Sagawa was just a Meiji ruffneck who just saw the value in training to fanatical death.
Yes he was. I guess what impresses me most about him is that he serves as a separate example of the results of Sokaku Takeda's tutelage--other than Morihei Ueshiba. Because, of course, there are many accounts of Takeda from the aikido side, so Sagawa is another reflection on Takeda as well. It gives us a better understanding of who Takeda was and it adds a lot of depth.
Also, Sagawa's story gives us a view on a very different time and we have to be somewhat in awe of Meiji days traveling with Sokaku.
And another subtext of the book is that Sagawa was, as Vonnegutt would say, "fabulously well-to-do". His family was loaded when he was young and I didn't see any mention in the whole story that Sagawa ever actually worked at anything in his life. Basically, you have a rich kid whose father had a teaching license in daito ryu and the kid gets direct samurai-lineage instruction from Sokaku Takeda from age 11 until Takeda dies...so I'm not saying it was an easy life, but it did make his life much less complicated than Sokaku's was. One thing he points up by saying that he could teach in one place was that he had leisure to reflect. Meaning that he was rich. Sokaku traveled out of economic necessity. Wasn't Ueshiba's family also wealthy? Didn't they both build dojos for Sokaku?
So part of the whole story is that you have to be wealthy to get very deep in martial arts. But another part is again about changing times. Sokaku may have traveled to teach instead of having his own dojo precisely because he didn't want to be a sitting duck with people stealing all his secrets for 30 years. He was eerily paranoid and cautious and also had people looking for him for revenge, at times. In Sokaku and Morihei's day, the necessity for that kind of hyper vigillance was fading enough that neither of them had to worry about settling in dojos. But Sagawa was restrictive on whom he allowed in and while Morihei let thousands in, he may have locked up the higher secrets for safekeeping.
And here we are today trying to get a look back to the dimness of ancient aiki, and Sagawa emerges as a really rare jewel, deepening and enriching our perspectives on Takeda, aiki and the budo life.
I don't know that I would have ever been so interested in Sagawa or a book about him if I hadn't experienced Aunkai, though. Of course, Dan points to Sagawa, but in times past, when I've seen pictures of an old guy like that gesturing with his hand and sending people flying...I just wasn't interested. I used to think the photos and clips Okamoto were all fakery, too. And then I got hold of Ark and Rob and I could certainly feel the great potential of that kind of energy. I realized that those little hand gestures were conveying something I had never learned in aikido and had only rarely seen.
With Ark, Dan and Mike all teaching the fundamentals of internal power, I'm hopeful not only for the future of aiki in America, but specifically, I'm hoping this thread will bring up some technical concepts that can maybe aid in actual how to develop skills in manipulating those potentials.
Thanks to all comments.