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Old 04-28-2008, 11:40 PM   #58
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 2,243
Re: Making sense of aikido lineage/associations

Hello Lori,

A few more observations.

Lori Snidow wrote: View Post
I for one wouldn't feel significant enough to expect an answer from Hombu. Maybe there is a perception of inaccessibility to the common student? I think there might also be a fear of losing face by asking a question that is either disrespectful/offensive from a Japanese point of view or seen as stupid because there, the answer is common knowledge. It's truly a privilege to have folks like yourself who have feet firmly planted in both worlds to answer these questions.
But if you never ask the 'silly questions', you never realize whether and why and how they are silly. In my opinion, the sheer magnitude of the postwar shift in aikido, from being an exclusive, elitist art centered round the Founder in a collection of individual dojos headed by a direct disciple who trained all the hours of the day, to being a vast international operation, available to anyone to pursue, depending on time, family responsibilities, available options etc, is still not understood by many people in the aikido world, especially in Japan. It was certainly not grasped by the Founder.

I was having dinner with an 8th dan Aikikai shihan recently and the conversation turned to his life as a deshi at the Hombu. (As usual, I was the one asking the 'silly' questions.) What was looking after the Founder really like? What did he talk about, when he was not consciously being The Founder, giving one of his arcane discourses? Did he ever make small talk? The shihan looked a little stunned and confessed that in all his years as a deshi, he had never, ever asked O Sensei a question. This was simply not the kind of thing a deshi would do. I could not believe it!

I was reminded of Ellis Amdur's story about Terry Dobson. Terry once asked O Sensei a question about the triangle, square and circle and O Sensei told Terry to find out for himself. What Ellis did not mention was that Terry probably did not endear himself to his Japanese fellow-deshi by breaking ranks in such a way and, as it turned out, he had no place in the Hombu after O Sensei died.

I have never been treated as Terry was by O Sensei. The only 'blunt' answer I have ever received was from a certain shihan, now passed away, who told me to wait until I knew enough Japanese, so that I could really understand the answers. Actually, I remember Kisshomaru Doshu telling me at some point that he was very happy that I had learned Japanese, because now we could talk. However, even Kisshomaru Doshu was not someone you could argue with.

Lori Snidow wrote: View Post
It would be a wonderful thing to see some of the issues discussed here captured in either an aikiwiki or aikido faq article, if it has not been already. There are a lot of organizational questions that some of us lower ranked folks might have but are afraid to ask (or unable to obtain an answer to through normal channels). Yes, most of it has very little to do with our training until we hit the middle dan rankings. Nevertheless, it might result in a lot of things making more sense along the way, especially if we have to change organizations mid-stream due to relocation.
Well, in my experience it is the middle dan ranks where all the trouble starts. The most difficult ranks are 3rd, 4th and 5th dan. If you relate this to the supposed equivalent skill level, the lower ranks are still too low: you do not know enough, whereas in the upper ranks you have gained a certain maturity. You know all the issues and it is most likely at this level that you have gained the humility that is essential for you to see what your skill level really is--and accept it. However, even 5th dans need to be nurtured, to feel that someone knows their problems and is there when needed. Many very senior shihans cannot play this nurturing role effectively.

Lori Snidow wrote: View Post
Thanks again for all your patient answers!
(who was, btw, voted most likely to have a question by her graduating class!)
No problem, but please understand that I could never come on this website and claim to speak on Doshu's behalf. I do not have such a role.

Best wishes,


P A Goldsbury
Kokusai Dojo,
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