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Old 01-12-2013, 09:16 PM   #19
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Tomiki Kenji's Attribution of Ueshiba's Skill to "Muscular Training"

Chris Hein wrote: View Post
Wow, Thanks for the translations Professor! They really shed some new, and very interesting light.

Could you explain the comparison of 大道の安芸人 and 大道芸人 a little more? Are the implications of 大道芸人 that these are the kinds of skills shown by practiced performers (acrobats, magicians, jugglers, etc.). And he is likening these demonstrations to parlor tricks? Not so much saying that it is "athleticism" per se, but more like a physical talent trained for a specific demonstration?
Hello Chris (H),

Apologies in advance for what will be a lengthy post.

I shouldn't worry too much about the comparison of 大道の安芸人 and 大道芸人. I had a hunch that they mean much the same thing and Chris Li's posts strengthened this hunch. To see why, bear with me.

Hugh Beyer's quotation from Margaret Greenhalgh's thesis raised a few red flags. Greenhalgh was suggesting that Tomiki was skeptical about Ueshiba's skills. Here was one of Ueshiba's earliest students, senior to both Iwata and Shirata, trusted enough by Ueshiba to be sent to Manchuria to teach aiki-budo, and known for his very careful analyses of budo training, expressing skepticism about Ueshiba's art. Greenhalgh does not include anything by Tomiki in her bibliography, so I assume that she has not read anything he has written. Anyway, I went back to the interview she cites, and looked at it again in English and Japanese.

First of all, it is Stan Pranin who suggests skepticism, not Tomiki. He asks if the jo trick and the head-pushing trick are fake or can be explained in terms of some physical principle.

In his answer, Tomiki uses a device long favored by academics and politicians: he sidesteps the question. One could paraphrase the answer in the following way: ‘This mondai (issue, namely, whether there is a physical explanation for Ueshiba's skills) is a matter of what is called isometrics, which is muscle training in modern physical education. You can train group of muscles by pushing and pulling, and people who become good at this exhibit very little muscle movement.'

However, Tomiki then goes back to his main theme of physical education.

‘When you cannot see the movement, the person is using the muscles very skillfully, but if you bring this (false idea, namely, hiding the real cause and seeing the concealed movement like the cheap tricks of a street performer) into the field of education, this is a very strange situation.'

The Japanese text then has a new paragraph, in which Tomiki again discusses education (with the error in the translation corrected).

‘The acquisition of skills depends on putting in the hours of training, but the level of skill is open-ended and subject to human limits. If we think in absolutes, this is perhaps a matter of religious faith. However, if we disrupt someone's psychological state by a technique like hypnosis, this is not regarded as normal (physical) education. My viewpoint is that (physical) education is something for everybody and I also believe that aikido should be spread (i.e., regarded as something for everybody in the same way, and not regarded as the cheap tricks of a street performer).'

So I do not think that Tomiki was skeptical, so much as one seeking sound explanations. As Chris Li suggests in his post, he was the arch rationalist in the Kobukan Dojo and the brains behind the explanations in Budo Renshu and Budo. He demanded good ( = non-magical) explanations of what Ueshiba was doing.

Best wishes,


Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 01-12-2013 at 09:19 PM.

P A Goldsbury
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