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Old 05-09-2008, 06:50 PM   #20
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

Mr Arriola,

Here are some responses to your questions, signalled by PAG.

Joseph Arriola wrote: View Post
Prof Goldsbury,

Given you process and prospective I am curious about many things. If you would so kindly give your opinions on the following:

1. You stated that you "didn't read any of the founders words until after 10 years of your aikido study." How did this affect your reading of his words? Would it have been beneficial to you to read them before or during your initial practice of martial art?
PAG. I first read the Founder's words in English from Kisshomaru Ueshiba's Aikido. Given what these words were, I doubt very much if it would have been beneficial to have read them earlier. However, if I had met Mike Sigman or Minoru Akuzawa in those ten years and had talked (& trained) with them about 'internal' training, especially the Chinese aspects with Mike, then I might have been able to interpret the Founder's words differently. As it was, I was doing exercises like funakogi undo & furitama and ken & jo suburi in the way that my own teachers did and assumed that this was always the correct way (you know, the "Japanese" way).

Joseph Arriola wrote: View Post
2. Did his words have a "physical affect" on the next ten years of your practice?
PAG. No, they did not. You should remember that teachers like Mitsunari Kanai used to tell us not to read books about aikido: we had a living model in him. I think in the way we were taught, there was a rigid distinction made between training (which meant exercises, ukemi and waza) and all the other stuff ('academic' discussions about waza, aikido history, political issues etc). When I was in the US, I met Kisshomaru Doshu and Kisaburo Osawa, but I was still a white belt and there were no real discussions. The atmosphere in the dojo was like Pope Benedict paying a visit. Training was only for yudansha, but we were allowed to watch. Kanai Sensei was treated like a young & mischievous deshi, and we were shocked. But in a pleasant way, since it showed his human side more clearly.

When I came to Japan, I discovered that there was a serious gap between what I had been taught about aikido and what seemed actually to be the case. It had taken me many years to come to terms with that shock. What I mean is this.
When I started, I trained at dojos, with individual teachers: I did not 'join' organizations. So, my 'image' of aikido was a small collection of individuals around a teacher. Those teachers always stressed the individual and personal nature of aikido as committed training (it was always understood that this training was 'good' in a vague and general ethical sense--but always with the understanding that if you were ever attacked in the street, your aikido had to work, otherwise you might be dead). These teachers were Japanese and often talked of aikido in Japan and of the "Founder": a Shangri-la, created by a man who seemed to be a Japanese martial version of St Francis of Assisi.
In Japan, I discovered that the aikido world was not a collection of individuals, but a large and powerful organization, headed by the Founder's son (who did not seem like St Francis of Assisi at all). Of course there was a general benevolence about this organization, but in the way that the Japanese shogunate was considered benevolent. I also discovered that the control attempted by this organization also included the information flow concerning the Founder and the history of aikido--and that there was still a vast amount of material in Japanese, not translated. The organization also appeared to have definite views about the information flow. In a very real sense this was the ura of aikido. In the dojo, you train omote and ura, but these terms are also used in normal Japanese and the concept are fundamental to the view that the Japanese have of themselves.
Why did it take me so long to come to terms with the shock? Because over the years I realized that the 'aikido-as-organization' model had vast implications, but also realized that it was far too simple a model. It does not do simply to condemn organizations & 'politics' as somehow 'evil'. I also came to know the Founder's son much better and discovered that he was human, like everyone else, and--like the Japanese emperor--made mistakes that he could not easily admit.

Joseph Arriola wrote: View Post
3. Did the "editing" by his family, and others give you a "compare and contrast" that made your "technique" better?
PAG. No. I have always regarded training and the academic study of aikido as completely separate. Here in Hiroshima I have studied under an 'old-fashioned' teacher for many years and the academic study of aikido has virtually no effect on this. The dojo atmosphere was similar to what I had been used to in the UK and the US. I have come to know people like Stanley Pranin, Meik Skoss and Ellis Amdur, all of whom lived in Japan for a long period and trained in Japanese bujutsu and budo. They are all 'individuals' and also train according to the earlier image I had of aikido, before I came to Japan. Stan's studies in the history of aikido are very well-known, but what is less well-known is the inevitable conflict that this has caused with the Aikikai. I have seen both sides of this conflict, and the ways it has been dealt with.

Joseph Arriola wrote: View Post
4. Did your prior knowledge of Plato, Socrates and the Greek classics through latin/arab/ and Greek make more clear the Founders "universal" words? Did it also give you a perspective that might have "prejudiced" your views of O'Sensei's words?
PAG. 'No', to the first question; 'Possibly', to the second. Let me explain. I have studied theology and philosophy, but decided to study the Greeks because they were the first philosophers in a western sense. In a real sense the poem of Parmenides has similarities to O Sensei's discourses. The language is similar and the content deals in uninversals. Then there were the Pythagoreans: amazing people, perhaps like Deguchi and Omoto believers. Perhaps this "prejudiced" my views of the Founder's words, but "prejudiced" is too strong a term, implying that I had already made up my mind about them. I do not think this is the case.

Joseph Arriola wrote: View Post
I wonder if there is a "truth" that speaks out through all the filters? Do our words of interpretation taint the meanings of said truth? Do you think that "body language through the exhibition of technique" is perhaps the closest we can get to O'Sensei's meanings.
PAG. Well, you use terms like "speaks out through all the filters" and "taints the meanings". So, the truth that speaks out might well be tainted by our attempts to interpret it. However, I think that communicating in language is a major struggle anyway (and this is not because I have any Platonist views about language). The miscommunications and the non-communications seem to stand out much more than the successes. To say that there is a truth, that language is inadequate to capture or express is putting it far too simply, in my opinion.

Joseph Arriola wrote: View Post
Lastly, more close do you think O'Sensei was to said truth...comparing him to past "masters"?
PAG. Morihei Ueshiba was a formidable martial artist, considered in his contemporary context. Given my previous response, it is hard for me to compare him with anyone. John Stevens has published a book entitled The Philosophy of Aikido, and he makes a plug for the book on the last page of The Secret Teachings of Aikido. He compares Morihei Ueshiba, mainly through his writings and photographs, with major cultural figures like Gandhi and Mother Teresa. This is one of a number of books written or edited by Mr Stevens and they all have prefaces written by the present Doshu or his father. So it is safe to conclude that the Aikikai supports the picture of the Founder conveyed by the books. In Japan the position of the Aikikai is less clear. It does not control the information flow in Japanese as successfully as it appears to do in English and there are no Japanese counterparts of Mr Stevens connected with the Hombu. My own view of the Founder is inevitably coloured by the years I have spent here.

Joseph Arriola wrote: View Post
Thank you so much for your input and perspective.

Joseph T. Oliva Arriola
Not all all.

Best wishes,

P A Goldsbury
Hiroshima, Japan
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