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Old 02-14-2005, 06:30 PM   #1
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Article: O-Sensei's Aikido by George S. Ledyard

Discuss the article, "O-Sensei's Aikido" by George S. Ledyard here.

Article URL: http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/gledyard/2005_02.html
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Old 02-23-2005, 03:33 PM   #2
Russ Qureshi
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Re: Article: O-Sensei's Aikido by George S. Ledyard

Hi George,

Thanks again for writing what has been floating around in my head for a long time. You have an uncanny ability to do that.... To concur, in my own limited experience, the more I train, the less investment I have in a particular outcome of a given kata. I have always felt that the training is an opportunity to touch the void .....Once in awhile you throw, or are thrown, perfectly. No pain, no fear,no feeling of time, no concsious thought. You get up smiling and both you and your partner are thinking "Wow, what the hell was that!"

Warm regards,

Russ
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Old 02-23-2005, 07:52 PM   #3
Anders Bjonback
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Re: Article: O-Sensei's Aikido by George S. Ledyard

"So what is being passed down is a simpler, secularized version which is primarily a physical practice with an attached ethical system but lacking in the elements of true insight which supplied the Founder with his realizations."

Honestly, when I first read Aikido and the Harmony of Nature, I thought it was overwhelming and I felt like I wouldn't be able to do aikido if I had to adopt that religious view. I hardly know enough of my own religion, Buddhism, to be able to adopt the beliefs of O Sensei. I think there might be something like ki, but I don't know if I believe it in the way it is presented in that book. And I don't think about the creation and destruction of galaxies when I'm doing aikido--I think that it's an interesting philosophical perspective, and I think that kind of embodiment of (or being in harmony with) the workings of the universe may contribute to the transformative nature of the art, but it's just too much for me to wrap my mind around.

Also, I don't think I'd be interested in aikido if it wasn't for the ethical and philosophical system attached to it. If it was just strengthening the ego through fighting and competition, I wouldn't enjoy it at all. I just limit myself to what I can identify with, which is from the perspective that if I'm really doing aikido, then I'm acting in harmony with what is, and the idea of non-competition and such. Even though I don't have the same belief system as the founder, I certainly do not think that aikido is a waste of time, and I don't think that it's a "mundane" rather than "spiritual" pursuit for me.

I think that aikido is a transformative path for a lot of people even without the esoteric Shinto beliefs attached to it. In the same way, I guess, that certain techniques of Buddhism like mindfulness meditation and loving-kindness practices can do benefit to people even if they don't adopt Buddhist beliefs. People who aren't Buddhist probably won't have the same relationship with Buddhist mind-training techniques as Buddhists do, but that doesn't change their transformative power.

I don't know if I believe that transformative power is inherent in the movements of aikido, but I do think that with certain conditions in the way it is practiced, like in an atmosphere of non-competition and attempting musubi rather than beating someone up, can contribute to human betterment. As long as those conditions are there, I think that aikido can certainly be an aspect of a spiritual path even without the Omoto Kyo doctrine.

"For peace and happiness are presences, not objects we can grasp and hold onto."
--Lilian Smith
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Old 02-23-2005, 09:09 PM   #4
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Article: O-Sensei's Aikido by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Anders Bjonback wrote:
Also, I don't think I'd be interested in aikido if it wasn't for the ethical and philosophical system attached to it. If it was just strengthening the ego through fighting and competition, I wouldn't enjoy it at all. I just limit myself to what I can identify with, which is from the perspective that if I'm really doing aikido, then I'm acting in harmony with what is, and the idea of non-competition and such. Even though I don't have the same belief system as the founder, I certainly do not think that aikido is a waste of time, and I don't think that it's a "mundane" rather than "spiritual" pursuit for me.
It all depends on how deeply you want to go into it. Yes, there is an ethical system that goes with Aikido and there is a very similar ethical system which goes with Buddhism. Where does it come from? There is a reason which Buddhist ethics are what they are.

In Christianity and the other religions which came out of the Middle East ethics are theistically based. God said so and that's it. But in East Asian systems things aren't so cut and dried. You have the ability to experience truth directly; that is the fundamental element in these systems. In Christianity the folks who believed this were called heretics and expunged (Gnostic heresies). It was assumed that we need an intermediary in the form of a Priest and the Church to act for us. We are saved, not through our own actions but simply through God's Grace. In the traditions which formed O-Sensei's world view it is through our own actions that we attain the divine. It is FROM knowledge that ethics derives, otherwise it's just feel good ideas which vary from person to person. In Buddhism this is Karuna (Compassion) which is at the heart of it's ethics. O-Sensei saw something very similar in the idea of Love which binds the elements of the universe together.

People are free to practice Aikido for whatever reasons they wish. It's "fun" is good enough. But if one doesn't go looking deeper than that, one isn't going to see any deeper. Everone's choice. You get out what you put in. My article was meant to help with making the Founder's Aikido more accesible to everyone. For me that is very important. There are certainly plenty of folks, who styles of Aikido in fact, which don't pay the least attention to what the Founder intended Aikido to be. Others simply pick and choose which parts of the Founder's philosophy which fit their own pre-conceptions and feel that is enough. It's for everyone to decide. For me, O-Sensei had the vision. I want to experience some aspect of that vision for myself. That isn't going to happen automatically through lots of mat time. It is a matter of directing ones training towards what one wants out of the training. For many, if not most Aikido folks O-Sensei is the guys whose picture is on the wall. Other than that he doesn't have much to do with their ideas about training. You're in good company if you don't feel the Foudner's ideas are very relevant to your world view.

But I would suggest that many of the things we view as being quite mundane in our practice have levels of meaning beyond which for some, anyway, are at the heart of what the Founder intended for his art and in fact provided the impetus for its creation in the first place. Without this impetus, we'd all be doing Daito Ryu Aikijutsu. And for many of us that would probably be ok. Just not for me.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 02-23-2005, 10:11 PM   #5
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Re: Article: O-Sensei's Aikido by George S. Ledyard

Thank you Ledyard Sensei.

Bryce
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Old 02-24-2005, 06:15 PM   #6
Anders Bjonback
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Re: Article: O-Sensei's Aikido by George S. Ledyard

My basic question about what you're saying is whether you think that someone needs to adopt O Sensei's religious beliefs (the Omoto Kyo religious doctrine) in order to have the same sort of spiritual revelations doing aikido that O Sensei had. (I got that impression when you said that you want to experience some aspect of the founder's vision for yourself and "It is a matter of directing ones training towards what one wants out of the training.") If that is the case, do you think there is a limit to how much we can understand his worldview and religious beliefs because first of all, we're not Japanese, and secondly, we don't have access to Omoto Kyo teachers? And didn't O Sensei's understanding come from an entirely different cultural background that we're simply not born with? I mean, we can study and appreciate the founder's viewpoint, but is it even possible to really adopt it?

Last edited by Anders Bjonback : 02-24-2005 at 06:18 PM.

"For peace and happiness are presences, not objects we can grasp and hold onto."
--Lilian Smith
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Old 02-24-2005, 06:25 PM   #7
Anders Bjonback
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Re: Article: O-Sensei's Aikido by George S. Ledyard

I'm not questioning the authenticity of your point of view, by the way. I'm asking questions to try to understand it better.

"For peace and happiness are presences, not objects we can grasp and hold onto."
--Lilian Smith
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Old 02-24-2005, 08:04 PM   #8
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Article: O-Sensei's Aikido by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Anders Bjonback wrote:
My basic question about what you're saying is whether you think that someone needs to adopt O Sensei's religious beliefs (the Omoto Kyo religious doctrine) in order to have the same sort of spiritual revelations doing aikido that O Sensei had. (I got that impression when you said that you want to experience some aspect of the founder's vision for yourself and "It is a matter of directing ones training towards what one wants out of the training.") If that is the case, do you think there is a limit to how much we can understand his worldview and religious beliefs because first of all, we're not Japanese, and secondly, we don't have access to Omoto Kyo teachers? And didn't O Sensei's understanding come from an entirely different cultural background that we're simply not born with? I mean, we can study and appreciate the founder's viewpoint, but is it even possible to really adopt it?
I am not of the opinion that one can reconstruct O-Sensei's practice, just as he did it, in either modern Japan or the West. The closest to this is the attempt by Koichi Barrish Sensei to combine his role as a teacher of Aikido and his role as the only American who is certified as a Shrine Shinto Priest. I admire this attempt but I think it just isn't ever going to have "mass appeal" although I love to talk to him when I get the chance; it's always interesting.

Gleason Sensei is experimenting with combining Zen practice with Aikido and I think this has a greater chance of acheiving something meaningful for Westreners. Zen has been shown to travel well, all over the world, just as Aikido has. He is setting up retreats at a retreat center where one can experience Zen meditation, education in Kototama theory and practice and Aikido training. This strikes me as a wonderful way to get a picture of how O-Sensei looked at the art. But I don't think anyone can duplicate what O-Sensei did. He trained directly with Deguchi, another spiritual genius / eccentric and that alone would be impossible to do now.

So any attempt to understand O-Sensei's Aikido will come by perceiving some of the same thruths which he perceived but perhaps by different means than he used himself. As long as Aikido is at the center of the practice I think that varying means may yield similar insights.

The bottom line is training and more training.. All the rest is just speculation, fun but hollow without the reality of the hands on experience receievd by daily training.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 02-25-2005, 12:47 PM   #9
Anders Bjonback
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Re: Article: O-Sensei's Aikido by George S. Ledyard

Ok, thank you. That makes sense.

"For peace and happiness are presences, not objects we can grasp and hold onto."
--Lilian Smith
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Old 03-22-2005, 02:08 PM   #10
jxa127
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Re: Article: O-Sensei's Aikido by George S. Ledyard

Mr. Ledyard,

Thank you for the excellent article. It squares very nicely with the "Touching the Absolute" series of articles by Peter Goldsbury.

Interestingly, however, it also squares very well with The Spirit of Aikido by second Doshu.

Regards,

----
-Drew Ames
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Old 03-22-2005, 09:59 PM   #11
Brion Toss
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Re: Article: O-Sensei's Aikido by George S. Ledyard

Sensei,
Thank you so much for your beautiful essay. So many aspects to it, that one read-through is clearly not enough (It's printing right now), but I was particulary taken by one sentence, which describes what Ueshiba did: "He created Aikido to be a unique martial art whose primary purpose was to use a study of martial principles and interactions to reveal the true nature of the universe to the practitioner."
Given, as you, as well as several correspondents have noted, that we cannot follow O-Sensei's path exactly, it might at first seem hopeless that we could approach this ideal. But I am reminded of the saying, "Do not seek to do as the Masters did; seek what they sought." By your words, I feel aided in that seeking.
Yours,
Brion Toss
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Old 03-25-2005, 07:31 PM   #12
suren
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Re: Article: O-Sensei's Aikido by George S. Ledyard

Thank you Ledyard Sensei for this article. I always feel like there is a void between what I'm doing on the mats and my spiritual life and development. As you correctly noticed, most of teachers do not teach the spiritual side of Aikido for many different reasons and some people like me are not able to derive that essence from physical training. However as Anders noted and I agree with him 100%,

Quote:
Anders Bjonback wrote:
I don't think I'd be interested in aikido if it wasn't for the ethical and philosophical system attached to it. If it was just strengthening the ego through fighting and competition, I wouldn't enjoy it at all.
Clearly, there are people who need that spiritual base to walk this way. Doing Aikido as a sport, fighting system or even art is sometimes not enough (at least for some people). There should be some way of connecting Aikido practice with spiritual life even when you are not taught its spiritual side directly by your sensei. There should be some universal principles connected to Aikido practice (or purification through Aikido practice) which are not specific to Shinto or any other religion. And there should be a way to identify those principles in everyday teaching. If that's true, could you please describe in more details those principles and how they interrelate with Aikido practice.
I realize I'm asking to show me the core while looking at the shell, but I also believe that having some idea about the core motivates efforts of braking the shell.
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