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Old 12-02-2011, 11:07 AM   #51
Ken McGrew
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

I certainly agree with what Ledyard Sensei has said here. But engaging in this discussion let's the people who started it off the hook. Their claim is not that Saotome Sensei, or his publisher, may have gotten the dates wrong on occasion. Their claims are that Saotome Sensei did not learn the real Aiki of Aikido from O Sensei, because their claim is that no one did, and that O Sensei retired in 1941. What is at issue here are not dates but all the detailed accounts that Saotome Sensei, and other direct students, have given about their time with O Sensei, the fact that O Sensei believed he had improved Aikido after the war, and the fact that he was happy with their understanding of Aiki and Aikido. Read the posts. This is their real agenda.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
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...
 
Old 12-02-2011, 11:13 AM   #52
Janet Rosen
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Thank you for a lovely, cogent and insightful post, George - from someone who has no horse in this race whatsoever.

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Old 12-02-2011, 11:27 AM   #53
raul rodrigo
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

In Shobukan News, Oct 2000, Saotome: "I studied with O sensei altogether 20 years." Perhaps it was a bad transcription by an overzealous student. Perhaps it was memory drift. Perhaps it is bad manners to draw attention to it at all.
 
Old 12-02-2011, 11:49 AM   #54
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Ken McGrew wrote: View Post
I certainly agree with what Ledyard Sensei has said here. But engaging in this discussion let's the people who started it off the hook. Their claim is not that Saotome Sensei, or his publisher, may have gotten the dates wrong on occasion. Their claims are that Saotome Sensei did not learn the real Aiki of Aikido from O Sensei, because their claim is that no one did, and that O Sensei retired in 1941. What is at issue here are not dates but all the detailed accounts that Saotome Sensei, and other direct students, have given about their time with O Sensei, the fact that O Sensei believed he had improved Aikido after the war, and the fact that he was happy with their understanding of Aiki and Aikido. Read the posts. This is their real agenda.
You don't know when to let up do you? I am sick and tired of you misscharacterizing what was actually being said.
You remove all qualifiers and nuance and then re-state things far beyond their initial intent until you are in effect putting words in our mouths. This is not communication.
Many here continue to correct this behavior in you.

As being a representative for someone...it is you sir who should seriously consider what you are saying, who you are saying it for (do you think Saotome likes what you are doing here?) and who you are saying it to.
Just this morning in my in box I was again reminded of my own refrain; "The best information in budo is done in private." It saves a world of embarrassment to many parties.

You....are not doing too well, among the very organization you are trying "to defend." I for one, tried to tell you that on several occasions...to a deaf ear.
For the record, I have not agreed with a single position you stated I hold, and several times I actually think exactly the opposite of what you claim I said.
Good bye
Dan
 
Old 12-02-2011, 11:54 AM   #55
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Raul Rodrigo wrote: View Post
In Shobukan News, Oct 2000, Saotome: "I studied with O sensei altogether 20 years." Perhaps it was a bad transcription by an overzealous student. Perhaps it was memory drift. Perhaps it is bad manners to draw attention to it at all.
No, it really isn't. These things need be said. But all the drama need not be added to it. Context is everything. With all the the B.S. that has been slung, by the Japanese Shihans about the training and History I stand firm that there is a common good in hearing confirmed dates, and who's who. That many things stand in stark contrast to what had been previously said, is on them and not us. No one put a gun to their heads when they started to re-write the history of aikido. Nor when they discussed their own involvement. Lapses in memory, and flat out lies are totally different, seen as different and discussed as BEING different.

It is interesting to note that when Stan made it known that he was looking at signatures and sign-in sheets and dated mokurokus and that this was being photographed and documented...and that so and so, said such and such...cough...a factual and more detailed chronology magically appeared. That should speak volumes about the capabilites for fact and truth that Japanese Shihan's were capable of delivering.....on a dime.


That said, some stories were innocent, others a white wash, others self serving, others right and varied. It can be a judgement call where nuance and relationship and cultural understanding and context play out. Chris and others understand that VERY well, more than most, and I found most of the commentary here was balanced and observational
Dan

Last edited by DH : 12-02-2011 at 12:03 PM.
 
Old 12-02-2011, 11:57 AM   #56
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

I was being ironic.
 
Old 12-02-2011, 12:01 PM   #57
Marc Abrams
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Ken McGrew wrote: View Post
I certainly agree with what Ledyard Sensei has said here. But engaging in this discussion let's the people who started it off the hook. Their claim is not that Saotome Sensei, or his publisher, may have gotten the dates wrong on occasion. Their claims are that Saotome Sensei did not learn the real Aiki of Aikido from O Sensei, because their claim is that no one did, and that O Sensei retired in 1941. What is at issue here are not dates but all the detailed accounts that Saotome Sensei, and other direct students, have given about their time with O Sensei, the fact that O Sensei believed he had improved Aikido after the war, and the fact that he was happy with their understanding of Aiki and Aikido. Read the posts. This is their real agenda.
Ken:

You have a lot of chutzpah to "agree" with George, particularly, since he is one of the people who you DIRECTLY challenged in terms of his integrity as a man of budo. How do you think that George perceives you and your efforts?

What is equally depth defying is your continued distortions of what people are actually saying in this and in other threads in order to justify your idiosyncratic perceptions of things.

People have reached out to you publicly and privately encouraging you to step back and stop posting. You have publicly questioned the integrity of people so far over your "pay grade" that if defies any logical explanation. You are doing yourself a big disservice by not taking the advice that people are offering you. Stop while you are way behind. Some holes do not have ways out.... This is a public service announcement solely for the purpose of hoping that you stop this self-destructive process that you seem to be engaged in.

Marc Abrams
 
Old 12-02-2011, 12:18 PM   #58
DH
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Ken McGrew writes:
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.
With that, you sir.... just finished putting Bill Gleason, George Ledyard, Josh Drachman, And oh about 6 other 5th dans under Saotome all on the hook And publicly admonitioned them to boot!
Personally, I have rarely seen such poor behavior by a representative of an art....well..wait I can think of one other guy who did here.

Quote:
But engaging in this discussion let's the people who started it off the hook. Their claim is not that Saotome Sensei, or his publisher, may have gotten the dates wrong on occasion. Their claims are that Saotome Sensei did not learn the real Aiki of Aikido from O Sensei, because their claim is that no one did, and that O Sensei retired in 1941.
This is not our claim, and never was. It is your own warped and twisted dialogue exagerating a view none of us hold. I have refuted it loooong before you showed up, and I will continue to do so in public and in private. We differentiated between Ueshiba's aikido and even named some of those who pursued it...from Kisshomaru's. Learn to read.
Notice I am still not attacking you... I am discussing your lack of cogency and coherency in debate. I think it is intentional. You have not even one time given a backdrop or tried to broaden a view. George laid things out well and put many issues to rest while in essence not dissagreeing with Stan, Ellis, Peter, Chris, Raul, Marc, Brad, Demetrio or myself (gees did miss anyone?).
This was a good lesson for you if you will review.
Dan

Last edited by DH : 12-02-2011 at 12:27 PM.
 
Old 12-02-2011, 12:20 PM   #59
DH
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

George
That was excellent and well said, as usuall!!
All the best
Dan
 
Old 12-02-2011, 12:31 PM   #60
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Ken McGrew wrote: View Post
Their claims are that Saotome Sensei did not learn the real Aiki of Aikido from O Sensei, because their claim is that no one did, and that O Sensei retired in 1941. What is at issue here are not dates but all the detailed accounts that Saotome Sensei, and other direct students, have given about their time with O Sensei, the fact that O Sensei believed he had improved Aikido after the war, and the fact that he was happy with their understanding of Aiki and Aikido. Read the posts. This is their real agenda.
Ken, I am on record in any number of posts over the years that I disagree with the conclusions that folks take from the presented facts. But it was Saotome Sensei himself that stated that he could remember three times in his fifteen years with O-Sensei that the Founder actually talked about how to do technique". So by any measure we would use here in the West, he wasn't teaching technique but demonstrating principle. The breadth of variation on the parts of the deshi as to what they understood of this is staggering. I am sorry but I can see no evidence of anything coherent that one could call post war Aikido from a stylistic standpoint. You go fro Arikawa to Tohei, from Yamaguchi to Isoyama, a Chiba and a Saotome. It's difficult to see anything one could claim was a style of Aikido and certainly nothing that looked much like what the Founder was doing.

It's clear that Saotome Sensei figured some of this out. In my opinion the man is a genius. Even before I lost my weight, at 338 pounds, I could go straight at him and he could drop me in my butt with a shrug of the shoulders. Now that i understand more of what is happening with internal structure tec, I can see that Sensei worked a lot of this out. But the idea that he was taught his by O-Sensei is not born out by sensei;'s own statements that O-Sensei never explained much of anything. Some deshi worked it out, others didn't. One merely has to go on YouTube and look at videos to see this fact.

The truly important fact in all this is that Sensei didn't know how to teach these skills any more than the Founder did. He has shown us over and over and expressed his frustrations with everyone's inability to "get it". So, for most of us, we have needed help to understand it. Maybe if we were geniuses like Saotome Sensei, we wouldn't have needed to, but I sure needed help. Ikeda Sensei himself said "Sensei has been showing us all this stuff for years but we were simply too stupid to get it." And I am the first one to acknowledge where I got that help and encourage folks to get help themselves. It shortens the learning curve by decades. If folks were going to "get it" simply by training hard for years and years one would expect to see a lot of great Aikido. This is certainly not evident. So, I think most folks would do well to work with some folks who can really "teach" so that they can in turn really benefit from what someone like Saotome Sensei is showing. As far as I am concerned this si what it is all about... training myself up to the point at which my teacher can teach what he is trying to teach and I am ready to understand it and not be wasting his quite limited time. To do that, i'll train with anyone who can help me who isn't abusive or immoral. I do not have to agree with their conclusions as long as they have the demonstrated ability to teach me what i need to know. I am the Aikido teacher, they are not. It's my business what i do with what they have taught me. To their credit these various teachers have offered their instruction with no strings attached, just their respect and friendship. That's real Budo as far as I am concerned.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 12-02-2011, 12:54 PM   #61
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
The truly important fact in all this is that Sensei didn't know how to teach these skills any more than the Founder did. He has shown us over and over and expressed his frustrations with everyone's inability to "get it". So, for most of us, we have needed help to understand it. Maybe if we were geniuses like Saotome Sensei, we wouldn't have needed to, but I sure needed help. Ikeda Sensei himself said "Sensei has been showing us all this stuff for years but we were simply too stupid to get it." And I am the first one to acknowledge where I got that help and encourage folks to get help themselves. It shortens the learning curve by decades. If folks were going to "get it" simply by training hard for years and years one would expect to see a lot of great Aikido. This is certainly not evident. So, I think most folks would do well to work with some folks who can really "teach" so that they can in turn really benefit from what someone like Saotome Sensei is showing.
Quoted for truth.

What's more important? Actually getting good at aikido, or arguing about the "purity" of one's lineage?

Katherine
 
Old 12-02-2011, 01:17 PM   #62
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Memory is a very funny thing. I began my Aikido training in Sarasota Fla. with Saotome Sensei in Feb. of 1977. I am sure of this (though I won't go into how). For the first week, or so, classes were taught by John Messores and Patti Saotome (nee Taft) as Saotome Sensei was at Oberlin for part of their winter term. I remember clearly the first time I saw Saotome Sensei but not the date. During these years I and my girlfriend (now wife) trained daily with Saotome Sensei. That's my story as I remember it but it's not entirely true. I couldn't train every single day. I was a working musician who held a day job and played gigs in the evening. Still, my experience was the privilege of training with Saotome Sensei and calling him my Sensei. During those years Ikeda Sensei came to the dojo to study with Saotome Sensei. When Saotome moved from Sarasota to Washington D.C. Ikeda Sensei became the head instructor at Sarasota Aikikai. I don't remember the exact date. I therfore consider both Saotome Sensei and Ikeda Sensei to be my sensei. Sensei's move to D.C. was preceded by quite a few extended "trips" to the area. This is how it goes. My point here is that like Ledyard Sensei I am privileged to have engaged in the process of learning the little Aikido that I know from these extraordinary people. I am extremely fortunate to have been where I was when I was. I'm sure it is that way for Saotome Sensei also and his relation to O'sensei.

For those of us with 30 plus years of training we tend to take things like our Sensei's linage seriously. For someone to, even with the best of intentions, appear to cast a cloud over something that is very near and dear to us (30 years is a long time to dedicate to an art or teacher) may cause a bad taste. For some this isn't a problem but for others it is. I've seen this discussion get quite ugly. If we are truly dedicated to the principles of Aikido maybe we should agree to disagree, brush off our wounded egos and move on. If we, in the Aikido community, can't get along with each other how can the philosophy of Aiki be respected outside of our small circle. O'sensei provided us with "a way to reconcile the world." Shouldn't we accept the responsibility of living our lives peacefully instead of "calling each other out."

We are losing fine teachers and aikidoka every year. I believe it behooves us to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from those who actually knew and trained with the founder of our art instead of picking petty quarrels with each other.
 
Old 12-02-2011, 01:24 PM   #63
Cliff Judge
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Raul Rodrigo wrote: View Post
I was being ironic.
About it being bad manners to bring up Saotome Sensei's Training History in public?

Do you say this because you don't think anyone is or would be offended by this thread? Or do you not believe it is bad manners to offend people? Or something else?
 
Old 12-02-2011, 01:41 PM   #64
DH
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
About it being bad manners to bring up Saotome Sensei's Training History in public?
Do you say this because you don't think anyone is or would be offended by this thread? Or do you not believe it is bad manners to offend people? Or something else?
Interesting.
Is discussing the veracity of what someone publicly puts out offensive?
If so, why?
Who's training history is or is not off limits and not allowed to be questioned?
I know they tried to pull Stans rank for his publishing the truth about O Sensei and Daito ryu.
Does everyone get equal treatment?
If not, why not?
Dan
 
Old 12-02-2011, 02:15 PM   #65
Jim Sorrentino
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Re: O'Sensei teaching Aikido at the Hombu Dojo after WWII

Quote:
Dan Harden wrote: View Post
Yet, Saotome does not appear on the official list of Shihan who can award shihan to his students....and have it recognozed.....by Doshu.
[Sigh again]

What list is that? Would you please provide us with a copy or a link? The closest thing I can find is the Aikikai's International Regulations at http://www.aikikai.or.jp/eng/regulat...ernational.htm. Article 16: Shihan states:
1. The Hombu examines and appoints Shihan from among persons who are 6th dan or above, and who are proficient in practice and instructing.

2. To the appointed person, a Certificate of Appointment is awarded by the Hombu.
This suggests that only Dosshu/Hombu may award the shihan license.

Jim

Not having anything around to read is dangerous: you have to content yourself with life itself, and that can lead you to take risks. - M. Houellebecq, Platform
 
Old 12-02-2011, 03:23 PM   #66
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Hi folks,

Let's keep the thread away from personal attacks and stay on-topic.

Thank you,

-- Jun

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Old 12-02-2011, 03:46 PM   #67
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Jun Akiyama wrote: View Post
Hi folks,

Let's keep the thread away from personal attacks and stay on-topic.

Thank you,

-- Jun
Jun,

I feel that the topic is a personal attack.

Thanks for your consideration,
Cliff
 
Old 12-02-2011, 05:33 PM   #68
raul rodrigo
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
About it being bad manners to bring up Saotome Sensei's Training History in public?

Do you say this because you don't think anyone is or would be offended by this thread? Or do you not believe it is bad manners to offend people? Or something else?
I don't believe it is bad manners to point out a factual discrepancy in public statements made by Saotome and ASU about his training history. The discrepancy is real. I have made no aspersions regarding the sensei's character or skill in aikido. Neither has Chris Li. If some people are offended by having that discrepancy pointed out, then that's unfortunate. But blaming the messenger will not make the discrepancy vanish.

In the end, it's a minor thing. And Saotome sensei has prestige and "face" to spare. So perhaps it is best to move on.
 
Old 12-02-2011, 05:44 PM   #69
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Most of us grew up reading the stories, hearing the tales, and being filled with wonder in regards to Morihei Ueshiba. Some of us had the privilege of training directly with him. Some trained with direct students.

Some 40 years later, there have been none who have equalled Ueshiba. Who even has equalled some of the pre-war students like Shirata, Tomiki, Shioda, etc?

So, what then, does finding out when and where Aikido teachers have trained get us? What has 40 years of aikido training beyond the founder given us? For how many of those years were we told that the aikido of the founder was an amalgam of different martial arts? We were given codified techniques and shown films of the founder doing them. Stan's research into when and where gave us the truth about where the founder actually studied (Daito ryu). It wasn't an amalgam of martial arts. Stan's research gave us many instances of Ueshiba viewing his art as formless, not focused on techniques, and divinely inspired. All of that brought us face to face with Daito ryu aiki. 40 years later and we now have a training path towards not only equalling Ueshiba's skills, but possibly surpassing them.

Why? Because people dug into the when and where. People found out the truth. Culturally, the Japanese are ambiguous. At least in America, it's hard to understand just how far the Japanese can go and still be socially correct. Sometimes lying is the only approved action. We, as Americans, must understand this and not pass judgement for right or wrong. The Japanese have their ways, we have ours. Sometimes they are similar, sometimes not. No right or wrong, good or bad. What matters to us is to find out *how* to do what Ueshiba did.

So, yes, we are here now viewing Saotome sensei's history. Why? Not because we wish to drag him through the mud. Totally the opposite. We uphold him in such high esteem that we want to know how he got so good. Where did he study? How long? What was his training like? Because after 36 years of Saotome being in the U.S., we are still wondering how to get to his level, let alone Ueshiba's.

We can choose to either eat more rice (i.e. eagerly eat up and believe all the stories we are told) or we can delve into when and where that made these men so great in the hopes of finding a similar training path for ourselves. I think 36 years of the former is far too long and we should have been doing the latter long ago.

This isn't to diminish, in any way, the commitment and hard work of Saotome in his years of training. He is a direct link to Morihei Ueshiba, no matter how many hours of direct training he received. On the flip side, we also must realize, he is only one small piece of the totality of Ueshiba. Other students received other parts of the transmission. Those are extremely important parts of the whole that is aikido. Not the entirety, but still important.

Going back to the topic. It is interesting to note how many of the top aikido shihan came from Seigo Yamaguchi: Saotome, Endo, Gleason, Tissier. Or the fact that in Yamaguchi's private dojo, the floor was wooden. (http://www.yamaguchi-aikido.com/html/sei/seigo-e.html)

If you truly want to be as good as Saotome, Ueshiba, etc, then it is required to delve into what made them great. Culturally, the Japanese can be ambiguous. It can be a minefield for research and can go against a lot of closely held and loved beliefs. It can be a very fine line to walk, but some should be doing this. And yes, they will take the heat as this thread has shown.

Aikido is an art that is larger than all of us. It has a depth to it far greater than most, from Ueshiba's aiki to Kisshomaru's aiki and everywhere in between. We really should be mining those depths, walking those fine lines, and carrying on the legacy of our teachers. We should understand the where and when and how of things so that there *can* be future Saotome's, Ueshiba's, etc.
 
Old 12-02-2011, 05:57 PM   #70
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Hello Cliff,

Like Janet, I have no horse in this race. I have met Saotome Shihan only once, at the funeral of Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and we spoke for a few minutes.

However, I do not believe that to discuss the training history of an eminent shihan is ipso facto a personal attack. It is the way it is done that matters. After all, it is very important for aikido in general that the training history of Morihei Ueshiba, and also of his son Kisshomaru, is as clear as possible.

Like George, I spent some years training at the hands of teachers who stated that they were uchi-deshi of the Founder. However, I moved to Japan and have spent many more years training at the hands of other teachers, who also claimed to be uchi-deshi of the Founder--and yet others who made no such claims, but what they stated was quite different. Such that when I had a chance to ask Kisshomaru Ueshiba about the matter, I did so. I was sufficiently surprised by his answer to discuss the matter later with yet another teacher, S Arikawa, who confirmed what Kisshomaru had stated, but also added that Kisshomaru understood the term uchi-deshi in a rather more exclusive sense than it has been given nowadays, especially in aikido.

To my mind, Kisshomaru's insistance that the Founder had no postwar uchi-deshi and that he himself had no uchi-deshi, was never intended as a slight to postwar students like Saotome Shihan. It was a mark of respect to his own father, in whose footsteps he had to follow as Doshu. Kisshomaru did his utmost not to create a parallel training organization that would have the effect of competing with Morihei Ueshiba's. So it is quite true that the postwar students did indeed believe--and correctly so--that they were students primarily of Morihei Ueshiba. This is true even though M Ueshiba spent much of his time traveling round Japan. It is very clear from his biography that Kisshomaru believed that the training regime in Tokyo had the full support of Morihei Ueshiba. He looked after students like Messrs Saotome, Chiba and Kanai, who trained in Tokyo, at the hands of K Osawa, S Yamaguchi and H Tada--and Kisshomaru himself, when they were not accompanying Morihei U on his travels, or who took ukemi for Morihei U when he taught in Tokyo.

Now some people might regard hands-on training with M Ueshiba in the prewar Kobukan and hands-on training with M Ueshiba in Iwama and Tokyo as essentially the same: what differences there were, were primarily differences of degree. Even in the Kobukan years, Ueshiba was traveling and so training in his absence would be led by the uchi-deshi. For Kisshomaru, on the other hand, the prewar uchi-deshi relationship was different in quality, with the main focus squarely on Morihei Ueshiba himself.

Best wishes,

P Goldsbury

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Old 12-04-2011, 07:18 AM   #71
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

I found it very interesting that I was singled out and gone after here when:
1. I didn't start the thread
2. I was the one who started to talk about context and how it was an accepted practice to exaggerate.
I think it serves to highlight pent up anger by many here and the apparent acceptance of their behavior.

Oh well.
Interestingly enough then- since we want to play that way- why is no one outraged that Saotome's impossible time frames, then lead to dozens of other shihans being flat out lairs about Ueshiba's where abouts.
Isn't anyone "offended" on these other famous teachers behalf? No takers? Anyone?
It is virtually impossible for both stories to be true.
Dan

Last edited by DH : 12-04-2011 at 07:23 AM.
 
Old 12-04-2011, 09:31 AM   #72
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Dan Harden wrote: View Post
I found it very interesting that I was singled out and gone after here when:
1. I didn't start the thread
2. I was the one who started to talk about context and how it was an accepted practice to exaggerate.
I think it serves to highlight pent up anger by many here and the apparent acceptance of their behavior.

Oh well.
Interestingly enough then- since we want to play that way- why is no one outraged that Saotome's impossible time frames, then lead to dozens of other shihans being flat out lairs about Ueshiba's where abouts.
Isn't anyone "offended" on these other famous teachers behalf? No takers? Anyone?
It is virtually impossible for both stories to be true.
Dan
Dan,
Don't even bother going there... It's not worth it. The reason is fairly obvious I think. This isn't an historical exercise for most of us... this is the larger community of Aikido practitioners we are talking about. It's one thing to be talking about teachers who have passed on and quite another to get into discussions about teachers with whom we are actively associated or with whom we train regularly. I make it a rule not to get into pissing matches about specific teachers. This forum is world wide and is supposed to provide a chance to exchange ideas about the different ways we all understand and do our Aikido. This is not E-Budo where there were whole threads devoted to people bad mouthing the various teachers they disliked. You don't have any stake in this in terms of on-going relationships that need to be maintained. All your friends know you are a crusty curmudgeon and we also know what a generous teacher and funny guy you are. So we put up with you.. just like friends always put up with each others quirks. But discussions of senior teachers on-line is another thing. These people are not our "friends", they are our teachers, they are our friend's teachers, they ar the people we have to share our Aikido community with.

This is precisely why there was a ton of information about Aikido history that Arikawa had, which he would discuss only with very close associates such as Stan Pranin or Peter Goldsbury, which he never published. It's why Stan has tons of stuff he has never released. When the players have all passed from the scene, then we may see this stuff. But not while everyone is still actively interacting. You get on-line and start actively dissing a particular teacher, you make it VERY difficult for that teacher's students to interact with you. No good comes from these discussions.

I am all for discussions of the history. We can put out all the factual information we want. We do not need at all to get into how any particular teacher's version of those events squares or doesn't square with the documented narrative. Folks can educate themselves and decide what they think for themselves. It is absolutely not a good thing to start getting into calling teachers "liars" or impugning their motivations on-line. In private is one thing but publicly no good at all can come from such discussions. As the English would say it's just not "good form". I would ask you to be cognizant of the fact that such discussions could make it difficult for many of us to do what we are currently doing. You are smart enough to understand that. It may not matter to you but it matters to some of the rest of us.

These things are predictable on the forums. Folks join in whose communication style irritates the existing group for a while, some folks more than others. Folks either figure out how to get along or they end up going away at Jun's request. When the new person shows up and can't figure it out... it does no good whatever to allow yourself to get drawn into it. Just don't go there. I understand that a number of folks, some of my best friends even, are "warrior" types who never back down from a fight. But it simply isn't productive. This is an Aikido site after all... we are supposed to be working towards world peace, at least right up until the moment someone insists that the only form of conflict resolution left open to us is the total "removal" of one of the antagonists.

I really like Ellis's solution which is, as soon as someone is deemed to be a waste of time, he gets "ignored". It's all very Zen, really. If a problem exists but no one can see it, is it still a problem? I recommend this to all... I use it whenever I find that being on Aikiweb starts raising my blood pressure rather than being enjoyable.

Don't let yourself get drawn into this... no good comes from such discussions.

- George

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 12-04-2011 at 09:36 AM.

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Old 12-04-2011, 09:56 AM   #73
Keith Larman
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Gotta say the ignore feature is your friend. I've used it a few times recently and I find my dander problem now much more manageable. I have a personal rule -- I'll try a few times to bring someone around if I think they're off track. If it becomes apparent that the person on the other end isn't coming around there are really only a few possibilities. One is that I am simply incapable of communicating with that person (fault of mine, fault of theirs, or some combination). Therefore there is no reason to continue. Another possibility is that the other person simply isn't willing to evaluate what you're saying in any sort of intellectually honest fashion. This can be someone who is what my internal narrator will call a "bliss ninny". Or the "it's only real if it works in the flaming octagon of DEATH!" guys. Then there's the folk whose glasses are rather full to begin with and are unable to question even the tiniest of things if it in any ways upset the carefully constructed worldview. The other possibility, of course, is that I'm wrong. So I'll take a little time to consider that as well.

Anyway, for me it goes back to a line by Tom Lehrer. He said "I feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." By ignoring a few key people I find I'm able to take that advice and stay quiet myself knowing it might just be me as well.

 
Old 12-04-2011, 09:58 AM   #74
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Hello Cliff,

Like Janet, I have no horse in this race. I have met Saotome Shihan only once, at the funeral of Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and we spoke for a few minutes.

However, I do not believe that to discuss the training history of an eminent shihan is ipso facto a personal attack. It is the way it is done that matters. After all, it is very important for aikido in general that the training history of Morihei Ueshiba, and also of his son Kisshomaru, is as clear as possible.

Like George, I spent some years training at the hands of teachers who stated that they were uchi-deshi of the Founder. However, I moved to Japan and have spent many more years training at the hands of other teachers, who also claimed to be uchi-deshi of the Founder--and yet others who made no such claims, but what they stated was quite different. Such that when I had a chance to ask Kisshomaru Ueshiba about the matter, I did so. I was sufficiently surprised by his answer to discuss the matter later with yet another teacher, S Arikawa, who confirmed what Kisshomaru had stated, but also added that Kisshomaru understood the term uchi-deshi in a rather more exclusive sense than it has been given nowadays, especially in aikido.

To my mind, Kisshomaru's insistance that the Founder had no postwar uchi-deshi and that he himself had no uchi-deshi, was never intended as a slight to postwar students like Saotome Shihan. It was a mark of respect to his own father, in whose footsteps he had to follow as Doshu. Kisshomaru did his utmost not to create a parallel training organization that would have the effect of competing with Morihei Ueshiba's. So it is quite true that the postwar students did indeed believe--and correctly so--that they were students primarily of Morihei Ueshiba. This is true even though M Ueshiba spent much of his time traveling round Japan. It is very clear from his biography that Kisshomaru believed that the training regime in Tokyo had the full support of Morihei Ueshiba. He looked after students like Messrs Saotome, Chiba and Kanai, who trained in Tokyo, at the hands of K Osawa, S Yamaguchi and H Tada--and Kisshomaru himself, when they were not accompanying Morihei U on his travels, or who took ukemi for Morihei U when he taught in Tokyo.

Now some people might regard hands-on training with M Ueshiba in the prewar Kobukan and hands-on training with M Ueshiba in Iwama and Tokyo as essentially the same: what differences there were, were primarily differences of degree. Even in the Kobukan years, Ueshiba was traveling and so training in his absence would be led by the uchi-deshi. For Kisshomaru, on the other hand, the prewar uchi-deshi relationship was different in quality, with the main focus squarely on Morihei Ueshiba himself.

Best wishes,

P Goldsbury
I think folks have a lot of difficulty with the somewhat fluid nature of communications with the Japanese. Saotome Sensei is on record as having stated that there could never be a real uchi deshi system in the United States. His feeling is that the American temperament is quite different than the Japanese. He feels that any American who would be willing to put his own sense of self identity aside to do what the Japanese deshi routinely did, wouldn't actually be the kind of person a teacher would want to invest in. What he thinks of as an uchi deshi in the normal Japanese context would be a sycophantic, groupie in our context. So he said a "real" uchi deshi system just wouldn't work here.

At the very same time, on any number of occasions, Sensei has introduced me as an uchi deshi. He introduced me to tha Nidai Doshu that way... It was quite clear to everyone that I had never lived with Sensei under the same roof, and was technically what would have been referred to as a "soto deshi". Sensei has several students who did at some point spend time living in the same residence... they could more correctly be considered uchi deshi but none ever functioned in their relationship to Sensei in a way that he would have considered a Japanese style uchi deshi relationship. Yet here he was calling me an "uchi deshi". Since I was quite aware of how Sensei thought about what a real uchi deshi was and was not and I think his listener understood the context as well, it was clear that what Sensei really meant was that I was a close personal student, nothing more than that. Sensei does not seem to have any trouble at all moving fluidly between his belief that there can be no American uchi deshi and then an instant later referring to one of his early students as an uchi deshi. One should never get too invested in these things because the meaning at the time is contextual, not fixed. Probably the best way I can think of to get a lecture about what a real uchi deshi is and is not would be to go around telling everyone I was an uchi deshi of Saotome Sensei. He can call me that when he chooses but it isn't something that would have the same meaning or implication if I started using it. I understand how me has meant it on those occasions when he has done so, when I describe my relationship to him, I use English terms that are less ambiguous.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 12-04-2011, 10:08 AM   #75
Chris Li
 
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Re: Saotome Sensei's Training History

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
I am all for discussions of the history. We can put out all the factual information we want. We do not need at all to get into how any particular teacher's version of those events squares or doesn't square with the documented narrative. Folks can educate themselves and decide what they think for themselves.
Of course, it's hard for people to educate themselves if the informations only held in back rooms. I think that it's important to get as much information out in a polite way while these guys are still alive (and most of them aren't anymore), and can respond if they choose to.

And yes, I think the details or particular persons accounts are important, especially as we get further away from people who were actually there. Where would we be today if Stan hadn't dredged up all those details? Note that just about everybody was alive while it was happening.

Personally, I think that the "whispering around the corners" that happens in Aikido sets up an unhealthy dynamic. It's okay to speak about things in private, behind people's backs, but not in public? In my book, if people are putting out information in a public venue then it is OK to question that information in a public venue. Nicely, of course.

Best,

Chris

 

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