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Old 02-15-2002, 10:55 PM   #1
Sid
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Osensei's aikido

Hey all,

I was wondering about something- not that I am not trying to put down aikido, so don't bite my head off. Do you think that we aikidoka are focusing on the wrong element of O-sensei's teachings?

Let me explain with an analogy. In any other martial art I can think of, the student learns the basics first, and after that, he progresses onto more "advanced" techniques. Like in karate, you don't learn advanced kata until you know the basic ones, or in something closer to home, like in tai chi, you don't do an advanced level of the form until you have mastered the basics. Even if you learnt the physical movements of the advanced form, without the basic understanding of tai chi, you would have no idea of what's going on internally -- tai chi is after all an internal art. (Note: not an excuse to start a ki-war )Ok so far?

But in aikido, rather than emulating O-sensei's basics, we, unless we are yoshinkan-ka or yoseikan-ka, emulate his aikido when it was at its most advanced -- when it was all soft and flowing -- without going through the basics of training that he did, the training that "let" him arrive at his level of proficiency.

Thus, my question is two-fold :

1) Are these harder basics necessary to the practice of aikido, particularly martially effective aikido?
2) Are we focusing not on the "how" of O-sensei, in other words, how he got to the level of skill that he did, but on the "what", in other words, what everyone saw him doing at his most advanced level, without doing basic training?

Thanks,
Sid
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Old 02-15-2002, 11:35 PM   #2
Edward
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I think you're absolutely right. But it is always dangerous to generalize.

At the Thailand Aikido Association (Aikikai) for example, we insist so much on the basics that we would make Yoshinkan and Yoseikan guys envious

I hear the word basics so many times every day that I get nightmares about it

I'm sure we're not alone.

Obviously, you have to learn how to walk before you can run. For some children, they start their first steps by running because it seems easier than walking (speed helps keeping the balance and everything...), untill they fall and break their face....

Cheers,
Edward
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Old 02-16-2002, 06:38 AM   #3
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I think all styles insist on 'the basics'...the difference lies in what each style or sensei considers 'basic'. And each in their own way is right.

My first sensei combined Yoshinkai and Aikikai. There, basic was ukemi that could stand up to anything he wanted to demo, and precise placement of one's feet during a technique (if you did nothing else, you watched his feet!). At an Iwama dojo I visited, it was doing a technique from a static start against tons of muscle. At another dojo, it was understanding weight underside/ keep one-point/extend KI etc...

Since, as far as I know, O Sensei did not leave a written list of basics, I prefer to think that each sensei and shihan is correct, that all of these things are basic. Which ones they emphasize may come from their own personalities, or from what O Sensei emphasized on them, perhaps even from how they themselves took ukemi or what he felt they needed in their personal lives.

So I don't worry too much that any style is 'missing' the basics. What one may teach early, another may teach later, at the end they are not as different as they are often said to be. Obviously, it works for those who are learning in each style. Who do I think would better know O Sensei's beliefs in this matter: the students there with him when he first developed Aikido? With him at the end? His own son? The student he promoted higher than any other? Maybe each, in his own way, along with all the other students. Like any good sensei today, he probably taught each student in the way suited to him/her. There are those who can only learn step-by-step. Those who only believe if they resist sensei with all their might. Those who are sensitive in their movements, those who get hit in the face a half dozen times before they think to move.
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Old 02-16-2002, 10:25 AM   #4
Kenn
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Colleen,
Once again I am impressed with your view of the world of Aikido. I couldn't have put it any better.

Nothing more be said.

Peace, Kenn

Kenn

Remember, the only way to be happy always, is to be happy always, without reason.
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Old 02-16-2002, 11:14 AM   #5
erikmenzel
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Comparing Aikido now and Aikido as done by O'sensei is for many a difficult point. Maybe it is wise to first explore the goals in aikido, next the methods and finally come back to comparing Aikido now with Aikido done as by O'sensei.

The goal of aikido is to train and find Aiki through the extensive training and study of budo.

The methods in which this is done may vary from place to place and from style to style. Often this is represented in believes within these styles that the training of basics (basic forms and basic techniques, however they may be described) is necesary and will lead to the above mentioned goal. Yet the basics of one style may be completely different from the basics from another style. Some difference may easily be traced back to some simple differences in the implementation in the teaching form as where other differenes may reflect different views in the teaching method. Some basic ideas found within different styles that can be described are:
  1. Learning principle will automaticly follow from learning form.
  2. It is possible to learn principle independent of form.
  3. There are no shortcuts in learning Aikido, so to reach the level of O'sensei you need to train as O'sensei.
  4. There is an easy trick that opens up Aiki.
  5. The level skill of O'sensei is currently not present anywhere in Aikido.
  6. There are nowadays people of more skill than O'sensei.
  7. All you need is physical training.
Probably there are much more, maybe to many to enumerate anyway.

So how do these methodes reflect the goal? Simple, quite often they don't. The method is all to often transfered into the rule, standard and goal, meaning that one lost sight of the original goal of Aikido. This is all to often clear through the conflicts and disagreements between style and organiations.
This also means that a lot of organisations and styles have proven themselves to be irresponsible trustee's for the legacy of O'sensei.

Does this mean that one should come to the conclusion that aikido is lost? No, most certainly not. Many people train with the right intention, with the right goal. Still these people often have a difficult way to go, maintaining their own faith, to trust theirselfs or teacher in a situation where the rest of the world says they are wrong is not easy. Still, hopefully enough will manage!

Erik Jurrien Menzel
kokoro o makuru taisanmen ni hirake
Personal:www.kuipers-menzel.com
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Old 02-16-2002, 12:52 PM   #6
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Ok, noone is getting what I am saying

My point is, or was, that aikido's softness *itself* was the final product of O-sensei's training, an advanced thing in itself.

Colleen, I admire your articulateness - I always enjoy reading your posts

Sid
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Old 02-16-2002, 01:23 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sid
Ok, noone is getting what I am saying

My point is, or was, that aikido's softness *itself* was the final product of O-sensei's training, an advanced thing in itself.

Sid
I want to teach a mixture of soft and hard, movement and static, at all levels, as I learned from my teachers.

If I teach only hard static techniques at the beginning, the techniques are learned disjointed. If I teach only flowing techniques later, students are lost if someone grabs them faster than they can flow. None of us are immune from this!

It is a good general teaching method to stretch students beyond what they can fully comprehend at times, and also to go back to first steps at other times.

Best wishes,

Peter

Peter
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Old 02-16-2002, 02:19 PM   #8
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This was discussed many times under many different guises.

There are dojos out there (you know who you are ) where the emphasis on flow is so dominant that they are blind to the underlying poor technique. It doesn't help that uke throws himself into ukemi even before nage has had a chance to do something. The legendary aiki-dance complete with atemi flourishes.

The static aikido seen with Iwama and others (Osaka Aikikai for example), the kata of Shodokan and Yoshinkan are all specifically designed to teach mechanics. All of these styles introduce fluidity of movement (some sooner than others) but at the core, as it was with Ueshiba M. himself, is a working Aikido. I would say that a powerful fluid Aikido is the goal in all these cases.

In my opinion you don't have to follow the same footsteps of Ueshiba M. to develope your Aikido but at the same time you can not hope to do so by jumping to where he was at his peak.

As an aside - why anyone would want to emulate Ueshiba M.'s Aikido at the very end is beyond me. Age and infirmity did take their toll.

Last edited by PeterR : 02-16-2002 at 02:30 PM.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 02-16-2002, 05:38 PM   #9
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Re: Osensei's aikido

Quote:
Originally posted by Sid
But in aikido, rather than emulating O-sensei's basics, we, unless we are yoshinkan-ka or yoseikan-ka, emulate his aikido when it was at its most advanced ?when it was all soft and flowing ?without going through the basics of training that he did, the training that "let?him arrive at his level of proficiency.
FWIW, I posted my opinion to the same question on Aikido-L. If anybody's interested it was:

So far as I can tell, M. Ueshiba never went through the "basics of training". Sokaku Takeda's style seems to have been to toss you around a lot and then you'd either get it or you wouldn't. He wouldn't actually teach you anything, much less put you through the kind of basic drills that exist in Yoshinkan. As I understand it, one of the reasons that Gozo Shioda developed that kind of teaching method was that the old way was so difficult.

(*thinking about it more later, the drills at the Yoshinkan were developed mostly by Shioda's students)

In answer to another comment in this thread (As an aside - why anyone would want to emulate Ueshiba M.'s Aikido at the very end is beyond me. Age and infirmity did take their toll. ), I have to note that all of the people who are considered Sokaku Takeda's top students (Ueshiba, Sagawa, Horikawa, Hisa, etc.) trained with him in his 60's and 70's, but they seemed to do OK .

Best,

Chris

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Old 02-16-2002, 05:51 PM   #10
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Yeah, I'd probably 'settle' for O Sensei's old and feeble skills vs mine... but then, I'm old and feeble.

Not that that stops me from trying to be like my current Aiki idol, who is twice my size and probably five times my strength ...we laugh that the teacher who is most not my build is the one who's classes I never miss. Ah, hope is an amazing thing... and I've never had an abundance of common sense.
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Old 02-16-2002, 06:03 PM   #11
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In fact, --- Sensei is a good example I think of my theory on how 'basics' get started: if I were going to teach others based on what he does with me, I'd be saying hamni handachi is the basic key to training, as he very often uses that when helping me. But I think it is just so I can feel what I must do to my partner, who will be as tall to me standing as I am to him in hanmi handachi .

Last edited by guest1234 : 02-17-2002 at 06:55 AM.
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Old 02-16-2002, 07:08 PM   #12
Peter Goldsbury
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sid
Ok, noone is getting what I am saying

My point is, or was, that aikido's softness *itself* was the final product of O-sensei's training, an advanced thing in itself.

Colleen, I admire your articulateness - I always enjoy reading your posts

Sid
Mr Dagore,

So do I. I have a question to ask you, but first, an observation.

Currently, the aikido teacher on whom I am focusing most in my own training is Arikawa Sadateru Sensei, who studied with the Founder in Iwama and the Tokyo Hombu. He entered the Hombu around 1949 and so trained with the Founder for the last 20 years of the latter's life. Most people would never call Arikawa Sensei's aikido 'soft and flowing', but it is. It is not soft and flowing in the way that Kisshomaru Ueshiba's is thought to be, but there is still the same dynamic 'blending of ki', for want of a better term, that you could see in the aikido of, e.g., Kisaburo Osawa, M. Hikitsuchi and S Yamaguchi. The icing on the cake with Arikawa Sensei is that you still get atemi by the truckload and some very interesting henka-waza, which owe a lot to Daito-ryu AJ. Thus, my own feeling is that progression from 'hard' to 'soft' is too simple a way of looking at the matter. Your initial post compared aikido with karate and suggested that both followed basically a linear learning process, from basic to advanced, from hard to soft. But there is also the undoubted fact that for some teachers the process is, like Kisshomaru's aikido, circular or cyclic.

And now to the question. Many aikido teachers (examples: S Okumura, K Chiba) have described their own practice in terms of 'shu' - 'ha' - 'ri'. I assume you are familiar with this group of concepts and ask how you would equate these wih your original observations on 'hard' vs. 'soft'.

Sincerely,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 02-16-2002 at 07:22 PM.

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Old 02-16-2002, 11:22 PM   #13
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OK, I will be happy to admit to being clueless, Goldsbury Sensei (or do you prefer Prof. Goldsbury?). What are shu, ha, and ri? Unless, of course, this is the topic of your class at the Expo (I hate hearing how a movie ends before I see it )
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Old 02-17-2002, 08:41 AM   #14
Peter Goldsbury
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Colleen,

Something very odd has happened to my last post.

I typed it, posted it, and then loked at what I had written. The Japanese kanji was odd and so I reset the laguage settings in my Explorer software. None of the settings produced the proper results and now I see that half of my post has disappeared. I have typed my post directly, so I have no back-up. Have you read all of it?

I think something has happened at Jun's end.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 02-17-2002, 08:55 AM   #15
Peter Goldsbury
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Since the post as it appeared totally changed the meaning of what I wanted to say, I have deleted it. I will consider posting again when I have found out from Jun Aliyama what happened.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 02-17-2002, 09:00 AM   #16
guest1234
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Rats, I missed it...well, I can wait (a chance to work on patience, perhaps my irimi nage will improve )... the kanji just looks like boxes and squiggles on my screen, anyway...
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Old 02-17-2002, 12:16 PM   #17
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Re: Re: Osensei's aikido

Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Li

In answer to another comment in this thread (As an aside - why anyone would want to emulate Ueshiba M.'s Aikido at the very end is beyond me. Age and infirmity did take their toll. ), I have to note that all of the people who are considered Sokaku Takeda's top students (Ueshiba, Sagawa, Horikawa, Hisa, etc.) trained with him in his 60's and 70's, but they seemed to do OK .
Point taken Chris but what I doubt they were trying to emulate Takeda in his dotage either (not sure when Takeda entered his dotage). There is a big difference between learning from a man and trying to be JUST like him.

Don't know about Takeda but when Ueshiba was very old most of the teaching was done by people much more young and vigorous who were of course taught by Ueshiba M. when he was much more young and vigorous. There were lots of good examples to follow.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 02-17-2002, 03:52 PM   #18
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Re: Re: Re: Osensei's aikido

Quote:
Originally posted by PeterR
Point taken Chris but what I doubt they were trying to emulate Takeda in his dotage either (not sure when Takeda entered his dotage). There is a big difference between learning from a man and trying to be JUST like him.
He seems to have been pretty ferocious up to the end, so I'm not sure he EVER entered his dotage . Still he was fairly old when all the folks that we're familiar with trained with him.

Quote:
Don't know about Takeda but when Ueshiba was very old most of the teaching was done by people much more young and vigorous who were of course taught by Ueshiba M. when he was much more young and vigorous. There were lots of good examples to follow.
Takeda's situation was different because he never had a dojo. Most of the folks that learned from him learned one on one or in seminar fashion, picked up what they could and then trained on their own. Not too many other examples to follow.

Of course Yukiyoshi Sagawa, who may have been Takeda's most advanced student, claims not to have developed his unique method of Aiki until he was in his late 70's...

Best,

Chris

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Old 02-17-2002, 04:24 PM   #19
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Hi Chris;

Reading back I can see how my post could be taken a little different than what I intended. The whole thread was about the viability of taking shortcuts to what Ueshiba M. developed from his experience.

First a quick question - how old was Takeda when Ueshiba first started training with him?

Let me state clearly that I do not think a teacher has to be in his physical prime to impart technique. However, what a student has to do is learn what the teacher is teaching not just copy technique.

There is for example a video of Tomiki and Ohba both fairly advanced in age going through the Koryu Goshin no Kata. Its done slowly and are far cry from the way they expected of those much younger. There is a lot you can learn from watching this video, but if you copy the actions exactly you have learned nothing.

With respect to Ueshiba M. I meant the exact same thing. Emulating the movements of the "end game" Ueshiba is not going to give you his Aikido. Conversely there are descriptions of Ueshiba M. in the early days where his lack of fluidity is noted. I guess you have to pick your time carefully or take lessons throughout.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 02-17-2002, 05:14 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by PeterR
First a quick question - how old was Takeda when Ueshiba first started training with him?
Hmm, 66, IIRC.

Quote:
Originally posted by PeterR
There is for example a video of Tomiki and Ohba both fairly advanced in age going through the Koryu Goshin no Kata. Its done slowly and are far cry from the way they expected of those much younger. There is a lot you can learn from watching this video, but if you copy the actions exactly you have learned nothing.

With respect to Ueshiba M. I meant the exact same thing. Emulating the movements of the "end game" Ueshiba is not going to give you his Aikido. Conversely there are descriptions of Ueshiba M. in the early days where his lack of fluidity is noted. I guess you have to pick your time carefully or take lessons throughout.
With Sokaku Takeda's approach, and also (from what I understand) Morihei Ueshiba's approach it was more or less impossible to copy the actions exactly because they never taught in a kata-like fashion.

I think that if you're looking for something athletic in approach then the older guys are probably not the place to look. On the other hand, a younger person probably doesn't need much help being athletic, so it may be better to train under someone subtler when you're young. That doesn't mean that you don't train hard, of course, some of the oldest teachers I know have some of the most vigorous students.

Best,

Chris

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Old 02-17-2002, 06:00 PM   #21
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Shu Ha Ri has been discussed and described several times on this forum most recently in General: Dynamic Tension

Peter G. would probably give a much more complete description especially in context of his post but generally.

Shu - learning the form
Ha - breaking the form
Ri - making the art your own.

The principle occurs through much of Japanese learning and is usually tied in with kata training of everything from calligraphy, flower arranging and the martial arts.

It has it's roots in Confucian learning - probably further back than that. You learned to read and write Chinese by copying text followed by your teacher telling you what it meant. Eventually you were allowed to progress beyond Shu and eventually ....

Quote:
Originally posted by ca
OK, I will be happy to admit to being clueless, Goldsbury Sensei (or do you prefer Prof. Goldsbury?). What are shu, ha, and ri? Unless, of course, this is the topic of your class at the Expo (I hate hearing how a movie ends before I see it )

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Old 02-17-2002, 08:08 PM   #22
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Freaky! Re: Osensei's aikido

Quote:
Originally posted by Sid
Hey all,

I was wondering about something- not that I am not trying to put down aikido, so don't bite my head off. Do you think that we aikidoka are focusing on the wrong element of O-sensei's teachings?

Let me explain with an analogy. In any other martial art I can think of, the student learns the basics first, and after that, he progresses onto more "advanced" techniques. Like in karate, you don't learn advanced kata until you know the basic ones, or in something closer to home, like in tai chi, you don't do an advanced level of the form until you have mastered the basics. Even if you learnt the physical movements of the advanced form, without the basic understanding of tai chi, you would have no idea of what's going on internally -- tai chi is after all an internal art. (Note: not an excuse to start a ki-war )Ok so far?

But in aikido, rather than emulating O-sensei's basics, we, unless we are yoshinkan-ka or yoseikan-ka, emulate his aikido when it was at its most advanced -- when it was all soft and flowing -- without going through the basics of training that he did, the training that "let" him arrive at his level of proficiency.

Thus, my question is two-fold :

1) Are these harder basics necessary to the practice of aikido, particularly martially effective aikido?
2) Are we focusing not on the "how" of O-sensei, in other words, how he got to the level of skill that he did, but on the "what", in other words, what everyone saw him doing at his most advanced level, without doing basic training?

Thanks,
Sid
:

I know very little about Aikido, but I am grateful to my Yoshinkan instructor for teaching me some basics as well as encouraging
me to think of possibilities.
As I am not a teacher and will never be at O'Sensei's level, I must admit that I marvel
at such a fluid, even detached, performance by the masters. For now, I take what little
I know and apply it, regardless of my goals,
in a confrontational manner, acted out to extremes.

Thank you everyone,
Dean
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Old 02-17-2002, 11:15 PM   #23
Peter Goldsbury
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Colleen,

I have finally managed to write the post on another computer. Peter Rehse has given the bones of the explanation in his post. Here is a little more flesh and muscle. I would add to Peter's observations that it is a Japanese concept. It might have its roots in Chinese thought, but the Japanese friend from the Aikikai Hombu I consulted recently thought it was Japanese. One must remember that the Confucianism from China was moulded into a Japanese intellectual system by the likes of Hayashi Razan in the Tokugawa Era

The best place to find an explanation of shu - ha - ri is an interview by Kazuo Chiba Shihan in Aikido Journal #102 (1995), pp. 15-16. I have summarized some of what Chiba Sensei states below.

Shu - Ha - Ri is a Japanese concept of physical, mental and spiritual development which can be applied to gei 芸 (arts) as well as do "ケ (Ways) such as budo. Thus, noh drama, kabuki, calligraphy, painting, flower arranging, even the arts of the geisha 芸者, can all be explained in terms of shu - ha -ri. The assumption, and it is a very large assumption, perhaps difficult for westerners to conceive, is a close vertical relationship between master and disciple. However, I would certainly suggest that the pattern was visible in the Founder's own development, in his relationship with Sokaku Takeda, and a few disciples of the Founder, such as S Okumura and K Chiba, have explained development in budo in these terms.

First, the Chinese ON reading, the kanji, followed by the hiragana and kun reading (a verb in all cases), and the meaning:

SHU 守 しゅ まもる mamoru: to protect, maintain, observe (rules or forms);
HA "j は やぶる yaburu: to break, tear down;
RI 離 り はなれる hanareru: to separate, part from, release

In the shu stage, the task is to absorb what the teacher has to offer and remain absolutely obedient. Self-assertion, creativity and independent ideas are forbidden during these years, however long it takes. The student is attempting to absorb the teacher's art in its entirety. But it still remains the teacher's art. In some sense, this stage is a negation of one's own ambitions and desires.

In the ha stage, the task is to break free of what has been learned. This stage is one of creativity and affirmation of the self. The student reviews what has been learned in the first stage and selects and digests what is needed to create something personal. But this not itself the end, for this stage is really the opposite pole of the dialectic: it is relative to what has been broken away from and torn down.

The ri stage is in some sense a negation of the affirmation of the ha stage. The students breaks out of the relativity and completes the creation of something and complete for the student.

In terms of technique, shu is the time for acquiring technical mastery, in which the student goes through the technical repertoire of the art. Ha is a time for research and application of the techniques of the art. Ri is the creation of something unique and personal.

In mental or spiritual terms, shu is negation of the self; ha is affirmation of the self; ri is transcendence and release from focus on specifics.

I think this is a very powerful paradigm for explaining progress in a budo and illuminates many aspects. For example, one creates one's own art. Practice is not merely a slavish copying of the teacher's art, even though this latter is a vital part of the process. Thus is makes no sense to focus entirely on discovering or practising O Sensei's aikido. Again, the distinction between 'hard' and 'soft' training can be put in a proper context. Finally, the development is not strictly linear and most certainly is not to be identified with passing from 'basic' to 'advanced' techniques (which is merely part of the shu stage).

Oh and I have no intention of explaining any of this at Aiki Expo.

PS. I have read the thread on dynamic tension and I think that Chiba Sensei's explanation in AJ is somewhat different. In particular, he did not envisage SHU has mastery of a particular form, e.g., shihonage. Rather, SHU is mastery of the entire technical repertoire and covers, in my opinion what Saito Sensei understands by hard, soft and ki-no-nagare. All of this should be mastered at the SHU stage, which can last for several years.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 02-17-2002 at 11:29 PM.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 02-18-2002, 12:35 AM   #24
guest1234
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Thank you! Very interesting... Another question, if you can stand one more ...

I can see how reading/speaking Japanese would really help in studing this, but I'm limited to 'Hello', 'Goodbye', and 'professor, is that your umbrella?' for the time being, so is there a book or two you'd recommend (English or Russian only please)on the forming of that intellectual system you refer to in your first paragraph? I know it is not addressing the original shu-ha-ri but rather the transition of philosophy, but my mind is easily side-tracked onto interesting subjects when someone dangles them in my view ...
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Old 02-18-2002, 01:51 AM   #25
shihonage
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Quote:
Originally posted by ca
Thank you! Very interesting... Another question, if you can stand one more ...

I can see how reading/speaking Japanese would really help in studing this, but I'm limited to 'Hello', 'Goodbye', and 'professor, is that your umbrella?' for the time being, so is there a book or two you'd recommend (English or Russian only please)on the forming of that intellectual system you refer to in your first paragraph? I know it is not addressing the original shu-ha-ri but rather the transition of philosophy, but my mind is easily side-tracked onto interesting subjects when someone dangles them in my view ...
Privet, Poka, Gde vash zontik, professor ?
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