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Old 01-07-2008, 10:44 PM   #21
Erick Mead
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Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,619
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Each one of these teachers started his own "style" in order to preserve and propagate what he had learned. ... an effort was made to create a system for passing on those teachings, ... I think people have a natural desire for structure. You can see how folks have naturally tried to create structure, even when there isn't one. Saito Sensei's Iwama Ryu was the direct result of Saito Sensei's desire to develop a "transmission" for what he had been taught... But if you look at the success the Iwama Ryu had in propagating itself, I think it becomes clear that a formalized structure i.e. something like a "style" is the best way to keep the knowledge of a particular teacher alive.

My own teacher, Saotome Sensei, is adamant that Aikido has no "style". He has taught us in much the same way he was taught. He has steadfastly refused to spell out technical details, has only generally called our attention to various principles at work. This has resulted in much the same situation you had with the Founder. No one has "mastered" anything close to what this man knows. Only a very few have any real idea what he is doing. ... But much of what he has will simply be lost.
You have just illustrated a fundamental dichotomy that is larger than Aikido, and therefore is also reflected within it. Knowledge is commonly expressed in two different ways: one is linear, systematic, schematic; the other non-linear, holographic and chaotic (in the technical sense). In fact, both are highly ordered, but ordered in different ways.

Saito represents one tendency on this spectrum and Saotome another. Having begun in Saotome's lineage, and returned there, and spent substantial time under an uchi deshi of Saito, I feel these observations are well-grounded, if not particularly privileged. I think these differences are more reflective of psychologically driven biases in learning and teaching, than they are of real difference in either intent or performance,. Understanding this, I think both approaches have things to recommend them.

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
I don't know what the answer is... But then the real question becomes "where does the depth come from"? In the old days, the teachers had tremendous depth. ... teachers of the future are being trained to teach the modern curriculum. They will not have the same depth as the previous generation of teachers. When that happens it will become increasingly difficult for anyone, regardless of talent or desire, to rediscover what has been lost. ... The rest of Aikido will require an infusion of that knowledge to reverse the "dumbing down" of the art as a whole.
The schematic bias teaches knowledge in progressive stages, the image of the knowledge being built up line by line, like a television scan building an image in lines of pixels from bottom to top. It emphasizes a solid grasp of what is transmitted, but omitting any real sense of what lies beyond the strict lesson. In its output it is simpler than the holographic.

The holographic bias builds up knowledge chaotically, as in this image : []. While it appears more random, in fact the points are are all drive by the algorithm (principle, in Saotome's terminology) that generates them. Computationally speaking, the input algorithm that generates it is actually mathematically simpler than the one that generates the linear progressive image.

Following Saotome's method, the premise and the promise is that whatever seems to be missing in the image at any stage of development is assuredly provided by continued iterations according to the principle set out. The random dots, at a certain point, pass the threshold of recognition and the WHOLE picture takes on an identifiable shape and the details remain to be filled in, by the same principles.

This early holistic sense is lacking in Saito's approach, but what it lacks in the sense of the forest it gains in intimacy with the nature of the trees that make it up. Both perspectives are necessary in weighted proportion according to the proclivities of the learner/teacher. It is silly to speak of forests without trees -- or to forget that a single tree may found a forest.

On balance, my practice has been informed by both and I value both. Like life, practice ought to be an interleaving of chaos and order, determinacy and chance. Structure without a sense of living beyond its immediate environs is ultimately stiff and dead. Life without structure is a gooey mess, and highly vulnerable in other ways.

On balance I think the art has good representatives working to maintain coherence, and a weighted balance, within both generic schools of thought typified by Saotome and Saito. What is needed is more sharing among them to enliven both, and more serious thought about how they do and should relate.


Erick Mead
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