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Old 06-16-2010, 08:08 PM   #11
Ellis Amdur
Location: Seattle
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 802
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 18

Well, hello!
I will take various points, both in Peter's essay, and also in some of the responses - not all in one email!
1. My credentials. I trained a total of 5 years of aikido - approximately 5 hours a day, for that period, probably 300 days a year. Short of mastery, by Gladwell's lights - but still, 7500 hours. As Peter says at the end of his essay, mastery of "what" is a question - my skill, whatever it is/was, was in modern, postwar aikido. My main specialty is Araki-ryu torite kogusoku and Toda-ha Buko-ryu, both of which I've practiced for appr. 35 years. I have had brief periods (1-3 years) training in orthodox judo, muay thai, xingyi and t'ai chi. For the last several years, I've been putting a couple hours a day in focused training in internal skills training, separate from any martial arts system. (although the training is systemic, it is not x-ch'uan or x-ryu). Among other activities was a several year stint retooling the Itten Dojo's aikido program from a so-called aikijutsu system based on my ideas (pre any "aiki" training) on what the most effective use of the body within the aikido form would be. (Itten has since gone on to training in Itto-ryu kenjutsu and incorporating IT training within the aikido program).
2. Re the disappointment that I was not more specific or detailed on how to train: I only write, in detail, on what I personally have expertise. On a 1-10 scale, I'm a 1.5 on the aiki scale, so to speak, so I will not waste time going beyond what I know. Given that there are experts posting on this website (OK, maybe 5's or 6's on the ten scale, I don't know, and I don't care to argue), why would I write on something that I know "about," but can't do? I set myself the task of pointing out what was missing, trying to assemble evidence to prove that it existed, and where one might find it. (perhaps my timing was off - I should have published 1/2 decade ago.).
3. Not too many people are interested. I've sold about 800 copies.
4. Never felt Mr. Tamura. I have taken a lot of ukemi from most of the major post war Aikikai shihan, however, and none of them showed me, physically, any evidence that they had the high level of "aiki" that Ueshiba, that Takeda, that Shioda, for three examples, reportedly possessed. Some, such as Mr. Tada, were remarkable. Others were disappointments. I discuss in my last chapter how wonderful aikido without IT can be. Just as ballet. Or any physical endeavor. But that's different from the HIPS conundrum.
Unified Field Theory
1. It is my theory, perhaps not voiced clearly enough, that Takeda and Ueshiba were remarkable because of all that had been lost. They would have been great in any era, but even 75 years earlier, they would surely have had a number of peers. There are too many stories of identical abilities among many greats. Such individuals were never common - one requires both the hours of training and the proper instruction.
2. In short, I believe Takeda received the basics of "aiki" training from his father, by way of instruction his father received from Kanenori Dengoro. There are certainly very sophisticated breathing exercises in Jikishin Kage-ryu. Hozoin-ryu (also learned from father), use the kind of spear techniques that require internal power to do effectively. Takeda, perhaps, had other tutors - but there's no evidence whatsoever that any of his primary sword teachers had aiki skills. One thing I have found is that when one learns an internal skill, it can become, with proper training and attention, applicable "elsewhere." For example, I've been doing a LOT of what is called "spear shaking." It has revolutionized my Araki-ryu and Buko-ryu technique, without changing the form at all. On his much much higher level, I believe Takeda (I did write this somewhere in the book), developed a universal "gokui," the ability to exert this aiki skill in whatever he did. It is his achievement. He already, I believe, evidence these skills in adolescence (I'm not going to rewrite the book here - just noting it's in the book).
This is not easy to universalize these skills. I have an example. A friend was trying to show me a very basic training exercise - which entailed moving from the hara, rather than twisting the hips. I could not do it. If I was told I would lose my mortgage if I didn't do it, I would have lost the house. He gave up on me. I gave up on me. Five minutes later, another friend asked to see me do the basic suburi of Araki-ryu kenjutsu. I did, and the first friend turned around and cracked up - what I was doing with the sword was exactly what he was trying to show me elsewhere. One of the marks of Takeda's greatness is he was not "state specific" (of course, all of this is by account). He had what the alchemists called the "philosopher's stone" - the universal solvent, the catalyst that turns whatever it touches into "gold."
Anyway, that's my point regarding Takeda Sokaku and weapons. I did not find a specific teacher, except at once remove. Kanenori Dengoro through his father, Sokichi, and then he made it bloom through everything he learned subsequently.
OK, one final point on Saigo Tanomo. (I must thank everyone for not revealing, over the months, my punchline in that last afterwords in the book - but enough people have read it so. . .). I noted that the Hoshina clan were a) of Chinese descent, and b) family lore described a family style of fighting which used a sword with a broader blade, sounding Chinese. I noted that maybe, just maybe, there was a family art, transmitted from China through the Hoshina family, and maybe, after all, Takeda did learn something special from Saigo Tanomo. I put this out there, from an anecdotal account from someone who had a member of the family as a houseguest. Perhaps some avid researcher will do the digging.
Remember, too, my last appendix - essentially signposts to flesh out, by research, many of the speculative (plausible) theories I raised.
I will respond to other points Peter raises in his wonderful (again, I'm honored to receive such attention) review. But here, a response to issue on credentials and Takeda.

Best
Ellis Amdur

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