These are just thoughts that occur to me which might fit aikido history of forty years ago. The context is the videos I’ve seen of Tohei Sensei, the Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and Morihiro Saito Sensei.
I see Tohei relishing the limelight as he is filmed performing facile imitations of O Sensei’s later years. There was a spontaneity which seemed to conjure techniques that might only be seen once. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were without substance, it is just that there didn’t seem to be enough foundation in that young man to fill out that old man “impression”. And he seemed to be enjoying himself to the point of upstaging O Sensei on occasion. For O Sensei, zanshin was probably never absent even if invisible. With Tohei it was not obvious.
I see Doshu and the Hombu students doing recognizable “Hombu style” aikido. Movement sometimes blurs the edges and definition of the waza. I am particularly impressed by Doshu’s fluid, flexible, yet precise techniques. Not all of the Hombu aikidoka had obvious zanshin. Many, but not all, wandered around between techniques in a very familiar fashion.
I have seen little of Saito Sensei in that period. The only thing I have seen is a very brief clip of him doing flow in a way that I never saw him manifest in my personal experience which dates from 1974. There wasn’t enough in that early clip to comment on zanshin. Wandering around between techniques, though, is familiar enough to me from my early training. From my personal experience, I think it would have been hard to surprise Saito Sensei. I never tried, but there is a story or two…
Could it be that charisma is the element Tohei found lacking after O Sensei’s death? O Sensei could command attention. Attention was lavished on Tohei. Doshu didn’t seem to seek personal attention and I feel that Saito Sensei was extremely self-effacing or he might have taught that which I saw him do in that instant captured on film rather than the basics with which we all associate Iwama style.