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Old 07-22-2008, 07:21 AM   #6
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 8

Allen Beebe wrote: View Post
Dear Peter,

I appreciate how you can communicate in way that is both readable and compelling (siting sources, etc.) and still turn around and lay down a bottom line in a no-nonsense fashion (quote above.)

It strikes me that many of the sources sited here were available thirty years, or more, ago. Consequently many of the conclusions drawn today could have been made then. Your current presentation is made all the more important by that fact.

It is a pleasure to look forward to even more,

Hello Allen,

Thank you for your comments.

An increasing problem with these columns is that with each installment they are becoming more like 'serious history' and less like the private musings of one aikidoka.

The dozen years between 1930 and 1942 marked O Sensei's closest association with the Japanese military and I think there are some very serious issues relating to this association.

If you look at Page 31 of the edition of Budo (1938) translated by John Stevens, you will see the following statement, supposedly made by O Sensei:

"The appearance of an 'enemy' should be thought of as an opportunity to test the sincerity of one's mental and physical training, to see if one is actually responding to the divine will... Enter deeply, mentally as well as physically, transform your entire body into a true sword, and vanquish your foe. This is yamato-damashii, the principle behind the divine sword that manifests the soul of our nation."

On Page 71, Prof Stevens adds a footnote about yamato-damashii:

"yamato-damashii: the spirit of ancient Japan. Nowadays best interpreted as the manifestation of all that is good and true in human nature."

I still find this explanation quite staggering. It might well be true, but it has to be understood in a clear political context. They are probably too old now, but I wonder how many survivors of the prison camps run by the Japanese in WWII would have been motivated to practise aikido, because it "manifests the divine sword--which is really 'the manifestation of all that is good and true in human nature'".

As I state somewhere in the columns, I think Prof. Stevens has the problem of translating O Sensei in such a way that his discourses make sense to students of aikido living and training fifty years after World War II. The discourses of O Sensei are meant to be a spur to serious (postwar) aikido training. However, there is a serious problem here. The Japanese Education Ministry routinely censors the textbooks used in Japanese high schools and nowhere is this censorship more apparent than in the history textbooks, which deal with the war years (1931 - 1945). I routinely ask my Japanese university students what they learned about WWII in their high schools and the response is usually zero, or a very sanitized account.

Larry and Seiko Bieri translated the introduction of Budo Renshu, which was written a few years earlier (in 1933).

"If you look at Japan, being surrounded by the sea, it forms a natural castle so that an army of devils cannot attack it very easily or recklessly. To defend this castle (our nation), each person must build a castle inside himself and then consolidate all these castles together. This is training in budo....

"When this is mastered (striking and being struck, accomplished by means of kokyu), wisdom, benevolence and courage spring naturally from within you and make the one true yamato-damashii...

"Speaking on a large scale, we defend the whole nation and on a small scale our own body. Ultimately it is the exercising and perfecting of yamato-damashii. It is the same as the ceremonial Opening of the Great Stone Door."

There is a note explaining the significance of the ceremonial 'Opening of the Great Stone Door'.

However, the Bieris, also, really do not put the text into any contemporary context. They are translators and so this is probably not part of their brief. Thus, I suspect that Stanley Pranin's research in Aiki News and these columns are the first serious attempts to put these years in a proper historical context.

Best wishes,


Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 07-22-2008 at 07:26 AM.

P A Goldsbury
Hiroshima, Japan
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