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“…the Teacher can only give you part of the teaching…

“…it is through your own devoted practice that the mysteries of the Art of Peace are brought to life.”  – – – the Art of Peace  tr. John Stevens

Philippe Grangé remembers Seigo Yamaguchi Shihan telling him that “the [late 1980’s era] practitioners at the Aikikai were very serious people. He found them more assiduous than their predecessors of his own generation, who often gave O’Sensei occasion to reprimand them between classes…they would go outside to smoke, and have to be dragged in by the ear by O’Sensei in order to continue the lesson.” “And even so, you all learned a lot faster, it seems,” responded  Grangé.  Yamaguchi Shihan replied: “That’s because we were working with great masters.”

Philippe Grangé adds: ‘What he was trying to say, I think, was that they had been serious in their own way, but not in the way one generally imagines. Current practitioners train seriously, but in a mechanical fashion, and without any real thought. The old-timers had a free-er spirit, and less academic with regard to the practice of budo. How many times, after all, did Yamaguchi Sensei get mad, and tell us that we were like robots. His era was different. Structuring the catalog of techniques made teaching easier, and helped the development of aikido in Japan and in the world, but it has probably made practitioners less free and creative than before….’ 1)

Yamaguchi Shihan, of course, had, away from Hombu,  his own  yudansha-only dojo, for ”personal research”…  as did Koichi Tohei Shihan, for a few years before his final departure from Hombu…

This is what O’Sensei was accustomed to in the 1930’s: students with access to a family dojo, students with high level kendo and judo dan-grades, uchideshi, of course, with constant access to the practice space… …when Tomiki, Mochizuki, and Murashige were sent over from the Kodokan, they had been studying not just judo, but also the ko-ryu Jigoro Kano had started to offer there… …and O’Sensei took a particular interest in Aritomo Murashige’s Katori-Shinto-Ryu bo work. Traces of it are still evident in most aiki-jo lineages today…

Before that, in Ayabe, in the center of Omoto-kyo,  O’Sensei had students with serious meditation practice – and several years of High School kendo and judo

So that Iwama in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s was the first time that he had to teach High School kids starting from  a l m o s t  nothing…  What he did was drill them in the kind of repetition he had done in the mountains after his return from the Russo-Japanese war, and after his return from Mongolia… and upon his self-exile to Iwama…  Jo and ken suburi… and then he had them do a few selected waza that drilled the essentials: aiki-age, tai-no-henka (‘transforming the body’) and repetitive activation of the Heavenly Stem in suwari-waza-ikkyo

Then, when O’Sensei started travelling more and more: while Saito Shihan maintained the regime of repetitive drilling in Iwama – at the spiritual center O’Sensei had established for his art – O’Sensei trusted that this repetition was happening in his absence – or that  s o m e t h i n g  was happening – everywhere that  he was seriously teaching.  He seemed happy when students studied something elsewhere EXCEPT when that something  was  based on raw strength. And he concentrated on filling in what he must have felt were the other essentials: drilling kihon, showing his jo-practice: and always, always encouraging students be aware of musubi, and of the divine spark inside of themselves…

And that is what Terry Dobson saw, over the course of a decade:  “[his] program start[ed] by giving students the courage to find their own sacred place. You can offer a map, but you can’t lead them there, they have to find out for themselves.”  2)

1)  Le corps aiki –  La pratique interne de l’aikido,  Philippe Grangé,  pp.59-69
2)  reported in An Obese White Gentleman in no Apparent Distress, by Riki Moss, p. 284

Michio Hikitsuchi Shihan remembers…

He also told us to have a sense of gratitude. Be thankful for others and to nature. Without gratitude we cannot become true human beings. The power of nature, the sun, gives us everyhing. When rain falls, the field produces rice. Fruit and grain grow. This is the gift of the earth. Therefore the keiko is very important.

– – – in Remembering O-Sensei, ed. Susan Perry, p.101

O’Sensei no kuden: peace in the world (5)

It is absolutely not through a struggle against cosmic conditions that an  organism grows and preserves itself, but on the contrary, by adaptation  and harmony with them.

– – – recorded by André Nocquet Shihan,  reported in Aikido: Heart and Sword tr. Stanley Pranin,  p. 11

Hirokazu Kobayashi Shihan and André Nocquet Shihan…

HKobayashiANDNocquetCROP

– – –  Bu-Iku: Ritterlichkeits-Erziehung,  Yasuhiko Kunimoto,  tr. Kiyoko Furumoto ,  p.42

A change of optic:

Aikido is a gem of many facets – sometimes it seems that every one of O’Sensei’s students remembered a different teacher, and of course, many, many different styles have been preserved and developed – but here is one facet that clicked into focus for me recently:

what if O’Sensei spent his time away from Iwama and Tokyo coherently pursuing what he felt to be his “mission in life”?…

what if he spent his time away from Iwama and Tokyo creating and nurturing a network of dojos run by Omoto-Kyo, ex-Omoto-Kyo and Ko-Shinto believers ( hand-picked deshi,  some of them raised, almost, as members of his family) – – – and ex-Kamikaze pilots, too (!) – often with his own name on the sign –  in places – and close to shrines – that had been important to the  Omoto-kyo,  and to his own life, and that were a continuation of his activities in the late twenties and early thirties (which is to say:  the projects of his first enlightenment experiences) ?…

what if he made several of these dojo-cho tenth dan, and told them “there is no iemoto system in aikido”?…

asked one of them to write a book on kokyu?… and asked said dojo-cho’s brother to write his (O’Sensei’s) biography?…

and told one of them “you are a [/the ?] true successor to me”…

and to another – who studied with him from age 14 to age 45 – gave transmission scrolls…

what if O’Sensei was more relaxed with, and spoke more deeply and openly to these dojo-cho than to other aikido-ka, and was such a powerful influence on them that frequently their thoughts echo his own?…

…such as the thought, expressed by Seiseki Abe, that the doka are O’Sensei’s writings that most reliably survive transmission – because you cannot edit a very strict poetic structure (waka) without that being immediately obvious?…

and, of course,  what if he felt the CENTER of this network – old school – to be his spiritual practice in Iwama, where he build a dojo that looked very much like a Temple or a Shrine…

and what if Omoto-kyo was in many ways not what we would call “a new religion” (that’s a government label) – but rather preserved a body of traditional (pre-Meiji) Japanese thinking (harmoniously blended Shinto, Esoteric Buddhism, Taoism, and Idealist Neo-Confucianism) and practices in a transformation that was both competitive with and influenced by Christianity, and adequate to the wider world – and wider religious perspective –  beyond Japan, opened up by the Meiji restoration?…

and what if O’Sensei’s very personal blend of Omoto-kyo and Ko-Shinto thinking preserves a body of traditional Japanese thought (harmoniously blended Shinto, Esoteric Buddhism, Taoism, and Idealist Neo-Confucianism) and practices in a certain rapprochement with Christianity that is – just as he believed –  entirely adequate to the global culture and the realities and challenges we now all face?…

and what if O’Sensei’s synthesis of Omoto-kyo and traditional thinking  was integral to his understanding and work with ki and kokyu?  – –  –  a continuation and development,  in fact,  of  traditional higher-level budo thinking – or rather: practice, just as Jigoro Kano noted 1)…

and what if O’Sensei remained loyal his entire life to his family’s Ujigami – the gods of the three Kumano mountain shrines, in both their kami and buddha aspects – their shrine still visible in the garden of O’Sensei’s birthplace when Nidai Doshu went to gather biographical material – and what if O’Sensei returned to those three mountains for guidance in times of crisis, was friends with the Guji of the head shrine, privy to that family’s esoteric, Ko-Shinto philosophy, and attempted to bring said Guji into the network that he considered his “life mission”?…

indeed, what if O’Sensei created the shrine(s), farm, and dojo at Iwama as an improved version of what he had had at Ayabe – and later at the Budo-Senyo-Kai’s Hombu Dojo at Takeda?… and if, post-war, for real, and for more than half a decade, that  farm and dojo – his Aiki-En –  were operating largely outside the money economy,  feeding and housing his dojo “family” – and were, in fact, at that time, the “hombu” dojo  –  and sending rice to feed the dojo in Tokyo? …

and what if his opinion of Tokyo – and all things Tokyo – was colored by, for instance, the interrogations that attended his attempts to move there in 1925 and 1926 2) – not to mention subsequent events affecting the Omoto-kyo?…

…so that, after the war, rather than promote an “Ueshiba” dojo in Tokyo, he encouraged a long-time deshi with family ties to the army and the wartime cabinet to open a dojo there?

and what if O’Sensei saw cultural affinities between, out of all the western nations,  France and Japan, and worked on having the Hombu – and other – deshi with most affinity to his “life mission” sent to France?…

and what if he chose out foreign uchideshi and deshi for their perceived affinity to his “life mission”?…

and what if his “life mission”,  given to him in a vision in 1940, was not so different, after all,  from the one bestowed on him by  Onisaburo  Deguchi?…

…and so what if we stay aware, at the least, when we hear the stories about O’Sensei – and read the writings and quotes that have come down to us – of which dojo, which city or town (and look at the map!), which deshi 3), which shrine and what year? …

…the eccentric, inexplicable old man in one place; the serious, sometimes severe, farmer and budo master with a rigorous spiritual routine in another; and elsewhere the relaxed and wise old sage, talking religion, philosophy, and old times with his favorite long-time students, and practising calligraphy….

– – – – FastSlow   (August 2013)

1) “We have to leave techniques like those of Mr. Ueshiba to future generations. The old traditional jujutsu was the same as his style, but it is difficult to find out how to practice them systematically” Jigoro Kano to Kenji Tomiki Shihan in March 1936, cited in Aikido Tradition and the Competetive Edge, by Fumiaki Shishida and Tetsuro Nariyama, p.29
2) Remembering, too, that this was a man whose family had spirited him off to Tokyo after he agitated against the Fishery Acts of 1901, and to Hokkaido after he joined Minakata Kumagusa’s movement to oppose the 1906 Shrine Consolidation regulations.
3) …and pay attention, too, to which deshi got to eat their meals with the Ueshiba family…

…Fourth of July Jinja-Mairi!!!…

…appreciation…

SenseitoSenseiCROPThis summer I was able to visit Tsubaki America Shrine for my O-Mairi.  It has been many years since I was able to go,  so I was really happy to be there and experience the transformative atmosphere of the Shrine,  and even more:  Guji-San’s amazing talent as a shrine-keeper.  We were able to visit a little bit, but it was a very busy time for him, too. So, all the more, we enjoyed so much his hospitality, and hope to return soon.

We are hoping to collect a group of dojo-members who might be  interested in experiencing shrine technology and take them up for a little trip.

I want to extend my incredible gratitude to Sensei for the years of work that have created this Shrine.  He’s one of the few people that I’ve ever met who have that level of commitment that they can make something that everyone says is impossible  actually happen, and happen in a bigger and more incredible way than anyone could have imagined.

– – – Kimbal Anderson Sensei,   August 2014

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AME-NO-UZUME-NO-MIKOTO ZOU…

Kimbal Anderson Sensei’s gift to Tsubaki America O-Kami-Yashiro is now completed and polished…   …waiting to make that roadtrip to Granite Falls, in the mountains outside Seattle…FINISHEDin DOJOCROP

Gozo Shioda Shihan on Kokyu…

..by combining a certain state of mind and rhythm with focused power, what you get is kokyu power.

What I mean precisely by “state of mind” is that you have to achieve a state of emptiness, or nothingness….then you will start to have complete faith in yourself and you will achieve a state of serenity.

Once this happens, you will be able to read the movements of your opponent’s mind. You  won’t perceive how he is going to advance in your head, you’ll sense it in your skin. It will be as if the so-called “mind’s eye” or sixth sense is at work.

– – – Gozo Shioda Shihan,  Aiki Shugyo  p. 92

O’Sensei no kuden: Keiko (14)

Throw a thousand as one, throw one as a thousand!

– – – reported by Nobuyuki Watanabe Shihan,  August 2007 issue of Gekkan Hiden, interview translated on the Sangenkai website

O’Sensei no kuden: Kokyu(6)

Prayer becomes divine power…

– – –  reported by Nidai Doshu in A Life in Aikido  p. 214