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Old 10-29-2002, 01:54 PM   #26
ronmar
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tradition

What's wrong with evolution- its human nature (at least here in the West) for people to try and move things forward. Nothing can hold to tradition forever. Everything falls apart in the end. Things that are unable to change get left behind and are of no interest to the next generation. It is to Aikidos credit that it is being evolved. This shows new generations are interested in it and can see its relevance.

I can't think of many things that have stayed the way they always were that are still looked upon are useful and relevant. They are normally thought of as against rational thought and enlightened progress. Examples are fundamentalist religion, creationism, communism and doing reverse punches from the hip while standing in a deep horse stance. You cannot want aikido to come to this.

The important thing for aikido is to maintain the essential ideas that made it good in the first place- centredness, breathing, relaxed power, flow- and adapt them for the current climate in martial arts. In my opinion this should involve more interaction with the martial arts community at large through mixed training and sparring etc, but this doesn't seem a popular idea.

Ron
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Old 10-29-2002, 02:52 PM   #27
Paul Smith
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Eugene, I understand your concerns, and agree with you in that I think our cultural context of individualism has tended to make ownership of true budo difficult in our society. And, unlike Opher, I do not equate "sticking to tradition" with blindness. In fact, I think quite the opposite. I've said it elsewhere, but I think to enter into a student-disciple relationship with eyes wide open is the only way to obtain a direct transmission of the art.

Paul

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Old 10-30-2002, 09:49 AM   #28
eugene_lo
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Opherdonchin,

Well, umm, first of all, what does your name mean anyway?

Secondly, and to the point, I do not recall using the word "ancient." As a matter of fact, it was someone's else's reply that used that word, and not even in reference to aikido.

What is the measure that you and other people here use to determine what is old enough to be tradition? Certainly 60 some years cannot qualify as ancient history. But seems quite enough time to be classified as tradition. Of course, this is also an Asian cultural perspective; Asians in general value tradition much more than Westerners. For good reason: compare 200 some years of US history to over 5000 years of Chinese history. Although I don't know the exact number off the top of my head, a couple millenia of European history does not compare either.

Before I can answer why I feel it is important to "blindly" follow tradition, first I need to know why is is blind to do so? Part of the answer I am sure lies simply in different cultural values.

But let us look specifically at aikido. Will anyone here say that aikido has improved or flourished beyond its form left immediately after O'Sensei died? Is aikido getting "better?" Are people getting closer to attaining the level that he did? And when I say people, I mean those quite far removed from O'Sensei. Not his uchideschi. They perhaps are close themselves, but even so, would never admit it, even if they really believe it. Or will you say that aikido has declined? Most replies I have read have implied that evolution, in the negative form, is inevitable. That is human nature, the nature of change, so people have said. I agree. Such is the case with all things humans get their hands on. Other's have implied that aikido IS flourishing. Thus growing in a positive manner? How is this so? because of the "selection" we have now of all the types of aikido to choose from? "Martial" aikido, dance aikido, aikido for self-defence, ki aikido tai-gi's, "new-age" aikido.... Soon won't we see Billy Blanks types of aikido tapes out there? Or is it too late?

This is the dilution. This is not flourishing. Because of our desire to "make it our own", we have separated this budo into too many entities, all missing the point of aikido if not integrated. Case-in-point: you pick your favorite martial art (well, I guess aside from aikido) and tell me how many types there are that exist. Sport, cardio, meditative, exhibition. Same instance, same process, same dilution.

Direct result: lack of martial attitude in practice, lack or deficiency in martial effectiveness, loss or deemphasis in spiritual development, pre-mature so-called "understanding" of ki, argument and bickering as to whose style/system/dojo/affiliation is better.

THIS is why we need to follow tradition. Because, aikido was not meant to change anymore. When O'Sensei died, after he gave us the aikido characterized as "post-war" it was "perfected", changed enough. It was, it is already something that we need to work with and study, NOT study how we can make it characteristic to ourselves. This is tradition. The proof obviously shows what happens when we don't follow it. I am biased, that is evident especially when you all read this: who are we to think we can start modifying this art until we reach the level that we first found it at? Mastered the art? Fine, then you get to start changing it. And face it, mastery of aikido is an unfathomable task to us mere humans. Or maybe herein lies another problem: those people out there that do think they are attaining mastery.

I have not mentioned at all that this is an epidemic only in the US or the West in general. It's happening in Japan too. I would venture, and I may be wrong, but that the severity is less in Japan than in the West, especially the US ("We are colonizers, Pilgrims, forgers of a new path in the America's").

Asia, and Asian culture is not perfect. Following tradition is not perfect. The socioeconomic muck plagueing China plainly shows this. But that is another story, for another forum, another website.

But, WE WERE GIVEN A WORKING MODEL. Not a prototype. It worked, in EVERY aspect. Not everyone could make it work, but the one guy that figured it out made it work. That is why we need to follow tradition. It is not blind, we are blind from our own ambitions.
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Old 10-30-2002, 11:04 AM   #29
Sean Moffatt
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"THIS is why we need to follow tradition. Because, aikido was not meant to change anymore. When O'Sensei died, after he gave us the aikido characterized as "post-war" it was "perfected", changed enough. It was, it is already something that we need to work with and study, NOT study how we can make it characteristic to ourselves. This is tradition. The proof obviously shows what happens when we don't follow it. I am biased, that is evident especially when you all read this: who are we to think we can start modifying this art until we reach the level that we first found it at? Mastered the art? Fine, then you get to start changing it. And face it, mastery of aikido is an unfathomable task to us mere humans. Or maybe herein lies another problem: those people out there that do think they are attaining mastery."

Be careful what you say here. O'Sensei never defined technique. It was all "Kame-waza", devine technique. He was inspired by God (or whatever invisible man in the sky we ask help from)at the execution of the technique. Then it was forgotten until the next attack. The Aikido we train in today is really the styles of Kishomaru Ueshiba, Osawa, Tohei, Mochizuki, Tomiki, Shioda, Saito, Shirata... all the others who opened up a school in the name of Teaching Aikido. THEY ALL DID IT DIFFERENTLY. THEY ALL HAVE THEIR OWN TRADITIONS. O'Sensei DID NOT set anything in stone. THEY DID! IT IS THERE TRANSLATIONS OF O'SENSEI'S TECHNIQUE. Listening to what O'Sensie said is like reading the Bible; everyone has there own interpretation. Read "Aikido Masters" by Aiki News (Stan Pranin). In each interview, when asked how O'Sensei taught technique, all of O'Sensie's students commented on how difficult it was to make sense of his explanations. He used a lot of spiritual analogies.

O'Sensei Perfected his own Aikido. The Aikido that only he could do. All the others developed there own interpretations.

I'm sorry Eugene. But you are wrong in this respect.

Sean

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Old 10-30-2002, 11:38 AM   #30
Paul Smith
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I think we may all be saying essentially the same thing, but missing the interceptive threads...Sean, all the Shihan you mentioned did indeed create their "own" Aikido, but, to my knowledge, not one of them did so until they had so selflessly and completely pursued the art directly under O'Sensei, that they came up with something, a true creation, only after this period of discipleship. (See the history of Saito Sensei during the Iwama years). Read Chiba Sensei's account of his being in the next room to O'Sensei as his otomo, sensitive enough to know when O'Sensei would waken...

I think this may be ultimately Eugene's point (Eugene, please correct me if I'm wrong). I think what he's responding to, and I happen to agree with him, is that there is a pathway of traditional study - Shu-ha-ri. Ri, the period of one's training when one breaks from one's master to create something unique, an expression of one's "own," comes only after Shu, and ha - stages of so completely emulating one's master (and, again, emptying one's own notion of how things should be)that one's vessel, one's receptor of training, is clean, and can then take anything and make it one's own. This process cannot be circumvented if one is to train in a traditional manner. And I agree with Eugene, if I am reading him right, that this process is the only way to preserve budo via isshin-den-shin, mind transmission, for future generations.

Paul

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Old 10-30-2002, 01:45 PM   #31
Sean Moffatt
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I agree. All those Shihan (and others I did not mention)selflessly trained with O'Sensei, receiving the isshin-den-shin, mind transmission, for future generations. But each one does technique and teaches it differently. Why? Then it is my understanding that Eugene doesn't feel we are sticking to tradition or traditional technique. Well, as I said, what tradtion are we talking about? Post war Aikido had the most variations. Before that, kata was the method of transmission; little to no variations. In order to catalog the technique, the late Doshu systemized Aikido removing the more dangerous techniques. From there we have something that is similar to what everybody trains in today.

In this forum, are we focusing on technical transmission? That has been my interpretation. If that's not it, please forgive my lack of attention.

Sean

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Old 10-30-2002, 02:50 PM   #32
Paul Smith
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Sean, I agree - given one source (O'Sensei), we have seen a plethora of aikido offshoots. Why? My belief is that all of them...and all of us...do the right thing by passing on what they (or we) know of Aikido, after long, personal and arduous study. And this will necessarily result in many flavors; and I don't equate this with dilution, in the way I think Eugene is speaking of, and I think Eugene would agree.

My only beef is that I think it impossible to really know one's Aikido until one has removed the impediments to what Toyoda Sensei used to call the discovery of "your true self." He also used to say, with proper training, it did not matter what one did - everything became an expression of one's own art. And he was adamant about owing one's own Aikido, not forever aping him in empty replication.

But along with urging his students to "make our own Aikido" was our absolute commitment to him and to constantly work the forge, constantly seek to return to the moment - in other words, constantly let go of one's facile notions or surface understanding while pursuing the budo he offered. In other words, paradoxically, in order to eventually own an expression of the art, one first had to commit to ridding oneself of attachment to one's own idea of it; this is the subject of many other threads and literature on the relationship of zen to budo. And, I think he was right...I see it when I see people of budo, such as Chiba Sensei...nothing mystic or veil-glazed eyes, but I see a deeply truthful power and kiai in stillness from these Shihan that cannot come, I truly believe, but by the path they followed.

These Shihan did not talk their way through to an understanding of O'Sensei's Aikido - apparently, this was an impossible feat because, as you say, O'Sensei often lost his students in his religious and philosophical discourses - they simply worked their asses off and eventually their body owned it, their "deep self" owned it, and they created their Aikido.

So, that's my quick (and I hope not flippant) answer as to "one source, many versions." All true, but all began first with direct transmission and absolute commitment to a master.

Paul Smith
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Old 10-30-2002, 03:03 PM   #33
Sean Moffatt
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Thanks for the reply. Well said. And to hear that Toyoda Sensei said that means alot to me. He was a very personable person and I hope the Aikido Association of America are doing well after his passing.

Sean

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Old 10-30-2002, 03:36 PM   #34
Paul Smith
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Thank you, Sean. If I can be so presumptive as to speak for many, his students deeply miss him and continue to train as we believe he would have hoped we would.

Paul Smith

Aikido Shinjinkai

www.shinjinkai.org

Paul Smith
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Old 10-30-2002, 07:48 PM   #35
eugene_lo
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Well, Sean, you do have a good point. The aikido that we practice today is probably that of O'Sensei's students. Though I do think that many people, including myself, make too much of a distinction between "pre" and "post-war" aikido. I think that all the principles, and most of the movements are the same. You can see this in the films, and in the pictures. Post-war "techniques" are just harder to dissect. For us modern students, this is especially true, because our eyes are not trained nor accustomed to "picking out" the technique of aikido where the transitions are so well hidden. You speak of this divine aikido.

The aikido that exists today is credited to Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Gozo Shioda, Kenji Tomiki, Rinjiro Shirata, Yamada, Chiba, Saotome, and the list goes on. Their aikido is what is recognizable to modern eyes. Moreover, yes, due to different backgrounds, periods of training, and personalities, their styles vary. So far, I completely agree with you. At least I am trying to. So let me modify my stance: O'Sensei DID leave us a working model. However, we may not be perceptive of it, and its details. Technically, definitely not. Spiritually, we sincerely try. In short, we have difficulty with transmission of technique via this model. Ok, so I concede that the models should then be those aforementioned. The modification should stop there then. We will allow this small, initial degree of "dilution" (and I use this word very loosely.) Only because O'Sensei's post-war aikido, especially in the decade preceding his death, is so esoteric to us. It existed on a spiritual plane, a plane that probably no one alive has yet reached. How about this proposition?

HOWEVER: So far, I see no argument that suffices to justify the degree of dilution that we witness today, or to justify the continuing dilution. JUST BECAUSE O'Sensei's final stages of aikido departed from the kihon or kata that we normally train by, doesn't mean that we get to say, "Well, since I can't recognize it, I'll reinvent it." Besides, how arrogant is it for those out there that claim to practice at even a hint of a divine level? You can see this in the demos at the Aiki Expo. People want their aikido to be clean, pretty. O'Sensei's post-war aikido was extremely "clean" and "pretty." What is the relationship? That some of those out there are getting close to reaching a divine state of aikido? Part of the problem, to which one of your argument points me towards: O'Sensei's often long and esoteric lectures that no one could understand. As Paul said, "they simply worked their asses off and eventually their body owned [aikido.]" Our problem: we are too busy trying to cognitively "muscle through" the spiritual aspect instead of just sticking to intensive physical training. We have given ourselves this psychological notion that we'll figure it all out if we think and talk about it long enough. And this has carried over into how we view our own learning of aikido. Pre-mature, VERY pre-mature tackling of the most advanced aspect of the problem. When we haven't even finished with the fundamentals. Did his students toil as we do over such issues in aikido that we present repeatedly in these forums? (Well, if they had Internet access, maybe…) In the final analysis, again, this is characteristic of our culture that derives security and knowledge in being an individual and different from everybody else. But I really, really don't think that aikido can work within this framework and this attitude.

So, what is wrong with sticking to tradition? If you want to classify this as pre-war or post-war, then ok. I don't think it needs classification. That's not important. That pre-war aikido contains killing techniques and post-war doesn't is not important. The message shifted, yes. But the principles, the discipline is the same. We don't need to go back to the martial extreme of practicing warfare and killing. But, how about following those models we mentioned? That is what is defined as tradition. That is what I mean when I say tradition. And how about a conscious effort NOT to try to envision aikido for ourselves? We are not ready for that. O'Sensei endured years of hard training, meditation, misogi, suffering, and not to mention eye-witnessing a World War unfold in his own backyard before he even envisioned his aikido. How is it that we consider ourselves qualified to do the same?

Unfortunately, my opinion goes public 20 years to late. The uchideschi are getting old; soon they will not be around to be models. Too bad Doshu doesn't live here in the US. He'd be a great model. I know you agree with me here, Sean.

Well… catch-22. To pose a question against my own arguments: what are we to do now? How exactly and who exactly do we use as models, at least after the last generation of uchideschi pass?

Oh, by the way Sean, you know that I do not mean we do not practice traditional aikido right now. I cannot and will not speak for every single dojo in the entire world. You and I are lucky; we happen to have a sensei that does teach traditional aikido, at least as best as he knows how (I am sure we have Furuya sensei to thank for this!) But the numerous other dojos out there that are not as lucky as we are… they are who I refer to.

Paul, you have read me like a book so far. I am in complete agreement of what you have said. And I agree that our arguments may be overlapping in some areas. Sean, I read Stanley Pranin's article you recommended. One of the best articles on aikido yet.

By the way, I humbly request for other responses. I would like to hear what everyone thinks, even if they think this issue is all a bunch of cr*p. In which case, just be polite about it.

Last edited by eugene_lo : 10-30-2002 at 07:52 PM.
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Old 10-31-2002, 07:45 AM   #36
Sean Moffatt
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Ok, ok, fine. Is anyone else getting a migraine? When it is time for me to lead, I will endeavor to bring Aikido back to the correct path (Correct Path? Boy, I'm asking for it there). But until then I'll just train in Aikido and whatever arts I feel will fill any holes.

Eugene, go to Japan, live like a pauper, and train your ass off. Then after years of training, open a school (here in America) and write a book (or make a movie). But until then, less of the talk and more of the walk.

It's my fault to have been sucked into this debate.

By the way, where the hell were you last night, only three other people showed up at Aikido. Judging by the "Last edited by eugene_lo on 10-30-2002 at 08:52 PM

" you had time to at least watch. You don't leave until today.

Remember Sensei's words: "Shutup and train."

Have fun at the Seminar.

Sean

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Old 10-31-2002, 05:10 PM   #37
Adam Garrison
 
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I was asked by a good friend of mine to add my own meager comments as they relate to this very complicated discussion. Let me begin by apologizing in advance for anything that I write that may offend or possibly contradict a truth that another aikidoka holds dear. I have been training faithfully for over five years now, and I regret that I am no closer to mastery of aikido than I was when I f fumbled around to tie on my obi for the first time. So with that being said, I will offer a few thoughts that I have had concerning the question at hand: Is aikido becoming diluted?

I believe that quite a bit of excellent discussion has already taken place, and so I will not attempt to refute or support anything that has been previously presented here in this thread, but rather offer up something of my own. I agree with Eugene, that the aikido we practice to day is a distillation of what was once a much more comprehensive budo. As a caveat...let me interject that aikido is what each individual chooses to make it.

Take, for instance, the training at our dojo. Many consider ours a very martial dojo that places great emphasis on traditional training and efficacy of technique...but take a moment to recollect a time when you observed everyone in class performing the techniques differently. Certain individuals (who shall remain nameless) choose to simply do the technique the way that they are comfortable with...right or wrong. Every individual in the dojo witnessed Sensei demonstrating the same irimi-nage, yet you inevitably end up with a dozen variations as the class attempts to duplicate what they THINK they saw happen. What it boils down to is a matter of perception. A student can sit at the feet of the world's most talented martial artist, and after years of practice glean practically nothing of martial value. How is this?? This phenomenon can be witnessed more often in America given our existing cultural tendencies, conceptions, and misconceptions. We tend to crave instant gratification and demand to be shown "how to do" things...NOW. I show up to class; now teach me aikido! How many times have you heard that the public schools in a particular area are woefully inadequate in their performance with standardized testing? The administration immediately begins to look at the teaching staff and how to improve their methods of instruction and curriculum.

What about the students, I ask???? Is it not their responsibility to learn...to hunger for knowledge? Do they even care about becoming educated at all? I believe that a large part of the responsibility is often not shouldered be those who would wish to learn. We must train to develop and refine our powers of perception in conjunction with the physical and spiritual facets of our training. I have often heard it noted that a truly great teacher forces his/her students to steal the technique from them...intentionally veiling certain crucial elements that proceed revelation & letting a student discover it for themselves.

In summation, the purpose of my rambling here is to say that an exemplary martial artist is not created simply by studying at the feet of a true master. This can certainly contribute to dilution of an art in itself. I am hungry enough, and I love what I have found in aikido enough to not get bothered anymore with the dilution that I have seen & the B.S. that I find so often (the egos, the contradictions, the endless argument over who's way is the "right" way). I simply forge on in my own pursuit to understand all I possibly can through training until I can train no longer.

I agree with Sean that you are certainly bound for additional disappointment as well, Gene, but I challenge you not to let it change what you have burning in your heart. I believe that much of the reason that we do not have something comparable to O-Sensei today is that no one deserves to have attained that level but Morihei Ueshiba. No one else has walked the walk COMPLETELY to understand the things that he just kind of knew. How many of us are prepared to dedicate everything to get there...train in multiple koryus, study swordsmanship, spearmanship, bayonet, & various schools of Ju-jitsu, devote ourselves to Omoto-kyo, perform excruciating exercises in misogi, train three to four times everyday...waking early and going to bed each night drained spiritually, mentally, & physically. Sadly, I am certainly not surprised that no one else can do what O-Sensei could. I pray that one day I will be able to understand some of what he did after a lifetime of training, but I do not expect to ever reach his level. That does not discourage me because I love the art, and I will put together what pieces of the puzzle that I can in the time allowed.

Who knows, Gene, you may be the very one someday who can come back after you find what you are looking for and explain it all to me! Give it your everything though, and if it is your destiny...perhaps you will understand what we have ALL been striving to understand all these years...ever since O-Sensei stopped trying to tell us. Just don't forget your friends at home who will have your back & a place to come home to no matter what. Keep your eyes on the instructors out there that are on fire with the spirit of true budo (you know who they are) - like Doshu, and just KEEP ON TRAINING, my friend. The dilution can continue around us, but we will refuse to let it affect us and what we wish to accomplish through our training...

Respectfully,

Adam G.

Tidewater Aikikai / Okinawa Aikikai
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Old 10-31-2002, 10:59 PM   #38
opherdonchin
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This thread doesn't need more long posts, and I'll try to keep mine short, but there are some issues that have banging around in my head for a couple of days and I wanted to share them.

Mostly I want to say that I'm not sure if I really understood what Eugene was trying to explain about the importance of tradition. If I understood him properly (and I'm really not sure I did), then the idea is that O'Sensei created something of intrinsic worth and that we, as AiKiDoka should have a commitment to it because of its intrinsic worth or beauty or completeness. The question of its relevance to each of us as individuals or as a community of aikidoka is secondary.

So, maybe that's not quite right. Maybe Eugene meant more (I'm thinking out loud here) that we will have more to gain from it if we preserve it in its pristine state than if we try to learn take from it what we, individually, are interested in. Leaving Paul Smith's "loss of self at the feet of the master" ideas aside for a second (I'm going to say something about them in a bit), I wonder how we would know or who would assure us that the idealized pristine AiKiDo we can not have access to is any better than the AiKiDo that we learn from and that helps us here and now? All we really have to go on for this is the stories of others, who are imperfect and nostalgic and sentimental and looking for inspiration and flawed in all of the ways that we are.

Maybe AiKiDo at some particular time was perfect, but we'll never kknow. All we have is what we have, and our responsiblity (at least as I understand it) is to get the most out of it to the best of our understanding. This would inevitably involve some ongoing balance between believing what we are told and experimenting and finding out for ourselves. How do we strike that balance? Well, each of us may have a different balance, and even within that some of us will balance the way we are told to balance and others will balance in the way that makes sense to them. Some people choose to become replicas of their senseis as much as possible although the sensei specifically teaches finding your own style. Other people will insist on experimenting despite their sensei's insistence on a well defined and rigorously trained style.

Ultimately, we answer to no one for our training except to ourselves. Nothing gives it value except the value we give it. This is a simple truism. The really interesting thing, Eugene, is what your attitude towards tradition and training says about you, and not what it says about 'what AiKiDoka should do.'
Quote:
Paul Smith wrote:
I see a deeply truthful power and kiai in stillness from these Shihan that cannot come, I truly believe, but by the path they followed.
I believe that what you see is their, but I (obstinately?) refuse to understand why this needs to be the only true path. Or, maybe we can look at it differently: maybe their path is the only way to become them and to have their particular stilness and kiai. Still, so many of us are not them. So many of the things that they are, that they liked and disliked, that they had difficulty learning and that came easily to them will be different for some people. Is it so hard to believe that these people will, by giving themselves over completely to wherever their path takes them, achieve a stillness and kiai that is at once completely differen and also essentially the same as these people who impressed you so strongly?

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 11-01-2002, 07:42 AM   #39
Paul Smith
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Yes, Opher, from my perspective, it is hard to believe. But ultimately, as Sean has eloquently alluded to above, this discussion is all useless. Like doing 1000 suburi, eventually, no matter what we blather on about, our bodies will tire such that all conjecture will fall by the wayside and we will discover the truth. So, like our masters before us, let's simply "train our asses off." Hard to hold on to much of anything when exhausted.

Paul Smith
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Old 11-01-2002, 08:41 AM   #40
SmallFry
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Just my two cents...

If "technical dilution" is the question, I read in an article somewhere that the 2nd Doshu simplified the aikido curriculum and that weapons training is not as emphasized there. So in terms of quantity of techniques, there is some "dilution" compared to what O-Sensei originally taught.

I don't think however that this has necessarily decreased the value or utility of the art since I still read some posts by people saying that aikido saved their lives in a self-defense situation. I guess the value that some people attach to the original technical curriculum is the same as the value that we (or at least the historians) attach to historical items or places. They preserve it so that they get an idea and appreciation of what it was like then.

One could argue of course that back in the time aiki-jujutsu was first created, some of the techniques we know now were probably not even invented at that time. Or that the sankyo as O-Sensei learned it might not be the same sankyo as it was done hundreds of years ago when the technique was still young. So change or improvements on technique are inevitable.

So the concern would actually be, how much can the techniques be safely mutated without them eventually turning into a mere dance or coordinated stretching exercise. At least in feudal Japan, there was the battlefield to serve as a check and balance to weed out ineffective techniques or ineffective mutations of techniques.

As has been said already, no one can safely answer that question. But it's nice to ponder about it now and then.
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Old 02-07-2006, 12:22 PM   #41
koz
 
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Re: Dilution of aikido

All arts have been 'diluted' ever since Bodhidharma went east. The best anyone can hope for is to make their art their own.

True mastery can be gained
by letting things go their own way.

Lao Tzu - Tao Te Ching, Ch48
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