Dojo: aikido academy/alhambra,california
Location: Los Angeles, California
Join Date: Sep 2004
Re: Focus and Aikido Training
What a special privilege and an amazing treat it is for me to have this conversation with you. You have picked out one paragraph of my article to respond to, and I am honored to attempt a cogent response, or perhaps, a series of responses. I am so excited, and hope to reply in kind.
To begin with, my viewpoints will sadly lack the scholarly research and painstaking and discriminating relevance produced by your history based authentication, and the invaluable and fascinating annotations gleaned from impeccable sources.
Rather, my ideas seem to percolate from the cauldron of the sum of my first hand experiences, the amazing conversations I have listened to and participated in, and to the distillation of knowledge, wisdom and nuance that resides within my soul and my mind. It is a never ending, always changing concoction of things Francis. I beg your indulgence when it becomes pedantic.
The following is intended to address your discussion format in order.
1) It is my position that we may not be truly successful in reviewing Aikido’s true history and its findings, strictly using methods and biases brought forth from previous times. In other words, I would recommend using current investigative methods and forensic techniques to re-think and re-examine documents, testimonies, writings and perspectives that have been retained intact and unchanged from the past. Yes, to include the input from the earlier shihans and researchers from the past is important. Yet, it is my opinion that we must now see this very same evidence of the Founder’s legacy and history with modern eyes, bolstered by the vast addition of new knowledge, astounding new techniques of investigation, and the time removed and unbiased perspectives not available to the earlier pioneers, including the Founder, the late Doshu, along with the interesting contributions from the past, and still living direct students of the Founder.
You mention examining the contributions of earlier shihans. I cannot help but be skeptical of how accurate, unbiased or even relevant those opinions really are today, especially against the overwhelming influx of new knowledge, perspectives and newfound wisdom we are almost inundated with today . There must be a balance of respect for the original positions, together with viewing history anew with the new dimensions of insight and discoveries made, and to sadly admit that many of the previously held “truths” are no longer valid, and are even embarrassingly erroneous at times. Even the Bible’s New Testament is not immune to ever increasing scrutiny, revision and major reappraisal.
I do not know how we will come to have any current shihans, researchers and even the Aikikai, appropriately and adequately address questions of the “mental and psychological dimensions and definitions of the Founder’s original Aikido” on a timely basis, but I feel that we must try. Perhaps we will need fresh, unbiased eyes, ears and dedicated effort, unfettered by arbitrary notions of loyalty, fidelity and obligation to “truths” and people past, who can and will be objectively scrupulous in their examinations and findings.
2) The fact that we may not reach “any kind of consensus or general agreement anytime soon” is not a problem, but may rather be a positive omen for the future. This fact may be the liberating push we need to become more objective, imaginative and courageous in exploring the past with the formidable tools we have today. The fact that earlier shihans failed to reach any meaningful consensus is actually irrelevant, since we certainly know that they were not prepared by education, training or inclination to realistically approach the task objectively or with any real commitment to accuracy and completeness.
3) I am kind of sorry you mentioned the current Doshu as being adamant in proclaiming the present and future identity of Aikido as being subject to an arbitrary, embarrassingly subjective and a blatantly self serving interpretation of the past. I am positive that this is a major disconnect with the current and future population of well meaning students of Ueshiba Aiki, and if this rift is not mended soon, that this may well spell the end of any meaningful support for Aikikai in the not too distant future. Despite all this, it remains my hope that the Doshu can be persuaded at some level to join us in the daunting task of reviewing, with minimum bias and maximum objectivity, the sum total of the history, proofs, artifacts and the intangible legacy of good will and loyal intentions that have maintained the Aikido engine for all these years.
3) The IAF is but one “organization” that should be entrusted with the immense task of addressing the points we are discussing, and any others that will undoubtedly be added to the mix of things Aiki to be examined, to be improved and to earn the active and ongoing support of the majority of Aikidoists, both current and future.
Certainly, there are no enforceable statutes that exist, or realistically will exist to require current and future organizations to do the heavy lifting. This must come from a much more fundamental source, the integrity, energy and the persistence of the majestic few who will be unconditionally committed to the task, no matter what.
Do you know of any?
4) When I mentioned an obligation of proving our “respect, appreciation, and our unconditional allegiance to the principles he gifted us with” to the Founder, it is the same as having loyal Americans prove their right to citizenship by pledging allegiance to the principles of freedom and accepted values provided by our forefathers, even though they too are dead. Although the Founder is not with us, his legacy, his purpose and his teachings remain for us to honor as we would. For those who would not, farewell, it was nice knowing you.
Peter, I never said, nor did I ever intimate that this sense of “unconditional allegiance” to principle was synonymous with “Aikido’s true identity”. I, along with everyone else I know, are still wrestling with that conundrum, with no real reason to hope for a definitive answer before we die. Yes, this is but one of innumerable ways of appreciating the impact of a Morihei Ueshiba, and each devotee gets to choose his or her poison in dealing effectively with that question.
I do not agree with that tired and silly notion of “stealing” someone’s secret, discovery or other perceived value from someone else. When you steal something small, it truly is theft. When you steal a whole lot from a whole bunch of resources, this is called research. The Founder’s art is as foreign to me as what truly lives in the Marianna Trench. I do not give a fig. I am confident in my appreciation of what I can observe of his life and legacy, and it is enough to send me on my way, freely exploring the endless possibilities of Aiki, just as he did, and admonished me to do. No, it is not the man I study, but his example. He was unique, but certainly not rare. I have met several “O’Senseis” in my life’s journey, and hope to meet several more before I am done. I can only wish the same for you and all my worthy friends in Aiki.
5) As long as we tout being students of Morihei Ueshiba and his research into Aiki , along with his singular discovery called Aikido, we are indeed stewards of his example, his teachings, his inspiration and his legacy of constant and daily improvement in all things Aiki related, which kinda encompasses everything to me. Did I answer your question adequately, or should I continue on…………?
Totally love and appreciate you, my Brother in Aiki, and I keenly look forward to extending our marvelous and intriguing conversations!