organization's website in order to better define
for my students what our school's vision of Aikido is. I did this in the
hope that it would help my students keep the "big picture" in view while we
focus on the minutia (developing the physical/mental/tactical
characteristics and skills required to efficiently function in a hostile
environment) that is often the substance of our day-to-day practice. This
is our (Kodokan Aikido's 光道館合気道)
view of Aikido, and I'm not trying to sell it to anyone. I share it here in
the sincere hope that it may prompt some thoughtful reflection, even if the
result is a better defining of why your personal or organization's
respective interpretation of Aikido is different from ours.
It seems to me important to know where one intends to go if one
realistically expects to be able to get there, even if one's intention is to
be here now.
[As an aside in relation to George's "The Future of Aikido" piece, when I
first met Shirata sensei I was in the process of "burning out" of my former
Aikido organization of which I had been a member for about 5 years. I was a
bit reluctant to jump right in and join another organization so I waited a
year before deciding that it would be 'OK' to join Shirata sensei's
organization, the Aikikai. When I mentioned this to my sempai at the time
his response was, "Why would you want to?" I decided to let it "ride" for a
while to see if anybody would mention anything, most particularly Shirata
sensei. He never did. In fact almost a decade passed where we trained,
regularly corresponded, and he sent a message, and two pieces of calligraphy
to my dojo opening (he was terminally ill at the time) signed with his name
and title, but no mention was ever made of any of the organizations to which
he belonged and in which he held high positions.
To this day, two decades later, I have the rank that was given to me 20
years ago by my former organization but no rank from the organization to
which my most beloved and respected teacher belonged. And for this I am
most particularly grateful. You see, not only did he give me wonderful
teachings, words of encouragement and an example to aspire to, he also gave
me the freedom to study and learn what he taught. I strongly believe he
knew that, being the nobody that I was and am, if I had come under the
purview of his (or any other large organization) I would be forced to
conform to their norms in order to exist within that organization. He could
get away, to a greater or lesser extent, with what he wanted. He lived and
taught out in the "sticks" (Yamagata.) Besides, he was SHIRATA SENSEI, his
only real constraint was his devotion to his teacher and consequent
allegiance to his family. Even the 2nd Doshu said as much in his eulogy for
"I would like to make it clear that the Aikikai is an organization to spread
a fine Way, yet Shirata Shihan devoted himself not to the organization, but
to the Way. He was devoted to the founder and the Way that the founder had
established. Because of this, he did much for me and for aikido."
Shirata sensei understood Ueshiba Morihei's Aikido to be a Budo AND a
spiritual path AND both should be, and can be, real. I've had students
suggest that I change the name of what I teach to Aiki Budo, or whatever, to
differentiate it from other Aikido schools but I think that this would be
wrong. I teach the best that I can what I learned from my teacher and what
he taught was Aikido . . . maybe different from others, but Aikido
The strength that I see in George's teacher, IMHO, is his willingness and
confidence in his students. It appears that he trusts them as a conduit of
the teaching passed on by him to the degree that he is not threatened by,
but rather encourages, their drive to seek further insights and
understandings via other sources into the art that they strive to further
comprehend and pass on. With leadership such as this certainly they will,
like the willow and bamboo, weather the storms of change.
What is Kodokan Aikido's Goal?: Kodokan Aikido's ultimate goal is Aikido's
ultimate goal, to make our world a better place by making ourselves better
people. In other words, "Masa Katsu, A Katsu."
How does it work?: The underlying idea is that when we truly recognize our
absolute inter-connectedness with all beings and things, we think, speak and
act from that experience. When our thoughts, words and actions accurately
accord with a balanced view of reality they naturally lead to balanced and
How do we realize this inter-connectedness?: Our means to this understanding
is paradoxically martial shugyo. The realizations gained from physical
practice can and must, in Aikido, be extended to our life as a whole. If one
hopes to gain real insights one must risk engaging reality. Conversely, if
one wishes to develop and/or maintain their hypothetical/theoretical
conceptualizations one should only practice hypothetically/theoretically, as
reality tends to unsympathetically point out contradictions between our
conceptions and what is actual.
What is the process to gain this realization?: The process is, again, Masa
Katsu, A Katsu, Katsu Hayabi. Yes, the process of Aikido IS the goal of
In order to attain realization via martial shugyo, that shugyo must openly
and honesty accept the hardships and heartache that normally occur as a
consequence of recognizing the differences between what we perceive or wish
to be and what actually is. Shugyo is the process of working hard to
disclose these discrepancies and accord one's self with the lessons derived
there from. This is a practice of honesty and sincerity. This kind of
honesty relies upon one sincerely desiring to change and improve oneself.
This kind of sincerity produces the courage required to face and accept the
pain and discomfort that inevitably accompanies the process of change.
Courage in turn helps to produce the zeal and fortitude necessary to endure
the rigors of the process of according ourselves with our new realizations,
rooting out our habitual tendencies and remaining ever vigilant so as to not
What are Aikido's values?: Honesty, Sincerity, Courageousness,
Compassion/Kindness, Openness, Humility, Zeal and Fortitude
Is Aikido a set of techniques? No. Aikido is a way of self-realization via
martial shugyo. Aikido contains a compendium of techniques (largely
inherited from Daito-ryu) that illustrate principles that, when seriously
and sincerely perused as such, can lead one to understandings that can
prompt efficacious behaviors in both martial engagements and in life.
Is Kodokan Aikido better than X?: Kodokan Aikido, nor any other school or
art, has a patent on reality. What works works regardless of name or origin.
The more important question is, "Is YOUR martial/life practice working for
YOU?" Are you achieving in actuality what you desire and/or your art claims
to deliver? If the answer is 'Yes' then consider yourself lucky and carry
on. If the answer is, "No" then it is time for a change. It matters little
what 'brand' of improvement one uses. What matters is whether it is working!
What are the technical traits of Kodokan Aikido: It works well for the
situations for which it was intended. It doesn't require cooperation,
collaboration or prior knowledge on behalf of Uke. It assumes multiple
opponents with lethal intent and the involvement of bladed weaponry.
Therefore it is proactive and decisive both mentally and physically.
What are the pedagogical traits of Kodokan Aikido: Kodokan Aikido curriculum
reflects a logical progression of physical development and technical
understandings. Progression is both linear with one level building upon
another and cyclical each stage possessing multiple layers of sophistication
What are the stages of Kodokan Aikido practice: The stages of Kodoakan
Aikido practice are: Jujutsu, Aiki Jujutsu, Aiki no Jutsu. These correspond
to Gen (Manifest), Rei (Hidden), Shin (Devine).
Does Kodokan Aikido differ from Aikido as taught by Ueshiba Morihei and/or
Shirata Rinjiro? Yes and No. Yes, in that every individual's understanding
and practice is unique. No, in that Kodokan Aikido has a direct
correspondence to all of the oral, written and physical teachings of both
Morihei Ueshiba and Shirata Rinjiro. Ultimately what made these teachers
unique was what they did was 'real.' They walked their talk physically and
with their lives as a whole. Were they perfect? They were perfectly human.
Members of Kodokan Aikido are encouraged to do the same. Strive to walk your
talk martially and spiritually.
*real is defined by the "is it working" principal. In other words, when the
rubber hits the road, does your martial technique work in actuality or only
hypothetically? When the rubber hits the road, is your spiritual life
working in actuality or only hypothetically? In order to honesty determine
the answers to these questions one must regularly, honestly and openly ask
oneself these questions and strive to rectify any discrepancies. This is
Masa Katsu, A Katsu, Katsu Hayabi and the 'practice' of Aikido.