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Focus and Aikido Training
Focus and Aikido Training
by Francis Takahashi
08-18-2010
Focus and Aikido Training

"Shuten o awaseru", in Japanese, means to be focused on a particular point or goal. To ensure success, one must focus one's undivided attention and total concentration on a matter of importance to that individual. This is an especially vital skill to have in time of a great need, as well as having the unconditional commitment to follow through resolutely to the end.

"Kesshin" is the resolution or determination one must have when focused on a particular problem or end point. One must be able to block out any extraneous thought or unnecessary interruption, accepting nothing less than having an unfettered focus to finish what was started with honest and reasoned intent.

We all appear to be able to focus when conditions are favorable. Whenever we find that circumstances naturally align themselves, it greatly enhances our ability to succeed, seemingly as easily as falling into a welcome embrace. It is then that all notions of doubt, of stressful anxiety or even of normal moments of hesitation, simply become irrelevant, and an easy confidence arises, enabling us to deal rather seamlessly with our current challenge.

What happens, however, when our concentration falters, or is significantly compromised or impaired by events or even perceived obstacles that appear suddenly in the path towards reaching our goals? Can we succeed in maintaining our clarity of purpose and uninterrupted focus at a level necessary to ignore, confront, or simply overcome the real or imagined threats or scary obstacles facing us? It is our strength of will, and our faith in our purpose that will play the most important parts in our achieving our goals.

Our martial arts training systems and instructors correctly and appropriately concentrate on teaching us the elements of proper conditioning, proven standards of technical proficiency, and the continuous development of pragmatic skills and useful repertoire. We may also be given ample exposure to the rigors of dealing with single or multiple attackers, with and without weapons, as well as of the unknown factors that we must be alert to and to respond accordingly to, as necessary pillars of our training and for our constant preparedness. Such a focus on time honored, and often severe training correctly remains a vital cornerstone of the What, the How, and the Why of our ongoing training regimen.

Yet, there must be more.

How much of our overall strategy and training programming should we allocate for the inclusion of the mental, and even spiritual dimensions and demands of our craft? Surely, we must have a holistic appreciation of how to fully integrate the physical, intellectual and emotional components necessary and desirable towards the proper development of our art forms, systems, and applications.

Perhaps we may choose not to follow the Founder's example of melding his spiritual, religious and literary studies with his immense martial skills and training. Yet, how complete and valid would our creation be, devoid of a similar amalgamation of mixed knowledge , a powerful belief system, extensive, intensive, and authentic martial arts training in both traditional and contemporary systems, similar to that of the Founder? Should we try? Or should we take it upon ourselves to be accountable for our final product achieved from our own research, explorations, discoveries and definitions?

We must then determine from which sources and resources will we obtain such necessary components to help us complete our overall training. These very sources, that must aid us in developing the required mental toughness, unshakeable powers of concentration, and the necessary development of a healthy self image, and hard won confidence, must be found somewhere, either within or outside of our established systems and levels of expertise. If we do not have the answers within our training guidelines, we must then seek them elsewhere or fall far short of our proclaimed goals of self sufficiency and completeness of form. The final accountability always rests with us.

In my many years of Aikido involvement and training, I have found our "mental game" to be woefully deficit, ignored and neglected. Not as an excuse, but could it be that our penchant for friendly, low risk, non harmful training, along with the absence of any real sense of urgency or authenticity that made it seem so enticingly expedient to "settle for less", and helped bring us to this condition?

There is no doubt in my mind, based on my training and experience, that the Founder's art form and original techniques were designed to be effective, and to be validly accepted as genuine martial techniques by other genuine and sincere martial artists and masters within the martial arts brotherhood. Nonetheless, the vast majority of students who train in Aikido, instructors and trainees alike, do not appear to have the ability nor the training to properly "focus", and have their Aikido techniques reach their desired potential of effectiveness, authenticity and respectability.

Could it be that we have been lulled into complacency by such notions as "non-competition", "non confrontation", along with the admirable, but perhaps misintended desire to minimize the risks of training at realistic levels? I fully am on board with a policy of properly executing our techniques, without executing our training partners.

More and more, I am coming to the sad opinion that, in most dojos and aikido related organizations, that we may have unwittingly "defanged" the critical elements of our craft in favor of appearing to be harmonious and socio friendly to the rest of the martial arts world, and with each other.

May I add that much has been written and championed about the intrinsically valuable and popular spiritual aspects, identity and benefits of the Founder's original creation. This worthy topic is not a part of this current discussion.

I believe that it is way past time for the current roster of shihans, senseis and the vast body of Aikido faithful worldwide, to begin to seriously consider and include the mental and psychological dimensions and definitions of the Founder's original Aikido to our regular training programs. No, we may not reach any kind of consensus or general agreement any time soon. Nonetheless, this long neglected part of Aikido's true identity needs to be recognized, seriously studied and discussed. Significant steps must be taken to individually, collectively and organizationally address these crucially important aspects of our beloved art. We owe the Founder no less than to prove our respect, appreciation, and our unconditional allegiance to the principles he gifted us with. We, the stewards of his Aikido, should resolve to do no less.

Perhaps we need to consider incorporating the "Aiki" worthy contributions and proven examples of similar findings we may include from other sciences, from other legitimate martial art systems, and philosophies congruent with our own understanding of "Ueshiba Aiki". We must not neglect the truths we discover from our very own self reflections, and the wealth of new knowledge, skills and understandings gleaned from the decades of our dedicated training as well.

Much attention and rhetoric has also been made regarding the need for more "martial integrity" in Aikido training. Perhaps a meaningful discussion of the above subject matter may also serve as an entry for the more salient and timely discourses awaiting submission on any other concerns we may discover.
Francis Takahashi was born in 1943, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Francis began his Aikido journey in 1953, simultaneously with the introduction of Aikido to Hawaii by Koichi Tohei, a representative sent from Aikikai Foundation in Tokyo, Japan. This event was sponsored by the Hawaii Nishi System of Health Engineering, with Noriyasu Kagesa as president. Mr. Kagesa was Francis's grandfather, and was a life long supporter of Mr. Tohei, and of Aikido. In 1961, the Founder visited Hawaii to help commemorate the opening of the new dojo in Honolulu. This was the first, and only time Francis had the opportunity to train with the Founder. In 1963, Francis was inducted into the U.S. Army, and was stationed for two years in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second instructor for the fledgling Chicago Aikido Club, succeeding his childhood friend, Chester Sasaki, who had graduated from the University of Illinois, and was entering the Air Force. Francis is currently ranked 7th dan Aikikai, and enjoys a direct affiliation with Aikikai Foundation for the recommending and granting of dan ranks via his organization, Aikikai Associates West Coast. Francis is the current dojo-cho of Aikido Academy in Alhambra, California.
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Old 08-18-2010, 06:31 PM   #2
SeiserL
 
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

Yes agreed.
Our physical discipline is limited by our mental discipline.
Well said. Compliments and appreciation.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 08-19-2010, 11:36 AM   #3
crbateman
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

Thank you, Francis Sensei, for producing such a well-written and thought-provoking article.

I think your intentions are noble, and like you, I'd love to see it happen, but it worries me how we can possibly expect to identify, preserve and transmit that which is specifically "OSensei's aikido", when we cannot even seem to reach consensus on what is aikido of any kind, O'Sensei's or otherwise. Even direct students of the Founder cannot seem to agree on what exactly his aikido was.

I believe all we can do is experience as much as we can, share with each other, and keep up a juggling act in which we paint aikido with a broad brush in one hand, and a skinny one in the other... I cannot do O'Sensei's aikido; I can only do my aikido (and just barely, at that). My sincerest hope is that I can incorporate enough of his into mine, that mine will be beneficial. I have a loooong way to go, but when influenced by the thoughts and insights of wise people such as yourself, I take another step every day.
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Old 08-19-2010, 06:39 PM   #4
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

Dear Bateman Sensei,

Your kind words have the effect of hiding your own high sense of integrity and history of training faithfully in the Founder's art. Your humble approach to training and communication represent standards all of us would do well to honor and to admire.

Our individual focus of training must be individually defined and refined through daily training.. The very content of such focus should be gaged and appreciated, not by some arbitrary fidelity to teachers, styles or organizations, but by the courage and commitment to evaluate the Founder's legacy and teachings for ourselves at the end of each training day.

After all, did he not admonish us to essentially find our own way, while welcoming us to utilize the very same Aiki Principles he found to be so useful, inspirational and appropriate?

It remains my hope that each sincere student of Aikido find a workable balance between loyalty to instructors, systems and styles of choice, and the personal commitment to courageously and patiently form their very own brand of Aikido over time. I have no doubt that this personal commitment to grow by one's own timetable and agenda promises the greatest return for focused training.
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Old 08-21-2010, 02:53 AM   #5
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

Hello Francis,

I hope you are well. As usual, I read you latest column with great interest. I am still researching and writing my own column and so I regret that it will not appear until sometime in the autumn. However, your present column summarized many issues crucial to aikido as it is currently practiced, issues which will take much longer for me to cover in my own columns, so I hope you will forgive me for submitting an extended meditation on some items in the column. I have quoted you as FT and identified my own comments/questions as PAG.

FT: I believe that it is way past time for the current roster of shihans, senseis and the vast body of Aikido faithful worldwide, to begin to seriously consider and include the mental and psychological dimensions and definitions of the Founder's original Aikido to our regular training programs.
PAG: One important question. Are you basing this opinion on the AikiWeb forum, or on your own experience? In addition, how do you suggest we do this? My own (very personal) response has been / is to go back and study the whole spectrum of aikido from the very beginning, regardless of the opinions given in AikiWeb and other forums. This study certainly includes the "mental and psychological dimensions and definitions of the Founder's original Aikido", but this is placed in a contemporary context (which somewhat changes its significance). The study also includes the ways in which this has been changed by the earlier generation of shihans as it was passed on to the "current roster of shihans, senseis and the vast body of Aikido faithful worldwide."

FT: No, we may not reach any kind of consensus or general agreement any time soon.
PAG: Do you regard this as a problem? Do we actually need to reach any kind of consensus or agreement? If we do not, does this matter? Actually, I do not believe that the earlier generations of shihans reached much agreement. It is true that they bought into the iemoto system, especially after the war, when Morihei's son resurrected aikido, but I think this actually allowed them to continue with that they were doing and avoid coming to a consensus. I believe the iemoto system can be an effective tool, if properly managed. It certainly allowed such individuals as Shirata, Iwata, Saito, Tanaka, a couple of Kobayashis, Nishio, Kuroiwa, Yamaguchi, Arikawa, Tada, to display their individuality, all under the same general roof.

FT: Nonetheless, this long neglected part of Aikido's true identity needs to be recognized, seriously studied and discussed.
PAG. I agree. However, I believe that the present Doshu, for one, would take issue with you about "Aikido's true identity". The issue would be how you derive "Aikido's true identity" from all the particular views of what Morihei Ueshiba actually practiced. I think Doshu believes he understands "Aikido's true identity" and also believes that it is his task to preserve it and pass it on to future generations. I suspect that Doshu's certainty about this is one reason why even suggesting to him that some part of Aikido's true identity has been neglected is very difficult.

FT: Significant steps must be taken to individually, collectively and organizationally address these crucially important aspects of our beloved art.
PAG. You mention ‘organizationally' and this is where I have an interest (now wearing my IAF hat). What advice would you give me as Chairman of the IAF? Presumably, you would give the same advice to the USAF, the ASU, the Birankai, and perhaps the Aikikai in general. Of course, some will say that all aikido organizations are evil to begin with, so perhaps they should all disband—-including the Aikikai, with its system of doshus, waka senseis and dan grades.

FT: We owe the Founder no less than to prove our respect, appreciation, and our unconditional allegiance to the principles he gifted us with.
PAG: Do we? What is the point of ‘proving unconditional' allegiance to the ‘gift' of a man from another age, who is long dead? And what is the force of ‘unconditional' here? In other words, the hypothesis that the Founder bequested a ‘gift' of principles to which we owe ‘unconditional' allegiance is begging the question somewhat, since you seem to assume that this is Aikido's true identity, couched as it is in western ethical terms. However, it is only one of a number of ways of seeing Morihei Ueshiba. Certainly, he created the art, but he did this as an individual, obsessed, like Takeda Sokaku was before him, with his own training, together with the arcane religious pursuits in which he couched his explanations. Thus, any knowledge gained has to be stolen from him and combined with one's own private training and pursuits. In this, more traditionally Japanese, way of looking at the Founder, no one is obliged to do anything. Sure, someone like Hiroshi Tada, whose views I have just summarized, wanted to be like Ueshiba and to possess the skills he had, but he couched this in extremely personal terms.

We, the stewards of his Aikido, should resolve to do no less.
PAG: Should we? In view of what I stated in the previous paragraph, in what sense are we stewards?

Here is one suggestion, which I found on another website. I believe that when he wrote this, the author's tongue was very definitely somewhere in his cheek, though he himself might post here and stress that he was deadly serious. I apologize beforehand if I have offended anybody by (a) quoting from a post in a website to which access is available only by prior invitation; (b) removing the names quoted in the post. The suggestion is so relevant to the issues you raise in your column that it merits being discussed here. The context is Kisshomaru Ueshiba's alleged knowledge/ignorance of what may be called ‘aiki' skills.

"So let us imagine an announcement, either publicly or privately, among the ruling body of the Aikikai:
Quote:
I, Ueshiba Moriteru, have just realized that our million strong international organization has gone down a terribly wrong path. My grandfather taught a particular, very sophisticated training method that was derived almost in whole cloth from Daito-ryu. He then amalgamated it with a charismatic neo-Shinto sect that is now the provenance of elderly devotees, and subject to attempts by a number of yakuza organizations to take control of their millions of yen in money and property. My grandfather used to practice, obsessively, specific drills which enabled him to achieve this internal power. My father rejected this, post-war, and focused on turning the cryptic phrases on peace among the three realms into a feel-good formula of cooperative, pseudo-martial circular movement to enhance relationships among people in the world. This has vitiated it as a martial art, but allowed the art to spread to almost every country, to have a level of political and social influence in our own country, and made beaucoup yen as well. To my shame, however, was stunned to find that not only I, but almost all of the shihan are ignorant of my grandfather's skills. We must recover them - but not through the weird religion grandpa followed. I've tried reading his writings on the subject, and if the old man wasn't crazy, he was eating lots of mushrooms behind that shrine in Iwama!
So I have, in secret, reached out to the various Daito-ryu organizations, the very groups we have slandered as old-fashioned and violent, the legacy of a psychopath that my grandpa was well shut of. Daito-ryu, the martial art transcended by our (not) magnificent aikido. To my surprise, Daito-ryu turned out to be either incredibly rigid, constipated kata training, or ridiculous dive bunny techniques that make Takeda Yoshinobu look normal, and a few really amazing guys who said that they would only teach me if I revealed what I learned to no one - ever. And they sort of indicated they would lie to me and not teach me anyway, while pretending to.
So there is only one way to save aikido - we must get outside help. We have three choices that I have found: All would state that they are far form the best at these skills, but they are the only ones who are not focused on a specific school. So we have, here, a large wheel and we will spin it and draw lots, and one third of the shihan will be dispatched for five years to study in Tokyo with a pugnacious little man named A - yes, please forget that we've previous accused him of being a gangster and told everyone to stay away from him; one third will go to Colorado. I'm sure all the shihan will get along fine with B, a 60+ year old ex-Marine ex-engineer. He will have a number of personality traits that they will like - obsessively meticulous and abrasively direct. (That third is ordered to give your bokken and jo to the nearest deprived child and buy pool noodles, the new weapon of the Aikikai). The other third will go to the eastern USA to study with a man named C of whom - well, just go and find out - I can't explain him easily. When you all return, we will have a battle royal in the Budokan, in pitch dark, like my grandfather used to do, with live swords (because aiki is universally applicable) and the team that survives will be responsible for promoting that version of aiki forever after. Actually, the Colorado group can use their pool noodles if they choose.
Me? Ahem. Well, my son and I will be making trips to a small village in China, just in case our elder brothers might somehow have something that we Japanese have not yet had an opportunity to improve. Just to check."

Best wishes,

PAG

P A Goldsbury
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Old 08-21-2010, 03:11 PM   #6
Rabih Shanshiry
 
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
I, Ueshiba Moriteru, have just realized that our million strong international organization has gone down a terribly wrong path. My grandfather taught a particular, very sophisticated training method that was derived almost in whole cloth from Daito-ryu. He then amalgamated it with a charismatic neo-Shinto sect that is now the provenance of elderly devotees, and subject to attempts by a number of yakuza organizations to take control of their millions of yen in money and property. My grandfather used to practice, obsessively, specific drills which enabled him to achieve this internal power. My father rejected this, post-war, and focused on turning the cryptic phrases on peace among the three realms into a feel-good formula of cooperative, pseudo-martial circular movement to enhance relationships among people in the world. This has vitiated it as a martial art, but allowed the art to spread to almost every country, to have a level of political and social influence in our own country, and made beaucoup yen as well. To my shame, however, was stunned to find that not only I, but almost all of the shihan are ignorant of my grandfather's skills. We must recover them - but not through the weird religion grandpa followed. I've tried reading his writings on the subject, and if the old man wasn't crazy, he was eating lots of mushrooms behind that shrine in Iwama!
So I have, in secret, reached out to the various Daito-ryu organizations, the very groups we have slandered as old-fashioned and violent, the legacy of a psychopath that my grandpa was well shut of. Daito-ryu, the martial art transcended by our (not) magnificent aikido. To my surprise, Daito-ryu turned out to be either incredibly rigid, constipated kata training, or ridiculous dive bunny techniques that make Takeda Yoshinobu look normal, and a few really amazing guys who said that they would only teach me if I revealed what I learned to no one - ever. And they sort of indicated they would lie to me and not teach me anyway, while pretending to.
So there is only one way to save aikido - we must get outside help. We have three choices that I have found: All would state that they are far form the best at these skills, but they are the only ones who are not focused on a specific school. So we have, here, a large wheel and we will spin it and draw lots, and one third of the shihan will be dispatched for five years to study in Tokyo with a pugnacious little man named A - yes, please forget that we've previous accused him of being a gangster and told everyone to stay away from him; one third will go to Colorado. I'm sure all the shihan will get along fine with B, a 60+ year old ex-Marine ex-engineer. He will have a number of personality traits that they will like - obsessively meticulous and abrasively direct. (That third is ordered to give your bokken and jo to the nearest deprived child and buy pool noodles, the new weapon of the Aikikai). The other third will go to the eastern USA to study with a man named C of whom - well, just go and find out - I can't explain him easily. When you all return, we will have a battle royal in the Budokan, in pitch dark, like my grandfather used to do, with live swords (because aiki is universally applicable) and the team that survives will be responsible for promoting that version of aiki forever after. Actually, the Colorado group can use their pool noodles if they choose.
Me? Ahem. Well, my son and I will be making trips to a small village in China, just in case our elder brothers might somehow have something that we Japanese have not yet had an opportunity to improve. Just to check."
Absolutely brilliant! That about sums it up.
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Old 08-21-2010, 05:32 PM   #7
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

I smile every time I read Peter Goldbury's posts, because he has a surgical touch in every kind of debate. Faced with Ellis Amdur's speculations he's fiercely demanding of intellectual rigour. Responding to the ever-tempting voice of aikido pontificators of every ilk, he doesn't indulge in the flamethrowing answer, he pokes patiently little holes in bloated dissertation and watches the balloon deflate slowly.

Dear sir I admire your style.

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Old 08-21-2010, 10:03 PM   #8
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

Quote:
Rabih Shanshiry wrote: View Post
Absolutely brilliant! That about sums it up.
I emphasize again that I myself did not write this: I simply removed the names.

Best wishes,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 08-22-2010, 01:19 AM   #9
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

Hello Peter

What a special privilege and an amazing treat it is for me to have this conversation with you. You have picked out one paragraph of my article to respond to, and I am honored to attempt a cogent response, or perhaps, a series of responses. I am so excited, and hope to reply in kind.

To begin with, my viewpoints will sadly lack the scholarly research and painstaking and discriminating relevance produced by your history based authentication, and the invaluable and fascinating annotations gleaned from impeccable sources.

Rather, my ideas seem to percolate from the cauldron of the sum of my first hand experiences, the amazing conversations I have listened to and participated in, and to the distillation of knowledge, wisdom and nuance that resides within my soul and my mind. It is a never ending, always changing concoction of things Francis. I beg your indulgence when it becomes pedantic.

The following is intended to address your discussion format in order.

1) It is my position that we may not be truly successful in reviewing Aikido’s true history and its findings, strictly using methods and biases brought forth from previous times. In other words, I would recommend using current investigative methods and forensic techniques to re-think and re-examine documents, testimonies, writings and perspectives that have been retained intact and unchanged from the past. Yes, to include the input from the earlier shihans and researchers from the past is important. Yet, it is my opinion that we must now see this very same evidence of the Founder’s legacy and history with modern eyes, bolstered by the vast addition of new knowledge, astounding new techniques of investigation, and the time removed and unbiased perspectives not available to the earlier pioneers, including the Founder, the late Doshu, along with the interesting contributions from the past, and still living direct students of the Founder.

You mention examining the contributions of earlier shihans. I cannot help but be skeptical of how accurate, unbiased or even relevant those opinions really are today, especially against the overwhelming influx of new knowledge, perspectives and newfound wisdom we are almost inundated with today . There must be a balance of respect for the original positions, together with viewing history anew with the new dimensions of insight and discoveries made, and to sadly admit that many of the previously held “truths” are no longer valid, and are even embarrassingly erroneous at times. Even the Bible’s New Testament is not immune to ever increasing scrutiny, revision and major reappraisal.

I do not know how we will come to have any current shihans, researchers and even the Aikikai, appropriately and adequately address questions of the “mental and psychological dimensions and definitions of the Founder’s original Aikido” on a timely basis, but I feel that we must try. Perhaps we will need fresh, unbiased eyes, ears and dedicated effort, unfettered by arbitrary notions of loyalty, fidelity and obligation to “truths” and people past, who can and will be objectively scrupulous in their examinations and findings.

2) The fact that we may not reach “any kind of consensus or general agreement anytime soon” is not a problem, but may rather be a positive omen for the future. This fact may be the liberating push we need to become more objective, imaginative and courageous in exploring the past with the formidable tools we have today. The fact that earlier shihans failed to reach any meaningful consensus is actually irrelevant, since we certainly know that they were not prepared by education, training or inclination to realistically approach the task objectively or with any real commitment to accuracy and completeness.

3) I am kind of sorry you mentioned the current Doshu as being adamant in proclaiming the present and future identity of Aikido as being subject to an arbitrary, embarrassingly subjective and a blatantly self serving interpretation of the past. I am positive that this is a major disconnect with the current and future population of well meaning students of Ueshiba Aiki, and if this rift is not mended soon, that this may well spell the end of any meaningful support for Aikikai in the not too distant future. Despite all this, it remains my hope that the Doshu can be persuaded at some level to join us in the daunting task of reviewing, with minimum bias and maximum objectivity, the sum total of the history, proofs, artifacts and the intangible legacy of good will and loyal intentions that have maintained the Aikido engine for all these years.

3) The IAF is but one “organization” that should be entrusted with the immense task of addressing the points we are discussing, and any others that will undoubtedly be added to the mix of things Aiki to be examined, to be improved and to earn the active and ongoing support of the majority of Aikidoists, both current and future.

Certainly, there are no enforceable statutes that exist, or realistically will exist to require current and future organizations to do the heavy lifting. This must come from a much more fundamental source, the integrity, energy and the persistence of the majestic few who will be unconditionally committed to the task, no matter what.

Do you know of any?

4) When I mentioned an obligation of proving our “respect, appreciation, and our unconditional allegiance to the principles he gifted us with” to the Founder, it is the same as having loyal Americans prove their right to citizenship by pledging allegiance to the principles of freedom and accepted values provided by our forefathers, even though they too are dead. Although the Founder is not with us, his legacy, his purpose and his teachings remain for us to honor as we would. For those who would not, farewell, it was nice knowing you.

Peter, I never said, nor did I ever intimate that this sense of “unconditional allegiance” to principle was synonymous with “Aikido’s true identity”. I, along with everyone else I know, are still wrestling with that conundrum, with no real reason to hope for a definitive answer before we die. Yes, this is but one of innumerable ways of appreciating the impact of a Morihei Ueshiba, and each devotee gets to choose his or her poison in dealing effectively with that question.

I do not agree with that tired and silly notion of “stealing” someone’s secret, discovery or other perceived value from someone else. When you steal something small, it truly is theft. When you steal a whole lot from a whole bunch of resources, this is called research. The Founder’s art is as foreign to me as what truly lives in the Marianna Trench. I do not give a fig. I am confident in my appreciation of what I can observe of his life and legacy, and it is enough to send me on my way, freely exploring the endless possibilities of Aiki, just as he did, and admonished me to do. No, it is not the man I study, but his example. He was unique, but certainly not rare. I have met several “O’Senseis” in my life’s journey, and hope to meet several more before I am done. I can only wish the same for you and all my worthy friends in Aiki.

5) As long as we tout being students of Morihei Ueshiba and his research into Aiki , along with his singular discovery called Aikido, we are indeed stewards of his example, his teachings, his inspiration and his legacy of constant and daily improvement in all things Aiki related, which kinda encompasses everything to me. Did I answer your question adequately, or should I continue on…………?

Totally love and appreciate you, my Brother in Aiki, and I keenly look forward to extending our marvelous and intriguing conversations!
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Old 08-22-2010, 11:03 PM   #10
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

Hello Francis,

Many thanks for the quick response. Alas, I will have to postpone further discussion until I return from China early next month. The IAF is putting on an aikido demonstration at an event called the Combat Games (the name is unfortunate, I know) and this is causing a certain, shall we say angst, within the Aikikai.

To come back to your column, I think one of the basic issues facing a modern aikidoka is discovering the nature of Morihei Ueshiba's own training paradigm and, if we cannot replicate this--given that as we actually know what it was, whether there are any satisfactory substitutes.

I also think that the problem with 主点/終点を合わせる and the 決心 needed to attain this is that during Morihei Ueshiba's own time this was tied to an ideology of fanaticism that had unfortunate consequences and this was one thing that Kisshomaru wanted to change.

Best wishes,

PAG

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Old 08-23-2010, 12:17 AM   #11
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

Hi Peter,

Good luck at the Combat Games, although they can't be anymore interesting and fun than the ones we seem to engage in online.

Can't agree with your insistence that we need to replicate the Founder's training regimen, nor do I believe for a second that anyone alive knows what it was.

Oh yeah, fanciful dreaming is still free.

Also interested in your expanded explanation of the "ideology of fanaticism" you were referring to.

Matta, yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

In Oneness,
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Old 08-23-2010, 03:12 AM   #12
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

Hello Francis,

Wait a minute. In a discussion such as this, words need to be chosen with care, otherwise we do end up merely playing games. I do not understand why you think I insist that we can discover the Founder's training regimen. I said nothing about insistence. I said that discovering the nature of Ueshiba's training paradigm was an issue: a 問題点, if you like. The term 'training paradigm' was Ellis Amdur's (used in another thread currently in progress). Morihei Ueshiba is presented so much as an icon in modern aikido that I think it is reasonable for aikidoka to wonder how he himself trained. So another mondai-ten is whether we can know precisely what this training paradigm was and yet another is, if we can know, whether we can reproduce it. If we cannot, and we want to avoid fanciful dreaming, the fourth issue to whether we can find an acceptable substitute. I think all four issues are covered in your column.

Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
Hi Peter,

Good luck at the Combat Games, although they can't be anymore interesting and fun than the ones we seem to engage in online.

Can't agree with your insistence that we need to replicate the Founder's training regimen, nor do I believe for a second that anyone alive knows what it was.

Oh yeah, fanciful dreaming is still free.

Also interested in your expanded explanation of the "ideology of fanaticism" you were referring to.

Matta, yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

In Oneness,
Kochira koso!

PAG

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Old 08-27-2010, 02:09 PM   #13
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

PAG I think one of the basic issues facing a modern aikidoka is discovering the nature of Morihei Ueshiba's own training paradigm and, if we cannot replicate this--given that as we actually know what it was, whether there are any satisfactory substitutes.

Hi Peter,

Totally agree that we should avoid word games, and unrelated tangents to the topics at hand. Forgive me if I misinterpreted your meaning, and would never dare to speak for you. As for Mr. Amdur's paradigms, I would rather shoot for the quarterback myself.

Per your words quoted above, do you really believe that we actually know what the Founder's training dimensions and results were? With the huge disparities of first hand interpretations, and not counting the flood of "after the fact" announcements by enlightened others, how can we accurately be sure of what we are dealing with in terms of verifiable and acceptable information and understanding?

Further, why would the modern aikidoka really care for or need to replicate what one old man did, or to find a suitable substitute, when this very same person constantly admonished us not to. Could it be that in his wisdom, and bitter first hand experience, he realized the futility, not of honoring, respecting and remembering the past, but of trying to recreate what appropriately should remain in history?

Rather, it is not the singular man, and certainly not his unique and unduplicatible accomplishments, but the universally applicable example of how to glean building materials from the infinite warehouse of things Aiki, and the proven value of forging one's own way to do so effectively, that is the true legacy, relevance and benefit to treasuring the priceless event of a man called Ueshiba.

Thank you for representing the Founder's Aikido at the Combat games in China, and I look keenly forward to resuming our conversation, from which I am learning so much.

O daiji ni!
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Old 11-07-2010, 10:33 PM   #14
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

Hello Francis,

Apologies for my late response to your most recent post in this thread. I did not see the post until I noticed a reference on Stan Pranin's Facebook page. Of course, I have a few more comments.

Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
Per your words quoted above, do you really believe that we actually know what the Founder's training dimensions and results were? With the huge disparities of first hand interpretations, and not counting the flood of "after the fact" announcements by enlightened others, how can we accurately be sure of what we are dealing with in terms of verifiable and acceptable information and understanding?
PAG. Given the information we now have about M Ueshiba, probably not. I assume you have thought about the issues with which Ellis Amdur grapples in Hidden in Plain Sight. We know when Ueshiba lived and we also know generally what he did. Given that he is often referred to, like you do, as the Founder of the martial way that we all supposedly practice, it is reasonable to ask how he himself trained in the art he is supposed to have created--if he actually did, for you suggest below that he told us not to train like he did.
So one issue is whether we accept the official biographies as a reliable source of information about his life and activities, including the information given about his training regimen.
The Aikikai, for example, stands as a monument to one particular way of interpreting Ueshiba, as the Founder of a martial art called aikido, which is an art embodied in the teachings of his descendants and successors at the Aikikai Foundation.
The Founder's training regimen? Look at Doshu for what is essential to the art that Ueshiba created; all the rest is optional, or even downright erroneous.

Actually, there are even issues on how you actually frame the questions. There is major interest in so-called internal arts / skills / training and the question inevitably arises whether Ueshiba practiced / possessed these. However, the ‘rewiring' of the body involved here suggests that we need a new way of talking about it. The metaphors we use need to become dead metaphors, so that the essential nonce factor of metaphor is removed. In addition, for Ueshiba, his training regimen is not something that can be considered in isolation from all the other things he did and said. So we are back to sifting through all the evidence.

Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
Further, why would the modern aikidoka really care for or need to replicate what one old man did, or to find a suitable substitute, when this very same person constantly admonished us not to. Could it be that in his wisdom, and bitter first hand experience, he realized the futility, not of honoring, respecting and remembering the past, but of trying to recreate what appropriately should remain in history?
PAG. Touche! Given what you stated in the paragraph above about the disparities of firsthand interpretations, how can you be certain that he constantly admonished us not to? And if he did, did he really mean it? You must have heard the story of his anger at coming to the Hombu Dojo and being enraged at what they were practicing. They were apparently not practicing ‘his' aikido, or the aikido ‘he' taught them. Apparently, they were quite right.

Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
Rather, it is not the singular man, and certainly not his unique and unduplicatible accomplishments, but the universally applicable example of how to glean building materials from the infinite warehouse of things Aiki, and the proven value of forging one's own way to do so effectively, that is the true legacy, relevance and benefit to treasuring the priceless event of a man called Ueshiba.
PAG. Ah, the ‘Aiki-as-warehouse' or ‘Aiki-as-treasurehouse' metaphor. We can simply take what we like from the warehouse, believing it all to be valuable, but without really knowing which is Ueshiba treasure and which is dross, for it all bears the Aiki hallmark. Or we can simply follow our Aikikai / Yoshinkan / Yoseikan / Ki Society shihan guide, who will tell us what is really valuable and why—and discard what he thinks we do not need. Or we can take the M-A-D approach and immerse ourselves in our private training regimens, so that when we visit the warehouse, we can see the dross immediately. Or we could try to do all three at the same time. If we find Ueshiba's life and activities of any value, we are still faced with the problem of relating the ‘Ueshiba-event' to the items in the warehouse.

Ja, mata…

PAG

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Old 11-07-2010, 11:21 PM   #15
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

This reminds me of the Zen saying, "Don't follow in the footsteps of the masters. Seek what they sought."

-John Matsushima

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http://onecorneroftheplanetinjapan.blogspot.jp/
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Old 11-08-2010, 03:41 PM   #16
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

Hello Peter,

Glad to be back to exchanging perspectives, and learning important historical facts and nuances from you. I have the highest respect for your resources, and the awesome value of the results of your long history of classical research. Please continue to share your indispensible treasure trove of historical perspective with the rest of the Aikido community, as well as your unique example of humble leadership.

Yes, it is most appropriately reasonable to ask how the Founder himself trained in the development of his art, but unreasonable to my mind, to hope to emulate or accurately reconstruct those fundamentals he painstakingly discovered and formalized to make them work for him. Further, how can later generations remotely hope to report with any accuracy or veracity of the Founder’s profound discoveries, to the countless others who are equally in the dark as to the circumstances and realities of that time without experiencing them first hand.

History should remain a reference point, and not the primary guide for thoughts and actions for another time and circumstance. Attendant wisdom then, should only be trusted after years of serious study, appropriate training, and the encompassing vision to see all factors, favorable and otherwise, from those who proved faithful to the task of such research.

No, I was not there each time he did or did not admonish his direct students to focus on their own construction of their respective understanding of Aiki, and of their Aikido. Yet, accounts do exist that he was consistent with this advice, and confirmed by the late Doshu directly to me. It would seem that his Aikido was a byproduct of his personal journey of exploring and extracting value from his discoveries from Aiki, warehoused or not. And yes, I do believe that he meant it, but was tempered greatly by the person or persons he was attempting to advise or to enable for the purposes of character and confidence building.

Interesting that you appear to neatly divide what “treasures” that may exist in the Aiki “warehouse’” into a) “Ueshiba treasure” and b) “dross”. How can you, Aikikai, or anyone else claim such amazing and kami like abilities of discrimination, knowledge and wisdom? On what basis can anyone reasonably claim to make distinctions and doctrine on what the Founder clearly and consistently taught us to see as Aikido in its infancy, and not in its final stages of being. In my mind, he purposely left it to future generations to continue the inexhaustible search for Aiki truths, claiming only the initial pioneering effort.

Lastly, for now, what do you truly mean when you write “Look at Doshu for what is essential to the art that Ueshiba created, all the rest is optional,or even downright erroneous”? Are you stating that the Doshu is the primary, infallible, and irrefutable source for the Founder’s legacy, expertise, teachings and legitimacy? Please say that this is not so, that what the past and current Doshu practiced truly was “The Founder’s training regimen? I sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding on my part. I simply wish to have you make it simpler for me.

You mentioned at another time that I was an “Aikikai” member, yet did not elucidate or clarify your definition. For the record, my entire career in Aikido has been as a member of good standing with the Aikikai Foundation, counting the current and late Doshu, amongst others, as my esteemed associates in Ueshiba Aikido, deserving of my high respect and friendship in Aiki. They have seen it fit to award me with certain ranking, and the courtesy of recommending ranking for dan ranks of those I find deserving. Beyond this, I have nothing to do with Aikikai policies, decisions or acquired recognitions and social status. Any advice I would care to give the Doshu or the Aikikai has no more weight than yours probably would, as my history has clearly made abundantly clear.

When I first wrote the “Focus” article, it was my intent to remind others of the inalienable right for each person to choose their style of practice, and to be individually accountable for whatever, and wherever their search took them. All discussions of affiliations and dojo loyalties aside, the primary loyalty is to one’s inner vision, personal philosophy and to those who share the same standards and dreams.

For me then, true focus on one’s goals start, and culminate from within. Gathering any and all applicable and obtainable data, conversations, instructions, and, of course, countless hours of sincere training, is what happily happens in the time beween.

In Oneness,
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Old 11-09-2010, 02:10 AM   #17
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

Hello Francis,

Two clarifications.

Like you, I have a dojo that is formally affiliated to the Aikikai. I have trained in Aikikai dojos and from Aikikai teachers almost from the very beginning of my aikido training.

Secondly, when I stated that the Aikikai stands as a monument to one way of interpreting Ueshiba, I spelled out what this way was in the rest of the sentence. However, I never stated that it was the only way of interpreting Ueshiba. I once asked the present Doshu why he always gave the same demonstration and his answer was that he believed it was his duty to transmit the essence of aikido as he understood it: nothing more, nothing less. The only absolute statement I have ever heard him make was to declare that if aikido had competition, then it was not true aikido.

Finally, the reference to the warehouse was an attempt to understand your complex statement, quoted below.

Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
Rather, it is not the singular man, and certainly not his unique and unduplicatible accomplishments, but the universally applicable example of how to glean building materials from the infinite warehouse of things Aiki, and the proven value of forging one's own way to do so effectively, that is the true legacy, relevance and benefit to treasuring the priceless event of a man called Ueshiba.
There are a fair number of superlatives here and it is not clear to me what you mean(t). You used the term warehouse and called it both infinite and full of things Aiki, which are presumably the building materials. The man called Ueshiba was an example of how to glean such building materials from such a warehouse, but also a universally applicable example. So the gleaning is something that anyone can do. Right? However, to glean effectively, one must forge one's own way and Ueshiba's life has proved the value of forging one's own way to glean the building materials. Right?

So, no, I do not have kami-like powers of discrimination to judge treasure from dross, but, on the other hand, the building materials have to be gleaned, which suggests to me the need for discrimination and the ability to make judgments of value or worth, with respect to these same materials.

So we have a choice with respect to the building materials in the warehouse of things Aiki. We can use Ueshiba's life as an example, and attempt to do what he did, in so far as we can approximate his life to ours. Or we can go our own way, using Ueshiba's life merely as an example of something universally applicable, but not in any sense to be emulated in detail.

Or have I misunderstood you?

Best wishes,

PAG

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Old 11-09-2010, 06:28 PM   #18
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Re: Focus and Aikido Training

Greetings Peter,

Thank you for your clarifications and your quick response. I want to repeat that, while my conversational style may be rather direct and rough, I mean the highest respect and regard for your opinions, your perspectives, your allegiances and your integrity.

Yes, my dojo has a long lasting, direct affiliation with Aikikai Foundation, as do quite a few dojos throughout the United States, and the world. Yet, not all affiliations demonstrate the same appropriate `level of respect, trust and loyalty that your dojo or mine choose to give to Hombu Dojo. Further, it appears that Hombu leadership could care less, preferring to be “like mushrooms”, that is, kept in the dark, and fed a whole lot of dubiously nutritional castings. A major example of “faltering” in my book, which doesn’t look to change anytime soon.

I have long expanded my research into things “Aiki” to concepts, programs and teachers of non aikido related systems, having taken my cue from the Founder’s own example and history of success. My students likewise are continually encouraged to seek out alternative, and even antagonistic viewpoints to mainstream Aikido (if it exists at all, and certainly not in my dojo), to judge for themselves if they want to continue with their Aikido identity or to change as needed for their own growth and satisfaction.

With all due respect to the traditions of Aikikai Foundation, its illustrious history of expansion under the late Doshu, and the many fine, talented and proven senseis produced over time, I no longer consider Aikikai, and its current leadership, to be the primary resource for Aikido integrity and relevance, and certainly not the definitive authority to explore, discover or explain the man called Ueshiba.

I have previously stated my reasons for remaining within the Aikikai family, and my personal high regard, deep respect and genuine fondness for the Doshu, and for certain existing figures within that system, which remain unchanged.

Per what I gleaned from studying the Founder, the late Doshu and certain key direct students, as well as indirect students of O Sensei, the torch has long passed on to future generations, as directed from the Ueshiba line, and it is now our time to become the worthy stewards of O Sensei’s purpose if we honestly choose to do so.

I will always respect the choice of loyal Aikikai supporters to place the Ueshiba lineage at the nexus of Aikido integrity, knowledge and undisputed authority. I simply do not buy it, and have told the current Doshu directly many times. I do feel that he understands my sincerity, and is gracious enough to allow me to think the way I do. Another reason for my personal loyalty to him, and to the Ueshiba lineage.

In terms of the Doshu reputedly and categorically stating that Aikido is devoid of competition, there is a most serious disconnect with the reality of human interaction. Aikikai Foundation, the IAF and the entire roster of Aikikai representatives all attest to the inaccuracy and fallacy of this notion. The constant infighting, squabbling and ego collisions over the decades is legendary, and exposes the lie in such an otherwise lofty notion. I do not doubt the Doshu’s sincerity, just his facts.

I apologize for any ambiguity or complexity of any superlatives I use.

There I go again, unjustly taking poetic license with the English language for reasons I cannot myself fathom.

Pre Alzheimers is my feeble guess.

I could have used the term “the Universal Aiki Store”, or the “realm of whatever is possible, and then some”. It is my position that anyone has the right to coin whatever phrase necessary to describe what will always be an individual search for meaning.

My take on martial integrity is that first, you do away with any social obligations, systemic fiats, or arbitrary allegiances to fallible human beings. You take full ownership of whatever you commit to.

The truths that surround you and me demand a much higher accounting from us, beginning with the necessary courage and persistence to stay the course of our life long study and commitment to excellence.

No, my good friend in Aiki, we have many more choices than to select which “building materials” we can choose from to construct our individual aikido. The Founder’s example and legacy, albeit magnificent and awe inspiring, is simply one of many the serious student may find available from the wealth of Aiki Principles, if he or she would simply commit to “focus” unconditionally.

Matta, yorooshiku onegaishimasu!
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