Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido, Part II by George S. Ledyard
Very nice article. After I read it I wondered about its relevance to dojos/groups of dojos outside the US/Canada. A few random thoughts.
I wonder whether "aikido-lite" vs. the "real goods" has not somehow become part of the system, as a result of the "massification" of aikido. I have been meditating on these topics in Stan's Japanese publication, but the English versions of these columns have not yet appeared on the AJ site.
My own thinking starts from my experience of teaching & learning in Japan\in universities and dojos. Basically, teaching and learning in the martial arts seem to follow the frames of teaching & learning in general, certainly at the tertiary level in Japan. I think it is possible to discern three paradigms or stages: elite, mass, universal.
(1) Elite: In universities the training is one-to-one in tutorials, with rigorous testing of the ability to creatively exploit what one has learned.
In the martial arts, such as aiki-budo, the master chooses his students very carefully: they have to be sponsored by 'eminent' persons and convince him that they are 'serious'. The learning process is conceived as genuine 'shugyou' and the students are deshi: they are subjected to a severe learning process of 'stealing' wilfully hidden techniques, but it seems to be part of the paradigm that they will receive the tradition entirely, or as much as they are capable of receiving. In words, they have a 'secret', but grandstand, view of the master's entire spectrum of enlightenment. There are no reasons given as to why learning this art is desirable: that it exists is deemed sufficient. There is no syllabus or system and the master is the sole arbiter of progress. Nevertheless, the graduates can be assumed to have mastered the entire system and I certainly think that this is the way that the Founder's deshi such as Shirata, Mochizuki and Shioda understood this. In no way did they receive, or believe they received, "aikido-lite". Of course, whether they received the entire transmission is a matter for esoteric debate.
An interesting question for me in this context is the extent to which "aikido-lite" vs. "the real goods" was a part of training in the prewar Kobukan Dojo. The "Budo" text is a digest of techniques deemed suitable for the Japanese military, but if you compare "Budo", or even "Budo Renshu", with what has so far been published of the Noma Dojo photographs, both publications show only a small fraction of the Founder's repertoire.
My own feeling is that the Founder regarded "the real goods" as the norm and did not have a concept of "aikido-lite". So training was always at the level of "the real goods" and students had to survive as best they could.
(2) Mass: In universities the syllabus becomes the arbiter of what is taught. In the martial arts, the art is much more freely available and there are no requirements, beyond good physical ability, in order to become a student. Because the initial testing is less rigorous, the training has to be adapted to the needs of a wider student base. Thus, there is a greater emphasis on 'core' techniques and 'principles' and there is a definite shift from 'teacher-centred' teaching & learning to 'technique-centred' teaching & learning. There is also more of a rationale for training, such as that the art is beneficial beyond the narrow parameters of self-defence. This was clearly present in the "elite" paradigm, but was not so clearly articulated.
In daily training there is more emphasis on 'basic' techniques and they are increasingly regarded as 'basic' in the 'minimalist' sense of being a necessary foundation, rather than in the 'maximalist' sense of being 'principle' techniques, which ground a whole range of very interesting creative possibilities. The core texts here are the early manuals written by Koichi Tohei and Kisshomaru Ueshiba, but you would need to consult Saotome Sensei to see to what extent the techniques presented in Kisshomaru Ueshibs's "Aikido" (1975), represent a watering-down of the core techniques he learned as a deshi.
In the Hombu there are those who have attended the 6.30 morning class, 5 days a week for 30 or 40 years. They have probably taken other classes as well, but this means that they have experienced O Sensei, Kisshomaru Doshu and the present Doshu on a daily basis.
(3) Universal: in Japanese universities education is regarded as a right and universities are falling over themselves in the haste to make university education palatable to eveyrone. It is also regarded as beneficial to anyone who undertakes, in the sense that no one is thought to be unsuitable for university education.
In aikido, the art is regarded as available and beneficial to everyone, with aims relating to general health and 'self-realization'. The idea that one will test the effectiveness of techniques outside the dojo is unacceptable, since this would undermine the beneficial effects of aikido to society as a whole. There is still a basic core of techniques, but this is regarded as the norm. At this level, the concept of 'shugyou' has become weakened, such that very little is attempted that will cause injury or unnecessary pain, and the results of training are expected to be more immediate\and pleasurable. Training is meant to have beneficial effects and these can be immediately felt.
In promotion of the art, there is much greater emphasis on why aikido is necessary to counter the ills of present-day culture. Thus, (i) aikido is always promoted in Japan as a means to achieving world peace, but in a postwar sense, and not in the way the Founder himself understood this term and (ii) practitioners are expected by the moral demands of the art to be in the forefront of such activities as earthquake relief efforts etc and the aikido deshi will spend much time in such relief efforts, perhaps as much as training in the dojo.
For me the question is how in the "mass" paradigm do you teach the technical and emotional requirements requirements expected of a deshi in the "elite" paradigm. I have seen what Chiba Sensei requires of his kenshusei\they are on his dojo's web site and they seem to me to be an attempt at the recreation of the parameters of the "elite" scenario, when O Sensei taught at the Kobukan. Do you have a kenshusei system in your own dojo?
I have gone on too long, so please regard this as Part 1, to be continued.
All good wishes for 2005,