Peter writes: How times change. Only the other day, during a meeting at the Hombu Dojo I was asked by a prominent Hombu shihan whether I believed that kumi-tachi and kumi-jo were an essential part of aikido. I was quite astonished that the shihan should even ask such a question. At the beginning of the year, an 8th dan Hombu shihan came to my dojo in Hiroshima and taught a seminar. He was a direct student of Ueshiba Morihei and recounted his experiences of O Sensei forbidding weapons training at the Hombu Dojo. The shihan used a weapon only once or twice, merely to explain an important principle concerning empty-handed training. I think that the principles he did illustrate could be summed up in the four axioms of ki training, as set out by Tohei Koichi, even though the shihan did not mention the word ki even once. Other aikido shihans I know have quietly developed their own weapons kata, even those shihans who are not well known as possessing the expertise in weapons of a Nishio Shoji, or shihans who never publicly profess to use weapons. Even the shihan who has gone on public record that aikido does not have weapons training had previously become expert in the family sword art, learned at the hands of his father. Amdur's chapter should explain why this is the case—and why it is very difficult for the present Doshu to take any leadership here. Nevertheless, it is clear that Ueshiba Moriteru is indeed moving to make the weapons practice he performs in his aikido demonstrations—tachi dori, jo dori, tanto dori, which are also required for Aikikai dan examinations—a kind of standard for the future. The result is the likelihood that the weapons training so rigorously pursued by his grandfather is relegated to the ‘Museum of Aikido Historical Relics'. So the wheel has turned full circle and what we see in modern aikido are solely the "rather unrealistic disarming techniques", noted by Amdur at the beginning of the chapter.
I could not help but notice this peculiar addition to the book review. I am trying to understand what you are saying here-which seems conflicting to my eyes.
First up I wondered at this comment:
"At the beginning of the year, an 8th dan Hombu shihan came to my dojo in Hiroshima and taught a seminar. He was a direct student of Ueshiba Morihei and recounted his experiences of O Sensei forbidding weapons training at the Hombu Dojo....."
I often look at these comments with a jaundiced eye.
This is from 1960
I can think of any number of counters to that comment. He walked in and saw outrageous goings on and banned them. After his retirement he was known for telling students they were not doing HIS aikido. I can certainly see him walking in to hombu and seeing the shenanigans going on with "sticks in their hands" and summarily banning it. I weight that against the modern shihans comments you shared with us; something about telling some demonstration committee that "We should not do weapons in public displays, the more educated budo people will laugh at us."
Maybe the old man was just the first of the "more educated people" to see it…and he tried to stop it before it began!
I think there is as much confusion between what "practicing weapons" means to certain groups of people as what aiki means.
Next I was puzzled at this;
"Amdur's chapter should explain why this is the case—and why it is very difficult for the present Doshu to take any leadership here...."
I thought Ellis's book was meant to address the origins of Ueshiba's power; not kisshomaru's and Moriteru's decisions for disseminating the present art. If we were to be adding personal opinions and views, I would say a very large and separate work could be written about their political machinations, practices, and level of skill on display versus the founders.
I was also wondering why you used the term "the wheel has turned full circle"
and "what we see in modern aikido are solely the "rather unrealistic disarming techniques", noted by Amdur at the beginning of the chapter."
Where did the wheel" start" to turn in order for the present state of affairs to return to it's origins? To ever return "full circle?" I saw the inception of aikido "from a weapon based form"
, coming from Takeda through Ueshiba. Your own comment "….that Ueshiba was doing Daito ryu through the early 40's" co-insides with every testament offered by his prewar deshi. So, if the wheel began as a more realistic weapons based art- then for it to be full circle, it would have to return to a real weapons based art. Instead, it has now flip-flopped to the movements the former and present Doshu demonstrate, which have nothing at all to do with Japan's weapons based arts that Ueshiba exposed himself to.
The wheel starting…..1;125 in to the video; Ueshiba with weapons. The approach is certainly more in keeping with koryu and largely devoid of much of the roundness and largely misunderstood "aiki sword" seen later
Then we view both former and present doshu together
Moriteru with weapons today
A note on terminology.
I think it is a mistake to use language (intended or otherwise) to draw a corollary between Morihei's "training in weapons" to Moriteru's "training in weapons." Making a statement that the present Doshu is "Training in weapons" is not a statement or use of terminology that a more educated group of budo adepts would make, or an expert in koryu would be comfortable with-without some serious qualifiers-if at all.
I remain somewhat confused, (all while being delighted) to see the review taking a decidedly different turn than a typical book review. I think your comment that the book was something you wish you had written...might have something to do with it (insert wink). In any case I am enjoying your thought provoking comments.
So, I wonder if you could clear up what your position is on weapons in modern aikido V Ueshiba's aikido.