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Old 07-11-2009, 01:45 PM   #18
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

Mark Murray wrote: View Post
All of Ueshiba's exploits are things that other Daito ryu masters did.
The implication in all these posts is always, "O-Sensei was really a Daito Ryu man and everything good got lost because we lost the Daito Ryu connection."

O-Sensei quite consciously changed what he did from what went before. O-Sensei himself introduced the larger movement that distinguishes Aikido from any other martial art. If he had thought that Daito Ryu was the ultimate expression of what he wanted to convey, we'd all be doing Daito Ryu.

What was different about O-Sensei from the other great "aiki" masters of his time was not technical. It was largely mental and there were others who had much the same skill. The combination of the Founder's spiritual ideas with the physical technique derived primarily from Daito Ryu became something else.

If you want to start listing "physical phenomenon" that you label as ki, then check out the Daito ryu masters and their students who have gotten aiki. The real aiki, not move aside and harmonize.
One of the amazing things about how ideas get taken on and become something beyond just an idea is how folks latch on to something and invest their own stuff in that idea. Eric Hoffer talked about the True Believer.

Amongst the students of the Founder one notices an unfortunate tendency for each to think that he was the only one who understood the Founder and the "other guys" missed it. Now that other "aiki" training is available and a new generation of teachers is out there you can see the same thing. The Daito Ryu folks think that O-Sensei was simply a Daito Ryu guy and tell themselves that they have everything we do (and more). The thirties "Aiki Budo" folks think that they had it right and what came after was somehow less. The Iwama folks are convinced that they alone are doing O-Sensei's Aikido and that everything that came after about 1952 was someone else's influence, not the Founder's Aikido. Even the folks who came AFTER the Founder feel that they have the "real" Aikido, often marginalizing the Founder's ideas as "old fashioned" and not suitable for the modern age.

I don't buy it at all. Aikido evolved as the Founder evolved. I don't take issue with the fact that an awful lot of very deep stuff has largely disappeared from the art and serious practitioners will have to work to get it back again. My dojo has a Daito Ryu Study Group going under Howard Popkin Sensei. We also have a fine Systema Group under Kaizen Taki. I make sure that my students and I are exposed to outside folks of the highest skill. My Facebook page has a whole list of people I consider as my teachers and many of them are not Aikido folks.

But at the end of the day we take what we get and we put it back into our Aikido. These other folks are not doing Aikido, regardless of how skilled they are at "aiki". Aikido has a form. As a very good friend of mine said recently, "If it doesn't look like Aikido, smell like Aikido, and taste like Aikido, it's not Aikido."

Folks interested in fighting generally don't like the form of the art and find ways of changing it, usually backwards towards something that went before. If fighting is your goal this is an almost inevitable process. O-Sensei's goal was "not fighting". Not fighting with yourself, not fighting with others, not fighting the "will of the Kami"... It's not about fighting , it's about not fighting.

If people have no sense of this, then they are doing the wrong art. I do not think that Aikido is for everyone. Rather than try to devolve the art to make it something it's not, why not just go do an art that better fits what you want? It's not like there aren't choices out there now. Every time I hear an Aikido person going on and on about Daito Ryu, Systema, whatever... as being superior, I ask myself why they don't simply go do those arts? Why stick around Aikido and bitch about it all the time?

I don't even disagree with the criticisms leveled at Aikido. Most Aikido being done today is almost devoid of "aiki" and that includes folks with numbers as high as 8th Dan after their names. But it is not completely true. There are some really amazing teachers and there are many people working hard to re-introduce some of the skills, both mental and physical into the art while maintaining it's identity as a distinct form with unique characteristics.

Aikido is far more than the "bad Daito Ryu" some folks seem to think it is.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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