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Old 09-02-2004, 02:03 PM   #49
Chris Li
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Dojo: Aikido Sangenkai
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 3,300
Re: ueshiba and chinese martial arts

Mark Balogh wrote:
I enjoyed reading your reply Christopher, you obviously have something to bring to the table. From what I understand, circular footwork came into Daito Ryu AFTER Sokaku Takeda. His son did not practice circular footwork either. Is it possible that Ueshiba brought this into Daito Ryu?
For a number of reasons, I think that is highly unlikely.

Mark Balogh wrote:
Can anyone please find a link to this article, I would be interested in reading it. Thanks.

Here's a reposting from the Aikido Journal thread:

To return to the original subject, I think K. Frantzis' assertion is extremely dubious for a number of reasons.

1. Bagua is perhaps the most dificult Chinese martial art to learn, particularly in terms of application. The circular walking, with the particular "wringing" tension through the spine takes many thousands of hours to master - and quite a bit of meticulous instruction and correction. Despite what Mr. Frantzis states, (and notwithstanding his own skill in Bagua), I think the similarities are only superficial - yes, Bagua and aikido have some throws and locks that are similar, but Ueshiba shows none of the very specific qualities of movement that well-trained practitioners of Bagua display. His knees aren't bent, the torso and feet are never "twisted in opposite directions" in the wringing manner I refer to, and aikido, unlike bagua, is straightforward - uke attacks and nage throws. Bagua includes strikes with every unique parameters, and often a dynamic reciprocal exchange with both people attacking and defending in very subtle ways.

2. Ueshiba K. has been asked this question directly, and he stated that his father showed no interest in Chinese martial arts. (Perhaps, one will say, this is more politics, but none of the uchi-deshi, all of whom had to get up in the middle of the night to attend to Ueshiba and/or train with him in aiki, in weapons, etc., ever recalls him walking the circle. Note too, that in the 1950's. and early 1960's, Japan was so ignorant of Chinese martial arts that in a set of law suits between Sato Kimbei (a pioneer of bringing genuine Chinese martial arts to Japan) and the Shorinji Kempo organization, the latter, in attacking Sato, accused him of making up the existence of Bagua and Hsingi, claiming that neither existed any longer in China. Other than t'ai chi and the mythical shaolin (shorinji), almost no one in Japan had heard of the variety of Chinese martial arts. Wang Shu Chin, Sato's first major teacher, was always referred to as a t'ai chi teacher, even though he used that art to teach beginners - he was a hsingi, bagua instructor.

Ueshiba, in the 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's could easily have "walked the circle" and done the palm changes and when his students asked what he was doing, could have said he learned it from the Tengu and no one would have been the wiser.

3. In most of Ueshiba's known trips to China, he was a dignitary. Where could he have found the privacy to have taken lessons in such an esoteric art - I've travelled with Japanese teachers in "official trips" and it's very hard to ever be alone. Remember, Ueshiba is not known to have spoken Chinese. He would have somehow had to a) sneak out, find a Bagua master or be found by one and with no language in common, be taught b) do it publicly, which defeats the thesis.

4. Ueshiba is, however, known to have observed Chinese martial arts. There is (perhaps deceased now) a man by the name of Takeda, who in the 1930's lived in Beijing, and studied a soft-style martial art called Tom Bei Ch'uan ("Thru the back" boxing), a style of pugilism which makes the "center" between the shoulder blades, and does rapid trapping and slapping, but at a crouch and longer range than, say, Wing Chun. This art, though once again popular in China, (taught in Japan - teacher is named Tsunematsu, a returned war-orphan from N. China), was almost extinct in China at the time. Takeda wrote a textbook of the art - and he posed for the photos. The book is still sold in China, I believe. Anyway, Takeda stated in an interview in the mid-1980's that in 1936, during one of the get-togethers he had at his house in Beijing among martial artists, he was visited by some high ranking Japanese, among them Ueshiba Morihei.

Sorry - long-winded nit-picking. In sum, Ueshiba surely saw some Chinese martial arts. There is no evidence in his personal history, and no particular evidence in his movements that he studied any.

Ellis Amdur

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