“Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 3,” by Peter Goldsbury

“Morihei Ueshiba made no attempt to ‘teach’ the knowledge and skills he possessed to his deshi!”

In the last column I considered the first of the above three propositions from the viewpoint of Morihei Ueshiba as a teacher and discussed the question of how, as a Japanese living in the Taisho & early Showa periods, he would have seen this role. Morihei Ueshiba was not only a teacher, or master, but was also the Source of aikido and constantly refined himself as the Source. (Here we can disregard for the time being the crucial importance of his inheritance from Sokaku Takeda and Daito-ryu, except to note in passing the ways in which Ueshiba distanced himself from Takeda and modified this inheritance. We can also disregard the differences between Morihei Ueshiba and Judo Founder Jigoro Kano, who, like Takeda, was also a Source, but in a less technical sense.) In particular, I drew a sharp distinction between (a) the Master as a Learner, striving to increase his own understanding or possession of the art he is creating, and (b) the Master as a Teacher, or transmitter to others of the art, whether considered as the ‘public’ expression of an individual’s evolving ‘private’ training, or considered as something like an end-product, fashioned into a recognizable art and called aikido.

One could argue that learning and teaching are not so separate and note that many young aikidoists have observed that it was not until they began to teach the art that they actually understood more deeply what they were doing. This might be true, but underlying this observation there seems to be a ‘western’ notion of teaching, with the provision of structured explanations and syllabuses, etc. The observation would thus mean that learning the art in depth entails the quite separate activity of teaching the art to others. Clearly, underlying the observation is also an assumption that teaching is not a mirror image of learning, but a completely different activity, with its own internal principles and strategies. However, the examples of engineering, medicine, languages and philosophy, considered in the previous column, show that in Japan, at least, it is not at all intuitively obvious that acquiring an understanding of an art entails actually having to teach that art to others.

Click here to read the entire article by Peter Goldsbury

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