Dojo: Tidewater Aikikai
Join Date: Sep 2002
Dilution of aikido
I have recently returned to the practice of aikido after nearly a two year hiatus. Prior to that, I studied for about four years. Aikido has changed my life, and I hope to have the oppurtunity to study for many years to come.
I will pose my question now, but please forgive my long-winded approach to explaining why and how I am thinking: in the US, because of the seniority and experience of our own shidoin and aikido in America in general, will Japan continue (or reinstate?) the dispatching of Japanese shihan to the US, or will our own shidoin rise to replace the current shihan when they (and how unfortunate that they will some day) pass away? Will "American Aikido" develop from this?
Now that I am back in aikido, it is startling to see how techniques have evolved. From shihan level to shidoin down to my own dojo. I would like to think that this is what O'Sensei wanted, for people to find their own aikido. I believe that he actually said this, if I am not mistaken. One case in point is Donovan Waite sensei's unique style of ukemi. This is from someone who has been out of the aikido "loop" for the last two years. I can remember seminars where only a handful of people were doing his style of ukemi. Now, it seems everyone (from my small perspective) is doing it. I am only using this as an example of course, because ukemi is such an integral part of aikido, and as such, an obvious example of change (when it does change.)
Now, I greatly respect Waite sensei's aikido, and especially his ukemi. In fact, if I ever get a chance to learn it, I would like to. I think saving your body from repeated impacts with the earth is a good idea. But, through this example, one can see that things are changing in aikido.
At some point, there will be no one left that knew O'Sensei or studied under him. No one left than can directly translate or transmit O'Sensei's aikido (with reference to technique.) Of course, the shihan all have their own individual nuances anyway. And their student's (our shidoin) have their's as well. And so the process of change goes on. Someday, will O'Sensei's aikido (with ref. to technique) even be known except for in rare film footage? I would like to think that the current Doshu is the key to this. Personally, his technique is my favorite, because I think it is the most pure, clean... his "style" of aikido is the nameless "style." Not Yamada's "style", or Kanai's hip/power "style", not "West Coast Chiba/Shibata "style", etc, etc. PLEASE PLEASE do not think that I lack any respect for any of these shihan or any others as well; when I go to seminars that they teach I try to replicate what they teach as best as possible, and am in complete awe when they give demos/do randoori. But I think Doshu's is the most direct translation. I know many people will have to disagree with this, but am I the only one that feels this way?. I hope that my point (or fear) is now starting (even a tad?) to become clear.
I am very much a beginner in aikido, and will remain for many years to come, I feel. I realize that ultimately, attaining truth in aikido means attaining functional use of aikido's spitiual principles and philosophies in our daily lives; the techniques are really secondary in importance. But as a beginner, I recognize that the means to achieve this spiritual knowledge is by technique. And for some reason, whether because I am missing the point of aikido, or because I am too close-minded, I want to hold onto the aikido technique that I see in O'Sensei's footage, and that I saw in the former Dochu, and in the current Doshu. If I had one wish in life, it would be that I was born 40 or 50 years ago, so I could have been there to see it all with my own eyes, and to have had the chance to learn from O'Sensei. I am sure I am not alone in this way of thinking.
I hate to use labels, but one has to admit that there are fundamental differences between "Japanese aikido" and "American aikido." Physical adaptations due to differences in size and body type, and most significantly, cultural differences. By our very different culture do we practice and perhaps, perceive aikido differently.
If there every will be a line of Ueshiba's to minimize the dilution of aikido, or some shihans that were their uchidechis, would they ever again be dispatched to the US, to our good fortune?
To note: I am only referring to technique only. I think that the spiritual principles of aikido have been maintained very well since O'Sensei passed. But then, how long will this last? Already there is rivaly, competition, politics, and bad blood and feelings in aikido, both at the larger levels between association/affiliation, and even at the minor levels between local dojos in Anycity/town, USA. In the larger scope, this "corruption" already started even 30 years ago with the whole Tohei vs. Aikikai affair. How long will aikido last before we are reduced to another sport "martial art" doing nothing but promoting for money, and bickering between ourselves.
At the end of the day, I will just try to practice hard and diligently. For now, the dictating the future of aikido is out of my control.