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Old 05-16-2009, 10:49 AM   #39
Ellis Amdur
Location: Seattle
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 815
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Re: O sensei and 'correct ukemi'

BTW - I have heard of at least two accounts of Takeda having his technique stopped, albeit when elderly. Sorry, I cannot remember where I read these, but I recall Sagawa claiming he had to take over with someone whom Takeda couldn't throw and there is an account in one of Tohei's writing (I think that Chris Li mentioned this) where Yukawa Tsutomu stated or is described as stopping Takeda cold. And Inoue Noriaki seems to claim that he begrudgingly when through the motions of "falling" for Takeda in public demos, something he did just to keep the "wa" going. Just for the record, so to speak.

As for the initial question, there is a real difference between "could" take ukemi and "would" take ukemi.
Let's take Ueshiba first. He did waza to show his "principals." As I write <ahem> elsewhere (almost finished with the cover and we have a printer - so stop asking . .. ), Ueshiba was initially furious with Ohba because he had to resort to "old school" DR to handle him - and was molified when the charismatic, dignified, atttractive and altogether wonderful female head of Jikishin Kage-ryu naginata praised his embu. Ohba had his altogether over-enthusiastic butt saved by another kind of aiki altogether. Man, you can just see a middle -aged Ueshiba puffing up and preening while Ohba is quietly sitting there, thinking, "Lady, you just saved my life. Keep talking, keep talking, tell the man how big and strong and powerful you think he is!"
Whether Ueshiba could throw everyone, under any conditions, I'll leave to that wonderful non-existent tome, "The Lives of the Sword Saints," but he absolutely could not throw anyone so they would look like Tamura or Tada flying away in graceful curves.
Per Dobson, when Ueshiba was very old he would "work out" with Terry, throwing him around and then "take ukemi" for him, creaking down to the floor. It was a joke for the onlookers as well, on a par with his claims that the big awkward gaijin had grabbed his beard during each and every demo.
I also wonder with his grandiosity if he "forgot" that everyone didn't fall in graceful arcs at a gesture, and was shocked when an "unskilled" uke didn't follow the track of his desires.
There is no account of Takeda "taking ukemi" for a student. Dan and Mark, I agree, in my <ahem> book, about ukemi from the perspective you are talking about, and that's a worthwhile topic. But as the question of the thread was about ukemi manifested as part of the aikido/Daito-ryu kata, where ukemi is the "taking-falls-for" the other, the psychology is relevant, in that Takeda never allowed himself to be thrown - and in koryu jujutsu, the teacher will do that. And Takeda never allowed himself to be locked up - and in the kata, the jujutsu teacher will allowed himself to be put in a position where he is helpless. Takeda would never allow himself to be vulnerable - not only in fact - but in others' eyes.
Where this is relevant is that it affected the whole course of the development of the aiki arts - how they are taught, etc. If Takeda had the character of Dan Harden, for example, who openly shows how to do this and that, and tinkers together in a laboratory of mutual aiki-discovery in which he is happy when one of his students gets "it" and immediately tries to load him up with more info, then Daito-ryu as well as aikido would have developed in very different ways. They - it, actually, would have been small groups. Few people really want "aiki." Note the small number of people actually training in Aunkai in Japan, and the number of people who, from what I heard, did NOT come back for a 2nd/3rd grueling round of shikko and mabu during Ark's recent trip to the US.

Both UEshiba and Takeda presented themselves as supermen, through aiki, and in the eyes of onlookers, this would have been diminished if they "took falls." Why teach that way at all? Ueshiba used people the way physicists used chalk and board to describe the universe with equations. And kept himself at the head of his class, starting his own "program" so he didn't have to deal with faculty with more tenure.
Takeda demonstrated to his demons and angels that he was unconquerable yet another day. And as the real danger came from other people, it is very hard to conceive of Takeda Sokaku allowing - if that is what it took - anyone to thread his arms through the backs of his knees and cramp him up in a demeaning posture of a punk <using that word in it's old-school prison sense, something quite relevant to the psychology of the paranoid person>.

Best
Ellis

Last edited by Ellis Amdur : 05-16-2009 at 10:53 AM.