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Old 06-25-2002, 02:52 PM   #1
akiy
 
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Surpassing the Founder's Skill Level

Going through some of the older AikiWeb Polls here...

"Do you think Morihei Ueshiba O-sensei's skill level in aikido will ever be surpassed?"

(Results here.)

What are your thoughts?

-- Jun

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Old 06-25-2002, 03:54 PM   #2
JMCavazos
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I would venture to say "yes". Why? - Well, it's easier to build from or tear down something that is already built. The difficult part of anything is building it from scratch, with nobodys help and nobodys guidance.

Many times, the originator is looked upon as untouchable, but in reality it may not work out that way.

I played basketball in the "good old days". I never thought there would be another Julius Erving - then came Michael Jordan. I never thought there'd be another Michael Jordan - then there's Kobe Bryant. Never thought there'd be another Wilt Chamberlain - then there's Jabbar now there's Shaq.

I think the same could apply to aikido.

Just my thoughts. For me, I am just hoping to be that best that I can be and try not to campare it to anybody else's aikido.
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Old 06-25-2002, 04:02 PM   #3
Marc McIntyre
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I honestly do not beleive that any of us living will ever understand aikido enough to surpass the founder.

Mainly due to the fact I think aikido is more philosophy and the technique only gets you to a point of understanding, not one of mastery. I think that O'sensei never performed a technique. I believe his entire state of mind was the technique. And his actions weren't techniques at all....
Just some thoughts....


Marc
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Old 06-25-2002, 05:39 PM   #4
Paula Lydon
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Of course, as that is the nature of things; increase or decrease. Each successive generation will make advances built upon the current foundation. I consider the many changes that Ueshiba Sensei and his fledgling art went through from the time he left Daito-ryu Aikijujitsu and the time of his death. It seems that's why we have varying styles coming from his personal uchi deshi, depending upon how much of his current teaching they could internalize and at which point of O-sensei's developement they broke off on their own. You see Tomiki Aikido and you see Ki Aikido. I think the idea is wonderful as it means Aikido is a living art!

~~Paula~~
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Old 06-25-2002, 05:41 PM   #5
Erik
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Quote:
Originally posted by JMCavazos
I would venture to say "yes". Why? - Well, it's easier to build from or tear down something that is already built. The difficult part of anything is building it from scratch, with nobodys help and nobodys guidance.

Many times, the originator is looked upon as untouchable, but in reality it may not work out that way.

I played basketball in the "good old days". I never thought there would be another Julius Erving - then came Michael Jordan. I never thought there'd be another Michael Jordan - then there's Kobe Bryant. Never thought there'd be another Wilt Chamberlain - then there's Jabbar now there's Shaq.
I think it's worse than that. I think if we took the players and moved them forward to today very few would even make the NBA and probably none would make it as they were.

Frankly, I think the standard of performance at all levels is higher today than it was in O'Sensei's time. Unless the black belt came in experienced from another art, and they didn't ALL do that, I doubt very much that the 1 or 2 year journey produced the same competence our 5 year plus journeys do. Most of us have a minimum of 700 training days (took me 5 years and I did more than 150 days/year) on the mat and 1600 to 2000 hours of mat time when we make shodan. Say what you want, but I'm comfortable that few folks managed anything close to that in terms of training time within 2 years much less one.

If the rest of us get better, there's reason to expect it to get better at the top as well.
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Old 06-25-2002, 08:57 PM   #6
virginia_kyu
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I think it's very unlikely anyone will surpass O'Sensei's skill level.

To surpass him you would have to:

1) Have the same very extensive martial arts background he had before starting Aikido.

2) Have a firm grasp on all the martial arts principles that all Aikido techniques were built on.

3) Have the same remarkable talent he was born with.

It might be possible but I would not hold my breath waiting for another O'Sensei.

-- Michael Neal
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Old 06-25-2002, 11:18 PM   #7
Edward
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I think that it is easy to surpass Osensei if you've got the right amount of talent, passion, dedication, spirituality, obsession...

What is amazing about Osensei is that he continued his passionate training untill the last day of his life, not worrying so much about teaching but rather concentrated on improving his aikido even at the age of 86.

However, I have not seen anyone yet with the right amount of the above qualities, not even the famous Uchi Deshi. The only one I believe was technically close enough to Osensei's level is Shioda Gozo Sensei, but this is my personal opinion....
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Old 06-26-2002, 03:17 AM   #8
PeterR
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by Edward
However, I have not seen anyone yet with the right amount of the above qualities, not even the famous Uchi Deshi. The only one I believe was technically close enough to Osensei's level is Shioda Gozo Sensei, but this is my personal opinion....
Based on what Edward? I mention that not in a contradictory sense but to acknowledge the absolute difficulty of making that sort of judgement. At what age do you compare, what do you look for? Do you know what to look for?

I remember when I had done Aikido for a couple of years and I saw a video of Nariyama at the All Japan Aikido Demonstrations. I asked, knowing nothing, if it was a contest. The reply was quite telling - "who is going to judge him?".

So to the point at hand. I think it is safe to say that while Ueshiba M. was alive he embodied Aikido - you could not surpass him as he was the centre. Technical knowledge of what? Tomiki was probably far better versed in jujitsu generally, Shioda studied with other Daito ryu teachers so his technical ability in that sphere was probably higher or more rounded. Tomiki kicked buttock in shiai, Shioda's big demo was embu where he did not compete against other student's of Ueshiba. I have heard several people in the know say Inoue (the nephew) was better than Ueshiba M. but again in what respect? I think the question really is quite silly.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 06-26-2002, 04:58 AM   #9
Sam
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To be honest, I don't have the fogiest whether Ueshiba.M was any good. I have read about his achievements, but an objective viewpoint seems to be lacking. I even have a video, but how can I judge whether it is amazing technique or amazing ukemi?

Of course I must assume he was, or aikido would not exist in its present form.
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Old 06-26-2002, 05:17 AM   #10
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wow

Wow thats all i can say i mean he lived to be 86 he had brittle bone desease and he never lost a fight in his like (the last bit may be a little white lie but i choose not to beleive that)

he invented Aikido that is a tough challange to meet the only way i would think you could surpass him is if you became maybe a 6-10nth dan and actualy took aikido to a different level by re-inventing it actualy creating another martial art because that is effectivly what morihei ueshiba did he took all of his knowledge and he created something from it that is indeed amazing.
pete

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Old 06-26-2002, 06:32 AM   #11
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I thing one day someone will come along and surpass the founder, but the Time would have to give birth to such a person. I think now is not such a time.

Waiting for the Second Coming of the Aikido Messiah.


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Old 06-26-2002, 06:39 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sam
To be honest, I don't have the fogiest whether Ueshiba.M was any good. I have read about his achievements, but an objective viewpoint seems to be lacking. I even have a video, but how can I judge whether it is amazing technique or amazing ukemi?

Of course I must assume he was, or aikido would not exist in its present form.
He was definitely, IMO, quite good, but that's based on my evaluation of and experiences with his students. I would think that it would be hard to produce some of the people that I've trained with without a high level of skill.

OTOH, I never met him (or many of the people that he would be theoretically compared to), so whether he was better than any other particular person is one of those unanswerable questions - kind of like "Who was better, Babe Ruth or Sadaharu Oh?".

Could anyone surpass him in skill? Sure, why not?

Best,

Chris

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Old 06-26-2002, 06:45 AM   #13
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Re: wow

Quote:
Originally posted by Genex
Wow thats all i can say i mean he lived to be 86 he had brittle bone desease and he never lost a fight in his like (the last bit may be a little white lie but i choose not to beleive that)
Yukiyoshi Sagawa paints a somewhat different picture of his skills. But that's something that will never be resolved now, since the principals are all dead.

More disturbing to me is the trend in martial arts (not just Aikido) to insist that someone, usually your instructor, the head instructor for your style, or the founder of the style, was the best/most/biggest whatever. I readily admit it - my instructors are far from the finest martial artists in the world. They are, however, quite good enough for me .

Best,

Chris

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Old 06-26-2002, 06:51 AM   #14
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Re: Re: wow

Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Li

More disturbing to me is the trend in martial arts (not just Aikido) to insist that someone, usually your instructor, the head instructor for your style, or the founder of the style, was the best/most/biggest whatever. I readily admit it - my instructors are far from the finest martial artists in the world. They are, however, quite good enough for me .
Well Said.
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Old 06-26-2002, 10:41 AM   #15
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Well, Peter, you're right, as usual



Quote:
Originally posted by PeterR

Based on what Edward? I mention that not in a contradictory sense but to acknowledge the absolute difficulty of making that sort of judgement. At what age do you compare, what do you look for? Do you know what to look for?

I remember when I had done Aikido for a couple of years and I saw a video of Nariyama at the All Japan Aikido Demonstrations. I asked, knowing nothing, if it was a contest. The reply was quite telling - "who is going to judge him?".

So to the point at hand. I think it is safe to say that while Ueshiba M. was alive he embodied Aikido - you could not surpass him as he was the centre. Technical knowledge of what? Tomiki was probably far better versed in jujitsu generally, Shioda studied with other Daito ryu teachers so his technical ability in that sphere was probably higher or more rounded. Tomiki kicked buttock in shiai, Shioda's big demo was embu where he did not compete against other student's of Ueshiba. I have heard several people in the know say Inoue (the nephew) was better than Ueshiba M. but again in what respect? I think the question really is quite silly.
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Old 06-26-2002, 12:05 PM   #16
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Possibly, because we have his teachings and students to learn from.

Not probable, because in this day and age its hard to find people as dedicate to the study and training.

But definetly, it won't be me.

Until again,

Lynn

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 06-26-2002, 03:28 PM   #17
Don_Modesto
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Re: Re: wow

Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Li


Yukiyoshi Sagawa paints a somewhat different picture of his skills.
Boy, is that a shoe waiting to drop, or what?!

Mr. Li, pray tell us, just what had Mr. Sagawa to say on the subject?

Thanks in advance.

Don J. Modesto
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Old 06-26-2002, 03:50 PM   #18
Chris Li
 
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Re: Re: Re: wow

Quote:
Originally posted by Don_Modesto


Boy, is that a shoe waiting to drop, or what?!

Mr. Li, pray tell us, just what had Mr. Sagawa to say on the subject?

Thanks in advance.
Sagawa's somewhat controversial, even in the Daito-ryu world. Still, there seems to be no question that he was one of Takeda's longest and most accomplished students - apparently he was asked to take over Daito-ryu in the event that Tokimune didn't make it through the war.

This is all based on Tatsuo Kimura's accounts of Sagawa's recollections in "Tomei na Chikara" ("Transparent Power"). Kimura was one of Sagawa's most accomplished students and continues the Sagawa Daito-ryu line. Anyway, Sagawa believed that when doing what in Aikido would be termed kokyu-ho you should be able to raise your hands no matter how strongly your opponent holds them down through the use of Aiki. Sagawa went to meet M. Ueshiba and talked him into letting him grab his hands, although Ueshiba apparently was reluctant to allow him to do so. According to Sagawa Ueshiba was unable to move his hands at all...

The story continues that Ueshiba found Sagawa interesting and invited him to instruct at Aikikai hombu (this was after the war), to which Sagawa agreed at the time but later changed his mind due to some negative comments about Daito-ryu that Ueshiba apparently made in a newspaper interview.

According to Sagawa Sokaku Takeda told him explicitly that he had not taught M. Ueshiba Aiki. This isn't as bad as it sounds, however, because according to Sagawa nobody really understood Takeda's Aiki except for Sagawa himself (that includes people like Kodo Horikawa and Takuma Hisa).

Sagawa was also there when Ueshiba first met Takeda and, according to him, Takeda threw Ueshiba so hard that he (Ueshiba) sat down in the corner crying.

Best,

Chris

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Old 06-26-2002, 05:23 PM   #19
Bruce Baker
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The Big Show ... quiet warriors

I am sure, that there will be many examples of people who are as great as O'Sensei, because if you look as his life, he was very supportive of his students, friends, and associates to become greater than he was touted to be.

Someday, there might be a person who is a very great practitioner and teacher of Aikido, he/she might be here today?

But if they are smart, they will ignore the limelight, and make quiet changes as they teach and train others to make a difference.

I know it isn't me, because I am here putting my 2 cents into the mix, but I know it is the hope of all teachers that their students will far excell their own efforts, and bring about a new harmony.

Sometimes, the great martial artist is not the showman who shows his/her superiority, but the students who follow, and the teachers who have proceded them .... quietly.
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Old 06-27-2002, 11:33 AM   #20
Don_Modesto
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Re: Re: Re: Re: wow

Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Li
Sagawa's somewhat controversial, even in the Daito-ryu world....
Fascinating post. Thank you very much.

Don J. Modesto
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Old 06-27-2002, 06:27 PM   #21
Tony-kun
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I beleive anyone can reach O'Sensei's level. I don't know about surpassing it, it could be possible. But I know O'Sensei had to learn to reach his power by himself using what he's learned and by learning more from other people and other things. His quotes basicly explain it all. He managed to clear all the roadblocks in his head which gave him the freedom to learn from all he can learn from and much more. If we can all do the same, which will most likely take alot of practice we can get there. But that's only my thoughts.
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Old 06-27-2002, 08:06 PM   #22
George S. Ledyard
 
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Reaching O-Sensei?

I do not believe that there will be anyone who surpasses O-Sensei. I think it extremely unlikely that there will be anyone who trains with the same fanatic dedication which characterized the Founder.

If you talk to any of the students of the Founder (with one notable exception I can think of) they uniformly say that they only understood a potion of what O-sensei knew. I know that those of us who have trained with the great Uchi Deshi feel the same way about our teachers. I will never have the chance to train as hard as Saotome Sensei did. I will be happy if I can attain a certain mastery of the principles he has taught us but I don't think I will have the time in my life to get to his level.

Part of attaining a high level is innate ability. Another part is fanatic dedication to training. But another important component is a great teacher who can guide you in your endeavor. O-Sensei had all three. I haven't seen many people that I believe will get up to the level of their own teachers much less up to O-Sensei's level. If there were to be someone who will exceed O-Sensei's ability, where will his or her Teacher come from?

Now this is ok. Every art has it's genius Founders and occasionally a great genius revitalizer. Just look at the Buddhist tradition. Periodically when practice started to degenerate a great teacher would come along to reinspire the practice of the masses of practitioners. So in a sense the non-exceptional teachers of the art are equally important in that they keep the tradition alive and pass it along until the next great Teacher arrives to reinvigorate the practice. It is our responsibility as teachers to try to pass on a form of Aikido that isn't another level of degeneration from our own.

Aikido may have gotten a bit watered down after the Founder and then again when his direct students passed it on to our own generation of teachers but the art can not afford another generation of teachers who do not measure up to at least our level.

In fact it should be the goal of all of us who are teaching right now to pass on what we know to at least a couple people who will be better than we are. Maybe they'll even hit the level of our Teachers, who knows.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 07-01-2002 at 06:48 AM.

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Old 06-28-2002, 04:31 PM   #23
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The following is kind of long, not of the finest grammar and sure to be a bit controversial in spots.

Going back to the basketball example. Whenever I see films of past greats they always seem to be making their shots. It's the strangest thing but when films of Wilt Chamberlain are being shown they never show him clanking a free throw and he was every bit as bad as Shaquille O'Neal who I see clank free throws all the time. No, I see him dunking, doing finger rolls and all kinds of exceptional things. I see Cousy doing behind the back passes, Jerry West tossing in 20 footers and Bill Russell blocking shots. Did these guys ever miss?

Fiction: Shaq sucks compared to Chamberlain. I saw it I know. He can't shoot free throws.

Reality: Shaq is more skilled than Chamberlain ever was. He's larger, stronger and would have made Chamberlain's life miserable. Bill Russell would have been obliterated by him.

And what happened to the guys who had names we don't remember? They certainly threw up bricks. I remember watching them. Some of those guys dented back boards. They were awful. How come we don't have any films of them?

So coming back to Aikido. When we view films of the greats such as Ueshiba, Tohei, Shioda, Tomiki and others we are seeing the best of the best. Remember that film of Ueshiba on the rooftop? In the background there are some white belts throwing people around. For some reason Stan Pranin hasn't released that video to the public yet. Think it would sell? I laugh when I watch those guys because they look exactly like every white belt I've ever seen.

Something else. When we see Ueshiba or whomever they always do this great stuff. They pretty much don't screw up and they shouldn't because they are pretty damn good. Ya know something though, there was a time when Ueshiba uke's spun out of shiho nage on him, he couldn't do that damn ikkyo technique and thought, "man I hope sensei doesn't work on irimi nage tonight, I just suck at that one." We never see those moments.

They sucked just as much as we do at some point in their progression. And certainly the average guy was every bit as average as our average guy or gal (something they didn't have much of).

I remember watching the shodan tests of two of my first teachers. I remember thinking I'll never match up to them. They must have never made any mistakes. When I saw that film it was a total relief. They looked like normal, newly minted shodans. There were 8 tests on that film and one poor guy got an uke change and got hit with a gorilla type. I don't think he did one decent throw. There was one test that looked kind of weak, another used a lot of muscle and so on. Nothing special whatsoever but woe unto the state of the aikido community today. It just didn't measure up to the past.

The first time I saw Frank Doran, Bill Witt and Bob Nadeau was at a dojo opening and it was really impressive. It's the only version of them I've ever known. I never saw them the first time they tried to do a sankyo or put on a hakama and tripped on it. All I've known is the version I've known. I can never catch up to it. If by some chance I did, they'd be gone anyway and I still would only have those mememories to compare with.

When we compare ourselves and our teachers today we should do it on a fair basis. Not the memory of perfection but the reality of what Ueshiba really was and our teachers at the same point in time in their training.

So back to the question at hand:

"Do you think Morihei Ueshiba O-sensei's skill level in aikido will ever be surpassed?"

Absolutely and it's probably already been done by more than one person. Whether we recognize it or not is another question entirely.

On a related note. I think if I were in the mood, I could make a good case that Ueshiba was not a terribly good teacher either. He's certainly been surpassed in my opinion on a teaching basis. He did produce outstanding students but is that because he was a great teacher, or, was it because his skill attracted great students and they achieved in spite of his random, unstructured and often difficult to understand teachings?

Finally, I'm not trying to detract from the man's accomplishments. I just don't buy into the idea that he'll never be passed. We've gone forward everywhere and in every discipline. We're going forward here as well.

Last edited by Erik : 06-28-2002 at 04:36 PM.
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Old 06-28-2002, 05:35 PM   #24
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I think there are two very different schools of thought here (without asking the same question Peter alluded to "who is going to test him?"). The first, and perhaps representative of the majority, stems from a messianic viewpoint, that there was a pure essence of teaching only given to a select few and that it is doomed to devolve through the ages. This is seen in religions throughout the world; these are the religious aikidoists. Ueshiba himself condoned this perspective, calling himself the reincarnation of a Shinto deity destined to bring about a new age of peace.
The second school of thought is less mystical, looking at Ueshiba as a genius who uncovered universal principles contained within the killing arts of feudal Japan. This attitude was perhaps influenced indirectly by Jigoro Kano's creation of "martial arts as education" and was more easily accepted than the long discourses given by Ueshiba on the Kojiki and Shinto cosmology. These are the scientific aikidoists, and they look more to uncovering the principles of the art than recovering some lost "golden age". (I happen to be part of this group.) The question, as Peter stated, is moot, unless you subscribe to one version of these attitudes more than the other. Then the question becomes very simple. The real question here is "will discussing Ueshiba Sensei's skill level bring about greater understanding of the nature and practice of Aikido?"
So let's discuss his skill level...
(Michael brought up some interesting points, so I would like to discuss those.)
Quote:
Originally posted by Michael Neal
1) Have the same very extensive martial arts background he had before starting Aikido.
His martial arts background before founding Aikido was 1. basic military training, 2. studying Judo (or Tenshin Shinyo, I forget) under a Kodokan yudansha, 3. several years as a personal student of Takeda Sensei. In other words, he did not have a pedigree of someone like Shimizu Takaji, one of his contemporaries.
Quote:
2) Have a firm grasp on all the martial arts principles that all Aikido techniques were built on.
Most of the time he discussed these principles as esoteric doctrine hidden within the Kojiki or other Shinto writings. His kancho (people like Tohei, Tomiki, etc.) normally codified all the principles so that they would work for everyone else. Ueshiba Sensei could do anything he wanted to, and it would be considered an aikido principle, his force of presence was so great.
Quote:
3) Have the same remarkable talent he was born with.
Don't forget that he was a sickly child, and that he overcame that with a lot of hard physical endeavor. Also don't forget he grew up as the son of a upper middle class man, he didn't have to work like most of us do. I think this factor, perhaps more than we would like to admit, is responsible for his "remarkable ability".

Jim Vance
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Old 06-30-2002, 10:32 PM   #25
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Can I ask a question? what exactly was the O-senseis skill?? I mean the people who have acually felt his skill are getting old and dying ( well that may be an exageration) but how exactly can we benchmark his skill.. with that asked, I believe 100% that it is possible that someone can surpass O-Sensei it most likly won't be me! but someone will come. and it aint a messiah of Aikido! ( in my opinion.)

Dallas Adolphsen
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