Dojo: Berkshire Hills Aikido
Join Date: Jan 2003
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5
To try to answer your question: where did the rot start?
We have an art, Aikido, created by one "charismatic man" who, according to your earlier column:
"… made no attempt to ‘teach' the knowledge and skills he possessed to his deshi."
Certainly, from what you previously stated, Ueshiba Sensei didn't "teach" in the western sense of the word. The reason for this, I think, is that Ueshiba Sensei didn't "do" Aikido; he lived it. One might as well ask did Michelangelo "do" sculpture or Albert Einstein "do" physics? Ueshiba Sensei's art was so entwined with his daily life that he eventually became defined by it as much as it was defined by him. Ueshiba's Aikido was Ueshiba as Ueshiba was his Aikido.
O Sensei lived the principles of Aiki. As such he, perhaps, felt no need to explain what he already had internalized through his training regimen. It's possible that he felt demonstration of waza was enough of a clue to get his deshi started on the road of self discovery, accepting the fact that they would, to varying degrees and in different ways, eventually acquire a portion of the knowledge he already possessed. Or maybe he just didn't care whether they got it or not.
From your second column:
"In fact, what he showed his deshi during practice almost continually and exclusively were waza, without any technical explanation, and he also left them to work out for themselves, not only what they had been shown and the principles lying behind this, but also the training regime that resulted in such waza."
So here we have the first generation deshi, those people closest to the source, who apparently were given the least amount of instruction. Yet these students went on to become the preeminent teachers of Ueshiba Sensei's art. Because Ueshiba Sensei forced his deshi to discover Aikido for themselves we can see that even in its early stage of development the art must have evolved along different branches defined by the understanding gleaned by the first generation deshi. The first Doshu, Kisshomaru and the emphasis of blending with uke, Tohei Sensei and ki development as a discipline unto itself, Tomiki Sensei and the introduction of competitive Aikido, Saito Sensei and the heavy reliance on weapons training, Shioda Sensei and the martial applicability of waza come to mind. Each of the first generation deshi who went on to teach became a branch off the trunk of Ueshiba Sensei's Aikido. Students of the first generation deshi will each come to possess a portion of the knowledge of their teachers, modify it with their own personal touch and so the branches will continue to divide.
One would expect that as a consequence of endless fracturing of the bedrock of the art that Aikido will eventually disappear. Will the art not just someday fade away and become unrecognizable? One must answer the question: just what is being lost when a master dies?
This is where George and I differ in regards to the transmission of Aikido from teacher to student. George lamented that much of Saotome Sensei's knowledge will go with him when he passes and this is due largely to the teaching methodology employed by Saotome Sensei which lacks a lot of detailed explanation of how he does what he does. My point is that much of Saotome Sensei's knowledge is bound to who he is and where he has come from in his life. And while, as George states: "the principles involved in "aiki" are straight forward and teachable." (I agree), I think Aikido is much more than the principles of Aiki. The resultant amalgamation of learned principles and life experience produces Aikido that is unique in very fundamental ways to each individual. To my way of thinking this is the combination of the physical and spiritual aspects of Aikido within the individual.
Chiba Sensei, in an interview with Peter Bernath and David Halprin of Aikido On-Line conducted at the US Aikido Federation Eastern Region Summer Camp held at Hampshire Collage in Amherst, Massachusetts in August 2000, says:
"Well, you'd better not try to separate between spiritual discipline and physical discipline. You cannot separate them. Like any individual human substance, the substantial nature cannot be divided into aspects, body and spirit. They are one. So you take Aikido's form, we train, there's spirit already there. Without spirit there is no form. Through the form, spirit is manifested; it's already there."
A person's spirit is a product of that person's life history. It's what is unique about that person, what is irreplaceable and not reproducible. A person's spirit is what uniquely defines that person's Aikido.
Now if , as George contends, Aiki principles are invariant with regard to styles and teachable, they should naturally transcend the death of the instructor presuming they have been passed on to at least one student. What will be naturally lost is the personalization of the instructors Aikido, the spirit of it.
This has gotten somewhat longer than I originally intended so let me sum things up:
1. Ueshiba Sensei left it to his deshi to discover their own Aikido, i.e. Aikido from the inside out,
From 1. we see that:
2. We can infer that the splintering of Aikido began while Ueshiba was still alive,
3. To accuse Kisshomaru Ueshiba originating the onset of the alleged decline of Aikido does him a disservice,
4. The splintering of Aikido into many different branches is a direct consequence,
5. The splitting of Aikido into many different branches is not evidence of rot just evolution.