Dojo: Latham Eclectic
Join Date: Oct 2007
Re: The transmission of aikido
I think we could be careful using the definite article "The" original. Ueshiba was "an" original, and one of many. He also provided an environment for the development of other originals. And Ueshiba had teachers - throughout his life - who created environments for his liberation and mastery. And many of his "teachers" were his "students."
I think to have respect and appreciation is certainly in order. And I think the real doing of that is in moving forward; continuing to develop and innovate. One thing that Ueshiba did, like all masters do, is he developed within the zeitgeist of his life and its varying phases. And while I'm sure he had respect for those went before him, he had no problem taking the tools that were applicable and using them, and discarding other tools and concepts that were irrelevant. He also freely innovated.
His concept of Takemusu is what he indicated was the highest expression of the art. Takemusu is nothing more than straight-up, on-the-fly improvisation. And it's interesting that we can see its development corresponding precisely at the same time - 40's and 50's of improvisation in many arts. Aikido literally became the "jazz" of martial arts. Offering a box of principles and ideas - that included form - and in that form was a format for individual expression.
Many of Ueshiba's students were direct contemporaries of innovative 20th century jazz artists. This is not a coincidence. We can also find this in architecture, dance, business, fashion, lifestyle, technology, sports, media, telecommunications...
When we look at Ueshiba, he was in or near the generations that produced the likes of Einstein, Bohr, Tesla, Edison, FL Wright, Ford, Hitchcock, Picasso, Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, J. Krishnmurti. His students were contemporaries of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, George Martin, Greg Knoll (surfing), Jackson Pollack, ML King, Warhol, Lennon, Kerouac, Baldwin, Leary, Allan Watts.
Ueshiba didn't so much invent any kind of art, as he took bits and pieces of arts he was exposed to, and made them his own - during his time, and his life, and his culture. He put a different slant on things. He also changed his tune as he moved throughout his life; continuously refining, developing, and innovating. He also studied with the top people of his time that were accessible to him, as did his students.
Aikido, as it's known, was created as an in-the-box product after WWII, and the production line and factory was put together by K Ueshiba. I'd compare K Ueshiba with someone like Dave Thomas of Wendy's, who figured out how to mass produce a decent product. And his first was Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Ueshiba would be closer to someone like Colonel Sanders, who was a real character. But it took Dave Thomas to really take what Sanders had done, and turn it into something on a much larger scale, as did K Ueshiba with Aikido.
So, here we are in 2013. Things have changed a bit since Ueshiba's time. And Aikido, although it's been sold as a Japanese product, is largely Japanese only in its outer look and feel. If you look more closely at its development, many nations and cultures and people are responsible - including Germany, Russia, China, India, and United States. Even Ueshiba said Aikido was his gift to the world. And it took the world to create it.
Focusing on one man and one culture is looking too closely and creates tunnel vision. And while there's certainly merit in understanding some of the history and concepts; but if we look less at the people and more at the principles and practices they embodied, we'll discover that these various "blueprints" are accessible to anyone who wants them.
Zoom out, and we find there's more going, and more available than we might initially think. And that the growth of something that might be labeled as "aikido" is occurring, but not in areas that might be obvious.
If we're interested in a "transmission" - which is not a "copy," but a communication - a relationship. We can start by looking at some simple things that Ueshiba and his top students did. One thing they all did was get around and learn from the best people and arts available to them. All of them were what was originally called something along the lines of "mixed martial artists."
In the end, you can either make an art that's your own. Or you can be a copy. I liken this concept to bands. There are original bands - that take the classic components and run with it - making something their own. And there are "copy" bands. Of course copy bands have all kinds of great material available to them - Elvis, Beatles, Hendrix, etc.. But what you also find is that copy bands are really more concerned about the "gig" and getting paid. And they are the ones you'll largely find playing at weddings and hotels. Original bands play anywhere from garages, to the internet, to major media and stadiums. And it's their own music. Made their way, on their terms. Ri.
Get in there and get your "shu." Then know when it's time for your "ha." "Ri" will appear initially as a death that eventually begins to sprout and then grows into new life.
Aikido seems to have a lot of people remaining in "shu" or even a hesitant "ha." And when that happens, the "shu" gets watered down and in some cases forgotten. And in many cases all that's left is a shell and copies of shells.
The moon and sun and stars and heavens are still there and shining as brightly for us as they did for Ueshiba.
And in all our pointing, let's not forget that the finger is not the moon.
Last edited by Dan Richards : 03-25-2013 at 01:09 PM.