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Old 05-31-2011, 02:49 PM   #1
mathewjgano
 
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Shirata Rinjiro

In the recent training thread Shirata sensei was mentioned, and being that he's one of those guys who has always stood out to me, I decided to do some reading to refresh my memory. I found this very nice bit of reading on Aikido Journal and thought I'd share.

There are some very interesting things touched on by Nidai Doshu and the part by Seibi Yonekawa somehow got some dust in my eye.

I've also started rereading Aikido: Way of Harmony, by Stevens under the direction of Shirata Rinjiro. I remember really liking it before, so it will be interesting to look at it anew; a bit further down the line, as it were.

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 05-31-2011, 03:38 PM   #2
Allen Beebe
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
In the recent training thread Shirata sensei was mentioned, and being that he's one of those guys who has always stood out to me, I decided to do some reading to refresh my memory. I found this very nice bit of reading on Aikido Journal and thought I'd share.

There are some very interesting things touched on by Nidai Doshu and the part by Seibi Yonekawa somehow got some dust in my eye.

I've also started rereading Aikido: Way of Harmony, by Stevens under the direction of Shirata Rinjiro. I remember really liking it before, so it will be interesting to look at it anew; a bit further down the line, as it were.
Hi Matthew,

Thanks for posting this. I remember reading this the first time and being blown away. If one reads Nidai Doshu's words "Japanese Style" where the explicit text points to the, more significant *implied* message, what he wrote is (still) pretty astounding. What he wrote was significant either way, but the implication is what floored me. Not that it was news to anyone close to Shirata sensei, rather that Nidai Doshu stated it so clearly. It is probably cheeky for me to say so but, I gained a whole new level of appreciation for both men.

Yonekawa's words are, of course, very touching.

I keep this posted on the dojo bulletin board, so that I can stop and read it regularly. It is a nice reminder.

Once again, thanks!

Allen

I have this pinned next to the article as well BTW:

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.

William Shakespeare, "Julius Caesar", Act 2 scene 2
Greatest English dramatist & poet (1564 - 1616)

~ Allen Beebe
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Old 05-31-2011, 04:06 PM   #3
Ernesto Lemke
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Hello Matthew,

Thank you as well. (Al, you beat me to it, I was still writing when you posted).
Apart from reading Shirata Sensei's name here and there, there is really very little public information available. Over the years I posted requests on various boards in my search for more information on the man. Besides a tremendous amount of information, it got me in contact with some of the nicest and authoritive (in a budo sense) people. I never regret pursueing my interest.
Most of what I collected thus came through personal communication and is anecdotal by nature (though not all).

You may want to try Ellis Amdur's HIPS for some additional perspective on Shirata Sensei's weaponry. There is also a nice recollection by Saotome Sensei in an older aikido magazine the name of which escapes me.
But in English, that's basically all there is, though there are some interviews with John Stevens Sensei that provide information too.

It's a shame there is so little out there. Especially since the man left such a tremendous legacy behind that is so rich and width by nature , I seriously doubt whether in my lifetime as a budo amateur, I'll ever make it through. But I keep trying!
Best

Ernesto
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Old 05-31-2011, 05:25 PM   #4
Charles Hill
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Quote:
Allen Beebe wrote: View Post
I remember reading this the first time and being blown away. If one reads Nidai Doshu's words "Japanese Style" where the explicit text points to the, more significant *implied* message, what he wrote is (still) pretty astounding. What he wrote was significant either way, but the implication is what floored me.
Hi Allen,

Could you explain a little more on what you mean by "the implication"? I am guessing you mean the point that Shirata Sensei was dedicated to Kisshomaru Ueshiba rather than the Aikikai. Is that right? How are you taking that to mean?

Thanks,
Charles
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Old 05-31-2011, 07:39 PM   #5
Allen Beebe
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote: View Post
Hi Allen,

Could you explain a little more on what you mean by "the implication"? I am guessing you mean the point that Shirata Sensei was dedicated to Kisshomaru Ueshiba rather than the Aikikai. Is that right? How are you taking that to mean?

Thanks,
Charles
Hi Charles,

It is perfectly reasonable that you should ask that. I don't know if I can do your question service.

First of all, I'll point out that IMHO the ambiguity of the Japanese language allows for one to get one's meaning across sometimes in a very pointed way while a) allowing for a complete obfuscation/refutation of the original intent of the sentence or message by the end, if one discerns that impending doom is approaching. and, b) being imbedded in a structure of "plausible deniability" which is standardized and accepted. [This is just my opinion, but I suspect this is so due to the vary nature of the society in which the language developed. There needed to be escape valves and structured indirectness or the culture would implode. As a consequence one can be "told off" in a very artful and indirect way. In fact, one can receive the gravest of insults via a compliment. Or one can simply change ones original meaning for purposes of self (or other) preservation or simply be artfully (maddeningly) vague. ]

Secondly, I would prefer to copy the English translation and give my take on each line (Japanese would be even better I suppose, but I don't need the homework thank you very much!) . . . but I don't wish to step on anybody's toes, so I will refrain from doing that.

Third, it should be very clear that this is simply MY interpretation of a linguistic interpretation of a message that was knowingly delivered for public consumption so therefore would have been self-centured at the very least, under circumstances (death) that protocol would demand be handled with discretion and taste (further self-centuring).

With this third point in mind, I think it is remarkable that the Nidai Doshu chose to begin his memorial with the subject matter of the first paragraph. The second through fourth paragraphs would be much more the norm with the first and last paragraphs usually containing rather banal summations. Instead the following points are made, and in this order:

1. Shirata Shihan was one of the best of the Founder's deshi.
2. Shirata Shihan was faithful to the Founder (1st) and Nidai Doshu (2nd)
3. That faithfulness was of a personal order. (There was personal devotion to the father that necessitated faithfulness to the son. This was a product of Shirata sensei's relationship with his teacher, but also was, I am convinced, due to his family's relationship and involvement with Omoto Kyo, the Ueshiba family, and other highly influential personages involved in Daito Ryu and what was to become Aikido.)
4. That faithfulness wasn't invested in the organization of the Aikikai (and the the fine Way that it promotes.)
5. Shirata Shihan devoted himself to the WAY, not an organization.
6. Shirata Shihan was devoted to the FOUNDER (see point #2) and to the WAY, the WAY that the FOUNDER had established, as opposed to the organization (and the organization's Way!)
7. Due to this, (Shirata's personal devotion to the Founder and the Way the founder had established), he did much for Nidai Doshu and for Aikido.

These points may seem to contradict what is stated in the fourth paragraph, but I think not. I believe that that Nidai Doshu accurately claims that Shirata sensei hoped his actions of support for him and the organizational roll that he (Shirata) fulfilled, would bring, "respect to the founder, and in the end would lead aikido to correct and pure development."

Whether or not he felt that his hope was fulfilled in his lifetime I don't believe Shirata sensei expressed publicly for the very same reasons that he held offices in an organization he, according to Nidai Doshu, felt no personal devotion to and (it is my understanding) allowed himself to be censured by the son of his teacher while many of his peers (BTW, read the memorial again to see where Shirata sensei stood among his peers.) left to form alternate organizations with an outcome that produced (and this isn't a criticism, rather an observation) far more material and personal reward and recognition than Shirata sensei ever received while staying in "his own" organization, not to mention his juniors that came decades later.

Of course, one should keep in mind that I am speaking about my teacher so I am biased. I know for a fact that Shirata sensei would be terribly embarrassed by the boastfulness of my post. He was an incredibly humble man. But I tell myself that if Nidai Doshu can say that he was "one of the best" of the FOUNDER'S uchi deshi (read between the lines folks . . . there are uchi deshi and "the FOUNDER'S uchi deshi.") and "different from the present younger members and the post-war shihan." I stand in good company. I certainly agree with Nidai Doshu's last line. To my mind one of the greatest compliments that could be paid would be the simple statement, "He was a good man." He was!

Here is a quote that I think typifies my remembrance of Shirata sensei:

Patience and gentleness are power
Nothing is so strong as gentleness,
nothing so gentle as real strength.

Power is so characteristically calm,
that calmness in itself has the aspect of power,
and forbearance implies strength.

I think Shirata sensei was I silent giant within Aikido and worked selflessly and with great devotion to his teacher Ueshiba Morihei by practicing, preserving and promoting what he understood to be the WAY as established by the FOUNDER.

Thanks for asking,
Allen

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Old 06-01-2011, 01:47 AM   #6
Ernesto Lemke
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Wow Al, you never cease to amaze me. Thank you for posting this.
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Old 06-01-2011, 07:40 AM   #7
Charles Hill
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Thank you Allen, a very informative post.
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Old 06-01-2011, 12:25 PM   #8
Alberto_Italiano
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Quote:
Allen Beebe wrote: View Post

Here is a quote that I think typifies my remembrance of Shirata sensei:

Patience and gentleness are power
Nothing is so strong as gentleness,
nothing so gentle as real strength.

Power is so characteristically calm,
that calmness in itself has the aspect of power,
and forbearance implies strength.
Perhaps I am too susceptible to intellectual stimulation, and regrettably inclined then to read it through my own filters - for the good and wrong parts they may have both.

I think this Sensei, without any claim to speak on his behalf of course, was implying a thing that he did not state.
Because what he says is so true - but - but - but you don't begin with it, you arrive at it.

When you are in a fight, at first you are frantic and forceful. Only when the holistic experience of fighting as a phenomenon in itself is engraved into your mind as something composed of brutality, once you get acquainted with its night and thunder and its fire and flames - then you start mastering it.
Fire doesn't intimidate you any more. In any given situation, you not only have an arsenal of options, but you can foresee what is coming, becaus eyou know how the thunderstorm behaves.

then you are calm, you are self confident - you know that whatever an attacker may throw at you, you have been already there.
But, first, you need to have been there - many times.

Omniscience under fire comes only by a long attendance of fiery volcanoes.
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Old 06-01-2011, 12:30 PM   #9
Alberto_Italiano
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
In the recent training thread Shirata sensei was mentioned, and being that he's one of those guys who has always stood out to me, I decided to do some reading to refresh my memory. I found this very nice bit of reading on Aikido Journal and thought I'd share.
«Because of the severity and toughness of the training, our dojo was known as "Hell Dojo"»

Training emphasis?
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Old 06-01-2011, 12:43 PM   #10
scott.swank
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Look who Akira Tohei sensei had as the guest instructor at the 1984 Midwest Aikido Federation summer camp.

http://www.aikidonc.org/videos.html
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Old 06-01-2011, 01:43 PM   #11
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

I unfortunately only had the opportunity to meet and train with Shirata Sensei one time; at the IAF Congress in 1988.

He was an impressive individual both an and off the mat and it was a privilege to meet and interact with him in both situations. As people have said who know better than me he was a true giant of Aikido.
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Old 06-01-2011, 02:18 PM   #12
Ernesto Lemke
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

I apologize if the following request strikes anyone as tactless but may I ask those who ever met/saw Shirata Sensei whether they would be willing to share their experience either here or through PM (if you prefer).

My reasons for asking are not solely of a personal nature (though I'm driven by a personal desire of course).
Being part of such a small group of people working through Shirata Sensei's ‘curriculum' (for lack of a better word) we are also still very much in the process of trying to establish our own history, so to speak. Of course the outline is there, but as I mentioned before, there is very little material available in English and even in Japanese information is rather scarce, as are translators.

All help, any help would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 06-01-2011, 02:32 PM   #13
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Cool! I'm glad you guys enjoyed reading it as much as I did! Thank you for that post Allen! It put more clearly what I had a vague notion of. What primarily caught my eye was the distinction between the Way and the organization meant to support it, along with the intended purpose of the organization as being to spread the Way.
Nidai Doshu seemed to be suggesting it's natural for divergences, but as long as we remain dedicated to the learning of the Way, organizational issues tend to fall into the background, or perhaps even work themselves out.

Quote:
Alberto wrote:
Training emphasis?
Most definately!
One man's "hell" is another's "heaven."


Quote:
Ernesto wrote:
I apologize if the following request strikes anyone as tactless but may I ask those who ever met/saw Shirata Sensei whether they would be willing to share their experience either here or through PM (if you prefer).
Ditto! I believe an important measure of a person can be found in the impressions they leave on other people. Part of the reason I really liked the letter by Yonekawa-san was in how it described the impression(s) Shirata Shihan had on him.

Last edited by mathewjgano : 06-01-2011 at 02:45 PM.

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 06-01-2011, 02:37 PM   #14
Allen Beebe
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Just for clarity's sake, because I'm afraid that I wasn't clear at all, the quote:

Patience and gentleness are power
Nothing is so strong as gentleness,
nothing so gentle as real strength.

Power is so characteristically calm,
that calmness in itself has the aspect of power,
and forbearance implies strength.

Is not a quote of Shirata sensei. I found that quote 30 years ago (along with several others, at a moment of existential crisis), wrote it down and have kept it in my wallet ever since. Unfortunately I didn't write down the source.

Nevertheless, I do think it typifies my memory of Shirata sensei.
I agree with Alberto, and I think sensei would too, that the depth of strength and power that exudes gentleness, patience, gentleness and forbearance is quite often born of an equally severe "tempering" process.

However, I think it is VITALY important to note that heating and beating alone do not produce a cool, strong, sharp, high quality steel. One must start with base materials that possess the potential to be forged into something greater. An expert, experienced, careful guiding hand is required. One that knows the proper procedure required, timing of application and proper amount of force to be used to achieve the desired result. And even then, there is a lot of polishing to be done.

If hardship were the only requirement to produce the kind of strength that has the wisdom and compassion required to exhibit abiding patience, gentleness and forbearance, hell would be the greatest producer of Saints and Saviors. Last time I checked hell may vet the saints and saviors from the pretenders but it doesn't produce any.

Without wisdom and compassion, usually delivered in a form of skilled, forbearing guidance, hardship only serves to reinforce habituated interactions with perceived threats, force, and violence. Our habituated (natural) responses tend to be the least efficacious in dealing with these; in fact they tend to engender more fear, force and violence both within and without our beings.

One must rebuild from the roots up, so to speak, learning new mental/physical ways of being that are not yet habitual (natural) that DO serve to neutralize fear, force and violence both within and without our being and preserve balance.

This is process best takes place in a mental/physical environment that is both low stress and low threat because stress and fear, suppresses valid perception, and therefore sublimates new learning while calling out for, all to eager to respond, old habits. Over time, one can gradually grow into new mental/physical habits that become "natural." Over time, as one seeks to grow further one can welcome greater and greater amounts of mental/physical force, with that force actually serving to strengthen the new habits.

I'm guessing that Shirata sensei came to the Kobukan with "the right stuff." He also had a great teacher and the support of his family. He also had experienced "tempering," of more than one kind, to the extreme of which I am sure he would never wish for anybody to endure, but which never the less served to form his character no doubt.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out, that he pointed out that, yes, if one wants to be able to perform under duress one needs to train up to, or beyond, what one hopes to prepare for. BUT, duress is the training aid NOT the training.

Just for clarity's sake! ;-p

(Sorry if this post is hacked up. I'm in a rush. )

~ Allen Beebe
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Old 06-01-2011, 02:47 PM   #15
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Dang! Very nice! Thank you for that, Allen!!!

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 06-01-2011, 03:10 PM   #16
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Quote:
Allen Beebe wrote: View Post
Just for clarity's sake, because I'm afraid that I wasn't clear at all, the quote:

Patience and gentleness are power
Nothing is so strong as gentleness,
nothing so gentle as real strength.

Power is so characteristically calm,
that calmness in itself has the aspect of power,
and forbearance implies strength.

Is not a quote of Shirata sensei. I found that quote 30 years ago (along with several others, at a moment of existential crisis), wrote it down and have kept it in my wallet ever since. Unfortunately I didn't write down the source.
"Patience and gentleness are power" is attributed to James Henry Leigh Hunt.

"Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength." to St. Francis de Sales and

"Power is so characteristically calm, that calmness in itself has the aspect of power, and forbearance implies strength." to E G Bulwer-Lytton.

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Old 06-01-2011, 03:42 PM   #17
Allen Beebe
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Quote:
Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
"Patience and gentleness are power" is attributed to James Henry Leigh Hunt.

"Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength." to St. Francis de Sales and

"Power is so characteristically calm, that calmness in itself has the aspect of power, and forbearance implies strength." to E G Bulwer-Lytton.
Thanks!

Allen

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Old 06-02-2011, 05:09 AM   #18
Eric in Denver
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Quote:
Scott Swank wrote: View Post
Look who Akira Tohei sensei had as the guest instructor at the 1984 Midwest Aikido Federation summer camp.

http://www.aikidonc.org/videos.html
Wow, thanks for that link. I had always wondered if there were videos of that seminar. Has anyone seen them?
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Old 06-02-2011, 04:12 PM   #19
Ernesto Lemke
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

I have. I purchased them years ago. It appears as if Shirata Sensei didn't use an interpretor/translator which is actually very cool. Why? Because it didn't stop him from talking, in Japanese, to an almost exclusive non speaking japanese crowd. If anything, his enthusiasm for teaching/training comes across.
It's a very informative seminar, three tape set if I recall. It covers a lot of Shirata Sensei's approach, definetely worth buying (lest people start thinking I get paid for promoting this tape, I'm not).
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Old 06-02-2011, 05:02 PM   #20
Charles Hill
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

I also have them. They are excellent. I think they are a great bridge to understanding what is going on in the Way of Harmony book, which admittedly confused me at first.
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Old 06-02-2011, 05:31 PM   #21
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote: View Post
I also have them. They are excellent. I think they are a great bridge to understanding what is going on in the Way of Harmony book, which admittedly confused me at first.
Do you mean how to do the specific waza shown in the book or something else?

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 06-02-2011, 08:17 PM   #22
TomW
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Some of you may remember this conversation that occurred a while back on Aikido Journal, but I think it's worth re-posting. The whole conversation (on page 7) merits reading, but Ellis Amdur's anecdote (fourth post from the bottom) is particularly nice.

Tom Wharton

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Old 06-02-2011, 10:03 PM   #23
TomW
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Quote:
Tom Wharton wrote: View Post
Some of you may remember this conversation that occurred a while back on Aikido Journal, but I think it's worth re-posting. The whole conversation (on page 7) merits reading, but Ellis Amdur's anecdote (fourth post from the bottom) is particularly nice.
OOps, forgot to post the link

http://www.aikidojournal.com/forums/...5b26c4c9135e42

And, I'd also point out that, along with a wealth of information, Allen posts a nice anecdote by Meik Skoss, 8th post down.

Tom Wharton

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Old 06-03-2011, 03:23 PM   #24
Allen Beebe
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Just a word of caution:

Preamble: I recommend to anybody to look at videos of individuals that exhibit high quality. I think careful observation of such videos very beneficial.

Disclosure: The individual that first introduced me to Shirata Sensei also gave me my first video of Otake sensei (of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu.) I remember looking at that video and thinking "Wow! Now here is a man that knows how to use a Ken!" In fact, Otake sensei became, and remains, an archetypal image of martial quality (not just Ken) for me. Ask me what martial quality looks like and Otake sensei is one of the first images to pop into my mind.

I purchased and read "The Way of Harmony" before meeting Shirata sensei. Actually, when I first met him I didn't put "the guy in the book" together with "the guy I met" until after my return from Japan. (I consider the book is a treasure BTW, but I could never have learned technique from it in a way that would do justice to Shirata sensei. I doubt that Prof. Stevens or Shirata sensei intended for the work to be used in that manner.)

Soap Box (AKA Preaching to the Choir): I would never look at Otake sensei's video in an attempt to learn technique. First of all, what is publicly shown is, in all likelihood, not true KSR . . . or at least it is the "public face" of KSR and the most substantive and meaningful "face" of KSR is for KSR initiates not to be shared publicly. So I would essentially be studying their "cast offs."

Second, I have enough experience to know that one cannot learn meaningfully from video. I know that this is a generalization, but I think it true for all intents and purposes. One can, in some circumstances, use video to as a tool for recognition or as a reference for what one already knows.

Third, the stuff of greatest importance is the stuff that Video and books inevitably leave out, the "good stuff," the "real stuff," the "important stuff," left for oral transmission (Kuden: Allen's definition = I'll show you, make sure you feel what I want you to feel and then referent that experience with a name or verbal construct. In other words, I'll say, "You now know "it," (to some degree) "it" is called "X.")

If I were to copy technique from an Otake sensei tape, I am confident that most any KSR initiate could look at me doing my "KSR" and instantly know "That's not it!," even if I were copying a common public form.

Video and books are no substitute for hands on with the real thing. And "hands on" with the real thing is no substitute for "hands on "with the real thing and they want you to learn, know, and do what they do. (I think that is a very valid point in the context of Daito Ryu/Aikido BTW.)

Forth, one can have "hands on" with someone that is truly trying to transmit "it" and STILL not get "it," or at least not all of it clearly. This is why it is common to see disparity in the dojo or among students of the same teacher.

Bottom Line: Want to learn some new "moves" for taijutsu, kenjutsu, Jojutsu, etc. Look at a video or book of Shirata sensei. Better still; look at a video of his teacher or the antecedents of his teacher's techniques. Cool! You've got some new moves!

Want to learn what it was that enabled Shirata, Shirata's teacher Ueshiba, or Ueshiba's teacher Takeda to take "borrowed" techniques or inspired techniques and take on licensed experts of old established schools in free application? And better them? Better figure out the difference that MADE the difference.

I don't think THAT will come from a video or book. It didn't for them! ☺

If you are into techniques, why not do what experts have been doing for centuries? Join the koryu school of your interest and study hard!

As one student of Shirata sensei (and I certainly am not the person to have most exposure to Shirata sensei BTW, that would probably be someone virtually unknown) I'd say the best of what he had to teach can't be taught via video or book (Yeah, I know he approved the making of videos and a book.) nor in large seminars, nor via waza (although his waza was very cool especially the stuff he shared personally.)

I will say, he tried very hard to transmit what he learned, and I continuously discover that he was clear and explicit in instruction, . . . and I was/am just a bit dense.

~ Allen Beebe
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Old 06-04-2011, 01:52 AM   #25
Charles Hill
Dojo: Numazu Aikikai/Aikikai Honbu Dojo
Location: Three Lakes WI/ Mishima Japan
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 837
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Re: Shirata Rinjiro

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
Do you mean how to do the specific waza shown in the book or something else?
The specific waza/sword kata.

I certainly understand what Allen is talking about with his warning. I learned what I know from my time with John Stevens in Sendai and the book and videos make very nice reminders. The good thing about the videos is that they were taken from a MAF summer camp. Everyone there was a "beginner" in terms of Shirata Sensei's style. If I remember correctly, there is detailed instruction in how to sit and stand correctly.

What I learned was that what Shirata Sensei did was quite different from what everyone else was doing in the Aikikai. For me, the photos in the book were far from adequate in showing that. the videos are much better.
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