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A New Column:  It Had to be Felt
A New Column: It Had to be Felt
by Ellis Amdur
01-16-2012
A New Column: It Had to be Felt

There are incredible assertions made about who could do what in Daito-ryu and in aikido, and, for the most part, few on this forum have felt any of the people they are discussing. One may aver, however, that we have objective evidence: all the films on YouTube! What more do we need to make categorical assertions about their skills and their combative abilities?

The truth is that if we had films of Takeda Sokaku, we would not actually come to a consensus that he was as brilliant as so many claim. Some would claim that he was a fraud, others that he had dive-bunny uke, and still others that he burned incandescent, like a super-nova of internal power, coruscating among the blue dwarfs in the rest of the aiki-firmament. I must confess that I've seen films of some whom others call great, and I cannot, for the life of me, see what all the fuss is about. I've seen films of others or met them in person, and they are people of whom I stand in awe, yet others dismiss them outright.

So objective proof is not objective after all, is it?

Perhaps subjective truth has its place.

What I would like to propose is a kind of archive, one, as much as is possible in this anarchic environment, remains under my "control." Each column will start as follows, at least in the beginning. I will introduce a prominent figure in aikido with whom I studied. I will have a few words to say about the circumstances of my contact, and then I'll describe what it was like to take ukemi from them. This will, of necessity, include personal opinion of what happened, but the goal is "subjective objectivity," another word for which is phenomenology.

Here's where it may get difficult. The only people "allowed" to post after my introductory post about a teacher are others who have had DIRECT experience of taking ukemi from the same teacher, and these posters must hold themselves to the same standard of phenomenology. We don't have to agree: we merely have to make an attempt to be truthful. Furthermore, each poster is required to only post their experience. There should be no debate with another poster's account of taking ukemi from the same teacher. How about if we trust the reader(s) to evaluate these accounts on their own merits, rather than insisting, in demagoguery and polemic, that people must vicariously feel what you felt, or must believe your ideology about aikido or a specific teacher. In essence, there are three ground rules:
  1. Simply post direct experience of taking ukemi for a teacher.
  2. No back and forth with other posters, disputing their experience, or trying to prove why yours is more real.
  3. If, for any reason, you find something to praise or condemn in a description of taking ukemi from a teacher or wish to amplify your insights and perceptions, do so elsewhere. Start a thread about that subject in the appropriate section of Aikiweb.
The potential problem with this is the neighborhood -- and the neighbors. If someone describes their experience of a teacher as being, for example somewhat dependent on a colluding uke to make his or her performance possible, or "coarse grained," using muscle and collision to effect the technique, I have no doubt, this being Aikiweb, that someone will have to post an objection, in sweaty high dudgeon. I can envision the same sorry round of:
  • How dare you insult my precious teacher!
  • Aiki is love and the way you write isn't loving or, taking a more cosmic perspective, everything is love, so your hatefulness is actually loving whether you know it or not, you little bundle of aiki-love, you
  • Internal strength doesn't exist, and if it does, Osensei never used it. In fact, Osensei never used the term "aiki!"
  • The guy you just described doesn't use aiki, so even writing about him is a complete waste of our time.
  • How dare you insult me! (You weren't even mentioned, but that doesn't seem to stop anyone).
  • Rather than wasting time with that guy, you should train with so-and-so, who is a GOD in human flesh. When he touches you, you will feel the same tingle running up your leg that Chris Mathews used to feel about President Obama before the thrill was gone.
  • The statements here are a danger to na´ve people who will, after they read it, have their hopes of salvation shattered, will follow the wrong path, or possibly, explode, festooning their keyboard in gobbets of steaming flesh
  • You are a member of sensei's organization and you aren't allowed to think those thoughts
  • I just want to say that even though I'm not supposed to post, I want to share how good it is what people are doing, and I'm posting because I want you to know about my support. In aiki.
WOULD YOU ALL JUST SHUT UP!!!!

Whew. I'm sorry. I got a little emotional. I would simply like, for once, on this lovely and precious resource, that something good and true is not curdled like a fine glass of milk into which, sooner or later, someone just has to squeeze their lemon.

Consider Peter Goldsbury's columns. They, as works of research and he, as a man, show so much class and erudition that people treat them with respect. I would like to be part of something that, collectively, is treated the same way; thereby, for some time, even decades, the aikido community will have a resource in which people can, for example, look up and read what it was like to grab Tada Hiroshi or Kuroiwa Yoshio, all these wonderful teachers who are now gone, or whom you will perhaps have no chance to meet. There were giants on the earth in earlier days -- perhaps we can, at least, get a felt sense of what it was like to work directly with them through people's memories.

I must have taken ukemi for about fifteen or twenty of the greats, on somewhat of a regular basis for several years. As this is my column: I'll start with these people. If I have enough energy and time, I may offer start more than one thread a month. These accomplished, I will go on to other shihan, whom I haven't personally met. I will write to people whom I know studied with a teacher and whom I respect, and will ask them to get the ball rolling. Please don't send me an account about you and X sensei, before I start that column, because I don't want to care for tender egos if I don't think that teacher is someone I want to archive yet, or I don't think your description is a good way to start. (You can post later, to be sure, but maybe I'd like to set the scene in another way than you would like). On the other hand, I may do a shout-out at the end of a column, because I don't know anyone with the experience of a teacher I'm interested in. In that case, I'll ask you to send some accounts directly, and I'll post the one that, in my opinion, best suits as an introduction. Keep your copies, if you send me something, and you can post it yourself afterwards. I will not archive the ones I do not post, in such cases, as they will not be relevant to my responsibilities. Anyway, if you are in a hurry, there is all of Aikiweb to start your own threads.

If something troubles you about what someone wrote -- or thrills you, intrigues you, whatever -- once again, use the Aikiweb forums to start your own discussion on that subject, and include, if you like, my iniquity or scintillating character or anyone else's. I can imagine those reading this thinking, "What a control freak." Yep. But on the other hand, you've got all of Aikiweb to play in. You've got every building in the city to paint on, from graffiti scribbles to the finest of art. Can you just leave my one wall alone? That said, if anyone does have thoughts about the ideas for this upcoming column, that's what this month -- and this one alone -- is for.

I asked Jun if this could be moderated, by myself or by him, but he pointed out that what makes Aikiweb both ridiculous and sublime is its organic nature, that the only moderation should be concerning real transgression, as Jun, the owner defines it. He rules with a light hand, but rule he does, and as the king of this small domain, that is his right.

So, let us moderate ourselves. I think we can, collectively, establish an island of a particular order, like a Bach fugue, an interlude of formal rigor, in a club that usually plays everything from hardcore punk to bluegrass. On the other hand, if you, the graffiti writers, can't stand the open space and just have to scribble here, I'm simply going to ask Jun to take my column down. I do not want to participate in such rancid back-and-forth anymore.

We'll get started next month. I chose to lay down hard-core rules in a tone of whimsy. The whimsy was to amuse myself; the rules are serious. I will, however, be writing my accounts with various teachers in matter-of-fact descriptions. You too. We'll start with . . . .

Ellis Amdur is a licensed instructor (shihan) in two koryu: Araki-ryu Torite Kogusoku and Toda-ha Buko-ryu Naginatajutsu. His martial arts career is approximately forty years -- in addition to koryu, he has trained in a number of other combative arts, including muay thai, judo, xingyi and aikido.

A recognized expert in classical and modern Japanese martial traditions, he has authored three books and one instructional DVD on this subject. The most recent is his just released Hidden in Plain Sight: Tracing the Roots of Ueshiba Morihei's Power.

Information regarding his publications on martial arts, as well as other books on crisis intervention can be accessed at his website: www.edgework.info
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Old 01-16-2012, 09:07 PM   #2
Michael Hackett
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The Amdur Challenge

Ellis Amdur Sensei has proposed to create a wonderful resource in this month's column. His idea, his column, his rules. I think it will be of great interest to hear his views of particular luminaries and the views of others who have taken ukemi for them. Give it a go Sensei, you have the floor.

Michael
"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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Old 01-17-2012, 05:12 AM   #3
Alex Megann
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

A brave, but potentially fascinating, endeavour, Ellis!

I look forward with bated breath to reading the first entry.

Alex
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Old 01-17-2012, 06:59 AM   #4
Marc Abrams
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Ellis:

I heard from a number of sources, that if you were a Japanese student, depending upon which instructor you aligned yourself with, your "ukemi experience" could be predictable, based upon the pecking order of the major instructors and who you taking ukemi from. Did you observe this to be the case? Do you think that they treated Westerners differently in this respect.

Cordially,

marc abrams
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Old 01-17-2012, 08:38 AM   #5
phitruong
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

ooohhhh can't wait to read IHTBF. feel like a kid looking through the windows at the candy store.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
http://charlotteaikikai.org
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Old 01-17-2012, 09:18 AM   #6
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Ellis,

I'm also looking forward to this project. It will surely be interesting and informative. Lots of theory and conjecture galore in the history of budo forums, but stories and memories from first hand experience is wonderful.

Best regards,

C. Clark

Chuck Clark
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Old 01-17-2012, 09:28 AM   #7
Russ Q
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Great! Do we really have to wait til next month to start!?

Cheers,

Russ
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Old 01-17-2012, 09:31 AM   #8
phitruong
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
ooohhhh can't wait to read IHTBF. feel like a kid looking through the windows at the candy store.
did i mention there is now a puddle of drool? going to need a big bucket for this.

you know, this could be the title of the next book.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
http://charlotteaikikai.org
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Old 01-17-2012, 10:12 AM   #9
Janet Rosen
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Pulling up my chair to camp and out wait....

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 01-17-2012, 10:21 AM   #10
Ellis Amdur
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Mark - This is such a complicated question that I need to write a little essay on it alone.
You are my sensei
For a "traditional" student - and this can include a student studying a modern art such as aikido, to become a teacher's student implies a real commitment. This would be particularly true if I was the student of a teacher outside of a headquarters dojo (a modern anomaly of sorts), where a lot of instructors teach classes under the same roof. If, for example, I was Nishio Shoji's student, and I started going elsewhere - to other private dojos - I'd implicitly be saying that I already understood Nishio sensei's information and found someone else a better use of my time. There could be an exception if an instructor was especially respected or a friend. But then, my instructor should make an introduction. For example, Kuroiwa sensei personally brought me to Nishio sensei's dojo. We were late - Nishio sensei stopped class, and he and Kuroiwa sensei enchanged all sorts of pleasantries, and then Nishio sensei walked me back to the locker room to change. This was definitely NOT due to any merit on my part - it was because I was a "limb," so to speak, of Kuroiwa sensei, in this regard.
My Araki-ryu teacher was rather irritated with me when I referred to one of his contemporaries in Araki-ryu as "sensei," saying that I should only refer to HIS direct teachers as sensei. Similarly, I made one to many references to Otake Risuke of TSKSR said, and he looked at me and said, "You seem to be spending a lot of time with Otake-san." I said that I'd visited him twice in regards to my book (Old School). "Well, you sure seem to be talking about him a lot." In other words, why would I be talking about what some other guy - an enemy, in some respects - might be thinking, rather than paying attention to what my own teacher might offer me - unless, I was saying 1) Otake knew these things better than my teacher 2) I didn't see worth in what my teacher might say, so I was filling the air with something else to talk about. This would apply to a foreign student as well as a Japanese student, except that few foreign students - until recently - were in a position to be regarded as deshi. AND - often some allowances would be made for the mistakes, omissions, even rebellions that a foreign student might make.
My special position
Kuwamori Yasunori understood that I wanted to train with every aikido teacher I could, without it being disrespectful to him. So what he told me was to put Kuwamori Dojo - embroidered - on my hakama. Then, when I went to another teacher's school, the teacher wouldn't be put in a position that a) they didn't know who was I and why was I there. Would teaching me be poaching? In fact, I'd sometimes have an intro letter from Kuwamori. b) Because I was "taken," there was a clear message from Kuwamori that sending me to the other instructor was a mark of respect. I was well-taught. This was an incredible gift to me and one that many teachers wouldn't have the strength of character and ego to accept. It also - I think - was due to the adaptable nature of modern aikido. There are enough similarities amongst various styles (until one goes deep, so to speak) that allow a really focused student to train in various groups. The only way to accomplish this, however, is to drop your own ego at the door. What I did was essentially try to do exactly what each teacher was teaching, and then, back at my home dojo, allow it to sink in to my bones, developing my own personal style. At a certain point, however, I had far less need or interest in going to other teacher's classes, because I was paring down skills to conform to their different styles - or as Bob Dylan says, "You gotta serve somebody."
In fact, Yamaguchi sensei, after my nidan test, which he passed said to someone, "I don't like that fellow all that much, but I have to give him credit. He's way too big to do my style properly - but he's taken what everyone teaches him, and made a creditable method of his own."
What Kuwamori sensei did for me was quite unusual - at least at that time. Most instructors would be more jealous, perhaps, or would have regarded my travels as creating a jack of all trades and a master of none. At Iwama, for example, I don't think such behavior on my part would have been supported.
You shouldn't study with me
I asked Watanabe sensei of Honbu if I could visit his private training dojo and he refused. In essence (and he was kind enough to explain), he said that he liked teaching me, and if I started training with him on a more private basis, it would upset him if I didn't completely commit to him. So he preferred to work with me in the less intense circumstances of Honbu Dojo.
There are more ramifications to this. But there's a start.

Last edited by Ellis Amdur : 01-17-2012 at 10:24 AM.

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Old 01-17-2012, 01:41 PM   #11
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
Pulling up my chair to camp and out wait....
and popcorn.

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Old 01-17-2012, 07:48 PM   #12
Ellis Amdur
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Mark (Abrams) - I don't know if I fully answered your question. I had only a few minutes and wrote my reply quickly. In particular, this aspect:
Quote:
I heard from a number of sources, that if you were a Japanese student, depending upon which instructor you aligned yourself with, your "ukemi experience" could be predictable, based upon the pecking order of the major instructors and who you taking ukemi from
I don't quite understand what you mean here. Could you go into a little more detail and I'll see if I can address it.

Ellis Amdur

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Old 01-17-2012, 08:07 PM   #13
Marc Abrams
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
Mark (Abrams) - I don't know if I fully answered your question. I had only a few minutes and wrote my reply quickly. In particular, this aspect:

I don't quite understand what you mean here. Could you go into a little more detail and I'll see if I can address it.

Ellis Amdur
Ellis:

Thank you for your thoughtful, previous response. You were in a very unique position there and are able to share some experiences with us that few could have gathered. What I was referring to was what was described to me as differential treatment to the uke's depending upon who the teacher was and whom the uke was considered a student of. Some uke's were treated very roughly (some would say intentionally injured) by a teacher who considered that uke's principle teacher to be lower on the proverbial toughness totem pole. For example, Tohei Sensei was considered to be the alpha male of the pack and other major instructors appeared to be careful not to hurt students who were considered to be close students of his. That would certainly lead to some people describing their ukemi experiences as being different than others from the same instructor.

Regards,

Marc Abrams
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Old 01-17-2012, 09:04 PM   #14
Ellis Amdur
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Mark - that's very possible - but I think there'd be more exceptions than "rules." Some of the other teachers close to Tohei in seniority just weren't the hurtin' kind (I have no knowledge of Osawa sensei hurting anyone - but Kuroiwa sensei told a remarkable story where Tohei offended a very dangerous old swordsman, and Osawa sensei went alone in the man's dojo - with some of Nishio sensei's students waiting in the street, interestingly enough - to proffer apologies, prepared to accept whatever might come. Who was strong is always such an interesting question.

I can think of several of Tohei's peers, who wouldn't have cared a whit what he thought. The junior tough guy instructors, of course, would have cared a lot.

I think it is very possible that various instructors played out their own rivalries on the students of another, or used their student to do the same. I saw this, and I experienced it. I had one guy (in the Iwama system) try to break my arm, right in front of his own instructor, to establish that Iwama-style was better than what my teacher, Kuwamori, offered. I know that because that teacher spoke disparagingly of my teacher, even though he'd gotten a hand-written note requesting that I could train there. He did that in front of his <boy> and the attempt to break my arm happened right afterwards (literally, "let me show you something. This is the way we do shihonage. No, you don't have to take a break-fall. Just relax, it's SAFE!!" and at that word, he tried to bridge my arm and snap it. I knew he was going to do that, took the ukemi, came back in his face, and we had a ---discussion). Finished the class, never went back.

Pathetic stuff, really. But my experiences, by and large, were clean. I hope to do justice to those experiences, in the main, because that's what I mostly got - some of the best days of my life, with some of the best men I ever met.

Ellis Amdur

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Old 01-17-2012, 10:37 PM   #15
raul rodrigo
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

I can't wait....
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Old 01-17-2012, 10:39 PM   #16
raul rodrigo
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

I think of what Yamaguchi said of Ellis as the highest possible praise, because, really, how many of us can ever capture our teacher's movement? But all we can do is to take what we are given and try and construct "a creditable method of our own."
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Old 01-18-2012, 07:18 AM   #17
Marc Abrams
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
Mark - that's very possible - but I think there'd be more exceptions than "rules." Some of the other teachers close to Tohei in seniority just weren't the hurtin' kind (I have no knowledge of Osawa sensei hurting anyone - but Kuroiwa sensei told a remarkable story where Tohei offended a very dangerous old swordsman, and Osawa sensei went alone in the man's dojo - with some of Nishio sensei's students waiting in the street, interestingly enough - to proffer apologies, prepared to accept whatever might come. Who was strong is always such an interesting question.

I can think of several of Tohei's peers, who wouldn't have cared a whit what he thought. The junior tough guy instructors, of course, would have cared a lot.

I think it is very possible that various instructors played out their own rivalries on the students of another, or used their student to do the same. I saw this, and I experienced it. I had one guy (in the Iwama system) try to break my arm, right in front of his own instructor, to establish that Iwama-style was better than what my teacher, Kuwamori, offered. I know that because that teacher spoke disparagingly of my teacher, even though he'd gotten a hand-written note requesting that I could train there. He did that in front of his <boy> and the attempt to break my arm happened right afterwards (literally, "let me show you something. This is the way we do shihonage. No, you don't have to take a break-fall. Just relax, it's SAFE!!" and at that word, he tried to bridge my arm and snap it. I knew he was going to do that, took the ukemi, came back in his face, and we had a ---discussion). Finished the class, never went back.

Pathetic stuff, really. But my experiences, by and large, were clean. I hope to do justice to those experiences, in the main, because that's what I mostly got - some of the best days of my life, with some of the best men I ever met.

Ellis Amdur
Ellis:

Thank you for filling in some of the "greys" in that picture. I had a feeling that the rivalries within Aikido at that time were quite nuanced. I remember you talking about that experience before when we were talking at one of the expos. I am hopeful that your writing about your ukemi experiences will enable other people to publicly share their experiences as well. I know of an upcoming project that will enable some "private" stories to become public now that some of the players have passed away. This information, like the stuff that you will share, will hopefully widen the breadth of knowledge about that time period, particularly since we read about so many mistaken impressions of what training in Aikido was like during that time.

Regards,

Marc Abrams
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Old 01-18-2012, 03:17 PM   #18
crbateman
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

I, for one, cannot wait to see what comes of this... Ellis Sensei, here is your opportunity to take those who opine that the written word has been outdated by video, and knock their socks off! A narrative is at least as good if not better than any video when describing how something feels...
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Old 01-27-2012, 06:49 PM   #19
Ellis Amdur
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt - Addendum!

Well, the first columns are up - and I guarantee, I will have some wonderful surprises for everyone. One other important idea.

There are many folks - particularly old school folks - who would not be inclined to join Aikiweb for any one of a number of reasons.

Let us say, however, that you know that individual was a personal student of A. Shihan, whom I've just set up the archive thread for. If they are willing, they could either write something that you post, or you could interview them. Remember - the crux of this is not merely the personal anecdotes, though these, in and of themselves, are quite valuable. Beyond that, what the actual experience of their skill felt like. That's the heart of this.

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Old 01-27-2012, 09:30 PM   #20
Diana Frese
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Sounds great. I can't wait. ( Can't believe I wrote concise, and in rhyme...)
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Old 02-24-2012, 01:35 PM   #21
Ellis Amdur
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On Phenomenology

Among my other projects, I'm currently a consultant on a project to research how military and police establish the best rapport in law enforcement and military contexts - while ENHANCING the mission. To be absolutely clear, this is NOT a kinder gentler police or military - it is the best tactical communication for the mission.

The problem with research is that you find what you look for - or debunk what you were looking at. Furthermore, in a lot of research, you have to remove all outlier information. Here are some examples:
1. IS doesn't exist - therefore, what Ueshiba did was magical and unreplicable. (as I understand it, the current Aikikai position, fwiw).
2. IS does exist, so that everything Ueshiba did was IS.
3. IS is totally derived, in Ueshiba's case, from Daito-ryu - therefore, any claims to the contrary, in Ueshiba's case, are wrong.

So back to the research. Unavoidably, when one talks of "mission," one can easily narrow one's view. Hence, did the Iraqi who disobeyed signals to stop with his car, and his tires were shot out, leave the situation with a positive view of American military. That's doubtful, but if your research paradigm starts with that as the goal, some may assert that shooting out the tires - or the driver - was a failure. And that may not be so in the least.

So a veteran of the Northern Ireland conflict spoke up, and described every day going on patrol, and having people - young, teens and old - spitting on him and his mates. On the uniform. In the face. They were under strict orders to not be distracted, and to not respond. His point - to some small degree, perhaps, the incidents diminished when there was no response. But that wasn't the object. The object was an investment in the larger mission. When peace was tenuously achieved - finally - there was not a fund of stories of people with their faces bashed in with butt-strokes of their rifles, 'just because he spit." In other words, they eliminated ONE impediment to achieving peace. That's tactics.

My point is that without that lived experience, no one would have come up with that from the research paradigm. And at that point, others in the room with law enforcement and military experience came up with similar accounts - that the mission was bigger than the incident.

So how does this relate to phenomenological research. What one tries to do is get complete human narratives - without an agenda (an agenda would be - "no one can describe my teacher that way because I know he was a good man, and I never saw him act that way, at a different point in time"). You give much detail as possible. And you juxtapose them. And you construct a meta-narrative from the common themes. If, on the other hand, one narrative is merely an argument to prove another narrative wrong, you prove one person right and the other wrong - either in a sense of being factually incorrect or existentially corrupt. Terry Dobson told me that Osensei told him that his mission was to work for reconciliation of humanity. One of his sempai stated that Osensei told him that aikido was a means of destroying one's enemies. We could choose, couldn't we. Or, we could overlap those two narratives, and others, and get a more complete picture of the man. Terry told me that even though he believed he was right 100%, he knew that the other man heard that from Osensei.

I proposed this experiment to Jun for a number of reasons:
1. People are being forgotten - how many of you even know who Ichihashi Norihiko was. He hardly went abroad and he died far too young. Yet he was truly one of the best of the post-war shihan of the Aikikai - both because of his character and his staunch technique. He SHOULDN'T be forgotten.
2. But people should be known for who they are. I did this with Osensei, didn't I - in two books. I was the first, in English, for example, to bring out his deep connections with far-right militarists - even assassins. On the contrary, I believe I have brought understanding to the life of Takeda Sokaku, speaking for him as a far more moral man, a suffering man in some ways, than anyone has before. Some regarded me as the equivalent of an apostate to a religion. I will take credit for opening up a discussion in the larger martial arts community regarding moral responsibility, regarding IS in Japanese martial arts, particularly aikido, and regarding who such people as Ueshiba and Takeda Sokaku truly were.
3. If, however, we made my column a simple discussion thread, we would follow the usual ruts. Doesn't this already happen on Aikiweb? There are many posters who, no matter what the subject of the thread, always post essentially the same thing.
4. The phenomenological method requires a discipline. Your object is not to engage in a debate on the truth. Your object is to tell your truth, in as pure a fashion as you can. I was talking yesterday about a shihan whom I've not yet written and I said, "Yeah, he was really powerful, but I always felt he had holes in his technique big enough to drive a Mack truck. He was so eager to crunch me that he'd gather himself, raise up to smash me down, and I sometimes felt like I had time to write out my will for what was going to come next." The guy I was talking too, who trained much more with the man, looked at me in bewilderment. "I never experienced that. He was so tight, there were never the openings you are talking about." So was I lying? Was he a fool who couldn't see? (I don't think so - he's a far better martial artist that I am). Maybe with enough accounts we would see a thread - that he left openings for people he didn't respect, perhaps. Or, when he didn't like someone, he got so eager to crunch them down that he lost focus. Or in public classes, he showed one thing - deliberately misleading people how good he was, saving his real stuff for those he trusted. So my friend and I could publicly argue - could even indulge in personal attacks, misinterpretations of the other's motives, what have you. OR - we could each post our accounts, some of which may not be flattering, because that's what we experienced, and hope for others to post as well, so we can assemble a picture, a complete picture, rather than one dominated by either one true believer, or one "devil's advocate."

There is a kind of recreation on Aikiweb - some people like to argue for the sake of arguing, like to provoke others, like to take the opposing position, as if to say that they are winning in doing so. Many others like to watch this - you get phrases like, 'Put out the popcorn" (which is exactly why I quit Rum Soaked Fist forum).

Just as many disliked my opinions, even hated me, for Dueling with Osensei, some may strongly disagree with my opinions in IHTBF. I've also solicited the accounts of others, who took ukemi for the greats of pre-war aikido, people whom I've never felt - but I've done so on the conditions outlined in this initial proposal - that Jun agreed to. They would NEVER participate were they to get the personal attacks, uninformed argumentation, badinage or huffy umbrage that is so typical in most discussion groups. They are an incredible resource of first-person accounts - and just like mine, not all the accounts will be to another's taste or fantasy.

When is character relevant? - when that aspect of character effects their behavior on the mat. The great painter Caravaggio may have been, in modern terms, a sociopath. It is unclear if this is relevant to his painting, (though it makes great history). Picasso, on the other hand, was a selfish narcissistic cad to women - and those agonized pictures of crying women were often the women he was psychologically torturing at that point in time. He dissected them on canvas - therefore, his character is directly relevant to his art.

At any rate, I am looking for the unvarnished truth. My truth. Your truth. Not an argument that one must be wrong because the other, in another time, perhaps another decade, had a different personal experience/relationship with a teacher. Or that based on a different personal relationship, you were treated differently. One doesn't make the other untrue.

I will reiterate - your account of a teacher may be 100% at variance to mine - be brave enough to simply post it, describing what you experienced. And that includes opinions regarding what you experienced with that teacher - because you, a human being, experienced them. the "objective stance" as a falsehood, anyway. You carve away what is human in the interaction and then it becomes a lie - because that is NOT what you experienced.

But readers in an archive 50 years from now don't need to read your arguments with me and opinions of me, based on what I wrote - or those of any other poster in an IHTBF column, as I hope that others will eventually post.

Unless, of course, the subject is ME on the mat - and then, such discussion is fair game, isn't it.

Best
Ellis Amdur

Last edited by Ellis Amdur : 02-24-2012 at 01:43 PM.

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Old 04-24-2012, 11:39 PM   #22
Ellis Amdur
Location: Seattle
Join Date: May 2003
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Many of the individuals hitherto described - and certainly some who will be described in future columns - are long departed, sometimes decades ago. Perhaps few, if any of the readers here have ever encountered Tanaka Bansen, for example, or Abbe Kenshiro.
However, your own teacher might have.
One legitimate way to add to the archives here is for you to interview your teacher - with his or her knowledge, of course, and write up an account of their contact with the shihan under discussion - with the same parameters that are requirements of any of the columns. All of which is described above.

You are certainly welcome to show your instructor - or acquaintance - the column in question, and let them know how welcome an account of their experience would be.

Ellis Amdur

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Old 04-25-2012, 04:20 PM   #23
sakumeikan
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Dear Amdur Sensei,
Read your article with much interest.while I never met Noriko Ichihasi Sensei there was an obituary written in 2001 regarding his passing by the B.A.F.There are also clips of him on Youtube.My own recollections of Abbe Sensei, Tamura Sensei, Yamaguchi Sensei,Sugano Sensei, Sekiya Sensei and others who are no longer with us makes me more than ever aware of my own debt to these men, and also I sense of my own mortality.Hope you are well, Joe.
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Old 04-25-2012, 04:38 PM   #24
sakumeikan
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
Mark - that's very possible - but I think there'd be more exceptions than "rules." Some of the other teachers close to Tohei in seniority just weren't the hurtin' kind (I have no knowledge of Osawa sensei hurting anyone - but Kuroiwa sensei told a remarkable story where Tohei offended a very dangerous old swordsman, and Osawa sensei went alone in the man's dojo - with some of Nishio sensei's students waiting in the street, interestingly enough - to proffer apologies, prepared to accept whatever might come. Who was strong is always such an interesting question.

I can think of several of Tohei's peers, who wouldn't have cared a whit what he thought. The junior tough guy instructors, of course, would have cared a lot.

I think it is very possible that various instructors played out their own rivalries on the students of another, or used their student to do the same. I saw this, and I experienced it. I had one guy (in the Iwama system) try to break my arm, right in front of his own instructor, to establish that Iwama-style was better than what my teacher, Kuwamori, offered. I know that because that teacher spoke disparagingly of my teacher, even though he'd gotten a hand-written note requesting that I could train there. He did that in front of his <boy> and the attempt to break my arm happened right afterwards (literally, "let me show you something. This is the way we do shihonage. No, you don't have to take a break-fall. Just relax, it's SAFE!!" and at that word, he tried to bridge my arm and snap it. I knew he was going to do that, took the ukemi, came back in his face, and we had a ---discussion). Finished the class, never went back.

Pathetic stuff, really. But my experiences, by and large, were clean. I hope to do justice to those experiences, in the main, because that's what I mostly got - some of the best days of my life, with some of the best men I ever met.

Ellis Amdur
Dear Mr Amdur,
You involved in a punch up type situation?Never-I thought I was the only guy who had a bout of near fisticuffs on a tatami.More than once I have had to chastise someone for trying to break me up.At a B.A.F Summer school a then young japanese guy [name escapes me ] got upset because he could not move me.When it came to my turn [it was ushiro waza ] he grabbed me a proceeded , lifted me off the floor, trying to dump me on my brainbox. I was not amused. We squared up to each other.I called him an illegitimate son of a bitch.He did not do much English but he got my message.Fujita Sensei was the leader of the group.He noticed our potential battle and stepped in before it developed into a fight.Even this day I owe this guy a bit of payback.
What is it about some people?On the other hand maybe I am not so lovable as I think I am??
Cheers, Joe.
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Old 04-26-2012, 07:04 AM   #25
Alex Megann
Dojo: Southampton Aikikai
Location: Southampton
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Re: A New Column: It Had to be Felt

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Dear Mr Amdur,
You involved in a punch up type situation?Never-I thought I was the only guy who had a bout of near fisticuffs on a tatami.More than once I have had to chastise someone for trying to break me up.At a B.A.F Summer school a then young japanese guy [name escapes me ] got upset because he could not move me.When it came to my turn [it was ushiro waza ] he grabbed me a proceeded , lifted me off the floor, trying to dump me on my brainbox. I was not amused. We squared up to each other.I called him an illegitimate son of a bitch.He did not do much English but he got my message.Fujita Sensei was the leader of the group.He noticed our potential battle and stepped in before it developed into a fight.Even this day I owe this guy a bit of payback.
What is it about some people?On the other hand maybe I am not so lovable as I think I am??
Cheers, Joe.
Hi Joe,

That wasn't Tanaka-san, by any chance? He had a tendency to get into that kind of situation

Alex
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