Dojo: Tidewater Aikikai
Join Date: Sep 2002
Well, Sean, you do have a good point. The aikido that we practice today is probably that of O'Sensei's students. Though I do think that many people, including myself, make too much of a distinction between "pre" and "post-war" aikido. I think that all the principles, and most of the movements are the same. You can see this in the films, and in the pictures. Post-war "techniques" are just harder to dissect. For us modern students, this is especially true, because our eyes are not trained nor accustomed to "picking out" the technique of aikido where the transitions are so well hidden. You speak of this divine aikido.
The aikido that exists today is credited to Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Gozo Shioda, Kenji Tomiki, Rinjiro Shirata, Yamada, Chiba, Saotome, and the list goes on. Their aikido is what is recognizable to modern eyes. Moreover, yes, due to different backgrounds, periods of training, and personalities, their styles vary. So far, I completely agree with you. At least I am trying to. So let me modify my stance: O'Sensei DID leave us a working model. However, we may not be perceptive of it, and its details. Technically, definitely not. Spiritually, we sincerely try. In short, we have difficulty with transmission of technique via this model. Ok, so I concede that the models should then be those aforementioned. The modification should stop there then. We will allow this small, initial degree of "dilution" (and I use this word very loosely.) Only because O'Sensei's post-war aikido, especially in the decade preceding his death, is so esoteric to us. It existed on a spiritual plane, a plane that probably no one alive has yet reached. How about this proposition?
HOWEVER: So far, I see no argument that suffices to justify the degree of dilution that we witness today, or to justify the continuing dilution. JUST BECAUSE O'Sensei's final stages of aikido departed from the kihon or kata that we normally train by, doesn't mean that we get to say, "Well, since I can't recognize it, I'll reinvent it." Besides, how arrogant is it for those out there that claim to practice at even a hint of a divine level? You can see this in the demos at the Aiki Expo. People want their aikido to be clean, pretty. O'Sensei's post-war aikido was extremely "clean" and "pretty." What is the relationship? That some of those out there are getting close to reaching a divine state of aikido? Part of the problem, to which one of your argument points me towards: O'Sensei's often long and esoteric lectures that no one could understand. As Paul said, "they simply worked their asses off and eventually their body owned [aikido.]" Our problem: we are too busy trying to cognitively "muscle through" the spiritual aspect instead of just sticking to intensive physical training. We have given ourselves this psychological notion that we'll figure it all out if we think and talk about it long enough. And this has carried over into how we view our own learning of aikido. Pre-mature, VERY pre-mature tackling of the most advanced aspect of the problem. When we haven't even finished with the fundamentals. Did his students toil as we do over such issues in aikido that we present repeatedly in these forums? (Well, if they had Internet access, maybe…) In the final analysis, again, this is characteristic of our culture that derives security and knowledge in being an individual and different from everybody else. But I really, really don't think that aikido can work within this framework and this attitude.
So, what is wrong with sticking to tradition? If you want to classify this as pre-war or post-war, then ok. I don't think it needs classification. That's not important. That pre-war aikido contains killing techniques and post-war doesn't is not important. The message shifted, yes. But the principles, the discipline is the same. We don't need to go back to the martial extreme of practicing warfare and killing. But, how about following those models we mentioned? That is what is defined as tradition. That is what I mean when I say tradition. And how about a conscious effort NOT to try to envision aikido for ourselves? We are not ready for that. O'Sensei endured years of hard training, meditation, misogi, suffering, and not to mention eye-witnessing a World War unfold in his own backyard before he even envisioned his aikido. How is it that we consider ourselves qualified to do the same?
Unfortunately, my opinion goes public 20 years to late. The uchideschi are getting old; soon they will not be around to be models. Too bad Doshu doesn't live here in the US. He'd be a great model. I know you agree with me here, Sean.
Well… catch-22. To pose a question against my own arguments: what are we to do now? How exactly and who exactly do we use as models, at least after the last generation of uchideschi pass?
Oh, by the way Sean, you know that I do not mean we do not practice traditional aikido right now. I cannot and will not speak for every single dojo in the entire world. You and I are lucky; we happen to have a sensei that does teach traditional aikido, at least as best as he knows how (I am sure we have Furuya sensei to thank for this!) But the numerous other dojos out there that are not as lucky as we are… they are who I refer to.
Paul, you have read me like a book so far. I am in complete agreement of what you have said. And I agree that our arguments may be overlapping in some areas. Sean, I read Stanley Pranin's article you recommended. One of the best articles on aikido yet.
By the way, I humbly request for other responses. I would like to hear what everyone thinks, even if they think this issue is all a bunch of cr*p. In which case, just be polite about it.
Last edited by eugene_lo : 10-30-2002 at 06:52 PM.