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Old 08-12-2011, 10:39 AM   #1
Allen Beebe
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When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

When a Non-Aikido martial art IS Aikido.

or

Apparently when O-sensei is teaching it!

This was part of an interview with Takako Kunigoshi posted on Aikido Journal this morning:

"Editor: About two years ago we heard some wonderful stories from Yonekawa Sensei. Do you recall if at the time you were training, the name "Aikido" was in use?

I think at that time it was called Daito Ryu.

Editor: "Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu?"

I think it was something like that because I received a makimono scroll entitled Daito Ryu. It seems to me that the name Aikido came into use just a little before the war started. It was almost as if the name Aikido was thought to actually indicate the Daito Ryu. Later whenever I was asked about it I always answered that it was Takeda Sokaku Sensei's tradition (ryu).(I added the bold.)

Editor: During Ueshiba Sensei's training sessions in what way did he explain the techniques of Aikido?

No matter what it was that we asked him I think we always got the same answer. Anyway, there wasn't a soul there who could understand any of the things that he said. I guess he was talking about spiritual subjects but the meaning of his words was just beyond us. Later we would stand around and ask each other, "Just what was it Sensei was talking about anyway?" (laughter)."

Later she actually goes on to explain how she worked in some detail with the Uchideshi and O-sensei to create the book Budo Renshu, including adjustments to illustrations and explanations of technique. So, apparently there were times when communication was of a functional/understandable variety and, if one bothers to read the interview, O-sensei seems to indicate that there is a "right" and "wrong" way of doing things in very strong (yelling actually) terms. So one has to some how reconcile that with "make Aikido yours." Apparently "making Aikido yours" didn't equate to doing whatever one wants as "right" in O-sensei's opinion.

It is a great interview with a prominent early student of Ueshiba Morihei. Stan indicates that he has another interview with her as well in his newly revised and expanded book 'Aikido Pioneers - Pre-war Era.'

Her statement that I put in bold just caught my eye. It is remarkable when one considers a) her level of involvement, b) the length of her continued involvement indicated in the rest of the interview, and c) she clearly was aware of later developments and that she was being interviewed for a publication directly related to "Aikido."

Pretty interesting!

http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=613

~ Allen Beebe
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Old 08-12-2011, 11:46 AM   #2
Eric in Denver
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

A lot of the interviews in Aikido Pioneers - Pre-war Era pulled forth similar comments, if I remember correctly. It has been a while since I read it -- it was one of the books that got lost in my move back from Japan -- along with most of my training notes

Allen, I think you have trained with some Daito Ryuers, how would you say the Shirata curriculum compares with their techniques? -- not the tandokudosa stuff, but the actual waza.
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Old 08-12-2011, 12:05 PM   #3
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

I think these discussions always get problematical because, as O-Sensei was frequently quoted as saying, "no one is doing my Aikido." Notice he didn't say, "No one is doing my Aikido any more" or "No one after 1942 is doing my Aikido."

For the Founder, there simply was no distinction between the various elements of his practice. Meaning his waza, his spiritual beliefs, his misogi training, even his farming, was all Aikido. The thirties deshi, especially his nephew Inoue sensei, were technically the closest in terms of waza but other than Inoue. none of them seemed the least interested in his spiritual practices, at least the ones who are famous because they started their own styles (Shioda, Tomiki, Mochizuki). Shirata Sensei was the only one of the thirties deshi of any great repute who stayed with the Aikikai.

I have mentioned before a conversation I had with Saotome Sensei and Stan Pranin about which of O-Sensei's students tried hardest to understand Aikido the way the Founder understood it. The answer was Hikitsuchi, Abe, and Sunadomari. Notice that none of these are early thirties deshi.

It is clear that the early thirties deshi did Daito Ryu. As has been discussed at length elsewhere, they did various forms of "internal power" development exercises that largely seemed to drop out of Aikido after the war. But I think it would be a huge mistake to say that their Aikido was any closer to O-Sensei's Aikido than the post war folks. From the standpoint of the Founder, I think their Aikido was just as out of balance as much of what came later.

In addition to the three teachers I mentioned who pursued their Aikido as a balanced technical / spiritual practice, there were many students of the Founder who incorporated aspects of his practice into their own. Some studied kototama, some tried to get outside martial arts experience (as the Founder had), some, like my own teacher, Saotome Sensei, tried very hard to understand what the Founder was talking about when he taught as obscure as it was, and then translate it into ideas that would be meaningful to modern Japanese, and later American practitioners.

When you hear that O-Sensei yelled at people for not doping technique "right" are we talking about particular stylistic details not being correct? Or are we talking about the difference between what works and what doesn't? My take on O-Sensei was that as he developed his Aikido, he progressively became less and less concerned with exactly how one did a given technique and more and more with whether it embodied the proper principles.

I have direct experience of this myself with my own teacher. While students focus on how they think Sensei did such and such a sword form on his video, my experience is that he cares not one whit that my form is a bit different than his. As long as it embodies the principles he was striving to teach via the form, he isn't that concerned with the actual form itself, in fact he often has trouble remembering the exact forms, even though he made them up.

It was the students of the Founder who were so concerned with form, and naturally so. They had to distill the massive amount of teaching they received from the Founder into something they could digest themselves and then in turn, pass on to another generation of students. I see no evidence that O-Sensei was the least interested in "form" as he developed his art. Saito Sensei was really the last deshi to get a lot of detailed technical training because it was with Saito that O-Sensei worked out what would become the foundations of post war Aikido.

Whether you go back to the thirties or read the accounts of the post war deshi, it is clear that what O-Sensei thought was important about Aikido was its balance between the spiritual and the technical. When he taught, he talked about spiritual principles and then demonstrated how those principles were embodied in technique. That's just a fact. It is also a fact that the majority of his students simply couldn't go there with him.

I think it has always been the case the Aikido was about finding your own Aikido. O-Sensei presented his ideas about what that might be but never developed any systematic method for passing it on. I still believe that, in the end, the one student whose Aikido was probably the closest to that of the Founder, both technically and philosophically was Inoue Sensei, who had very little following in Japan and almost none overseas.

To the extent that one seeks "O-Sensei's Aikido" it is rather like the research required to reconstruct the original texts of Buddhism. The original texts in Sanskrit are lost, destroyed by the Islamic invaders of Northern India. To get an idea of what was in the originals, one has to look at the Pali, the Chinese and the Tibetan texts and compare them. Anything that appears in all three versions is assumed to have been in the original.

So we can look at various teachers from different time periods and derive pieces of the Founder's Aikido. But no one, whether it's pre-war or post-war, was either technically or spiritually doing exactly what the Founder had done. That's a fact. We can get over it and move on with our Aikido or we can keep trying to set up our own "Jurassic Park" of Aikido using various strands of Aikido DNA left behind in other practitioners.

It's not O-Sensei's Aikido that we are striving for. It's our own Aikido that perhaps O-Sensei might have recognized and hopefully, approved of. No one duplicated his Aikido when he was alive and they could train with him on a daily level. There is zero chance we can duplicate it for ourselves. But I do think he had an intention about what the art should be as a transformative practice. I do think that he expected that what one could express from a spiritual point of view one should be able to express on the mat technically. Aikido is fundamentally a marriage of the material and the spiritual. It is meant to be an art which unifies these two realms. If it is not, then we can with certainty say it isn't O-Sensei's Aikido. If this isn't something we are at least striving for, I don't think it's Aikido.

The folks who simply say they aren't interested in the spiritual side of the art, that the Founder isn't really relevant to their practice are not doing Aikido, in my opinion. The focus on mere effectiveness, the obsession with application and the almost complete lack of any thoughtfulness regarding the art simply isn't Aikido. Most of the time it's just bad jujutsu.

In contrast, the wonderful sentiments expressed by many people about peace, harmony, personal transformation etc. coupled with a sort of "it's all ok" sentiment regarding technique is equally missing the point. Beautiful ideas with absolutely no understanding of how those ideas are grounded in the physical realm of reality, with no ability to really connect the spiritual with ones waza in a way that actually is real is not Aikido either.

It is the great tragedy of Aikido that there are so few people who seem to be able to bring these elements together. All concepts in Aikido are grounded in waza. As you start to really get a handle on "aiki", you can see exactly how the Founder developed his ideas about how waza and the spiritual come together. It is then that one can start taking ideas from the spiritual realm and allowing them to inform our waza. This process is Aikido, as far as I can see.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 08-12-2011 at 12:15 PM.

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Old 08-12-2011, 12:43 PM   #4
Allen Beebe
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

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Eric DesMarais wrote: View Post
A lot of the interviews in Aikido Pioneers - Pre-war Era pulled forth similar comments, if I remember correctly. It has been a while since I read it -- it was one of the books that got lost in my move back from Japan -- along with most of my training notes

Allen, I think you have trained with some Daito Ryuers, how would you say the Shirata curriculum compares with their techniques? -- not the tandokudosa stuff, but the actual waza.
Well my unspoken philosophy, when I go to train with someone else is, "I'm here to learn your stuff, not share my stuff." And, as an aside, I think a statment made by a Budo friend is also true, "You always suck doing the other guy's stuff.

That having been said, so far when they have seen a bit of Shirata's waza, as I was taught it, the reaction has been consistent. They say, "That's Daito Ryu." This means more to me coming from Daito Ryu sources than the other way around, because I figure, "Who am I to say what Daito Ryu is or isn't? I was taught Aikido." Over the years though every indication points to their being one and the same. Right down to our teachers saying the exact words and "inner teachings" being identical. On the other hand there is considerable variability in Daito Ryu of course. (But then there is variability among Shirata sensei's students, not to mention Aikido as a whole.) For example, years ago when I first saw Kondo sensei demonstrate some basic Daito Ryu I thought, "Well that is different than how I learned it." but then he went on to say, "We do it this way now, but in the past, it was paracticed this way, but that is too dangerous." It turned out the "past" way was they way I learned and continue to practice.

So, for my experience, with regards to what I learned, I really coudn't say how one differed from the other. Although, I can see differences within Daito Ryu and Aikido respectively, and also there are, of course, differences in depth of instruction and quality of execution. But variation is the norm rather than the exception.

So, I practice and teach Aikido because that is the name used by my teacher when I was taught. I choose to train with select Non-Aikido folks NOT because I feel the need to make up for difficiencies in my education (on the contrary, I am continuously flabergasted by the depth and bredth of what I was taught [Being an Aikidoshi I adopted a kind of inferiority complex thinking that my little Gendai Budo was necessarily incomplete in most areas. Lately, I've had to come to the opposite conclusion. There is virtually nothing to apologize for in virtually every regard . . . other than my lack of adequately practicing, valuing, and/or representing what I was taught.] and certainly not to "gain new material," I have thousands thank you very much!, although I definately have a lot to learn and there is plenty of room for improvement) but because what they are training has much more incommon (identical in many cases) to the AIKIDO I learned than does any modern Aikido that I've happened across. (The main exception has been with weapons. So far I haven't found a parallel with what I was taught, weapons wise, by Shirata sensei, outside of the Koryu domain. And even then, it seems to me, that some Koryu weapons styles are more amenable to Aiki than are others.)

Can you imagine how I felt in 1993 when my teacher passed away? Things are a lot different now than they were even then. I literally went and joined a religious order!!

~ Allen Beebe
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Old 08-12-2011, 01:14 PM   #5
Eric in Denver
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

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Can you imagine how I felt in 1993 when my teacher passed away? Things are a lot different now than they were even then. I literally went and joined a religious order!!
As you know, I trained with John Stevens, but it was well after Shirata passed away. For me Shirata is like a shadow that I can perhaps get little glimpses of, and even then, I am not really sure what I saw. I envy the hands on time you had with him!
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Old 08-12-2011, 01:18 PM   #6
Allen Beebe
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

Hi George,

Just for clarity's sake, can you see that I'm actually arguing for inclusion rather than exclusion?

In other words, it seems odd to me that all that comes after a certain period (including all that comes after his death) that bears the name Aikido IS Aikido, but that which he taught and was also called Aikido is somehow deemed Non-Aikido.

BTW, Shirata came to Aikido via Oomoto connections and was actually sent to teach at the Takeda branch of the Budo Senyo Kai BECAUSE he was Oomoto and O-sensei thought that he (Shirata) could bridge the differences between the Oomoto members of the Senyokai and the purly Aikido members of the Senyo Kai. So obviously O-sensei thought there was some spiritual understanding there. When I knew him Shirata still prayed in an Oomoto manner and also taught Yamagushi no Gyo which he clearly related to his teacher and Aikido.

As for me, I just try to best learn what my teacher taught me knowing, and accepting, that that will be different from my peers (senior and junior students of Shirata sensei). I learned from Shirata Rinjiro not from Ueshiba Morihei. Although I am interested in my teacher's teacher and his teacher, etc. I think you will agree that it is a bit silly for me to claim that I am doing O-sensei's Aikido. I can't even claim to do Shirata sensei's Aikido. I guess I do my understanding of Aikido as taught to me by Shirata Sensei, as taught to him by O-sensei. Although, I know that there are things that I could do that would probably send my teacher "over the edge" "THAT'S NOT AIKIDO!"

So . . . another paradox! We must be headed in the right direction!!

~ Allen Beebe
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Old 08-12-2011, 01:27 PM   #7
Allen Beebe
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

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Eric DesMarais wrote: View Post
As you know, I trained with John Stevens, but it was well after Shirata passed away. For me Shirata is like a shadow that I can perhaps get little glimpses of, and even then, I am not really sure what I saw. I envy the hands on time you had with him!
I've heard this before and I am convinced that it is impossible for John, I and others to relate our experience. For me the memory is immediate and palpably present. So, when I hear you and others say this I gain an appreciation for the frustration that my teacher (and certainly other students of O-sensei) felt when he tried relate to us what his experience with his teacher was like. One can try, but it is impossible. Hopefully a bit of "the magic" passes on student to student.

Thanks,
Allen

~ Allen Beebe
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Old 08-12-2011, 03:28 PM   #8
graham christian
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
I think these discussions always get problematical because, as O-Sensei was frequently quoted as saying, "no one is doing my Aikido." Notice he didn't say, "No one is doing my Aikido any more" or "No one after 1942 is doing my Aikido."

For the Founder, there simply was no distinction between the various elements of his practice. Meaning his waza, his spiritual beliefs, his misogi training, even his farming, was all Aikido. The thirties deshi, especially his nephew Inoue sensei, were technically the closest in terms of waza but other than Inoue. none of them seemed the least interested in his spiritual practices, at least the ones who are famous because they started their own styles (Shioda, Tomiki, Mochizuki). Shirata Sensei was the only one of the thirties deshi of any great repute who stayed with the Aikikai.

I have mentioned before a conversation I had with Saotome Sensei and Stan Pranin about which of O-Sensei's students tried hardest to understand Aikido the way the Founder understood it. The answer was Hikitsuchi, Abe, and Sunadomari. Notice that none of these are early thirties deshi.

It is clear that the early thirties deshi did Daito Ryu. As has been discussed at length elsewhere, they did various forms of "internal power" development exercises that largely seemed to drop out of Aikido after the war. But I think it would be a huge mistake to say that their Aikido was any closer to O-Sensei's Aikido than the post war folks. From the standpoint of the Founder, I think their Aikido was just as out of balance as much of what came later.

In addition to the three teachers I mentioned who pursued their Aikido as a balanced technical / spiritual practice, there were many students of the Founder who incorporated aspects of his practice into their own. Some studied kototama, some tried to get outside martial arts experience (as the Founder had), some, like my own teacher, Saotome Sensei, tried very hard to understand what the Founder was talking about when he taught as obscure as it was, and then translate it into ideas that would be meaningful to modern Japanese, and later American practitioners.

When you hear that O-Sensei yelled at people for not doping technique "right" are we talking about particular stylistic details not being correct? Or are we talking about the difference between what works and what doesn't? My take on O-Sensei was that as he developed his Aikido, he progressively became less and less concerned with exactly how one did a given technique and more and more with whether it embodied the proper principles.

I have direct experience of this myself with my own teacher. While students focus on how they think Sensei did such and such a sword form on his video, my experience is that he cares not one whit that my form is a bit different than his. As long as it embodies the principles he was striving to teach via the form, he isn't that concerned with the actual form itself, in fact he often has trouble remembering the exact forms, even though he made them up.

It was the students of the Founder who were so concerned with form, and naturally so. They had to distill the massive amount of teaching they received from the Founder into something they could digest themselves and then in turn, pass on to another generation of students. I see no evidence that O-Sensei was the least interested in "form" as he developed his art. Saito Sensei was really the last deshi to get a lot of detailed technical training because it was with Saito that O-Sensei worked out what would become the foundations of post war Aikido.

Whether you go back to the thirties or read the accounts of the post war deshi, it is clear that what O-Sensei thought was important about Aikido was its balance between the spiritual and the technical. When he taught, he talked about spiritual principles and then demonstrated how those principles were embodied in technique. That's just a fact. It is also a fact that the majority of his students simply couldn't go there with him.

I think it has always been the case the Aikido was about finding your own Aikido. O-Sensei presented his ideas about what that might be but never developed any systematic method for passing it on. I still believe that, in the end, the one student whose Aikido was probably the closest to that of the Founder, both technically and philosophically was Inoue Sensei, who had very little following in Japan and almost none overseas.

To the extent that one seeks "O-Sensei's Aikido" it is rather like the research required to reconstruct the original texts of Buddhism. The original texts in Sanskrit are lost, destroyed by the Islamic invaders of Northern India. To get an idea of what was in the originals, one has to look at the Pali, the Chinese and the Tibetan texts and compare them. Anything that appears in all three versions is assumed to have been in the original.

So we can look at various teachers from different time periods and derive pieces of the Founder's Aikido. But no one, whether it's pre-war or post-war, was either technically or spiritually doing exactly what the Founder had done. That's a fact. We can get over it and move on with our Aikido or we can keep trying to set up our own "Jurassic Park" of Aikido using various strands of Aikido DNA left behind in other practitioners.

It's not O-Sensei's Aikido that we are striving for. It's our own Aikido that perhaps O-Sensei might have recognized and hopefully, approved of. No one duplicated his Aikido when he was alive and they could train with him on a daily level. There is zero chance we can duplicate it for ourselves. But I do think he had an intention about what the art should be as a transformative practice. I do think that he expected that what one could express from a spiritual point of view one should be able to express on the mat technically. Aikido is fundamentally a marriage of the material and the spiritual. It is meant to be an art which unifies these two realms. If it is not, then we can with certainty say it isn't O-Sensei's Aikido. If this isn't something we are at least striving for, I don't think it's Aikido.

The folks who simply say they aren't interested in the spiritual side of the art, that the Founder isn't really relevant to their practice are not doing Aikido, in my opinion. The focus on mere effectiveness, the obsession with application and the almost complete lack of any thoughtfulness regarding the art simply isn't Aikido. Most of the time it's just bad jujutsu.

In contrast, the wonderful sentiments expressed by many people about peace, harmony, personal transformation etc. coupled with a sort of "it's all ok" sentiment regarding technique is equally missing the point. Beautiful ideas with absolutely no understanding of how those ideas are grounded in the physical realm of reality, with no ability to really connect the spiritual with ones waza in a way that actually is real is not Aikido either.

It is the great tragedy of Aikido that there are so few people who seem to be able to bring these elements together. All concepts in Aikido are grounded in waza. As you start to really get a handle on "aiki", you can see exactly how the Founder developed his ideas about how waza and the spiritual come together. It is then that one can start taking ideas from the spiritual realm and allowing them to inform our waza. This process is Aikido, as far as I can see.
Ha, ha. George. You never cease to amaze me.

To think you feel the closest to his Aikido was Inoue Sensei. Wow! I would never have guessed.

I read this post and wonder if it's one of mine. Have you had some kind of enlightenment lately?

No, I'm not taking the rise, I'm impressed. I thoroughly agree with all you have written there. In fact the understanding of O'Sensei complaining 'that's not my Aikido' seemed obvious to me and you're the first person I've seen put it into a proper context.

There's hope yet! Ha'ha.

Regards.G.
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Old 08-12-2011, 04:10 PM   #9
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

Quote:
Allen Beebe wrote: View Post
Hi George,

Just for clarity's sake, can you see that I'm actually arguing for inclusion rather than exclusion?

In other words, it seems odd to me that all that comes after a certain period (including all that comes after his death) that bears the name Aikido IS Aikido, but that which he taught and was also called Aikido is somehow deemed Non-Aikido.

BTW, Shirata came to Aikido via Oomoto connections and was actually sent to teach at the Takeda branch of the Budo Senyo Kai BECAUSE he was Oomoto and O-sensei thought that he (Shirata) could bridge the differences between the Oomoto members of the Senyokai and the purly Aikido members of the Senyo Kai. So obviously O-sensei thought there was some spiritual understanding there. When I knew him Shirata still prayed in an Oomoto manner and also taught Yamagushi no Gyo which he clearly related to his teacher and Aikido.

As for me, I just try to best learn what my teacher taught me knowing, and accepting, that that will be different from my peers (senior and junior students of Shirata sensei). I learned from Shirata Rinjiro not from Ueshiba Morihei. Although I am interested in my teacher's teacher and his teacher, etc. I think you will agree that it is a bit silly for me to claim that I am doing O-sensei's Aikido. I can't even claim to do Shirata sensei's Aikido. I guess I do my understanding of Aikido as taught to me by Shirata Sensei, as taught to him by O-sensei. Although, I know that there are things that I could do that would probably send my teacher "over the edge" "THAT'S NOT AIKIDO!"

So . . . another paradox! We must be headed in the right direction!!
Ah, well that explains certain things... I wasn't aware, or had forgotten, which is likely, that Sjirata Sensei was part of the Omotokyo... So in many ways that would put him right up there with Inoue in terms of having a compatible perspective on O-Sensei's Aikido. Makes sense in terms of what I knew him to be doing...

In terms of what is and is not Aikido... On a technical level, Saotome Sensei has been adamant that Aikido has no "style". So, if it has "aiki", on some level it's Aikido. I do think that there is an "attitude" associated with the use of "aiki" principles for waza that he would say distinguishes Aikido from other arts, although not totally even there. Some would say that O-Sensei's talk about Love being fundamental to Budo would be a unique characteristic of Aikido but having worked with the Systema folks and Ushiro Kenji and hearing how they use the term... punching with love, for instance, I would say that it's not unique to O-Sensei.

So, even though one might have "aiki" and be doing techniques that would be considered main stream Aikido, if one was using the techniques for evil purposes I think it would not be Aikido. I think for my teacher that would be the real distinguishing factor. That and simply doing muscular technique with no "aiki" at all... I don't think he considers that real Aikido either.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 08-13-2011, 08:01 AM   #10
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

The way i see it after o'sensei died some of his close students chopped aikido in piecies each claiming his own style rather than concentrating on creating a next generation of capable aikidoka of high level.They considered o'sensei a...god, they spread around incredible stories of his exploits and his "magical"powers and when the time came they served their ego instead of the art, giving priority on who is affiliated with whom, who is flying under whose wing, and o'sensei's vision of uniting the world under aikido became an echo in the distance.When aikido came to the west it was chopped to even more pieces with instructors who teached selectively bits and parts of aikido according to their...taste.So there goes weapons training(suburi, kata ,kumi-tachi, kumi-jo e.t.c), there goes advanced tai-jutsu such as ganseki otoshi or gaeshi waza,there goes fast, effective technique not to mention iai-do as a suplemental training.Ki, kokyu and other important esoteric elements were either not mentioned at all or were twisted into a new age type of religion with very few exceptions.And then came that tall, american guy with his pony-tail and at last we had a healthy image of real and effective aikido through his teachings and, why not, through his movies.As he insisted that there is only one aikido the majoriy of the aikido world found him not good enough because he was too...effective.Once again people remembered o'sensei's "soft" legacy, forgetting of course that o'sensei had saved his own life many times using aikido back in the day before it got stripped of its fundamental parts of its training menu in favour of a ballet-like practice.Aikido's roots are in daito-ryu, o'sensei didn't invent the aikido techniques.He created a modern way of teaching a true martial art in a world where the classic bushi and the samurai warrior had become extinct.So there is only one aikido, there can be no other "style".All we have to do is practice it.That is i think the "secret" of o'sensei's abilities and that is the legacy he left behind.And if at a very advanced level one wants to be creative, as long as it is within aikido's basic principles it is aikido...
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Old 08-13-2011, 09:41 AM   #11
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
In terms of what is and is not Aikido... On a technical level, Saotome Sensei has been adamant that Aikido has no "style". So, if it has "aiki", on some level it's Aikido. I do think that there is an "attitude" associated with the use of "aiki" principles for waza that he would say distinguishes Aikido from other arts, although not totally even there. Some would say that O-Sensei's talk about Love being fundamental to Budo would be a unique characteristic of Aikido but having worked with the Systema folks and Ushiro Kenji and hearing how they use the term... punching with love, for instance, I would say that it's not unique to O-Sensei.
There is this often-repeated story of O Sensei delivering a 10th dan to a lady dancer when he saw her perform. If it is true, I guess he might have detected, outside of a martial context, a mental/spiritual attitude and perhaps also the use of certain body skills that he judged relevant to his idea of aikido.

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Old 08-13-2011, 02:30 PM   #12
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

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Yannis Mousoulis wrote: View Post
The way i see it after o'sensei died some of his close students chopped aikido in piecies each claiming his own style rather than concentrating on creating a next generation of capable aikidoka of high level.They considered o'sensei a...god, they spread around incredible stories of his exploits and his "magical"powers and when the time came they served their ego instead of the art, giving priority on who is affiliated with whom, who is flying under whose wing, and o'sensei's vision of uniting the world under aikido became an echo in the distance.When aikido came to the west it was chopped to even more pieces with instructors who teached selectively bits and parts of aikido according to their...taste.So there goes weapons training(suburi, kata ,kumi-tachi, kumi-jo e.t.c), there goes advanced tai-jutsu such as ganseki otoshi or gaeshi waza,there goes fast, effective technique not to mention iai-do as a suplemental training.Ki, kokyu and other important esoteric elements were either not mentioned at all or were twisted into a new age type of religion with very few exceptions.And then came that tall, american guy with his pony-tail and at last we had a healthy image of real and effective aikido through his teachings and, why not, through his movies.As he insisted that there is only one aikido the majoriy of the aikido world found him not good enough because he was too...effective.Once again people remembered o'sensei's "soft" legacy, forgetting of course that o'sensei had saved his own life many times using aikido back in the day before it got stripped of its fundamental parts of its training menu in favour of a ballet-like practice.Aikido's roots are in daito-ryu, o'sensei didn't invent the aikido techniques.He created a modern way of teaching a true martial art in a world where the classic bushi and the samurai warrior had become extinct.So there is only one aikido, there can be no other "style".All we have to do is practice it.That is i think the "secret" of o'sensei's abilities and that is the legacy he left behind.And if at a very advanced level one wants to be creative, as long as it is within aikido's basic principles it is aikido...
Dear Yannis,
I do not know how you arrive at the conclusion that after O Senseis passing training in Jo/Ken , Batto Ho,suburi , kumi tachi, tachidori /jo dori went out the window.As a member of Birankai International I can safely say all of these disciplines[including Za Zen ]are practiced consistently within our group.
Why not take the time and effort to look at Biran online and see for yourself?Or contact me in Pm.and I can give you futher info.
Cheers, Joe.
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Old 08-14-2011, 12:20 AM   #13
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

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Dear Yannis,
I do not know how you arrive at the conclusion that after O Senseis passing training in Jo/Ken , Batto Ho,suburi , kumi tachi, tachidori /jo dori went out the window.As a member of Birankai International I can safely say all of these disciplines[including Za Zen ]are practiced consistently within our group.
Why not take the time and effort to look at Biran online and see for yourself?Or contact me in Pm.and I can give you futher info.
Cheers, Joe.
Hi Joe,
I have had the good fortune to have trained with Chiba Sensei on a number of occasions... He even had me teach a class once at one of his instructor seminars. In fact, technically, as far as hombu dojo was concerend, my San Dan went through him (although I had another certificate from my teacher Saotome Sensei). Anyway, I have worked with Chiba Sensei, Imaizumi Sensei and Saotome Sensei, all deshi at roughly the same period at hombu. All three have fully developed weapons training programs. What is interesting is that they are not for the most part terribly similar which leads me to believe that they received training from an outside source and then were allowed to run with that training and largely work things out for themselves. It is also clear that some of the deshi from that time didn't not get such training which has lead me to believe that it was optional and some folks took advantage and others did not. Anyway, I always learned a lot from Chiba Sensei's weapons work. It was hugely powerful which I loved.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 08-14-2011, 11:18 AM   #14
Cliff Judge
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

This actually kind of sounds like a case where a -do term is used in a more general, descriptive manner rather than a titular or referential maner. Daito ryu could certainly be seen as "an aikido" similar to how Itto ryu could be seen as "a kendo" i.e. "a way of the sword."

It kind of makes you wonder why we call it Aikido at all.
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Old 08-14-2011, 08:05 PM   #15
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

George - Thankyou (in particular) for your first post on this thread, a very good read and in my opinion spot on the money.
From everything I know O'Sensei was far more spiritual than Martial, and unless you are like him you will never "get" what he did. But some of his basic teachings are perhaps obvious - love, harmony, that sort of thing.

Also, it is a natural progression for something to splinter, and fracture. If you teach me something, I listen to you, and 2 years later teach it with my "take" on it - nothing wrong with that, and it ocurs in most facets of life. Change is natural.

When we start breaking down "styles" of aikido and pigeon holing them due to the fact they do "this technique and not that one" again that is natural. However I do think that it is a mistake to stick religiously with a way of doing a technique, because that has "always been that way."

Sensei Dave Lynch here in NZ, who trained with O'Sensei, once told me at one of the Aikikai Dojos that when he trained there as a youth (in Japapn) they did a particular technique a certain way, he always thought it wasn't very good. 20 years later he went back and trained with them again and they had not changed it at all, though the rest of the Aikido world had. He laughed about it and said "that isn't taking an art forward is it?"

Good to remember, but good to change, splintering, fracturing are human nature.

Last edited by matty_mojo911 : 08-14-2011 at 08:08 PM.
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Old 08-14-2011, 08:12 PM   #16
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

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From everything I know O'Sensei was far more spiritual than Martial, and unless you are like him you will never "get" what he did.
Unless this sort of "black is really white if you look at it in the right light" type of comment is laid to rest by more of Aikido enthusiasts, it will gradually kill Aikido. BTW... Ueshiba was pretty darned irrascible, according to most of the records, so where the "spiritual" focus comes from, without caveat, is sort of dumbfounding.

Ueshiba's reputation was made on his martial prowess, not on his spirituality.

Mike Sigman
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Old 08-14-2011, 09:24 PM   #17
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

"Irascible" and "spiritual" being, of course, perfectly compatible in the Asian context.
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Old 08-14-2011, 09:32 PM   #18
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

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"Irascible" and "spiritual" being, of course, perfectly compatible in the Asian context.
"Ignorant" and "All-Seeing" being, of course, perfectly compatible in the primitive context.... as was the idea of "Kami".

Mike Sigman
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Old 08-14-2011, 09:39 PM   #19
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

"Irascible" and "spiritual" being pretty much compatible in the Western context, too, now that I think about it. Check out today's Gospel reading.
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Old 08-14-2011, 09:46 PM   #20
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

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"Irascible" and "spiritual" being, of course, perfectly compatible in the Asian context.
I like it. In fact he was quite irascible when others were not understanding spiritual.

Regards.G.
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Old 08-14-2011, 09:52 PM   #21
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

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"Irascible" and "spiritual" being pretty much compatible in the Western context, too, now that I think about it. Check out today's Gospel reading.
Ah, I see. Would that Ueshiba had been aware of what his Aikido meant!

Mike Sigman
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Old 08-15-2011, 08:56 AM   #22
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

Just for the sake of open discussion, and not as a statement of fact. Over the years I have heard the words spiritual and philosophical and ethical all used in relation to Aikido, generally by people meaning "roughly" the same thing. I believe that Ueshiba was quite probably a touch mad, in the way that most highly committed people are, but I also believe that he was technically very gifted. many of his doka were dismissed, even by how own deshi, as being too "mystical " to understand, too "spiritual" etc. However, and I'm sure Mike will correct me if I am way off the mark, I have read many so-called Tai Chi poems which read like a cross between drunken Taosim and a romantic naturalist guidebook. BUT, on careful perusal they begin to make some sense, speaking about sunny side and shady side and seasonal or diurnal rotations as an allegory for how to utilize the mechanics of spiralling, or how to have part of the body full and another, balancing part, empty.
I begin to suspect that some of Ueshiba's spiritual ramblings were in fact technical allegory in the same way. I don't know wether it was intentionally so, or simply the orchestrated byproduct of the imagery and language he was full of.
Even the endlessly misquoted idea that Aikido is all about establishing a "relationship" with an opponent, which contains echoes of a love and peace era that hadn't happened yet, becomes meaningful looked at as a technical indication of absorbing the energy and intention of an opponent to the point that control was established, a use of aiki as I understand it. Is it possible that he taught more than people thought and that his technical and "spiritual" sides were actually successfully joined in his art?
Alec Corper

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Old 08-15-2011, 12:14 PM   #23
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

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Just for the sake of open discussion, and not as a statement of fact. Over the years I have heard the words spiritual and philosophical and ethical all used in relation to Aikido, generally by people meaning "roughly" the same thing. I believe that Ueshiba was quite probably a touch mad, in the way that most highly committed people are, but I also believe that he was technically very gifted. many of his doka were dismissed, even by how own deshi, as being too "mystical " to understand, too "spiritual" etc. However, and I'm sure Mike will correct me if I am way off the mark, I have read many so-called Tai Chi poems which read like a cross between drunken Taosim and a romantic naturalist guidebook. BUT, on careful perusal they begin to make some sense, speaking about sunny side and shady side and seasonal or diurnal rotations as an allegory for how to utilize the mechanics of spiralling, or how to have part of the body full and another, balancing part, empty.
I begin to suspect that some of Ueshiba's spiritual ramblings were in fact technical allegory in the same way. I don't know wether it was intentionally so, or simply the orchestrated byproduct of the imagery and language he was full of.
Even the endlessly misquoted idea that Aikido is all about establishing a "relationship" with an opponent, which contains echoes of a love and peace era that hadn't happened yet, becomes meaningful looked at as a technical indication of absorbing the energy and intention of an opponent to the point that control was established, a use of aiki as I understand it. Is it possible that he taught more than people thought and that his technical and "spiritual" sides were actually successfully joined in his art?
Alec Corper
There's a lot of depth in O-Sensei's doka. But one has to train up to a certain level to have them make sense. They aren't "how to" descriptions, they are simply descriptive of certain principles or ways of perceiving reality operating in his Aikido. The only way they make sense is to train, preferably with a high level teacher(s). If you periodically refer back to the Founder's writings, especially the doka, you'll find that each time, you have a better understanding of what he might have meant. I say "might" because no one actually knows precisely what he meant. But you will certainly develop your own understanding and things that seemed incomprehensible at one point will make some sense to you later. But only if one trains in a way that is designed to illuminate the deeper principles. A lot of Aikido training simply won't take one there.

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Old 08-15-2011, 12:33 PM   #24
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

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But you will certainly develop your own understanding and things that seemed incomprehensible at one point will make some sense to you later. But only if one trains in a way that is designed to illuminate the deeper principles. A lot of Aikido training simply won't take one there.
Agreed but what I was trying to open up in a not very articulate ways a notion that is stuck with me, which I believe you have expressed in other ways. The notion is that the spiritual and technical sides of aikido cannot be seperated. However the general meaning of "spiritual" as Western people mean it is somewhat different in the East where spirituality is a technical science, and values and ethics emerge from the practice and not the other way round.
In Chen Tai Chi, possibly the last combat oriented from, yielding isa way to gain mastery over an opponent. It is not that giving way to the will of another should be equated to love, peace and harmony. However it is very difficult to really learn to yield at the deepest levels of muscular and skeletal structure, whilst winning through strength is still a fundamental world view governing our mental and emotional approach tp life. I Chuan, mind/body boxing stresses intent as the pathway to power but ultimately defeating others leads back to the roots of conflict in oneself and we arrive back where we began.

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Old 08-15-2011, 01:03 PM   #25
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Re: When is Aikido a Non-Aikido martial art?

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Agreed but what I was trying to open up in a not very articulate ways a notion that is stuck with me, which I believe you have expressed in other ways. The notion is that the spiritual and technical sides of aikido cannot be seperated. However the general meaning of "spiritual" as Western people mean it is somewhat different in the East where spirituality is a technical science, and values and ethics emerge from the practice and not the other way round.
In Chen Tai Chi, possibly the last combat oriented from, yielding isa way to gain mastery over an opponent. It is not that giving way to the will of another should be equated to love, peace and harmony. However it is very difficult to really learn to yield at the deepest levels of muscular and skeletal structure, whilst winning through strength is still a fundamental world view governing our mental and emotional approach tp life. I Chuan, mind/body boxing stresses intent as the pathway to power but ultimately defeating others leads back to the roots of conflict in oneself and we arrive back where we began.
Aikido is supposed to be about Mind / Body, Spirit integration... At least that's what I was always taught. I used to think that was some sort of process of going from here to there... an addition process of acquisition of special skills that took someone there. I have come to see that the whole thing is much more like the Zen idea that you are already Enlightened and that you aren't trying attain anything, you are already there.

Mind / Body / Spirit are already completely and utterly connected. They cannot be disconnected. Training is about realizing that this is true and ceasing to act as if it weren't. At a certain point it isn't so much about adding new skills or knowledge but more a process of getting rid of what interferes with ones understanding and ability to manifest that understanding on the mat and in ones life. That's how I understand misogi. It is polishing away ignorance rather than adding more stuff. O-Sensei always said that keiko was supposed to be "misogi". I think that's what he meant.

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