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Old 12-01-2011, 05:47 PM   #26
raul rodrigo
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

My sources? Saotome's own interviews with Aikido Journal. He says that he had to wait five years or so before he could join Hombu Dojo. The year he joined was 1961. Telling the dates accurately isn't the same as being insulting. These are the actual dates.
 
Old 12-01-2011, 06:15 PM   #27
DH
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Raul Rodrigo wrote: View Post
My sources? Saotome's own interviews with Aikido Journal. He says that he had to wait five years or so before he could join Hombu Dojo. The year he joined was 1961. Telling the dates accurately isn't the same as being insulting. These are the actual dates.
Isn't it interesting that Stanley predicted outcomes just like this so many years ago?
Isn't it interesting that people are arguing the veracity of what Japanese Shihan said, and are using what Japanese Shihan said to counter it.
So what is the key difference? Stan had cooborating and vetted witness and dates, and too many all agreeing in cross questioning interviews. It blew the lid off the B.S.

In the same vein, if it weren't for Stan wisely taking photos as proof; the Daito ryu scrolls handed out and signed and dated by Ueshiba...would have almost certainly been denied as fictitious. Kisshomaru's revisionist history would have still held sway. It would have remained He said, she said. But there it was; Morihei Ueshiba, teaching Daito ryu and awarding mokuroko all the way up to 1939.
What does it really say that it took so much digging to hear the truth?

All the best
Dan

Last edited by DH : 12-01-2011 at 06:29 PM.
 
Old 12-01-2011, 06:19 PM   #28
Chris Li
 
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Raul Rodrigo wrote: View Post
My sources? Saotome's own interviews with Aikido Journal. He says that he had to wait five years or so before he could join Hombu Dojo. The year he joined was 1961. Telling the dates accurately isn't the same as being insulting. These are the actual dates.
That's right - my intention is not to cut anybody up, I stated that right from the beginning. What I wanted to show was how easy it is for facts, even when the best people are involved, to get "embellished".

Now, what does this say about what Saotome can do or has accomplished? Nothing at all.

Best,

Chris

 
Old 12-01-2011, 06:34 PM   #29
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Re: O'Sensei teaching Aikido at the Hombu Dojo after WWII

Quote:
Dan Harden wrote: View Post
Think of it like an authors purgatives...on steroids.
Now that's pure comedy.

As for the rest of this head in the sand BS, tragic.
Anyone who has been around the arts in any depth knows that inviting close scrutiny is asking for it... The truth is seldom as pretty as our sunny fantasy.

Last edited by Walker : 12-01-2011 at 06:36 PM.

-Doug Walker
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Old 12-01-2011, 06:42 PM   #30
graham christian
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Raul Rodrigo wrote: View Post
Saotome entered Hombu Dojo as an uchideshi in 1961. O-sensei died in 1969. Eight years. In a decade when Morihei didn't teach a regular class at Hombu dojo. Between 1955 and 1961, Saotome was in Kuwamori Dojo and then Kyoto. Since he couldn't be in two places at once, then he wasn't on the mat at Hombu with Morihei.

This inflation of one's closeness to Morihei occurs with many shihan who went abroad. Each one is supposed to be Osensei's "favorite uke" or some such title.
Sounds like misuse of the word inflation to me, or double standards.

Is anyone EVER that specific about how much time they trained with someone?

I can say I trained with my teacher for 15 years and it could be checked and verified. But is it true? How much on mat training with him personally does that boil down to? We would have to work it out in terms of hours.

All uchideshi at hombu in those days trained with ueshiba. Therefore if they were 'members' for 10, fifteen or whatever years then they could rightly say they were uchideshi for that time, and taught and had personal teaching from etc.etc. It was a programme you know. All uchideshi were taught by all the senior instructors from Arikawa to Tohei etc.

How long have you trained with your teacher? Go on, you're going to tell me in number of years arn't you?

So that's not inflation yet it's not the truth if I want to boil it down. Why would someone want to boil it down?

It's not a Japanese thing to talk like this, it's a human thing. Words like favourite may then venture into inflation.

How many times have I met Americans who say they served in the vietnam war or English who say how they served in the falklands or Afghanistan etc. like a badge of honour complete with number of years. It's a human thing.

On closer inspection you may have to ask 'As what?' and many other questions, a favourite pastime of historians.

But inflation is a funny thing. Some people put down others to over-inflate what they do. Ain't life funny?

Has America or anywhere had a situation like those times being talked about, where you train and get taught by maybe seven, eight, nine, different teachers in their own right, thus experiencing all the differences and then also experiencing the masters too? All done in a vibe of newness, representing a new vibrant art. Simple answer: no.

For me, all you need to know is that if a person was around at that time and got accepted as an uchideshi then that person went through a heavy programme and thus has some goods. Simple.

Regards.G.
 
Old 12-01-2011, 06:52 PM   #31
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

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Graham Christian wrote: View Post

For me, all you need to know is that if a person was around at that time and got accepted as an uchideshi then that person went through a heavy programme and thus has some goods. Simple.

Regards.G.
Conversely, if I characterized myself as having trained directly with Saotome for 20 years it would be OK, even though it was more like 8 and most of that time I was with Frank Hreha?

Sounds good to me, if I keep on going maybe I'll find out that I've actually been training for 60 years instead of 30.

And before anybody leaps on this - I think that the exaggeration in this case, while real, is of little real consequence. That's why I chose it rather than some of the more flagrant things that have gone on in the past.

Best,

Chris

 
Old 12-01-2011, 07:13 PM   #32
graham christian
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

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Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Conversely, if I characterized myself as having trained directly with Saotome for 20 years it would be OK, even though it was more like 8 and most of that time I was with Frank Hreha?

Sounds good to me, if I keep on going maybe I'll find out that I've actually been training for 60 years instead of 30.

And before anybody leaps on this - I think that the exaggeration in this case, while real, is of little real consequence. That's why I chose it rather than some of the more flagrant things that have gone on in the past.

Best,

Chris
Is that a comparison? As I said the number of years is not the inflation it's the other words like 'directly' and thus it doesn't lead to more numbers.

Regards.G.
 
Old 12-01-2011, 07:18 PM   #33
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

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Is that a comparison? As I said the number of years is not the inflation it's the other words like 'directly' and thus it doesn't lead to more numbers.

Regards.G.
Well, I did train directly with Saotome, quite a bit, so...

Best,

Chris

 
Old 12-01-2011, 07:20 PM   #34
Marc Abrams
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
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I note that the ASU members who so often defend the coalition around internal training and the historical revisionism, who host seminars for this coalition, who attack me or allow others to attack me, are silent as our teacher is accused of dishonesty. Part of Budo is loyalty. Budo men indeed.

Now some will yell that they never so accused him. Or that they didn't all accuse him. Hit and run. Attack then change the subject.
This thread is like a bad train wreck. Jun does not want people to become personal, yet here we have a person directly attacking the integrity of some of his seniors within his organization. Some of those seniors are DIRECT students of Saotome Sensei and have been supporting Saotome Sensei for decades! I would love to be a fly on the wall if those seniors are at the winter camp and Ken shows up......

Marc Abrams
 
Old 12-01-2011, 07:20 PM   #35
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Before anyone thinks I am focusing on Saotome, let me just make clear that all of the "uchi-deshi" (kayoi-deshi?) in Hombu from about 1955 to 1969 got far less hands-on time with Morihei than aikidoka in the West would expect from the term "live-in disciple." And the Japanese who stayed in Japan like S Endo are quite frank that they didn't train all that much with Morihei. Their major influences were men like Tohei and K Osawa. They took uke for Morihei a few times, heated his bathwater, etc. But Saotome's and Endo's value to us today has nothing to do with how much hands-on time they spent with Morihei. It's only in the West where people take this "I trained daily with the Founder" material seriously. You don't need to have trained with Morihei daily to become for instance, an Endo or Saotome.

Last edited by raul rodrigo : 12-01-2011 at 07:22 PM.
 
Old 12-01-2011, 07:24 PM   #36
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Raul Rodrigo wrote: View Post
Before anyone thinks I am focusing on Saotome, let me just make clear that all of the "uchi-deshi" (kayoi-deshi?) in Hombu from about 1955 to 1969 got far less hands-on time with Morihei that aikidoka in the West would expect from the term "live-in disciple." And the Japanese who stayed in Japan like S Endo are quite frank that they didn't train all that much with Morihei. Their major influences were men like Tohei and K Osawa. They took uke for him a few times, heated his bathwater, etc. But Saotome's and Endo's value to us today has nothing to do with how much hands-on time they spent with Morihei. Its only in the West where people take this "I trained daily with the Founder" material seriously.
I will check the unedited notes from Imaizumi Sensei's Aikido Journal interviews, but my recollection is that the uchi-deshi system was ended in 1964 and changed so that those students became known as shidoin (junior instructors). Just another fly for the ointment .

Marc Abrams
 
Old 12-01-2011, 07:43 PM   #37
graham christian
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
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Well, I did train directly with Saotome, quite a bit, so...

Best,

Chris
Ahh, very good. Quite a bit. That's good. No exaggeration there then.

So what's with all the emphasis on numbers in the past thread. If someone tells me they have been training with Dan for the last five years I take it that they have known him for such time and done some training with him and that they are practising to the best of their ability what he gave them to practice when they can. It doesn't equal to me that they mean they are with him all the time.

Now if you really want a converse example how's this: I am very good at Aikido taught by Tohei yet have trained with him for 0 years.

Regards.G.
 
Old 12-01-2011, 07:59 PM   #38
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
Ahh, very good. Quite a bit. That's good. No exaggeration there then.

So what's with all the emphasis on numbers in the past thread. If someone tells me they have been training with Dan for the last five years I take it that they have known him for such time and done some training with him and that they are practising to the best of their ability what he gave them to practice when they can. It doesn't equal to me that they mean they are with him all the time.

Now if you really want a converse example how's this: I am very good at Aikido taught by Tohei yet have trained with him for 0 years.

Regards.G.
I think that the implication has generally been that the "uchi-deshi" were training with Ueshiba full time daily for whatever period they were there as uchi-deshi.

Best,

Chris

 
Old 12-01-2011, 08:17 PM   #39
graham christian
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
I think that the implication has generally been that the "uchi-deshi" were training with Ueshiba full time daily for whatever period they were there as uchi-deshi.

Best,

Chris
I agree, but implied by whom? As I see it it's implied by those who believed such and thus think all others saw it the same way. I call that assumption myself.

Those who were 'shocked' by the realities 'uncovered' by historians or whoever were to me the most deluded. I have yet to see anything shocking and yet find plenty I wasn't aware of but it's no big deal.

Thus I find all those who were so shocked now behave like they're the owners of some special secret.

From one extreme. deluded, to another, experts in the hidden truth. Amusing.

Regards.G.
 
Old 12-01-2011, 11:19 PM   #40
David Yap
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

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Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
Ken,

When Saotome Sensei stated "I studied with O Sensei altogether for 20 years" (source) was he accurate?
Thanks for the link. The part of the interview that I like:

O sensei's a big elephant, and his students are blind
 
Old 12-02-2011, 01:25 AM   #41
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Interesting topic and discussion. I am not interested in proving or disproving how many years he spent or did not spend with O'sensei, AND as an ASU person, I certainly respect Saotome Sensei as my Shihan and have learned alot from him and his senior students over the years, so for that, I owe a great amount to...AND it should take NOTHING away from him.

However, I also think it is good to ascertain how much time he spent with O'Sensei to put in proper perspective the whole "transmission" issue and it helps me put in perspective how important (or not) it is to have spent time with one particular person (or not). That is the extent of my curiosity.

I could careless about an scandal, honesty, or disclosure issues around it. But again...it is nice to have a more accurate understanding about things for sure.

 
Old 12-02-2011, 02:03 AM   #42
Alex Megann
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Raul Rodrigo wrote: View Post
Before anyone thinks I am focusing on Saotome, let me just make clear that all of the "uchi-deshi" (kayoi-deshi?) in Hombu from about 1955 to 1969 got far less hands-on time with Morihei than aikidoka in the West would expect from the term "live-in disciple." And the Japanese who stayed in Japan like S Endo are quite frank that they didn't train all that much with Morihei. Their major influences were men like Tohei and K Osawa. They took uke for Morihei a few times, heated his bathwater, etc. But Saotome's and Endo's value to us today has nothing to do with how much hands-on time they spent with Morihei. It's only in the West where people take this "I trained daily with the Founder" material seriously. You don't need to have trained with Morihei daily to become for instance, an Endo or Saotome.
I think Endo Sensei isn't the best example, though - when I have seen him he has stated quite clearly that he regards Yamaguchi Sensei as his main teacher.

All the same, he was very much part of the "establishment" in the Kisshomaru era - there is plenty of footage out there of him taking ukemi from 2nd Doshu.

Alex
 
Old 12-02-2011, 02:50 AM   #43
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Correction

Quote:
Alex Megann wrote: View Post
I think Endo Sensei isn't the best example, though - when I have seen him he has stated quite clearly that he regards Yamaguchi Sensei as his main teacher.

All the same, he was very much part of the "establishment" in the Kisshomaru era - there is plenty of footage out there of him taking ukemi from 2nd Doshu.

Alex
I just re-read Raoul's message, and realised that he is saying pretty much the same thing as I did about Endo Sensei...
 
Old 12-02-2011, 05:35 AM   #44
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: O'Sensei teaching Aikido at the Hombu Dojo after WWII

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Ken McGrew wrote: View Post
I have never personally heard Saotome Sensei say 20 years with the founder. I've heard him say 15 years he knew O Sensei. I think the confusion some people may have made is this: 1975 (the year he left Japan) - 1955 (the year he met O Sensei) = 20 years.
Ken,

When Saotome Sensei stated "I practiced close to O Sensei - you can't imagine- for 20 years, I have these memories..." (same source) was he accurate?

 
Old 12-02-2011, 05:43 AM   #45
philipsmith
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
I think that the implication has generally been that the "uchi-deshi" were training with Ueshiba full time daily for whatever period they were there as uchi-deshi.

Best,

Chris
I think though that this has been implied by students rather than explicily stated by their instructors. I many times heard people such as Tamura, Yamada and Chiba say things like "of course OSensei was away a lot" or variations thereof and Chiba sensei has often said that people in general understimated the 2nd Doshus influence on Aikido both technically and in terms of its popularity worldwide.
 
Old 12-02-2011, 06:04 AM   #46
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Conversely, if I characterized myself as having trained directly with Saotome for 20 years it would be OK, even though it was more like 8 and most of that time I was with Frank Hreha?
Chris
Chris, i did not know you trained with Hreha sensei. man, it's great hanging around aikiweb. find all kind of interesting background stuffs. not many folks heard of Hreha sensei other than the senior ASU folks, since he was one of the ASU founders. i won't tell you the name he called me a few years back; although if you bribe Ledyard sensei he might tell you.

*sorry for the off topic venture*

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
http://charlotteaikikai.org
 
Old 12-02-2011, 06:15 AM   #47
phitruong
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
Interesting topic and discussion. I am not interested in proving or disproving how many years he spent or did not spend with O'sensei, AND as an ASU person, I certainly respect Saotome Sensei as my Shihan and have learned alot from him and his senior students over the years, so for that, I owe a great amount to...AND it should take NOTHING away from him.

However, I also think it is good to ascertain how much time he spent with O'Sensei to put in proper perspective the whole "transmission" issue and it helps me put in perspective how important (or not) it is to have spent time with one particular person (or not). That is the extent of my curiosity.

I could careless about an scandal, honesty, or disclosure issues around it. But again...it is nice to have a more accurate understanding about things for sure.
great post. my sentiment is the same.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
http://charlotteaikikai.org
 
Old 12-02-2011, 07:56 AM   #48
Cliff Judge
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Ken McGrew wrote: View Post
I note that the ASU members who so often defend the coalition around internal training and the historical revisionism, who host seminars for this coalition, who attack me or allow others to attack me, are silent as our teacher is accused of dishonesty. Part of Budo is loyalty. Budo men indeed.
A search for "Saotome" on the forum search tool would, up until two weeks or so ago, turn up a rather modest number of hits, mostly posts by George talking about his background, or mentions that he developed his own unique aikiken systems.

Far be it from me to claim to be a student of Saotome Sensei. I only get to train with him about 30-40 hours per year, and that's only been for about ten years, and he never picks me for ukemi or scolds me publically or anything.

But I imagine that the real students of Saotome Sensei may have been happier with the state of the forum prior to two weeks ago, when his name wasn't mentioned as often as it has been, nor ever drawn through the muck.
 
Old 12-02-2011, 09:01 AM   #49
DH
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
A search for "Saotome" on the forum search tool would, up until two weeks or so ago, turn up a rather modest number of hits, mostly posts by George talking about his background, or mentions that he developed his own unique aikiken systems.

Far be it from me to claim to be a student of Saotome Sensei. I only get to train with him about 30-40 hours per year, and that's only been for about ten years, and he never picks me for ukemi or scolds me publically or anything.

But I imagine that the real students of Saotome Sensei may have been happier with the state of the forum prior to two weeks ago, when his name wasn't mentioned as often as it has been, nor ever drawn through the muck.
Drawn through the muck? I don't think so. Perhaps you missed this.
Quote:
When it comes to aiki, Saotome is beyond any doubt among the best I have seen in modern Aikido. I haven't seen anyone in the aikikai who I think can touch him. And I most certainly have no favorites in the aikido game for any reason. Yet, Saotome does not appear on the official list of Shihan who can award shihan to his students....and have it recognozed.....by Doshu.
Why do you think that is?
The rest of the post went on to explain why I think he did not get the support. And THAT was complimentary as well by comparing the lessor lights at hombu compared to the stars with real talent-among whom was, Saotome.
Quote:
Then again, if you really want to appreciate the divine comedy that was the formulation of modern aikido- listen to Prof Goldsbury, who serves as the President of the International Aikikai federation (who's words you have yet to acknowledge) when he, along with many others have tried to tell you that when they all went to Japan they more or less got the ..."oh...now you are going to find out the real truth about aikido, " speech. Some of which is funny, others sad, but pretty much just another tale of organizational control, over a disparate group of near-do-wells, wanna-be's, and also-ran's...all vying for position- many times against some serious talent- who oddly, just didn't give a crap about the politics.
Guess who won?
I included more in the Prewar / post-war thread
Quote:
This Jibes with many "unofficial" commentaries that were made from his prewar deshi, to their own student bases. Any number of whom essentially went and saw what Kisshomaru and Tohei were doing and simply said... that was not aikido.

Further comment from another previously untranslated interview with Kuroiwa (1950-60's deshi).
Q: Did you sit at the same table with the Founder and Sawai Sensei and Oyama Sensei?
A: No, but I did overhear Oyama Sensei say "Aikido will disappear after Ueshiba Sensei dies". I also believe that to be the truth.

...I think that today's Aikido basics are mostly Yamaguchi Sensei's showy Aikido. Maybe about 95 percent.

From 2004. A Koryu teacher who received nidan under Ueshiba
"I recognized that energy work you are doing. When O sensei would show up everything would stop and we would do that. They don't teach that anymore you know. It's not in Modern aikido!"

Shirata, as well as Shioda's opinions echo the above.
I think the post war deshi with some real talent, saw what the prewar deshi saw; that Kisshomaru was never going to do the old mans aikido, and those who tried were distanced. It appears, at least on the surface, that not one of the stars did well against Kisshomaru's political machine. And why should they?
Kisshomaru, like his peer Tokimune Takeda, was trying to codify and make a cogent system out of the mess his dad left him. Yes I said that. The fact that he had to do it, and that he was not a talent like his father was quite a headwind.
What to do, what to do...
Against that backdrop you had very talented men who could wind up owning the new burgeoning "system" with systems of their own, thus factionalizing the art. This not because they were bad guys...just that they were talented and ...well...people being people, many times smart Johnnies go where the talent is. And when you read the interviews and read between the lines that is exactly what was happening. The solution? Distance yourself from the bright lights, then distance them from selected others who -if they were either self aware of their failings, or overly confident- would step in to support a bland codified middle.
1. This identifies and establishes your base of support.
2. Both the less talented and the over confident will rush toward it.
3. As is usual, the real talent...leaves; either under pressure or in disgust.

Most in the Aikido community already know this stuff. It's only new information to some people like our Mr. McGrew.


Like I said, this is nothing new, not only in Budo, but in Business. Another interesting note is that many people coast through life and never look closely enough or have the where-with-all to even recognize true talent when it hits them in the face. Many times it's an easy process to herd them into a cohesive and supportive organization that just wants to know their place, what the requirements are and how to all get along.

Shaw said it best:
"A reasonable man looks at the world and thinks how best he can change to fit in.
An unreasonable man looks at the world, and thinks how best he can change it to suit him.
It's no small wonder that the world is ruled by unreasonable men."

Dan

Last edited by DH : 12-02-2011 at 09:13 AM.
 
Old 12-02-2011, 10:34 AM   #50
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Ok... since this is about my own teacher, I'll weigh in. I have never been terribly interested in nailing down the details of Aikido history in terms of trying to make the personal accounts of the various deshi square with either the known facts or each other, for that matter.

As with almost everything, there is quite simply memory drift. Studies have been done on this and it does not represent some sort of "dishonesty", it actually is a result of how the memory organizes its information. Over time the facts get shaped along the lines of the general importance and meaning the individual has given those facts, rather than duplicating some sort of factual data base of events.

I have noticed this myself. My good friend John Messores Sensei was Saotome Sensei's first student when he came from Japan back in the mid-seventies. He and I have trained together since I started Aikido in 1976. I have noticed recently that we each have distinct memories of various events and things Saotome Sensei said to us, for which we were both present at exactly the same time, and these memories do not square. This to the point at which John will remember Sensei telling him to do a particular move a certain way and I have a distinct memory of Sensei telling me never to do it that way. There are stories I have told over the years about my time with Sensei and then I have heard John tell his version of the same story and its not how I remember it. Frankly, understanding now how memory works, it's likely that neither of our memories is precisely right. However, since neither of us has yet achieved great fame in the Aikido world, no one is sitting around analyzing these things or comparing our versions of them.

Frankly, it takes a certain sort of mind to be an "historian'. Imagine being the world's foremost expert on land use patterns in Han Dynasty Guang Dong Province... Well I am similarly uninterested in whether O-Sensei farted on his train trip to Kyoto in April of 1936. I am interested in Aikido practice. I am interested in its transmission, its philosophy, its potential for personal transformation. What I take from my conversations with Saotome Sensei, and these didn't come from articles or books but directly from him, is about the meaning O-Sensei as a figure had on him, how the Founder's model as a teacher provided the shape and motivation for his training over the years. These discussions of how much face time each deshi had with the Founder are really not helpful for me...

If exactly the same standards applied in my own case it would result in a completely distorted view of my own Aikido. I started Aikido in the Spring of 1976. I trained at the DC dojo 6-7 days a week until I moved to Seattle to work for Eddie Bauer. When Saotome Sensei found out I was moving, he told me to train with Mary Heiny Sensei which I did. Bruce Bookman Sensei returned from training with Chiba Sensei in Japan at this same time. I paid dues at the dojos of both of these teachers and trained with both of them. I took over the Seattle School of Aikido as Chief Instructor when Mary Heiny Sensei left for Canada in 1986.

I am using this as an example... I could easily see some historian of Aikido in the future looking at my training history and concluding that, since I was only at the DC dojo for 5 years, and then was with Mary Heiny Sensei and Bruce Bookman Sensei from 1981 to 1986, well, that must mean they had an equal amount of influence on my Aikido. Of course, these events are not so far in the past that people don't have direct experience of each of our Aikido to form their judgments about this. No one who knows anything about any of these teachers would mistake my Aikido for that of Mary Heiny Sensei or Bruce Bookman Sensei. Anyone who knows anything about anything could see at a glance that I am a student of Saotome Sensei.

I have spent just about my entire adult life trying to understand Saotome Sensei's Aikido. While there are certainly other teachers whose Aikido is equally marvelous, I have never been on the mat with or seen anyone who is better. It hasn't mattered who I have trained with over the years... Ellis Amdur in koryu, Chris Petrilli in escrima, Mary Heiny, Tom Read, Bruce Bookman in Aikido, Howard Popkin in Daito Ryu, Don Angier, Dan Harden, etc. etc. My entire focus in this endeavor was to understand my teacher's Aikido and maintain the connection in some quality manner with the Aikido of the Founder through him.

People miss the point when they talk about mere "face time" as some silly determinant of closeness or distance from the Founder's Aikido. There were deshi for whom O-Sensei was the central figure in their lives and there were deshi for whom being a deshi was a job at a time when jobs were scarce in Japan. There were students who slept through the Founder's lectures and there were students who tried their level best to understand them.

The thing to remember about the "golden Age" of Hombu Dojo in the post war period was that O-Sensei's influence was still dominant in the sense that the mission for each student was to find his own Aikido. O-Sensei never developed any methodology for passing on form.. he taught principle. Saito Sensei in Iwama was really the last deshi to be taught anything that resembled "form" because O-Sensei was putting the finishing touches on what would become post war Aikido. But the folks at Hombu simply did not have that kind of training. Yamaguchi didn't look like Kisshomaru, Imaizumi didn't look like Chiba. Osawa's Aikido was completely distinct. To a certain extent, Tohei's Aikido started to create a a certain stylistic stream... If you look at the teachers who left with him, they share any number of traits. But Kisshomaru simply did not exert the same type of technical influence. Saotome Sensei considered Kisshomaru Ueshiba to be one of his teachers. He has always been hugely respectful of the man on a personal basis. But Saotome Sensei's Aikido had little in common with Kisshomaru's. I have a picture on my wall of Saotome Sensei sitting next to Chiba Sensei in class with the Founder, probably somewhere around 1966 or '67. The Nidai Doshu is sitting on the side observing as well. So, here we have three students of the Founder, all training simultaneously and not much of anything in common with each other.

So, my point here is that its the focus of your training, your innate talents, your dedication and hard work, and your disposition that is what determines how your Aikido ends up, not some years with a given teacher or hours of one over the other. O-Sensei was a hugely powerful personality. People changed their lives after simply seeing him (Mary Heiny being one that comes to mind). When people who don't know any better say things about "just drawing his bath" they show they don't really understand how O-sensei functioned. EVERY single thing he did with the deshi was about training. Saotome Sensei learned lessons that have stayed with him his whole life drawing O-Sensei's bath or grinding the ink for his calligraphy. These lesson have absolutely nothing to do with quantity of face time, its a transmission on an entirely different level.

Sure, there are folks who lay claim to being uchi deshi whose only interest in doing so is to give some legitimacy to their very low level Aikido. It doesn't work because anyone who knows can simply see how wretched their Aikido is... the Founder would have cried...

But there any number of post war deshi, and I have direct experience with Saotome Sensei and Chiba Sensei, for whom the Founder was the central figure in their lives and their training. The idea that they were more the students of other teachers because they had more time on the mat with them simply misses the point entirely. It's exactly the same as saying that Marty Heiny must have been just as much of an influence on my Aikido as Saotome Sensei because I spent about the same amount of time with each of them in terms of dojo membership. Anyone knowing all of us would laugh at that. Yet people consistently refer to historical information, dates and time, "face time" etc and draw conclusions that simply don't actually follow because there are other, more important factors at play.

In some ways, the "memory drift" one sees with many of the deshi is a direct result of the centrality of the Founder's influence over their lives and their training. Over time other, less "important" details get pushed out of their minds as they develop a sense of the narrative their lives have taken. It has nothing to do with intellectual dishonesty nor, in most cases, is it a matter of trying to inflate their reputations (certain notable exceptions) by inflating the story of the relationship with the Founder. It is a natural function of how memory works and the fact that these various teachers are getting older, seeing their compatriots start passing away, and feeling their mortality. They start looking for an over view of their lives, that narrative, that justifies the sacrifices, makes it all seem worth while, and makes sense to them. When this happens, things like memory of precise historical detail can go right out the window in favor of a narrative that seems to explain ones life. This is just how the mind works.. we all do it.

So, I think that, while the history of Aikido is important for any serious practitioner and something any teacher of the art should be fully conversant in, one also needs to be very careful about drawing conclusions from facts while one has little direct experience of the actual people involved. Certainly, I think it is a mistake, and fairly uncharitable, to assume that when the facts of some teacher's personal narrative don't square with the publicly available historical data, that its some sort of purposeful deception or attempt to inflate oneself in the minds of others. I simply do not believe that is what is really going on...

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 12-02-2011 at 10:42 AM.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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