I don't think I disagree here. I remember when Ellis Amdur wrote his blogs for Aikido Journal
, the only part of Takemusu Aiki
that had been translated were the three installments done, with annotations, by Sonoko Tanaka and Stan Pranin. Ellis used these creatively--as a base for his blogs, which were also supplemented by his vast knowledge of Japanese budo.
When the blogs came out, I remember thinking that the basis for some of Ellis's statements seemed awfully fragile--being only three installments of an English translation of a 200-page book. It would have been better to base his arguments on the whole work, in Japanese, not the first few pages in English. Of course, there are major problems here, one of which is copyright and another of which is translation: making sense of what O Sensei actually states. As for copyright, the Aikido Journal
translation stopped--and there are some dark theories as to why. With respect to translation, Sonoko Tanaka made a big effort to explain the context of O Sensei's more bizarre statements and I think that this is why Ellis could write his blogs. Nevertheless, an English translation of a text written in very difficult Japanese seems to me to be an unusually fragile basis for statements about what O Sensei actually stated. The same is true of the recent translation of Aiki-Shinzui
by John Stevens. As I said elsewhere, I do not have a problem with Mr Stevens producing a sanitized translation, to show how O Sensei fits into the postwar scheme of things (Well, actually, I do have a problem
), but the sanitized translations need to be complemented by something more substantial.
I spent some very pleasant years in the Department of Classics at Harvard University, where we came to grasps with the 'ethics' of translation. (One of my exam questions was to translate Lincoln's Gettysburg Address into the style of Greek used by Pericles in his Funeral Oration during the Peloponnesian War.) There was a rigour there (in the Classics Department, not in my own translation) that is lacking in virtually every single translation of O sensei that I have so far encountered.
I am now writing Column 10 and have translated about a half-dozen pages of Takemusu Aiki
--some of the later material, about World War II. There are some really outrageous statements here and so the question arises: to what extent does the context affect the truth of what is stated?
What O Sensei stated himself (allegedly) is complemented by what others have written about him. The 'documentation' here is supposed to be good, but I do not think so. For example, there is very little in Stan Pranin's extensive research into O Sensei's life in Tokyo between 1927 and 1942 that will enable us to illuminate O Sensei's own statements in Takemusu Aiki
The problem I see with using this Takemusu Aiki as a "the" source rather than "a" source of information reflecting Ueshiba's thoughts and motivations is that it is a Post War amalgam of lectures delivered to a religious audience. Context should be strongly taken into account IMO.
Of course Takemusu Aiki is an important source in a very sparse field so therefore cannot be taken lightly.