Thread: Ueshiba's Aiki
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Old 11-18-2011, 05:23 PM   #567
Ken McGrew
Dojo: Aikido at UAB
Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 202
Re: Ueshiba's Aiki


There may be those who are impressed by impenetrable language that ultimately says little. I am not one of them.

The accusation made by Ellis was that I have said not one thing that Dobson Sensei would have ever agreed to the in slightest. That's an easy challenge to overcome. He threw down the gantlet in the most bold manner possible. Everything I said was completely wrong, and my evidence, including Dobson Sensei's commentaries, were completely wrong.

The things I had said, that Katherine, Ellis and others rejected as nonsense? That Aiki is about blending, joining, body positioning, leading and so forth. Now we have multiple quotes from the seminar with Dobson Sensei that refute the claim made by Ellis. It's quite obvious and clear for everyone to see:

"What I want to do is use non-resistance. That’s one of the basic things. So as it comes I lead his energy in the way it’s already going. That’s called Aiki. That’s called meeting. That’s called joining, blending, what not" (Dobson Sensei from the Seminar).

I have read through quite a bit of the historical evidence and analysis that has been alluded to in this discussion. I have done so to be fair. It all amounts to little. The fact that people gave interviews or otherwise reported that O Sensei traveled often does not support the claim that he had retired from teaching in 1941. People's memories of how often he traveled can be confused in time. There may have been periods when he traveled more and periods when he traveled less. So you'd still want to get your hands on the calendars wouldn't you? Just to nail it all down beyond dispute?

None of this matters much. It's just not the sort of evidence that can support the claims that Harden and others are trying to make. Rather than just say that they've found something cool that can help Aikido that maybe hasn't been explored much lately, they collectively support a web of claims: That they know the secret to Aiki, that it is the secret that O Sensei learned from Daito-ryu, that none of the teachers after the war learned the secret from O Sensei (because he either didn't want to teach them, was a bad teacher, or because he wasn't teaching at all), and that his own son was responsible for distorting the true nature of Aiki in both practice and literature.

Saotome Sensei is presented as one point of evidence. He describes training often with O Sensei, traveling with him, and having many relevant conversations with him. He quotes O Sensei related to these experiences. Harden and company would have us believe that this is not possible given the claims they are making and what they take as evidence to support them. They have presented evidence for the modern notion of Aiki themselves, though they don't want to acknowledge it, when they state that O Sensei often lectured on spiritual matters (which related no doubt to Aiki). It is circular reasoning. They believe that real Aiki is related to the process they are engaged in. They don't see the Aiki they believe in represented in students after O Sensei. Therefore they conclude that the students did not engage in the process in which they are engaging. They won't consider the possibility that O Sensei had endorsed a notion of Aiki that is different from theirs, one that was spiritually inspired, one that was ethically based, and one that was as Dobson Sensei describes in the video.

We know that O Sensei's notion of Aiki after the war (if it was ever different before the war I doubt) was the same notion of Aiki described by Dobson Sensei, Doshu, Saotome Sensei, and many others. We know this not only because they say so based on their interpretation. We know this because they quote him word for word at times. We know this because he wrote many things that support this understanding of Aiki in Aikido. All the people who are presented as authorities are selling something that relies on this web of claims. That alone doesn't make them wrong. But it may explain why they are so invested on insisting on them. I'm sorry that this group of folks take my responses as some sort of agenda or unwillingness to consider their evidence. I am considering their evidence, have taken the time to read things that people have been sending me, and simply don't see the evidence presented supporting the claims that are made.

Immagine if I said that he secret to Aikido, and the real power of Aiki, are pressure points. Pressure points are not stressed in modern Aikido as they seem to have been stressed by O Sensei as part of his art. Therefore modern Aikido has lost the true power of Aiki. Now if I were good at pressure points (which I'm not) and was able to impress people with that ability display, would it make my claims true?

People disagree all the time regardless of good faith. Calling me a train wreck is just short of calling names. Calling me a fool is name calling. Now I'm seeing border line suggestions of violence. What does it matter what I think, folks? Should I now have to fear Harder or people who train with him? Was that the intention of the comments by Harden? It's not worth getting hurt over. You win. You silenced the critic.

Fred Little wrote: View Post
This historian disagrees. Any such spontaneous remark made in a particular situation must be viewed, from a Certeauvian point of view, as a highly contingent bricolage which arose in a specific cultural context which presented a limited toolkit. From a Bordieuvian perspective, it must be regarded as conditioned by the habitus in which it occurred and considered with reference to the specific cultural, geographical, and architectural features of that habitus Viewed through a neo-Foucauldian lens, one might suggest that you are engaged in a violent act of hegemonic (mis)appropriation and re-valuation of a conditional statement which ignores or denies the statement's originally contingent and fluid nature, then reifies it for the express purpose of delineating and enforcing a disciplinary boundary.

Any academic historian worth his or her salt operating in the 21st Century would be well aware of the work of de Certeau, Bordieu, and Foucault, and even if proceeding along alternative lines of analysis, would provide a substantive argument as to why the sort of "contingency analysis" found in their work is not appropriate to the matter at hand, even if only implicitly. This element is entirely lacking in your presentation and all that is left is a corollary assertion to a reductio ad absurdum that because no such gun is visible that the the remark is (as you said explicitly) unambiguous and (as you suggest implicitly) supports your position. As historical reasoning, this is sophomoric at best, meretricious at the mid-point, and intellectually dishonest at worst.

The onus is not on another individual to prove the negative of your assertion -- this is a classic near-impossibility. Even were one to concede that there is no clear disagreement between the selected quote and your broad assertion, that does not make the quote a confirmation of your assertion. If you assert that a spontaneous statement made by a specific individual to correct a single aspect of a single individual's technical capacity on a particular occasion at a particular site may be taken to have a broader and more universal meaning, the onus is on you to effectively bound and nullify any and all contingencies that might undercut your claim. You have done no such thing, choosing rather to make emphatic but poorly grounded assertions based on cherry-picked evidence. This would suggest that while you know the phrase "methodological rigor," the efforts of your instructors to introduce any significant measure of such rigor to your working process, or to give you any working knowledge of what methodological rigor might entail, seem to have been less successful than one might hope.

You may wish to consider the extent to which your position is rather different from that of a non-academic individual who takes an amateur and avocational interest in a historical subject, to the extent that such an individual is wholly responsible for his or her own views and argumentation in advocacy of those views. Inasmuch as you have asserted your credentials as a professional academic, you may wish to consider that both the quality of reasoning which underlies the historical and historiographic arguments you present and the mode in which you advocate those arguments reflects, not solely on you as an individual, but also on multiple institutions with which you have been or continue to be affiliated.

You should also reflect on another reality -- there are a great many practitioners of aikido and readers of this board who both have advanced academic training which included basic methodology courses of one kind or another -- whether humanist, social scientific, technological, or scientific. They will have their own, no less professionally or formally informed, views about your method. And even in the absence of such formal methodology, there is always bricolage and tact. On that last, Terry had quite a bit to say about tact, and as he noted when he taught a seminar at Bond Street -- at a time when his health was not good and he knew these would be his last classes at his old dojo -- he said that "everything I know about tact was hard-won, (at which point the room erupted in knowing laughter) so I commend it to your attention."

And echoing that observation, in all of its particulars, I close.


Last edited by Ken McGrew : 11-18-2011 at 05:37 PM.