In contrast to most of those contributing to your website, I don’t have a high level in aikido. My experience is limited to a practice of Aikikai aikido for four years with Gilbert Maillot, a student of Christian Tissier. After that, I began Yoshinkan Aikido with Jacques Muguruza, technical director for Europe and a student for several years of Gozo Shioda, as you know.
Therefore, my aikido background is a bit lacking for me to make public comments on the DVD of Noriaki Inoue. On the other hand, I should add that any observation I might offer on a martial arts film or demonstration is based on 30 years of practice of different arts including 15 or so years as an instructor of Combat Nunchaku in several dojos in Paris and being a competitor in this art for about 12 years.
My first technical comment concerns the similarity between certain movements based on relaxation of masters Inoue and Akira Hino. Before participating in Hino’s seminar I had ordered two of his DVDs edited by BAB. I especially focused on a study of the video images since I can’t understand any part of the Japanese narration. This, together with having participated in a Hino seminar, have convinced me that certain aspects of relaxation of Hino and Inoue are of the same nature, specifically the long sequence where the latter offers his bare forearm to be grabbed. This is even more interesting since this type of relaxation is truly different from that I was exposed to while doing Aikikai Aikido. In conclusion, I believe that aikidoka have many interesting things to discover on the subject of relaxation and joint suppleness in this Inoue DVD.
Concerning the spiritual aspects of the DVD, I must tell you that I have studied the “Takemusu Aiki” texts of O-Sensei available on your website for several months. They are not easy to comprehend but I find them fascinating and rich in practical applications for daily life, without one feeling obligated to convert to Shintoism or the Omoto religion.
How can one not be surprised that a concept as important for O-Sensei as misogi has almost entirely disappeared from modern aikido, be it the vision of the Aikikai based purely on social education, or even that of the Yoshinkan which retains the martial aspect? I am not referring here solely to the clichéd image of meditation under a waterfall, but to simpler ideas accessible in daily life such as breathing and prayer which are presented by O-Sensei as noble forms of purification of the body and spirit that are indispensable to true aikido practice. Without, however, making their members adopt these spiritual practices, it seems to me that the different organizations that claim to derive from the aikido of the Founder should at least make a minimal effort to make members aware of these aspects.
Also, to my great surprise, the last part of the Inoue DVD seems to me to illustrate this spiritual dimension of aikido more than any other film I have seen thus far, including the series of O-Sensei DVDs! Certainly this is revealed in the end of the Inoue DVD that you were able to film yourself, Stanley, which has a lot to do with it, while the film archives of O-Sensei are from a different era and were made in a different spirit.
I find that the expression of humanism displayed by Inoue throughout the film, the simple and touching words of his speech and the entire final sequence make one feel this spirituality both powerfully and gently, even if that of Inoue inevitably differs somewhat in its form from that of his uncle Morihei.
That is for me the final factor that makes your latest film a true joy for all aikidoka. They may discover or rediscover, somewhat paradoxically, some of the forgotten aspects of the Founder’s aikido through Inoue Sensei.