Monthly Archives: February 2012

Morihei Ueshiba, Budo and Kamae

"Kamae" from the technical manual "Budo", Morihei Ueshiba 1938

Standing and walking – that’s pretty basic. It’s so basic that it’s really the first thing you learn in most budo, or even in life – if anybody can remember back that far.
Like everybody else, I received basic instructions in how to stand when I started Aikido – point the front foot forward and the back foot out at an angle. Some places break that down into a more detailed description, but that’s usually the gist of it.
Pretty easy right? Anybody can do it – which may be the problem. If anybody can do it, and you’re doing essentially the same thing that you’ve always done…why are you spending all that time on the mat?
"Budo" is a pre-war technical manual published in 1938 by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. It was originally created for Prince Kaya Tsunenori, member of a collateral branch of the imperial family. Kayanomiya would eventually become Superintendant of the Army Toyama School – where Morihei Ueshiba would act as an instructor before the war.
"Budo" remains the largest and most organized collection of technique from the pre-war period, and an English edition ("Budo: Teachings of the Founder of Aikido"), translated by John Stevens, was published in 1991.
A separate edition, the "Takemusu Aikido Special Edition", translated by Sonoko Tanaka and Stanley A. Pranin, was published in 1999 ("Budo: Commentary on the 1938 Training Manual of Morihei Ueshiba"). This edition is composed of some excerpts from the Japanese text, along with a commentary by Morihiro Saito, in both English and Japanese.

Kiichi Hogen and the Secret of Aikido

Sawamura Sojûrô V as Kiichi Hôgen (鬼一法眼)from the play Kiichi Hôgen Sanryaku no Maki (鬼一 法眼 三略巻)
There’s an interesting quotation that appears on page 40 of "Profiles of the Founder" (開祖の横顔), a collection of interviews with students of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba that was published in Japan in 2009 (it’s still only available in Japanese, so far as I know).
The same quotation occurs numerous other places, but it happened to pop out at me when I read it this time. The quotation occurs in the interview with Morito Suganuma, who became an Uchi-deshi to the Founder in 1967, shortly before the Founder passed away in 1969. Suganuma came to Hawaii and visited Aikido of Hilo in September 2011.
I first heard this quotation from Seishiro Endo some years ago, but as I said above it appears in a number of places. Morihei Ueshiba said that this quotation was one of the secrets (極意 / Gokui) of Aikido. The text of the quotation below is as cited by Suganuma.

Aikido ™ – Can it really be trademarked?

Reg. No.2313434, June 28, 1991 – Registered Trademark "Aikikai"
Here’s something that caught my eye from "Best Aikido, The Fundamentals" (Kisshomaru Ueshiba Doshu and Moriteru Ueshiba Hombu Dojo-cho), which was published in 1997 as 「規範合氣道基本編」 in Japanese:
A:確かに巷には合気会とは別に「○○合気道」と名乗っている団体が存在します。 中には、素姓の知れぬ訳の判らぬようなものもあるようです。しかし、開祖・植芝盛平に連ならないもの、その教えを逸脱したものは、いかに外見を似せようが、深遠そうな哲理を語ろうが、合気道ではありません。 例えば、競技試合を行っているようなものは明らかに合気道本来の姿を忘れたもので、合気道と呼ぶことはできません。私どもで言う合気道には分派は存在しないと考えています。分派がいくつもあるという考えは、それ自体が合気道を貶(おとし)めるものでしょう。
Q:Are there different schools of Aikido?
A:To be sure, there are many systems that claim to be "such-and-such Aikido," even without really knowing what Aikido is. And there are some splinter groups that have been established by former students of the Founder, with a few even going so far as to introduce organized competition, something that is totally contrary to the spirit of Aikido. Regardless of how similar the techniques appear, if they are divorced from the spirit of the Founder it is not Aikido.
We do not like to think that there are separate schools of Aikido. If we draw too many distinctions between different interpretations of the techniques, the universal character of Aikido will be degraded.