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Old 05-06-2005, 10:02 AM   #1
kironin
 
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Re: Building Bridges; An Aikiweb Seminar

Well, Ellis's latest blog on Aikido Journal burned some bridges for me.

So when I cool off in a few days...

Austin is a good option too.

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Old 05-06-2005, 01:45 PM   #2
Dennis Hooker
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Re: Building Bridges; An Aikiweb Seminar

Quote:
Craig Hocker wrote:
Well, Ellis's latest blog on Aikido Journal burned some bridges for me.

So when I cool off in a few days...

Austin is a good option too.

Craig, why are you upset? We all use the tools we have to try and understand and grow. I think Ellis is exploring his roots and expanding his understanding of the underpinnings of Aikido. He is doing it in an open forum and before God and everybody. That takes courage and there is nowhere to hide when you hang it all out there for the world to see. He is in a much better position to understand the original texts than may of us so he is sharing. I wish I could get my friend Francis Takahashi to interrupt some of O-Sensei's works and perhaps some of the Second Doshu's works as well. He was close to them, but he will just set back and smile that disarming smile of his and know he knows stuff we will never know. Hay, HAY he would be a good one for a Friendship Seminar. Ain't a friendlier guy around.

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Old 05-06-2005, 02:06 PM   #3
Ellis Amdur
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Re: Building Bridges; An Aikiweb Seminar (a little thread drift)

Dennis - thank you very much for your support. As I've gotten some personal emails from members of the Ki Society, I think what Craig is upset about is the statement at the beginning of my first essay.
I wrote: "When Tohei Koichi derisively comments on Ueshiba's explanations of aikido, saying that all he learned from O-Sensei was the concept of relaxation, but otherwise scorns Ueshibas statements as incoherent gibberish, is it possible that, although Tohei allegedly became a master at relaxing his body in martial arts training exercises, he simply did not understand that Ueshiba was using HIS relaxed body to accomplish very different aims?"
I based my statement on Tohei Koichi's own in his interview with Aikido Journal. As follows:
Quote:
"became his student with the intention of learning that from him. To be honest, I never really listened to most of the other things he said."

"For my part, I have never had divine beings enter my body. I've never put much stock in that kind of illogical explanation."

"He was jealous and told people not to listen to me."

"I never paid as much attention to what Sensei said as to what he did. You could ask him all the questions you wanted and never understand his answers. He would just show you and say something to the effect of "It's done like this." á

"Actually, in that sense, Ueshiba Sensei was not able to control his own mind; he would easily lose his temper or start saying completely nonsensical things. He had something to say, but could not express it without falling back on the Omoto religion. In this sense, I think it is pointless to imitate Ueshiba Sensei's inability to control his own mind."

"The only thing of true value he taught was how to relax."

"The problem is, if you start talking about "divine techniques" or perfection, you can't discuss it in any rational way. You end up, as Ueshiba Sensei did, talking about all the gods of Heaven and Earth turning into purple smoke and entering completely into the hara (lower abdomen), or about teleportation, or about becoming a golden Buddha.
If you want to see a "golden Buddha," just go to rural Japan. That's what they call people there who accidentally fall into the outhouse after having one too many, (laughs)
The art of relaxing is itself a great enough gift to leave to the world, and there is no need to go talking about divine techniques or perfection or anything like that."
Let me be clear. I'm not questioning Tohei Koichi's technique. I'm not questioning the path he took. But I am saying this. He is an exemplar of the way most of the aikido world has dealt with Ueshiba Morihei. Tohei saw what he wanted to see, what was useful to him, and/or inspired him, and dismissed the rest as irrelevant or incomprehensible. And he made his own way.

I well appreciate standing up for one's teacher. But that also requires one stands up and faces what one's teacher says and does. What little reputation I have has been in doing just that. If that makes me unsuitable to teach in certain venue, I'm honestly quite at ease with that.

With respect

Ellis Amdur

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Old 05-06-2005, 03:03 PM   #4
Chuck Clark
 
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Re: Building Bridges; An Aikiweb Seminar

It takes a courageous person to follow their own perceptions and say out loud for all to hear that "the Emperor has no clothes on...".

It is equally courageous to then be continually open to new experience and be willing to change and voice your new understanding.

Thanks for your continuing courage and open heart, Ellis.

Best Regards,

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Old 05-06-2005, 03:26 PM   #5
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Re: Building Bridges; An Aikiweb Seminar (a little thread drift)

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote:
Let me be clear. I'm not questioning Tohei Koichi's technique. I'm not questioning the path he took. But I am saying this. He is an exemplar of the way most of the aikido world has dealt with Ueshiba Morihei. Tohei saw what he wanted to see, what was useful to him, and/or inspired him, and dismissed the rest as irrelevant or incomprehensible. And he made his own way.
...
With respect
Ellis Amdur
Yes, you pretty much hit it on the head. I didn't think you were questioning his technique, but you did come off as pretty arrogant to characterize their 30 year relationship and what Tohei Sensei did or did not understand in that way based on one interview. I read those interviews when they came out and I also read the letters sent in to AJ bashing Tohei Sensei afterwards. I don't think you first paragraph is a fair statement nor does what Stanely Pranin chose to print really portray a complete picture. You just sounded like another basher who misses the point that to Tohei Sensei, how to relax was a very, very big thing.

I could forgive all that, but then the rest of your blog pretty much proved Tohei Sensei right. In trying to explain Ueshiba Sensei thoughts on Aikido you pretty much proved what an illogical mess his writings were rather than shedding any actual light.

After reading what you wrote, I would say this quote still holds to be very true...

Quote:
"The problem is, if you start talking about "divine techniques" or perfection, you can't discuss it in any rational way. You end up, as Ueshiba Sensei did, talking about all the gods of Heaven and Earth turning into purple smoke and entering completely into the hara (lower abdomen), or about teleportation, or about becoming a golden Buddha.
If you want to see a "golden Buddha," just go to rural Japan. That's what they call people there who accidentally fall into the outhouse after having one too many, (laughs)
The art of relaxing is itself a great enough gift to leave to the world, and there is no need to go talking about divine techniques or perfection or anything like that."


like I said, I will cool off in a few days about it.

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Old 05-06-2005, 03:40 PM   #6
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Re: Building Bridges; An Aikiweb Seminar

Quote:
Dennis Hooker wrote:
Hay, HAY he would be a good one for a Friendship Seminar. Ain't a friendlier guy around.
Hey both you guys can be irritating in your own ways.
I find some of what Tohei Sensei does or Ueshiba Sensei did irritating too.

I know I am a source of irritation to some people too.

I can separate that out from having respect for someone or listening to them when they are making sense.

That blog is all the more frustrating because Ellis has produced some really great stuff in the past. I suppose that's the nature of blog as opposed to a published book.

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Old 05-06-2005, 03:56 PM   #7
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Re: Building Bridges; An Aikiweb Seminar

Quote:
Chuck Clark wrote:
It takes a courageous person to follow their own perceptions and say out loud for all to hear that "the Emperor has no clothes on...".
I am sorry I don't see the courage involved.

What does he possibly have to fear ?

-a few disgruntled Ki Society people sending him private emails?

-the usual readers of AJ where many in the past and currently go to voice all the things wrong with Aikido ?

-Stanely Pranin shutting down his blog ?

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Old 05-06-2005, 05:54 PM   #8
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Re: Building Bridges; An Aikiweb Seminar

Craig - I don't know if anything will be served by continuing, but I'm struck by this. You state that I'm arrogant to hold a man, Tohei, to his words. This makes me a basher. Then you say I missed that point that to Tohei, "how to relax was a very, very big thing," when I state that he was "allegedly a master of relaxation." You say you could forgive me, but that my blog "proved Tohei sensei right," because my commentary proved "what an illogical mess his writings were rather than shedding any actual light." So if I have this straight, you are upset that I point out that Tohei spoke derisively regarding Osensei, and that he did not regard as important what Ueshiba said was, for him, of abiding importance, and that you, upon reading the blog, agree with Tohei that it was "an illogical mess," and you conclude by endorsing the most derisive of Tohei's quotes where he likens Ueshiba's claims of an enlightenment experience to drunks falling in the toilet.

Tohei can say whatever he likes. He may be right. I certainly never said I believed Ueshiba's view of the cosmos. Rather, as the creator of aikido it just might be possibly important to take him at his word of what aikido was to him. Otherwise, trying to figure out such things as why he selected the few techniques he did from the vast corpus of Daito-ryu, what he actually meant when he refered to aikido as love, what he himself meant when he talked about aikido as a manifestation of the sword, make little sense at all.

At this point, if you or anyone else has any further disagreement with me, I would invite either private emails, or request that Jun split this off into a new thread if people really think this is important enough to continue. The real concern of this particular thread was the Friendship Seminar.

Ellis Amdur

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Old 05-06-2005, 06:14 PM   #9
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Re: Building Bridges; An Aikiweb Seminar

Quote:
Craig Hocker wrote:
I am sorry I don't see the courage involved.

What does he possibly have to fear ?
Actually, I had Tohei in mind when I wrote that sentence.

Ellis certainly has nothing to fear from what he writes as far as I'm concerned.

My statements were general in nature about anyone that has the courage to say things that they know will not please everyone and "win in the polls".

I think Ellis is right; this thread should be about the proposed seminar.

Chuck Clark
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Old 05-09-2005, 06:57 AM   #10
Dennis Hooker
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Re: Building Bridges; An Aikiweb Seminar

Quote:
Chuck Clark wrote:
Actually, I had Tohei in mind when I wrote that sentence.

I think Ellis is right; this thread should be about the proposed seminar.

OK; suppose there is a seminar and suppose we three are ask to teach (by no means a forgone conclusion or even a necessity) and suppose the seminar is held in the Great Republic of Texas, do I need a passport? Do they have cold American beer? Is it true they only have one tree in Texas? Can I have lunch at a ranch I know about in Crawford Texas? Even though they don't got trees I understand they got Bushes.

Dennis

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Old 05-09-2005, 07:40 PM   #11
rob_liberti
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Re: Koichi Tohei and Relaxation

Interviews are difficult. If he wrote that as a thoughtful response to a written question I have a feeling that some of the sentences might have been edited.

For instance, doesn't it seem like the important aspect of this sentence:"The only thing of true value he taught was how to relax" could have been expressed like: "The only thing of true value I learned from him was how to relax." I assume that some people (at minimum the people who value the Omoto religion) wouldn't be offended that way.

And maybe: "The art of relaxing is itself a great enough gift to leave to the world, and there is no need to go talking about divine techniques or perfection or anything like that" could have been expressed as:"The art of relaxing is itself a great enough gift to leave to the world."

But it was an interview. If it also seemed to indicate some resentment, well that's a part of history too. I resent when my teacher picks on me sometimes. I also love him for it and try much harder than I would have if he choose to ruin me with praise.

Anyway, I hope that doesn't burn bridges with excellent aikido people like Craig, but I call them like I see them. I didn't read Ellis's blog, but I get the idea that that is a part of history too, and we should probably try to figure out how to accept it too.

Rob
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Old 05-10-2005, 02:56 AM   #12
Fred26
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Re: Koichi Tohei and Relaxation

This year it will be 65 years since Koichi Tohei started training aikido. He signed on after a failed attemp by him to try and grab Ueshiba on the dojo-mat using his Judo techniques. 65 years of aikido and ki until his retirement from the aikido part in the early 1990's. (if I remember correctly that is)

In my mind there is an essence to aikido which I can understand and relate to and that is balance, harmony and the power of ki. All of this requires relaxation of the body and mind, something which I strive for and is one of the reasons I started aikido to begin with. Koichi Tohei has spent more than 65 years trying to understand and cultivate harmony, balance and above all: ki.

I honestly don't know anything about Ueshibas mystical ideas, methods or rehtoric besides the few video-clips with interviews I've seen. I know some people literary believe God (or whoever) spoke through him and worship him like a prophet. As I prolly have said before in an earlier topic: these kinds of thoughts and ideas make me very nervous. Lets be serious: If the entire worlds aikido dojos would introduce mandatory studies of Ueshibas texts, how many would understand them if even the students directly under Ueshiba barely, if at all, understood what Ueshiba said? And above all: how many new students would remain?

This "art of relaxtion" is for me truly valueble, and I don't think I'm alone in this opinion regardless if you belong to aikikai, Iwama Ryu or ki-aikido. One look at the world today with all it's demands, troubles and stress will confirm that belif.

And if I had to choose between trying to spend my aikido lessons and free time trying to interpret the various texts and statments of Ueshiba, or cultivating ki, harmony and balance using both Koichi Tohei's aikido and his regular ki-excercises, I would choose Tohei without a hesitation. (Or in the case of Sweden: Kenjiro Yoshigasaki's methods.) Does this make me a disrespectful man? a heathen, heretic, apostate or does it make me a practical man? I didn't join a religion when I started training aikido, I joined a martial art with defenition on ki, harmony and balance. How many trainees today sign up for a religion rather than a martial art that will benefit your health, harmony and balance? All of which I believe is an excellent foundation for tolerance, love and compassion.

If I didn't believe in aikidos potential for personal growth and health, I would never have remained (I do believe I have touched the essence of these three during my training sessions eventhough I'm still a newbie). Instead I would have joined the local karate club and done Tai Chi in my free time (no disrespect towards karate though). I somehow get the impression that this is how Tohei reasons too.

He could have quit aikido anytime during these 65 years and returned to his various Zen excercises he performed before he joined, (misogi, zen-meditation and so on), and return to his judo studies. And yet he didn't. 65 years later he still hasn't.Yes he had issues with Ueshiba, but it seems to be that he wasn't the only student who had one.

As a conclusion: I honestly don't believe that a man who has no respect for aikido or Ueshiba and who is "clueless" of the spirit of aikido and ki, (like some people would like to believe), would spend all those decades promoting both aikido and ki throughout the world even when Ueshiba himself was doubting to go overseas with his knowledge.

Last edited by Fred26 : 05-10-2005 at 02:58 AM.
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Old 06-24-2005, 06:29 AM   #13
tedehara
 
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Re: Koichi Tohei and Relaxation

Here is a concise description by Koichi Tohei as to what he learned from the founder. This is taken from an interview with William Reed on May 19, 2000. Reed is a member of the Ki Society and the interview was done in Japanese. He translated the interview and received K. Tohei's approval on the translation.

This information is posted to allow people to decide for themselves, what K. Tohei's position on the founder's teaching is.
Quote:
...I studied Aikido from Morihei Ueshiba, here again doing everything first and questioning later. Ueshiba Sensei was a master of Ki, as well as the founder of Aikido. However he was also a devoted follower of the Omotokyo Religion, and this influenced the way he taught Aikido. Often it was impossible to make any sense of his esoteric explanations. I rigorously trained in all of the exercises he had us do, though many came from the Omotokyo Religion, and made no sense to us. For example, we were expected to recite the alphabet in a different order. Rather than saying the vowels of Japanese as ''AIUEO'' we were made to repeat them over and over as ''AOUEI,'' as if this new sequence had a deeper meaning. He would tell us that we should become one with the Ki of Heaven, but not how we were to do this. You could learn much more by watching him do Aikido than you could by listening to him explain it. The one essential thing I learned from Ueshiba Sensei was how to relax. He was always relaxed in the face of conflict, which is why his Aikido was so strong. He would do this himself, but he encouraged his young students to hold with as much strength as possible. In Aikido if you are not relaxed you cannot throw a person. It seemed a mystery to us that Ueshiba Sensei could always throw, could always get out of a hold. He would lead your Ki, and could always throw his opponent in the direction he was already going. I began to make rapid progress after I started copying what he did, and paid less attention to what he said. I ended up only keeping about 30% of the techniques I learned from Ueshiba Sensei, changing or dropping the rest. What I really learned from him was not technique, but the true secret of Aikido, non-dissension; not to resist your opponent's strength but to use it...
You can read the full interview here.

Last edited by tedehara : 06-24-2005 at 06:40 AM.

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Old 06-24-2005, 07:21 AM   #14
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Re: Koichi Tohei and Relaxation

That interview says more or less the same drift, except that he is being a little more diplomatic about it. Tohei is simply being honest - he never understood a word Ueshiba said, and probably neither did many others. I don't think you have to much more into it than that. Do what Tohei did, watch your teacher and learn

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Old 06-24-2005, 08:27 AM   #15
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Re: Koichi Tohei and Relaxation

It's not only K. Tohei, but it seems everyone, didn't understand the founder's explanations. You can read about Nonaka Sensei's attempt to translate the founder's Japanese here.

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Old 06-24-2005, 08:28 AM   #16
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Re: Koichi Tohei and Relaxation

I think Tohei Sensei should be held to his words but, the context should be explored. As we all know, family feuds are exceptionally enduring in Japanese culture. I'm sure somewhere in the back to Tohei Sensei's mind there is still a pang of *insert here*- guilt, anger, etc. concerning his separation from the Aikikai, Ueshiba family and relationship with the 2nd Doshu. This could easily flavor his responses.

To this day, Tohei Sensei has no picture at Hombu, and no Ki Society dojo I have attended has a picture of O'Sensei. Both of which I think are a travesty to the art, and about as petty as it gets.. Last week at a seminar I met a guy that trained at Hombu for a few years, when he learned that I left the Aikikai in lieu of a Tohei lineage instructor, he went out of his way to be derisive. This attitude, I would have to believe, was not instilled into him by his own but probably came downhill.

In short, I think the higher ups that preach O'Sensei's "way to reconcile the world" should quit playing lip service, and truly do it.

Ellis, keep up the good work. Piss some people off. See if they can at least see where you are coming from....which I guess would be the first step to reconciliation.

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Old 06-24-2005, 08:52 AM   #17
Jonathan
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Re: Koichi Tohei and Relaxation

It is one thing to say, "I don't understand you." It's quite another to say, "You're talking gibberish." K. Tohei Sensei goes beyond merely "being honest" about his own lack of understanding of O-Sensei's teachings to flatly criticizing them as nonsense and the result of an uncontrolled mind. He is not content simply to admit his own inability to understand O-Sensei, but must show that the reason for this lack of understanding lies, not with him, but with the failings of his teacher. Why does Tohei Sensei think it is appropriate to denigrate his Aikido teacher so? I can't read his mind, so I can't say unequivocally, but the impression he leaves is that he denigrates his teacher in order to elevate himself. Ironically, the effect of criticizing his teacher so unpleasantly and publicly serves not to inflate him in my thinking, but the opposite.

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Old 06-24-2005, 09:03 AM   #18
rob_liberti
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Re: Koichi Tohei and Relaxation

My take was that he honestly thought O-sensei was nuts. -Rob
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Old 06-24-2005, 09:22 AM   #19
rob_liberti
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Re: Koichi Tohei and Relaxation

Ted,

I read that article, and it also says:

And although he claims to not understanding the gist of O-sensei's talks, Nonaka was privy to a private lesson and some individual conversations with the elder Ueshiba that opened his eyes to the spiritual aspect of aikido. Between Tohei's clear concepts and Ueshiba's cryptic sayings, Nonaka realized that aikido went beyond mere physical throwing and pinning people.

Once, O-sensei visited Nonaka's home in 1960 and wandered through the orchid garden. It reminded him of his former home in Hokkaido, he said, and then, reflective, he told Nonaka, "Life is like a flowing river. Human beings are in the river. Some are going with the current. Some people swim nicely and others are struggling. He (Ueshiba) would like to help the struggling people, but won't jump into to river. He stays on the river bank and throws in ropes and runs up and down the river (to see if there's a waterfall up ahead). If he's in the water with them, he might get caught and can't see the waterfall. At that time, I didn't understand it," Nonaka says. Gradually, however, he feels he is beginning to comprehend O-sensei's symbolisms.
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Old 06-24-2005, 11:08 AM   #20
Chris Li
 
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Re: Koichi Tohei and Relaxation

Quote:
Rob Liberti wrote:
My take was that he honestly thought O-sensei was nuts. -Rob
Mine too, and that's from other writings by Koichi Tohei in Japanese as well.

Now, if you accept the assumption that Morihei Ueshiba was not "nuts", then it would be logical to assume that Tohei misunderstood some or all of what was going on in his mind. I don't think that there's anything particularly offensive about that - certainly no more offensive than the implication by Tohei that Ueshiba was playing with less then a full deck.

Best,

Chris

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Old 06-24-2005, 11:52 AM   #21
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Re: Koichi Tohei and Relaxation

Quote:
Rob Liberti wrote:
Ted,

I read that article, and it also says:

And although he claims to not understanding the gist of O-sensei's talks, Nonaka was privy to a private lesson and some individual conversations with the elder Ueshiba that opened his eyes to the spiritual aspect of aikido. Between Tohei's clear concepts and Ueshiba's cryptic sayings, Nonaka realized that aikido went beyond mere physical throwing and pinning people.

Once, O-sensei visited Nonaka's home in 1960 and wandered through the orchid garden. It reminded him of his former home in Hokkaido, he said, and then, reflective, he told Nonaka, "Life is like a flowing river. Human beings are in the river. Some are going with the current. Some people swim nicely and others are struggling. He (Ueshiba) would like to help the struggling people, but won't jump into to river. He stays on the river bank and throws in ropes and runs up and down the river (to see if there's a waterfall up ahead). If he's in the water with them, he might get caught and can't see the waterfall. At that time, I didn't understand it," Nonaka says. Gradually, however, he feels he is beginning to comprehend O-sensei's symbolisms.
If you read the article you will also recognize this:
Quote:
...The story gets even funnier. When O-sensei returned to Japan, he called all of his top-ranking deshi (students) together. They thought he would be in a good mood. After all, he had just returned from a very eventful trip to Hawaii, a successful trip that O-sensei made to United States soil. But what they got was a dressing-down.

"What's the matter with all of you?" O-sensei stormed. "You never understand what jiji (the old man; an informal term O-sensei used for himself) is saying. But Nonaka-san in Hawaii understood everything clearly!"...
I am sure his inability to communicate with his top-ranking students was a source of constant frustration for the founder.

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Old 06-24-2005, 12:02 PM   #22
rob_liberti
Dojo: Shobu Aikido of Connecticut
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Re: Koichi Tohei and Relaxation

Okay, but honestly, that's why I wrote "it also says:" as opposed to you are totally wrong which I wasn't trying to express.

I took engineering in school, and *almost* no one got what some of our professors were talking about either. Some of the people who didn't get what was being talking about in one class or another went on to be pretty good engineers. I'm not convinced that makes the teachers bad (but maybe they were a bit crazy).

Rob
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Old 06-24-2005, 05:32 PM   #23
Don_Modesto
Dojo: Messores Sensei (Largo, Fl.)
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Re: Koichi Tohei and Relaxation

Quote:
Jonathan Hay wrote:
....Why does Tohei Sensei think it is appropriate to denigrate his Aikido teacher so?
Frankness?

It's SO politically incorrect to criticize powers that be in aikido that some--reasonably enough--have asked if aikido is a cult. Being an outsider no longer beholden to the main organization gives Tohei a freedom of expression denied others still dependant on Honbu for "grace". If that criticism is severe, maybe it needs to be.

Don J. Modesto
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Old 06-24-2005, 05:39 PM   #24
Lan Powers
Dojo: Aikido of Midland, Midland TX
Location: Midland Tx
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Re: Koichi Tohei and Relaxation

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote:
That interview says more or less the same drift, except that he is being a little more diplomatic about it. Tohei is simply being honest - he never understood a word Ueshiba said, and probably neither did many others. I don't think you have to much more into it than that. Do what Tohei did, watch your teacher and learn
The doka's are tough for me.
I, frankly, have little use for them since I fail to comprehend the meanings. (My fault, the authors, the interpretors, who knows? )
The concept of benevelant interaction with others (even the violent)
is where the values lie. Rupert said it so very well.
FWIW
Lan

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Old 06-24-2005, 08:08 PM   #25
Jonathan
Dojo: North Winnipeg Aikikai
Location: Winnipeg, Canada
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Re: Koichi Tohei and Relaxation

Quote:
Don J. Modesto wrote:
Frankness?

It's SO politically incorrect to criticize powers that be in aikido that some--reasonably enough--have asked if aikido is a cult. Being an outsider no longer beholden to the main organization gives Tohei a freedom of expression denied others still dependant on Honbu for "grace". If that criticism is severe, maybe it needs to be.
It is being frank to say, "I don't understand his teachings." But what Tohei Sensei has said about O-Sensei is more than frank -- it's obnoxious.

I don't have a problem with Tohei Sensei disagreeing with O-Sensei's teaching methods. It is rather over the top, though, to state that O-Sensei's teaching was complete nonsense and the product of an uncontrolled mind. This isn't criticism of a method, but is an unnecessary personal attack on O-Sensei and as such reflects badly on Tohei Sensei (IMO).

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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