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Old 12-25-2007, 06:38 PM
Peter A Goldsbury AikiWeb Forums Contributing Member
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Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

NOTE: Though to some extent speculative and without the space to quote or cite sources and secondary references, these columns are really intended as a sort of preliminary sketch for a history of aikido as a martial art. No such history has ever been published, though I know that at least one...
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Last edited by akiy : 12-25-2007 at 06:36 PM.
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Old 01-11-2008, 12:39 PM   #25
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Very well said George.

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Old 01-12-2008, 04:18 AM   #26
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

George, and Ron,

Looking at your contributions to this thread, I have an interesting question to ask you both.

Compare the first generation of O Sensei's deshi with the second and third generations (though I admit there is a problem of where exactly you make the break).

(1) The first generation includes Inoue, Tomiki, Shirata, Mochizuki, Shioda: the mainstays of the Kobukan and its satellites in Takeda and Osaka. I think K Ueshiba, Tohei and K Abbe also come in somewhere here.

(2) Then you have a second generation, that includes people like Okumura, Saito, K Osawa, Arikawa, Yamaguchi, Tada and probably Noro, with other people wandering around on the periphery like H Kobayashi, Nakazono and perhaps Hikitsuchi.

(3) Finally, you have the third generation of shihans, probably beginning with Tamura, which also includes Isoyama, Yamada, Tohei (in Chicago), Chiba, Kanai, Sugano, Saotome, Asai, Kurita, all of whom chose to live overseas, together with all the other people (like Fujita, my own 8th dan teacher) who never left Japan.

My question really is: where did the rot start? Some people point the finger at Kisshomaru, but forget that the third generation were basically trained by him, as much as by O Sensei. Chiba Sensei's articles are quite instructive here. His obituary of Saito Sensei needs to be compared with his obituary of Kisshomaru Doshu.

The next few episodes of my columns deal with Kisshomaru Ueshiba, so I look forward to your thoughts on this issue with great interest.

Best wishes to you both,

PAG

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Old 01-14-2008, 02:09 PM   #27
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Peter -

To try to answer your question: where did the rot start?

We have an art, Aikido, created by one "charismatic man" who, according to your earlier column:

"… made no attempt to ‘teach' the knowledge and skills he possessed to his deshi."

Certainly, from what you previously stated, Ueshiba Sensei didn't "teach" in the western sense of the word. The reason for this, I think, is that Ueshiba Sensei didn't "do" Aikido; he lived it. One might as well ask did Michelangelo "do" sculpture or Albert Einstein "do" physics? Ueshiba Sensei's art was so entwined with his daily life that he eventually became defined by it as much as it was defined by him. Ueshiba's Aikido was Ueshiba as Ueshiba was his Aikido.

O Sensei lived the principles of Aiki. As such he, perhaps, felt no need to explain what he already had internalized through his training regimen. It's possible that he felt demonstration of waza was enough of a clue to get his deshi started on the road of self discovery, accepting the fact that they would, to varying degrees and in different ways, eventually acquire a portion of the knowledge he already possessed. Or maybe he just didn't care whether they got it or not.

From your second column:

"In fact, what he showed his deshi during practice almost continually and exclusively were waza, without any technical explanation, and he also left them to work out for themselves, not only what they had been shown and the principles lying behind this, but also the training regime that resulted in such waza."

So here we have the first generation deshi, those people closest to the source, who apparently were given the least amount of instruction. Yet these students went on to become the preeminent teachers of Ueshiba Sensei's art. Because Ueshiba Sensei forced his deshi to discover Aikido for themselves we can see that even in its early stage of development the art must have evolved along different branches defined by the understanding gleaned by the first generation deshi. The first Doshu, Kisshomaru and the emphasis of blending with uke, Tohei Sensei and ki development as a discipline unto itself, Tomiki Sensei and the introduction of competitive Aikido, Saito Sensei and the heavy reliance on weapons training, Shioda Sensei and the martial applicability of waza come to mind. Each of the first generation deshi who went on to teach became a branch off the trunk of Ueshiba Sensei's Aikido. Students of the first generation deshi will each come to possess a portion of the knowledge of their teachers, modify it with their own personal touch and so the branches will continue to divide.

One would expect that as a consequence of endless fracturing of the bedrock of the art that Aikido will eventually disappear. Will the art not just someday fade away and become unrecognizable? One must answer the question: just what is being lost when a master dies?

This is where George and I differ in regards to the transmission of Aikido from teacher to student. George lamented that much of Saotome Sensei's knowledge will go with him when he passes and this is due largely to the teaching methodology employed by Saotome Sensei which lacks a lot of detailed explanation of how he does what he does. My point is that much of Saotome Sensei's knowledge is bound to who he is and where he has come from in his life. And while, as George states: "the principles involved in "aiki" are straight forward and teachable." (I agree), I think Aikido is much more than the principles of Aiki. The resultant amalgamation of learned principles and life experience produces Aikido that is unique in very fundamental ways to each individual. To my way of thinking this is the combination of the physical and spiritual aspects of Aikido within the individual.

Chiba Sensei, in an interview with Peter Bernath and David Halprin of Aikido On-Line conducted at the US Aikido Federation Eastern Region Summer Camp held at Hampshire Collage in Amherst, Massachusetts in August 2000, says:

"Well, you'd better not try to separate between spiritual discipline and physical discipline. You cannot separate them. Like any individual human substance, the substantial nature cannot be divided into aspects, body and spirit. They are one. So you take Aikido's form, we train, there's spirit already there. Without spirit there is no form. Through the form, spirit is manifested; it's already there."

A person's spirit is a product of that person's life history. It's what is unique about that person, what is irreplaceable and not reproducible. A person's spirit is what uniquely defines that person's Aikido.

Now if , as George contends, Aiki principles are invariant with regard to styles and teachable, they should naturally transcend the death of the instructor presuming they have been passed on to at least one student. What will be naturally lost is the personalization of the instructors Aikido, the spirit of it.

This has gotten somewhat longer than I originally intended so let me sum things up:

1. Ueshiba Sensei left it to his deshi to discover their own Aikido, i.e. Aikido from the inside out,

From 1. we see that:

2. We can infer that the splintering of Aikido began while Ueshiba was still alive,
3. To accuse Kisshomaru Ueshiba originating the onset of the alleged decline of Aikido does him a disservice,
4. The splintering of Aikido into many different branches is a direct consequence,
5. The splitting of Aikido into many different branches is not evidence of rot just evolution.

Regards,

Ron
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Old 01-15-2008, 08:17 AM   #28
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

It would be a good analysis if the level of the top practitioners remained constant through the ages. However, it seems that aikido does not impress the world of martial arts the way it did before the war.

Why is that ? Here are a few possible explanations :
1- The world of martial arts "caught up", and produced better practitioners, and now fares better compared to aikido.
2- The sheer number of beginning and intermediate level aikido practitioners (due to its worldwide spread) offsets the quality of the aikido elite, that remained constant over the years.
3- aikido transmitted pretty much as completely as it was by O Sensei, but very few people now can afford practicing 6 hours a day, every day, with the same intensity as found in the Kobukai, and living the very formative life of ushi-deshi.
4- Some essential teachings of aikido are not transmitted anymore, which means the quality of today's aikido (even at the top level) is lower than it was decades ago.

I don't have the answers(s), but this community is a good place for that debate.

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Old 01-19-2008, 06:16 AM   #29
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Mr Neveu,

Thank you for your interesting post.

I have a few comments/questions, placed at various points in your post:

Quote:
Ludwig Neveu wrote: View Post
It would be a good analysis if the level of the top practitioners remained constant through the ages. However, it seems that aikido does not impress the world of martial arts the way it did before the war.
PAG. I suppose the evidence is to be found in Internet chat forums, but the issue for me is to what extent the general availability of aikido training for far more people, who are completely unversed in any martial culture, was a major factor in the supposed overall decline in quality.

In addition, to what extent is it possible to measure the level before and after?

Quote:
Ludwig Neveu wrote: View Post
Why is that ? Here are a few possible explanations :
PAG. I think that Kisshomaru Ueshiba saw the opening up of aikido as the only means of its survival.

Quote:
Ludwig Neveu wrote: View Post
1- The world of martial arts "caught up", and produced better practitioners, and now fares better compared to aikido.
PAG. Again, how do we measure this? Is it that martial arts as sports, such as judo and kendo, have surpassed, in numbers and quality, the older koryu arts and those ‘gendai' arts like aikido and shorinji kempo that are not sports?

Quote:
Ludwig Neveu wrote: View Post
2- The sheer number of beginning and intermediate level aikido practitioners (due to its worldwide spread) offsets the quality of the aikido elite, that remained constant over the years.
PAG. I think the issue here is (also) the quality of the aikido elite.

Quote:
Ludwig Neveu wrote: View Post
3- aikido transmitted pretty much as completely as it was by O Sensei, but very few people now can afford practicing 6 hours a day, every day, with the same intensity as found in the Kobukai, and living the very formative life of ushi-deshi.
PAG. I think this has always been the case, and also in other traditional arts. In aikido the training of uchi-deshi, considered as O Sensei's personal training regime, stopped after World War II. The third generation of deshi, some of whom reside abroad, were trained as much by Kisshomaru as by O Sensei.

Quote:
Ludwig Neveu wrote: View Post
4- Some essential teachings of aikido are not transmitted anymore, which means the quality of today's aikido (even at the top level) is lower than it was decades ago.
PAG. It was sometimes stated by the first disciples of O Sensei that you do not need to know many techniques: if you can do the ‘core' techniques well, you will be OK. The issue is what you need to be able to do besides the techniques. I believe that one major issue here is the role of individual training in aikido: the training you need to do without a partner. This has long been a subject of Internet chat forums, but there is a limit to what can be learned practically from such discussions. In any case, it seems to me that O Sensei did not explicitly teach this, but many of his top uchi-deshi learned it / discovered it.

Quote:
Ludwig Neveu wrote: View Post
I don't have the answers(s), but this community is a good place for that debate.
Yes. Thank you.

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Old 01-19-2008, 10:42 AM   #30
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Prof. Goldsbury,

Thank you for examining my thoughts, and for the effort you put in for the benefit of the aikido community.

I am well aware of the difficulty of giving comparative value to different practices (even within aikido, this is the object of fierce debate). Also, the 4 hypotheses are not exactly mine, rather some of the possible (sometimes contradictory) explanations that can be found on the internet, expressed by more or less informed or advanced people.

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Old 01-19-2008, 07:12 PM   #31
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
George, and Ron,

Looking at your contributions to this thread, I have an interesting question to ask you both.

Compare the first generation of O Sensei's deshi with the second and third generations (though I admit there is a problem of where exactly you make the break).

(1) The first generation includes Inoue, Tomiki, Shirata, Mochizuki, Shioda: the mainstays of the Kobukan and its satellites in Takeda and Osaka. I think K Ueshiba, Tohei and K Abbe also come in somewhere here.

(2) Then you have a second generation, that includes people like Okumura, Saito, K Osawa, Arikawa, Yamaguchi, Tada and probably Noro, with other people wandering around on the periphery like H Kobayashi, Nakazono and perhaps Hikitsuchi.

(3) Finally, you have the third generation of shihans, probably beginning with Tamura, which also includes Isoyama, Yamada, Tohei (in Chicago), Chiba, Kanai, Sugano, Saotome, Asai, Kurita, all of whom chose to live overseas, together with all the other people (like Fujita, my own 8th dan teacher) who never left Japan.

My question really is: where did the rot start? Some people point the finger at Kisshomaru, but forget that the third generation were basically trained by him, as much as by O Sensei. Chiba Sensei's articles are quite instructive here. His obituary of Saito Sensei needs to be compared with his obituary of Kisshomaru Doshu.

The next few episodes of my columns deal with Kisshomaru Ueshiba, so I look forward to your thoughts on this issue with great interest.

Best wishes to you both,

PAG
I don't really feel like it's a matter of "rot" really... It's more complex than that. Various people do an excellent job with pieces of what O-Sensei presented. Some few seem to have understood well what he presented at a certain time but did not seem to evolve alongside the Founder as he changed. Those who trained at the beginning did not get taught what those who trained at the end got, those who trained at the end didn't get taught what was presented at the beginning.

In many ways the development of Aikido is not unlike the development of early Christianity. You have a group of "disciples" who did train directly with the Founder. Apparently they were told different things at different times but there are certain threads that seem to carry through all of their narratives.

But the "gospel" of Aikido spreads like wild fire... far faster than anyone anticipated. Soon most of the folks spreading the "gospel" never actually trained with the Founder. In fact most never trained for any length of time with one of his disciples.

What writings there are, are not really the Founder's but were written by the disciples. There seems to have been quite a bit of editing to make the presentation palatable to the wider audience. It is difficult to be sure exactly what the Founder himself said.

Fairly quickly you find drastically different interpretations of the teachings both philosophically and technically. There is a "Pope" sitting on the "throne of Peter" but quite a large number of folks do not submit to his authority. Different groups exist, each believing strongly that they understood the "real" meaning of the art as transmitted to their particular disciple. You even have, heresy of heresies, people who maintain that none of the disciples really understood but they, through the direct experience of their own practices, have been able to do so.

There was a time when this would have resulted in a crusade resulting in a purge of the heretics... But there can be no Council of Nicea for Aikido, no Athanasius, or Irenaeus for Aikido. This is the day of the internet and each instructor, perhaps even each practitioner will share in the debate and exchange between the "bishops" and decide for himself or herself.

I see Aikido as having experienced a schism which broke it into roughly four groups:

1) There are those for whom the art is pretty simply about self defense or physical technique. There is little if any interest in the spiritual teachings of the Founder, just an interest in developing his skill set. There is no believe that his spiritual beliefs actually contributed to his skill set. The techniques of the art ARE THE ART. Effectiveness is really the sole measure of worth. These people often find themselves looking outside the art for more input... they generally tend to be unconcerned with Orthodoxy, just practicality. These are the materialists within the Aikido camp. They tend to disdain the energetic type techniques in favor of more physical, power oriented technique. While these folks respect the great skill the Founder displayed, they do not elevate him to some special status relative to his spiritual vision. Often they view the Founder as incredibly talented but a bit loopy.

2) There are those for whom the "message" is paramount. O-Sensei pointed out the way for us and it is our purpose to keep moving along that path. This, despite the fact that much of his "message" was a highly edited presentation of his teachings put together by his disciples. For these folks, technique is subordinate to the message. In other words, the message is not revealed through the practice but rather the practice is shaped by the message. There is an almost total lack of concern in the martial effectiveness of technique, in fact too much focus on effectiveness is seen as a failure to see the higher principles of the art. Physical technique is really a way to manifest ones spiritual understanding in ones body and by extension in the social world. It is also a way to show others how "spiritual" one is. These folks show a marked disdain for technique that is too physical and prefer to do more energetic type work on the mat. These are the folks who prefer the spirit to the body. They tend to elevate the Founder to a sort of semi-divine status because of his spiritual insights but seem to believe that attaining his martial skill is unnecessary.

3) The third and final group believes that the Founder's intention was clearly that the art would be a spiritual practice but that the means of gaining understanding was THROUGH practicing the physical techniques of the art. The principles which operate in the art require the practitioner to change in such a way that spiritual truth will become evident in the techniques themselves. There is no material / spiritual dichotomy here. One cannot exist without the other. So technique which works goes hand in hand with the development of an understanding of the spiritual / trans-formative purpose of the art. Great technical skill cannot exist without deep spiritual understanding. This group seems to value O-Sensei's skill as well as his "vision".

It is my opinion that many of the early deshi from the thirties would have fallen within the first group (Mochizuki, Tomiki, Shioda) while the rest would have fallen in the third group (Inoue, Shirata, Abbe). I can't off hand think of any who would seem to have fallen into the 2nd group.

The same could be said for the second and third generation disciples. Most would probably consider themselves to have been within the 3rd grouping however I would place some of them a bit more in group 1 than group 3. I'm not so familiar with how each of these teachers trained or what they thought so I won't try to categorize each of them.

The development of a substantial number of folks in group 2 really doesn't start until after O-Sensei's death. Much of this group exists in foreign countries where there hasn't been enough high level technical instruction as compared to the number of active practitioners. O-Sensei's written words as sparse as they were have been selectively translated and put out to a world wide audience. The phenomenal growth of the art has more to do with the presentation of these ideas as being central to the practice than perhaps it was in Japan where discussion of the philosophical / spiritual aspects of the art seems to be much less common.

Aikido is practiced by a million people world wide, most of whom have never encountered a highly skilled practitioner of the 1st, 2nd or even 3rd generation of disciples with any frequency. At best they may, if they are lucky, train with a direct student of one of these disciples. This leads to a new situation in which one could say that the majority of the folks practicing have no real idea what high level skill really is. Nor do they have more than the foggiest notion about the spiritual ideas put forth by the Founder regarding his art. This leads to the development of a substantial group of folks in group 2. The way in which Aikido is presented leads to the art picking up a huge following of folks who, if they weren't doing Aikido, wouldn't be doing martial arts at all.

So this brings me to the Post O-Sensei era. His son Kisshomaru is now Doshu. As the Nidai Doshu he looks at what Aikido has been, and he has a good solid picture of that from direct, personal experience, and he looks at the face of change in Japan and around the world and he sees that he will be forced to re-interpret the art for modern consumption. I believe he saw this as necessary for the survival of the art ( as mentioned by Peter) But I do believe the K Ueshiba was firmly in the 3rd group as far as how he saw the art. I think he quite realistically saw that the modern environment for the art would involve mass transmission of the physical and spiritual principles of the art. He decides, quite rightly I think, that it will be impossible and perhaps even inappropriate, to attempt to pass on the entire body of work his father had presented over the course of over 50 years of teaching and redeveloping his art to the broad masses.

Since he did, I believe, fall into the camp of folks who felt that the spiritual insights of the art derived directly from an understanding of the principles revealed through the physical practice of the art he set about creating a presentation of those physical techniques and principles which could be understood and appreciated by modern people, people with few, if any, ties to the traditional world of his Father, the Founder. So the art gets simplified and the focus is adjusted for people living in the modern, post war world. There is increasingly less emphasis on understanding weapons work, there is virtually no emphasis on the applied side of the art. Just as in physics there is a bias on the part of the theoretical folks towards the applied folks, we start to see a sort of "spiritual" aikido evolving which rather prides itself on it's lack of concern for application. This really opens the door for the creation of group 2 in that it is just a small step from technique using correct principles but with no focus on practicality to technique using incorrect principles. With a complete lack of concern for whether technique works or not, we start to see Aikido being practiced and spread by people who don't actually know the difference.

Different teachers reacted to this development in their own manners. Saito Sensei assigned himself the role of preserving the technical side of the art as it existed at a particular moment in time right after the war. He adjusted his teaching methodology a bit over the years but he changed very little of the technique. He was famous for systematizing, preserving, and spreading weapons work at a time when the "orthodox" presentation of the art was virtually devoid of these elements.

Nishio saw the loss of the martial side of Aikido as a tragedy and started his own style albeit within the umbrella of Hombu Dojo. It placed the emphasis heavily on understanding technique from a very broad standpoint placing a strong emphasis on his unique presentation of the relationship between weapons and empty hand, between martial arts like karate and aikido. It was his paramount concern that people practicing the highly stylized art being championed at the Honbu Dojo, should also understand what was really contained within those techniques.

Hikitsuchi Sensei, never part of the main stream as he was way out in the country I Shingu and was quite isolated from the goings on at the Hombu Dojo, carried on a very traditional brand of practice which emphasized the martial / spiritual balance of O-Sensei's teachings. He also overtly maintained the Shinto structure to the spiritual concepts underlying the practice. Perhaps because of this, he never turned out enough students that he has had a major influence on Japanese Aikido. But he did have a substantial influence on American Aikido. Two of the most senior female practitioners of American Aikido were trained at Shingu, Mary Heiny Sensei and Linda Holiday Sensei. His student Clint George Sensei has done the most perhaps, in trying to preserve the balance between the martial and the spiritual that Shingu was able to keep going long after it changed at the headquarters.

Teachers like Saotome Sensei, Chiba Sensei, and Tamura took their individual takes on the art overseas and each put out an Aikido quite at variance with the direction being taken back in Tokyo. They preserved, even expanded the use of weapons in the practice. They constantly reminded their students that O-Sensei was the source for their technique and the inspiration for their practice. As the Founder seemed to increasingly be seen as an anachronism in the Aikido at headquarters, he was an ever present force in the presentation these teachers made of what the art was and would be.

So what do we have now? We are on the brink of the great change. Within only a few more years, there will be no more teachers left who trained directly under the Founder. Given that the senior foreign teachers are also largely of that same generation, we are facing a complete change of guard, a wholesale passing of the responsibility for the transmission of the art to a generation that never knew O-Sensei, perhaps, never even trained with any of the first or second generation teachers.

There seems to be an increasing understanding of just what has been lost in getting the art to the place it is. The place of solo practice (of some not well defined as yet sort), skill in weapons, especially the sword, knowledge of older combat applications of technique, even a deep understanding of what constitutes "aiki" (as contrasted with the largely physical technique being done in most Aikido) are all problem areas. The generation of Aikido teachers who could have passed on this knowledge is fast disappearing.

But I find myself hopeful. I see people from other arts, for various reasons, being willing to share what they know with Aikido people. Many of the teachers who have spent their lives acquiring what, for want of a better term, I will call classical knowledge, are finding that the majority of the folks who are interested in what they have to offer are the Aikido folks. It worries me that the folks who seem most inclined to take advantage of these opportunities are not to a large extent the next generation of teachers but rather the folks in the next tier down. If they are not careful we might see a generation of Aikido teachers who have waited thirty years for their "turn" at the helm finding they are steering an empty boat. I see a large number of folks at the mid dan levels getting out and finding ways to augment their training. I see a certain frustration with many of the seniors who toed the official line and did what was asked but now show glaring holes in their knowledge and stagnation in their own practice.

But at least there are places a dedicated Aikido person can go to find some of the knowledge that has passed out of our art. The Aiki Expos will, I believe, eventually be seen as truly pivotal events in American Aikido. The folks who went and really took advantage of the wealth that was laid on the table at these three events came away changed on a really deep level. My own Aikido has been changing at an exponential pace since the first Expo. I know other senior teachers who are in that same place. Even a teacher like Ikeda Sensei, came away from the Expos having made connections with teachers who have changed his Aikido completely.

It is not just a matter of developing a better and more systematic method for the transmission of our art. Aikido is in need of an infusion of knowledge from outside the art. Folks are training with people like Dan Hardin, Mike Sigman, Akuzawa, and the Systema folks developing various methods of solo training. These teachers are all doing adaptations of their training specifically for Aikido folks or are at least welcoming Aikido folks at their events.

There are teachers like Howard Popkin Sensei, a student of Okamoto Sensei who is bringing Okamoto Sensei over from Japan and holding "open" seminars. You can't find a clearer, more concise presentation of "aiki" principles than what these folks give. Popkin Sensei is young and will clearly be around for a long time and he is more than willing to share his knowledge with the Aikido community.

Ushiro Kenji Sensei continues to influence the Aikido community; he's appearing once again as a guest instructor at the Rocky Mountain Summer Camp which Ikeda Sensei hosts in Colorado.

What is needed most is teachers who have been well trained by the uchi deshi, who have digested much of the best which Aikido has had to offer, to take advantage of the fact that, for the first time in history, there is a cross style, cross cultural exchange going on. They have the solid foundation to take these various strands of knowledge and weave them back into Aikido. They have the position of authority it will take to pass this knowledge to the wider community. This certainly requires a shift in the old paradigm… perhaps they won't meet the challenge. But if they don't, I see a generation of future teachers coming along who aren't waiting to be told it's ok to doctor their Aikido. I think that teachers who are stuck in old ways of thinking about the art will find themselves marginalized.

With all of this happening, it's difficult to envision what the role will be for the current Doshu and the Honbu Dojo, I understand that they see the need to develop a more systematic method for passing on the techniques of the art and perhaps standardizing what the basic techniques of the art actually are. But the focus on training teachers specifically to teach this standardized but also simplified curriculum may result in a fairly uninspiring set of instructors when contrasted with a group of folks who have been far wider reaching in their training. I foresee a day, not too far in the future, when it will be a challenge for the Honbu Dojo and the Doshu to maintain their view of being the center from which Aikido flows out to the various groups and individuals around the world. You can already see European teachers like Tissier, Nevelius, and Ostoff Senseis coming here to teach. American teachers are traveling to Europe and South America… I think this will only increase. Much of this will simply bypass Japan and I don't know if they are prepared for that. It will be an interesting time I think.

One of the things I would very much like to see is for the various students who have been training in Japan with teachers who have been off the beaten track to get out and teach. I have no idea if any foreigners trained with Inoue Sensei (now passed away) but I think there would be an interest here in seeing what direction they took their aiki budo. I have to believe that there are folks around who trained with non-mainstream teachers who have been trained very differently than the current generation of instructors at Honbu. I'd love to see what they have been doing. As far as I am concerned, the more exchange, the better.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 01-19-2008, 08:31 PM   #32
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

George,

Very interesting analysis.

You announced a schism of four groups and gave three, the third being the final one. Was this a misprint, or did you modify your thinking as you were writing (I sometimes do this)?

I am certain my understanding is a little different from yours, mainly because I have not had prolonged exposure to aikido in the United States, indeed, anywhere else except Japan, and the few countries I have visited.

I am also certain that in Japan there is not such an explicit distinction made between the 'physical' and the 'spiritual'. There is also far less overt preoccupation with the 'effectiveness' of aikido and there are many reasons for this.

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Old 01-19-2008, 09:50 PM   #33
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

George -

Your mentioning four groups and noting three leaves an opening for another to be entered; namely the group that treats Ki development as an independent discipline to be studied in conjunction with Aikido waza. Tohei's break from Hombu was a major fracturing of the Aikido establishment and Ki Aikido has become a widely practiced branch of Aikido with offshoots of its own (Shuji Maruyama Sensei, Fumio Toyoda Sensei and Shizuo Imaizumi Sensei all came to America at the behest of Tohei and eventually founded their own organizations).

Best,

Ron
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Old 01-19-2008, 11:20 PM   #34
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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George -

Your mentioning four groups and noting three leaves an opening for another to be entered; namely the group that treats Ki development as an independent discipline to be studied in conjunction with Aikido waza. Tohei's break from Hombu was a major fracturing of the Aikido establishment and Ki Aikido has become a widely practiced branch of Aikido with offshoots of its own (Shuji Maruyama Sensei, Fumio Toyoda Sensei and Shizuo Imaizumi Sensei all came to America at the behest of Tohei and eventually founded their own organizations).

Best,

Ron
Saying four was a mistake on my part which I didn't catch... I never trained with any of these teachers other than Imaizumi Sensei but I would put him squarely in the third group which sees a unity between the physical practice and the spiritual side. Based on what we saw at the Expos and at Rocky Mountain Summer camp when he was a guest instructor, he is very much a picture of early Tohei; as he was just before the break up. His is exactly what I consider to me a balanced practice with a deep spiritual connection coming directly from the practice, solid technique, highly developed sensitivity and solid weapons training. I consider him to be one of the greats... I will be in New York teaching in March and I am hoping to have dinner with him while I am there.

I don't see these teachers as a fourth way although I have certainly encountered a number of Ki Society people who would definitely fall into my 2nd group. Lots of ki exercises etc and no ability to apply the principals at all. This was not true of the early teachers. So once again we have an issue of the transmission being broken...

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Old 01-20-2008, 12:05 AM   #35
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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George,

Was this a misprint, or did you modify your thinking as you were writing (I sometimes do this)?
Exactly, I had something in mind... it came out differently in the end and I didn't go back and adjust my intro. Duh...

I have found the lack of concern about martial effectiveness I have seen creep in to Aikido to be disturbing. I really do not think that "application" is the central issue at all. But I do think that the martial paradigm is important because it is the way you get immediate feedback about your level of understanding. I can't see how one develops the attitude of "shin ken shobu" without putting some attention on the martial aspect. Although I do believe that the point of Aikido is basically trans-formative, it was always said by the Founder to be a Budo. I really think it either loses its power to transform or the transformation is of a quite different nature when you lose the martial aspect.

I have my own thoughts about the way things should be and am busy going my way and putting these ideas to the test. I am 56 this year and I had to tell my students that they are basically my guinea pigs in that if I am wrong about being able to do things better than much of what I have experienced before, they are stuck because I won't have time for a second try. I can't say that this is a very scientific experiment... for one thing there really isn't a good control group. I don't find the same number of people who want to make the commitment that many of us made to our training as we had back in the seventies and eighties. So although I think I am on the right track instructionally, it remains unclear which of my students will be able to go the distance and train enough to really get deep into the art even with my more systematic presentation of the principles I have been working on. These folks have serious jobs, relationships, kids, etc It's a different time... They are way ahead of where I was at the same point in time, it's just unclear who will keep up the pace over the next decade or so. I feel good about the process so far but if I am wrong its a done deal... there's no do-overs on this.

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Old 01-20-2008, 08:07 AM   #36
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
But I find myself hopeful. I see people from other arts, for various reasons, being willing to share what they know with Aikido people. Many of the teachers who have spent their lives acquiring what, for want of a better term, I will call classical knowledge, are finding that the majority of the folks who are interested in what they have to offer are the Aikido folks. It worries me that the folks who seem most inclined to take advantage of these opportunities are not to a large extent the next generation of teachers but rather the folks in the next tier down. If they are not careful we might see a generation of Aikido teachers who have waited thirty years for their "turn" at the helm finding they are steering an empty boat. I see a large number of folks at the mid dan levels getting out and finding ways to augment their training. I see a certain frustration with many of the seniors who toed the official line and did what was asked but now show glaring holes in their knowledge and stagnation in their own practice.
Hi George:

I think we agree that there's going to be a gap. Partially, IMO, there will be a gap because some people won't grasp that there's a change. Some people will suddenly see that there's a credible "change" but that the change is actually just a filling in of the blanks and it makes a lot of the old discussions suddenly make sense.... but they won't be able to do it, even though they understand it academically, because the change is not really that easy to do (as is born out in comments by Ueshiba, Tohei, Inaba, and many others).

It's too bad, in a way, that Ueshiba Sensei couched a lot of his discussion in spiritual terms, because in function he was preaching an ideal which has been around a long time.... defeating and attacking enemy by utilizing and conforming with the "natural laws of the universe". It tends to make some people focus on the wrong target when they interpret everything in terms of spirituality (Aikido is not the first or only martial art to do this with the ki aspects, BTW... a lot of the older martial arts did this, too.).

Personally, I think you're going to see a schism develop. There will be many people who won't change and there will be a slowly growing number of people who do change. The people in the "gap" will undoubtedly find various ways to go, but there's little anyone can do to stop the change. Besides, what real enthusiast of Aikido would really want to miss filling in the gaps?

In terms of finding that the majority of people who are interested in these things are Aikido people, I'm not sure if that's really true, although I understand your perspective. From a personal perspective, I see more people interested (and I've done these kinds of things for years) from other arts like Chinese martial arts. But those people are fragmented in their beliefs, training methods, perceptions, etc. Aikido, even though it has a certain amount of fragementation, still represents a more disciplined monolith than the wide spectrum of people doing various Chinese martial arts. I.e., as a place to experiment with teaching methodologies, Aikido is a good "out of the box" place to do it, particularly for me since I have some Aikido background.

Other people of course have different motivations. I think the main commonality is that as people get their foot in the door with the ki/kokyu skills, the "of course!" epiphany becomes so obvious that there is a compulsion to point it out. However, pointing out a missing essential is not the same thing as being an expert, either in the skills themselves or in Aikido. So ultimately, Aikido is going to have to move forward under the tutelage of people who not only have these skills but who also have true Aikido skills (these two must become one). That's the fun part that is hopefully coming down the pike.

Best.

Mike Sigman
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Old 01-20-2008, 08:19 AM   #37
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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Ron Ragusa wrote: View Post
Your mentioning four groups and noting three leaves an opening for another to be entered; namely the group that treats Ki development as an independent discipline to be studied in conjunction with Aikido waza. Tohei's break from Hombu was a major fracturing of the Aikido establishment and Ki Aikido has become a widely practiced branch of Aikido with offshoots of its own (Shuji Maruyama Sensei, Fumio Toyoda Sensei and Shizuo Imaizumi Sensei all came to America at the behest of Tohei and eventually founded their own organizations).
I watched the Tohei initial film on Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido on YouTube recently. I hadn't seen it for many, many years and at the time I first saw it, I didn't really understand what he was showing. Now I understand it and, to be honest, I sort of admire his approach to things (although I don't think he was as explicative as he could have been, but that's simply a personal viewpoint).

The idea that "Ki development is an independent discipline" is actually the gist of the argument by not only Tohei, but by Akuzawa, Dan Harden, Inaba Sensei, Abe Sensei, Ushiro Sensei, and many, many others, if you think about it. It's not unique to Tohei... Tohei simply tried to codify an approach and make it an overtly visible part of Aikido training (at first. Later he went off on his own thing).

I like Tohei's approach, particularly as I saw it in that film (it's on YouTube in 5 parts; easy to find if you enter "Koichi Tohei"). The film approach is more coherent than the eclectically-mixed stuff you see at so many Ki-Aikido dojos. In fact, the way that Tohei explains the combination of Ki-training and Aikido is pretty darned logical, on that film. If you understand what he's talking about, of course. The way to add Ki back into a lot of Aikido is actually going to have to be done very similarly to the way Tohei laid it out... it's just going to have to be a lot more clearly explained, in terms of the basics.

My 2 cents.

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Old 01-20-2008, 09:33 PM   #38
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Exactly, I had something in mind... it came out differently in the end and I didn't go back and adjust my intro. Duh...

I have found the lack of concern about martial effectiveness I have seen creep in to Aikido to be disturbing. I really do not think that "application" is the central issue at all. But I do think that the martial paradigm is important because it is the way you get immediate feedback about your level of understanding. I can't see how one develops the attitude of "shin ken shobu" without putting some attention on the martial aspect. Although I do believe that the point of Aikido is basically trans-formative, it was always said by the Founder to be a Budo. I really think it either loses its power to transform or the transformation is of a quite different nature when you lose the martial aspect.
George,

Have you seen the two recent movies made by Clint Eastwood on the Battle of Iwojima? One depicts the American side and the other depicts the Japanese side. I have used the second in one of my classes and have studied the reactions of the 120 Japanese students who took my class (two of whom are ardent members of the local Ki Aikido club).

Apart from these two (who have been heavily brainwashed on the importance of KI over any kind of effectiveness), my students have virtually no concept of the value of fighting to defend principles and have even less clue of the value of martial arts, which they equate with prewar militarism that is no longer relevant to them.

The English version of the Aikikai website has this entry under ‘Organization'. (I should add that the content of the same heading of the Japanese-language section of the website is quite different.)

Aikido is a new Japanese martial art created during the 1920s by Morihei Ueshiba, an expert who reached the highest level of mastery in the classical Japanese martial arts. Officially recognized by the Japanese government in 1940, the Aikikai Foundation (Aikido World Headquarters) is the parent organization for the development and popularization of Aikido throughout the world. Under the leadership of Moriteru Ueshiba Doshu, instructors are teaching Aikido according to the ideals of the Founder (Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei) to students in Japan and throughout the world.

Current Activities
Since contemporary values stress respect for human life, Aikido is a highly relevant form of the Japanese martial arts. Aikido is popular not just in Japan but throughout the world because people accept and agree with the underlying philosophy of Aikido. Instructors from the Aikido World Headquarters are dispatched to countries throughout North and South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Transcending boundaries of race and nationality, Aikido is practiced and loved by over 1.2 million people in more than fifty countries around the world.

Future Prospects
As travel, work, and study abroad have now become commonplace, Aikido is spreading internationally because it can be viewed as a "product of a shared cultural heritage," culture not bound to any one nation or people-a legacy which can contribute to peace and prosperity. Seen as such, expectations for Aikido's role in the coming century are great.


It is very difficult for me to make public comments about this website because my own name appears in the Japanese version. However, I am struck by the awkward combination of (1) a ‘shared cultural heritage' and (2) the ‘dispatch of Hombu instructors throughout the world'. There are no non-Japanese instructors in the Hombu and there is no mention of the work of the non-Hombu instructors around the world. I know myself that there is no thought of what a "culture not bound to any one nation or people" actually entails. All the research I have encountered points in the opposite direction—to culture espousing a set of values that can be expressed in national(ist) terms, which is eminently true of Japan. All my Japanese graduate students regard culture in its deepest sense as essentially bound up with the concept of nation and nationhood.

Whereas Kisshomaru Doshu wanted to spread aikido around the world as 'good' Japanese culture and always regarded aikido as quintessentially Japanese (see the last part of my column), as did Morihei Ueshiba, the author of the English statement above has fudged the issue and suggested that aikido is no longer fully Japanese. What he means is that the 'shared cultural heritage' is shared because people all over the world practice a Japanese martial art.

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Old 01-20-2008, 11:00 PM   #39
DH
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

From the Aikikai website
Quote:
Aikido is a new Japanese martial art created during the 1920s by Morihei Ueshiba, an expert who reached the highest level of mastery in the classical Japanese martial arts. Officially recognized by the Japanese government in 1940,
Hi Peter
I recognize what I am about to say will fall on deaf ears and the party line will never -change. BUT...

1. Ueshiba never reached the highest level of mastery in any art, much less a classical Japanese one.
2. What did he train in to any appreciable depth? Daito ryu Aikijujutsu.
3. What did he teach? Only one art. Daito ryu Aikijujutsu.
4. As for founding Aikido in the 1920's? This is untrue. It is either a deliberate fabrication or yet another error disseminated internationally through materials issued by the hombu. He teaching the waza from the Hiden Mokuroku , and handing out scrolls to virtually ALL of his early students in...Daito ryu Aikijutsu? And that into the late 1930’s? The Scrolls and interviews validating the training of virtually all of the Aikikai founding members have been publicly acknowledged.
5. The founding of Aikido happened after a gradual process of change. And that not until sometime in the early 1940's

I can't help but wonder- does the Aikikai foundation or the Ueshiba family-now including the Grandson have any sense of how they look -even to the most casual researchers -in making such obvious and egregious errors on their own web site? Can they be truly this “out of it” in the modern era? And/or so dismissive of the general publics access to knowledge and information that they think they have no responsibility for placing accurate information into the hands of their own members?

Since you are being so forthcoming- is it possible for you to publicly speculate as to why they continue placing this disinformation in an international format?

On the whole, I am enjoying the articles immensely. Thank you.
I remain a fan of his vision, just not what became of it in the hands of so many.
Cheers
Dan

Last edited by DH : 01-20-2008 at 11:15 PM.
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Old 01-20-2008, 11:32 PM   #40
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Hi Peter
Some how I missed addressing you directly in the post above. My apologies. Of course I was directing my comments to you, and would be delighted in any views you care to share.
BTW Outside of the obvious and well documented "vision of peace" after the war and influence of Omoto-are you going to consider covering how Ueshiba's vision might have been birthed and given substance by his growing internal skills having the ability to manage aggression without having to attack back? How the generation of internal power became the embodiment of a truly defensive and peaceful art?

Were you considering this-any thoughts as to which of these realizations might have been the real prime motivator? The body skills awakened a new vision, or the vision made him change his approach to the Martial arts?
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Dan
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Old 01-21-2008, 01:59 AM   #41
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
George,

Have you seen the two recent movies made by Clint Eastwood on the Battle of Iwojima? One depicts the American side and the other depicts the Japanese side. I have used the second in one of my classes and have studied the reactions of the 120 Japanese students who took my class (two of whom are ardent members of the local Ki Aikido club).

Apart from these two (who have been heavily brainwashed on the importance of KI over any kind of effectiveness), my students have virtually no concept of the value of fighting to defend principles and have even less clue of the value of martial arts, which they equate with prewar militarism that is no longer relevant to them.

The English version of the Aikikai website has this entry under ‘Organization'. (I should add that the content of the same heading of the Japanese-language section of the website is quite different.)

Aikido is a new Japanese martial art created during the 1920s by Morihei Ueshiba, an expert who reached the highest level of mastery in the classical Japanese martial arts. Officially recognized by the Japanese government in 1940, the Aikikai Foundation (Aikido World Headquarters) is the parent organization for the development and popularization of Aikido throughout the world. Under the leadership of Moriteru Ueshiba Doshu, instructors are teaching Aikido according to the ideals of the Founder (Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei) to students in Japan and throughout the world.

Current Activities
Since contemporary values stress respect for human life, Aikido is a highly relevant form of the Japanese martial arts. Aikido is popular not just in Japan but throughout the world because people accept and agree with the underlying philosophy of Aikido. Instructors from the Aikido World Headquarters are dispatched to countries throughout North and South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Transcending boundaries of race and nationality, Aikido is practiced and loved by over 1.2 million people in more than fifty countries around the world.

Future Prospects
As travel, work, and study abroad have now become commonplace, Aikido is spreading internationally because it can be viewed as a "product of a shared cultural heritage," culture not bound to any one nation or people-a legacy which can contribute to peace and prosperity. Seen as such, expectations for Aikido's role in the coming century are great.


It is very difficult for me to make public comments about this website because my own name appears in the Japanese version. However, I am struck by the awkward combination of (1) a ‘shared cultural heritage' and (2) the ‘dispatch of Hombu instructors throughout the world'. There are no non-Japanese instructors in the Hombu and there is no mention of the work of the non-Hombu instructors around the world. I know myself that there is no thought of what a "culture not bound to any one nation or people" actually entails. All the research I have encountered points in the opposite direction—to culture espousing a set of values that can be expressed in national(ist) terms, which is eminently true of Japan. All my Japanese graduate students regard culture in its deepest sense as essentially bound up with the concept of nation and nationhood.

Whereas Kisshomaru Doshu wanted to spread aikido around the world as 'good' Japanese culture and always regarded aikido as quintessentially Japanese (see the last part of my column), as did Morihei Ueshiba, the author of the English statement above has fudged the issue and suggested that aikido is no longer fully Japanese. What he means is that the 'shared cultural heritage' is shared because people all over the world practice a Japanese martial art.
Yes Peter, I have seen the Eastwood films... I thought the concept of doing two films about the same event from the opposite points of view was brilliant.

Japan finds itself in a very difficult position. Not only the martial arts, but many of their other cultural arts from paper dolls, traditional crafts, tea ceremony, you name it, are finding that many, if not most, of their senior students are foreigners. When they are interested in doing them, the native Japanese tend to look at these arts as "hobbies". The foreign students are people who packed up everything and moved ten thousand miles to live and study these arts in Japan. The Japanese have had to deal with the phenomenon of foreigners in many cases having a better understanding of certain aspects their traditional cultural heritage than they do.

I think that the classical martial arts have handled this far better than they have in Aikido... The classical arts have accepted foreign students and brought them into the traditional structure. Ellis Amdur and Phil Relnick Senseis are good friends. Each has certification in a couple of classical styles as well as Dan ranks in other arts. They have recognized seniority in their styles. I think that because they have been accepted in this way they are, in some ways, at least as traditional as the Japanese practitioners of their arts. In other words, by really investing authority in these teachers their Japanese teachers ensured that they have functioned from within to preserve the styles as passed on over generations.

Aikido is quite different... It's quite apparent that the powers that be at headquarters still see the art radiating outward from a central source, that this source is Japanese, and the center of that source is the Ueshiba family. Unlike the Yoshinkan Aikido folks who have invested pretty heavily in their foreign teachers (they have actually had teachers, Robert Mustard for example, who have actually functioned as instructors at their headquarters dojo. The Aikikai on the other hand, doesn't even list their foreign Shihan on their website. When Doran and Nadeau Senseis asked their management committee about this during a visit to Japan, they were told that when people are traveling, they are looking for Japanese teachers to train with. So much for their 7th dans and Shihan papers...

I think that the Aikikai is missing the boat completely... If they were to bestow real authority and recognition to the most experienced of the foreign teachers, they would find that it would cement their relationships in a way that would never be broken. As Lyndon Johnson said of hwy he asked Hubert Humphrey to be his VP "It's better to have him on the inside pissing out, than on the outside pissing in". But they consistently place even their most accomplished foreign teachers in a secondary position.

I have been teaching Aikido full time since 1986. I teach seminars all over the US and Canada. The chance that I would ever teach a class at the headquarters dojo is about zero. the fact is that the headquarters folks do not view my experience and my rank as equal to that of the instructors they have home grown. I don't see that as changing in the future... Consequently, I don't feel the attachment to the Aikikai that my friends from the classical arts feel for their home dojos where they are acknowledged teachers.

If these guys had their acts together, they would have a class at Hombu taught by foreign teachers who they would bring in for a month or so at a time. The exchange would be valuable for them in that they might actually get a sense of what is happening overseas. It would certainly do wonders for nurturing a connection with the headquarters dojo amongst the foreign Aikido communities.

Can you imagine? Not just the idea that the foreign folks should return to the source for training.... but that they might, after many decades of practice and teaching, have something of valuable to offer back... what a concept!

There is now a generation of overseas teachers who have been teaching for 20 to 40 years. Aikido is hitting the point at which these teachers have to ask themselves what they need from Hombu Dojo. It certainly isn't instruction from teachers who are their juniors in age and experience. By failing to truly invest in the foreign teachers, they risk losing all influence over the course Aikido takes. There are already more people, in absolute numbers, in both France and the US who do Aikido than there are in Japan. Headquarters needs to ask itself what it thinks we need from them. It might not like the answers it comes up with.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 01-21-2008 at 02:07 AM.

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Old 01-21-2008, 08:06 AM   #42
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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... my students have virtually no concept of the value of fighting to defend principles and have even less clue of the value of martial arts, which they equate with prewar militarism that is no longer relevant to them... I am struck by the awkward combination of (1) a ‘shared cultural heritage'
This is worth looking at. http://www.livescience.com/health/08...ure-brain.html
Quote:
The fMRI revealed that Americans' brains worked harder while making relative judgments, because brain regions that reflect mentally demanding tasks lit up. Conversely, East Asians activated the brain's system for difficult jobs while making absolute judgments. Both groups showed less activation in those brain areas while doing tasks that researchers believe are in their cultural comfort zones.
...
In both groups, participants whose views were most aligned with their culture's values showed stronger brain effects.
From my perspective Aikido presents a set of problems that challenge both the relativist and the absolute understandings of reality, and so it is a good meeting ground, actually.

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
... I know myself that there is no thought of what a "culture not bound to any one nation or people" actually entails. All the research I have encountered points in the opposite direction—to culture espousing a set of values that can be expressed in national(ist) terms, which is eminently true of Japan. ...
Plainly, the cultural intensity underlying "yamato damashii" has been put to other ends, some good, some not, just as the original concept was put to different ends, some good and others absolutely not. That transformation is plainly evident among your students. To less salutary results, it is a far larger problem that does in fact transcend cultures. For our Columbines, Japan has hikikomori and parasaito shinguru, and less negatively, but no less concerning, otaku.

Can nothing change or can the understanding of one thing in one time not be understood another way at a different time? In Aiki, who is attacking who, exactly? So what if the nationalist associations existed, there were nationalists and then there were the Sakurakai and League of Blood. There is context even in that arena, which I have tried to point out.

But even if it were once so does not mean it was always or remained so. Why then do both Omoto and O Sensei explicitly adhere to universalist sentiments transcending particular cultures? Why then go to the length to relate the HIGHLY idiosyncratic Japanese concept of kotodama, to the Divine Logos, the fundamental concept of Western theology AND philosophy (Rene Descartes, call your service). And why is any of this troubling merely in the context of aikido?

Why is a transformation of purpose in Aikido so troubling, or an acknowledgment that people with good and interesting ideas may have unsavory associations that taint their achievments? I will put it to you that the concern of poor associations is vastly more inflated in the context of Japan, than in the context of the United States. Respected mavericks and inveterate ne'er-do-wells are often associated and very often only a few critical decisions seperates the one from the other. That scandal is vastly greater in Japan of a certain day, certainly more than it ever was here, or even there, now.

It is the very modern sense (and bothersome, East and West) that personal sacrifice for higher ends is an atavism, and the darker pages of history have somehow ended. It isn't and they haven't; but you try telling people that and they'll think you're a nut, whether in Japan or not.

Not having Wii's in stock -- there's your modern sense of crisis, East and West. Material abundance and desert of moral purpose. Only personal tragedy or a will to dwell on the darkness of soul in which budo exists shakes the modern mind from that, if then.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
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Old 01-21-2008, 08:21 AM   #43
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Japan finds itself in a very difficult position.
I snipped the rest because I think your very first sentence is *the* major point.

Aikikai HQ allowing non-Japanese instructors to teach or mentioning them on the website? Bah, doesn't matter one whit until they change something else.

Non-Japanese having something to teach hombu? Bah, doesn't matter one whit until something else changes.

Etc, etc.

That change is in *what* they teach to others. How many non-Japanese students were taught those important skills? In Shioda's lineage, how many non-Japanese students came even close to being as good as Shioda? How many Japanese? Tohei's lineage? Tomiki's lineage? Ueshiba's lineage? In your own organization, who, out of all of Saotome sensei's long time students, has reached closest to Saotome sensei's skill level? One person of Japanese heritage or many of various heritages? (I'm not in the ASU, so I really don't have an answer to that question. But it's an important question that should be answered by every student in every organization.)

Out of 20-40 years of training, why hasn't anyone reached their teacher's level? Why aren't people asking this question more often? Why is it that in the Japanese organizations, only a sparse few ever go beyond the norm? In 20-40 years, Takeda, Ueshiba, Sagawa, Hisa, Tomiki, Shioda, Tohei, Mifune, etc, etc, were all giants. Some better than others, but all were giants.

Anyone with researching ability can dig up and find that a sparse few people have gone beyond the norm because they were *taught* how to. Not because they were special. Because they were *taught* other things. Takeda and Ueshiba rarely taught the same technique twice. When asked why, Ueshiba answered they were all the same.

Until people are actually *taught*, it won't matter one iota what the Aikikai Hombu does in regards to non-Japanese. These people will just be tokens with no real substance.

I'm starting to get the idea that the Japanese only taught these powerful basics to a very select few -- maybe even amongst themselves. Until *that* changes, nothing else will really matter.

All IMO,
Mark
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Old 01-21-2008, 12:30 PM   #44
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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Mark Murray wrote: View Post
I snipped the rest because I think your very first sentence is *the* major point.

Aikikai HQ allowing non-Japanese instructors to teach or mentioning them on the website? Bah, doesn't matter one whit until they change something else.

Non-Japanese having something to teach hombu? Bah, doesn't matter one whit until something else changes.

Etc, etc.

That change is in *what* they teach to others. How many non-Japanese students were taught those important skills? In Shioda's lineage, how many non-Japanese students came even close to being as good as Shioda? How many Japanese? Tohei's lineage? Tomiki's lineage? Ueshiba's lineage? In your own organization, who, out of all of Saotome sensei's long time students, has reached closest to Saotome sensei's skill level? One person of Japanese heritage or many of various heritages? (I'm not in the ASU, so I really don't have an answer to that question. But it's an important question that should be answered by every student in every organization.)

Out of 20-40 years of training, why hasn't anyone reached their teacher's level? Why aren't people asking this question more often? Why is it that in the Japanese organizations, only a sparse few ever go beyond the norm? In 20-40 years, Takeda, Ueshiba, Sagawa, Hisa, Tomiki, Shioda, Tohei, Mifune, etc, etc, were all giants. Some better than others, but all were giants.

Anyone with researching ability can dig up and find that a sparse few people have gone beyond the norm because they were *taught* how to. Not because they were special. Because they were *taught* other things. Takeda and Ueshiba rarely taught the same technique twice. When asked why, Ueshiba answered they were all the same.

Until people are actually *taught*, it won't matter one iota what the Aikikai Hombu does in regards to non-Japanese. These people will just be tokens with no real substance.

I'm starting to get the idea that the Japanese only taught these powerful basics to a very select few -- maybe even amongst themselves. Until *that* changes, nothing else will really matter.

All IMO,
Mark
Hi Mark,
I understand where you are coming from... however, I think you are starting to cross into the area of "lost" knowledge rather than dealing with a Japanese / Foreigner separation. If you ask th question who amongst the Japanese teachers have the skills which the pre-war and early post war deshi had, the answer would be very few. It's not as if this knowledge is being "kept" from us... If it were only that, the current Doshu would have dazzling skill because he'd have had access to the "secrets" which other people have had. The Honbu cadre of professional teachers would have been taught the secrets so that they would always be superior to the rest of us...

This is simply not the case. I don't debate that whole blocks of knowledge have passed out of the art.... I simply question if it's a matter of something being purposely held back. I just don't see it. I know that there are some folks who believe that Saotome Sensei purposely held back knowledge from us in order that he always seem a bit magical in his skill level.

I flat out do not believe that this is true. I think that he has passed on to us everything he has been able to. Over the years I have seen virtually all of the solo exercises of the type Mike referred us to on Tohei's YouTube clips plus more. It's simply that he never stated that these were somehow central to developing skill in some aspect of our training. It was all thrown out there as one big jumble along with obscure combat applications of the art, details of atemi waza, etc. That was the way he learned it. Frankly, I believe that Sensei learned this stuff "holistically" in a very intuitive way. I do not believe that he even conceptualizes what he knows in a way that would be very meaningful to us. So I do believe that he has done his level best to pass on 15 years of daily experience being on the mat 6 - 8 hours each day, 7 days a week to a group of students who had jobs, families, etc and who were on the mat 2 - 3 hours a day seven days a week. (Now we are trying to pass that knowledge on to a bunch of folks who are on the mat 2 hours a night, 2 - 3 days a week - do the math).

I think Dan H is correct that putting this knowledge out there is not going to change things for most of the Aikido community because it is difficult and requires commitment in terms of time and effort. Aikido is such a complex art with so many techniques and variations that the typical modern practitioner feels overwhelmed by the task of mastering even the reduced and simplified curriculum offered. After having a spouse who doesn't support your training, I think this is the main reason that we lose students. They simply do not feel that they can make the commitment in time it takes to master what we are asking of them.

As in any business school, or organizational setting, people in Aikido tend to put their attention specifically on what they have to do to get ahead i.e. "what am I responsible for on the test?" Typically, focusing on extraneous elements has no perceivable payback for most folks since, because of the relative infrequency of their training, if they focus on one thing, then they are not focusing on another. That will typically not be rewarded behavior within the group.

I think this is where Tohei's split into Ki development and technical is brilliant. It so accords with human nature. By creating a separate block of instruction focusing on the Ki development aspect and actually going all the way to having separate ranking in these skills, he sets up an organizational structure which rewards focus on these elements. Without that, the mere knowledge that this knowledge is out there won't change much because folks already feel overwhelmed by what they are asked to do.

Take a look at the successful McDojos; we have a local chain that consistently has 1000 people training between their various locations, for instance. How do they do that? They drastically simplify what is expected of the students so that the curriculum is master-able by the average person making the average commitment in time and effort. Then they reward the heck out of the students for each block of that curriculum they work through.

So what happens if we decide that some set of solo exercises is crucial in developing skills in Aikido. Every hour we devote to that practice is an hour we don't devote to some other aspect. People simply do not want to know there needs to be more because they don't feel they have time to do what they are already trying to master.

I think that this is the main reason these skills have not been incorporated here or in Japan to any large degree. It's not some conspiracy to hold back this knowledge. It's that most folks simply will not train enough to make it worthwhile adding in more elements for them to master. The art is rapidly being simplified to fit the lifestyles and predispositions of the "market" to whom the art is being "sold".

If merely developing a practice with focus on ki development exercises a la Tohei was the answer to our problems, the Ki Society would be famous as the organization turning out the most capable Aikido teachers. Not only is this not the case but I think that the general perception is much the opposite. By creating a track devoted to ki development, it becomes possible to focus on that and perhaps not put the emphasis on technical application. That would be my take on what has happened with their group. The old guys like Imaizumi Sensei are another matter entirely, but I don't see people of that caliber coming out of their system now despite their focus on Ki development.

I agree that there are elements that have dropped out of Aikido that need to be in there if it will ever be possible to create students of the caliber we once saw. I think that it will be the Aikido being developed in foreign countries that will be the most likely to re-incorporate these elements (although it's quite possible there are out of the way dojos in Japan where they have never disappeared). But I remain unclear what shape the art will take as we go through this process due to the inherent limitations imposed by the commitment which the larger community will make to their training.

The Japanese have always readily accepted that there are levels and levels of revelation in their arts. They have always seemed comfortable with the idea that only those at the very top get "all the goods". If only one or two people in each generation get "all the goods", it is impossible from the start to have an expansion of the art on the scale Aikido has expanded.

It is pretty clear that even the teachers who have spread the art so widely were not of the caliber of that small group of pre-war students. What we see now is that the people at the very top of the Aikido pyramid are not amongst those who "got all the goods". It's not that some thing's being held back, it's that folks simply don't know any more. One can still train with the remaining "old masters" who have at least some of this juice but they will soon be all gone.

When you couple the belief that our art is transmitted outward from a central hub in Japan with the fact that the folks at that hub are not those who seem to be possessed of the knowledge and ability of these "old masters" you can see the problem for Aikido. The solution will be a continuation of what is already happening, namely, a horizontal sharing of knowledge with Daito Ryu, Aunkai, Systema, Yanagi Ryu, Kuroda, Ushiro, Okamoto (Popkin), Threadgill, Chinese internal arts, etc. The people who are serious about their training will seek out these elements and the teachers who can show them. This is going to result in Aikido going in many individual directions. The folks who bring in knowledge they got from Dan Hardin will be different than the folks who have been heavily influenced by the Systema folks. Ushiro Sensei will have a different effect on those within his circle than those who seek out Mike Sigman.

It's all in the process of changing now. In 20 years we won't recognize the art for what it's been. Honbu's efforts to simplify and standardize will be to no avail because I do not see the real "happening" teachers being interested in that direction. I see the art becoming even more individual than it has been due to the many different streams flowing into what has been our art. The result will be an increasing branching off from the mainstream rather than some sort of unification or standardization. The seeds are being planted right now and we will be here to see the result...

George S. Ledyard
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Old 01-22-2008, 12:33 AM   #45
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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Erick Mead wrote: View Post
It is the very modern sense (and bothersome, East and West) that personal sacrifice for higher ends is an atavism, and the darker pages of history have somehow ended. It isn't and they haven't; but you try telling people that and they'll think you're a nut, whether in Japan or not.

Not having Wii's in stock -- there's your modern sense of crisis, East and West. Material abundance and desert of moral purpose. Only personal tragedy or a will to dwell on the darkness of soul in which budo exists shakes the modern mind from that, if then.
Erick,

I know that I've disagreed very strongly with you in the past. But I agree with you here.


Best,
Tim

Last edited by Tim Fong : 01-22-2008 at 12:36 AM.
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Old 01-22-2008, 01:08 AM   #46
Nicholas Eschenbruch
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Folks,
thank you so much for this discussion, I am very happy to be able to listen in!
N.
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Old 01-22-2008, 04:01 AM   #47
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Hello Erick,

A few more comments.

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Erick Mead wrote: View Post
From my perspective Aikido presents a set of problems that challenge both the relativist and the absolute understandings of reality, and so it is a good meeting ground, actually.
PAG. Yes. This is my perspective, also.

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Erick Mead wrote: View Post
Plainly, the cultural intensity underlying "yamato damashii" has been put to other ends, some good, some not, just as the original concept was put to different ends, some good and others absolutely not. That transformation is plainly evident among your students. To less salutary results, it is a far larger problem that does in fact transcend cultures. For our Columbines, Japan has hikikomori and parasaito shinguru, and less negatively, but no less concerning, otaku.
PAG. I tend to agree with you here. However, I suggest that the transformation is evident, not just among the students, but among those who teach them, especially in Japan's high schools. The 'cultural intensity' began much earlier that World War II and is the result of a large number of factors. I think that hikikomori, parasaito shinguru and otaku are different manifestations of a certain cultural mania, as are bosozoku, kyouiku mama, ijime, and study groups that teach earnest participants how to sing karaoke songs correctly.

The other point I would make here is that in the US aikido is clearly seen as a 'counter-culture' to a large degree. Here, aikido is eminently 'cultural'. It is part of the cultural furniture, but more a liitle-used piece with pretensions to antiquity, than an item in constant daily use.

Best wishes,

PAG

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Old 01-22-2008, 08:11 AM   #48
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

If I may request that the truck be put in reverse for a moment, I fear some unnecessarily broad cultural generalizations are being made here. And while that's fine (this thread, and Professor Goldsbury's articles in general are basically about cultural generalizations as seen through aikido), I think it's important to provide some specific context to the terms being thrown about here, lest people get the wrong idea.

"Hikikomori", for example, is merely a Japanese term for a worldwide phenomenon of social withdrawal seen in many first world countries. It's prevalence in Japan has been distinctly overstated, first by the professor who coined the term and then by the BBC when reporting on it.

"Parasite singles" are, IMO, a tempest in a teapot, and perhaps don't really belong in this discussion. Single children living with their parents until marriage, even into their 20s and 30s, has long been entirely normal in Japan. Then some academic uses a catchy phrase to criticize this practice in the face of the impending aging crisis, the press picks up on the term, and off we go.

As for otaku, what is concerning about geek culture? Particularly on an internet message board filled with, if I may say, what could certainly be considered many "budo otaku".

Bosozoku, ijime, and to a lesser extent kyoiku mama, I see as definite social issues that Japan faces these days. However, if I may take up the (much trodden on) banner of cultural relativity, I don't know if I can agree with Professor Goldsbury's characterization of this as "cultural mania". (Although I suspect we are actually close together in our views, and this more a quibble over semantics.)

There's a tendency, I think, to make the fundamental attribution error on a cultural scale. It's all too easy to look at some ephemeral social phenomenon and believe it says something about the culture in which it was born. I try instead to look at the economic and systemic context in which these phenomenon are born. Does Japan have "kyoiku mama" because of a particular cultural intensity? Or is it perhaps because mothers, naturally concerned about the future of their children, see this as the best way to work/game the system? And perhaps if we transplanted this system to another country, we might see a similar result.

Which is not to say that there aren't cultural factors involved, and that they aren't looking into. But just as it behooves us not to judge a man's character without considering the contextual impetus for his actions, so it does for us to consider the wider context of cultural phenomena.

Josh Reyer

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Old 01-22-2008, 08:45 AM   #49
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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Japan finds itself in a very difficult position. Not only the martial arts, but many of their other cultural arts from paper dolls, traditional crafts, tea ceremony, you name it, are finding that many, if not most, of their senior students are foreigners. When they are interested in doing them, the native Japanese tend to look at these arts as "hobbies". The foreign students are people who packed up everything and moved ten thousand miles to live and study these arts in Japan. The Japanese have had to deal with the phenomenon of foreigners in many cases having a better understanding of certain aspects their traditional cultural heritage than they do.
Mr. Ledyard, could I get you to elaborate on this? I feel this is at odds with my own experience here on the ground in Japan, but you are obviously seeing things from a very different perspective.

For example, I'm a sumo fan. A big sumo fan. And thus, when I talk to a typical Japanese person about sumo, my knowledge far outstrips theirs. The typical (practically scripted) reaction to this is for the self-deprecating Japanese person to say something like, "Wow, you are more Japanese than I am!" Which of course is a very silly idea. I simply possess a cache of specialized knowledge that reflects an interest of mine. The typical Japanese person still knows far more about sumo than the typical American, and more to the point, even as an avid sumo enthusiast, when it comes to sumo knowledge I get my clock routinely cleaned by Japanese sumo enthusiasts. And of course this goes both ways, as there are Japanese enthusiasts of certain American cultural aspects who know far more about baseball, jazz, etc. than the average American.

This seems to be my experience here with other aspects of traditional Japanese culture. The average non-Japanese practioner certainly falls to the right of the mean on an average distribution, but your statement "many if not most of the senior students are foreigners" seems somewhat hyperbolic. I understand this to be the situation in Toda-ha Buko-ryu, and that Katori Shinto Ryu is experiencing a heavy influx of non-Japanese, but in most other classical arts it seems to me that for every dedicated-more-than-average foreign student, there are a number of dedicated-more-than-average Japanese students.

OTOH, the budo world that I know on the English language internet is certainly different from the budo world that I know in real life. So I'm very interested in your perspective.

Josh Reyer

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