You make some excellent points. For me, Peter's TIE series, combined with Ellis's and Stan Prannin's writings have engendered a bit of a crisis for me in my training.
Basically, when I started training in the late '90s, I bought into the "watered down translations meant for Western audiences" of O'Sensei's discourses, accepting them as accurate accounts of what O'Sensei believed. I also saw them as guideposts to my training so that I could end up with power and skill like O'Sensei's.
My impression from this and previous TIE articles is that O'Sensei's cultural context and religious beliefs were exceptionally important in motivating his training and development of aikido, but were not the mechanisms for actually developing his martial skill.
Yet again, the Western understanding of that spiritual context (at least as I've experienced it and read about it), is based on a very incomplete understanding of O'Sensei's discourses as well as later writings by his son that were meant for larger audiences.
So, if we're not really understanding what O'Sensei was saying, and we're not really developing the internal skills (aiki) that O'Sensei said was so important, and if most of us are not able to dedicate the amount of time to solo training that seems to be required, are we actually doing aikido?
I do not believe it is necessary (or even possible) to have a "complete" understanding of O Sensei's discourses. I find that it is necessary to have simply a concrete
understanding of those discourses. We westerners actually have a hard time with this, our capacity for abstraction -- in conception, emotion, and reason -- distinguishes us and is source of much great achievement in our own right, but can be hard to set aside, or even to note when we do it.
O Sensei cannot be understood conceptually; he did not speak conceptually, and he did not teach conceptually,. He spoke as he taught -- concretely, of real things, real acts and real relationships. This is the nature of Japanese spiritual (and therefore conceptual) understanding -- it never severs the concept embodied in the thing from it -- there is no kami
and no mono
The principle is not expressed apart from its particular embodiment -- not by analogy or metaphor -- that is Western way of seeing -- but by relation and operation in actual observation. Shinto does not exist apart from its acts of worship -- the interior and the exterior are never apart from one another -- even (and perhaps most especially) when they directly conflict (honne/tatemae). Understanding in concrete physical terms is not apart from understanding in conceptual terms.
There is no honne
and no tatemae
. There is no heaven without earth. No water without fire. No flow without ebb. There is nothing but the close connections of real things moving in their own ways in close relation. Understanding that kind
of opposition in direct connection (and distinguishing it from other kinds of opposition of an entirely different feel and nature) is understanding aiki
, and thus doing aikido if you strive toward more of it (well or poorly, as may be).
The point of all this is in HOW you should try to take in his discourses -- since that is the most direct source you have of him
. He put this stuff in his discourses -- in those concrete terms. Our job -- and I am here to tell you that it can be done, is to see the concrete things he wrote about , observe them and read him again and observe our trainning and that of others and read him again and things will begin to fit
and whether you are EVER able to articulate it in any way conceptually or even in a similarly concrete poetic way you will be able to make them occur and to build upon in training, in your own way
, because you are not apart from your own ideas of things either, which can be a source of much conflict and of much joy.
That is Aikido and as the history of widely varying transmission shows, it refuses to be nailed down in any given framework, and yet somehow remains of itself -- even most ironically of all to those who have practiced aikido for a relative minority of their long budo experience such as Ellis, yet remain a welcome and valued mainstay of the larger Aikido community, and helping to inform us of our own workigns from outside. Outside is not apart from inside. Even the D
uncle types, too, they have much to contribute -- though in different terms of their own, yet again. ...
I don't care what anyone else says -- O Sensei taught me right, and the opposition is never apart from the joining together.