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Old 08-30-2002, 03:43 AM   #20
Peter Goldsbury
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I have been away in Europe and am still coping with jet lag and the tender mercies of KLM. The best contribution I cam make at the moment is to give a few comments paragraph by paragraph.
Quote:
Christopher Li (Chris Li) wrote:
The "make your outsides match your insides" part reminds me of "Aikido Jinsei" - Gozo Shioda commented on how M. Ueshiba was always telling him to become "sunao".

Anyway, your answer made me think of another issue, which is the way in which such concepts are expressed. Your statement isn't materially all that different from what M. Ueshiba was saying - even the things that Kano and Funakoshi said were, in essence, very similar to M. Ueshiba's statements. The main difference, I suppose, is that his method of expression was couched in heavy spiritual/religious terminology, while Kano and Funakoshi where much more down to earth.

PAG. I think there is a huge gap between M Ueshiba and his successors. With K Ueshiba, we have a large collection of books (and, even though there was quite a lot of ghost-writing, the result is what K Ueshiba actually thought). With M Ueshiba there are the 'doka', the edited lectures like "Takemusu Aiki" and a large number of individual saying, making sense of which is like trying to make sense of someone like Heraclitus.

M Ueshiba read the Kojiki, but apparently had his own interpretation of this work. Considering the history of the Kojiki and the uses to which it has been put, this would not be difficult. A hint of what this might mean lies in the fact that he also read Reikai Monogatari, the 90-odd volume opus of Onisaburo Deguchi. Now you and I might treat both works as objects of scholarly interest, worthy of study for the light they cast on Japanese language, history and religion. I think, however, that M Ueshiba did not do this. Rather, he treated them as we would read e.g., Thomas a Kempis, or Manga comics: graphic depictions of a reality with which he felt in constant tangible contact. It is interesting that M Ueshiba thought that kotodama quintessentially Japanese. John Stevens believes that Ueshiba made a simple linguistic mistake, but I myself do not think so. Mysticism and sounds have always had a very close association, but if one is going to call this association kotodama and then generalise it, I think that this is mistaking the part for the whole. K Ueshiba pretty firmly relegates kotodama to his father's private spirituality and is very clear that it is an optional extra.

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In "Aikido Ichiro" K. Ueshiba recommends that you subsitute "shizen" ("nature") for "kami" when reading M. Ueshiba's writings in order to make them more understandable/accessible. How much do you think M. Ueshiba's method of expression has helped Aikido? How much do you think that it has hurt Aikido? Ought that method of expression be altered to suit the more modern/western world? And if so, how much?

PAG. I was led to the study of Japanese culture and the language, as a means of penetrating more deeply the cultural roots of aikido, as a result of talking to teachers like Chiba. Like Mr Saotome, whom I have met only once, K Chiba was profoundly influenced by M Ueshiba and also had some deep spiritual experiences as a result of training. But, what Chiba and others say needs some sort of 'cultural' context. Misunderstanding, or misquoting, statements about aikido made by M Ueshiba and his immediate disciples has, in my opinion, contributed much to 'the present discontents' in Aikido. K Chiba and others constantly refer to the Founder and I have often wondered why they do this. Overawed by his 'charisma'? Feelings of insecurity and the need for reassurance? In any case, I was led back to what M Ueshiba himself had written and am finding that there is very little that stands up to serious analysis, with the intellectual rigour which one would give to, say, an important manuscript archive. Of course, this does not mean that M Ueshiba was a charlatan: it means that the bulk of what we know about M Ueshiba and his aikido rests on hearsay, to put it bluntly.

K Ueshiba's preference for 'shizen' over 'kami' was not a bad choice, given the later history of Shinto and Kisshomaru's desire to (a) maintain aikido as a martial art, and (b) make it available to everybody as a martial art that everyone can, and in fact should, practise.

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It seems to me that M. Ueshiba's method of expression has been one of the major deterring factors in a slide towards a commercial approach (that you often see in strip-mall Karate) or a sports oriented approach (that you often see in sport Judo or Kendo). On the other hand, I often think that people get a little too caught up in the philosophical aspects and start sliding away from the Budo oriented aspects. Also many people find (and have found) M. Ueshiba's language dense or inaccessible. Still I worry about altering things too much - sliding too far away from the center concepts that M. Ueshiba expressed...

PAG. Well, I occasionally find the commercial approach pursued by the Aikikai somewhat distasteful. I think the emphasis on sheer numbers of practitioners (with no adequate attempt at accuracy) and the recent publication of "Best Aikido", by Moriteru Ueshiba, are small examples of this.

However, what K Ueshiba and his son Moriteru have done is to focus on a set of core techniques, unchanging in essence (as a matter of doctrine) but adaptable to some extent. For M Ueshiba there was no question that the techniques really worked and were potentially lethal, despite the heady mixture of theory and fantasy in which he presented them.

Best,

Chris
I could go on at much greater length--and might well do so later, but I need to sleep...

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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