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Old 01-04-2009, 06:42 PM   #99
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Effectiveness of Aikido in a combat situation

Clarence Couch wrote: View Post
Wow, I'm so humbled and humiliated.....Nothing to do with combat? You're kidding, right? Aside from the fact that Osensei joined the Japanese military and taught high ranking officers( or anybody who'd pay- course, it was all about money/fame/prestige) his "art" of killing ( altho, some'd argue what he taught wasn't Aikido) that there's plenty of verifiable info that Osensei was the most competitive individual in all of Japan( to wit- a fact( that he carried all of his life and spoke of at every chance) that he very rarely, if ever, was beaten, at anything).
Btw, Imo, it may never get resolved because the very concept of Aiki may be the most lethal ( destructive) force in the Universe.
It's always interesting to me that the folks who wish to maintain that Aikido is about fighting / combat pretty much choose to ignore the entire last half of the Founder's life.

What he did in the 30's was highly influenced by the times. Not to mention that what he taught initially during that period was Daito Ryu and not Aikido. Shioda, Mochizuki, Shirata, and Tomiki Senseis all had certificates in Daito Ryu. Of these students, all chose to go their own way after the war except for Shirata who stayed with the Aikikai and the Ueshiba family. O-Sensei's take on things evolved continuously until he died in 1969 yet the folks who want Aikido to be the ultimate fighting system pretty much ignore everything after 1940.

There is only a little published material by the Founder from the pre-war period. There is quite a lot more of his writings and even more of his lectures from the post war period. I can find absolutely no indication in these post war works that would lead me to believe that the Founder thought he was creating a system of combat. In fact, it was exactly the opposite.

Yes, the revisionists say! Those works were heavily edited by the Founder's son and the senior uchi deshi like Arikawa and Osawa senseis. They would maintain that they distorted the presentation of the Founder's ideas.

I think the "distortion" idea is valid in the sense that they clearly did two things after the war in their marketing of the Founder. First, like everyone else in Japan, they created distance from the militarists responsible for the war. I know there is continued debate to what extent the Founder shared the views of these men. I know in my own case I have several very close friends in Aikido with whom I share not one shred of agreement on political matters, so I am dubious that O-Sensei was a closet war criminal. I think one needs to go by his actual statements and actions rather than impute guilt by association. Anyway, whatever his views before the war, he was explicit after the war. Aikido is a form of misogi. He created it essentially by channeling insights given him by the Kami. It was created as a way to make the world a better place. Period. He repeats variations on that theme in everything he said and wrote until his death. His son, Kisshomaru recounts these statements as well. My own teacher, Saotome Sensei was with the Founder for 15 years and states the same thing. He once told us that if we were worried about self defense we should by a gun. Aikido was for personal development.

The second distortion by the inheritors of the system after the war was to remove much of the Shinto underpinning in the Founder's explanation of the art. This was partly as part of the above mentioned distancing from the militarists but also simply practical as no one really understood what the old fellow was talking about most of the time.

But to the extent that they did communicate his spiritual ideas, it was clear that the overwhelming message was bringing the world together, creating world Peace, the nature of True Budo as Love, etc.The practice of the art is misogi. He flat out, on innumerable occasions, states that the art is not for the destruction of ones enemies. That's a pretty straight forward statement, not hugely open to wide interpretation I think. Since a martial art that is a combat system would certainly be, first and foremost, about the destruction of ones enemies we must conclude that, ipso facto, Aikido is not an art concerned with combat.

Now, it is not the fault of the art itself that there are practitioners who fail to understand the Founder's message and insist on shaping the art to their preconceptions. As Ellis Amdur so eloquently pointed out, there have been a number of folks doing and even teaching the art who have been quite violent. The techniques of the art and it's training methodology lend themselves to abuse and I wouldn't train with anyone I didn't trust because of that. But that isn't the fault of the Founder or the art itself. It is a problem inherent in having human beings, with all their flaws, practicing the art. But the Founder was widely quoted as saying that "no one is doing my Aikido" and the idea that his concern was that the art as done by these folks wasn't combat oriented enough just isn't born out by the facts at hand. Rather, it seems clear, at least to me that he bemoaned the fact that his students seemed so preoccupied by technique and did not seem as interested in the spiritual principles underlying the art as would have wished.

Three teachers stand out as having tried to understand O-Sensei's Aikido as he himself understood it. Stan Pranin held that Sunadomari Sensei (an Omotokyo follower), Hikitsuchi Sensei (a Shinto Priest), and Abe Sensei were the three students of the Founder who pursued the spiritual side of the art as the Founder had taught it. Not one of these teachers has maintained that Aikido is a combat art. Once again, quite the opposite.

Now there are certainly teachers of styles that fall under the rubric of Aikido that concern themselves more with application. But each of these styles was started by a teacher who saw himself unable to follow O-Sensei in his spiritual quest. If we are talking about the Aikido of the man who created and evolved the art and taught it until his death, then postulating that the purpose of the art was combat, that it is about destruction of some enemy, that its "reason detre" was as a defensive fighting system, is quite simply a distortion of the Founder's art.

Finally, to maintain that "the very concept of Aiki may be the most lethal ( destructive) force in the Universe" is just plain silly. Leaving out the Universe and limiting ourselves to the human realm, our unrealized natures constitute the most destructive force we must contend with. The fact that we have nukes at our disposal is far more frightening than the idea that some person of less than stellar character might posses some "aiki" skills. Let's get real here...

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside