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Old 09-20-2009, 09:37 PM   #13
Location: Harrisburg, PA
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 420
Re: "Hidden in Plain Sight" - Takeda Sokaku

Hi Ellis,

I have to echo Josh: the chapter on Takeda Sokaku is heart-breaking! I can understand a father's anger and frustration toward a willful son, but in no way can I understand torturing the child! It is scary how parents shape their kids, and not all kids find solace, creativity, and (mostly positive) self-expression in martial arts like Takeda.

Beyond that, that chapter and subsequent ones paint a somewhat disturbing picture. As you say:

Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
So in short, if the accounts are correct, we have:
  • Ueshiba doing martial arts - somewhat - and getting to be a really strong man
  • Meets Takeda Sokaku - learns Takeda's jujutsu and probably some aiki
  • Ayabe - r-e-a-l-l-y learns aiki and TRAINS - (remember, this is the guy practicing with his spear in the garden and stabbling so deeply in a cheery tree that they had to cut off the spear shaft and leave the spear head in the trunk of the three).
  • Continued training with Takeda on an intermittent and increasingly fraught basis for another 15 or so years - AND studies countering judo.
  • Increasing study of weapons - not enrolling in schools - auditing at best, and mostly observing - and "aikifying" it.
  • Increasingly making (his) aiki(do) his own - combining all the while with his spiritual pursuits - so, by post war, his art was his own method, with an individualized way of training for power.
If I'm understanding what I'm reading, Takeda's own training consisted of a whole bunch of solo training, learning principles of various arts, figuring stuff out on his own and testing it. He did not do much with kata-based training.

Ueshiba does essentially the same thing: learns a bunch from Tekada and others (but primarily Tekada), picks stuff up from different schools, focuses on principles, works the hell out of them on his own, and tests it.

For that matter, if the legends and William Scott Wilson's new biography of Miyamoto Musashi are to be believed, the Musashi was from the same mold (or was the template for it). He, too, had some formal training, but worked obsessively to get to the core principles of swordsmanship and ended up developing his own style.

It seems that in most cases, the skills of those who followed these men did not rise to their own skill level. As homer says in the Odyssey, "For rarely are sons similar to their fathers: most are worse, and a few are better than their fathers." And how could the followers get that good? They didn't follow the same path.

The lesson must be, then, that to be as good as Takeda or Ueshiba, one must do what they did.

The obvious follow-up to that lesson is that all the stuff done since then to formalize the aikido curriculum is rather beside the point.

Two caveats:

1) After ten years of training, I'm in something of a budo mid-life crisis -- or maybe just a budo adolescence. I worked for a long time to get pretty good, only to find out I wasn't pretty good.

2) I'm not quite done with Hidden in Plain Sight. As I write this, I'm on page 189. I'm a fast reader, with excellent reading comprehension, but this is a dense book! Every page -- hell every paragraph -- has me stopping to really think about what I just read and how it relates to my training.

Warm regards,

-Drew Ames
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