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Proficiency and Aikido
Proficiency and Aikido
by Francis Takahashi
03-15-2010
Proficiency and Aikido

Perhaps not quite common knowledge, but it is no secret that the Founder, and Aikikai Foundation, the organization developed by the late Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, remained committed to maintaining appropriate and lasting relationships with most of the Founder's students, past and current. Organizations such as the Yoshinkan (Gozo Shioda), Yoseikan (Minoru Mochizuki), Takemusu Aikido (Morihiro Saito), Nishio Aikido (Shoji Nishio), amongst others, retained positive and respectful ties to Aikikai Foundation, and still appear to do so today. In terms of legitimacy and genuineness of purpose, there never was, nor should there ever be, any need to "rank", or otherwise categorize any individual or organization by any standard other than the unconditional allegiance to the principles of the Founder's Aikido.

"Proficiency", which will always be a key goal of training, is not, nor should ever be a part of any conversation regarding any evaluation or comparison of the Aikikai Foundation's system of Aikido, with those of any other Aikido system developed consistently with the Founder's Aikido. For all such systems, the fact of proficiency in their own respective applications, is a given, and not a basis for comparison or contrast. They all have their roots, and legitimacy, stemming directly from their connection to the Founder, his vision, mission, and to the principles he advocated and lived.

To do Aikido "the right way", then, when is it ever "good enough"? Does each student of Aikido need to aspire primarily to "martial excellence", as opposed to the study and pursuit of any other values inherent in Aikido research and training? Was it the Founder's intent to train "super warriors", or to encourage and assist in the growth of extraordinary and accountable human beings?
Francis Takahashi was born in 1943, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Francis began his Aikido journey in 1953, simultaneously with the introduction of Aikido to Hawaii by Koichi Tohei, a representative sent from Aikikai Foundation in Tokyo, Japan. This event was sponsored by the Hawaii Nishi System of Health Engineering, with Noriyasu Kagesa as president. Mr. Kagesa was Francis's grandfather, and was a life long supporter of Mr. Tohei, and of Aikido. In 1961, the Founder visited Hawaii to help commemorate the opening of the new dojo in Honolulu. This was the first, and only time Francis had the opportunity to train with the Founder. In 1963, Francis was inducted into the U.S. Army, and was stationed for two years in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second instructor for the fledgling Chicago Aikido Club, succeeding his childhood friend, Chester Sasaki, who had graduated from the University of Illinois, and was entering the Air Force. Francis is currently ranked 7th dan Aikikai, and enjoys a direct affiliation with Aikikai Foundation for the recommending and granting of dan ranks via his organization, Aikikai Associates West Coast. Francis is the current dojo-cho of Aikido Academy in Alhambra, California.
When one learns a new language, or even the one native to that person, must it be with the purpose of being able to ultimately write scientific or literary articles, blockbuster novels or widely acclaimed treatises for a Phd. degree? Would any lesser degree of achievement be deemed a "failure", or be ignominiously tagged with the status of being ordinary or even mediocre?

When one learns mathematics, how much study is "far enough", in order to successfully apply such knowledge to earn a decent living and to enjoy the benefits of society? Should even an obviously talented student be prepared to "apologize" or to "justify" not having continued his or her studies towards advanced degrees, and not be accepted by his peers, friends and family?

Aikido, like any study worth the time and effort, is extremely generous and forgiving to those who begin the path of training, and who find different drop off points, that allow them to change to other interests and priorities, while being grateful nonetheless for the time spent training, growing and enjoying their limited time in the dojo with new friends, some for life. Let us not begrudge those who appear to "quit too soon". Rather, let us rejoice that we did have the time we had together, and be grateful for the gift of Aikido we joyfully shared with each other. This brand of "proficiency" is one I unconditionally embrace, and wholeheartedly accept as fully sufficient and appropriate.

The Founder did realize that his journey was most unique, even amongst the select complement of exceptional "shugyosha" of his time. He was willing to pay whatever price such a commitment demanded, and did indeed pay a high price. By doing so, he also accepted both the positive results and achievements, and the oftentimes grievous consequences, with the same spirit of equanimity. It was never his stated intention that those most talented and skilled of his students, be required or otherwise coerced into following his personal path, either in whole, or even in part. He remained consistently clear that the Aikido he called his, was his alone. Anyone else had to independently research the Aiki Principles Library on their own, painstakingly select those elements they were willing to incorporate into their study, and thus create their own unique formulas, and their very own Aikido.

Even as Aikido has enjoyed a huge proliferation of popularity, acceptance, and well earned acknowledgement over the decades, it remains my belief that all committed students of the Founder's Aikido, of all stripes and affiliations, remain connected, at some level, to one another in Aiki history and tradition, maintaining respect for each other's right to choose a "style" of practice, and to remain committed to a continuing brotherhood, affirmed by our individual, and very unique application of Aiki principles to our respective lives.

Perhaps it is time for the current "student body" of Ueshiba Aiki, to "get real", and to acknowledge that our seeming differences of understanding, methods of training and application of our craft, and beliefs in our teachers, philosophies and in ourselves, do not really divide us. Rather, we can now appreciate having a much larger "playing field" on which we can all continue to develop individually, and to meet on occasion, to develop and expand our love and deep appreciation of the Founder's vision, mission and dreams, together.
Francis Takahashi was born in 1943, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Francis began his Aikido journey in 1953, simultaneously with the introduction of Aikido to Hawaii by Koichi Tohei, a representative sent from Aikikai Foundation in Tokyo, Japan. This event was sponsored by the Hawaii Nishi System of Health Engineering, with Noriyasu Kagesa as president. Mr. Kagesa was Francis's grandfather, and was a life long supporter of Mr. Tohei, and of Aikido. In 1961, the Founder visited Hawaii to help commemorate the opening of the new dojo in Honolulu. This was the first, and only time Francis had the opportunity to train with the Founder. In 1963, Francis was inducted into the U.S. Army, and was stationed for two years in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second instructor for the fledgling Chicago Aikido Club, succeeding his childhood friend, Chester Sasaki, who had graduated from the University of Illinois, and was entering the Air Force. Francis is currently ranked 7th dan Aikikai, and enjoys a direct affiliation with Aikikai Foundation for the recommending and granting of dan ranks via his organization, Aikikai Associates West Coast. Francis is the current dojo-cho of Aikido Academy in Alhambra, California.
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Old 03-15-2010, 12:32 PM   #2
Kevin Flanagan
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Re: Proficiency and Aikido

Thank you ,Takahashi sensei, for your wise words.

I would send this to every akidoka I know. there is entirely too much lack of respect among us.

My sempai illuminate the path forward. I hope that I can cast a little illumination for my kohai. this is enough. It is a great deal.

Kevin Flanagan
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Old 03-15-2010, 01:01 PM   #3
Shannon Frye
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Re: Proficiency and Aikido

Very nice perspective and thought.

"In the end there can be only one"

www.AikidoFellowship.com
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Old 03-15-2010, 01:13 PM   #4
SeiserL
 
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Re: Proficiency and Aikido

Osu Sensei,

As you know, I have trained with many teachers and many styles. Each "proficient" in their own way.

I would agreed, in an age of individuality and differences, we are more alike. This sameness allows us to connect.

Perhaps we need to practice the principles in our thinking as well as moving our bodies on the mat.

As always, thank you for your guidance.

Very glad you are here.

Rei, Domo.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 03-15-2010, 01:32 PM   #5
Russ Q
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Re: Proficiency and Aikido

Thank you Sensei!

Well said. As aikidoka and humans.....we are more alike than we are different. I'm glad you have reminded us of this fact.

With respect,

Russ Qureshi
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Old 03-15-2010, 07:07 PM   #6
Susan Dalton
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Re: Proficiency and Aikido

Thank you for writing this column.
Susan
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Old 03-19-2010, 04:47 AM   #7
crbateman
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Re: Proficiency and Aikido

Thank you, Sensei, for "putting it out there". You have certainly offered some thought-provoking material. Your desire to see mutual respect and observance of the Founder's principles between various ryu is a noble one, and I can see the genuine desire to do so at many "bridge" gatherings nowadays. That said, there is still much work to be done, and much pride and tension to be put aside. I'd like to think we're up to the task. After all, isn't blending at the very core of what we do?
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Old 03-19-2010, 11:22 AM   #8
aikishihan
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Re: Proficiency and Aikido

Thank you as well, Bateman Sensei, for being an invaluable voice of conscience for all things Aiki, and for the greater Aikido community.

I agree that much work remains to be done, not necessarily to correct any mistakes of the past, but to remain focused, as a collective identity, towards exposing more and more of the Founder's vision and understanding of the benefits of Aiki research, and of his Aikido, to current and future generations of faithful students.

When two warriors have their hands clasped in mutual respect and in friendship, they are not able to reach for their weapons. By maintaining this connection, they best exemplify the spirit of Aiki, and the true intent of traditional Budo.

It is only when this connection is broken, do the ramifications of distrust, misunderstandings, ignorance, twisted egos, and the desire for short sighted gains result in violence and conflict.

As long as we resolve to maintain our connections with one another via the Founder's teachings and example, we may continue to enjoy discovering what treasures and benefits emanate from working together, regardless of affiliations, identities and "styles".

This is my dream, and this is why I roll.
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Old 03-20-2010, 05:01 AM   #9
L. Camejo
 
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Re: Proficiency and Aikido

Quote:
"Proficiency", which will always be a key goal of training, is not, nor should ever be a part of any conversation regarding any evaluation or comparison of the Aikikai Foundation's system of Aikido, with those of any other Aikido system developed consistently with the Founder's Aikido. For all such systems, the fact of proficiency in their own respective applications, is a given,
I have 2 questions on this section of the article:

1) I was unaware that there was an "Aikikai Foundation's system of Aikido". The impression I got from pretty much all of the Aikikai instructors I have trained with is that they are linked directly to the Aikikai Hombu dojo and Doshu in some form or fashion, but the range and variety of training was different under each instructor, even to the point where the definition of Aikido itself was varied among instructors of the same dojo. My question is how does this represent a "system of Aikido"? I had the impression that the Aikikai was an overseeing body with the particular system or style of training being defined by the local instructor, shihan or regional organization. In other words there is no visibly identifiable "Aikikai style" of Aikido per se, but there is an Aikikai organization that acts as a centralizing body for all the instructors within its purview. Please clarify.

2) "For all such systems, the fact of proficiency in their own respective applications, is a given". Imho the definition of Proficiency indicates competence, i.e. an ability to do. Are you saying that this competence is automatically given (i.e. to be assumed) in all systems that adhere to the Aikikai foundation's goals etc.? My question is then, if proficiency relates to "the quality of having great facility and competence", as per the linked definition, how is this quality measured and maintained?

Best regards
LC

--Mushin Mugamae - No Mind No Posture. He who is possessed by nothing possesses everything.--
http://www.tntaikido.org
http://www.mushinkan.ca
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Old 03-20-2010, 05:15 PM   #10
aikishihan
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Re: Proficiency and Aikido

Hello Larry,

First of all, thank you for two great questions, the scopes of which I would dearly love to be answered in turn by established individuals, both in Aikikai Foundation’s community, and by those who are familiar with Aikikai Foundation’s purpose and policies. Perhaps Jun would like to split these two questions into threads for all to review and to participate meaningfully.

Where to start with my imperfect and incomplete understanding of all this.

The Aikikai Foundation is formally known as Hombu Dojo, World Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. It is the home base for the Zaidan Hoojin Aikikai, encompassing all affiliated dojos in Japan. It is also the home base for the International Aikido Federation, with the illustrious Peter Goldsbury as chairman. Peter would be an excellent source for much of this discussion.

Over the decades, the late Doshu oversaw an unbelievable expansion of Aikido instruction and influence worldwide. Beginning with the assigning of former direct students of the Founder to foreign countries who formed fledgling organizations with direct ties to Headquarters, to the present, with a plethora of direct and indirect affiliations with Headquarters from all over the world.

This history of expansion must be considered entirely separately from the subsequent development of organizations formed by former students of the Founder, and, in many cases, former shihan from Aikikai Foundation. I will defer to the current leaders of these organizations to appropriately and correctly define their origins, goals and accomplishments.

When the term “Aikikai affiliated” is applied to organizations and individuals, such as myself, it merely refers to a nebulous kind of “identity”, connecting us with Aikikai Foundation in a rather inclusive, vs. exclusive arrangement. Aikikai Foundation has never been “an overseeing body” for its far flung membership, lacking the structure, expertise, or even the will to enforce any real or effective standard of uniformity of style, definition or working philosophy. Each and every affiliated organization, dojo and student are members by proclamation, rather than by any rigid, bureaucratic structure. We are pretty much left to ourselves to train, transmit and to represent the teachings of the Founder of Aikido, without censorship, official guidance or consequences for independent behavior. We are held accountable essentially by our own standards of behavior, our own sense of honor, and by the connection to the Founder’s Aikido, the Ueshiba family, and wirh those Aikikai certified instructors we choose to align ourselves with at any moment in time.

The Aikikai Foundation is not “a centralizing body for all the instructors within its purview”, since no such system was ever put in place. The late Doshu must have realized that it would prove futile to even try. The International Aikido Federation was formed, in part, to address this seeming defect, but to date has not been successful, to put it kindly. Each Shihan IS his own teacher. Proper respect was always reserved for anyone with the name Ueshiba, and it remains in effect today. Respect and allegiance to personal mentors and instructors are strictly up to the student to decide, and to change when the need arises.

You mention training with various Aikikai trained Shihans. Did you notice how different they each are or were? My recollections of training at Hombu Dojo, as well as at outlying dojos in Japan, reinforced for me that there were no identifiable or enforceable standards of instruction, philosophy or allegiance, other than arbitrary references to “the Founder and his Aikido”.

When I mentioned that the notion of “proficiency” was a “given”, amongst the organizations, I meant it in the largest sense possible. Various definitions abound on the internet, but the one I quote here states that proficiency is the “state of being proficient; advanced in the acquisition of any art, science or knowledge.” It is “skillfulness in the command of fundamentals deriving from practice and familiarity, with practice greatly improving proficiency.”. With these definitions alone, I would confidently state that the adepts from each of the organizations having ties to the teachings of the Founder, are proficient. It is not up to me to “qualify, endorse or otherwise certify” any of the countless practitioners of any legitimate form of Aikido. I am not qualified to attempt it.

You also appear to mention “competence” as being a necessary attribute and prerequisite for those who train effectively in martial arts, and Aikido in particular. Doesn’t this beg the question of “competent doing what?” The definition that works for me states that “competence…..is the ability to do something well, measured against a standard, especially ability acquired through experience or training.”. I would not deign to question that these organizations have deficient “standards” for their faithful devotees and established instructors, would you? I see the majority of sincere students of the martial arts, and of Aikido, as having the quality of being adequately or well qualified for the style or training they commit to. I remain very comfortable with allowing each honest seeker of Aiki truths to define for themselves, how competent and proficient they need and want to be.

I apologize for the length, and the mixed content of my response. It is my sincere hope and wish that we can continue our exciting dialogue, and to humbly learn from the revelations and perspectives to come.

Again, thank you for these great questions, that surely deserve a far wider and deeper scrutiny than is possible with this blog.

In oneness,

Last edited by aikishihan : 03-20-2010 at 05:21 PM.
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Old 03-29-2010, 03:46 AM   #11
Alister Gillies
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Re: Proficiency and Aikido

There are organisations affiliated to Hombu who explicitly refer to themselves as promoting and teaching 'Aikikai' style Aikido. Not only do they clearly state this, but they also do not recognise the qualifications of practitioners, often with many years of experience, from other styles in any formal way. To reinforce this non-acceptance, they cite Hombu as the originator of this discriminatory policy.

In any other field of human endeavour transferrable skills are respected, as is diversity and equality of opportunity. Why not Aikido?

In many Aikido organisations what seems to be in operation is blatant discrimination, monopoly politics, and a lack of respect for diversity, equality of opportunity and the hard work and commitment of practitioners from other styles.

This seems, by any reasonable standards, short sighted, divisive and in flagrant contradiction to the principles of Aiki. Could this be anything other than bad for Aikido?

Some styles have the appearance of a democratic strucure, but when push comes to shove they're really autocratic and appeal to the Japanese 'vertical' model to legitimate their undemocratic practices. They are models of 'thinly disguised' self-interest. Others are blatantly and uncompromisingly autocratic, usually quite powerful and completely impervious to change.

Most organisations in the real world cannot successfully operate in this way, and in most case are prohibited by law from doing so.

Isn't it time that people in Aikido woke up to the fact that blinkered self interest will result in little more than increased fragmentation and arrogant isolationism? Many people are already leaving Aikido because of the character and nature of its politics. Reciprocity and mutuality lead to improved learning opportunities, close that down and limitations appear everywhere. People will naturaly vote with their feet.

If the 'aiki' in Aikido does not extend beyond the dojo it is limited in every way. It fails to honour the life work of the founder, serves only to pay 'lip service' to his principles, and paves the way for the sort of hypocrisy that many of us started Aikido to escape.

Last edited by Alister Gillies : 03-29-2010 at 03:49 AM.
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Old 03-30-2010, 04:15 AM   #12
sakumeikan
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Re: Proficiency and Aikido

Quote:
Alister Gillies wrote: View Post
There are organisations affiliated to Hombu who explicitly refer to themselves as promoting and teaching 'Aikikai' style Aikido. Not only do they clearly state this, but they also do not recognise the qualifications of practitioners, often with many years of experience, from other styles in any formal way. To reinforce this non-acceptance, they cite Hombu as the originator of this discriminatory policy.

In any other field of human endeavour transferrable skills are respected, as is diversity and equality of opportunity. Why not Aikido?

In many Aikido organisations what seems to be in operation is blatant discrimination, monopoly politics, and a lack of respect for diversity, equality of opportunity and the hard work and commitment of practitioners from other styles.

This seems, by any reasonable standards, short sighted, divisive and in flagrant contradiction to the principles of Aiki. Could this be anything other than bad for Aikido?

Some styles have the appearance of a democratic strucure, but when push comes to shove they're really autocratic and appeal to the Japanese 'vertical' model to legitimate their undemocratic practices. They are models of 'thinly disguised' self-interest. Others are blatantly and uncompromisingly autocratic, usually quite powerful and completely impervious to change.

Most organisations in the real world cannot successfully operate in this way, and in most case are prohibited by law from doing so.

Isn't it time that people in Aikido woke up to the fact that blinkered self interest will result in little more than increased fragmentation and arrogant isolationism? Many people are already leaving Aikido because of the character and nature of its politics. Reciprocity and mutuality lead to improved learning opportunities, close that down and limitations appear everywhere. People will naturaly vote with their feet.

If the 'aiki' in Aikido does not extend beyond the dojo it is limited in every way. It fails to honour the life work of the founder, serves only to pay 'lip service' to his principles, and paves the way for the sort of hypocrisy that many of us started Aikido to escape.
Hello Alistair,
I find you comments very interesting and thought provoking.
Aikido in itself [the Art that is ] is not the guilty party .The guilty parties are the people who engage in this sort of behaviour.
As you say if people only pay lip service to O Sensei's life work
and fail to train in BIG AIKIDO[ how we act outside the dojo] we face a dire future.Hope you are well.
Thanks, Joe.
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Old 03-30-2010, 11:30 AM   #13
Alister Gillies
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Exclamation Re: Proficiency and Aikido

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Hello Alistair,
I find you comments very interesting and thought provoking.
Aikido in itself [the Art that is ] is not the guilty party .The guilty parties are the people who engage in this sort of behaviour.
As you say if people only pay lip service to O Sensei's life work
and fail to train in BIG AIKIDO[ how we act outside the dojo] we face a dire future.Hope you are well.
Thanks, Joe.
I am glad that someone has replied - thanks for your comments. I was sent this the other day, and include it mainly to add emphasis to what has already been said, or intimated by others.

Heaven and Hell
A tale from China

A curious man once asked to visit heaven and hell. Expecting hell to be a terrible, frightening place, he was amazed to find people seated around a lovely banquet table. The table was piled high with every delicious thing one could possibly want. The man thought, Perhaps hell is not so bad after all.
Looking closely, however, he noticed that everyone at the table was miserable.
They were starving, because, although there was a mountain of food before them, they had been given three-foot-long chopsticks. There was no way to carry the food to their mouths with such long chopsticks, and so no one could eat a bite.
The man was then taken to heaven. To his surprise, he found the exact same situation as he had seen in hell. People were gathered around a banquet table piled with food. All the diners held a pair of three-foot-long chopsticks in their hands. But here in heaven, everyone was happily eating the delicious food, for the residents of heaven were using their extra-long chopsticks to feed one another.
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Old 03-30-2010, 07:30 PM   #14
Rob Watson
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Re: Proficiency and Aikido

I read this and had an image appear to me of the founder as the sun. Those that stand between us and the sun cast a great shadow. There is comfort in the shade of the shadow and we know the sun is there by the edge of the shadow. Many are happy to remain in the comfort of the shadow. To stand unprotected in the full blaze of the sun can be too much to bear for very long so we scurry back to the shadow (maybe a different shadow than before). Few can stand unflinching in the face of the sun and in turn cast a great shadow.

Just an image to provoke thought and nothing more. Feel free to substitute a founder of your choice.

"In my opinion, the time of spreading aikido to the world is finished; now we have to focus on quality." Yamada Yoshimitsu

Ultracrepidarianism ... don't.
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Old 03-31-2010, 09:40 AM   #15
David Board
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Re: Proficiency and Aikido

Quote:
Robert M Watson Jr wrote: View Post
I read this and had an image appear to me of the founder as the sun. Those that stand between us and the sun cast a great shadow. There is comfort in the shade of the shadow and we know the sun is there by the edge of the shadow. Many are happy to remain in the comfort of the shadow. To stand unprotected in the full blaze of the sun can be too much to bear for very long so we scurry back to the shadow (maybe a different shadow than before). Few can stand unflinching in the face of the sun and in turn cast a great shadow.

Just an image to provoke thought and nothing more. Feel free to substitute a founder of your choice.
It's Turtles all the way down.

Please forgive my irreverence.
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Old 03-31-2010, 01:29 PM   #16
aikishihan
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Re: Proficiency and Aikido

Genuine masters, geniuses, leaders and charismatic mentors are few and far between. Such is the way of Nature to not overburden the world with too many movers and shakers at any one time.

It is truly Nature's gift when we do encounter one who can "stand unflinching in the face of the sun and in turn cast a great shadow".

This does not lessen, or in any way denigrate the role and value of the vast majority who "remain in the comfort of the shadow" of such greatness.

I, for one, am grateful for the privilege of walking and learning in the shadow of great people, as this represents how Aiki really works for me.

If this is the extent of my proficiency in Aiki and Aikido, I am content.

Last edited by aikishihan : 03-31-2010 at 01:31 PM.
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