Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 10
I once asked Yamaguchi Sensei point blank which sword koryu he practised in addition to aikido. His answer was certainly not evasive. He said, None, and added that whatever sword skills he had were eclectic, picked up from watching and stealing.
When I was in England, one of Yamaguchi Sensei's early students, M Sekiya Sensei, urged me to practise 'proper' kenjutsu in addition to aikido. I was doing a lot of aiki-ken/aiki-jo at the time, for Saito's early volumes were coming out and Chiba was teaching this. However, I think Sekiya found this distasteful and, of course, you could see why. Sekiya's stance, the way he handled a bokken, clearly bore the imprint of Yamaguchi, as I discovered later. Sekiya S also taught sword in London--until Chiba Sensei stopped him, with the reason that such training could not be done in aikido classes.
Sekiya S also urged me to seek out and train with two of Yamaguchi's close students: Inaba and Noguchi. Inaba Sensei runs the Shiseikan Dojo in Tokyo and practises Kashima Shin Ryu. Of course, I know him--actually I am slightly his senior in terms of age. He is a real Japanese gentleman, but one who holds extremely conservative views, quite to the right of the political spectrum. His views about the Japanese emperor system and 'pure' Japanese values reminded me of O Sensei in the 1930s, but without the angst. Now it seems to me that Inaba Sensei regards swordsmanship as an essential part of this set of core Japanese values. Just as a young Japanese male should be proficient in sumo and jujutsu, so also he should know how to handle a sword. A corollary of Inaba Sensei's views is that for a foreigner to have these values involves a huge mental and cultural leap--on both sides.
Why do I state this? Because I think there was far more of a 'weapons culture' in prewar, wartime, and postwar Japan than there is now. Many of my ordinary Japanese friends who practise aikido have swords at home, that have been passed down through the family. One friend, descended from samurai and now in his 70s, who trained regularly at the Hombu Dojo, also trained in his family sword art, rather like Kuroda Tetsuzan, but far less prominently. The art was handed down and he was expected to uphold family values by becoming proficient. So when he began training at the Hombu Dojo, he had a body of knowledge to begin with. Of course, never knew this until he told me. I think we were discussing the teaching of weapons at the Hombu.
The more I study aikido, the more I am convinced that the early history of the art needs a cultural context. Thus, the question whether O Sensei 'taught' or sanctioned/condoned the teaching of weapons outside Iwama' also needs a context. I myself do not believe he 'taught' weapons in Iwama and I am not just playing with words. I have written the earlier columns to explain why.