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Old 03-03-2013, 10:40 PM   #1
Guillaume Erard
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Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

Yamada Yoshimitsu is amongst the last direct disciples of Ueshiba Morihei, the creator of Aikido. In addition to being the founder of the New York Aikikai, Yamada Sensei is also the technical director of numerous Aikido associations around the world. A jovial man, he never hesitates to involve himself to defend the cause of Aikido and that of its practitioners against individual interests. Meet a lover of Aikido and freedom.



(Original blog post may be found here.)
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Old 03-03-2013, 11:42 PM   #2
Chris Li
 
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

A very interesting, and very frank, interview.

I noticed that he once again speaks against the ranking system (I quoted one of his previous interviews on the subject in "Something's Rank - Black Belts in Aikido").

Also, he expresses some of the same reservations about the shihan title and discrimination that I expressed in "Masters of the Universe, the Aikikai and the Shihan Certification".

He sums it up quite nicely - "It is a stupid system".

Best,

Chris

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Old 03-04-2013, 06:25 AM   #3
AsimHanif
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

Quote:
In addition to being the founder of the New York Aikikai, Yamada
Really? I thought NYAikikai was started before YY arrived in NY.
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Old 03-04-2013, 06:53 AM   #4
grondahl
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

The link seems to be broken.
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Old 03-04-2013, 06:53 AM   #5
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

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Asim Hanif wrote: View Post
Really? I thought NYAikikai was started before YY arrived in NY.
Yes. The information is given in the NYA website: http://www.nyaikikai.com/history.asp and, yes, the link to the original interview is broken.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 03-04-2013, 08:24 AM   #6
allowedcloud
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

Here is a link to the original interview (in French)

http://www.leotamaki.com/article-int...113610239.html
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Old 03-04-2013, 08:33 AM   #7
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

Quote:
Joshua Landin wrote: View Post
Here is a link to the original interview (in French)

http://www.leotamaki.com/article-int...113610239.html
And just as controversial in French

Try it with Google Translate.

Best,

Chris

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Old 03-04-2013, 01:42 PM   #8
philipsmith
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

I don't see it as controversial. Yamada Senssei's views are well known but he always makes it plain that they are his views and not an official USAF stance.

My own opinion is that he is frustrated by the reliance on titles; promotions and ambitions of a lot of Aikidoka who seek to gain prestige by them.

I disagree with hin, however, since every organization from the smallest dojo to the Aikikai needs a structure and titles, rank etc. provide this. That is not to say they should be sought for their own sake, but considered for what they are - a useful tool.
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Old 03-04-2013, 01:55 PM   #9
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

Quote:
Philip Smith wrote: View Post
I don't see it as controversial. Yamada Senssei's views are well known but he always makes it plain that they are his views and not an official USAF stance.

My own opinion is that he is frustrated by the reliance on titles; promotions and ambitions of a lot of Aikidoka who seek to gain prestige by them.

I disagree with hin, however, since every organization from the smallest dojo to the Aikikai needs a structure and titles, rank etc. provide this. That is not to say they should be sought for their own sake, but considered for what they are - a useful tool.
Well, it works pretty well, for children, not so much so for adults, IMO. You have to balance the usefullness of this and any other tool against the rather substantial negatives of the system.

Of course, there are plenty of groups that have gotten by for hundreds of years with very little in the way of ranks, so I don't think that it's a given that Jigoro Kano's system, which is only a few years old, relatively, is the only feasible method of organization.

Best,

Chris

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Old 03-04-2013, 10:33 PM   #10
Guillaume Erard
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Yes. The information is given in the NYA website: http://www.nyaikikai.com/history.asp and, yes, the link to the original interview is broken.
Apologies to all, I have had a problem on my database and had to roll back to a previous save. I will get the link fixed ASAP.
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Old 03-05-2013, 01:10 AM   #11
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

Quote:
Joshua Landin wrote: View Post
Here is a link to the original interview (in French)

http://www.leotamaki.com/article-int...113610239.html
Thank you.

I see the interviewer was Leo Tamaki, so it probably works as well in French as it does in English. I think the views expressed are clearly controversial, but this does not really surprise me.

Yamada Shihan (I will call him Shihan in this post, since it is his job title) has the dilemma of having to live with a situation which he did not create, which he does not like, but which he can do nothing about. All he can do is be like Marcel Proust and dwell fondly on how things used to be in the ‘golden age’. He is one of a group of haken shihans (a term that slides over the issue of whether they were sent abroad or volunteered to go) who are in a state of shock and wonder, ‘Whatever has happened to the Aikikai? It seems quite different from the times when we were deshi.’ (Uchi or soto left unspecified).

The origins of the dilemma have been sketched many times – and in positive and negative terms.

A man of great charisma attracts disciples because of this charisma and because of their inchoate desire to obtain what he possesses, something that they cannot define exactly, either then or in the future, but which is eminently worth possessing. The man with charisma is seemingly unconcerned with organizational matters, but consciously or unconsciously creates an art, something with its own internal structure and which is different and separate from its creator, but which is tied to the creator in a very close way. The disciples practice the art under the personal direction of the creator, but inevitably become part of a group, a very loosely defined organization. The creator dies and the disciples then have the problem of practicing the art and maintaining the group / organization as closely as possible to what it was like when the creator was active. They do this in order that the creator’s art does not die with the creator.

Rightly or wrongly, the creator has designated his son as his successor and the latter acquires the title of ‘head of the art’, but which is now called a ‘way’ and invested with important qualities. The successor can never have the same charisma as the creator, so the art itself becomes invested with the qualities that the creator possessed and the successor practices the art and maintains the group for the sake of the art/way. The members of the group change and the nature of the organization itself changes, but always under the control of the head and always ostensibly for the sake of the art/way.

The practice of going into seclusion for the sake of training in a ‘way’, unencumbered by the demands of the world, has a long history, but it is also possible – but much more difficult, to pursue similar training in the world while remaining unencumbered by its demands. For various reasons the successor head keeps the art very firmly in the world and actively goes out to attract new members. Whereas before, entry into the group was very difficult and restricted to those the creator accepted, now training in the art is open to all. Of course, for this to happen the art has to change, radically, for the type and level of training has to be adapted to become more of a product, like a program in which you enter at the beginning and emerge later on with a grade of achievement, with something like a hakama and/or black belt. Textbooks and DVDs are available for those who need them, produced by established and recognized teachers, who have teaching titles like shihan.

But the changes are always under the control of the head and always ostensibly for the sake of the art. Eventually the art acquires an evolutionary history: a controlled narrative of the creator’s life and the steps leading to his creation of the art.

The Japanese term for this type of pyramid structure is iemoto and the problems with this structure are not new. As I stated earlier, one can see such a structure in positive or negative terms. It is cumbersome, it is slow to change, the reluctance to define the art in clear terms means that there is no clear criterion for discerning quality or a clear way of maintaining quality, and the art becomes a family business: the head of the way is invested with responsibilities that he might not be competent to fulfill.

So one can see the dilemma. The art is eminently worth maintaining, even developing, and this is the value of the iemoto system. But if the iemoto himself or the system does not convey the genuine charisma of the creator of the art, or an acceptable substitute, a situation is created that becomes more difficult to accept, the more one penetrates the depths of the art.

FWIW.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 03-05-2013, 09:43 AM   #12
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

Interesting to me is that some (all?) koryu seem to have separated the positions of ceremonial head of the ryu (soke) from the primary teacher of the ryu's skills (shihanke). This might make it possible to pass on the leadership of the organization to one person who might have those skills (or family relationship), while maintaining the quality of the art by passing the teaching responsibility to another person who might be the best technically.

I don't really know anything about this system. Anyone care to elaborate on it? Could it be used as a model for Aikido?

Evolution doesn't prove God doesn't exist, any more than hammers prove carpenters don't exist.
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:24 AM   #13
Rob Watson
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

Quote:
Philip Smith wrote: View Post
I don't see it as controversial. Yamada Senssei's views are well known but he always makes it plain that they are his views and not an official USAF stance.
This stance puts a mighty strain on credibility don't you think? Would not a discriminating person that values integrity resign from such a position? Budo is hard in many ways.

Either way when stuck in a no win situation one must make hard choices - or not.

"In my opinion, the time of spreading aikido to the world is finished; now we have to focus on quality." Yamada Yoshimitsu

Ultracrepidarianism ... don't.
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Old 03-05-2013, 10:50 AM   #14
Janet Rosen
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

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Robert M Watson Jr wrote: View Post
This stance puts a mighty strain on credibility don't you think? Would not a discriminating person that values integrity resign from such a position?
Not necessarily. There can be cultural issues at play, personality/temperament issues at play, and (given that we are not dealing with moral/legal issues such as murder, embezzlement or coercion), it seems to me there is also room here, as in many places, for "the loyal opposition" to continue within his or her role while cogently articulating a dissenting position.

Janet Rosen
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Old 03-07-2013, 06:36 AM   #15
philipsmith
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

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Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Well, it works pretty well, for children, not so much so for adults, IMO. You have to balance the usefullness of this and any other tool against the rather substantial negatives of the system.

Of course, there are plenty of groups that have gotten by for hundreds of years with very little in the way of ranks, so I don't think that it's a given that Jigoro Kano's system, which is only a few years old, relatively, is the only feasible method of organization.

Best,

Chris
Hi Chris,

I may well agree for small self-contained (insular?) groups but any larger; in other words; more than two member/site groups I think a structure naturally occurs with a hierarchy, leadership and a common set of rules, however informal.
IMHO one of the reasons Aikido has spread globally is because there is a formal structure in place. This applies to the Aikikai, Yoshinkan and Tomiki styles equally as well as "newer" groups such as Iwama and Ki Aikido.

I have a lot of sympathy with Yamada Senseis point of view but thnk that, in part, it's a result of the change in authority of the "Uber-Shihan" such as himself and Tamura Sensei who for many years had a reasonably free hand within their own territories and now find themselves rather more constrained by the Aikikai. An inevitable result of time and generational change I guess.
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Old 03-07-2013, 08:11 AM   #16
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

Quote:
Philip Smith wrote: View Post
Hi Chris,

I may well agree for small self-contained (insular?) groups but any larger; in other words; more than two member/site groups I think a structure naturally occurs with a hierarchy, leadership and a common set of rules, however informal.
IMHO one of the reasons Aikido has spread globally is because there is a formal structure in place. This applies to the Aikikai, Yoshinkan and Tomiki styles equally as well as "newer" groups such as Iwama and Ki Aikido.
My point was that there are many different forms of organization - many of which work better and more successfully on a large scale.

Professional organizations and educational accrediting organizations are two that come to mind - and do quite well without duplicating the system of mail order ranks that the Aikikai has ended up with.

Best,

Chris

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Old 03-08-2013, 08:40 PM   #17
Chris Li
 
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

And the English version's back!

http://www.guillaumeerard.com/aikido...u-the-free-man

Best,

Chris

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Old 03-09-2013, 02:21 PM   #18
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

thank you for this interview

Ze'ev from Masatake Dojo Rehovot
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Old 03-09-2013, 05:51 PM   #19
Aikibu
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

Having befriended and helped out Virginia Mayhew Sensei in the last few years of her life, I take anything Yamada Shihan says with a hefty grain of salt. The sad fact that some Aikido Shihan (both men and women) want to gloss over her huge contributions to Aikido, The New York Aikikai or that she was the first US woman who went to Japan to study Aikido ( despite the claims of another woman Sensei) with both O'Sensei and Shoji Nishio among others is a travesty that I am going to help rectify one of these days.

Mayhew Sensei did not think herself to be anything special, so she shunned the spotlight. As long as I am alive and practicing, I am going to remind folks of her joyful spirit and love for Aikido and do my best to see she gets her due in the historical record of our Art.

Here's something for starters: http://books.google.com/books?id=z9k...aikido&f=false

William Hazen

Last edited by Aikibu : 03-09-2013 at 05:53 PM. Reason: Added Link.
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Old 03-09-2013, 06:42 PM   #20
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

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William Hazen wrote: View Post
Having befriended and helped out Virginia Mayhew Sensei in the last few years of her life, I take anything Yamada Shihan says with a hefty grain of salt. The sad fact that some Aikido Shihan (both men and women) want to gloss over her huge contributions to Aikido, The New York Aikikai or that she was the first US woman who went to Japan to study Aikido ( despite the claims of another woman Sensei) with both O'Sensei and Shoji Nishio among others is a travesty that I am going to help rectify one of these days.

Mayhew Sensei did not think herself to be anything special, so she shunned the spotlight. As long as I am alive and practicing, I am going to remind folks of her joyful spirit and love for Aikido and do my best to see she gets her due in the historical record of our Art.

Here's something for starters: http://books.google.com/books?id=z9k...aikido&f=false

William Hazen
Well, he was always kind to me - he took me with him the first time that I went to Japan in 1982, although he knew that I was a Saotome student. Still, there's no denying that he has his warts (who doesn't?).

Anyway, what's most important about the interview is not who founded the New York Aikikai (and note that the bit about the New York Aikikai was part of the introduction by Leo Tamaki, not from a statement by Yamada, who has stated publicly in the past that when he arrived the dojo already existed), but his opinions on Aikido and Aikido organizations, IMO.

Best,

Chris

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Old 03-09-2013, 08:30 PM   #21
Aikibu
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Re: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan: The Free Mind

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Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Well, he was always kind to me - he took me with him the first time that I went to Japan in 1982, although he knew that I was a Saotome student. Still, there's no denying that he has his warts (who doesn't?).

Anyway, what's most important about the interview is not who founded the New York Aikikai (and note that the bit about the New York Aikikai was part of the introduction by Leo Tamaki, not from a statement by Yamada, who has stated publicly in the past that when he arrived the dojo already existed), but his opinions on Aikido and Aikido organizations, IMO.

Best,

Chris
Agreed Chris. We all have warts (and Leo got the statement from somewhere (hint hint)) and I highly respect both Yamada Shihan's experience and opinions.

Back in the early 60's, misogyny was rampant in both Japanese and American culture, especially in the Martial Arts. Virginia in her prime was a very beautiful and accomplished woman. And very intimidating on the mat. All I can say is Virginia shared many personal experiences with both Micheal Fowler Sensei and I on the more "personal side" of many (but thankfully not all) of O' Sensei's students of that era. And that's all I am going to say about that.

In sum I think it best that each person be responsible for revealing their own "warts' in the spirit of humility...Especially in Aikido I won't stoop to pointing out another Aikidoka's except to say that the only person you're fooling is yourself if someone feels that just because you don't reveal yours means that we can't see them. That is why I find this interview very interesting

William Hazen.

Last edited by Aikibu : 03-09-2013 at 08:35 PM.
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