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Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5
Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5
by Peter Goldsbury
12-25-2007
Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

NOTE: Though to some extent speculative and without the space to quote or cite sources and secondary references, these columns are really intended as a sort of preliminary sketch for a history of aikido as a martial art. No such history has ever been published, though I know that at least one person is planning to write one. The biography written by Kisshomaru Ueshiba offers the most detailed evidence of the actual life of Morihei Ueshiba, but this was written as a biography or monument to a great man (admittedly with the occasional warts and blemishes allowed to appear) and not as a dispassionate record of the creation of aikido. Even so, these columns have a slightly different focus than a general history. I am concerned to study the dynamics of the evolution of the art, how it changed from being an expression of the personal training of one individual to becoming a self-standing entity in its own right. I think that Morihei Ueshiba and aikido is a prime example of what Pierre Bourdieu called a habitus: a complex disposition to behave in a certain way, viewed from the viewpoint of both the individual and the social context in which the individual is embedded.

The last column discussed the seeming irresponsibility of Morihei Ueshiba in being relatively unconcerned about whether or not his students understood what he had been showing them. How much better things would have been if he had behaved like his son and grandson, for example, and produced detailed teaching material—and also had taken the trouble to make sure that his students did exactly what he showed them.

By contrast, I visited the Aikikai Hombu recently and met the present Doshu. He gave me his latest book, published in Japanese with an accompanying DVD. The book is a training manual in the martial art called aikido. That is, it is a book about an established art, not about the personal training methods of any one person: this is the point of the book. It is written as efficiently as any written training manual could be, with color photographs and arrowed explanations of the key points and is supplemented by the DVD, where the key points of each technique explained in the book are demonstrated. The contrast with his grandfather, and even his father, is striking.

From all the evidence I have read, Morihei Ueshiba did not think at all like his grandson does. What primarily occupied him from the time he started practicing martial arts as a youth was his own training as an individual. (The present Doshu no doubt also thinks about his own training as an individual, but the context is entirely different and both Moriteru Doshu and his father have occasionally stressed this to me in private conversations.) After meeting Onisaburo Deguchi, Ueshiba eventually came to see himself as a pioneer: as having a mission that was unique in its originality and exclusivity. Of course, the concept of Morihei Ueshiba as a pioneer also needs to be seen in a certain context. He was a student of Sokaku Takeda (about whose place in the history of Daito-ryu similar questions may be asked) and the core art in which he was training was Daito-ryu. Right up to the time of Budo Renshu (discussed further below), his students, at least, believed that this was the art being practiced. Nevertheless, at this time, too, other names were also used, such as Ueshiba-ryu or Aioi-ryu.

There was a gradual evolution going on here, not a sudden change of art, and the association with Onisaburo Deguchi was crucial in the evolution. My point here is that the evolution has to be seen as a habitus: an evolution of Morihei Ueshiba himself; and an evolution of what he believed he was creating, which gradually took on a life of its own.

Morihei Ueshiba's mission was expressed in several powerful metaphors, mainly taken from the Kojiki. One was to be the ubuya or birth hut, mentioned in a very serious discussion between the two deities Izanagi and Izanami in Kojiki Chapter 10 (Donald Philippi's translation). Another was to be the famous bridge connecting heaven and earth, also depicted in the Kojiki.

His creation as a birth-hut and Morihei Ueshiba as a bridge is, of course, also an example of metonymy as well as metaphor. A birth-hut is a place, but the expectant mother usually needs a midwife or helper. Similarly, a normal bridge functions best of all when traffic going over it passes safely: it has an essentially transient relationship with what passes over it. Ueshiba, on the other hand, was not only the birth-hut, but also the midwife. He was not only the bridge, but also the messenger passing over the bridge and in one direction only—downwards. As Ellis Amdur recently suggested in an article in Aikido Journal, Ueshiba cast himself in the role of being a conduit to others. However, his roles and ours are somewhat different. We are brought into our ‘aikido-existence' in the hut and by the midwife, but we have no pretensions to becoming either the hut or the midwife. Similarly, like the prisoners in Plato's Republic, we see reality only to the extent that we are shown. We ourselves never pass over the bridge: we simply receive what the messenger who has crossed over the bridge reveals to us.

Of course, to practice most martial arts one needs a partner, but in this case the partner is seen as a means to the development of one's own technical skill: in fact one can argue that training with one or more opponents or partners (the Japanese word is aite 相手) simply represents the icing on the cake, the cake itself being rigorous personal, private, training. Without the latter, the former is rather pointless. This is actually a controversial point, to which I will return in a later column.

Like all masters of Japanese martial arts, Morihei Ueshiba accepted uchi-deshi and, as the last few columns have been concerned to show, taught them according to the traditional model: the Master allowed these disciples an intimate share in his own life as a Master, so that they would be in a position to ‘steal' what they could of his knowledge. As Ueshiba became more famous and taught more widely, however, and as the Pacific War being waged by Japan grew more intense, these live-in disciples became fewer and fewer in number and were replaced by more ordinary soldiers or students.

The deshi with whom I have talked about these things have all made it a point of dogma, almost, that Morihei Ueshiba did not teach in a way that we are used to nowadays. His way was fundamentally ‘teacher-centered', not ‘technique-centered' or even ‘principle-centered', and was designed to tease and challenge, rather than clarify. Nevertheless, there are several pieces of evidence that, even in the Kobukan period, Ueshiba was coming to see his brainchild as a distinct art: a self-contained entity that he had created, and not simply as the expression or residue of his own personal training regime. In the rest of this column I will briefly discuss these pieces of evidence in chronological order.

The first is the work made in 1933, under the title of Budo Renshu. This book is a technical manual for those who already have some proficiency in the art. It is a collection of line drawings of some 200 waza, the drawings and the introduction both made by students: the drawings by Takako Kunigoshi and the introduction by the ‘brains' of the dojo, Kenji Tomiki. (The introduction is required reading for those who believe that a sophisticated martial art like aiki-budo or aikido is of no use in a ‘real' situation.) The book appears to be the result of one of those intensive training sessions called gasshuku, much loved in Japan for their focus and ‘spiritual' intensity. It was made with Morihei Ueshiba's approval and he even held special training sessions to make sure that the waza depicted were correct. The book was hand-bound in traditional Japanese style and circulated privately. An English translation was made when Kisshomaru Ueshiba was the second Doshu and this edition, with the translation alongside the original handwritten Japanese, is now a rarity.

The second piece of evidence is the Noma Dojo archive of photographs. There is a crucial discussion about this archive on pp.139-142 of Stanley Pranin's Aikido Masters, from which the extracts that follow are taken. (A two-volume revised edition of the Japanese original of this book appeared in 2006, entitled Morihei Ueshiba to Aikido: Kaiso wo Kataru Jiki-deshi-tachi, and the relevant sections are on pp.123-126 of Vol. I.) The discussion forms part of an interview with Shigemi Yonekawa, who was Ueshiba's uke when the photographs were taken. Yonekawa gave his explanation why the photographs were taken:
I believe the reason that the Noma Dojo photos were taken was that Hisashi Noma, the only son of Seiji Noma, suggested to Ueshiba Sensei that some photos be taken in order to preserve his techniques for posterity. Ueshiba Sensei would not himself have suggested that photos be taken at the Noma Dojo… They weren't taken every day, but they were taken in a series of intensive sessions. I still don't know even today why they were taken.
The Noma Dojo archive was made in 1936 and covered a vast range of waza.
The techniques start with basic seated techniques and cover all the way to advanced techniques—variations are included too. They were the techniques we practiced in my time. I think the techniques have changed considerably since then. (The interviews were originally published in 1979 and 1992.)
(Ueshiba Sensei) was in a very good mood when the photos were taken. When Ueshiba Sensei was in a good mood, he would show many variations of techniques. He was a wonderfully talented man. He could execute techniques spontaneously. He shows a splendid face in these photos.

The photos were not taken consecutively but one at a time. We had planned to make a complete series progressing from suwari-waza on to hanmi-handachi, tachiwaza, ushirowaza and, finally, multiple attacks, but for some reason we had to break off before we could finish.
Stanley Pranin briefly discusses the Noma Dojo archive in the second of his two seminal articles dealing with the Kodokan Dojo era. Actually, Stan is the person I referred to earlier as planning to write a history of aikido, and his Aiki News / Aikido Journal articles constitute a substantial foundation for such a history. In this article Mr Pranin discusses the Noma Dojo archive as evidence that Morihei Ueshiba was still practicing Daito-ryu and I agree that the evidence for this is very strong. Incidentally, this might also explain why the Nomo Dojo archive has never been published.

However, my focus in these columns is a little different. I want to focus on the question to what extent Ueshiba saw himself as the centre of a creative process and also to what extent he saw himself as creating something new (the two questions are not quite the same). This leads to the further question, also relevant to Daito-ryu, to what extent this creation becomes a freestanding entity in its own right, with its own internal principles, quite separate from the mind of its creator. This question, in turn, leads to yet another crucial question: that of the creator surrendering this entity, still as yet inchoate, to someone else with completely different aims and objectives from those of the creator.

The third piece of evidence is the work made in 1938, with the title of Budo. In his edition of this work Stanley Pranin has given an illuminating explanation of the book's provenance: it was a manual of essential waza compiled at the request of a member of the Japanese imperial family who was the head of the Toyama military school. It is reasonable to assume that the waza illustrated and explained therein were considered suitable for soldiers who were fighting the Pacific War. Again, the Japanese original of this work has never been published, but there are two English translations available.

Budo Renshu and Budo are separated by only five years, but it is clear from a comparison of the waza shown in the two volumes that they had changed somewhat. Of course, there is plenty of evidence that Morihei Ueshiba changed technically, even during the relatively short Kodokan period, and that he was aware of the changes. Here is an illuminating statement from Rinjiro Shirata (Aikido Masters, pp.154-155):
(Beginners) learned techniques from the uchi-deshi starting with the ikkajo of Daito-ryu jujutsu. Techniques like ikkajo, nikajo shiho-nage… There wasn't any irimi-nage then, only techniques which, on later reflection, can be considered to be the antecedents of irimi-nage. Irimi-nage was originally developped by O Sensei. Sensei's techniques were always changing. Techniques which had their origin in Daito-ryu were transformed into aiki and as he trained gradually his techniques changed as well. That is why the techniques Tomiki Sensei learned, and the techniques we learned, the techniques Shioda Sensei learned and the techniques that Murashige Sensei learned before that, were all completely different. Sensei himself sometimes said to me, "Shirata, my techniques have changed. Look!" So I watched him. They became circular in a way completely different from his earlier techniques. Doshu [Kissomaru Ueshiba] systemtized and perfected those techniques.
On the other hand, there is the story of the amazement shown by the late Morihiro Saito, when was first shown the book by Stanley Pranin. The techniques shown in the book were what he had been practicing with the Founder in Iwama from 1946 onwards. So the changes were more like the gradual infusion of a chemical in a liquid, rather than an immediate transformation.

The fourth piece of evidence is the creation of the Zaidan Houjin Kobukai in 1940 and the designation of the name aikido in 1942. The first is discussed by Kisshomaru Ueshiba at the beginning of the sixth chapter of his biography of the Founder (pp.230-235). Morihei Ueshiba is fondly pictured as giving his all for us on the Floating Bridge of Heaven, totally unblemished and unencumbered by the murky business of running organizations and engaging in ‘politics', which business was left to his supporters—and especially his hapless son. I think this picture is an unduly romantic one and does not take account of the actual context of the martial arts in prewar Japan, especially the power of the military in the 1930s and their influence on the Dai Nippon Butokukai.

Ueshiba had powerful supporters right from the time he began his association with Omoto-kyo and even more so when he moved to Tokyo. Most of these supporters trained under him and some became his students. It was these supporters who advised Ueshiba to create an organization that was a legal entity (a ‘legal person', in Japanese). In Japan, one does not walk into a government office and simply request that one's art become a zaidan houjin. The process is complex and time-consuming and, given the weight attached to status in Japan's vertically structured society, can be advanced or hindered by the presence or absence of powerful sponsors. Ueshiba clearly had these and these supporters were the ones who actually ran the organization, in the sense that there was a 寄付行為 (Constitution) with a purpose, directors and rules of operation. So the dojo officially ceased to be a band of disciples gathered round the Master.

Mention of Kisshomaru Ueshiba leads to the last piece of evidence: the efforts that Morihei Ueshiba himself made to find a successor. It is sometimes stated that Kisshomaru Ueshiba became Doshu because he was a good administrator, rather than a good aikido technician, but we need to step back a little and consider what options Morihei Ueshiba had.

The interviews in Aikido Masters show that Ueshiba approached Mochizuki, Nakakura, Sugino and perhaps others, to marry into his family and become his heir. This suggests that Ueshiba already saw himself as an iemoto: the head of an ie (or house). Ueshiba had two sons who died in infancy and Kisshomaru was only ten years old when the Kobukan Dojo was founded in Ushigome, Tokyo, and who appears to have shown no interest in training until he was older. He did show interest—much interest, and so when he was still a student in 1942, Morihei Ueshiba made Kisshomaru head of the Tokyo dojo, giving him an order to maintain the dojo on pain of his life, and moved to Iwama. I think this act effectively marks the transmission from father to son.

Peter Goldsbury (b. 28 April 1944). Aikido 6th dan Aikikai, Professor at Hiroshima University, teaching philosophy and comparative culture. B. in UK. Began aikido as a student and practiced at various dojo. Became a student of Mitsunari Kanai at the New England Aikikai in 1973. After moving back to the UK in 1975, trained in the Ryushinkan Dojo under Minoru Kanetsuka. Also trained with K Chiba on his frequent visits to the UK. Moved to Hiroshima, Japan, in 1980 and continued training with the resident Shihan, Mazakazu Kitahira, 7th dan Also trained regularly with Seigo Yamaguchi, Hiroshi Tada, Sadateru Arikawa and Masatake Fujita, both in Hiroshima and at the Aikikai Hombu. Was elected Chairman of the IAF in 1998. With two German colleagues, opened a small dojo in Higashi-Hiroshima City in 2001. Instructed at Aiki Expo 2002 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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Old 12-26-2007, 09:06 AM   #2
ChrisMoses
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Thanks for the X-mas present Peter! Another great article. This series should be considered required reading along with many of the books you cite in this piece.

Chris Moses
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Old 12-26-2007, 10:41 AM   #3
Walker
 
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Thank you professor. Sad to say, each one of these makes me long for the next.

Waiting patiently.

-Doug Walker
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Old 12-26-2007, 07:51 PM   #4
MM
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

I have to echo the above posts, sensei.

Thanks!
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Old 12-27-2007, 12:51 AM   #5
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

OK, you've had your kudos, now for some questions.

The first one is pretty simple:
Quote:
It is a collection of line drawings of some 200 waza, the drawings and the introduction both made by students: the drawings by Takako Kunigoshi and the introduction by the ‘brains' of the dojo, Kenji Tomiki.
To your knowledge did Tomiki also do the technical descriptions? I think this is what I was told by Shishida during a conversation, but I wanted to confirm it if you are able to.

Second, a little tougher:
Quote:
In this article Mr Pranin discusses the Noma Dojo archive as evidence that Morihei Ueshiba was still practicing Daito-ryu and I agree that the evidence for this is very strong. Incidentally, this might also explain why the Nomo Dojo archive has never been published.
A few things. It was my recollection that Stan has said that the Noma Dojo photos were dismounted for copying and that their order was lost. He gave this as a reason for them not being published. It occurs to me that this might not conflict with your surmise -- they sat unpublished for so long (due to your explanation) that any negatives were lost necessitating copying and the loss of the archive as a technical reference.

All that being said, as one of the more interesting statements of this installment, could you expand on your reasoning a bit.

We could also discuss the timing of translation and release of the two available texts -- Budo Renshu 1978, and Budo not until 1991.

Last edited by Walker : 12-27-2007 at 12:56 AM.

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Old 12-27-2007, 06:44 AM   #6
SeiserL
 
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Osu,
Another great installment.
Thank you for your insights.
Compliments and appreciation.
Rei, Domo.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
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Old 12-27-2007, 05:28 PM   #7
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Quote:
Doug Walker wrote: View Post
OK, you've had your kudos, now for some questions.
Douzo.

Quote:
Doug Walker wrote: View Post
The first one is pretty simple:

To your knowledge did Tomiki also do the technical descriptions? I think this is what I was told by Shishida during a conversation, but I wanted to confirm it if you are able to.
This is my understanding, also. I note that the handwriting of the technical descriptions is the same as that of the general introduction, not that this means that Tomiki actually did the writing. My Japanese colleagues at Hirodai believe the handwriting was done by a woman.

Quote:
Doug Walker wrote: View Post
Second, a little tougher:

A few things. It was my recollection that Stan has said that the Noma Dojo photos were dismounted for copying and that their order was lost. He gave this as a reason for them not being published. It occurs to me that this might not conflict with your surmise -- they sat unpublished for so long (due to your explanation) that any negatives were lost necessitating copying and the loss of the archive as a technical reference.
This is the explanation also given by John Stevens on p.74 of his edition of Budo and there is no reason to doubt it.

Quote:
Doug Walker wrote: View Post
All that being said, as one of the more interesting statements of this installment, could you expand on your reasoning a bit.
The archive was made because Noma thought that there should be a record for posterity. Ueshiba did not disagree, but did not initiate the project himself and it was never completed. Since it was never made for publication anyway, there would be even less point in circulating copies privately, as was done with Budo Renshu and Budo, than for these latter books. After the war, however, there was a distinctly different regime at the Aikikai and I know that it was Kisshomaru Ueshiba who controlled the dissemination of information about aikido. The connection with Daito-ryu was left unemphasized.

Quote:
Doug Walker wrote: View Post
We could also discuss the timing of translation and release of the two available texts -- Budo Renshu 1978, and Budo not until 1991.
Budo Renshu was published at the initiative of Tetsutaka Sugawara, of Minato Research, who had just previously published the five volumes of Saito's Traditional Aikido. Minato Research then disappeared from the map and all the other recent publications in English have been done by Kodansha International. I myself was approached by Kodansha to translate Kisshomaru's big biography of the Founder. I did not have the time and the project is being done by others (not John Stevens).

Best wishes,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 12-28-2007, 05:28 PM   #8
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Thanks for the confirmation on Budo Renshu.

So you think it was nothing more than the vagaries of publishing that accounts for the timing of Budo. That seems reasonable barring any other revelations.

One more question. Do you think there is any current opposition to publishing the Noma photographs? For example, if the archive was still organized and ready to go to layout with maybe an introduction would a project like that get a green light from the family?

-Doug Walker
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Old 12-28-2007, 08:48 PM   #9
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Quote:
Doug Walker wrote: View Post
One more question. Do you think there is any current opposition to publishing the Noma photographs? For example, if the archive was still organized and ready to go to layout with maybe an introduction would a project like that get a green light from the family?
The present Doshu has been unusually ready to publish translations of key books. The latest one to appear is The Secret Teachings of Aikido, which is a translation by John Stevens of Aiki Shinzui, a collection of O Sensei's articles published in the Aikikai's Aikido Shimbun. Stevens also translated Aikido Shintei, a large, illustrated book written by Kisshomaru Ueshiba. As I stated earlier, all the recent books have been published by Kodansha, which, I suppose, renews the connection with the Noma Dojo.

The present Doshu has also republished two early Japanese texts written by his father. Aikido and Aikido Giho were the originals of the English volume Aikido, which appeared around 1970. For this English edition the photographs were changed and the text edited. However, the Japanese originals give a very clear idea of Kisshomaru Ueshiba's aikido as it was immediately after the war.

As for publishing the Noma photo archive, when I meet Doshu again I will ask him.

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Old 12-28-2007, 10:59 PM   #10
Charles Hill
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Some of the Noma photos were published in the English version of Budo. According to John Stevens, it was a big process to put them into the correct order and this took a lot of help from Rinjiro Shirata, a resource which is no longer available. I think it would be close to impossible to do this without help that really does not exist anymore.

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Old 12-29-2007, 04:56 PM   #11
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Yes, I think that Charles has a point. Since Arikawa Sensei passed away there are no more 'historians' in the Hombu (unless any of the younger shihans have interest or expertise).

My earlier point about Kodansha implied that it is a large commercial publishing house, where questions of cost also count. Japan Publications Trading was not a large company.

I once asked the present Doshu some question about the origins of aikido. He did hot have an answer and added that there were many old documents and archive in the Hombu that no one had looked at, probably due to lack of time or inclination.

I think that publishing the Noma archive in the form in which it was created would be a very difficult undertaking.

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Old 12-29-2007, 07:08 PM   #12
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Peter, thanks for the replies. I agree that if the order is indeed lost it would be a huge undertaking hence the stipulation in my question. I think there are very few people that have been taken through the techniques in Budo Renshu -- Stevens is one -- and that would be a minimum for working with the Noma archive.

My bright idea would be to create a combined text using the Noma photographs to illustrate Budo Renshu. Renshu giving the structure to hang the photographs on, but Renshu by itself probably does not contain enough information to proceed unless the person had knowledge of the techniques to draw upon.

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Old 12-29-2007, 09:17 PM   #13
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Quote:
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Peter, thanks for the replies.
Not all. Japan is winding down for the New Year and so I have a little time. Actually, I am trying to complete Installment 6 in time for Jun's new deadline. This installment looks at the general effects of World War II on the development of aikido.

Quote:
Doug Walker wrote: View Post
I agree that if the order is indeed lost it would be a huge undertaking hence the stipulation in my question. I think there are very few people that have been taken through the techniques in Budo Renshu -- Stevens is one -- and that would be a minimum for working with the Noma archive.
I think Budo Renshu offers a selection of waza that were done in the Kobukan and many of the techniques therein have been done right here in Hiroshima by my own teacher. (I also have a tape--never published--of Rinjiro Shirata doing loads of variations.)

Quote:
Doug Walker wrote: View Post
My bright idea would be to create a combined text using the Noma photographs to illustrate Budo Renshu. Renshu giving the structure to hang the photographs on, but Renshu by itself probably does not contain enough information to proceed unless the person had knowledge of the techniques to draw upon.
Perhaps this might be a project for a Ph.D in budo history. I doubt whether there would be much enthusiasm for a new general edition of Budo Renshu. The Shirata tape was never published because Kisshomaru did not agree. He wanted to emphasize the new beginning and to systematize aikido into an art that could be practiced by anybody. Actually this is the main message of these columns I am writing.

I have heard it stated so often in official circles that O Sensei continuously changed his waza, but the implications of this seemingly obvious statement are rarely grasped--or even more rarely stated.

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Old 12-29-2007, 09:30 PM   #14
Charles Hill
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
He did hot have an answer and added that there were many old documents and archive in the Hombu that no one had looked at, probably due to lack of time or inclination.
This is completely just one person's opinion, but I think that all aikidoists should look at the two main points in the above sentence.

Apologies to Prof. Goldsbury for hijacking one sentence in his reply. I am very much looking forward to part 6.

Charles
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Old 12-30-2007, 12:30 AM   #15
Walker
 
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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...(I also have a tape--never published--of Rinjiro Shirata doing loads of variations.)...

Perhaps this might be a project for a Ph.D in budo history. I doubt whether there would be much enthusiasm for a new general edition of Budo Renshu. The Shirata tape was never published because Kisshomaru did not agree. He wanted to emphasize the new beginning and to systematize aikido into an art that could be practiced by anybody. Actually this is the main message of these columns I am writing...
You're preaching to the choir here (ref. my signature below). I know the series of videos you are referencing, and the curriculum goes deeper and more basic than even what is shown on those tapes. But all of that is just talk for me, I've barely scratched the surface and it's slow going.

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Old 12-31-2007, 04:07 AM   #16
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Hello Doug,

I train in a relative backwater, here in Hiroshima, well outside the glare of the bright lights of the Tokyo Hombu. One of the nice things I have found here is the importance of the tatemae/honne distinction in daily activities, which extend well beyond the confines of the dojo. Aikido-wise, everyone turns out for an 'imperial state visit' from the Hombu, and then quietly goes back to the older forms of training.

I think that Kisshomaru Ueshiba understood this clearly and ran the Aikikai as an association of primi inter pares, composed of all the people who would accept his role as Doshu. He discharged this role brilliantly, given the situation he inherited, but he realized, far more than his father ever did, the importance of communication.

O Sensei's discourses actively challenge the reader/hearer to discover what on earth he is talking about and it is a pity that they have been translated into English so 'unimaginatively'.

(I have no intention of attacking John Stevens here, by the way, since he has stuck his neck out and done an admirable job of making translations as accessible as possible to a reader who has no clue as to their cultural context. I can well imagine the choices he had to make. By training I am a classicist, used to analyzing texts written in ancient Greek and O Sensei's discourses bear comparison with anything that Heraclitus or Parmenides are alleged to have written.)

In a future column I plan to analyze the contents of the two books that Kisshomaru Ueshiba wrote, soon after the war. They are Aikido and Aikido Giho and they give a clear indication of what Kisshomaru was doling at the time. They are worlds apart from anything written by O Sensei and also from the Shirata tapes, but Shirata Sensei had no problems with accepting the tatemae of Kisshomaru's direction of the Aikikai and confining his aikido studies to his own confines in the Tohoku region.

I think this is a good illustration of the power of the iemoto model.

All good wishes for 2008,

PAG

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 12-31-2007 at 04:11 AM.

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Old 12-31-2007, 11:26 AM   #17
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Peter,
明けましておめでとうございます。
One of the interesting things Shirata did for us in my opinion was to free us in a way from the obligation of tatemae -- to take what he gave and to wither or thrive on the outside so to speak.

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Old 01-01-2008, 07:46 AM   #18
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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Peter,
明けましておめでとうございます。
One of the interesting things Shirata did for us in my opinion was to free us in a way from the obligation of tatemae -- to take what he gave and to wither or thrive on the outside so to speak.
今年もよろしくお願い致します。

Shirata Sensei is one of the few students of O Sensei from the very early Kobukan years who did not create their own organizations. After the war, when he returned to aikido after a long interval, he publicly supported Kisshomaru Ueshiba. In fact, I knew Shirata Sensei as a member of the Superior Council of the IAF, which Kisshomaru created. Like a few other postwar shihans he supported the Ueshiba family as a way of preserving and developing aikido.

In my opinion this public support was a tatemae and was the public face of the honne: his own private study of the inheritance he received from O Sensei at the Kobukan. Nearly all the shihans I know well exhibit this division to some degree.

Best wishes,

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Old 01-03-2008, 04:25 AM   #19
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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Charles Hill wrote: View Post
This is completely just one person's opinion, but I think that all aikidoists should look at the two main points in the above sentence.

Apologies to Prof. Goldsbury for hijacking one sentence in his reply. I am very much looking forward to part 6.

Charles
Hello Charles,

Happy New Year,

I never knew O Sensei and so all my information about him is at second hand. I did, however, know Kisshomaru Doshu as well as one can from sporadic meetings, and the same is true of the present Doshu.

Kisshomaru Doshu was an immense source of information on aikido and Aikido Ichiroh clearly shows he had something of an agenda, which was really given him by the circumstances in which he was placed from 1942 onwards.

By comparison, the present Doshu seems to have less of an agenda, perhaps because of the circumstances in which he also has been placed. He has been happy to publish translations of his father's and grandfather's works, but his own publishing output has been rather different in content.

Of course, this is something I want to explore and discuss in future columns. As an additional luxury, we can occasionally speculate on what would have happened to aikido had Japan won the war.

Best wishes,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 01-07-2008, 03:20 PM   #20
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Thanks Peter! This is fascinating material.

I think that what you see with Aikido is an evolution from "style", as in ryu, to "approach", as in a personal take on the art. If you look at the main teachers from the 30's, their training was far more systematic than what came later. Initially they were all doing a "style" i.e. Daito Ryu. Their certificates were Daito Ryu certificates. In that sense there was a far more agreed upon central core technically with the various students like Shirata, Mochizuki, Tomiki, and Shioda (not to mention Inoue) adding elements from their own training in other arts so that each had a particular individual approach. But, even as they differed I would say they had more in common than the teachers of later years.

Each one of these teachers started his own "style" in order to preserve and propagate what he had learned. You can look at each of these styles and readily see what is similar and what is different. In each case an effort was made to create a system for passing on those teachings, although in every case adjustments were made in the curriculum to allow the art to be taught broadly and not just to a small group of deshi.

Clearly, this was an important development for the survival of what we might call "classical" practice. Of the teachers mentioned, the only one that did not go off on his own and start what we would recognize as a separate "style" was Shirata Sensei. Consequently, his line is by far the most obscure. It never had an organization to expand its teachings; it stayed personal with him.

Once you get to Post War Aikido, you basically have different teachers who exist under one umbrella, following their own paths. I think that this has had grave implications for the "transmission" of the art. You have teachers who trained a life time under the Founder passing away with literally no one trained to keep their hard won knowledge alive. Only Saito and Tohei Senseis set up their own large organizational structures to put forth their takes on the art.

I think the whole approach of training at Honbu Dojo under multiple teachers tended to make less likely the direct transmission from a certain teacher to a certain student. Of course, certain people decided on a particular teacher and simply followed him. Endo Sensei told us that at a certain point he simply ceased training with anyone other than Yamaguchi Sensei because he wanted specifically what Yamaguchi was offering. But the smorgasborg offered at the home dojo allowed people to train with many teachers while not necessarily being seen as a "deshi" of a particular one. So some teachers at the Honbu Dojo taught their whole careers without formalizing any "transmission" to any of the students who passed through their classes.

The current development of the art is very much as you mentioned... There is a Honbu Dojo way of doing things. The teachers who teach there adhere to that format for the most part. The current Doshu seems more interested than in the past in formalizing this instruction. Yet, many of those very same teachers do something quite a bit different at their own dojos and those of the students with whom they are associated.

I think people have a natural desire for structure. You can see how folks have naturally tried to create structure, even when there isn't one. Saito Sensei's Iwama Ryu was the direct result of Saito Sensei's desire to develop a "transmission" for what he had been taught. But as it developed it ran directly up against the desire of the Ueshiba family to be the hub from which their version of the "transmission" would proceed around the world.

But if you look at the success the Iwama Ryu had in propagating itself, I think it becomes clear that a formalized structure i.e. something like a "style" is the best way to keep the knowledge of a particular teacher alive.

My own teacher, Saotome Sensei, is adamant that Aikido has no "style". He has taught us in much the same way he was taught. He has steadfastly refused to spell out technical details, has only generally called our attention to various principles at work. This has resulted in much the same situation you had with the Founder. No one has "mastered" anything close to what this man knows. Only a very few have any real idea what he is doing. None of us look like each other because its been left up to each of us to develop our own understanding. When Sensei passes, it's gone. His knowledge and experience will never be duplicated. We each will carry a part of it and in some cases will add something of our own to it. But much of what he has will simply be lost.

I don't know what the answer is... If the art is to be taught widely to the "masses" so to speak, then the Aikikai approach to simplifying and modernizing the curriculum would seem inevitable. But then the real question becomes "where does the depth come from"? In the old days, the teachers had tremendous depth. Even if their students created larger organizations and simplified curriculum for the members, there was still the opportunity for the gifted, serious student to get access to that greater depth if they wanted to make the commitment.

What I see now is that the teachers of the future are being trained to teach the modern curriculum. They will not have the same depth as the previous generation of teachers. When that happens it will become increasingly difficult for anyone, regardless of talent or desire, to rediscover what has been lost. I think we may see the time when people will be looking for input from the older styles which have done a better job of keeping a certain transmission. I see an increasing demand for the small number of people who have kept alive the Mochizuki line, the Shirata line, the Hikitsuchi line; people who have focused on the teachings of one teacher and attempted to preserve the depth of that teaching. The rest of Aikido will require an infusion of that knowledge to reverse the "dumbing down" of the art as a whole.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 01-07-2008, 09:44 PM   #21
Erick Mead
 
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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Each one of these teachers started his own "style" in order to preserve and propagate what he had learned. ... an effort was made to create a system for passing on those teachings, ... I think people have a natural desire for structure. You can see how folks have naturally tried to create structure, even when there isn't one. Saito Sensei's Iwama Ryu was the direct result of Saito Sensei's desire to develop a "transmission" for what he had been taught... But if you look at the success the Iwama Ryu had in propagating itself, I think it becomes clear that a formalized structure i.e. something like a "style" is the best way to keep the knowledge of a particular teacher alive.

My own teacher, Saotome Sensei, is adamant that Aikido has no "style". He has taught us in much the same way he was taught. He has steadfastly refused to spell out technical details, has only generally called our attention to various principles at work. This has resulted in much the same situation you had with the Founder. No one has "mastered" anything close to what this man knows. Only a very few have any real idea what he is doing. ... But much of what he has will simply be lost.
You have just illustrated a fundamental dichotomy that is larger than Aikido, and therefore is also reflected within it. Knowledge is commonly expressed in two different ways: one is linear, systematic, schematic; the other non-linear, holographic and chaotic (in the technical sense). In fact, both are highly ordered, but ordered in different ways.

Saito represents one tendency on this spectrum and Saotome another. Having begun in Saotome's lineage, and returned there, and spent substantial time under an uchi deshi of Saito, I feel these observations are well-grounded, if not particularly privileged. I think these differences are more reflective of psychologically driven biases in learning and teaching, than they are of real difference in either intent or performance,. Understanding this, I think both approaches have things to recommend them.

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
I don't know what the answer is... But then the real question becomes "where does the depth come from"? In the old days, the teachers had tremendous depth. ... teachers of the future are being trained to teach the modern curriculum. They will not have the same depth as the previous generation of teachers. When that happens it will become increasingly difficult for anyone, regardless of talent or desire, to rediscover what has been lost. ... The rest of Aikido will require an infusion of that knowledge to reverse the "dumbing down" of the art as a whole.
The schematic bias teaches knowledge in progressive stages, the image of the knowledge being built up line by line, like a television scan building an image in lines of pixels from bottom to top. It emphasizes a solid grasp of what is transmitted, but omitting any real sense of what lies beyond the strict lesson. In its output it is simpler than the holographic.

The holographic bias builds up knowledge chaotically, as in this image : [http://www.geocities.com/bmw328driver/JavaFern.htm]. While it appears more random, in fact the points are are all drive by the algorithm (principle, in Saotome's terminology) that generates them. Computationally speaking, the input algorithm that generates it is actually mathematically simpler than the one that generates the linear progressive image.

Following Saotome's method, the premise and the promise is that whatever seems to be missing in the image at any stage of development is assuredly provided by continued iterations according to the principle set out. The random dots, at a certain point, pass the threshold of recognition and the WHOLE picture takes on an identifiable shape and the details remain to be filled in, by the same principles.

This early holistic sense is lacking in Saito's approach, but what it lacks in the sense of the forest it gains in intimacy with the nature of the trees that make it up. Both perspectives are necessary in weighted proportion according to the proclivities of the learner/teacher. It is silly to speak of forests without trees -- or to forget that a single tree may found a forest.

On balance, my practice has been informed by both and I value both. Like life, practice ought to be an interleaving of chaos and order, determinacy and chance. Structure without a sense of living beyond its immediate environs is ultimately stiff and dead. Life without structure is a gooey mess, and highly vulnerable in other ways.

On balance I think the art has good representatives working to maintain coherence, and a weighted balance, within both generic schools of thought typified by Saotome and Saito. What is needed is more sharing among them to enliven both, and more serious thought about how they do and should relate.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
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Old 01-08-2008, 01:40 PM   #22
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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The holographic bias builds up knowledge chaotically, as in this image :
So sorry. Malformed url. It really is worth seeing:

http://www.geocities.com/bmw328driver/JavaFern.htm

Cordially,

Erick Mead
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Old 01-09-2008, 05:52 AM   #23
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

George, Erick,

Many thanks. There are a lot of issues in your two posts which I have made a conscious decision not to try to cover in these columns. (Otherwise they'll go on indefinitely ).

I am convinced that O Sensei exhibited a particular teaching model that conforms in some respects to what I have seen in Japan outside aikido. The latter tends to be 'kata' based in a broad sense, but I am not at all convinced that O Sensei consciously taught 'principles' in preference to 'kata'. I think it is more complex than this, but have not organized my thoughts sufficiently to express them in a clear way. Even the issues of transmission and inheritance in aikido are perhaps not as clear as they are, say, in Daito-ryu.

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Old 01-11-2008, 08:58 AM   #24
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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George S. Ledyard wrote:
None of us look like each other because its been left up to each of us to develop our own understanding.
Yes! And that's the whole point. We don't look like each other on the mat because we aren't each other. Saotome Sensei must realize that teaching, in the traditional sense, can carry a student only so far. For the student to plumb the deeper levels of Aikido understanding must come from an awakening that cannot be spoon fed by an instructor.

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George S. Ledyard wrote:
When Sensei passes, it's gone. His knowledge and experience will never be duplicated. We each will carry a part of it and in some cases will add something of our own to it. But much of what he has will simply be lost.
Aikido isn't like math where knowledge can be written down, codified and transmitted across generations. To preserve all of what Saotome has it would be necessary to recreate Saotome complete with all his relevant life experience. All of our teachers will take some of their knowledge to the grave with them, as will we, as will our students.

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George S. Ledyard wrote:
I don't know what the answer is... But then the real question becomes "where does the depth come from"?
A student's growth and maturity as a person and as a student of aikido are so intertwined as to be indistinguishable. The study of aikido can be viewed as a process of maturation wherein the student's life experience helps shape his or hers aikido development and vice versa. The depth comes from the individual turning inward, experiencing Aikido from the inside out. I believe aikido is primarily a process of self-discovery; a pursuit of one's relationship to the universe, one's own spirit and one's fellow human beings. As such, understanding of aikido grows from within the student as a result of many years of training and contemplation. While aikido techniques can be taught relatively easily the deeper knowledge that is there for the taking must be experienced individually. The depth you are referring to cannot be ‘taught'; it must be felt, recognized it is being felt, then developed and honed via one's own training. While technique can be demonstrated and learned via repetition how is an instructor to be expected to teach his life experience? How does he teach students to experience the lifetime of learning that has gone into shaping his Aikido?
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Old 01-11-2008, 11:51 AM   #25
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

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Yes! And that's the whole point. We don't look like each other on the mat because we aren't each other. Saotome Sensei must realize that teaching, in the traditional sense, can carry a student only so far. For the student to plumb the deeper levels of Aikido understanding must come from an awakening that cannot be spoon fed by an instructor.
I don't disagree that the "deeper" levels of understanding only come through individual effort and investigation... But, depth is only possible when starting with a strong foundation.

If you look at the students O-Sensei produced in the 30's they stand out as giants. Despite O-Sensei's less than systematic teaching methods, he turned out a disproportionate number of students who functioned at an extremely high level.

What produced this unique circumstance? A very small number of students, training daily with their teacher (the Founder himself), with extreme intensity (Hell Dojo). Each of them put his hands on the Founder every day, each took ukemi from him daily.

This is not the case now. How many of the students training in Aikido currently put their hands on a teacher of Shihan level caliber daily? At seminars and camps, how often do the attendees get a chance to put their hands on the Shihan teaching?

Quote:
Aikido isn't like math where knowledge can be written down, codified and transmitted across generations. To preserve all of what Saotome has it would be necessary to recreate Saotome complete with all his relevant life experience. All of our teachers will take some of their knowledge to the grave with them, as will we, as will our students.
Actually, this is where I start to disagree... the principles involved in "aiki" are straight forward and teachable. The principles are the same for everyone; it is the outer form they take when manifested that varies. Aikido has an outer form which makes it Aikido. But the principles that make it work, when it right, are the same ones used in T'ai Chi, Systema, etc That why Ikeda Sensei invited Ushiro Sensei to teach at Rocky Mountain Summer Camp even though the outer form of what he does is Karate. The inner principles operating were "aiki".

Knowledge is a product of both ones experience and what is inherited from those who have gone before. The depth of knowledge attained by earlier teachers was not simply the result of their personal effort. They were given the basic material and ran with it. That's why lineage and transmission are so important. Their kind of knowledge is like and endangered species. Once it is lost, it will not evolve again. The Japanese Koryu have recognized this and have developed a systematic method for the transmission of the core elements of the style across generations. While there are isolated pockets of Aikido being taught in this manner, most Aikido is not.

Quote:
The depth comes from the individual turning inward, experiencing Aikido from the inside out. I believe aikido is primarily a process of self-discovery; a pursuit of one's relationship to the universe, one's own spirit and one's fellow human beings. As such, understanding of aikido grows from within the student as a result of many years of training and contemplation. While aikido techniques can be taught relatively easily the deeper knowledge that is there for the taking must be experienced individually. The depth you are referring to cannot be ‘taught'; it must be felt, recognized it is being felt, then developed and honed via one's own training. While technique can be demonstrated and learned via repetition how is an instructor to be expected to teach his life experience? How does he teach students to experience the lifetime of learning that has gone into shaping his Aikido?
In my opinion, real depth is based on a deep understanding of the principles of the art. There is no separation between technique and character. A shallow understanding of the principles simply cannot result in deep spiritual understanding. Now some people have adjunct spiritual practices they do alongside their Aikido. These practices may be transformative. But, in my opinion, if this is not coupled with a deep understanding of the principles of aiki, this accrued personal wisdom cannot make ones Aikido deeper. You end up with a wise person whose Aikido is still shallow.

As I have said before on this forum, you know you have an essential issue when most of the people who are teaching the art of Aikido cannot adequately define the term "aiki". I don't mean agreeing on a dictionary definition as in whether "harmony" or "joining" is a better translation... I mean what does "aiki" mean when we talk about technique. How many folks can tell you what the difference would be between basic jiu jutsu and aiki? What does it mean to execute a technique using "aiki".

Until the post war period, these principles were considered "secret". They were not taught to the public. They normally weren't even shown to the public. Aikido went from an art which numbered practitioners in the hundreds, at most, to an art with a million folks training world wide in one lifetime. That necessitated the rapid development of an instructor base in mass quantity. In other words, the vast majority of folks doing Aikido, the vast majority of the folks teaching Aikido, have nothing like the level of understanding of the early practitioners. Most look at the post war generation of teachers as representing some sort of unattainable level of skill. This is a direct result of the breakdown of the transmission.

The idea that training enthusiastically will result eventually in great skill is simply wrong. That is the "50 million monkeys typing Shakespeare" idea. As I said once before, while statistically it might be true that eventually one of the monkeys will randomly reproduce what went before, the operative concept at work here is that the rest of the monkeys are all typing gibberish.

The principles involved in "aiki" have been systematically handed down over hundreds of years. As in nature, their discovery and development resulted from very specific environmental circumstances. If these principles are lost, it is highly unlikely they will be rediscovered or redeveloped through normal practice.

It's not that there aren't people still around who understand these things. It's just that they are in such a small minority that Aikido is in danger of being redefined by the vast majority of folks who simply have no real awareness of what real depth is.

The understanding of aiki principles will be kept alive by folks doing various arts in great depth, whether Chinese, Russian, Japanese; Karate, Systema, T'ai Chi, Aikijutsu... My concern is that the Aikido community will remain unaware that anything is even missing from what they are doing. As the art is further simplified to make it teachable to the masses, as instructors are trained specifically teach the new simplified curriculum, we are in danger of losing our awareness of what "high level" actually meant at one time.

As I said before, in my opinion, for any individual to take his Aikido to a deep level, there has to be a deep foundation. Endless repetition of incorrect principles will not ever result in correct principle. It simply imprints bad habits. It is the purpose of a method of transmission to prevent this. A systematic exposition of the principles at work coupled with daily practice with someone who can give immediate and direct feedback about whether what you are doing is on track or not is required to create the strong foundation upon which all of the later personal development and variation will rest. Yes, I do not look like Ikeda Sensei or Saotome Sensei. But my technique works for precisely the same reasons their technique does. They are better at it than I am, true. But I can tell you exactly what the principles are that are operating in what they are doing. I can describe them and I can teach them. So I know precisely what I need to work on, which lets me give direction to my practice. And because I can describe them, I can create a systematic teaching methodology for my students which will create the foundation for their practice after I am gone. I look at the awareness my students have of what it is that they are trying to do in their practice and it is decades ahead of my own at the same rank, literally decades.

The transmission has been broken in Aikido for some time. Fortunately, there are still places one can go to acquire the blocks of knowledge that seem to be disappearing from mainstream Aikido. Angier Sensei is still alive, Toby Threadgill will be going strong for many years, I am sure. People like Dan Hardin, Mike Sigman, and Akuzawa are working with Aikido folks to reintroduce the solo training aspect of the art which has been neglected. No one teaches the psychological aspect of aiki better than the Systema folks. Howard Popkin continues to both teach himself and bring his teacher Okamoto Sensei from Japan (he is in his 80's). It is for us to master some of this and get the knowledge back into Aikido. There simply aren't that many folks who have it... they have to create a transmission as well or it will disappear when they pass on. I've talked to a few of the folks from other arts who are teaching around the country doing open seminars... The bulk of the folks attending these events are Aikido people. That says to me that there are many folks within our community who recognize that we need outside input to get our art on track. That makes me hopeful.

What I am afraid of, and I have been seeing this happen, that people discover these veins of "lost knowledge" and simply leave Aikido to pursue others forms of training. That will condemn Aikido absolutely.

Aikido has 30 to 40 thousand people training in the US. If there is no available systematic exposition of the principles which govern "aiki", then the majority of these people are condemned to doing Aikido-lite. A lifetime of training will not make that a deep practice, period. No amount of wishful thinking will make it so.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
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