VII: Hidden in Plain Sight: Tracing the Roots of Ueshiba Morihei's Power
By Ellis Amdur
A Review Essay
Part 1: Chinese Influence and the Beginnings of Daito-ryu
The last column was actually an extended review of several books on kotodama
, thought to be one aspect of aikido. Since then, another book has appeared and this, too, is immensely relevant to aikido and especially to aikido training. Ellis Amdur's Hidden in Plain Sight
has been long awaited and even in the short time since its publication, has spawned much discussion in Internet forums, mostly of a laudatory, even adulatory, nature. However, Mr Amdur has done his readers the honor of producing a book that requires very careful study. Of course, it does not deserve to be read once, admired, and then put away. Consequently, a book review that is merely a simple description of the book's contents does not really do justice to the vast amount of research and original thought that Mr Amdur has put into the work. The issues with which Mr Amdur deals in his book are germane to those I have been discussing in these columns, so it seemed best to include a review here. Accordingly, this column presents a detailed critical review of the book and a general discussion of the many issues raised, the model being the lengthy review essays in the Journal of Asian Studies
or the New York Review of Books
. Some of the background for the opinions expressed in this review can be found in the final section, entitled, Reading
, which is considerably longer than the reading lists added to the other columns.
Of course, one, very important, response to the book should be for the reader to go and seek out a teacher who possesses the skills and power discussed therein and who is also capable of showing and explaining what he/she knows. For this reviewer, one of the most crucial issues relating to Mr Amdur's book is the development of a training methodology, which will furnish a common core of concepts that will enable individuals to recognize the goals and also provide a common framework for achieving these. Unfortunately, the discussions in Mr Amdur's book should indicate that for aikido, at least, this is no easy matter. In any case, Mr Amdur has not written a technical manual. Rather, he has written a book that explores the broad foundations on which aikido technical manuals should really rest.
So, like the columns, this review essay is targeted at the thoughtful practitioner of aikido, who takes training very seriously and cares very much about the art, but who also ponders the important questions: questions raised both by the type of training actually practiced by the ‘sensei' and offered in the dojo, and also by the questions raised in this and other Internet forums about the ‘efficacy' of the art. Is there something missing, either that should have been there all along, or that should be practiced additionally, in order to make the aikido training more ‘efficacious', whatever this might mean?
NOTE: (1) In this review, all Japanese names follow the traditional Japanese order, with the family name first. Thus, it is ‘Ueshiba Morihei' and not ‘Morihei Ueshiba'.
NOTE: (2) Since there was more to discuss in the book than I expected, I have split this review into parts. The first part deals with Amdur's treatment of Chinese influence on Japanese martial arts, which is followed by some preliminary discussion of Daito-ryu.
NOTE: (3) Ellis Amdur and I have been friends since we met at Stanley Pranin's first Aiki Expo
in 2002. In fact, a major spur to writing these Transmission Inheritance and Emulation
columns was his earlier book, Dueling with O Sensei
. This book confirmed my own experience of living here in Japan: it showed that the general distinction in aikido between omote
was actually a much deeper division, also with Chinese antecedents, and one that permeates the entire culture, not merely the small segment experienced in the dojo. So this review reveals a certain bias: I think that Ellis and I are very much on the same page in respect of Japan and its culture and I generally agree with much of what he states in Hidden in Plain Sight
). Actually, I think the book is a brilliant piece of work and I am honored to be mentioned in his acknowledgments. So this review should be taken as an extended search for greater rigor. Finally, I imply no disrespect whatever to Ellis, when I use the dry academic style in this column, common with articles and reviews, and refer to a good friend simply by his surname.
Ellis Amdur is one of a small group of ‘old Japan hands'. Following in a very distinguished tradition, he went to Japan on a quest for the Japanese martial arts. He spent a total of 13 years there, studying various classical and modern arts, including aikido, after which he returned to the United States. A psychologist by training, Amdur is a specialist in rather extreme forms of conflict resolution, as a glance at his website www.edgework/info
will show. As well as technical books and monographs on crisis resolution, he has written many articles on Japanese martial arts and some of these have been published as books.
With his first book, Dueling with O Sensei
), Amdur established a reputation as an iconoclast. This book really did destroy some very hallowed images of aikido Founder, Ueshiba Morihei, because it presented a rather different picture from the saintly figure that was displayed in the official accounts and biographies. DOS
was followed by a more specialized work, The Old School
). This was specialized in the sense that it dealt with koryu
: more traditional arts, which are not so well known as modern arts like judo and aikido and which are practiced by far fewer people. Though he avows not currently to practice the art, aikido in fact appears to have a major fascination for Amdur, for with HIPS
he has returned to aikido and examines issues relating to this art that were not considered in such detail in DOS
. Of course, on one level Amdur is poking some fun at the aikido world; on another level he is raising some very important questions.
No Smoke, but Plenty of Mirrors
In his Acknowledgments (HIPS
, p. 9), Amdur explains what kind of book he has not written.
"I am neither a researcher nor a historian. I am, instead, simply a man who pays attention, who can often see a larger pattern among small bits of evidence, creating speculations that, frequently, research later establishes as true. This is not so strange, really. Speculation does not mean fantasy—it comes from a root word, speculum, that means, "mirror." Therefore, to speculate is to hold up a mirror to something so that we can see it—at least part of it—from a different angle.
This book will not, therefore, follow academic standards."
is not intended to be an academic work, though there are plenty of footnotes. On the other hand, neither is the work a piece of martial arts journalism, or a work of purely speculative musings, even in the older sense in which Amdur has used the term. Of course, the speculation, with or without the use of mirrors, needs to be sufficiently grounded in facts and the arguments need to be plausible initially, then persuasive and, ultimately, compelling and demanding of assent. So we may ask: does HIPS
succeed as a work of rhetoric, understood in the broadest sense of the term?
The core of Hidden in Plain Sight: Tracing the Roots of Ueshiba Morihei's Power
is a substantial reworking of several articles originally published online by Stanley Pranin in Aikido Journal
. The articles led to a lively but informed discussion; in fact, the discussion was a model for the pursuit of knowledge via Internet forums. As the subtitle of the book implies, the central issues discussed all relate to the general problem of the teaching, learning and transmission of a certain cluster of skills, allegedly found in all martial arts, but especially with respect to aikido, and with the main focus firmly fixed on the Founder, Ueshiba Morihei. That there is a problem here can be seen from the mere fact of the transformation of the art created by Ueshiba, from its origins as Daito-Ryu, through Aiki-budo, to its present postwar form as the general art of aikido, supposedly beneficial to everyone, both physically and spiritually. The alleged consequence of the transformation is that some crucial skills were lost: either because they were not taught to Ueshiba himself; or because Ueshiba himself, though he indeed acquired them, did not pass them on; or because Ueshiba's disciples had only a limited understanding of the skills that Ueshiba actually did attempt to pass on. The issues can be expressed as a set of ten questions concerning the cluster of skills involved:
1. What, exactly, do these skills consist of?
2. Did Takeda Sokaku possess these skills?
3. If so, how did Takeda Sokaku acquire these skills?
4. Did Takeda Sokaku teach these skills to all his disciples?
5. In particular, did Takeda Sokaku pass on these skills to Ueshiba Morihei?
6. If not, how did Ueshiba Morihei acquire these skills?
7. Did Ueshiba Morihei teach these skills, as part of his training methodology?
8. Did Ueshiba Morihei pass on these skills to all his disciples?
9. Did Ueshiba Morihei pass on these skills to those who claim succession from him: the heads of the schools practicing the various ‘flavors' of aikido, such as Yoseikan or Yoshinkan?
10. Does the acquisition of these skills form part of the teaching/training methodology of postwar aikido, especially the Aikikai?
Even framing the questions is something of an arbitrary process, which represents one individual set of issues about how martial arts supposedly work and how they can be described in words. For example, I have used the term ‘skills', rather than ‘power', which Amdur uses. The answers to the questions are by no means simple, either, and I will occasionally refer to these questions during the course of this essay.
Amdur begins to answer several of these questions in his Forward (HIPS
, pp. 13-16). He starts from the "riddle" that some students of Takeda Sokaku, including Ueshiba Morihei, possessed skills "thought to reside only in legends and myth".
"They presented a kind of power quite unlike that of a weight lifter or other strong man, this power so out of the ordinary that it is referred to by its own terms: ‘internal strength, aiki (‘unified energy'), or kokyu (‘breath power')."
"Some [meaning individuals whose power Amdur himself has experienced], using minimal movements, express unbelievable energy, as if detonating a controlled explosion in a small space. Others exert an inexorable force, like a boulder tipping over on top of you. And still others disappear, a ghostlike absence when you are sure you have grabbed them, but you [are] feeling as if you have clutched smoke or [are] stepping into a void."
"A so-called external martial art uses very sophisticated methods to enable an individual to use their body at the peak of its natural reflexes and potential. An internal martial art, on the other hand, attempts to transform the body's natural response to force—and at a higher level, to allegedly change the way one's own body actually functions." (Extracts all quoted from pp.13-14.)
First, one might raise questions about the basis of this distinction. By his use of ‘so-called', Amdur seems to suggest that the distinction is generally recognized—and from his explanation it would seem that it is generally (intuitively?) recognizable. I am not sure that this is the case. The distinction ‘external/internal' has been applied in related contexts, such as the distinction between External and Internal Arts, made in the seventeenth century by the Chinese historian Huang Zongxi (1610-1695). There was a clear context to the use of the distinction by Huang Zongxi, but it appears to have been applied to Chinese martial arts generally. The context in Amdur's discussion is somewhat different, but it is not clear from Amdur's description whether, for example, the terms are mutually exclusive: whether, for example, someone with adequate internal power really needs the other type—and vice versa
. Secondly, the terms used by Amdur to denote this power (‘internal strength', aiki
, in the first sentence quoted) are not synonymous and this has the potential for causing problems when we come to discuss the matter of Ueshiba Morihei's alleged possession of internal power / skills.
Nevertheless, whether ‘external' or ‘internal', it was this power that led someone like Nakazono Mutsuru to aikido, but Nakazono eventually abandoned the art and turned to kotodama
study. In one of his books he explains that Ueshiba Morihei had wreathed his obvious possession of this power in concepts that deprived it of clarity. Amdur does not mention Nakazono in this context, but the latter's explanation is actually relevant to the general theme of Amdur's book: as far as Nakazono was concerned, Ueshiba's power was not ‘hidden in plain sight'; it was simply hidden, obscured by the Omoto concepts that Ueshiba chose to explain his view of budo
Amdur notes five connected reasons why knowledge and acquisition of these skills cannot be taken as a given in present-day Daito-ryu and aikido: (1) the culture of secrecy; (2) abuse of the traditional teacher-centered relationship in the art; (3) lack of peer pressure; (4) the ‘cult of the Sensei'; (5) the use of tricks that serve to obscure the lack of skills. These five reasons really deserve a book to themselves and several have already been written. Amdur ends this preliminary section with an important question: Why do we need to search for ‘internal' skills, anyway? After all, if aikido is an art available to everyone, it will clearly have to admit of different levels of skill—in all the relevant aspects of training for, displaying, and teaching the relevant physical, non-physical and ‘spiritual' skills. Amdur's answer is to throw the question back into the arena: aikido does indeed admit of different levels of skill, but this also includes an obligation on the practitioner to be honest and aim for the highest level possible (as Nakazono set out to do). For some practitioners, but not all—and this fact should be noted, this level will encompass so-called ‘internal' skills. (From now on, unless I am discussing the terms themselves, I will use the terms ‘external' and ‘internal' without the inverted commas.)
1. The Chinese Connection:
Searching for the Inner Crouching Tigers and Hidden Dragons
Amdur begins his book by arguing for the existence of a deep Chinese connection with Japanese martial arts. As a very general statement, covering a period lasting several centuries, this is unarguable, but the real issues lie beneath the surface. Since Amdur has already made a rough distinction between external and internal martial arts and indicated that his main interest is in the latter, we can expect that his opening chapter will illuminate the relevance of the Chinese connection with Japanese martial arts for the internal power supposedly latent in the latter. The chapter consists of several short, interconnected essays, each of which will be considered below.
Riders from the Continent Bearing Gifts
Julian Barnes wrote a history of the world in ten-and-a-half chapters. Amdur has gone one better with a history of Japanese martial arts in ten paragraphs. This first section of the chapter is a very broad survey, outlining the alleged Chinese origins of jujutsu
. Amdur starts off from Yamatai-koku
, ruled by a queen and shaman popularly known as Himiko, and shepherds us efficiently through the Middle Ages to the Pax Tokugawa
, where martial arts ceased to be really martial, at least in the sense of being testable on a battlefield. To do this effectively in such a short space, Amdur's brush has to be broad and the strokes accurate. The main problem here—and this is not restricted to Amdur's survey—is the nature of the evidence. For an age before writing, the evidence has to be archeological remains, correctly interpreted, which then might well lead to a certain interpretation of what chroniclers in later ages recorded about the prehistoric past. A good example of this mutual support of archeological and literary evidence can be found in the Cambridge History of Ancient China
, which in one volume digests 1,000 years of prehistory, up till the Qin Empire in 221 BC. The same volume presents evidence that the invention of writing, for example, was not restricted to one place or culture. Rather, the occurrence of Sumerian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphics, Chinese pictographs, and Mayan hieroglyphs was sui generis
—that is, unconnected—and, moreover, all these systems followed a similar developmental pattern. If this can happen with such a fundamental skill as writing, it is plausible to entertain the assumption that it can happen with other fundamental skills. The other, major, conclusion to be drawn from this Cambridge History
is the extent to which any conclusions at all are—have to be—tentative.
Thus there are one or two ripples in an otherwise smoothly flowing narrative. It seems clear that horses came to Japan from the Asian mainland and, given that Japan was not connected to the mainland at the time, that such horses were not wild, but the real issue is how and when this happened. That shooting with arrows and wrestling also came from the Asian mainland is less clear, however, as is the evidence for the suggestion that the wrestling in question is fundamentally tied to horse riding. Nor is it at all clear that the Yamato people emigrated from the Korean peninsula or that these waves of immigration constituted an invasion, at least in military terms. It would seem that the arrival in Japan of foreigners from China and Korea had much to do with the collapse of the Han dynasty in 220 CE and the effect of this on the kingdoms in Korea, but it is also plausible that these immigrants leavened with new and interesting technological skills the quality of the lives of the people who were already living in the Japanese islands. The point I am making here is that Amdur presents a rather extreme form of a thesis, according to which the ‘indigenous' residents of the Japanese archipelago were pushed further and further north by waves of hostile horse riders who hailed originally from Mongolia, rather like the ancient Britons, who were supposedly pushed further and further northwards and westwards by the Romans and later by waves of invading Angles, Saxons and Jutes—and became the Scots and the Irish (the invaders gradually becoming Anglo-Saxons). Less extreme forms of the thesis are also possible and have been made by J Edward Kidder and Delmer Brown, for example, in their respective essays in Volume One of The Cambridge History of Japan
The Way of Japan's Indigenous Kami
In this opening section Amdur also refers to Shinto as ‘the indigenous religion of Japan' (HIPS
, p. 19). Some scholars (notably Kuroda Toshio and Ian Reader) have criticized this phrase for being misleading. Amdur is concerned more with the effects of Shinto on martial training rather than Shinto itself, but one cannot assume either that at this time (the time of Buddhist influences eventually leading to ‘amalgamation') there actually was an indigenous religion, called Shinto, or that Shinto was actually a religion at all. However, as Amdur moves from general history to the specifics of the martial arts, he seems surer footed and on firmer ground as he narrows the focus of the discussion.
Amdur's references to Shinto are intended to explain the gradual blending of Shingon and Tendai Esoteric Buddhist practices with those of pre-existing mountain cults. The Japanese term for such practice, used by Kukai, or Kobo Daishi, is shugyo
(修業): the repeated performance of prescribed activities (of an ascetic nature), involving sounds, gestures and visualizations, which, in Shingon Buddhism, are designed to yield the realization or awareness of one's originally enlightened nature. Again, the transformation of shugyo
from Kukai & mountain cults, by way of Heian aristocrats on pilgrimages to Yoshino and Koya-san, Shugendo and yamabushi
, Zeami and Sen no Rikyu, to a fully-fledged ‘theory of internal skills and training, appropriate for the Edo samurai in the dojo' was a complex process, some aspects of which have been studied by Japanese scholars. For example, the philosopher-psychologist Yuasa Yasuo began with the general phenomenon of shugyo
and studied the effects of such training on the body/mind. Yuasa attempts to connect his work to that of scholars in the western tradition, where much independent research is now going on into what one may call ‘situated cognition': how one's cognition or one's awareness of the ‘mental' or ‘non-physical' is influenced by the fact that we are embodied beings. The distinctive aspect of Amdur's treatment in this section is the emphasis he gives to the influence of Mikkyo
(the term for Shingon/Tendai religious/ascetic practices) on Japanese martial training regimes and the likelihood that Mikkyo
was the pipe for the transmission of internal training methods and also for the conceptualization of internal skills. One of the issues here, however, is to maintain an adequate distinction between (1) the power/skills themselves, (2) the training methods used to acquire them, (3) the enlightenment they afford, and (4) magic and tricks. All four are in play with regard to Ueshiba Morihei.
Arming the Warrior from Within
Amdur's references to Shinto are intended to explain the gradual blending of Shingon practices and mountain cults in Shugendo. However, Amdur also shows that there was a great deal more interaction between the Chinese and the Japanese than shugyo
, especially during such a long period. He puts the date at which specifically martial information arrived in Japan around 1467-1615, which is known in Japan as the Sengoku Jidai
(Warring States Period). Before this period, the Chinese input was the martial application of esoteric training derived from religious practices. During this period, which was the time of the Ming dynasty in China (1368-1644), Chinese boxing manuals were smuggled into Japan and circulated "like Playboy magazines in a junior high school" (HIPS
, p.22). Amdur deftly argues that the effect of civilian influences on Chinese martial arts gave the Chinese "a head start of many hundreds of years over Japan in pugilism and sophisticated unarmed grappling" (ibid
.). The information came largely from southern China and was associated with the southern Shaolin schools.
However, this raises a curious question. The scholar Mikael S Adolphson has put together some impressive results of his research on the martial violence of the early medieval Buddhist/Shinto clergy in Japan, but the martial arts schools he mentions in The Teeth and Claws of the Buddha
began under the Tokugawas. It is curious that the warrior monks and sohei
left no traditions comparable to those of their Chinese counterparts, with the result that interested Japanese were scrambling for dubious texts from China at a time when there was already a glorious tradition still extant on their own doorstep. It is also curious that the methods for acquiring ‘internal' power / skills were so exclusive that the "junior high school boys" alluded to above needed to find specious material like the Heiho Okugisho
(see below). Note also that this period was considerably earlier than the Genroku (mid-Tokugawa) Era, for example, when it became more customary for non-samurai to practice, or dabble in, martial arts.
Amdur concludes this section with a brief discussion on internal strength.
"After 1500 years of influence from China, it will never be known if there are any purely Japanese training methods of internal strength, but suffice it to say that the Japanese have never been a culture that simply absorbs information without adding its own stamp." (HIPS, p. 23.)
Here, of course, lies the problem, which applies not only to Amdur's discussion. While it is clear that there was Chinese influence, this has not been defined other than that it was either ‘external' or ‘internal' and there is no clear indication precisely how the Japanese added their own stamp to this influence, other than the obvious changes like that of vocabulary. However, Amdur cites some clear examples (HIPS
, pp. 23-24) of how certain Japanese koryu
exhibited types of training that seem to create or exploit internal strength. He spends the remainder of the chapter discussing the evidence for internal power / skills in each of the main lineages of Japanese jujutsu.
The Heiho Okugisho / Hidensho (兵法奥義書 / 兵法秘伝書)
Amdur begins this discussion with a sideways glance at this curious work, supposedly written by one Yamamoto Kansuke, who was a lieutenant of the warlord Takeda Shingen. English translations of this work are very difficult to find and so readers who wish to test Amdur's arguments will need to find a Japanese text, and especially the work referred to in his Footnote 3 (HIPS
, p. 25). This is a collection of studies written by a Japanese scholar, named Omori Nobumasa. However, Takeda Shingen has been the subject of the Kurosawa film Kagemusha
and often appears in Japanese TV jidai geki
(時代劇: ‘period dramas'). His popularity has also spawned much literature on Yamamoto Kansuke in Japanese, some scholarly and worthy of attention, some not so worthy (see Reading). In fact, as Amdur notes, there are many questions about the Heiho Okugisho
. The compiler of the treatise seems to have made a total mess of his editing and the explanations in Japanese do not match the illustrations, which have been directly cribbed from Chinese martial manuals.
Thus one question for this reviewer is Amdur's reason for devoting so much space to discussion of this particular work. On the one hand, it "perfectly illustrates the influence of Chinese martial arts on Japan," and the Chinese influence is certainly there. The work is presented as an example of Chinese influence on Japanese martial arts that was easily available to a certain class of readership. On the other hand, for Amdur it is clear that the book is of no value whatever for real martial arts training, even less for training to acquire internal skills. Since he discusses only this one major text with supposed Chinese influence, it would have been interesting to read Amdur's thoughts about the details of Chinese influence on the kind of training manuals that the Heiho Okugisho
purports to be, but with much greater claim to authenticity than this particular work. In other words, the work needs to be compared with classic manuals, such as the Heiho Kadensho
of the Yagyu family, to see how the Chinese influence operates here. In the introduction to his English translation, William Scott Wilson stresses the influence of Mikkyo
on Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, but we have to take his word for it. If the argument of this chapter is correct, the effects of the Mikkyo
connection with Yagyu Shinkage Ryu are especially to be found in the internal power and skills of this art.
Three Jujutsu Schools
In his survey of the main Japanese jujutsu lineages, Amdur faces the difficult problem of separating out the Chinese influence on the internal skills supposedly displayed in these lineages and of distinguishing this influence from any ‘purely Japanese' internal training methods. Amdur certainly lays out the case for Chinese influence, but the ways in which the Japanese modified this influence are rather less clearly depicted.
The Mysterious Chen
Amdur begins with Kito-ryu and the exploits of one Chen Yuan-yun (1587-1671), who arrived in Nagasaki in 1619, roughly around the time that people were supposedly beginning to read the Heiho Okugisho
. Chen is supposed to have moved first to Kyoto and then to Edo (Tokyo) and to have met three samurai: Isogai Jirozaemon, Miura Yojiemon, and Fukuno Shichiroemon, the last of whom was the founder of the jujutsu art known as Kito-ryu. There is little generally available on Chen Yuan-yun in English, but the ABC-CLIO martial arts encyclopedias mention him (see Reading). For those who can read Japanese—and are in a position to draw their own conclusions, a short extract from the Japanese Wikipedia
article is given below:
陳元贇は1625年（寛永2年） - 1627年（寛永4年）の間、江戸城南の西久保にあった国昌寺に居た（国昌寺は後に焼失）。この寺の記録『国昌寺文書旧記録』に、長州の浪人 三浦与治右衛門義辰・磯貝次郎右衛門・福野七郎右衛門正勝の三者に逗留の間柔術を伝えたとある。
ただし、陳元贇を柔術の始祖とすることについては江戸時代から議論がある（陳元贇渡来以前に既に存在した柔術流派もあるため -現存最古の柔術流派である竹内流の成立は1532年（天文元年）- ）。現代では、武道史研究家の高橋賢が「陳元贇は武術を伝えたとするのは後世の虚構」とする説を唱えている。当時、中国人より武技を授かった伝説で権威付けた流派は他にもあり、高名な文人である陳元贇の名を 使ったとも考えられている。また、当時の陳元贇が書き記したものや、そのほかの記録に一切武術に関する事が無い。陳元贇と拳法、柔術の関係が言及されるのは後世の文献のみ である。それらの文献では、陳元贇は故郷で「人を捕らうる術」を見聞きした、と三浪人に語った事になっており、教授したわけではなく、中国で見聞きした事を語った可能性が 高い。
Amdur's discussion turns on what, exactly, Chen is supposed to have taught the three samurai when for three years he was in residence at the Kokushoji Temple in Edo and this is the main issue for the writer(s) of the Wikipedia
article. Both cite Komatsubara To,『陳元贇の研究』: (Studies on Chin Gen'in
), who, according to Amdur,
"speculates that Chen may have learned the staff fighting methods and breathing exercises associated with the militias of the Shaolin monasteries, who were famous at the time for fighting Japanese coastal raiders." (HIPS, p. 29.)
Komatsubara's ‘speculations' are in fact a detailed discussion on pp. 94-115 of his book, which also gives the names of 81 秘技 (‘secret techniques', allegedly recorded by Miura Yojiemon). Amdur favors the thesis that Chen taught or showed internal skills. His argument turns on some very interesting analyses and discussions—speculations again, centering on the meaning of terms in certain Japanese texts. One issue for this reviewer is that, even apart from the problem of interpreting single words such as 満 (mitsuru
), there is the problem of interpreting the texts in such a way that the internal contradictions are either dissolved—or maintained. Thus, in one text, Chen allegedly does not know the "art" of which he speaks, but he knows (= 満: "is filled to the brim with") the "techniques" of the art. This knowledge is such that he can describe the "techniques" to Fukuno's satisfaction, with the consequence that the latter can not only incorporate them into his existing jujutsu repertoire, but also "devise such techniques" for himself.
Another text states that Chen had "seen" (= 見る: "studied", which Amdur takes to be a "writing", or editing, of the original 満) the techniques for many years and that Fukuno also watched Chen practice the "techniques, and studied it [the art?], along with the jujutsu on which he had been working, devising his own techniques until his abilities matured." (HIPS
, pp. 31-32). The writer adds that this was the beginning of all yawara
, but that Chen himself did not know or teach yawara
In his 1887 essay "Jujutsu", Kano Jigoro also recounts the meeting between Cheng and the three samurai. According to Kano's version, "Cheng told them that in China there was an art of seizing a man, which he had seen himself practiced
, but had not learned its principles. On hearing this, these three men made investigations and afterwards became very skillful." (HIPS
, p. 32, Amdur's italics.) The translation of the episode made by Watatani Kiyoshi (of Bugei Ryuha Daijiten
fame and a mentor of Don F Draeger) also plays down Chen's importance: "In China, there are methods with which you can subdue other people. It's not that I know those particular techniques, but I've had many chances to observe and hear about them." (HIPS
, p. 33, Note 15.)
If only things were so easy and straightforward nowadays. The encounter of Chen and the three samurai makes all the AikiWeb
discussions on internal power / skills seem arduous and clumsy by comparison. This is not to belittle these discussions in any way, but to suggest that there is a certain romantic element in the accounts, which makes the acquisition of the skills seem rather easier than it actually was. Although Chen was in residence for three years, we do not know how long his encounter was with the three samurai. Nevertheless, Chen, who disclaimed all knowledge of the art, but had either ‘seen' or was ‘full to the brim' with the ‘techniques' of the art, which he further described or even showed, such that at least one of the three samurai (the Edo equivalent of MMA experts?) was able to increase his skill to a very serious degree. Amdur admits that there is an issue about Chen's internal skills and that he himself is more convinced than Kano, Watatani or Draeger that Chen possessed these skills. The fact that some masters of Kito-ryu, such as Takino Yuken and Kato Ukei, supposedly possessed these skills in abundance needs explanation and Amdur prefers the influence of Chen, rather than any supposition that they somehow worked things out solely by themselves. Amdur provides footnotes setting out much of the evidence for his speculations, but I would have liked to see more of the evidence laid out in Japanese, especially for the controversial issues centering on the translation of certain Japanese terms. Perhaps this was not possible for reasons of cost.
Yoshin-ryu & Tenjin Shinyo-ryu
In his discussion of the other jujutsu lineages, Amdur seems on firmer ground. We have more discussion of the character 満 (see above), which adds yet another important meaning to the term. As with Kito-ryu, so here, the central issue is to what extent expertise in Yoshin-ryu and Tenjin Shinyo-yu involves mastery of internal power / skills that have been learned from Chinese teachers, rather than having been developed ‘indigenously'. Amdur considers two examples of such expertise: Akiyama Shirobei Yoshitaki, founder of a branch of Yoshin-ryu, and the writings of Iso Mataemon and Yoshida Chiharu, of Tenjin Shinyo-ryu, the latter especially concerned with teachings on internal energy. We will consider these in turn.
The Bending of the Willow
There were a number of Yoshin-ryu schools in the Nagasaki area of Japan and, since Nagasaki was the gateway through which things Chinese entered Japan, it is concluded that the schools mixed Chinese martial and medicines with Japanese jujutsu, as the founder of Yoshin Koryu, Nakamura Yoshikuni, did in 1610. Another school, Miura-ryu, was started by Miura Yojiemon, who was one of the three samurai who met Chen Yuan'yun, while the founder of the third school, Akiyama Shirobei Yoshitaki (illustration on p. 39), went to China to study medicine, but learned some martial skills as well. Akiyama once saw a willow tree bending under the weight of snow. The important point for Amdur is not the "soft blending" of the willow and the snow, but the "explosive power" of the willow, as it shrugs off the snow and springs back. It was this revelation that led Akiyama to develop new training methods, including internal training methods. "The latter involved a coordination of deep controlled breathing and movement. These breathing techniques are still considered among the most important techniques of extant traditions of Yoshin-ryu." (HIPS
, p. 39.) Based on his own experiences of running two arts, Amdur strongly suggests that Akiyama devised his new training methods, not from personal revelations, but from hard experience with skilled and ‘unwilling' opponents. Amdur draws two conclusions:
"It is obvious that Akiyama's unnamed Chinese instructors taught him far more than three techniques of punching or kicking. How could he, otherwise, have possible created an entire system of fighting—weapons training included? Perhaps this is merely a case of the Japanese trying to minimize Chinese influence. Could he have been taught an entire system of Chinese martial arts? But this, too, is a dubious proposition, because if it were true, such an intact system would have continued in Japan, albeit changed, much as karate, on offshoot of southern Shaolin methods, continued in Okinawa. There is no evidence that this occurred." (HIPS, p. 40.)
This account is plausible, but there are questions concerning this vexing problem of Chinese influence on Japanese jujutsu. Amdur asks whether Akiyama could have acquired a whole system of Chinese martial arts and expresses his doubts. He has previously distinguished between external arts and internal arts, but curiously does not invoke the distinction here. If he had, the question would be whether Akiyama could have learned some kind of more or less complete internal system, which he then used as a base for his new training methods.
Amdur's second conclusion is that Akiyama studied some basic and necessary methods of internal training, either principles that became kata
or already existing kata
, by means of intensive solo practice.
"It is likely that through truly dedicated and obsessive practice, Akiyama was immovable when pushed, blindingly fast, and was able to down other people with a mere shake or pulse of his body when they laid hands in him." (ibid.)
Amdur adds that the problem was that such solo training is long and tedious and in any case would have been ineffective against a sword blade. Thus, in order to combat the boredom of his students or himself, Akiyama created weapons-based kata
that embodied the "principles of neuro-physical organization that he had already acquired". Of course, presumably this ineffectiveness against a blade would apply to a complete internal system, as well as to the few methods that Akiyama allegedly acquired. As before with the three samurai who encountered Chen Yuan'yun, the issue here is what precisely Akiyama learned at the hands of his Chinese teacher(s) and how much he added that was his own.
In giving this analysis of Akiyama, Amdur had the good fortune to draw on the knowledge of the headmaster of an existing school of Yoshin-ryu that retains the training methods of two of the earlier schools, now extinct. The school is Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin-ryu and the headmaster is Toby Threadgill. Mr Threadgill describes one part of the Nairiki no Gyo
, part of the solo training set out in the former of two scrolls: the Ten no Maki
and the Jin no Maki
"They are solo exercises that inculcate the proper balance, movement, and muscular application utilized in our greater curriculum. These types of exercises are actually quite common in Japanese jujutsu ryu of the Edo period, although they are rather unfamiliar to those who are not initiates of specific ryu. According to Yoshin-ryu lore, this form of body training was introduced to Japan from China in the mid-Edo period, the Nairiki no Gyo being specifically created as adaptations of Chinese practices intended to augment the study and application of specific body skills required in Yoshin-ryu's greater curriculum." (Quoted by Amdur in HIPS, pp. 42-43.)
Just before this, Amdur has noted that the Ten no Maki
has two types of solo training forms: one that builds spiritual power that can then appear in one's physical body; the other that enables one to endure physical and spiritual hardship, as well as entering a transcendent state of mind. This complements the Jin no Maki
scroll, which includes the study of vital points and revival techniques, based on Chinese models, together with empty handed and weapons techniques designed to disrupt the enemy's physical and psychological equilibrium. Although the Ten no Maki
includes rituals and prayers of esoteric Shinto, the language here reminds this reviewer of Kukai's explanations of sanmitsu
: the shugyo
designed to afford one the awareness of one's enlightened state. Thus we may conclude that there is a very important segment of training that involves the acquisition of internal power and skills and also that there is very definite Chinese influence involved here. However, it is also relevant that the illustration of the Nairiki no Gyo
(p. 42) is partially obscured because of the need to preserve the internal secrets of the ryu
Here we come up against a crucial factor, which is of great relevance to any discussion of Chinese influence on Japanese koryu
. It is hinted at by Threadgill's reference to exercises "being quite common in jujutsu ryu
, but unfamiliar to those who not initiates of particular ryu
." This factor is the Chinese / Japanese view of knowledge and its dissemination, which Amdur has already alluded to earlier as the ‘culture of secrecy'. This is not merely a matter of open possession and dissemination of facts or truths about the art and training. Students are always encouraged to find a good teacher and these is a reason for this. Knowledge (especially knowing how, which is always bestowed exclusively by the teacher) is not given to a disciple (who is judged incapable of gaining knowledge by himself) until he shows he is worthy or able to receive it. In any case the knowledge will not be understood as knowledge until is it correctly interpreted, hence the need for kuden
, or the means of breaking a code. This issue is generally encompassed within koryu
training, since the latter always assumes a progressive understanding of the metaphor categories of the art, which are gradually mastered by initiates along with the waza
. However, I think that this factor is of greater relevance—it is more of an issue—in respect of judo and postwar aikido.
Explanations by Numbers
The explanations given by Amdur of the internal training in Tenjin Shinyo-ryu are more detailed than for Yoshin-ryu. What he has done is to give a translation and commentary of a book (title unspecified) by Iso Mataemon and Yoshida Chiharu. The book is divided into numbered explanations (説). Several pages are given over to this and the first commentaries and explanations concern a further meaning of michiru
(満), the term encountered before in the discussion concerning Chen Yuan-yun. The extracts begin with an explanation of ki
(気) and tai
"Within the body and spirit, there is in and yo. Inside the body, as it becomes active, the internal energy becomes yo. However, when the body calms, the internal energy becomes in. In this ryu, the methods of managing ki are mainly taught via training waza. Because the ki is only contained in the body, it is intangible and cannot be seen with the naked eye. It is only properly felt when the body is "packed" with ki. The strength of ki when the body is packed becomes an everyday occurrence. When the mind and body are at rest, ki becomes dormant." (HIPS, pp. 44-45.)
Amdur comments that this passage makes a distinction between the development of ki
and the management of ki
. The "packed" ki
, as a result of waza
, lies dormant in the body, "ready to use in an instant". The explanation in the book continues by stressing the need to "fill the body with ki
and stay healthy". This is a counter to the tendency, when starting training, for the ki
to dissipate or weaken. Amdur sees here a major difference between this type of training and ordinary exercise or bodybuilding. In other words, the waza
are used specifically to "generate and perpetuate internal energy", rather than to induce fatigue or exhaustion, which happens with "ordinary training".
There is more discussion of "packing ki
" in a later section. The Japanese title is 気ヲ満ル事: ki wo michiru-koto
, and the character for michiru
(満ちる) is the same as in the account given of Chen Yuan-yun. The obvious question is whether the meanings are identical or related. In contemporary Japanese, the Chinese ON reading of the character 満 is MAN
and the meaning is ‘full'. The Japanese used this character for two aspects of the same basic concept: mitasu
: ‘to fill', and michiru
: ‘to become full', and almost all of the compounds have this as the central component of their meaning. In a footnote to his earlier discussion on Chen Yuan-yun, Amdur explains why he prefers this translation, as a verb, in preference to the weaker adverbial "exhaustively", given by Prof. William Bodiford. One can clearly see the difference here, for the concept of (actively) "packing" ki
extends this core meaning and intensifies it, so to speak. The metaphors used in the explanation include the natural (and complete) tension of a well-strung bow, or the thousand hands of the goddess Kannon, all moving in unison. The numbered section ends with an explanation of the Kannon metaphor:
"If the mind moves in one way, there will be hands that move and hands that remain static. If there are static hands, then the reason for possessing so many hands becomes meaningless. This is not packing of ki.
This is the packing of ki: When ki has filled your entire body, from top to toes, even the fingertips, with no gaps, than that is the correct method." (HIPS, p. 47.)
Since the purpose of this review is to encourage readers to buy Amdur's book and read / examine / ‘interrogate' it critically, I will not spill any more beans about the contents of this section. There is one more important concept that needs discussion, however, since this will serve as a useful bridge to the next section. This concept is 鑑磨 [or 鏡] kagami migaki
, which means ‘polishing the mirror'. The discussion of this concept in HIPS
does not form part of the explanations in the book written by Iso Mataemon and Yoshida Chiharu. However, Amdur refers to the concept as another example of internal training in Tenjin Shinyo-ryu. Kagami migaki
"enhances breath control, posture, attention span, and stamina. … The kata itself includes a method for the integration of the entire body through what appears to be mere circular movements of the arms—that look as if one is polishing a mirror." (HIPS, p. 44.)
Amdur does not go into detail about the specific nature of this training, beyond the tantalizing quotation from his informant:
"Kagami migaki is almost in the same league as a Chinese Qi-gong exercise. You inhale while dropping the hips, keeping your spine erect and in alignment with the head and hips, followed by exhalation." (ibid.)
As Amdur also mentions, kagami migaki
is a phrase used in Zen Buddhism to describe the freeing of the true self from delusion. It is used by at least one contemporary aikido instructor, who also practices Zen Buddhism, and I suspect that he uses the phrase in this sense, and not in the sense understood in Tenjin Shinyu-ryu. We will encounter kagami migaki
once more in the following section.
What happened to Jujutsu?
As a conclusion to this chapter, Amdur considers this very interesting question, which to me offers a very clear parallel with the question of what happened to aikido after World War II. Amdur's basic answer is that judo is what happened to jujutsu. Actually, the parallel with aikido extends here, too, since judo became a ‘mass' martial art, dedicated also to wider aims than purely using internal or external skill to defeat one or more opponents. We need to examine this supposed defeat of jujutsu at the hands of judo in more detail.
Amdur begins by noting that before the Meiji Period, jujutsu ryu
had many thousands of practitioners. To see how valid is this point, we may go on to ask the obvious question: to what extent was jujutsu, like sumo, a ‘mass' martial art, open to any Japanese male who had an interest in it? Another way of putting this question is to ask to what extent the vast majority of jujutsu practitioners actually acquired the internal power / skills discussed earlier. Did they acquire them, but to a far lesser extent than the few "uncommon individuals, who lived the ryu
, who made it their flesh, and their bone", as Amdur puts it? Or was this aspect of the ryu
a completely closed book to them, since they never progressed far enough in the art to have the means of acquiring these skills revealed to them? As far as I can see, Amdur does not answer this question, but, judging from his later discussion about Kano's teachers, his answer would be negative. If Kano's own teachers did not possess internal power / skills, it is unlikely that their students would, either.
The point of raising these questions is to blunt to some extent the sharp distinction suggested by Amdur between the vibrant, pristine, ‘internal purity' of the jujutsu ryu
and the loss of all these skills at the hands of Kodokan judo. So, while Amdur suggests that judo is what happened to jujutsu, it is plausible that Kano was helped considerably by the jujutsu ryu
themselves, the ossification of which progressively came to embody the five connected reasons, cited by Amdur earlier, why knowledge and acquisition of internal skills cannot be taken as a given in present day Daito-ryu and aikido: (1) the culture of secrecy; (2) abuse of the traditional teacher-centered relationship in the art; (3) lack of peer pressure; (4) the ‘cult of the Sensei'; (5) the use of tricks that serve to obscure the lack of skills.
‘Scientific' Techniques: Nothing ‘Internal'
Thus, Amdur gives the main reason why he believes Kano was able to create Kodokan judo at the age of twenty-three. He defeated his own teachers in free-style practice: something that Amdur believes should have been impossible if the latter had internal power / skills. Moreover, after Kano had established the Kobukan and devised his new method of grappling, the defeat of jujutsu practitioners, even in grappling matches that were controlled by various rules, should not have been possible if the jujutsu practitioners had actually acquired the internal skills taught within their own ryu
In his essay on the birth of Kodokan judo, Murata Naoki recounts in more detail Kano's defeat of one of his teachers.
"The study of Bujutsu was centered on hard training and learning from actual experience. Kano dedicated himself to training and was not inclined to refrain from asking his teacher difficult questions. If a suitable reply was not forthcoming, he would persistently ask again and again. His teacher would reply, "even if I did tell you, you wouldn't understand anyway. Just shut up and train. That's the only way to learn, so get up and let's go." (Murata, "From "Jutsu" to "Do": The Birth of Kodokan Judo", Alexander Bennett, Budo Perspectives, p. 144.)
Thus the teacher was acting in accordance with the traditional knowledge paradigm, but one wonders if Kano's difficult questions involved matters other than technique.
"Kano would incessantly analyze hand and hip movements, and footwork utilized in nage-waza (throws). He was never satisfied with simply doing what he was instructed to do, and felt compelled to understand the mechanics of each technique he executed. Rarely receiving the answers he was after, he began to develop grave doubts about the traditional methods of instruction." (ibid.)
"One day, he was able to successfully throw his teacher. This time, it was the teacher who asked a question of Kano. "Kano, how did you pull that technique off?" He replied, "I watched how you throw your students, and then I would analyze it with my friends when I got home. I learned that when you are about to throw somebody, they will inevitably stop and become rigid, and try to avoid the flow of the technique. Then you use this against them and execute the throw. I have been watching and analyzing this for a long time, and decided to test it out on you today." (ibid.)
"With that, his teacher submitted that he had no more he could teach the young Kano, and he was awarded a Kito-ryu teaching licence." (ibid.)
At least Kano's teacher was honest, but it is noteworthy how Murata couched his response: there was nothing more he could teach Kano. The presence or absence of internal skill never enters the question.
Inoue Shun obliquely alludes to the decline of jujutsu in his essay on the invention of the martial arts.
"From the beginning of the Kodokan, rather than wedding himself to any one school, Kano created a new "scientific" martial art by selecting the best techniques of the established schools of jujutsu. Initially, he combined wrestling moves and techniques of delivering blows to vital points of the body emphasized in the Tenjin Shin'yo school with throwing techniques that were the mainstay of the Kito school. But Kani did not limit his research to the techniques of these two schools. Owing to the declining popularity of bujutsu, he was able to purchase at used bookstores previously closely guarded martial arts instructional manuals." (Inoue, "The Invention of the Martial Arts: Jigoro Kano and Kodokan Judo," Stephen Vlastos, Mirror of Modernity, pp. 164-165.)
Inoue is concerned to present the invention of judo as an example of the ‘invention of tradition' (as this phrase is used by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger and discussed in a previous column). Thus he stresses the importance of the "scientific" methodology of judo, which was fashionable in Meiji / Taisho Japan, and also the equal importance of seeing judo as part of Japan's earlier, and glorious, martial tradition. Nevertheless, both Murata and Inoue reinforce Amdur's point about the decline in internal power / skills, which would seem to apply to Kano's teachers. This leads Amdur to touch on the question of Kano Jigoro's own knowledge of internal power / skills and the following paragraph gives a fair idea of his answer.
"Perhaps this is among my most unfounded speculations, but I believe that Kano's teachers did not possess the kind of high-level skill of such men as Ukei Kato. Kano surely knew of them through writings or legends, but as a student of these ryu, he never experienced the skills himself, even if he was exposed, to some degree, to the teachings that produced them. Therefore, he had little reason to include such training in his nascent martial art." (HIPS, p. 51.)
Amdur notes that those jujutsu schools that made ‘common cause' with the Kodokan paid diminishing attention in their curricula to such items as Nairiki no Gyo
, and that the kagami migaki
movement in one of the kata that Kano created was
"a simple method of calisthenics with a Japanese character. There is nothing written, nor have I been able to find any information that suggests that Kano intended his adaptation of the Tenjin Shinyo-ryu movements to create internal power." (HIPS. p. 51.)
This observation is highly relevant to aikido, since the same can be stated of many other body, hand and foot movements in the art. At the beginning of his class at the last IAF Congress, Tada Hiroshi Shihan spent a long time doing complex breathing exercises, which, of course, were tied to movements. (In his extended seminars here in Hiroshima Tada Shihan usually spends at least two hours on such exercises.) One of these exercises was a movement very similar to the kagami migaki
exercise describe by Amdur. It is well known that Tada became a member of the Tempukai and Ichikukai when he entered the Aikiai and rose to prominence in the Aikikai Hombu at a time when Tohei Koichi was in charge of instruction there. It is clear that Tada's movements are not simply calisthenics, but he never mentions ‘internal power / skill' when he explains them.
Why is the issue of Kano Jigoro and internal power of such interest? The main reason for this reviewer is Kano's similarity to Ueshiba Kisshomaru, Morihei's son and heir. Like Kano, Kisshomaru presided over—some would go further and say he created—the dramatic expansion of aikido as a ‘mass' martial art after the Second World War.
A Thread of Gold
We need to make a brief check on progress made so far. I believe that this first chapter is central to Amdur's book and so I have examined it in great detail. Given the content of his next chapter, on Takeda Sokaku, one overriding question that should arise as a result of Amdur's discussion in the present chapter would be: what is the relationship between the Chinese connection with Japanese martial arts and the internal
skills allegedly possessed by Takeda and some of his students? Does Amdur's discussion on Chinese
the influence on Japanese jujutsu, especially the emphasis on internal power / skills, serve to throw adequate light on the nature of the latter, such that we can understand Takeda's legendary skills and their provenance?
One of the problems in creating a book out of articles is to make sure that the latter fit the overall theme of the book. Having an overall theme is easier when the plan precedes the writing of the individual chapters. In this regard, Amdur's first chapter shows some signs of strain. The several short sections of this chapter, all self-contained, but dealing with the general question of Chinese influence on Japanese martial arts, seem more like stepping stones, crossing a much larger pool. As with stepping-stones, one moves from one to another. This makes for an interesting trip across the pool, but is not perhaps the best method for charting its dimensions, the purpose (as stated above) being to illuminate the nature and relevance of the Chinese connection with Japanese martial arts for the internal power supposedly latent in the latter.
To put this observation in context, a possible alternative plan of such an introductory chapter might have been, not to start immediately with the Japanese martial arts and their possible Chinese connections, which some might think is putting the cart before the horse, but to start with the crucial Chinese elements themselves and present (i) a general background discussion of how the Chinese defined and explained external and internal power and skills and related these to their own martial arts, and (ii) some indication of the methodology involved in developing internal power / skills as the Chinese conceived these. Since there are separate Chinese terms for the power, the training undertaken to acquire the power, and the arts embodying the power, which, in any case, have to be experienced directly, there is scope for a great deal of confusion as these terms are translated / interpreted across different languages and cultures.
Amdur has not given this general background and perhaps it is not possible. If so, I think this is the one chapter of his book that cries out for more detailed bibliographical assistance to the reader, especially the reader who has never even considered the possibility there might be skills crucial to aikido, which he/she has never even heard of. There is an important context to this. AikiWeb
discussion forums are full of discussions about ‘internal training' (or ‘IT'), but the discussions are like clusters of planets wandering in a huge galaxy. Thus, the five reasons that Amdur spelled out earlier, about why the dissemination of internal skills cannot be taken for granted in aikido, apply equally to the Aikiweb
discussions about these skills. Moreover, these discussions are sometimes conducted with messianic fervor, but also with a certain linguistic imperialism, according to which the preferred terms of the discourse have previously been decided, usually by those thought to possess the power / skills under discussion. As a result, since there is rarely any common ground between the genuine ‘haves' and the ‘have-nots' who think (= believe, feel, suspect) they are ‘haves', the discussions tend to become increasingly pointless repetitions of the same general discourse. Thus, Amdur would have done his readers a great service by establishing a vocabulary, certainly based on Chinese antecedents—but also showing how the Japanese changed this, and also by dealing with the IHTBF
(It has to be felt
) question. Without direct experience of the powers/skills in question, there is little possibility of any common ground for such a discussion. It is the opinion of this reviewer that IHTBF
does indeed apply to this power, but also that the power, and the training necessary to acquire it, can be discussed with profit, as at least one dedicated website (not AikiWeb
) has shown.
2. Hidden in plain sight? It's in the Aizu.
Preliminaries: Psychology and Sources
Amdur is a psychologist by profession and in this chapter he has produced what is probably the first-ever psychological profile of a famous martial arts master. Psychological profiling has a mixed reputation, for in the UK it has sometimes been used to secure criminal convictions that have later turned out to be unsafe. I am sure that Amdur is aware of the dangers, but in this chapter he uses psychological profiling to illuminate the thinking and martial motivations of Takeda Sokaku.
In discussing Takeda's alleged possession of internal power / skills we encounter some major problems, which actually bedevil any discussion of Takeda Sokaku—or of Ueshiba Morihei, for that matter. First, there is no one alive who has actually felt Takeda and so we have to rely on the verbal descriptions and explanations of those who were his disciples or who did feel his power. Thus the first problem is how to evaluate the eyewitness accounts of Takeda in action. In the case of Ueshiba Morihei, such verbal descriptions and explanations can be supplemented by videos and DVDs of him in action. In addition, many of the deshi
who directly learned from Ueshiba are still alive and practice aikido, but these deshi
, apparently, constitute another major problem. They provide no consistent source of information about Ueshiba's specifically ‘internal' skills. This reason is related to the other side of the IHTBF
coin: if you do not have some idea of what you are looking for—because you have never been taught to look for and recognize specifically ‘internal' power and skills, then it becomes very difficult to judge adequately what you have discovered—and this is especially the case if you are practicing waza
or taking ukemi
, rather than being explicitly taught to do solo internal training exercises with specific, ‘hands-on' instructions from the teacher.
The information that the deshi
of both Takeda and Ueshiba provide comes from various sources: books and articles they have written and in particular the interviews conducted by Stanley Pranin, from Aiki News
and Aikido Journal
, and published in book form or on his website. Amdur's discussion on Takeda relies to some extent on the interviews conducted with Takeda Tokimune, Takeda Sokaku's son. However, these need to be supplemented by the material collected and published by Kimura Tatsuo, a disciple of Sagawa Yukiyoshi, of which the most important is a book with the title 『透明な力』 (Tomeina Chikara
; An English version has been published as Transparent Power
Of course, there is an issue here, which will become clearer as we proceed. Since they do not appear to be able to replicate it, Ueshiba Morihei's deshi
are generally considered to be unreliable about Ueshiba's own possession of internal power. However, this is not the case, apparently, with Takeda's deshi
. In fact, one of the latter is on record as having discovered aiki
, which is one of Andur's terms for internal power / skills, at the age of seventeen and is also on record making a much bolder claim, namely, that Takeda Sokaku would have improved his own (internal?) skills if he had trained in a certain way—which is the way his own student trained. The only deshi
of Ueshiba who comes closest to this level of certainty is Tohei Koichi, who is generally thought to possess some measure of internal power/skills and who is on record as having picked and chosen what he learned from Ueshiba. Tohei, however, also learned from other teachers.
To put this issue very bluntly, Takeda's own deshi
are thought to be generally accurate about their perception of Takeda's internal skills and, despite the fact that they do not say very much about these skills explicitly, this is the evidence for the supposition that he actually possessed these skills. On the other hand, Ueshiba's own deshi
are thought to be generally inaccurate about Ueshiba's own possession of internal skills, so we have to seek other evidence that Ueshiba himself possessed these skills. The result is that obtaining reliable information on the actual internal skills that Takeda possessed and then comparing these with those of his students, notably Ueshiba and Sagawa, is not an easy task.
Takeda Sokaku's Life: Version 1
To begin with, a brief account of the martial aspects of Takeda Sokaku's life will be in order. The usual source for this is Stanley Pranin's superb introduction to the interviews he collected. Here is a summary:
Takeda was born in 1859, during the closing years of the Tokugawa shogunate. He was born into the Aizu clan, which was one of the main supporters of the shogun and which thus came into violent conflict with the forces seeking to overthrow him. His father, Takeda Sokichi, was an expert at sumo wrestling, but was also a swordsman and exponent of bojutsu
. It can safely be assumed that these skills, as well as the family art of Daito-ryu, were taught to Sokaku. It is also assumed that Sokaku's uncle, Dengoro Kurokochi, taught his nephew Hozoin-ryu Takada-ha sojutsu
. Sokaku also studied the Ono-ha Itto-ryu sword art at the Yokikan dojo of Shibuya Toma. In 1872, when he was thirteen, Sokaku became an uchi-deshi
at the Jikishinkage-ryu dojo of Sakakibara Kenichi, who was a friend of his father. The curriculum included the sword, spear, staff, small bow, kusarigama
, and naginata
. In addition, as a student, Sokaku matched his skills with many other experts of the various martial arts schools in Tokyo. This training lasted until 1876, when the sudden death of his brother Sokatsu caused Sokaku to leave Tokyo and return to Tohoku, where he became a student for the priesthood at a temple run by Chikanori Hoshina. Sokaku's training lasted only a few weeks, for he set off to join the army of Saigo Takamori in Kyushu. He called at the Sakakibara dojo on the way and received a letter of introduction to Momonoi Shunzo, who taught Kyoshin Meichi-ryu kenjutsu
in Osaka. During this time he travelled as far south as Okinawa and possibly to Hawai‘i.
Takeda Sokaku was really travelling from place to place, practicing 武者修行 (musha shugyo
, or ascetic training in the martial arts), and he practiced this form of training for a very long period. In 1882 Takeda returned to Tohoku and, apart from a visit to Hokkaido in 1887, remained there for several years. Stanley Pranin suggests that he continued his own training in Daito-ryu at the hands of his father Sokichi and also travelled around practicing his musha shugyo
. From around 1900 onwards, however, Takeda changed his approach. The intensive regime of musha shugyo
decreased as his teaching activities increased. These activities can be discerned from his enrollment books and payment books, which constitute a record of all those he taught in Daito-ryu. In 1910 Takeda moved from Tohoku to Hokkaido and it was here that he taught his more famous students: Horikawa Taiso, Horikawa Kodo, Sagawa Yukiyoshi, Matsuda Toshimi, Yoshida Kotaru and, through an introduction from Yoshida, Ueshiba Morihei. Takeda remained in Hokkaido for the rest of his life, except for brief periods away. These included several months he spent with Ueshiba in Ayabe, in 1922, when he was accompanied by his family. At some point Takeda designated Tokimune, who began training around 1925, as his successor and groomed him accordingly. From 1936 to 1939, Takeda was in Osaka, instructing at the Asahi News
dojo, which he took over from Ueshiba Morihei and where his leading student remained Hisa Takuma. After his return to Hokkaido, Takeda continued his peripatetic teaching activities until he died in 1943.
According to Stanley Pranin,
"Takeda can be considered the consummate old-style martial artist who viewed life as a battlefield where a moment of carelessness could result in death. For Sokaku, his hard-earned martial skills were secrets to be jealously guarded and shown only to a responsible elite who paid well for the privilege." (Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, p. 10.)
Pranin gives this sketch of Takeda as evidence of the "futility" of comparing Takeda with Ueshiba Morihei or Kano Jigoro, "so unique were the accomplishments of these three martial arts geniuses" (ibid
.). For Pranin, the futility appears to stem from the differences in the martial arts they created, rather than from any similarity in their training. There is no specific mention in Pranin's account, or in the interviews that follow, of internal skills (though there are plenty of references to ‘aiki
' and ‘applying aiki
'). For Amdur, on the other hand, there is no such futility in making such a comparison, since it is a probable hypothesis that all three used internal skills, but to varying degrees. Amdur has already made some references to Kano's grasp (more probably, lack) of internal skills in his earlier chapter on jujutsu; the comparisons between Ueshiba and Takeda follow in the rest of the book.
Amdur begins his chapter on Daito-ryu with a sketch of Takeda Sokaku's early life and his initial exposure to the martial arts. Amdur's treatment can profitably be compared with that of Stanley Pranin, summarized above. Pranin, the careful investigator/historian, simply presents what is known, though he admits that his main source is Takeda's son Tokimune. Amdur, the ‘speculator', goes somewhat further and obliquely calls into question Tokimune's own grasp of Daito-ryu history. It is not that Amdur disputes the actual facts of Takeda's life; rather, he questions the significance of certain references to Daito-ryu: its supposed medieval or legendary origins; the significance of its oshikiuchi
techniques. He also examines acutely and perceptively (more than either Takeda Tokimune or Stanley Pranin had occasion to) the significance of the arts that Takeda Sokaku actually learned and practiced. The result is a tour de force
: a complex but cogent analysis of Takeda's martial life, but told from the viewpoint of a psychologist, a counselor who is accustomed to listening to and working with the very same kind of troubled individuals of whom Takeda was thought to be an example. When reading Amdur's account, therefore, the perceptive reader should consider two questions: (1) Does his account of Takeda's life and exploits hang together? Is it cogent enough to be convincing? (2) Does the psychological profile of Takeda illuminate his complex and changing relationship with Ueshiba Morihei, especially in respect of the latter's alleged possession of internal power and internal skills, which I take to be a major issue of the book? We will need to raise this second question again, when we come to discuss Amdur's treatment of Ueshiba, for there are some issues here that he does not raise. In the rest of this section, I will begin a discussion of the first question.
Some Questions and Paradoxes
Amdur begins his chapter on Takeda by emphasizing his uniqueness.
"Shortly before the turn of the 20th century, a remarkable man appeared, at once a feudal anachronism and utterly unique. Takeda Sokaku embodied a lost era, a man of single-minded intent and almost unimaginable skill. Many among the greatest martial artists of his time, both weapons experts and jujutsu exponents, enrolled as his students. He taught thousands of individuals of the highest status—magistrates and police, in particular." (HIPS, p. 55.)
Questions arise immediately. To what extent was Takeda a ‘feudal anachronism'? To what extent was Takeda actually representative of Japan's ‘lost' feudal era? In what way was he different from Fukuno Shichiroemon, Miura Yojiemon, or Akiyama Shirobei Yoshitaki—all also representative of this ‘lost' era? Is Amdur making of Takeda an Achilles, the fictional product of an age that never really existed outside the imagination of the famous individual or individuals who composed the epic poem about him? To what extent does Takeda's ‘almost unimaginable skill' rely on the stories told about him, in much the same way that Ueshiba Morihei's legendary exploits appear to depend on who told the stories about him (Shioda Gozo's version vs. Ueshiba Kisshomaru's vs. John Stevens')? It is true that many individuals ‘enrolled' as Takeda's students, but to what extent were they simply following a fashion in the martial arts of the time, in much the same way that some thousands of aikido students have taken part in the training seminars of the present aikido Doshu? These students, too, ‘enrolled' in the training courses and their names are there as a public record. Just as one could search the enrollment books to find Takeda Sokaku's repeat students, so also, one could search the files of various aikido organizations to find the repeat students at Ueshiba Moriteru's training seminars. A further, separate, question would then arise about what both sets of repeat students actually learned from attending these courses, for it would be foolish to deny that Doshu's courses are attended, as Takeda's certainly were, by experienced martial artists who had specific reasons for their repeat attendance at the seminars.
Amdur then lists the paradoxes: despite all the interviews, there is much that we do not know about Takeda, the history of his art, his teachers and especially the period in his own life between his late teens (around 1876) and his emergence as a teacher around the turn of the century. To this reviewer, this last point is of crucial importance for any discussion about Takeda's alleged internal power / skills. The paradoxes lead to questions: very important questions, that take up much of the opening pages of this chapter. The final question brings the discussion back to Takeda's family:
"What if, however, it [sc. an older tradition or secret art of Daito-ryu] was right in the open all along? If it were a family art, would it necessarily have a history as neat and pristine as is commonly promulgated?" (HIPS, p. 56.)
Rather than treat the history of Daito-ryu as the continuous history of a single art, Amdur follows the more sensible course of examining the various arts that lay at the roots of Daito-ryu and influenced Takeda's own development. First, however, he discusses a few important issues.
Starting with the Myths
Following in the footsteps of many traditional Japanese, Takeda Tokimune traces the roots of the Japanese art that his father practiced to the Kojiki
. Apparently, a battle between two deities involved a form of grappling. Some explanation of the general context of this encounter was previously given in Transmission Inheritance, Emulation
Column 8. Amaterasu O mikami decided to send Masakatsu a katsu down from heaven to rule the Land of the Plentiful Reed Plains, but encountered serious opposition from many "unruly earthly deities". Various heavenly deities were sent to subdue the latter without success and eventually two more deities were dispatched. They were Take-mika-zuchi-no-kami (who came into existence when Izanagi slew the fire deity) and Ame-no-tori-fune-no kami (the bird-boat deity). They arrived at a beach in Izumo, unsheathed a sword tern hands long, stood it upside down upon the crest of the waves and sat cross-legged on the tip. In this curious posture, they asked O-kuni-nushi-no-kami, the doyen
of the earthly deities, what he intended to do about Amaterasu's order that the land be ruled by her offspring. This earthly deity craftily passed on the question to one of his sons, who was "amusing himself" at Cape Miho. This son urged his father to accept the order, but another of O-kuni-nushi-no-kami's sons, named Take-mi-na-kata-no-kami, took a different view. For those who are studying Japanese and want to test their reading skills, here is the modified kanbun
加此白す間に、其の建御名方神 (Take-mi-na-kata-no-kami)、千引の石 (one-thousand-pulling boulder = of enormous size) を手末に擎げて来て、「誰ぞ我が国に来て、忍び忍びに加此物言ふ。然らば力競 (contest of strength) 為む。故、我先に其の御手を取らむ」と言ひき。故、其の御手を取らしむれば、即ち立氷 (column of ice) に取り成し、亦剣刃 (the blade of a sword) に取り成しつ。故、爾に懼れて退き居りき (was afraid and drew back)。爾に其の建御名方神の手を取らむと、乞ひ帰して取りたまへば、若葦を取るが加、つかみ批ぎて投げ離ちたまへば、即ち逃げ去りぬ。
(『古事記 上代歌謡』日本古典文学全集, Vol 1, pp. 122-123. The first character of つかみ批ぎて in the penultimate line is not in my computer's dictionary. It is composed of 扌on the left, while on the right is the character common to the following: 隘, 溢, and 鎰.)
I have given the kanbun
text to emphasize the extreme difficulty of making a commentary, for practical every other Japanese martial art could claim its origin from this passage, especially after Motoori Norinaga had written his Kojiki-den
. Tokimune prefers to see in the references to the ice, sword and young reed the fundamentals of internal power: a powerful grip and the ability to deal with a powerful grip: Aiki in-yo ho
: "the system of internal power development and subtle technique that form the underpinnings of Daito-ryu.
. p. 57.) The episode does not appear in the Nihon shoki
and scholars of the Kojiki
prefer to see the encounter as a later addition: an example of ritual litigation for settling disputes, as sumo, apparently, originally was. Of course, there was a political aspect to the contest. Take-mika-zuchi-no-kami won. He had to win otherwise Amaterasu the Sun Goddess would have been embarrassed in the extreme. In the way it is described (by O no Yasumaro, the Yamato scribe who compiled the Kojiki
), Take-mi-na-kata-no-kami, who was strong enough to handle giant boulders, comes out of the contest extremely badly. He runs away, is pursued and cornered, begs for his life, and gladly cedes the land to Amaterasu. Another scholar, Matsumura Takeo, sees in the encounter a local struggle for control of the Suwa region (in present-day Nagano) between the original inhabitants of Izumo, who worshipped Take-mi-na-kata-no-kami, and the Yamato immigrants, who worshipped Take-mika-zuchi-no-kami. He adds that the two clans were later amalgamated. (Cited in Philippi, Kojiki
, p. 132.)
What is not clear from this Kojiki
account is that the encounter marks the beginning of a specific Japanese martial art known as Daito-ryu. However, Takeda Tokimune claimed that the waza
shown in the account was the indeed beginning of an unbroken line that continued down through the ages right up to his father Sokaku. He further claimed to have seen secret documents, kept at the Ise shrine, showing this. The problem is that Tokimune never specified who else, possibly apart from his father, had seen the documents, so it is impossible to corroborate his claim. If these documents are anything like the secret Takeuchi documents, allegedly shown to Ogasawara Koji and Nakazono Mutsuru and ‘irrefutably proving' the existence of an entire secret civilization (which possibly came from outer space, as one commentator on the Takeuchi documents has suggested), then Amdur's skepticism is well placed. The whole episode shows the essence of Daito-ryu as Takeda Tokimune believed this to be, rather than any specific waza
actually performed by the two deities.
It's A Lot like Dancing
Takeda Tokimune claims that Daito-ryu was founded by Shinra Saburo Minamoto no Yoshimitsu, who incidentally founded the Takeda clan. Yoshimitsu apparently practiced sumo and played music when traditional dances were performed at court and noted the similarities between the movements of dancers (showing elegance and suppleness, with a certain formlessness) and "formalized the secret techniques of aiki
". Despite the differences between dance and martial arts, there is an assumed commonality in the training involved. Amdur suggests that,
"Were one able to discover that the training methods of bugaku bear any relationship to those used to train practitioners of Japanese jujutsu, particularly Daito-ryu, it would be a magnificent coup. It would not necessarily prove Tokimune's claim explicitly, but it would establish that there was a common thread of body knowledge, running from Central Asia through to Japan and the birth of Japanese culture." (HIPS, pp. 59-60.)
Amdur adds a footnote briefly explaining the evolution of bugaku
(舞楽: note that the character for gaku
means ‘music', not ‘study', which is 学 or 學), but does not give any sources. I think that the relationship of dance to the martial arts needs to be seen in the context of the general development of Japanese dance generally and some research has been done in this sphere. The following paragraphs from an essay by Rupert Cox give some indication. (The paragraphs have been shortened, with references omitted.)
"Towards the end of the Heian Period, the theory of Buddhist self-cultivation (shugyo) was incorporated into the practice and appreciation of the arts. One area where this continuity is clear…is the changing use and value of the quality of yugen (幽玄). The origins of yugen are in Tendai Buddhism where it means ‘difficult' in the sense of profound, distant or obscure, but as an aesthetic value in waka poetry and noh / nogaku theatre around the end of the twelfth century, its meaning changed. The poet Fujiwara Shunzei (1114-1204) was the to treat it as an aesthetic effect, ‘derived from the sense of longing for an unseen world, or sometimes a sense of wonder at the innate mystery of things', and he drew directly on sources from Tendai Buddhism to do so. This was a merging of the methods and goals of self-cultivation and of the literary arts. …The literary aesthetic yugen was later changed again and applied, along with other terms from Zen like keiko (practice) to noh theatre and its repertoire of bodily movement by the noh playwright and theoretician Zeami." (Cox, "Is there a Japanese way of playing?", Joy Hendry and Massimo Raveri, Eds, Japan at Play: The ludic and the logic of power, pp. 173-174.)
"For Zeami, the relationship between the ‘practice' (keiko) of noh and its actual theatrical performance was similar to a monk's practice and realization of enlightenment (satori). At the base of this merging of methods of Buddhist self-cultivation with different artistic genres was a view of skill (myoyo 妙用, waza 業, 技) not simply as a technique but as a spiritual phenomenon. The result of this … was that skill was even thought identical to study (gaku 学) as something which leads to a self-awareness penetrating the very core of one life in the world. In other words, to study any art form like poetry or noh is also to practice a skill with spiritual ends. It is described metaphorically as do, or ‘the way'. The idea of do in the arts is positioned in time and space as a path (道 do/michi). On this ‘path'/'way', through the skillful performance of prescribed actions, one undergoes physical and ideally spiritual change…" (ibid.)
"But it is not possible to progress along this way through trying to possess skill as a form of knowledge. Principles of knowledge based on practical experience are ‘rules without rules' (無規定的規定: mu-kiteiteki-kitei), which when they are embodied by the master in performance are called junsui keiken (純粋経験) or unconditioned ‘pure experience'. According to this theory, one can only ‘know' about any of the arts through the experience of doing them and becoming skilled. It should not be possible to articulate the experience in anything other than the artistic forms (katachi 形) of that skill, which in the case of the way of tea, for example, is characterized by the physical properties of the expert body and the objects used in performance." (ibid.)
There is much to question even in this small extract and the whole essay deserves careful study. However, this discussion by Cox (who happens to practice Shorinji kempo
) suggests that it is perhaps a mistake to begin with the general phenomenon of the martial arts and then, in order to find an explanation for the internal training involved, to work backwards to arrive at some earlier theory of shugyo
. This is putting the cart some way behind the horse. It is far better to go back to the origins and begin with the general theory of shugyo
as a unified system of mind-body training given by its main exponent in Japan. Kukai left detailed explanations of what shugyo
actually involves and these explanations are not restricted to the martial arts. We can then work forwards, to see how this concept of shugyo
elaborated by Kukai was embodied in various traditional arts, including noh
, an old form of dance with popular roots) and sado
and certainly in the martial arts. The discourses of Zeami on noh
and Sen no Rikyu on sado
afforded an explanatory model that was then applied to the other arts, including martial arts. The writings of Zeami, especially, are of great importance for explanations of what the actors actually do on the stage and how they train. If anything, the training required of noh
actors is at least as demanding as that of jujutsu practitioners. Zeami (1363-1443), like Minamoto no Yoshimitsu (1045-1127), was relatively late and served at the Emperor's court long after the cultural infusions into Japanese dance from China and Korea actually began. These infusions occurred around the same that Kukai was teaching the Japanese about the kind of shugyo
practiced in China.
To be continued.
This concluding section (mainly covering books rather than articles, and books written mainly in English) is intended to supplement the discussion of Amdur's book.
NOTE (4): Hidden in Plain Sight
can be obtained only from Edgework. Purchasing details can be found at www.edgework/info
The revised edition of Thomas Green's martial arts encyclopedia is essential background reading for many of the topics covered in this review: Thomas A. Green and Joseph Svinth (Eds.), Martial Arts in Global Perspective
, two volumes, forthcoming, ABC-CLIO. Actually, those who have the earlier edition (Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia
, 2001, ABC-CLIO) can profitably compare the older articles with the new ones.
On a topic with very close connections to the martial arts and ‘internal' training: what is termed ‘situated cognition' has spawned a vast literature. I myself initially approached this subject from studying the philosophy of mind and language. More closely related to the martial arts was an encounter with Akuzawa Minoru Sensei of the Aunkai, and the more recent practice of a type of body-work called Rolfing (named after Dr Ida Rolf). As a philosopher, I have also been studying metaphor, especially the metaphors used to discuss waza
, ‘intent', and ‘internal movements'. In connection with situated cognition, four important names are George Lakoff, Mark Johnson, Shaun Gallagher, and Raymond W Gibbs: Mark Johnson, The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason
, 1987, Chicago U P; George Lakoff & Mark Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought
, 1999, Basic Books; Shaun Gallagher, How the Body Shapes the Mind
, 2005, Oxford U P; Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi, The Phenomenological Mind: An Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science
, 2008, Routledge; Raymond W Gibbs, Jr., Embodiment and Cognitive Science
, 2005, Cambridge U P; Mark Johnson, The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding
, 2007, Chicago U P. There is also a very stimulating book written by a scholar of Chinese: Edward Slingerland: What Science Offers the Humanities: Integrating Body and Culture
, 2008, Cambridge U P. Also from the same publisher is an introductory text: Philip Robins and Murat Aydede (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition
, 2009, Cambridge U P. An earlier work on classical medicine is also relevant: Shigehisa Kuriyama, The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine
, 2002, Zone Books.
The martial history of Japan needs to be considered in relation to the general history of China, Japan, and Korea. Essential background reading here are the volumes published by Columbia University in a series called, Introduction to Asian Civilizations
: William Theodore de Barry and Irene Bloom (Eds.), Sources of Chinese Tradition
, Second Edition, Volume I, 1999, Columbia U P; Peter H Lee and William Theodore de Barry (Eds.), Sources of Korean Tradition
, Volume I, 1997, Columbia U P; William Theodore de Barry, Donald Keene, George Tanabe and Paul Varley (Eds.), Sources of Japanese Tradition
, Second Edition, Volume I, 2001, Columbia U P.
Though somewhat ‘monumental' in style and character (one effect of far too long a gestation period before final publication), the Cambridge histories are also important. The Cambridge History of China
starts with the Ch'in Empire (221 BCE), but there is now a very good ‘preparatory' volume: Michael Lowe and Edward L Shaughnessy (Eds.) Cambridge History of Ancient China, From the Origins of Civilization to 221 B.C.
, 1999, Cambridge U P. The six volumes of the Cambridge History of Japan
have all appeared, but the remaining early volumes of the Cambridge History of China
are appearing at a very slow rate.
A new six-volume history of imperial China (that is, from 221 BCE to 1912 CE) has also been appearing. It is less broad in scope than the Cambridge histories, but also less encumbered by the gravitas
—and the glacial rate of publication—that Cambridge brings to writing history. All the five volumes that have so far appeared (the last is due in 2010) are relevant to Amdur's book: Timothy Brook (General Editor,) History of Imperial China
, 2007-2010, Belknap Press, Harvard U P.
Chinese archaeology is also covered in two volumes, deftly written or edited by the late K Chang: Kwang-chih Chang, The Archeology of Ancient China
, 4th edition, 1988, Yale U P; Kwang-chih Chang and Xu Pingfang (Eds), The Formation of Chinese Civilization: An Archaeological Perspective
, 2005, Yale U P.
Another ‘monumental' series on the history of China are the volumes published under the general editorship of the late Joseph Needham. Some volumes contain extended discussion on concepts that are crucial for any discussion on ‘internal' power: Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China
, Volumes I, II, VII, 1954- 2001, Cambridge U P.
Along with the study of Ueshiba Morihei's writings in the original Japanese, I myself have found the study of Chinese history a major revelation. Though out of date, Needham's volumes, in particular, cast much light on the origins of concepts like ki
that are crucial to aikido. This study strongly countered a tendency, very common in Japan, for the Japanese martial arts to be considered sui generis
. Just as the relationship between Daito-ryu and aikido is often downplayed, so, too, is the relationship between Chinese martial culture and its Japanese offspring. Some Japanese go one further and deny this relationship, claiming, for example, that secret Japanese kana
actually existed long before the Chinese characters from which they were derived. Earlier columns have shown that the tendency for Japanese to deny that their culture has any subordinate relationship with Chinese culture, or to claim that this culture had had a deleterious effect on the development of ‘true' Japanese culture, has a very long history. So having an overview of the whole span of Chinese history—including the long history of intercourse between the two cultures—is a useful antidote to this tendency.
1. The Chinese Connection with Japan
Japan in the Chinese Dynastic Histories
by Tsunoda and Goodrich is out of print and difficult to obtain. However, J Edward Kidder has produced a new translation of the Wei shi
, along with much other interesting material on Himiko and Yamatai: J Edward Kidder, Himiko and Japan's Elusive Chiefdom of Yamatai
, 2007, Hawai‘i U P.
Essential background reading for the ‘Mongolian Horse Riders' theory is a new work on the domestication of horses and the origin of the Indo-European languages: David W Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World
, 2007, Princeton U P. An earlier work by William Wayne Farris also discusses this theory, first produced by Namio Egami in 1948. In his notes Farris cites all the scholarly discussion for and against the theory: William Wayne Farris, Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures: Issues in the Archeology of Ancient Japan
, 1998, Hawai‘i U P.
Shinto, like aikido, comes in many flavors, both in regard to what it actually is and in regard to what is written about it. Apart from reading through the early myths, recounted in the Kojiki
and Nihon Shoki
, probably the best book to start with is Jean Herbert's, Shinto: At the Fountainhead of Japan
(1967, George Allen and Unwin). Like Tsunoda's book, this, also, has long been out of print and is difficult to obtain. However, Herbert's book received a scathing review from Carmen Blacker, a doyenne of Shinto studies, and her review is some indication of the general volatility of studies on Shinto. (Carmen Blacker, in her Collected Writings
, 2000, pp. 333-337.) William Gleason, in his book discussed in my Transmission, Inheritance and Emulation
Column 15, quite often cites another book on Shinto, written in 1935 by J W T Mason (The Meaning of Shinto
, 2003, Tenchi Press). Mason starts from the concept of ‘Japan's creative spirit' and goes on from there.
These works need to be balanced by an important article written by the late Kuroda Toshio. "Shinto in the History of Japanese Religions" was originally published in the Journal of Japanese Religions
and has been reprinted in a collection of essays: Mark R Mullins, Shimazono Susumu, Paul L Swanson (Eds), Religion & Society in Modern Japan
, 1993, Asian Humanities Press. An indispensable book on the history of Shinto is a collection of essays edited by Inoue Nobutaka: Shinto — A Short History
, 1998, Routledge Curzon.
Contemporary Shinto is covered by two studies by the same author: John K Nelson: A Year in the Life of Shinto Shrine
, 1996, U of Washington Press; Enduring Identities: The Guise of Shinto in Contemporary Japan
, 2000, Hawai‘i U P.
Another book, starting from ‘concepts' and proceeding to ‘history', is an introduction by Thomas P Kasulis: Shinto: The Way Home
, 2004, Hawai‘i U P.
Kasulis has also translated a work on shugyo
by the Japanese scholar Yasuo Yuasa. It is unfortunate that it is an ‘edited' translation, with some important sections omitted. In doing the editing Yuasa has made unwarranted presumptions about the capability of the ‘western mind' to understand arcane Japanese concepts: The Body: Toward an Eastern Mind-Body Theory
, Translated by Nagatomo Shigenori and T Kasulis, 1987, SUNY: 湯浅泰雄, 『身体論』, 1990, 講談社; The Body, Self-Cultivation and Ki-Energy, Translated by Nagatomo Shigenori and Monte S Hull, 1993, SUNY: 湯浅泰雄, 『気・修行・身体』, 1986, 平河出版社; Yuasa has also written a popular book on ki
: 湯浅泰雄, 『気とは何か』, 1991, NHK.
Those who wish to explore further Amdur's five reasons why internal power/skills are not more readily available should read a series of entertaining books written by Glen Morris: Path Notes of an American Ninja Master
, 1993, North Atlantic Books; Shadow Strategies of an American Ninja Master
, 1996, Frog; Martial Arts Madness: Light and Dark in the Esoteric Martial Arts
, 1998, Frog.
Adolphson's work on the warrior monks owes a debt to previous studies made by Karl Friday, G Cameron Hurst III and Thomas Conlon: Mikael J Adolphson, The Gates of Power: Monks, Courtiers and Warriors in Premodern Japan
, 2000, Hawai‘i U P; The Teeth and Claws of the Buddha: Monastic Warriors and
Sohei in Japanese History
, 2007, Hawai‘i U P.; Karl F Friday, Hired Swords: The Rise of Private Warrior Power in Japan
, 1992, Stanford U P; Karl F Friday with Seki Humitake, Legacies of the Sword; The Kashima-Shinryu and Samurai Martial Culture
, 1997, Hawai‘i U P; Karl F Friday, Samurai, Warfare, and the State in Early Medieval Japan
, 2004, Routledge; The First Samurai: The Life and Legend of the Warrior Rebel Taira Masakado
, 2008, John Wiley; G Cameron Hurst III, Armed Martial Arts of Japan: Swordsmanship and Archery
, 1998, Yale U P; and especially, Thomas D Conlon, State of War: The Violent Order of Fourteenth-Century Japan
, 2003, Michigan U P.
The generally murky nature of the Chinese origins of jujutsu
might not be so clear from the speculative clarity of Amdur's discussion of the main strands of jujutsu
in Japan. The articles by William Bodiford, Lance Gatling and Stanley Henning in the ABC-CLIO encyclopedias (see above) are indispensable for general stage setting. Those who wish to probe further will need to read the Japanese texts and ancillary studies. The Japanese text of the Heiho Okugisho / Hidensho
I used for this review essay was published in 2007 by Keibunsha: 山本勘助,「兵法秘伝書」Japanese works on Yamamoto include: 江宮隆之,『山本勘助とは何者か』, 2006, 祥伝社; 上野晴朗 萩原三雄, 『山本勘助のすべて』, 新人物往来社. I have also consulted some of the works cited by Amdur: 本朝武芸小伝 / 日夏繁高; 小松原濤,『陳元贇の研究』, 1972, 雄山閣出版.
2. The History of Daito-ryu
The life of Takeda Sokaku has to be seen in the general cultural context of the time. Thus, the social and political upheavals that accompanied the Meiji Restoration in 1868 need to be understood, if only to make sense of the considerable cultural gap between Takeda Sokaku, Ueshiba Morihei, his most famous student, and Kano Jigoro. There are general histories, but little in the way of the history of ideas, or general studies of social history, such that, for example, we can place in a general cultural context the fact that Takeda virtually refused to be educated by his father. Ueshiba Morihei's education also stopped early, but the consequences were quite different for both men. Although Amdur does not mention this in his chapter on Takeda, Deguchi Onisaburo was also unique and an anachronism, but not at all in the same way. Like Takeda, Deguchi also "embodied a lost era." The evolution of the martial arts during the whole period from the closing years of the Tokugawa shogunate right through to the postwar reconstruction of Japan after World War II, needs close study if the main characters in Amdur's book are to be fleshed out and seen in a wider context. Various aspects of this evolution have been studied in great detail, but piecemeal and the whole story has not yet been presented in a single volume. Wiley-Blackwell have been publishing a series of ‘companions' and the volume on Japanese history is a good place to start: William M Tsutsui, Ed., A Companion to Japanese History
, 2009, Wiley-Blackwell. Donald Keene and Marius Jansen have produced magisterial volumes on this period in whole or in part. Like the Cambridge histories, they are rather ‘heavy' reading, but have extensive bibliographies: Donald Keene, Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852 -- 1912
, 2002, Columbia U P; Marius B Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan
, 2000, Belnap, Harvard U P. Shorter and lighter reading is Andrew Gordon, A Modern History of Japan from Tokugawa Times to the Present
, 2003, Oxford U P. Two collections of essays are indispensable: Stephen Vlastos, Ed., Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan
, 1998, California U P; Alexander Bennett, Ed., Budo Perspectives
, 2005, Kendo World. To give a relevant example, the essay by Inoue Shun in the Vlastos volume should be compared with that by Murata Naoki in the Bennett volume. Both essays deal with Kano Jigoro and the birth of the Kodokan, but their approaches are almost diametrically opposed and neither touches on the issues raised by Amdur in his book.
Materials relating to Noh include translations of actual plays and also of Zeami's discourses: Kunio Komparu, Noh: The Noh Theater, Principles and Perspectives
, 1983, Weatherhill; J Thomas Rimer and Yamazaki Masakazu, Trans, On the Art of No Drama: The Major Treatises of Zeami
, 1984, Princeton U P; Zeami: Performance Notes
, Translated by Tom Hare, 2008, Columbia U P. The following work discusses Noh as an established Japanese art, like jujutsu and aikido, and comes closest to approaching the issues discussed by Amdur: Thomas Blenman Hare, Zeami's Style: The Noh Plays of Zeami
, 1986, Stanford U P. Issues relating to bugaku
are discussed in Joy Hendry and Massimo Raveri, Eds, Japan at Play: The ludic and the logic of power
, 2002, Routledge. Cox has supplemented his essay in this work with a book: Zen Arts: An Anthropological Study of the Culture of Aesthetic Form in Japan
, 2003, Routledge Curzon.
For Takeda Sokaku's musha shugyo
activities, a good start would be the studies of samurai
and medieval Japanese warfare by Stephen Turnbull, G Cameron Hurst III, Karl Friday and, especially, Thomas Conlon. An interesting perspective on the Aizu clan and the Boshin civil war is afforded by some memoirs: Yamakawa Kikue, Women of the Mito Domain: Recollections of Samurai Family Life
, Translated and Edited with an Introduction by Kate Wilkman Nakai, 2001, Stanford U P.
There are two sets of items that are essential reading concerning Takeda Sokaku and Daito-ryu. The first set are the interviews made by Stanley Pranin. They have been published by Aiki-News in Japanese and English: 『竹田惣角と大東流合気柔術』, 1992; Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu: Conversations with Daito-ryu Masters
, 1996, Aiki-News. In fact, the entire archive of articles and interviews created by Stanley Pranin at Aikido Journal
merits deep and repeated study. All the back issues of Aiki News
and Aikido Journal
are available on a CD-ROM that comes with a subscription to Aikido Journal
The second set of items are the interviews and other material made by Kimura Tatsuo relating to Sagawa Yukiyoshi, another of Takeda's top students: 『透明な力 不世出の武術家 佐川幸義』, 1995, 講談社; Transparent Power: A Secret Teaching Revealed: The Extraordinary Martial Artist Yukiyoshi Sagawa
, 2009, MAAT Press; 『合気修得への道 佐川幸義先生に就いた二十年』: Discovering Aiki: My 20 Years with Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sensei
, 1995, Aiki News. Another student, Takahashi Masaru, has produced an account of Sagawa and his training: 『高橋賢, 佐川幸義先生伝 大東流合気の真実』, 2007, 福昌堂.
It is not sufficiently realized that Ueshiba Morihei practiced Daito-ryu right up until the early 1940s. At least, this is what one of his students understood. In fact, the transformation of Ueshiba's training from Daito-ryu to aikido is one of the main themes of Amdur's book. Again, Stanley Pranin has interviewed many of Ueshiba's students and has published some of these in English: Stanley Pranin, Ed, Aikido Masters: Prewar Students of Morihei Ueshiba
, 1993, Aiki-News. Unfortunately, Pranin was never able to interview Admiral Isamu Takeshita, who was a bridge between Ueshiba and Takeda Sokaku. Takeshita kept diaries for much of his life and some portions of these relate directly to his budo training. A few individuals possess copies of portions of these diaries, but originals are kept in the National Diet Library in Tokyo. The sections dealing with Takeshita's bujutsu
training have not, to my knowledge, been published.
Peter Goldsbury (b. 28 April 1944). Aikido 6th dan Aikikai, Emeritus Professor of Hiroshima University, specializing in philosophy and comparative culture. B. in UK. Began aikido as a student and practiced at various dojo. Became a student of Mitsunari Kanai at the New England Aikikai in 1973. After moving back to the UK in 1975, trained in the Ryushinkan Dojo under Minoru Kanetsuka. Also trained with K Chiba on his frequent visits to the UK. Moved to Hiroshima, Japan, in 1980 and continued training with the resident Shihan, Mazakazu Kitahira, 8th dan Also trained regularly with Seigo Yamaguchi, Hiroshi Tada, Sadateru Arikawa and Masatake Fujita, both in Hiroshima and at the Aikikai Hombu. Was elected Chairman of the IAF in 1998. With two German colleagues, opened a small dojo in Higashi-Hiroshima City in 2001, which is now independent and directly affiliated to the Aikikai Hombu. Instructed at Aiki Expo 2002 in Las Vegas, Nevada.