“The ‘No Style’ Style” by Ralph Pettman

“Yamaguchi-sensei was one of Morihei Uyeshiba’s “third generation” students. Unlike some of the others of this generation, however, he never gave his personal interpretation of Uyeshiba’s art a particular name, in part I guess out of respect for the man who was his teacher, and in part because the kind of aikido Yamaguchi taught was too intangible to be given something as concrete as a label or a name.

This raises right at the start a key dilemma when talking about Yamaguchi’s approach, though it is the same dilemma that dogs any spiritually oriented martial art that tries to transcend the limits that language sets. It is the dilemma of how to teach an art or belief that has an ineffable end, when the means available to do so are effable ones. How is it possible to impart a truly formless form?”

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  1. Brett Jackson says:

    I enjoyed your article very much. Thanks for so carefully describing the Yamaguchi-sensei way of teaching! I know what you mean when you said: “I am not very optimistic that what I’ve just said can make much sense,” because, as you say, it’s in the feel rather than in the say. Interestingly, you say it very well when you say Aikido is a way to harmoninze with “the universe” with a self-defense application. Although I never had the good fortune to take a class with Yamaguchi sensei, I understand what you say and find validation in it in my own training experience thanks to (or in light of) the good fortunes I have had training with many different high-level teachers. Personally, I prefer teachers who practice the feel more and talk less. I also like the way you paint the uke-nage relationship. I feel I understand the Yamaguchi-sensei approach much more clearly now having read your article and can see why so many regarded him with such high esteem.

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