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Old 12-05-2011, 09:59 AM   #100
Ken McGrew
Dojo: Aikido at UAB
Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 202
Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

The general direction of this discussion went from insulting to Saotome Sensei, to people saying don't insult my teacher, to people saying that the critics are correct in what they claim but shouldn't say so publicly.

I do not accept that the critics are correct. I think it is important that the history not be conceded to these critics.

It's one thing to say that someone got the number of years wrong. I don't think that alone is particularly insulting, it is more to intentionally embarrass someone for a simple error that humans make.

What is insulting is to say that all the direct students of O Sensei had no idea what he was doing and therefore made stuff up. What is insulting is to state or imply that these direct students must be mistaken or dishonest when they recount stories of being taught directly by O Sensei. What is insulting is to state that the direct students of O Sensei had very little experience with him, that Doshu watered down the art intentionally, and all the other things that are frequently repeated.

When teachers tell us what O Sensei told them I am inclined to believe them. When they have a large number of highly detailed stories their stories of their time with O Sensei carry even more weight as being authentic. So the insults that were so directly stated in this discussion thread are frequently implied. I don't find the implied insults any more palatable than those that name names.

There are ways for those who think in yo ho is a lost secret of Aikido to say so without the things that these teachers say they were taught by O Sensei being fabrications. There are two logical conclusions that allow both things to be true: 1) O Sensei deliberately left out this secret or 2) O Sensei failed to teach the secret. Both of these conclusions are only compatible with the narratives that the direct students tell if we accept the things that they say. That is primarily that O Sensei was creating a new art based on non-resistance and harmony. Anything that was left out may be of value but was not the heart of what he was trying to teach. If this basic position that almost every post war student who trained with O Sensei holds is not accepted, then the two positions cannot be reconciled.

So long as there are people who believe that the very heart of Aikido was lost, so long as they refuse to accept the idea that Aikido was a departure from the past with a new focus, it will be necessary for them to undermine the things that the direct students of O Sensei say that he taught them about the practice and meaning of Aikido. The insults will return either directly stated or implied. It would be better to say they have this new thing that may help Aikido rather than claiming to own the lost secret of Aikido. There would be no controversy then and they would even attract more students.

Even if the critics (or visionaries or however they would like to be referred to) were willing to blend in this manner, the problem would remain of whether what they are doing is compatible with the training process of Aikido, as is explored in this thread:

These conflicts will continue, however politely or not, because the collection of claims that are being advanced do contradict what O Sensei wrote, said in interviews, and what his direct students report about their time with him. 50 years from now will these claims be accepted as fact simply because those advocating them posted more, sold more books, and sold more videos?

Last edited by Ken McGrew : 12-05-2011 at 10:03 AM.