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Old 12-04-2011, 11:09 AM   #76
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Mark Murray wrote: View Post

On the flip side, we also must realize, he is only one small piece of the totality of Ueshiba. Other students received other parts of the transmission. Those are extremely important parts of the whole that is aikido. Not the entirety, but still important.
This is one of the things that folks need to understand... I have never had a conversation with any of the students of the Founder in which they didn't admit that they had only gotten a portion of what he was doing. To a man, they'll freely admit this.

But the quickest way to get one of these teachers riled is to start talking about what they did or did not "get" when the person doing the talking never met or trained with the Founder. I think this normal
human nature and not culturally specific. One see this same thing in business, law enforcement, the military, etc.

Certainly a generalized discussion of the "transmission" is necessary. People who are serious about their Aikido should, I think, be aware of what was and was not in pre-war Aikido and the same for post-war Aikido. What dropped out after the war? Was it intentional? Did it diminish the art or simply change it? Are there things that were practiced or methodologies that dropped out that it might be a good idea to revisit?

I can't see that it is in any way controversial to state that the various deshi couldn't do what the Founder did, since that is what everyone of them admitted himself. But once we agree on that point, there is no function or benefit to taking the discussion to the level of this or that teacher's degree of getting it etc. These were all people who dedicated the entire lives to this art. We are all free to decide which teacher's interpretation of the art fits our own preference. But a lot of the discussion of motivations, abilities, etc is small minded and disrespects the effort and sacrifices these people made to get our art where it is.

It's about the Aikido, not the personalities... To me it is clear that various things were part of the early training under O-Sensei that developed certain skills. It would be nice to re-incorporate those into our own Aikido. On the other hand, it is ENTIRELY wrong to dismiss the direction Aikido took after the war as some deviation fro the Founder's true Aikido. It is clear that Aikido changed over time. It is clear that the Founder changed over time. The Founder was in a position to observe the direction that every single one of his students took. This was not a teacher who was shy about telling his students what was and was not proper. This notion that Aikido got "hijacked" by Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Koichi Tohei with the assistance of Arikawa and Osawa Senseis and taken in a direction that the Founder found objectionable simply doesn't hold water. As Peter Goldsbury stated, the Nidai Doshu clearly felt that he was the custodian of the art for his Father and that he was acting with the Founder's knowledge and under his general direction. I can't imagine that anyone would seriously maintain that if O-Sensei had gone to Kisshomaru and said, this is wrong, don't do this.. that his son wouldn't have instantly changed what he was doing.

I don't think the Founder or any of his students quite knew how to structure Aikido once it was determined that the art should "go public". The entire Aikido paradigm had been private, restricted, by recommendation only, highly exclusive, and elitist. Suddenly, this whole post war notion of democracy etc is changing Japan and Aikido changes to go along with that. It is quite clear that not a single person involved was comfortable with the process. O-Sensei saw that his idea that Aikido change the world required that it go forth but t the same time that idea was hard to square with his notions of how Budo was transmitted. He placed his trust in his son on condition that the son not screw up the art. Does anyone really think that Kisshomaru told himself, "Great, now it's mine, I can do what I want."

The single most devastating thing a father can say to a son is "I am disappointed in you". Sons will kill themselves trying to make their father's proud. What kind of pressure do you think Kisshomaru Ueshiba was under with a father who was one of the great geniuses of modern Japanese martial arts, who created a brand new art, with a brand new vision? I think the Nidai Doshu probably didn't have a moment in his adult life when he wasn't thinking about how his father would view what he was doing. And his father had ample opportunity to comment on what was happening, right up until 1969... That's 24 years of development during which the Founder could express himself about the direction the art was being taken.

Personally, I think that the leaders of the immediate post war Aikikai did their level best to translate O-Sensei's art into something that could survive him. I absolutely believe that they sat down together and considered what the Founder wished, what made sense in the Japan at the time, what the purpose of the art was supposed to be, etc and they gave it the form it took. It has morphed continuously since that time and continues to do so. If some of us feel that things were dropped out of the art during this transformation process, then we can and should put those elements back in. We are not really in any position to understand the whys and wherefores of how that process took place. I strenuously object to the idea that the Aikido that has come down to us is simply some watered down practice for the masses, not the "real" thing.

Yes, there has been a transmission problem. If one looks at the great post war teachers one is forced to ask where are their successors? Lots of time and effort has gone into training in this art but it hasn't shown an ability to replicate itself from generation to generation. But this is a solvable issue. It involves re-inventing the Organization as an entity devoted to the transmission, structured to optimize the process, etc. Perhaps sit requires a smaller group of practitioners training more seriously... Whatever... it's all a matter of proper structure.

At least here in the US, this art is changing again. The exchange of information about different styles and different training that started with the advent of he internet has resulted in a process of cross fertilization on a scale that would have been impossible thirty years ago. What I would like to see is an art that grows because of this process. To do that we need to understand exactly where we are and why we are here. We have to have a real appreciation for our art as it exists. This is something few of the critics from outside our art actually have. Their vision of a future Aikido is often really a de-volution rather than an evolution. Starting from a solid understanding of what the Founder envisioned for his art, we are now in a position to reincorporate elements that may have dropped out but we can see should be reintroduced. We don't need to scrap where we are, we just need to make it better. This is a very real possibility at this moment. I am very optimistic. But it is in our hands to do this, no one else's. It is the folks within the Aikido community itself that have to make his happen. If the vision isn't there, or folks are too tied up in the past to be willing to change, then the folks currently training on what i see as the current "cutting edge" will simply end up in other arts and Aikido will cease to be terribly compelling I think.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside