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Old 12-01-2011, 04:14 PM   #20
Ken McGrew
Dojo: Aikido at UAB
Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 202
Re: O'Sensei teaching Aikido at the Hombu Dojo after WWII


You say "doesn't stress" and I read that as "conceal." I think I read your intent correctly. But alas it does not matter.

Saotome Sensei is not responsible for everything that has been said about him. His English is not perfect. He doesn't proof check everything that has been written. I have no personal knowledge of any errors that he may or may not have been aware of. It is my understanding that Saotome Sensei met O Sensei around 1954. O Sensei died in 1969. That's 15 years. Not 8. I have never personally heard Saotome Sensei say 20 years with the founder. I've heard him say 15 years he knew O Sensei. I think the confusion some people may have made is this: 1975 (the year he left Japan) - 1955 (the year he met O Sensei) = 20 years.

You and others want to quibble over definitions that allow you to silence those who question the conclusions that you are committed to upholding. Unfortunately, much of your arguments come down to the definition of what instruction is, what Uchi Deshi is, even what is is. This is an old game. Saito Sensei was infamous for claiming to be the only Uchi Deshi by his own selective definition.

None of it supports very well the central claim that O Sensei did not teach his Aikido after 1941 and was unhappy with Aikido after 1941. Efforts to distract from this weakness in the argument not withstanding. As Brad and I have stated, senior instructors see their senior students less often at various times in their training. Mostly they see them less often once they move away to form their own dojos. In Saotome Sensei's case that trend was probably reversed. If O Sensei spoke with you even once a week, threw you even just once a month, and gave you pointers to improve your Aikido even once a year, you'd be sure to count that as training with him. I would too. How much training was an hour with the founder worth compared to those who followed? He taught the way he saw fit. It was still his Aikido.

Now even if you somehow prove that Saotome Sensei only spent 8 years learning from O Sensei. Even if we accept all your definition games (by you I just mean those of you who hold these views), it is simply not the case that, as you claim, his experience was "very abbreviated, low intensity... in terms of how much hands on time he got." There is ample evidence, given how prominently Saotome Sensei is featured in the demonstration films, how often he traveled with O Sensei, how long he stayed compared to most Uchi Deshi, the rank he received, the teaching he did on behalf of Aikikai, the position he held before leaving, that his experience was not abbreviated or low intensity. There is no question that towards the end of O Sensei's life that Saotome Sensei was close to him both physically and personally.

For people who are so quick to criticize the politics at Hombu they are quick to forget them when it's convenient. Saotome Sensei felt a calling to come to the United States to spread Aikido. In order to do so he was forced to defy Doshu. This was eventually forgiven by our current Doshu. During those years away do you not think that the story told in Japan may have drifted a bit from the reality that had existed before Saotome Sensei left? A little fair play would be nice.

Raul Rodrigo wrote: View Post
Ken, Saotome doesn't conceal the connection to Yamaguchi, and we didn't say he did. From one interview: "I practiced judo when I was in high school. I was taken to the Kuwamori Dojo with an introduction from my judo teacher because he thought aikido would be suitable for me. That's when I learned about aikido for the first time. At that time Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei was teaching the class. I was bigger than I am now and weighed about 190 pounds. I used to win judo matches in Tokyo. After the class, Yamaguchi Sensei told me to grab his fingers. The moment I grabbed them I was thrown. I didn't know how it happened and thought I had fallen by myself by tripping on a corner of the tatami mats. So I asked him to do it again. I think I was thrown four or five times. He threw me with his fingers and also when I grabbed his shoulder. This is how I started the art."

But Saotome doesn't make clear is how much time he spent with Yamaguchi, relative to the time he spent with Osensei. The official ASU materials talk about 15 years and even 20 years with the founder. In fact it was 8, and a very abbreviated, low intensity 8 in terms of how much hands on time he got. The other deshi of that era (primarily those who live in Japan and have no need to "market" their exposure to Osensei) are quite frank. O-sensei did not teach regularly. You can even reconstruct the daily teaching schedule in the 1960s (based on the recollections of those who were there). The regular instructors were Kisshomaru, K Osawa, Arikawa, Yamaguchi, Tada, Tohei, and then later Saotome himself. Saito taught on Sundays.

Last edited by Ken McGrew : 12-01-2011 at 04:25 PM.