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Old 12-26-2009, 05:43 PM   #1
Charles Hill
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Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

"Because over the yrs there have been many claims made about OSensei, a lot of which aren't based in fact."

Janet Rosen wrote this on another thread. (Hi Janet )

I'm curious to know what people consider to be the facts and fictions of Morihei Ueshiba's life. I'm thinking that then we can put our collective heads together and figure out the original sources to better judge what is fact and fiction.
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Old 12-26-2009, 06:04 PM   #2
Janet Rosen
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Hi Charles. Well, Ellis and PAG have written extensively both on aikiweb and elsewhere so I think a lot of information is already out there for folks curious about it....

Janet Rosen
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Old 12-26-2009, 06:21 PM   #3
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
Hi Charles. Well, Ellis and PAG have written extensively both on aikiweb and elsewhere so I think a lot of information is already out there for folks curious about it....
True - and let's not forget the exhaustive research Stanley over at Aikido Journal has done in this area as well.

Greg
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Old 12-26-2009, 08:10 PM   #4
Rennis Buchner
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
Greg Steckel wrote: View Post
True - and let's not forget the exhaustive research Stanley over at Aikido Journal has done in this area as well.
Agreed, I think he has a few decades head start on this project.
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Old 12-27-2009, 01:47 AM   #5
Charles Hill
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

I am afraid I wasn't specific enough. What are things that others have offered as facts that you believe are fictions?
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Old 12-27-2009, 04:52 AM   #6
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote: View Post
I am afraid I wasn't specific enough. What are things that others have offered as facts that you believe are fictions?
Hello Charles,

Here is one example: the period that Takeda Sokaku spent in Ayabe between April and September, 1922. One version has it that Ueshiba invited Takeda to Ayabe and did so because the skills he had so far acquired did not equip him to cope adequately with the naval officers from Maizuru. The other version has it that Takeda told Ueshiba that he did not need any more training and spent his time there not getting on very well with Onisaburo Deguchi, who also returned the dislike. You can document both versions with seemingly unimpeachable 'internal' sources ('internal' meaning internal to Daito-ryu or aikido).

All good wishes for 2010

PAG

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Old 12-27-2009, 06:05 AM   #7
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote: View Post
I am afraid I wasn't specific enough. What are things that others have offered as facts that you believe are fictions?
Hello again, Charles,

As a follow-up to my last post, I think that, perhaps in your desire to be more specific, you have set up a question that is really unanswerable, given the present state of our knowledge.

The issue of whether or not Morihei Ueshiba was a Shinto priest seems relatively simple: either he was or he wasn't. But you yourself muddied the waters by suggesting that all Omoto believers were 'priests' in a certain sense, if they had undertaken a week's training at Omoto HQ. The Rev K Barrish pretty well settled the issue--he was not: always assuming, however, that the conventions of present-day Shinto are also applicable to prewar (pre-2nd Suppression) Omoto. But Omoto was never accepted by the Meiji/Taisho government as one of the 'offiicial' brands of Shinto, so we accept Omoto as Shinto, only because they say they are.

Our current sources for Morihei Ueshiba are twofold: those from Daito-ryu, especially Takeda Tokimune and Sagawa Yukiyoshi; and those from aikido, especially the biographies of Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Kanshu Sunadomari, and the various interviews (usually quite biased, in the manner of gospel writers) given by those whom he taught.

So we have the phenomena of Ueshiba's ability to cover enormous distances instantaneously and Takeda's ability to disappear, the latter seemingly an art waiting to be discovered: all recounted by people whose technical ability and subsequent eminence as 'close students' leads one to believe (without any supporting grounds) that they are also accurate judges of fact and fiction.

To escape from this dilemma, we need to look at other possible sources, as yet pretty well untapped, such as contemporary newspaper reports, especially from the Yomiuri and its Asahi rival; military and police archives (both especially relevant to Takeda Sokaku and Ueshiba Morihei). For example, the Osaka police records should cast some light on O Sensei's role in the Second Omoto Suppression in 1936.

So I do not believe the issue is of 100% fact vs. 100% fiction, but of degrees along a wide spectrum.

Best wishes,

PAG

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Old 12-27-2009, 07:01 AM   #8
Charles Hill
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Thank you Professor so much for your reply.

It is my opinion that through the sharing of information we can get clearer (if not clear) on sources and definitions of terminology. With the question of O'Sensei being a Shinto priest or not, as an example, I immediately started thinking, "What does 'Shinto' mean?" and "What does 'priest' mean?" and " What does 'Shinto priest' mean?" (This all probably means I have too much time on my hands!) Personally, I do not think it muddies the waters so much as it gives a few more angles from which to approach the question.

I am enjoying all the thinking these questions lead me to do and with that in mind, I might ask you, does the sanction of the government factor into the question of whether Morihei Ueshiba was a "Shinto priest" or not? This is a rhetorical question (mainly because if I have the chance to ask questions that I thought you might think about and answer I would ask more important things).

To clarify my position on this minor point of whether Morihei Ueshiba was a Shinto priest or not, if one is a fervent Omoto believer (and assuming there is such a thing), the answer is yes. If one is a member of the faculty of Kokagakuin, the answer is likely no. If one is neither, than it will depend on the definitions of the terms.

One of the things I was thinking when I started the thread was the Iwama vs. Tokyo conundrum. My impression is that what went on in Iwama post-war was quite different that what is often reported. But I already know what I think so I wanted to open things up to various things others have heard and what they think about them.

To be very linguistically picky, it is not unanswerable at all. I am asking for things that you (meaning all who read this) have heard and personally believe to be false (and why).

Charles
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Old 12-27-2009, 08:36 AM   #9
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

If I'm not a Shinto believer, why would it matter to me if O-Sensei was a Shinto priest or not?
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Old 12-27-2009, 12:42 PM   #10
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
If I'm not a Shinto believer, why would it matter to me if O-Sensei was a Shinto priest or not?
It doesn't.
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Old 12-27-2009, 04:01 PM   #11
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Wearing my cynic cap today... Here's an example of why there are not many real answers: One group of people claims O'Sensei could dodge bullets... Another group says that's a fabrication. Both sides believe they are right, and both cite hearsay evidence. The only real fact is that whether he could or could not does not affect our training, as we are not teaching or being taught how to dodge bullets now. What is more relevant than what O'Sensei achieved is what we can achieve. I enjoy the stories as much as anyone, but sometimes a cake is just a cake. The mythology often needs to be de-emphasized.
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Old 12-27-2009, 04:11 PM   #12
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote: View Post
Wearing my cynic cap today... Here's an example of why there are not many real answers: One group of people claims O'Sensei could dodge bullets... Another group says that's a fabrication. Both sides believe they are right, and both cite hearsay evidence. The only real fact is that whether he could or could not does not affect our training, as we are not teaching or being taught how to dodge bullets now. What is more relevant than what O'Sensei achieved is what we can achieve. I enjoy the stories as much as anyone, but sometimes a cake is just a cake. The mythology often needs to be de-emphasized.
I think he lived for the sake of others. So in the end it is about what he left us. His goal was to forge men of utter integrity. If he could do that even once then he has achieved in his life-time something more spectacular than dodging bullets.

MM
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Old 12-27-2009, 06:14 PM   #13
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Hello Charles,

Thank you for your response. Here are a few more comments.

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote: View Post
Thank you Professor so much for your reply.

It is my opinion that through the sharing of information we can get clearer (if not clear) on sources and definitions of terminology. With the question of O'Sensei being a Shinto priest or not, as an example, I immediately started thinking, "What does 'Shinto' mean?" and "What does 'priest' mean?" and " What does 'Shinto priest' mean?" (This all probably means I have too much time on my hands!) Personally, I do not think it muddies the waters so much as it gives a few more angles from which to approach the question.
PAG. Well, "muddying the waters" here means something like, "making clarifications and distinctions that ultimately turn out to be essential." You also need to be aware--I am sure you are--of what has been called the Socratic Fallacy in even framing the questions. I like to drive over the mountains here to Izumo. Like that of the Itsukushima Shrine and the Kumano Hongu, the setting, the atmosphere, is very special. However, in a few days here the same shrines, Shinto shrines across Japan, will have their busiest day of the year, as millions of Japanese do 'hatsumode'. The same Japanese will go nowhere near the shrines on the other days of the year. Does this make them Shintoists' or 'lapsed Shintoists' like we have 'lapsed Catholics'? I do not think so, for I think that being a 'Shintoist' and being a Catholic are completely different.

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote: View Post
I am enjoying all the thinking these questions lead me to do and with that in mind, I might ask you, does the sanction of the government factor into the question of whether Morihei Ueshiba was a "Shinto priest" or not? This is a rhetorical question (mainly because if I have the chance to ask questions that I thought you might think about and answer I would ask more important things).
PAG. Well, since M Ueshiba was living at a certain time and in a certain place, I would think that the sanction of the government factored into very much that he did and closely affected his relationship with Omoto.

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote: View Post
To clarify my position on this minor point of whether Morihei Ueshiba was a Shinto priest or not, if one is a fervent Omoto believer (and assuming there is such a thing), the answer is yes. If one is a member of the faculty of Kokagakuin, the answer is likely no. If one is neither, than it will depend on the definitions of the terms.
PAG. But do you find this satisfactory? I certainly did not when I was a raw student, just ten years into aikido training. So I came here to muddy the waters as much as I could and find answers that satisfied me. Of course, I cannot speak for other members of AikiWeb.

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote: View Post
One of the things I was thinking when I started the thread was the Iwama vs. Tokyo conundrum. My impression is that what went on in Iwama post-war was quite different that what is often reported. But I already know what I think so I wanted to open things up to various things others have heard and what they think about them.

To be very linguistically picky, it is not unanswerable at all. I am asking for things that you (meaning all who read this) have heard and personally believe to be false (and why).

Charles
PAG. I think that one of the problems here is actually removing the mud from the waters, for it depends very much on who you (not you in particular) talk to and thus what is reported.

All good wishes for 2010,

PAG

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Old 12-27-2009, 06:21 PM   #14
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote: View Post
Wearing my cynic cap today... Here's an example of why there are not many real answers: One group of people claims O'Sensei could dodge bullets... Another group says that's a fabrication. Both sides believe they are right, and both cite hearsay evidence. The only real fact is that whether he could or could not does not affect our training, as we are not teaching or being taught how to dodge bullets now. What is more relevant than what O'Sensei achieved is what we can achieve. I enjoy the stories as much as anyone, but sometimes a cake is just a cake. The mythology often needs to be de-emphasized.
Well, it's not hearsay - Gozo Shioda put the story in writing in "Aikido Shugyo" (page 189), and he's quite clear about having seen it with his own eyes.

Whether or not you believe him is another discussion .

Best,

Chris

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Old 12-27-2009, 08:07 PM   #15
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
If I'm not a Shinto believer, why would it matter to me if O-Sensei was a Shinto priest or not?
It may colour your perception of the art, there are a lot of people out there of other religions that wouldn't be comfortable with learning the teachings of a shinto priest.
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Old 12-27-2009, 08:30 PM   #16
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
Alex Lawrence wrote: View Post
It may colour your perception of the art, there are a lot of people out there of other religions that wouldn't be comfortable with learning the teachings of a shinto priest.
Why? He didn't teach religion. If a Shinto priest was teaching mathematics, do you think these same people would have a problem learning from him?
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Old 12-27-2009, 09:24 PM   #17
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Why? He didn't teach religion. If a Shinto priest was teaching mathematics, do you think these same people would have a problem learning from him?
Quote:
The art that I instruct is the Bujutsu of Mother Nature which is based on "Kannagara No Michi", (that is to say, our Shinto).

-Morihei Ueshiba
http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=525

Best,

Chris

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Old 12-27-2009, 11:15 PM   #18
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote: View Post
Both sides believe they are right, and both cite hearsay evidence. The only real fact is that whether he could or could not does not affect our training, as we are not teaching or being taught how to dodge bullets now. What is more relevant than what O'Sensei achieved is what we can achieve.
Hi Clark, good point.
I have been for years in agreement with this point of view. But I've started to re-evaluate in recent years. What I thought was practical for me to be learning right now has changed because of a change in what I think is acheivable. What I have learned in recent years, on these forums and in books like HIPS, regarding aiki (internal strength and skill), makes me feel that much of what people like O-sensei have said (or written) are allegorical descriptions of the way of self-perfection that he felt was the heart of his art.

If someone wants to describe something that seems like fantasy, their descriptions will probably sound like fantasy, whether they go the factual route or the allegorical route.

Now, whether dodgeing bullets is allegorical or not, I don't know. (The story as I understand really could be metaphorical: the white ball that precedes the bullet's physical presence is a nice description of being able to feel the intent of an opponent that is trying to apply atemi, since intent precedes movement)

Also, did Gozo Shioda really write Aikido Shugyo or any of his books? (as opposed to students putting on paper his teachings or their impressions thereof)
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Old 12-27-2009, 11:33 PM   #19
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
Jonathan Wong wrote: View Post
Hi Clark, good point.
I have been for years in agreement with this point of view. But I've started to re-evaluate in recent years. What I thought was practical for me to be learning right now has changed because of a change in what I think is acheivable.
This position is exactly my point... It's not what O'Sensei did (or did not do) that makes something achievable, but instead it's what you can do that makes it so.
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Old 12-27-2009, 11:49 PM   #20
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
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Well, it's not hearsay - Gozo Shioda put the story in writing in "Aikido Shugyo" (page 189), and he's quite clear about having seen it with his own eyes.

Whether or not you believe him is another discussion .
The fact that you might believe it true because Shioda Kancho said it is, is exactly what makes it hearsay.

I have heard many things said that seem to be much the result of "selective memory". For instance, there are others who have said that O'Sensei could literally disappear from one spot, and instantly reappear on the other side of a room, without anyone seeing him en route. There is too much scientist in me to simply accept these accounts at face value, as I recognize that what makes it real to those giving the accounts may be as much a result of what they believe, as it is what they might actually have seen.
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Old 12-28-2009, 12:00 AM   #21
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
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The fact that you might believe it true because Shioda Kancho said it is, is exactly what makes it hearsay.
I don't remember saying anything about believing it (or not). What I was saying was that it was a first person eyewitness account of the event - not quite as vague as you were implying. As I said before, whether or not you (or anybody else) believe Shioda is another discussion.

Best,

Chris

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Old 12-28-2009, 12:02 AM   #22
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
Jonathan Wong wrote: View Post
Also, did Gozo Shioda really write Aikido Shugyo or any of his books? (as opposed to students putting on paper his teachings or their impressions thereof)
Shioda wrote a couple of books, and yes, he wrote them himself.

Best,

Chris

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Old 12-28-2009, 01:28 AM   #23
Charles Hill
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
As I said before, whether or not you (or anybody else) believe Shioda is another discussion
How about having that discussion here and now? What are the factors that go into you (those reading this thread) believing or disbelieving Gozo Shioda? In other words, do you believe him? Why/why not?

John Stevens told me that the reason he included the episode in his biography of the Founder was the source. He thought that Shioda, being a non-Omoto believer and generally being a skeptic meant that he was a much more reliable source than, for example, Kanshu Sunadomari.

Prof. Goldsbury,
Thank you for the posts, much to think about!
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Old 12-28-2009, 01:42 AM   #24
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
If I'm not a Shinto believer, why would it matter to me if O-Sensei was a Shinto priest or not?
Wouldn't matter unless you wanted it to matter. Doesn't matter to me in the slightest but to some it may be important.

W
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Old 12-28-2009, 06:13 AM   #25
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Re: Fact or Fiction (of Morihei Ueshiba's Life)

Quote:
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I don't remember saying anything about believing it (or not). What I was saying was that it was a first person eyewitness account of the event - not quite as vague as you were implying. As I said before, whether or not you (or anybody else) believe Shioda is another discussion.
Neither did I... I said that you (or anyone else) might believe another's account without seeing it for yourself. It is that concept that makes it hearsay. Sorry for the confusion.
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