Dojo: aikido academy/alhambra,california
Location: Los Angeles, California
Join Date: Sep 2004
Re: When Systems Falter
Thank you George, for illuminating certain points of discussion we would do well to have on Aikido’s past, present and future situations and challenges.
Yes, I do believe that the late Doshu intentionally tried to steer standard Aikido training away from the more sanguine and martial aspects of the Founder’s creation, to perhaps a more “user friendly” mode where safety, and the mutual enjoyment of the training process was paramount. Perhaps too, he may have been responsible for not including formal weapons training, with the notable exception of Morihiro Saito Sensei’s Sunday classes.
I do believe that Nidai Doshu’s intentions were both honorable and sensible, even as were the ideas and influences of Koichi Tohei Sensei, Shihan Bucho of Aikikai Hombu in those early years prior to his departure in 1974.
The subsequent result is what we appear to have today, a homogeneous mix with minor style differences, yet loosely defined by the Doshu’s example and wishes. This major de-emphasis, in both intensity and martial integrity as primary training objectives, may have been the genesis of what you refer to as “bad aikido”, although I would dearly love to read your further thoughts on this phenomenon, and its overall impact on the development of the Aikido of today.
The systemic problems you allude to should not necessarily be laid at the doorstep of Doshu’s policies, or to an overall lack of vision on the part of the major Japanese Shihan for the integrity of the training goals they pursued, nor of the climate of public acceptance for more modified and “user friendly” styles of training that may actually have been instrumental for the rapid growth of aikido membership, and of its world wide popularity.
If there indeed has been an unfortunate trend towards “bad aikido”, shouldn’t any blame or responsibility be shared by those key instructors who should have demanded more from themselves, from their students, and have been more honest and attentive in paying humble respect to the criticisms that have sounded for decades over the lack of quality and questionable efficacy of Aikido as a respected and genuine martial art form?
Shouldn’t there have been established and more consistent oversight from Aikikai Foundation over their “product”, and over their major teaching representatives in Japan, and throughout the Aikido world, especially when it became abundantly evident that most of this criticism was either ignored or totally dismissed as irrelevant. The major excuse given was that such unwarranted criticism was due to the “ignorant misunderstanding” of those who truly did not appreciate or understand the true nature of Aikido and its true purpose of universal harmony, and of love within the universe.
Really, isn’t it ultimately our aggregate accountability that such challenges to the integrity of Aikido then, and today, have gone unheeded, unanswered and not taken seriously enough by the vast majority of Aikikai affiliated teachers, and by the Aikikai Foundation itself? Did we fail to launch?
There is plenty of accountability to go around. As an established and known category within the martial arts world, we are perhaps way too fractured to respond adequately or cohesively. There is far too much of a disconnect with any acceptable sense of shared core Aiki values we can all agree upon, historically, philosophically or organizationally. Any realistically workable solution must be undoubtedly found in the return to our daily training forums to improve our craft, enhance our standards, categorically raise our insipid expectations, and our skill levels. Further, we may very need to overhaul our arcane and laughable grading practices and the pathetic compromises we have unwittingly made in respect to the essential commitment to raising the quality and integrity of our art form.
It must start at the individual dojo level, include joining together with like minded dojos, and affiliate with anyone who declare themselves serious and dedicated to improving their quality of training. How long will it take? Who knows, who cares, and who’s counting? Correct training is a life long journey, an unconditional commitment, and one we must pursue one day at a time.
As to your concern that “a lot of aikido out there __ simply isn’t very good”, it is really none of our concern. Others will do what they choose to do, and it is none of our business. We are not in any position to pass judgment, nor are we in any position to effectively demand or enforce wholesale changes. We simply need to take care of our own affairs, our own students, and our own training.
Proper application of reigi, sonkei and nasake, are what is needed more and more today. Allowing ourselves to be guided by proper rules of etiquette, we can rebuild respect for others, respect for our art and respect for ourselves. By being kind and compassionate to those we may criticize or censure, we may earn similar regard from others for our own transgressions and miscues. I do believe that this is the way for a return to “good aikido”, not universally, but with one dojo, one association and one democratic confederation at a time.
You appear to lament the passing of the original “uchi deshi”, direct disciples of the Founder. Why? Isn’t death a natural consequence inevitably following birth and a life lived well, or well, lived? After all, the sum of the good and valuable that was in them has already been transferred in turn to their respective direct students, and it is now their turn to find it within themselves to carry forth such traditions and legacies if they so choose. Our energies should be focused on making sure that they do just that, before death takes them in turn some day. I admit that, in a weak moment, I rather lament that some of these pioneer shihans may actually be overstaying their welcome, and that their well meaning but misguided loyal students are ignoring their own responsibilities to take on the mantle of much needed leadership for today’s challenges, as well as for the sake of the welfare of their students of tomorrow.
George, both of us, along with many of our esteemed peers in Aiki, can truly appreciate the awesome significance, the eery timeliness, and the undeniably huge impact of Stan Pranin’s paradigm shifting Aiki Expos. These phenomenal events have in turn, helped to spawn Bridge Friendship Seminars, conducted by Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei, the Dutch Aikido Bridge in Amsterdam and, most recently, the AI Friendship Seminar hosted by Greg O Connor Sensei and his Aikido Centers of New Jersey organization. I was privileged to be a participant at this precedent setting event, which brought three continents together, with major teachers from Chile, France, Holland, the United States and Venezuela. This event has effectively broken the ice, paving the way for even more of these kinds of exchanges across continental, organizational and political divides, and which will thankfully become commonplace in the months and years to come.
If you will permit me, as a kind of side bar, it also marked the emergence of major Aikido teachers who were previously constrained by a restrictive association with a major Japanese Shihan appointed by the Aikikai Foundation back in the day when non Japanese leadership was not even considered to either be possible or feasible. How far we have come, and how much further do we need to go in our efforts to make the Founder’s “Silver Bridge” prophecy of international friendship through the mutual practice of aikido come true.
I do not see this development as any indictment or overt criticism of the many decades of superb and immeasurable aikido leadership we enjoyed. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that the time for change is upon us, with its attendant surprises, disruptions and conflicts of will , loyalty and agenda. It is only a natural consequence, one we will surely survive and benefit from.
Not all systems that falter, fail.
The only failure I forsee is that of denying the natural progression and emergence of a genuine student into rightfully becoming a quality teacher and ultimately a genuine leader of others. When we actually manage to oversee and facilitate enough of these success stories, we may very well achieve a system that we can all live with harmoniously, in true friendship, that will not falter.
Last edited by aikishihan : 10-18-2010 at 12:10 AM.