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Old 01-08-2015, 07:45 PM   #1
Sojourner
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Question Reconciliation in Aikido?

I wanted to bring up a discussion on reconciliation between Aikido organizations.

What I am seeing is that in martial arts in general it happens from time to time that a Sensei will move away from their existing affiliation and create a new organization that teaches the martial art in a modified way.

History tells us that in the beginning O Sensei taught Aikido to different people who then went on throughout Japan and overseas to teach it to others. It is not clear to me if there was any great structure initially. Yet before he died it is suggested that there were at least three other Aikido denominations running in a formal manner -- (Yoseikan, Yoshinkan & Shodokan). At the time of his passing, there is an organization known as the Aikikai and the leadership of it passes to his son rather than Koichi Tohei who goes on to found the Ki Society, from this point various denominations are formed as well as independent single Dojos not affiliated to any of them.

I don't know if there is a list of all current Aikido denominations, but suggest that if there were it would likely be pretty extensive. I am left to wonder if this in effect is such a good thing for Aikido in general? It has been commented to me before that my own city is a little unusual in that there is strong support between different denominations of Aikido for special events as groups are often not threatened by one another but look for opportunities to learn from one another. Yet I am aware that this is not always the case either globally because of different reasons, perhaps relating to arrogance that their teaching is superior, or simply thoughts about $$$ to the leadership amongst other reasons.

What I did wonder is if there has been any history in Aikido of reconciliation, where rather than breaking away, different Aikido groups actually have joined together or been joined back into their the denomination that they came out of? I am not talking about individual clubs simply switching affiliation, but whole groups being reconciled to one another?
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Old 01-08-2015, 10:59 PM   #2
Michael Hackett
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

That happened with the Aikido Association of America (AAA). The founder, Toyoda Fumio Shihan split from Aikikai with his teacher, Tohei Koichi. After several years with Tohei Sensei, he broke away and formed the AAA as an independent organization. Again after several years, Toyoda Shihan arranged to return to the Aikikai. Similar things have doubtlessly happened over the years with other organizations.

The reasons for the splits have been for myriad reasons; personality conflicts, political issues, financial conflicts. Some of those reasons may be irreconcilable between the parties, while some can be brushed aside.

The best part of being an aikido student is ignoring the greater politics and just enjoying training with others regardless of their affiliation. Who cares what characters got into a spat decades ago, except from an historical perspective?

Michael
"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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Old 01-09-2015, 07:23 AM   #3
crbateman
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

Obviously, there are exceptions, but generally speaking, "reconciliation" is not the Japanese way of things. Fortunately, those who simply train are usually less political and more tolerant than those who head organizations. I see an undercurrent of curiosity and genuine interest between practitioners about what defines the differences and the similarities between "styles", if you will. This has been especially evident at events like the Aiki Expos and the Bridge seminars, or at pretty much any multi-style events that I have seen. An open mind is essential to any true learning, so this is good, but I think it would be difficult to see much happening beyond this level, at least in the short term.
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Old 01-09-2015, 04:49 PM   #4
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

Quote:
Michael Hackett wrote: View Post
That happened with the Aikido Association of America (AAA). The founder, Toyoda Fumio Shihan split from Aikikai with his teacher, Tohei Koichi. After several years with Tohei Sensei, he broke away and formed the AAA as an independent organization. Again after several years, Toyoda Shihan arranged to return to the Aikikai. Similar things have doubtlessly happened over the years with other organizations.

The reasons for the splits have been for myriad reasons; personality conflicts, political issues, financial conflicts. Some of those reasons may be irreconcilable between the parties, while some can be brushed aside.

The best part of being an aikido student is ignoring the greater politics and just enjoying training with others regardless of their affiliation. Who cares what characters got into a spat decades ago, except from an historical perspective?
Definitely. A good dojo cho should block a lot of the political intrigue from effecting the students and their training.

Ichi Go, Ichi Ei!
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Old 01-09-2015, 04:49 PM   #5
Cliff Judge
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

Quote:
Ben White wrote: View Post
I wanted to bring up a discussion on reconciliation between Aikido organizations.

What I am seeing is that in martial arts in general it happens from time to time that a Sensei will move away from their existing affiliation and create a new organization that teaches the martial art in a modified way.

History tells us that in the beginning O Sensei taught Aikido to different people who then went on throughout Japan and overseas to teach it to others. It is not clear to me if there was any great structure initially. Yet before he died it is suggested that there were at least three other Aikido denominations running in a formal manner -- (Yoseikan, Yoshinkan & Shodokan). At the time of his passing, there is an organization known as the Aikikai and the leadership of it passes to his son rather than Koichi Tohei who goes on to found the Ki Society, from this point various denominations are formed as well as independent single Dojos not affiliated to any of them.

I don't know if there is a list of all current Aikido denominations, but suggest that if there were it would likely be pretty extensive. I am left to wonder if this in effect is such a good thing for Aikido in general? It has been commented to me before that my own city is a little unusual in that there is strong support between different denominations of Aikido for special events as groups are often not threatened by one another but look for opportunities to learn from one another. Yet I am aware that this is not always the case either globally because of different reasons, perhaps relating to arrogance that their teaching is superior, or simply thoughts about $$$ to the leadership amongst other reasons.

What I did wonder is if there has been any history in Aikido of reconciliation, where rather than breaking away, different Aikido groups actually have joined together or been joined back into their the denomination that they came out of? I am not talking about individual clubs simply switching affiliation, but whole groups being reconciled to one another?
My question to you is, what would reconciliation between the groups look like? Why would it be a good thing?

It is true that some of the schisms happened in ill spirits. But overall, Aikido is broken up into groups that tend to train a bit differently.

Would reconciliation involve people in Yoshinkan changing their syllabus to be more like the Ki Society? Or the Aikikai adopting the competition of the Tomiki organization?

Students need a chance to do similar things many times before they can internalize principles, build physical skills, and advance. In the long view, the fact that there are different Aikido traditions means that there are groups of people hanging together working on similar sets of things. Each group has the capability of generating new knowledge, which can be shared after they've had some time to percolate. I think that's something that happens frequently. A number of organizations have open seminars. If they don't, that doesn't mean they are entirely closed to people from other groups. It can be a matter of wanting to make sure nobody gets broken on the mat because something unexpected happens.

I know a few examples in the Aikido and koryu worlds where you take two groups that seem to be very opposed - someone left and took students with them, or someone refused to place their organization under the umbrella of the main group - where senior people in these groups actually maintain friendships with each other.

So I think there might be less of a need for reconciliation than you might think.
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Old 01-09-2015, 06:47 PM   #6
Janet Rosen
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

I don't think reconciliation necessitates changing syllabus. There is no One Way to teach Aikido.

It just - to me - means being open to cross-training, within Aikido and outside of Aikido, without an us-vs.-them mentality.

Janet Rosen
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Old 01-09-2015, 08:47 PM   #7
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

Quote:
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I don't think reconciliation necessitates changing syllabus. There is no One Way to teach Aikido.

It just - to me - means being open to cross-training, within Aikido and outside of Aikido, without an us-vs.-them mentality.
Hello Janet,

Happy New Year!

I think the us-them mentality is engrained in Japanese budo and this is due to the particular paradigm according to which it is learned and taught. Many people who write here appear to subscribe to the SHU-HA-RI paradigm and one assumption made about this paradigm is the crucial need to find the 'right' teacher to begin with. Another assumption is that the 'right' teacher is the 'right' teacher for the student and that it would therefore be senseless to go anywhere else. So the cross-training would be in other arts, not in other branches of the same art.

Best wishes,

PAG

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Old 01-10-2015, 12:55 AM   #8
Janet Rosen
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

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

Happy New Year!

I think the us-them mentality is engrained in Japanese budo and this is due to the particular paradigm according to which it is learned and taught. Many people who write here appear to subscribe to the SHU-HA-RI paradigm and one assumption made about this paradigm is the crucial need to find the 'right' teacher to begin with. Another assumption is that the 'right' teacher is the 'right' teacher for the student and that it would therefore be senseless to go anywhere else. So the cross-training would be in other arts, not in other branches of the same art.

Best wishes,

PAG
And a very Happy New Year to you, sir!
I don't doubt what you say....myself being a purely "Amurican" aikidoka, and having chosen to train with American instructors primarily, I feel it less and see that there is less of that here because it goes against the grain of a USA culture that is more focused on the individual (sometimes to our detriment...what I call the myth of the Marlboro Man...). Starting with the aikido-l seminars in the late 1990s and then the various Bridge seminars and so on, I think we are seeing little bits of progress here in the States. Being a huge country, with no one federation having hegemony really helps too.

Janet Rosen
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Old 01-10-2015, 05:10 AM   #9
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

Osensei said on a number of occasions that his goal for Aikido was for world peace and universal harmony. It is my view that if people that claim to represent his teachings are in conflict, or founded on conflict with one another, that they are misrepresenting him. I realise that there are various schools of Aikido, three that existed before his death, I am not convinced that they were however in conflict with one another, nor started as a result of conflict. To my way of thinking, Reconciliation is evidence of taking OSensei at his word and beginning with yourself first. To attempt to teach Aikido whilst having negativity and conflict with your former Aikidoka seems a misnomer to me.
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Old 01-10-2015, 06:19 AM   #10
sakumeikan
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

Dear all,
Sad to say the issue of reconciling with both individuals and organisations is a most unlikely.
I have had personal experiences of being with training partners and various instructors and in most cases the contact was at first positive .However this changed in time and became a negative experience.Some of these people have known me for decades.Now we no longer interact.Same goes with theU.K. groups .For years the major Aikikai groups in the U.k rarely met.There is however a possibility that this situation might have changed with the formation of the J.A.C. [Joint Aikikai Council].Time will tell. Cheers, Joe.
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Old 01-10-2015, 09:14 AM   #11
Dan Richards
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Re: in Aikido?Reconciliation

Sojourner, why is it necessary to see these organically-arising organizations as something that's in need of reconciliation? It could also appear as a natural extension of growth.

Aikido, and martial arts, are living arts. Not something we can capture in a moment at some time in the past, like something held in suspended animation inside of a piece of amber.

I'm not interested in Ueshiba's teachings, as much as I am in seeking what he sought. There is a perennial philosophy running through all of it. Ueshiba's teachings are not new, nor are they unique.

We recently had a friendship seminar with several different organizations and "styles" represented — including some that had split from splits that had split from splits. Everyone was able to train just fine together throughout the day. No mention of politics or problems. And we all took something from the training that I'm sure will find its way into our own day-to-day explorations.

I think there are quite a few organizations that could benefit by splitting off. Some have just become too big and cumbersome. I see just as much if not more opportunity for healthy growth and evolution in practitioners who have split or who are training independently than I see inside large organizations. And, of course, there is a place and a need for both.

Seeing "splits" as branches, that are all part of the same tree and forest system, is not only a more constructive and harmonious POV, but more true to the Daoist (yin/yang, in/yo) principles on which aikido was founded. And within that, we can see conflict within harmony, and harmony within conflict.

The wars that were fought in the 20th century, during Ueshiba's adult lifetime, have resulted in more world harmony than ever in the entire history of our civilization.

The principles on which aikido was founded are bigger than Ueshiba, and bigger than aikido. Seeing conflict and a need for reconciliation might be not seeing the forest for the trees.
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Old 01-10-2015, 11:20 AM   #12
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

Quote:
Ben White wrote: View Post
Osensei said on a number of occasions that his goal for Aikido was for world peace and universal harmony. It is my view that if people that claim to represent his teachings are in conflict, or founded on conflict with one another, that they are misrepresenting him. I realise that there are various schools of Aikido, three that existed before his death, I am not convinced that they were however in conflict with one another, nor started as a result of conflict. To my way of thinking, Reconciliation is evidence of taking OSensei at his word and beginning with yourself first. To attempt to teach Aikido whilst having negativity and conflict with your former Aikidoka seems a misnomer to me.
Sometimes the best way to have a harmonious relationship with someone is to stay as far away from them as possible.

Katherine
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Old 01-10-2015, 12:27 PM   #13
Dan Richards
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

Quote:
Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
Sometimes the best way to have a harmonious relationship with someone is to stay as far away from them as possible.
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Old 01-10-2015, 02:43 PM   #14
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

Quote:
Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
Sometimes the best way to have a harmonious relationship with someone is to stay as far away from them as possible.

Katherine
Dear Katherine,
You betcha, Cheers, Joe
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Old 01-11-2015, 11:09 PM   #15
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

Quote:
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Osensei said on a number of occasions that his goal for Aikido was for world peace and universal harmony.
Never in the history of mankind has this been achieved and will never be achieved. It is not a natural thing and goes against human nature.

dps
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Old 01-12-2015, 07:20 AM   #16
RonRagusa
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
Ben White wrote: "Osensei said on a number of occasions that his goal for Aikido was for world peace and universal harmony."

Never in the history of mankind has this been achieved and will never be achieved. It is not a natural thing and goes against human nature.

dps
True. But a worthwhile goal that can nonetheless be approached without limit.

Ron

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Old 01-12-2015, 07:30 AM   #17
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

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True. But a worthwhile goal that can nonetheless be approached without limit.
But what IS the goal? You (and OP) say "reconciliation", but is that even the right word? As others have pointed out, not all separation arises from conflict; sometimes it simply arises from physical distance, or different circumstances, or simply going one's own way. When you say you want to "reconcile" things that are not in conflict, that sounds more like you're whitewashing an exercise in groupthink. Would you abandon your desire to make others "reconcile" if they told you, "We don't have a disagreement, we're just doing things a different way, and we're fine with that"?
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Old 01-12-2015, 02:32 PM   #18
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

IIRC, several wars have been fought over the need to "reconcile" all branches of Christianity.

Arguably, much of the current unrest in the Middle East is essentially a war between the two main branches of Islam.

Agreeing to disagree is a perfectly legitimate -- and much more "harmonious" -- alternative.

Katherine
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Old 01-12-2015, 03:00 PM   #19
Keith Larman
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

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

Happy New Year!

I think the us-them mentality is engrained in Japanese budo and this is due to the particular paradigm according to which it is learned and taught. Many people who write here appear to subscribe to the SHU-HA-RI paradigm and one assumption made about this paradigm is the crucial need to find the 'right' teacher to begin with. Another assumption is that the 'right' teacher is the 'right' teacher for the student and that it would therefore be senseless to go anywhere else. So the cross-training would be in other arts, not in other branches of the same art.

Best wishes,

PAG
FWIW, my personal opinion is that we're already so split apart that many different "branches" are in fact better viewed as different arts already. I frequently train with others, inside and outside Aikido. And to be honest, I often find just as many significant differences arising between different branches of Aikido as I do between what I see as Aikido and other arts not similarly labeled.

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Old 01-12-2015, 06:50 PM   #20
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

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Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
But what IS the goal? You (and OP) say "reconciliation", but is that even the right word? As others have pointed out, not all separation arises from conflict; sometimes it simply arises from physical distance, or different circumstances, or simply going one's own way. When you say you want to "reconcile" things that are not in conflict, that sounds more like you're whitewashing an exercise in groupthink. Would you abandon your desire to make others "reconcile" if they told you, "We don't have a disagreement, we're just doing things a different way, and we're fine with that"?
You misunderstood my post Mary. I was referring to David's response to Ben White's post. Being an independent practitioner, I have no interest in reconciling Aikido styles as mentioned in the OP. I'm all for continued splintering of Aikido.

As for the goal of "world peace and universal harmony", I'll stand by my view as posted.

Ron

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Old 01-13-2015, 07:29 AM   #21
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
FWIW, my personal opinion is that we're already so split apart that many different "branches" are in fact better viewed as different arts already. I frequently train with others, inside and outside Aikido. And to be honest, I often find just as many significant differences arising between different branches of Aikido as I do between what I see as Aikido and other arts not similarly labeled.
Well, the name was intended as a general category to begin with: a bag able to contain arts that bore a sufficiently close family resemblance to each other to be marked off from the arts in the other general categories -- all in the service of the war currently being waged by Japan (in 1942). This is somewhat different from the idea of one specific art created by Morihei Ueshiba, say in 1931, and given a specific name because he chose it.

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Old 01-13-2015, 12:15 PM   #22
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

I think it is nice to have groups with working relationships but I think Aikido is probably better served with some allowance for groups to create separation within it. My understanding is that largely the teaching paradigm and core principles are the greater factor in separating groups, with conciliation (professional or personal) playing a smaller role in the greater structure. Although In understand there to still be some of both alive and well.

I also think that there are very people alive with the historical knowledge to claim with certitude what O Sensei said and what he meant. I think I would be cautious of any claim about what O Sensei "said" and implied conflict with "said" comments. I think some of these ideas are a little scary when applied with extreme ideology. Remember, Hitler had his own view of world peace... and it wasn't lions laying with lambs.

What I find most damaging about the greater umbrella of aikido is not the separation of styles, but rather the perception extreme styles carry into the larger martial arts world. To Keith's point, I have seen sister arts that have a better understanding of what we do than some of the aikido styles I have come across.

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Old 01-13-2015, 03:02 PM   #23
Keith Larman
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Well, the name was intended as a general category to begin with: a bag able to contain arts that bore a sufficiently close family resemblance to each other to be marked off from the arts in the other general categories -- all in the service of the war currently being waged by Japan (in 1942). This is somewhat different from the idea of one specific art created by Morihei Ueshiba, say in 1931, and given a specific name because he chose it.
Yes, but I think even if we start with the specific art with Ueshiba Morihei, much of the difficulty is also in the way that the art has evolved through subsequent generations of deshi with their, well, let's just say "varied" ideas as to what Ueshiba was in fact teaching, and what was critical to the "true nature" of the art (as they perceived it, of course). Add with additional generations as well there is, I think, a growing realization as to just how differently each of those original deshi and their subsequent deshi answered those questions. So we find ourselves with a new predicament -- at what point has a new "species" evolved? At what point could we give it a new name and say it's not just an evolution but a new thing all together?

I'm not saying such a thing has happened, but I do wonder given the variety out there.

What I find interesting is that as the earlier generations pass on in to history, often some of that generation's personal and political baggage will pass with it. So I think we'll see and ebb and flow of sentiments like this. However, at some point we will need to ask whether reconciliation is still possible given that those problems seem to encourage increased variation.

None of this is to imply any judgments as to the relative value of these various new directions, just that much depends on how much change has occurred. There are certainly some profound differences between your average "hard" dojo and the wonderful video of that fella waving ribbons while wearing a hakama. And they both trace their origins to Ueshiba Morihei. The question is really how far some have deviated from the starting point and therefore whether reconciliation makes sense given the evolution that has occurred in the interim.

Of course we seem to be generally unable to even rigorously define what that starting point was itself with different groups focusing on different aspects of Ueshiba, often with a natural bias towards where they are now.

So I await the next installment of Transmission...

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Old 01-13-2015, 08:34 PM   #24
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

I think the cases of Tomiki and Mochiuzuki provide an interesting comparison with the other deshi who trained at the Kobukan in the 1930s -- and of course after the war. I also think Ellis Amdur's theory of crash test dummies, discussed in HIPS, is quite plausible.

Here we have Ueshiba, who was still evolving and finding his own way, with two deshi who came to Ueshiba from judo. One was sent by Kano; the other seems to have found his way anyway. Tomiki was a scholar and seems to have provided much of the intellectual underpinning for the art, as it is expressed in Budo Renshuu and Budo, but he clearly set great store by the survival training he developed when he was a POW in Siberia and he also seems to have set much store by establishing a training methodology appropriate for large groups -- which Ueshiba seems not to have bothered with so much. However, it is clear from the Takemusu Aiki discourses and Aikido Ichiro that Tomiki had crossed some sort of line. It is also true that Tomiki taught at the Aikikai after the war, so the estrangement became final only gradually -- and there was much negotiation over whether Tomiki would change the name of the art he practiced. He himself saw no need to change the name.

Mochizuki, on the other hand, never crossed any lines, but was also convinced that Ueshiba's art -- whatever you called it -- needed something more than what was being served up in the Aikikai. So he created the Yoseikan and called his art Aiki-Budo, which is what Ueshiba's art was called by some before 1942. Again, Mochizuki's dojo was formally part of the Aikikai, at least until the publication of Kissomaru's early books on aikido, for they are on the list of dojo in Japan.

What was Ueshiba himself doing in all this? Well, he was partly being a good guru, living in Iwama and later travelling around Japan visiting his favourite crash test dummies and discoursing about his art. Remember, kamigari can bring enlightenment and this state exists all the time, not just in the odd moment. In any case, he had given the Tokyo dojo to Kisshomaru and the transition fitted the iemoto model. So he could afford to be nice to everybody and fit aikido to the new postwar model of peace and harmony.

The vertically structured relationship between teacher and student is, I believe, crucial for understanding how splits and fragmentation can occur, but also for understanding Kisshomaru's efforts to maintain the vertical links he established with his own deshi, but in the Aikikai organization. This meant letting them get on with teaching what they had learned from himself and his father, provided that what they were doing did not stray too far from what either had practiced. So, eventually Saotome and Toyoda rejoined his organization.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 01-13-2015 at 08:39 PM.

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Old 01-14-2015, 06:25 AM   #25
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Reconciliation in Aikido?

Late Edit.

It should be kamigakari (神懸かり, not kamigari.

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