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Old 06-05-2003, 10:34 AM   #4
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
O-Sensei and Daito Ryu

The first technique of aikido is Ikkyo (lit. first teaching) It manifests the kototama of Suru. More than an isolated technique, ikkyo is the study of immediate control. The technique must be finished the moment we touch our partner, or even before. If you attempt to throw your partner by pushing you will become overextended and vulnerable. This is the most common mistake in the practice of ikkyo. Let your arms rest on your partner by their weight alone, yet transfer your body weight to the receiver. Any attempt to bring your partner down by the power of your arms stops their natural functions, the creation of of form, and your weight cannot rest squarely on your feet. This way you lose verticality, the origin of your power. - William Gleason Sensei in The Spiritual Foundations of Aikido

What you see, I think in post-war aikido is a reflection of O-sensei's increasing interest in the spiritual side of the art. The manner in which he taught did not incorporate a schematic approach to his aikido, unlike Kondo Sensei's detailed description of techniques in a particular order and set relationship with levels that must be completed before the next level is taught. O-sensei was more interested in what a technique like ikkyo contained in terms of the spiritual principles which each technique would demonstrate. Saotome Sensei told us that in fifteen years of training with O-Sensei, he heard the Founder talk about the technical aspects of how one did a certain technique all of three times.

It's not that O-Sensei specifically dropped out these variations of techniques like ikkyo... from what I have seen from Saotome Sensei and several others of the post war generation, they saw O-sensei do almost every variation imaginable over time. I haven't encountered many variations of technique which I have not, at some point seen one of the post-war uchideshi teach in class or do on a video.

I think that a smaller number of techniques were seen by O-Sensei as embodying the spiritual principles which were what he was really trying to teach. So the versions of ikkyo, nikkyo, sankyo, yonkyo, and gokyo which most styles of aikido share were the versions that became mainstream because they best showed these principles. That didn't mean that O-Sensei consciously eliminated anything from his Daito Ryu repertoire. As near as I can tell from descriptions of training with the Founder after the war, he was apt to do just about anything. There wasn't any organized presentation except in that the themes he was trying to illustrate weren't technical. The deshi are familiar with most or all of the variations which Kondo Sensei outlines. I have certainly seen Saotome Sensei do a huge number of variations over the years. But like O-Sensei, he hasn't organized them in to a systematic presentation nor are more than several basic variations required on the Yudansha tests. If you, as a student, took the trouble to note down and practice other variations as he presented them, then you would have a wider knowledge than those that didn't.

Like O-Sensei, a lot of Saotome Sensei's teaching is informally done after class is over. If you ask him a question, he'll jump up and show you all sorts of stuff that you hadn't seen in a formal class. Also, as he watches you train on your own he will whip out things that he hasn't generally taught and jump in and show you if he thinks you are ready for them. This is very individual teaching and O-Sensei taught this way as well after the war.

So when people make comparisons between Daito Ryu, in which everything is numbered and ordered and aikido, in which the modern forms have very little that is formally listed, categorized, and ordered, you have trouble making an informed comparison. Much of what one sees in post-war aikido that exists in an ordered and organized form was done by the students themselves in trying to create a system which they could then turn around and teach effectively. Saito Sensei comes to mind first and foremost in this regard.

So essentially I think it is very difficult to say precisely what the technical differences are between Daito Ryu and Aikido. Any statement one might make could be contradicted by the next aikido teacher one encountered since his repertoire might be quite different.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 06-05-2003 at 10:37 AM.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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