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Old 05-07-2008, 08:51 PM
George S. Ledyard
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Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

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Last edited by akiy : 05-11-2008 at 10:06 PM.
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Old 05-13-2008, 07:43 AM   #25
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

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Well, since he died in 1904 before that text was written, very likely not, but I'll get my trusty weejy board and see what I can do ...
Uh...that was kind of my point...

Best,
Ron

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Old 05-13-2008, 09:29 AM   #26
Nicholas Eschenbruch
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

Dear all,
thank you so much for this discussion, which, amongst other things, filled me in on a lot of editorial context I was really missing in the "Secret teachings".

One question that came to my mind was this: Was Kisshomaru's interpretation of his father's message actually informed by participation in his more esoteric or mystical non-waza practices? In a sense that he had similar mystical experiences? Is anything known about that? It appears to me that understanding of a figure like O-Sensei would probably depend a lot on that.

Any thoughts or information?
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Old 05-13-2008, 10:10 AM   #27
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

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Ron Tisdale wrote: View Post
Uh...that was kind of my point...
Sure, but where else is one to look for Western perspectives that are uncolored by later historical prejudices, of a time contemporary with O Sensei's formation of his basic thoughts and attitudes?

There are two major sources of bias that do not exist from the point of view of observers earlier than WWII There is 1) the War itself and all its fallout from the Western perspectives, both adulatory as well as prejudicial, and 2) the Japanese "editing" of their own cultural practices following what was, quite frankly, a culturally inadmissible defeat, on top of which was the censorial attitudes of the Occupation itself. Large portions of our concern in this discussion turn on those biases or presumed biases.

In Hearn's case, while he died in the middle of the Russo-Japanese War, it was before Tsushima when they eliminated the Russian Eastern Fleet. His view is therefore also not colored by the ascendant Japanese hypernationalism during the 20's and 30's that tended to increasingly dominate thereafter until the end of the War. Therefore, his views are of great value on common points such as Yamato Damashii, as O Sensei received it in his formative years, and which is a recurrent theme in Budo Renshu, for example.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
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Old 05-13-2008, 10:13 AM   #28
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

Gives some good / interesting context, I must admit...

Best,
Ron

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Old 05-13-2008, 10:47 AM   #29
Fred Little
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

"I can't see anything for Japan now but revolution or military domination. The latter would, I think, be best."

--Lafcadio Hearn

The compelling poetics of Hearn's body of work notwithstanding, those poetics included a wholesale embrace of Japanese militarism.

The claim that this embrace "is therefore also not colored by the ascendant Japanese hypernationalism during the 20's and 30's that tended to increasingly dominate thereafter until the end of the War," is technically correct, in much the same sense that one may correctly argue that a contemporaneous, but partial, diagram of a cause is not colored by a diagram drawn in fuller, but still partial, knowledge of the cause's consequent effects.

A look at some of these issues in Hearn's writing can be found in Daniel Stempel's 1948 article, titled Lafcadio Hearn: Interpreter of Japan here, if you have JSTOR access.

Best,

Fred Little
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Old 05-13-2008, 11:34 AM   #30
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

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Fred Little wrote: View Post
"I can't see anything for Japan now but revolution or military domination. The latter would, I think, be best."

--Lafcadio Hearn

The compelling poetics of Hearn's body of work notwithstanding, those poetics included a wholesale embrace of Japanese militarism.
Who said it didn't ? Your criticism illustrates the fruit of this kind of historical bias.

There is a distinct difference in perspective of the ascendant Japan of 1904, and the rabidly colonial Japan after 1931, Mukden and Nanjing. Hearn's idea of "military domination", (like O Sensei's, if you ask me) was informed by the relatively recent examples (thirteen years before 1890, when he arrived) of Saigo Takamori and the Satsuma Rebellion. That was the direct reference, he intended by the way. His sponsor Basil Chamberlain had been there in the middle of it), and the later and much different example of the zai-batsu driven maximal industrialization, militarization and fascistic organization of all aspects of public life and the drive for colonial resources, was a rather different affair. Even Toyama got out of public life after the Chinese Revolution, illustrating that the older set a had a different view of what they had intended and what the younger more fascist oriented crowd were intending to accomplish. That much more modern evil underlay the Japanese political economy of the 20's and 30's.

It is this same contemporaneous sensibility represetned by Hearn, as a Westerner that has greater affinity with O Sensie's own writings. The political defeat of his erstwhile more moderate political sponsors at the beginning of the War, and his physical withdrawal from public life during it, are testaments to a large difference of opinion on what "militarism" did or should mean.

Quote:
Fred Little wrote: View Post
The claim that this embrace "is therefore also not colored by the ascendant Japanese hypernationalism during the 20's and 30's that tended to increasingly dominate thereafter until the end of the War," is technically correct, in much the same sense that one may correctly argue that a contemporaneous, but partial, diagram of a cause is not colored by a diagram drawn in fuller, but still partial, knowledge of the cause's consequent effects.
There is militarism and there is militarism. One of honor a sacrifice and one of greed and domination. The zaibatsu represented the latter and Satsuma -- Hearn's rerference point for a restored "military domination" was in light of the prior three hundred years of Tokugawa (warts and all) military dominated pacificity .

Cordially,

Erick Mead
一隻狗可久里馬房但他也不是馬的.
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Old 05-13-2008, 12:52 PM   #31
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

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Erick Mead wrote: View Post
There is militarism and there is militarism. One of honor a sacrifice and one of greed and domination. The zaibatsu represented the latter and Satsuma -- Hearn's rerference point for a restored "military domination" was in light of the prior three hundred years of Tokugawa (warts and all) military dominated pacificity .
President Chavez couldn't have said it better himself!

Best,

FL
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Old 05-13-2008, 04:37 PM   #32
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

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President Chavez couldn't have said it better himself!
Except for the substitution of supposition for pertinent fact to back it up. Real people, individually and collectively are far more interesting and complicated than any posterized versions that pass for facts among those for whom an agenda is more important than reality.

Present company specifically excepted, of course.

That's what I like about budo. A bokken swung at your head is no longer a representation of anything -- it is the thing. In that moment, all pretense is gone. Even though more than half of warfare is deception, it still has a basic honesty that politics sorely lacks.

See, the thing about history is, that it is contingent -- like combat. "The race is not always to the swift , etc. ... but time and chance happeneth to them all." The rudiments of exterior or cursory similarity do not answer the purpose, because often small, "meaningless" things in themselves, (the proverbial horsehoe nail, or say, a hobbit) do not answer to the rubric of any one's screed of propaganda, right or left. Of course, civilized society is not built on grand truths, but on lots of those small ones -- cushioned with the little lies we can all live with. We, in the West, have been the advocates of the many freely drawn small truths (and the many small, comforting lies) as against forcible grand ones -- of both types.

Aikido is not immune to any of these tendencies -- good or bad.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
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Old 05-13-2008, 06:23 PM   #33
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

Some historical context is offered below. Please feel free to correct any mistaken facts. I'm throwing this one together "off the cuff."

1894-1895 First Sino-Japanese War
1904 - 1905 Russo Japanese War
1914 World War 1 (Japan was a member of the Allies and also intervened in Russia during the russian Civil War)
1937 - 1945 Second Sino-japanese War

1883 - 1969 Ueshiba Morihei

Japan was engaging in war from when Ueshiba Morihei was 11 years of age until he was 62 years of age. His "formative years" were during the ascendancy of Japan's Imperial Military and a corresponding rise in national pride. By all accounts Ueshiba was eager to join the Imperial Army during the Russo Japanese War serving in the Wakayama 61st Infantry Regiment until 1906.

In 1924 as body guard for Deguchi Onisaburo, Ueshiba traveled to the Mongolia to set up a "utopian society." He and the others of his party are held prisoner by the Chinese military for plotting the overthrow of the existing government. By one account (according to Shioda Gozo as related to him by Ueshiba Morihei) during this "adventure" Ueshiba engaged in lethal combat using a sword from horse-top and learned that a sharp blade doesn't slice well after repeated use due to an accumulation of body fat and therefore thrusting is a more expedient means of dispatch.

In 1939 Ueshiba was invited to instruct in Manchuria (Manchukuo was a puppet state in Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia created by former Qing Dynasty officials with help from Imperial Japan in 1932. The state was founded and administered by Imperial Japan, with Puyi, the last Qing emperor, as the nominal regent and emperor. If I remember correctly there is a Puyi/Ueshiba connection and Puyi may have studied Aikido at some point. In fact I think there may be a group picture.) In 1940 Ueshiba attended a martial arts demonstration in Manchuria (Manchukuo) commemorating the 2600th anniversary of Japan. In 1941 Ueshiba gave a demonstration at the Sainenkan dojo on the Imperial grounds for members of the Imperial family, taught at various military and spy academies, was invited to Manchuria (Manchukuo) to instruct during University Martial Arts week, became martial arts advisor to the Shimbuden and Kenkoku universities in Manchuria (Manchukuo.) In 1942 he was invited to Manchuria (Manchukuo) as representative of Japanese martial arts to attend the Manchuria-Japanese Exchange Martial Arts demonstration in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of "Manchurian Independence." The Kobukan was also reported to have been used as a meeting place by politically/militarily influential groups who's members included certain members of the Kobukan dojo. Whether or not, and to what degree, Ueshiba was aware of, or involved in, these meetings is debated.

By his "senior years" Ueshiba had witnessed the "humbling" if not outright destruction of virtually every power structure (religious, military, martial, and political) that he had been engaged in or associated with.

Ueshiba retired to Iwama in 1942.

Here is a personage that certainly lived an incredibly interesting and eventful life. To look upon O-sensei as anything other than a complex multidimensional human being shows him, his life, and those closest to him great disrespect.

Personally I think it is a bit of a stretch to posit that one can assert the precise nuance that O-sensei intended for individual phrases in the doka and prose shared in Budo Renshu and Budo which were published in 1933 and 1938 respectively, as well as other works that were released in edited bits and pieces later on. Certainly an argument could be made that those closest to "the founder" would be best positioned to understand his core message and beliefs. However, it has been pointed out that individuals in that position have attempted, with a great deal of success, to regulate, sculpt, and/or spin what information and imagery has been shared. Considering the context and conditions of Occupied Japan and Post War Japan, and considering Japanese culture's (past at least) predisposition toward not speaking of that which might be considered sensitive or contradictory of authority, I think this isn't surprising in the least.

That's all my bleary mind has time or inclination to write for now.

~ Allen Beebe
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Old 05-28-2008, 07:56 AM   #34
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

Prof. Goldsbury wrote this on another thread and I saw it after it was linked to on Aikido Journal. I thought that it was relevant to this thread so I re-post it here as well:

"Re: Fight does not work at all in Aikido.
I am currently finishing the next column for my Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation series and I had occasion to translate a substantial section of Hideo Takahashi's Takemusu Aiki. Up to now, the only available parts in English have been the few sections that have appeared in Stanley Pranin's AJ magazine & columns, which formed the basis of Ellis Amdur's Three Peaches and Hidden in Plain Sight essays.

One of the issues for my next TIE column is Ueshiba's contribution to the military prowess of the Japanese Imperial army & navy and there is good evidence that this was very impressive. The section of Takahashi's book that I have focused upon appears in Part 4 of Stan's summaries of Kisshomaru Ueshiba's biography.

The section deals with a mystical experience that O Sensei had in December 1940, two years before he escaped to Iwama, and at a time when he was playing a huge role in the activities of Japan's military government. Much has been made of the Golden Body episode that occurred much earlier, but the 1940 mystical experience is rarely mentioned. In this account, Ueshiba contrasts his knowledge previous to 1940 with the requirements enjoined by the vision. The account of the vision was couched in Oomoto terms and involved his own possession by the guardian deities of aikido. At one point Ueshiba states that he became (= was possessed by) Izanagi-no-mikoto, who played a pivotal role (literally) in creating the world (= Japan). (This was the era of ubuya = birth huts etc). But he had a truly awesome training regime.

The angst caused by his doubts about the authenticity of the vision supposedly caused an illness that lasted one year. I suspect that part of the angst was caused by the need to square the vision he experienced in 1940 with his pivotal role in the Japanese military before and afterwards. Note that the Budo manual was produced in 1938 and consisted of simple effective techniques that Ueshiba considered would have been effective for Japanese soldiers to kill the enemy in the field of battle.

As a result of the vision, Ueshiba explains his method of ascetic training to his audience in the Byakou Shinkoukai and mentions in passing just how wrong the Japanese army was, in its general interpretation of keiko. He resorts to mysterious kanji but basically argues that the military methods focused only on the body and not on the spirit, as he himself conceived this. If they had focused on the spirit, they would have realized that aikido was truly a divine work, dedicated to unifying the entire universe.

The relevant discourse in Hideo Takahashi's book is clearly a reflection made after the events. Ueshiba mentions the effects of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings and he obviously could not have made these remarks in 1940. However, the section is a sustained meditation on the essential divine aspects of training, as he saw it, and how the Japanese military largely missed all these aspects. The message appears to be that killing people does not figure at all in aikido, even for the military (though this is not explicitly stated).

Ueshiba came to this realization when he was closely involved with the Japanese military and as a result of sustained reflection on his training before 1940. He does not state whether there is an essential connection between the realization and his own military experience. Actually, since he believed he was an avatar, I suspect not.

Given the content of this thread, I thought that I should point out that Morihei Ueshiba's own thinking about the issue is by no means as clear as the title of the thread would lead us to believe.

Best wishes to all,
Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : Yesterday at 08:06 AM.
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Old 06-03-2008, 08:01 AM   #35
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

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Nicholas Eschenbruch wrote: View Post
Dear all,
thank you so much for this discussion, which, amongst other things, filled me in on a lot of editorial context I was really missing in the "Secret teachings".

One question that came to my mind was this: Was Kisshomaru's interpretation of his father's message actually informed by participation in his more esoteric or mystical non-waza practices? In a sense that he had similar mystical experiences? Is anything known about that? It appears to me that understanding of a figure like O-Sensei would probably depend a lot on that.

Any thoughts or information?
Mr Eschenbruch,

I am sorry that no one has responded to your questions, so far.

I think that there are three cultural issues here:
1. How a son regarded his father in the Meiji, Taishou, early Shouwa period in Japan;
2. How this particular son regarded his father's religious practices;
3. The impact of the war on the aikido training of both father and son.

A huge issue for interpreters of O Sensei is the extent to which his discourses are a kind of aikido DaVinci Code: the extent to which the Oomoto / yamato-damashii / I am the Universe / my mission is to unify the Universe aspects of his discourses/douka actually mask a comprehensive training manual, covering 'internal' training and waza.

I think that Ellis Amdur is the one who has explored these issues furthest, so far, but there is more to be done in researching both the actual training methods--and also the 'ideology' lying behind the training methods, of both Moriteru and Kisshomaru.

Best wishes,

PAG

PS. I should add that one of the great values of the Internet is that a large part of this is research is being done here, in forums such as this.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 06-03-2008 at 08:12 AM.

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Old 06-03-2008, 06:21 PM   #36
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

EDIT.

I should have said "Morihei" in the previous post. Moriteru is the present Doshu and this presents a whole of different questions.

PAG

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Old 06-05-2008, 01:02 PM   #37
Mike Sigman
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

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I'm afraid that I have long been skeptical of translations by John Stevens, based on an interview that appeared in Aikido Today (v.2, #1, Spring 1988). In that interview, Professor Stevens was asked how he researched O Sensei's life for his book, Abundant Peace.

Professor Stevens replied that "the best, most interesting stories" were those told him by his various teachers over the years. He pointed out that O Sensei himself changed the descriptions of his enlightenment experience over time. He stated that the taped interviews of O Sensei were very difficult to understand, between the poor quality of the tapes and the difficulty in understanding O Sensei; studying the doka and looking at films helped him.

"But," he said, "I suppose I relied mostly on inspiration rather than on pure research. I looked for a unifying view instead of just looking at what O'sensei [sic] did and where."

The book is divided into three sections: The Man, The Martial Artist and The Message.

"The last and most important section is The Message," Professor Stevens said. "Here I tried, not to be objective, but to imagine what O'sensei would say to people if he were speaking English. This was very difficult for me because O'sensei lived in a different world—a world, now lost, peopled with gods and fairies and divinities. I had to appreciate that."

So it seems that Professor Stevens did not really translate O Sensei's words. Instead, he wrote what he thought O Sensei should have said, and would have said, if he could have said it in English.

Shoulda-woulda-coulda. That doesn't sound like great scholarship, to me. If this has been Professor Stevens research philosophy in all of his writing then I fear that, instead of helping readers understand O Sensei and aikido, he has done them both irreparable harm.

Dan
Uh oh. But thanks for the story, Dan.

I don't read except for information, in terms of the translated Chinese and Japanese writings that have to do with martial-arts, ki/qi, training methods, and so on. In the old days a lot of the ki/qi stuff was gibberish and while a lot of it sounded similar, a lot of it sounded different. It was confusing and, like most people, I sort of tagged it to eccentricities of Asian thought ("they're different, y'know") and all that.

As I got more experienced and knowledgeable over the years, though, I found a lot of very practical nuggets in some of the writings. It depends on if you understand by what they mean physically by ki/qi. Now not all is useful; a lot of the stuff they're sayings is just parrot-like repetition of old classical sayings in order to show that they know the ropes. And some of the stuff is more cosmology-based. Not to mention that some of the stuff is so obscure *plus* screwed up by the translator's take on things that it's just gibberish.

In the case of John Stevens' translation "The Art of Aikido" Principles and Essential Techniques, I skimmed through it at first looking (as I always do) to see what Stevens did with the discussions on Ki. He totally misses what ki is, but he obfuscates enough in a scholarly manner that he would easily mislead someone who doesn't understand the topic. OK, so once I knew what he knew about the meanings, etc., of ki I went and read his translation, inserting my practical understanding of ki back into places where he used a fuzzy or "spiritual" translation of Ki. There's actually some good stuff in the book, although there was nothing really earthshaking and nothing that deviated from the classical descriptions of ki and what it can do.

The real point to make from the various things that are said is that much of the discussion about ki and kokyu/breath-power is that these things are meant to be physically practiced, not just dreamed and talked about. If you want the power of Aikido, you have to develop your ki through practice and mind and you have to develop the other part of your ki that is "breath power" through training, breathing practices, etc.

I probably should go through that book sometime and jot down the interesting nuggets as I see them and then post them somewhere. I'd have to caveat that a lot of the gokui comments might indeed be interesting to someone looking for Aikido pointers, but from my perspective, most of what is being said are classical admonitions that have to do with position, power, "aiki", and so forth.... stuff that I've encountered in Taiji, Xingyi, Bagua, and some other arts. I.e., the admonitions are very good, but they're also not Aikido-unique in any real sense. It's classical Asian martial arts, but I mean that in a sense that you wouldn't find it at your local karate school or Shaolin school, etc., because those things are "gokui" there, too.

Generally speaking, a lot of this stuff is like the theory of electromagnetism to an engineer versus the ritual how-to's of an electrical/electronic technician. If you understand the theory, no electrical machine is going to be using any new and unheard-of variation that will baffle anyone who knows the general theory. However, a technician might think that each electrical machine is different because he doesn't understand the overall theory and he's been taught by rote. The point is that while there may be some nuggets in the new book, I wouldn't expect anything to fall outside of the general theory of ki, how it's used and trained, how it relates to an opponent, how it relates (in the classical sense) to the known laws of the universe (and therefore "harmony" with all things), and so on.

Thanks again for the story.

Best.

Mike Sigman
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Old 06-10-2008, 09:33 PM   #38
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

I got my copy of the book today and started reading. Frankly, I'm not too hopeful, although I'll keep going when I can. It's a tough, mind-boggling read that is not like I imagined from more coherent commentaries on waza, general principles, and so forth.

Reading this book I think it's just gone through too many stages, some of which are unknown. Sure, I see fairly straightforward references to ki as a physical skill, but Stevens mixes up his translation of "ki", IMO, so that I have to sometimes go back to be sure which "ki" was "breath", which one was "spirit", which one was ki skill, kokyu skill, and so on.

What I think happened (note that this is just a first opinion) was something along the lines of: O-Sensei spoke obliquely (not clearly) and in some form of flowery language (whether he was affecting this, copying traditional form, etc., I don't know). This stuff was editted and Stevens then translated from the flowery with an indeterminate accuracy and was hindered by the fact that he didn't understand the physical and nuanced references to what "ki" is in the substantive sense (he seems to have the possible non-substantive parts covered). It's just too many steps.

What few things I can see reasonably clearly seem once again to be general "classical" observations. However, that's just my preliminary opinion and I'll keep reading. But my intuition is that this translation isn't going to yield much fruit in terms of substantive information. I'd be happy to hear other peoples' opinions if they've read the book.

FWIW

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Old 06-10-2008, 09:51 PM   #39
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
the reading of the kanbun characters in the Kojiki is not an exact science. However, the reading masa-katsu-a-katsu-kachi-haya-hi is the preferred form in all the commentaries that I possess.
Dear Peter, in Abe Seiseki's dojo in Suita City, Osaka, there is a calligraphy scroll by Morihei Ueshiba with these characters. Abe sensei, in his explanation, invariably pronounces the characters individually as "katsu-haya-hi" with the intepretation, "To overcome, you must be as fast as light".

Best wishes,
Gernot Hassenpflug in Tokyo
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Old 06-11-2008, 04:10 PM   #40
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

Hello Gernot,

I am pretty sure that O Sensei pronounced it Masakatsu Agatsu Katsu Hayabi. However, I am doing my own research on the Kojiki and I have found that there are broad differences even on how the late Edo kokugaku scholars read the text.

How are your studies with Akuzawa shi going? Give him my yoroshiku and tell him that if I lived closer to Tokyo, he would have another regular dojo member.

Best wishes,

P A Goldsbury
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Hiroshima, Japan
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Old 06-13-2008, 11:22 PM   #41
Allen Beebe
Location: Portland, OR
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Re: Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

For those that haven't noticed yet . . .

Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 7
by Peter Goldsbury

is up, related and well worth a read.

~ Allen Beebe
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