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Old 07-06-2009, 12:10 PM   #1
George S. Ledyard
 
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Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

Some friends and I were joking about the idea of having someone do simultaneous translation for the Japanese teachers we train with. Between the English as a second language issue, the Japanese tendency to be oblique rather than direct, and the lack of Japanese language understanding on the part of most of the students, much instruction is murky at best and often the point is missed entirely.

As an example... Ikeda Sensei will say "now, make them light". What he means is to get them up off their base, to disconnect them from their grounding. When compared to the level of detail offered 15 years ago or so this is a great improvement. We went over a decade in which we were told to "just catch it". Then Sensei would show us. Over and over, he'd show us. But for most of us, it just didn't sink in. He kept getting better, more subtle, smaller and smaller movement, and it got harder and harder to "see" what he was doing.

So when we were joking about having simultaneous translation we decided that one of us would sit off to the side and "translate" what was said into more concrete terms. For instance, when Ikeda Sensei would say "make them light", I might say "what Sensei means to say is: reach in and touch their spine with your energy, now relax and receive the energy of the connection into your spine, run your energy up your back side to make them light and turn your hips to move them. Ok Sensei, please proceed..."

Some teachers simply don't explain. Some won't even show you more than once. O-Sensei was like that. You are expected to figure it out based on the combination of
observation (by watching) and feel (by taking ukemi). I think the success of this level of transmission is self evident based on the large numbers of people who mastered the principles at the level of the Founder. (That's a joke, son, aah say, that's a joke).

But even when many Japanese teachers try to break out of how they, themselves, were trained, you often find that people who trained largely on the intuitive model are not very good at breaking things down, at least verbally. My own teacher, Saotome Sensei, sees things holistically. When he tries to be helpful, he'll give you an instruction which I might recognize as having five or six different components, all of which are crucial to the successful execution of the technique in question, but which most folks simply won't understand.

It's not just in the technical arena that there is the "translation gap". We were at a seminar once at which testing took place. One person's weapons work was particularly abyssal. I mean, really truly, off the charts bad. I would have flunked him and read his teacher the riot act. But often, in these situations, the whole Japanese "group cohesion" thing kicks in. No one wants to embarrass the student, his teacher, cast a negative pall over the event, etc. So Sensei got up after the test and took the katana off the shomen and proceeded to give a twenty minute lecture...

"Japanese sword, so beautiful, but so deadly. Life and death so close together..." etc. Now, I got the point of the lecture, but it was clear that most of the folks present were completely mystified. If I had been able to translate I would have said, "What Sensei means to say is that your sword work was truly awful, you should go out on the parking lot and commit seppuku and if any teacher here EVER sends someone to test in front of me who is this unprepared again, I'll send that teacher back to the kyu ranks...."

Or the time when Sensei stopped everyone right in the middle of a technique and delivered another long lecture on "makoto". The cause of this was a complete lack of intention in the attacks on the part of most of the participants. He went on at length on the subject. The problem was that most of the folks either didn't know what "makoto" was at all, or they only understood the term in its narrow form translated as "sincerity". IKt was a truly amazing lecture I must say... but only the most senior folks understood what he was getting at and they weren't the big offenders. Had I been able to translate for him, I might have said "Your attacks are completely lacking in intention, they have no power or function, energetically they are completely false. Training with you when you attack that way is not only not beneficial for your partner but it is actively detrimental." That was pretty much the gist of what Sensei meant with his lecture but it went right over most folks heads. I over heard one fairly experienced person comment afterwords comment that he felt that he didn't understand why Sensei thought people didn't care about what they were doing... The larger meaning of "makoto" as single minded, clear intention, commitment, etc escaped hhim. And he was one of the worst offenders in terms of delivering what we fondly refer to as "shomen no uchi" style attacks.

Then there is the misunderstanding about what is meant when Sensei smiles or looks disgusted and harangues you. Most folks like it when Sensei comes by and smiles and moves on. "Hah! I must have it right..." They really hated it when Sensei gets on their case about something. "Oh, I am a total screwup... I'll never get this..." They go home happy when Sensei seems happy and they feel incompetent when Sensei comes down on them for something.

In fact what is often happening is that when the teacher doesn't correct you, it means that he has given up on you. You have been relegated to the category of hopeless. So he smiles and wonders to himself why the kami have sent him such incompetents as students? When the Sensei decides to actually take notice of you and rain all over your technique, questioning your competence, commitment, ability, and perhaps suggesting that quitting might be a less painful path for both you and him, he is actually thinking that there might be some kernel of hope that you will turn out ok and you are worth his effort.

Since it is pretty much out of the question for the "simultaneous translation" thing to actually happen, students really need to take responsibility for their owqn understanding of what is being taught. If you don't think you got it, ask someone who did. Try to read as widely as possible so that you have a broader understanding of what the Japanese terms mean. Read everything Peter Goldsbury Sensei has written about how the Japanese process things. Assume Sensei is talking about you when he is lecturing. Find someone with good technical and verbal skills to break down what the teacher is saying for you. Grab these seniors after class and ask them to explain, don't just walk off in a haze. Between language issues, different models of what constitutes "teaching", and a tendency towards making things oblique rather than clear, folks are missing out of an awful of instruction that is being put forth but not connecting with the intended target. And in the Japanes model, that's your problem, not theirs.https://blogger.googleusercontent.co...t.blogspot.com


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Old 07-06-2009, 12:30 PM   #2
Marc Abrams
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

George:

No wonder they describe that learning process as "stealing the technique." The real test will be to see if our providing more "understandable" instructions to the students will result in quicker improvement and overall high level of student abilities over time.

I had the image of an old Saturday Night Live skit in which Garrett Morris was helping out for the hearing impaired. How do you think that would work at a seminar !

Marc Abrams
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Old 07-07-2009, 09:12 AM   #3
Cliff Judge
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

So we have a very old Japanese model of teaching - where the teacher is an exemplar of the art, and the students are each responsible for developing the observational and analytical skills necessary to extract as much information from watching the teacher "be" the art as possible, then process that information.

I am reading David Lowry's book _Autumn Lightning_ right now and part of the picture of how bushi lived in 16th century Japan that he relates is the idea that if there was a duel, every swordsman in the area would flock to watch in the hopes of seeing what kind of moves the other ryuha had. Because otherwise, you'd have to "ask for a lesson" from somebody which could be fatal.

As modern westerners, most Aikido people on this forum were raised with a different student-teacher relationship. We expect the teacher to come across the void and pull us forward. (I recall Ellis Amdur describing this as the American sense of entitlement.)

Thing is, I believe that if our Japanese senseis changed their methods to suit our cultural tendencies, they would not spend as much time manifesting the spirit of the art, but we would also not have as much claim to ownership of the skills we eventually developed.

And it still wouldn't work out very well. Ikeda Sensei has spent the last decade trying to develop a method to teach how to develop soft, internal skills, how to connect and break partner's balance, partner is already out, etc. And you, sir, have done an inspiring job of organizing such material into a more structured framework. But there is just no magic bullet. If we want to be able to do these things we still need to cultivate the mindset of being a bushi on a street corner in Osaka or something circa the late 1500s, watching two exponents of unfamiliar ryuha engage. How good we can be is defined by how much we can observe, analyze, and synthesize from what we see.

(Yeah yeah and then we need to develop the skill of figuring out why we're not getting inside our sempai's energy field rather than making the same mistake twelve times in a row too.)
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Old 07-07-2009, 09:42 AM   #4
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
I might say "what Sensei means to say is: reach in and touch their spine with your energy, now relax and receive the energy of the connection into your spine, run your energy up your back side to make them light and turn your hips to move them."
Is there going to be somebody else to translate your translation into normal English?
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Old 07-07-2009, 10:24 AM   #5
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

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Alastair Rae wrote: View Post
Is there going to be somebody else to translate your translation into normal English?
It's not my English that's the problem... it's that we are talking about something that has no vocabulary in English. So you have to work with someone who can do it and explain what he or she is doing. Then you will know what the description means. You have to feel it. You can't see it until you really know what you are looking for.

This is what I have to do with the folks at my dojo and at the seminars I teach. I have worked out a vocabulary which is body centered and quite specific. When I instruct I have to teach the students this new (for most of them) language. So when I say "touch the spine" I have to grab you and give you specific feedback about what that is and is not.

That's why this stuff really doesn't lend itself to mass transmission. There's a reason that O-Sensei basically taught either privately or in very small groups which allowed the students to get their hands on him multiple times every class. Even then, due to lack of systematic explanation, there was a huge variance in the extent to which they got it.

I believe that, if Aikido is going to regain some of the content which has been disappearing over time, we have to do a better job of breaking down and teaching these principles. This is an uphill battle as there are only so many folks functioning on this level... That's one of the reasons so many folks are trying to work with teachers from outside Aikido like Mike S, Dan H, Akuzawa, Toby Threadgill, Howard Popkin, the Systema folks, etc.

I just came back from the ASU Summer Camp in DC. I would say there is a fundamental shift taking place. It's gradual but building steam. There were far more folks whose Aikido is starting to contain these elements than just a few years ago. Despite my complaints about lack of specific how-to instruction, our teachers have been placing increasing emphasis on showing these principles in action. If you attend a seminar with Ikeda Sensei these days, you will do nothing else... it's the whole focus of what he is teaching.

Another optimistic sign is that there are an increasing number of senior American teachers who are no longer letting the Japanese Shihan hold them back. There has been a steady exodus of folks who have chosen to affiliate directly with Hombu Dojo and pursue their own course, find their own Aikido. And even those who have not taken quite such a radical step are sneaking off and getting training without telling their teachers they are doing so. I periodically run into these folks at various events. I've even had some come train with me. When people are serious about their training, they get to the point at which they won't let anything stand in their way any more. As the Aikido public gets better educated about what higher level skills actually are, there will be quite a few senior teachers who are going to find themselves marginalized. Personally, I think that will be wonderful to see. I want to see the Aikido here be better than anything available in the homeland and I think that's possible given what is going on.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 07-07-2009, 10:49 AM   #6
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

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Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
But there is just no magic bullet. If we want to be able to do these things we still need to cultivate the mindset of being a bushi on a street corner in Osaka or something circa the late 1500s, watching two exponents of unfamiliar ryuha engage. How good we can be is defined by how much we can observe, analyze, and synthesize from what we see.

(Yeah yeah and then we need to develop the skill of figuring out why we're not getting inside our sempai's energy field rather than making the same mistake twelve times in a row too.)
Hi Cliff,
You are right that there is no magic bullet. Even with the best explanation in the world, there simply is no substitute for practice, practice, practice.

However, the point of putting together systematic, principle based instruction is to keep people from spending years doing thousands of repetitions wrong. Every time you do a technique, you are imprinting something in your mind and body. It is far harder to change that imprinting, once done, than it is to imprint it right in the first place.

You and I have worked together a number of times. I have explained the technique and you have done it successfully. But that didn't mean you could duplicate it when I wasn't offering the step by step explanation. That's because the outline of the principles still isn't totally clear in your head. So, like everybody else, you catch it and then lose it and then catch it again.

Once the sequence of actions in any technique are clear to you, you will still miss it at times until you have made those principles your default setting rather than something you have to think about. Then you will still miss it as you keep upping the intensity of the training and trying to apply the principles in more varied contexts. Then you die... oh, well. Perfection is a motivation, not a goal you attain.

The most important thing about principle based instruction is that it allows you to become your own teacher. If something goes wrong, you are able to "reverse engineer" and figure out what went wrong and change it. You don't have to sit there waiting for some teacher to tell you. This is also what is required to be able to "see" when presented with the opportunity to train with really high level people. If you do not understand what is going on, you won't even see what is important about what they are doing. Ikeda Sensei barely moves at times and his partner falls down. I can assure you that everything you and I have talked about when we have trained is operating there but your chance of seeing it if you didn't know what you were looking at is remote at best.

In a way, that is really what I am doing. I am trying to train people's "eye" so that they can see. I can't do their Aikido for them... I have enough trouble working on this stuff myself. But if I can help people understand what is really happening in the "aiki" interaction, then they can then benefit from training with all of these amazing teachers we have access to; instead of repeatedly going off to seminars and at the end having no more idea of what was happening than when they arrived.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 07-07-2009, 11:21 AM   #7
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

George, you have brought to mind something that happened many many years ago when I was a young no rank.

The very first time I saw Saotomi sensei I was alone in an aikido club office in a school gymnasium when sensei appeared in full mountain man garb. Not wanting to get in his way I mumbled something and left him so he could have some privacy. A few minutes later after bowing in sensei gave a pointed lecture on how greeting another person, matching their intensity and presence was the entire basis of the uke nage relationship and budo itself.

Now I'm sure no one understood why sensei decided to address this topic because no one else had been present when he arrived, but I knew exactly what he was talking about and have remembered it all these years later.

So sometimes there is an audience of one. Or perhaps, it is always an audience of one.

-Doug Walker
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Old 07-07-2009, 12:15 PM   #8
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

When I was training with one of my first sensei, who is Japanese, I had little difficulty comprehending his meaning. He would say in English only a word or two, sometimes a few, but they were almost always the exact proper words for the situation. I was curious for years how this worked out, only to eventually discover he is near-fluent, if not totally fluent, in English!

Drew
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Old 07-07-2009, 01:17 PM   #9
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

Quote:
Doug Walker wrote: View Post
George, you have brought to mind something that happened many many years ago when I was a young no rank.

The very first time I saw Saotomi sensei I was alone in an aikido club office in a school gymnasium when sensei appeared in full mountain man garb. Not wanting to get in his way I mumbled something and left him so he could have some privacy. A few minutes later after bowing in sensei gave a pointed lecture on how greeting another person, matching their intensity and presence was the entire basis of the uke nage relationship and budo itself.

Now I'm sure no one understood why sensei decided to address this topic because no one else had been present when he arrived, but I knew exactly what he was talking about and have remembered it all these years later.

So sometimes there is an audience of one. Or perhaps, it is always an audience of one.
Hi Doug,
The lessons from a great teacher can go beyond anything technical and they can come when you least expect it. I say this in both a positive and negative way. Since our teachers are flawed human beings, like all of us, the lessons can be about what you want to emulate and what you do not. The trick is to always be paying attention so you get the lesson when it appears. Then you choose what to do with it. Great to hear from you...
- George

George S. Ledyard
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Old 07-07-2009, 06:49 PM   #10
Lee Salzman
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
It's not my English that's the problem... it's that we are talking about something that has no vocabulary in English. So you have to work with someone who can do it and explain what he or she is doing. Then you will know what the description means. You have to feel it. You can't see it until you really know what you are looking for.

This is what I have to do with the folks at my dojo and at the seminars I teach. I have worked out a vocabulary which is body centered and quite specific. When I instruct I have to teach the students this new (for most of them) language. So when I say "touch the spine" I have to grab you and give you specific feedback about what that is and is not.

That's why this stuff really doesn't lend itself to mass transmission. There's a reason that O-Sensei basically taught either privately or in very small groups which allowed the students to get their hands on him multiple times every class. Even then, due to lack of systematic explanation, there was a huge variance in the extent to which they got it.
Stuff like this is why when I came across yiquan, or at least one interpretation of it, after floundering in my aikido practice, I found it so intensely refreshing. It was this very idea played out systematically - that whether you put it in English, Japanese, Chinese, or Greek - that so long as explanation in words precedes intuitive understanding of a concept, you are always going to set the stage for misunderstanding more often than not as the listener fishes in his own pre-existing experience for a best fit of what is being said. That even indicts the idea that if you feel someone else skilled at a concept (playing uke), that you are also expected to gain nage's personal intuition of the concept. I always wondered why I felt so unsure of what I had learned, why I kept discarding and relearning things all the time only to go in circles on many concepts; the longer I trained the shakier my foundational understanding seemed to be.

But the training was structured very differently with this, such that it tried to assume as little vocabulary as possible, verbal or even physical. Like when conveying the idea of relaxation, there is no one saying to "be relaxed" or having you see or feel someone who is relaxed and immediately trying to just reproduce that in yourself. It takes the tack of trying to directly induce the feeling or at least something similar to it in you directly, by a tool that can be objectively verified initially. Once the feeling is there, the tool is discarded in favor of deeping the initial sensation and expanding the situations in which it can be employed.

One example tool for introducing relaxation of the shoulder is to have the person extend one arm out straight to the side, bending over at the waist somewhat so the arm has a clear path to swing, then letting the arm suddenly relax and drop, swinging until it stops on its own. The person can then place their other hand on the shoulder muscles of that arm and feel any tensing or twitching of the muscles as the arm is swinging to a stop. The person can also feel someone else's shoulder as they do the exercise to see what the result feels like there and also have someone else feel their shoulder muscles to likewise externally verify. So long as both people using the tool are getting a similar external result, and one of the people is designated as having understood what relaxation is in the first place, then the idea of relaxation of the shoulder has been transmitted from that one person to the other. The student can then connect the intuitive feeling of his shoulder having been relaxed in using the tool to the general idea of relaxation throughout the body, deepening the feeling and expanding its scope. The tool is discarded afterwards, its only purpose being to transmit the idea of relaxation, and instead relaxation is practiced by just practicing the feeling itself so that the feeling can become pattern-less. That is where you have things like standing in postures, or slow movement, so the feeling can just be practiced in context.

I liked how for everything there were distinct exercises/tools for each stage - some are for transmitting a concept, others are for verifying the expression of the concept (sometimes the same as those for transmitting), and distinct others are for actually training the concept into the body. It didn't try to have all-in-one super exercises like kata or form sets where you were expected to do all of the above, understand, practice, and verify, all at the same time. You weren't trying to reproduce the teacher's skill, you were just trying to understand it for yourself, practice to improve, and then use the tools to verify that you were really improving. When that is systematically applied to all concepts in the training, the entire feel of training is just almost inexplicably different. It doesn't automatically make a better student, but it sure as hell feels empowering in making you feel like you have control over what you are learning.

Last edited by Lee Salzman : 07-07-2009 at 06:58 PM.
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Old 07-09-2009, 04:17 PM   #11
Mike Sigman
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
I believe that, if Aikido is going to regain some of the content which has been disappearing over time, we have to do a better job of breaking down and teaching these principles. This is an uphill battle as there are only so many folks functioning on this level... That's one of the reasons so many folks are trying to work with teachers from outside Aikido like Mike S, Dan H, Akuzawa, Toby Threadgill, Howard Popkin, the Systema folks, etc.

I just came back from the ASU Summer Camp in DC. I would say there is a fundamental shift taking place. It's gradual but building steam. There were far more folks whose Aikido is starting to contain these elements than just a few years ago. Despite my complaints about lack of specific how-to instruction, our teachers have been placing increasing emphasis on showing these principles in action. If you attend a seminar with Ikeda Sensei these days, you will do nothing else... it's the whole focus of what he is teaching.
One of the problems within the JMA communities (and CMA's, too) about ki/kokyu skills is not only just "translation", although that's a big problem admittedly, but also the fact that initial terms and explanations are simply not there. If you learn something from someone by feel and intuition, it's difficult to pass it on in any way except through feel and intuition. And of course without more precise ways of describing things, a lot can be lost in the transmission.

While sources outside of Aikido can contribute to various facets of the ki/kokyu skills, I think the growth of knowledge within the Aikido community will grow beyond those sources in a few years ... although probably most of that knowledge is going to be confined to the people who at this moment are making serious efforts to get the information. What I'd suggest is that people begin to isolate and define the skills that are applicable to Aikido. Make a list. Start with Ueshiba, Tohei, and others standing relaxedly against a push and saying "this is an example of ki". OK, so you have a physical phenomenon that you can label "this is ki". Then start looking for other legitimate examples of what ki is that have been demonstrated and discussed by acknowledged Aikido experts.

What I'm suggesting is that now would be a good time to begin a definition that works from the demonstrable phenomena and add that information to whatever can be gleaned from "translation", and so on. Begin building a public repository of ki-related information in perhaps the AikiWiki so that it is available to everyone, especially as it becomes more complete. I think it would be very helpful to the art for people to contribute by gathering information and making it publicly available.

FWIW

Mike Sigman
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Old 07-09-2009, 06:21 PM   #12
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

Quote:
Doug Walker wrote: View Post
George, you have brought to mind something that happened many many years ago when I was a young no rank.

The very first time I saw Saotomi sensei I was alone in an aikido club office in a school gymnasium when sensei appeared in full mountain man garb. Not wanting to get in his way I mumbled something and left him so he could have some privacy. A few minutes later after bowing in sensei gave a pointed lecture on how greeting another person, matching their intensity and presence was the entire basis of the uke nage relationship and budo itself.

Now I'm sure no one understood why sensei decided to address this topic because no one else had been present when he arrived, but I knew exactly what he was talking about and have remembered it all these years later.

So sometimes there is an audience of one. Or perhaps, it is always an audience of one.
Once, I began speaking with Saotome Shihan. I didn't bow because I had a cigarette in my hand. I hope to this day that he did not take it as disrespect since that's exactly what I wanted to avoid. I said, "Hello, Sensei," partly because it's more formal, and partly because I didn't want him to mistake "Hi" for "Hai." What's the general Japanese rule on this? Is it okay to bow with cigarette or anything else in hand? Fortunately, he didn't get into a lecture on the subject, but these East-West differences can be confusing to me. I suppose I just went with my heart by not bowing.

Drew
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Old 07-09-2009, 06:49 PM   #13
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

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Drew Gardner wrote: View Post
What's the general Japanese rule on this? Is it okay to bow with cigarette or anything else in hand?
Of course. Japanese people, being a modern people, often have something in their hand in the course of their daily lives. A great deal of them are smokers, as well. The bowing continues unabated.

Josh Reyer

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Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 07-10-2009, 02:09 PM   #14
Cliff Judge
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

Quote:
Drew Gardner wrote: View Post
Once, I began speaking with Saotome Shihan. I didn't bow because I had a cigarette in my hand. I hope to this day that he did not take it as disrespect since that's exactly what I wanted to avoid. I said, "Hello, Sensei," partly because it's more formal, and partly because I didn't want him to mistake "Hi" for "Hai." What's the general Japanese rule on this? Is it okay to bow with cigarette or anything else in hand? Fortunately, he didn't get into a lecture on the subject, but these East-West differences can be confusing to me. I suppose I just went with my heart by not bowing.

Drew
FYI, Saotome Sensei knows you're not Japanese and doesn't expect you to try to be something you are not. He's lived in the USA for 30 years, has been a citizen since, I believe, the 1980s. He very often responds to bows with an outstretched hand, and I don't believe he is trying to say "you can't bow right" or anything like that.
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Old 07-10-2009, 02:36 PM   #15
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

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Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
FYI, Saotome Sensei knows you're not Japanese and doesn't expect you to try to be something you are not. He's lived in the USA for 30 years, has been a citizen since, I believe, the 1980s. He very often responds to bows with an outstretched hand, and I don't believe he is trying to say "you can't bow right" or anything like that.
Thanks because that is somewhat of a relief. I suppose he's really good at seeing the whole picture, including the fact that I do not look Japanese at all. Also, he doesn't seem the type to make mountains out of molehills. I appreciate your words, Cliff.

Drew
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Old 07-11-2009, 03:33 AM   #16
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

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Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
One of the problems within the JMA communities (and CMA's, too) about ki/kokyu skills is not only just "translation", although that's a big problem admittedly, but also the fact that initial terms and explanations are simply not there. If you learn something from someone by feel and intuition, it's difficult to pass it on in any way except through feel and intuition. And of course without more precise ways of describing things, a lot can be lost in the transmission.

While sources outside of Aikido can contribute to various facets of the ki/kokyu skills, I think the growth of knowledge within the Aikido community will grow beyond those sources in a few years ... although probably most of that knowledge is going to be confined to the people who at this moment are making serious efforts to get the information. What I'd suggest is that people begin to isolate and define the skills that are applicable to Aikido. Make a list. Start with Ueshiba, Tohei, and others standing relaxedly against a push and saying "this is an example of ki". OK, so you have a physical phenomenon that you can label "this is ki". Then start looking for other legitimate examples of what ki is that have been demonstrated and discussed by acknowledged Aikido experts.

What I'm suggesting is that now would be a good time to begin a definition that works from the demonstrable phenomena and add that information to whatever can be gleaned from "translation", and so on. Begin building a public repository of ki-related information in perhaps the AikiWiki so that it is available to everyone, especially as it becomes more complete. I think it would be very helpful to the art for people to contribute by gathering information and making it publicly available.

FWIW

Mike Sigman
That's some very excellent advice Mike, thank you! I do hope those that are learning these skills will do as you have suggested.
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Old 07-11-2009, 07:06 AM   #17
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

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Ricky Wood wrote: View Post
That's some very excellent advice Mike, thank you! I do hope those that are learning these skills will do as you have suggested.
So short the memory. It's already started.

Ricky, check the non-aikido forum.

Start with:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15035

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=14991

I still don't think people truly understand the significance of Ueshiba doing Daito ryu. Even in his 60s on video, he is still filmed doing a lot of Daito ryu techniques.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XTlWDOQBno
Wakayama 1952, Ueshiba age 69.
3:19-3:21 Ueshiba has hands in heaven/earth pose.
3:48 - Ueshiba starts with hands in heaven/earth pose.
3:48-3:51 - Two person shiho nage
3:52 - Ueshiba has hands in heaven/earth pose.
3:53 - Ueshiba starts with hands in heaven/earth pose.
3:53 - 4:02 - Two person shiho nage.
4:03 - Ueshiba has hands in heaven/earth pose.
4:05 - 4:20 DR technique (pin multiples)
4:20 - Ueshiba has hands in heaven/earth pose.
5:10 - 6:13 Doing some kind of internal exercises.
6:22 - 7:30 All internal exercises.
8:59 - Ueshiba starts with hands in heaven/earth pose.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kNviv37kfo
5:47 - Ueshiba has hands in heaven/earth pose.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79PMWGtl0qM
6:00 - 6:06 DR technique (pin multiples)
8:50 - 9:02 DR technique (pin multiples)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7Cfpay1X2c
Ueshiba 1935
Multiple instances of Ueshiba has hands in heaven/earth pose.

All of Ueshiba's exploits are things that other Daito ryu masters did. You can even see Kodo and Okamoto on video replicating some of them. That heaven/earth pose? Check out pictures of Takeda and Hisa. They're both shown doing that.

If you want to start listing "physical phenomenon" that you label as ki, then check out the Daito ryu masters and their students who have gotten aiki. The real aiki, not move aside and harmonize.
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Old 07-11-2009, 01:45 PM   #18
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George S. Ledyard
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Old 07-11-2009, 02:18 PM   #19
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

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

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

Aikido is far more than the "bad Daito Ryu" some folks seem to think it is.
That would seem to be the heart of the matter. So, in a vague attempt to keep the thread on-topic... It is that what aikido "is" is hazy enough that it allows people to imprint extremely liberal interpretations of what it "is" back onto it. It's hard to single out something people can use as a yardstick to say what exactly even a "liberal" interpretation is. Everyone has to be all the more dogmatic about theirs because every other interpretation becomes a threat to what they see is right, even if they have severed their attachments to aikido in the end. It all comes back to the "how" of transmission, not the "what".

I felt very strongly about aikido while I was practicing it more actively. Then I became disillusioned with it... why? Was it the art itself, was it the founder (O'Sensei), was it the teachers, what is how they were teaching, was it what they were teaching, etc. etc. or was it simply just me? Where was I to peg the fault?

That comes back to why I pointed out yiquan in my example - not to discuss the merit of the content of that skill set, but of the what light it shed on aikido for me and the problems of the learning process itself. When I first came to yiquan, and other Chinese martial arts, I saw the same things played out there. I had the same doubts running through my head. It was the same scenario all over again, just spread out differently, and I was pretty much ready to give up.

Then I came across just one teacher of yiquan, who I thought was slicing through all these issues. It had nothing to do with "what" he was teaching - he could have been teaching me to play golf, it wouldn't have mattered. It was exactly "how" he was teaching that made me want to learn from this guy.

It was a method built off the idea that the real problem of martial arts was not what you were doing, but how you're supposed to teach it. Not only that, but it took the standpoint that everything and anything was open to being questioned, nothing is beyond being objectively tested, nothing is beyond being thrown out, replaced, or reinvented. There was no appeal to the history of the method, there was no appeal to other people who were "greats" of their time, and there was no appeal to even the skill of this guy teaching it. Everything was expected to stand on its own, its value self-apparent - and if it wasn't, you were free to do with it as you pleased to make it so.

So I took that and looked through that lens to my aikido training - past, present, and future. I look at the little nuggets of information I was being taught. How were they being used? How were they "intended" to be used by what was being said? How were they being used in other things totally unrelated? What results could be achieved with these things?

That made it apparent that just as a matter of "what" was being taught, there were lots of ways that I could have been using all of these things - without changing the content and training tools of aikido - that would have made me far more satisfied with them.

And then I went back and I looked at my teachers. What were they able to do? How were they explaining themselves doing it? How were the students receiving it, at least as they understood it conceptually? How were they doing it in the end?

That also made it apparent to me that there was truly not enough attention being paid to just how ideas were being transmitted, let alone what was being transmitted.
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Old 07-11-2009, 03:26 PM   #20
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

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Lee Salzman wrote: View Post
That would seem to be the heart of the matter. So, in a vague attempt to keep the thread on-topic... It is that what aikido "is" is hazy enough that it allows people to imprint extremely liberal interpretations of what it "is" back onto it. It's hard to single out something people can use as a yardstick to say what exactly even a "liberal" interpretation is. Everyone has to be all the more dogmatic about theirs because every other interpretation becomes a threat to what they see is right, even if they have severed their attachments to aikido in the end. It all comes back to the "how" of transmission, not the "what".

I felt very strongly about aikido while I was practicing it more actively. Then I became disillusioned with it... why? Was it the art itself, was it the founder (O'Sensei), was it the teachers, what is how they were teaching, was it what they were teaching, etc. etc. or was it simply just me? Where was I to peg the fault?

That comes back to why I pointed out yiquan in my example - not to discuss the merit of the content of that skill set, but of the what light it shed on aikido for me and the problems of the learning process itself. When I first came to yiquan, and other Chinese martial arts, I saw the same things played out there. I had the same doubts running through my head. It was the same scenario all over again, just spread out differently, and I was pretty much ready to give up.

Then I came across just one teacher of yiquan, who I thought was slicing through all these issues. It had nothing to do with "what" he was teaching - he could have been teaching me to play golf, it wouldn't have mattered. It was exactly "how" he was teaching that made me want to learn from this guy.

It was a method built off the idea that the real problem of martial arts was not what you were doing, but how you're supposed to teach it. Not only that, but it took the standpoint that everything and anything was open to being questioned, nothing is beyond being objectively tested, nothing is beyond being thrown out, replaced, or reinvented. There was no appeal to the history of the method, there was no appeal to other people who were "greats" of their time, and there was no appeal to even the skill of this guy teaching it. Everything was expected to stand on its own, its value self-apparent - and if it wasn't, you were free to do with it as you pleased to make it so.

So I took that and looked through that lens to my aikido training - past, present, and future. I look at the little nuggets of information I was being taught. How were they being used? How were they "intended" to be used by what was being said? How were they being used in other things totally unrelated? What results could be achieved with these things?

That made it apparent that just as a matter of "what" was being taught, there were lots of ways that I could have been using all of these things - without changing the content and training tools of aikido - that would have made me far more satisfied with them.

And then I went back and I looked at my teachers. What were they able to do? How were they explaining themselves doing it? How were the students receiving it, at least as they understood it conceptually? How were they doing it in the end?

That also made it apparent to me that there was truly not enough attention being paid to just how ideas were being transmitted, let alone what was being transmitted.
Fisrt of all, I agree with your premise that ascribing a set identity to something we call Aikido is difficult. I wrote and article about this year's ago on AJ.

Does Aikido Exist

A level of dissatisfaction is normal, even crucial to training. Ushiro Kenji in his latest book states that "Understanding is the enemy of learning". Our own feeling that our ability and understanding is inadequate is what drives us on.

I think that few teachers I know are happy with the state of Aikido. For the Japanese teachers that often means that they despair of the students today and resign themselves to the loss of the true art. They do not tend to change what they do very radically, in order to adjust to different circumstances. In Japan this has lead to whole styles simply disappearing because no one made the grade to inherit the style.

In Aikido, where there are a million or so people training world wide, it is different. There are many people teaching and training. There is no chance of Aikido simply disappearing. But one should recognize that, as a Japanese art, the transmission is viewed in a hierarchical manner.

For most Japanese teachers there are two Aikidos. There is the Aikido that is being passed on to ones personal, direct deshi. There is active investment in their quality and understanding. I think that most Japanese teachers have made their best effort at passing on what they know to these students.

But folks need to understand that, outside of this fairly small group of direct students, everyone else is an outsider on some level. All those big organizations started by the various Japanese Shihan... people think that when they join those groups they are students of the "big guy". Well, it's simply not true. They are merely members, not deshi. There is nothing like the investment in the training of these members. No one particularly cares if they "get it". They largely exist to support that folks at the top.

"I show you. You get it, not get it, not my problem."

This is the basic Japanese mindset. It has lead to a whole generation of people teaching who are not "teachers" in the way we think of the word in the West. The current hot thing in educational circles is trying to find ways of measuring teacher effectiveness. What a concept!!! How would we "evaluate" O-Sensei from that standpoint? Or any of the other real giants in the art?

In my opinion, the great hope for Aikido is that it has traveled the globe and there are teachers starting to attain some higher level of skill who are not stuck in the Japanese paradigm. I asked someone the other day what he thought his organization would be like if the folks at the top actually cared whether the members got it or not. Wouldn't virtually everything be different? He allowed that yes, it would be completely different.

I love Aikido. I think it is an amazing art and as much as I want it to get better, I have no intention of leaving for greener pastures. But I totally get it when people do leave. People who REALLY want it, have a burning desire for it, are literally driven from the art by the lack of effective transmission. We have teachers who are not accomplished, so they can't teach what they don't know. We have teachers who are quite accomplished but don't know how to teach it effectively. All sorts of hierarchical bs works against effective transmission of substance rather than form. It's a mess.

But I think that things are starting to change. We now have a generation of non-Japanese teachers poised to take the reigns from their Japanese teachers. Many of these folks have been and continue to train outside the art and are developing some real technical depth to what they do. And they have a different mindset about teaching. Many of these folks are quite good at teaching something once they understand it. And they actually care if people get it, so they invest in a way that wasn't happening before.

It'll be twenty years before things have really changed a lot but I am optimistic in a way that I wasn't a few years ago. Hopefully we won't have people leaving because they can't get the goods, which are supposed to be in our art, from the teachers of the art itself.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 07-11-2009, 04:57 PM   #21
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
The implication in all these posts is always, "O-Sensei was really a Daito Ryu man and everything good got lost because we lost the Daito Ryu connection."

O-Sensei quite consciously changed what he did from what went before. O-Sensei himself introduced the larger movement that distinguishes Aikido from any other martial art. If he had thought that Daito Ryu was the ultimate expression of what he wanted to convey, we'd all be doing Daito Ryu.
I think you completely missed my point. I was specifically talking about Ricky and Mike's post about "listing physical phenomenon" in relation to "ki". And all this "ki" stuff that Ueshiba is doing is really Daito ryu aiki. It certainly isn't Oomoto kyo aiki, now is it? It certainly isn't judo aiki. It certainly isn't tons of other martial art aiki. Now, you want to apply some Ueshiba "ki" physical phenomenons and put them into some sort of listing, then check out Ueshiba and the Daito ryu greats because they all did the same stuff -- they used aiki as taught to them by Takeda.

What do you think is really going on when you see pictures of Takeda, Hisa, and Ueshiba in that pose with one arm up and one down? Aiki.

What do you think is going on when both Ueshiba and Kodo are on video sitting on the ground and people trying (and failing) to push them over? Aiki.

What do you think Ueshiba, Kodo, Okamoto are accomplishing when they are demonstrating multiple person pins? Aiki.

Hence, my post that showed videos and threads on where that list was started and where it can be added to.

I see where people get this lost "Daito ryu" connection thing. If you read my posts, I try to state that Ueshiba never quite doing Daito ryu aiki. NOT "Daito ryu", but "Daito ryu aiki". There is a major difference. That's my mistake as I didn't explicitly put that in my post. Sorry. I'll try to not do that again.

And I have *never* denigrated Ueshiba or Aikido. In fact, check my posts as I have always thought highly of both Ueshiba and Aikido. It isn't "bad Daito ryu".

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
What was different about O-Sensei from the other great "aiki" masters of his time was not technical. It was largely mental and there were others who had much the same skill. The combination of the Founder's spiritual ideas with the physical technique derived primarily from Daito Ryu became something else.
I'd disagree. It was never a "combination of the Founder's spiritual ideas with the physical technique". In fact, Ueshiba trimmed Daito ryu's syllabus quite a bit. It was a combination of the Founder's spiritual ideas with Daito ryu aiki. Not physical technique. There is a vastly huge difference and that is what creates confusion in the Aikido world.
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Old 07-11-2009, 05:38 PM   #22
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

I'm curious why O'Sensei became a Japanese National Hero, and I haven't heard the same of Takeda.

Drew
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Old 07-11-2009, 05:51 PM   #23
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

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I'm curious why O'Sensei became a Japanese National Hero, and I haven't heard the same of Takeda.
I think that is due to 'politics' and public relations Drew.
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Old 07-11-2009, 06:29 PM   #24
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

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Mark Murray wrote: View Post
I think you completely missed my point. I was specifically talking about Ricky and Mike's post about "listing physical phenomenon" in relation to "ki". And all this "ki" stuff that Ueshiba is doing is really Daito ryu aiki. It certainly isn't Oomoto kyo aiki, now is it? It certainly isn't judo aiki. It certainly isn't tons of other martial art aiki. Now, you want to apply some Ueshiba "ki" physical phenomenons and put them into some sort of listing, then check out Ueshiba and the Daito ryu greats because they all did the same stuff -- they used aiki as taught to them by Takeda.
And where did Takeda get the "aiki" stuff? He certainly didn't invent it himself...it's been around for many generations. I think this constant BS about insinuating DR into discussions about ki/kokyu has a limited utility and after that it is clearly a "my style" sort of tangent that wastes time. Ueshiba certainly got some of his training from DR, but if you look at his douka he gives the credit where it belongs.... to a classical and traditional study of these skills that far precedes DR. I'm frankly embarrassed that the "Ueshiba owes everything to DR" stuff has gone on so long. I say let the people who keep bringing it up live with it from now on for what it is and what they are.

Quote:
I see where people get this lost "Daito ryu" connection thing. If you read my posts, I try to state that Ueshiba never quite doing Daito ryu aiki. NOT "Daito ryu", but "Daito ryu aiki". There is a major difference. That's my mistake as I didn't explicitly put that in my post. Sorry. I'll try to not do that again.
I think it's too late. You and Dan have way overplayed the issue of DR and Ueshiba. It's yours now. How many times have diplomatic indications been made that it's time to stop?

In terms of the list I was talking about of ki/kokyu skills in Aikido, it's got nothing to do with DR, Chinese predecessors, and so on... it's a clinical list of what we see people in Aikido doing. I have a contribution of something I saw Ueshiba doing that certainly did not come from DR, but I'll save it until I see a legitimate functional effort about *Aikido* being made in something like the AikiWiki. If I don't save it, it's a certainty that "Oh, we do that, too" will surface in a revised history, so I'll pass for the moment. Aikido is Aikido... let's drop the idea that Aikido is its precursors in the same good spirit that we don't mention that DR is its precursors.

FWIW

Mike Sigman
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Old 07-12-2009, 12:07 AM   #25
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Re: Japanese Aikido Teachers - Translation

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I think that is due to 'politics' and public relations Drew.
And if it weren't for his political connections and public relations would O'sensei just be another Daito Ryu teacher?

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