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Old 02-02-2009, 11:09 AM   #6
Dojo: Messores Sensei (Largo, Fl.)
Location: Florida
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 1,267
Re: Book Review: Prophet Motive: Deguchi Onisaburō, Oomoto, and the Rise of New Relig

Hi, George,

Thanks for the thoughtful response. You write as if I had suggested that reading outside of aikido substitutes for reading within aikido or for practice of aikido. Don't think I did.
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Hi Don,
I like your analogy of looking at the Picasso... The real problem is that your analogy applies to virtually anything involving a purely intellectual understanding of the Founder.
Don't think so myself. With Ellis or PAG, we have models of clarity. Stevens launches into wild New Age chatauquas of Gregorian chant-healing and KI particles and TENCHI Jesus. What the heck can he mean? And, of course, he doesn't do us the courtesy of naming any sources other than his own books or those of his sponsors, the Ueshibas. I like something with some rigor to it, not just wishful thinking confidently stated.

Although I find the well researched historical analysis of various authors to be useful in developing a larger context for the development of our art it's pretty much useless for understanding the Founder's art itself.
Again, I disagree. This sounds very much like what the Jpn say about their culture to GAIJIN in general: You can't understand us unless you're Jpn. "Mind and body unified." How many people think that comes from aikido? Quite a few, I'd guess. But it's boilerplate for esoteric practices. I would think that's where aikido picked it up. Osensei was certainly a practitioner of esoteric practices. For me, reading about how this popular phrase was operationalized, practiced in step by step fashion did much to clear up vagueness in much aikido lit.

I think it is virtually impossible to understand what O-Sensei thought, said, or wrote about his art without actually doing the training.
Perhaps I'll go as far as "necessary"--with some reservations--but not "sufficient." I rather think that many folks who've done something well, will have an insight into the mechanisms of aikido, especially if it another MICHI, and many people who do aikido WAZA well have no clue of the spiritual underpinnings.

My preference in reading materials is towards authors who have actually done Aikido practice.
That certainly a good starting place. But often they don't offer context. For example, if I say "550", you don't know if I'm talking about a departure time, an arrival time, a fat man, or a skinny horse. The authors outside of aikido literature mentioned above provide context to make 550, or "I am the universe" meaningful.

Then, on top of that, they must have a direct experience of Omotokyo, Kotodama, Shinto, etc for their experience to have much to do with how the Founder perceived what he was doing.The field is fairly small, at least in English. Even on the mat, the number of teachers who learned their technique within this context of larger spiritual practice is fairly small. That's one of the reasons there is so much discussion about the art and its "reson detre". For most folks Aikido is simply a physical practice, devoid of the underlying spiritual meaning which it had for the Founder. If you can find teachers that trained with Hikitsuchi Sensei, any of the teachers who trained with Abe Sensei or Sundomari Sensei you can train with someone whose on the mat experience was informed by the type of spiritual practice actually done by the Founder.
Precisely. Absent the tutelage students of these teachers take for granted, Blacker or Hardacre or Abe Ryuichi at least give us some insight, as autodidactically spastic as that may be realized.

Anyway, I think that virtually all intellectual understanding of the Founder and his art is simply inadequate without direct experience of the practice itself, both in the martial sense and the spiritual sense. ] The words only have real meaning for you when you understand them in the full body / mind/ spirit aspect. If any of those pieces is missing, then the meaning really escapes us.
No disagreement here. Did it seem as if there was?

So, in that sense, we are all looking at the Picasso trying to understand music. Each of us may have some understanding of various pieces but really comprehending the Founder's Aikido requires seeing the whole picture at once.
"Seeing the whole picture at once." Ever is it thus. We build up to this clumsily. We use what evidence and crutches we can. There is no 1-2-3 as a ski instructor once put it to me. But that's how we learn, 1-2-3. The learning outside of aikido writing is to fill in the gaps of knowledge/experience someone raised in Japan (thought perhaps not a recent generation) took for granted.

Thanks for the reply.

Don J. Modesto
St. Petersburg, Florida
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