“In Fairness, an aiki perspective,” by Francis Takahashi

In fairness to the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, I issue this disclaimer, that whatever opinion or perspective I present, does not presume or assume any direct claim to the Founder, or of any special knowledge or insight into his teachings in any way. All errors, omissions and total blackouts of logic or common sense are mine alone. I met him but once, in only one training session, and in passing. Yet, I have made it my resolute habit to identify and appreciate each person I encounter by the influence he may have made on those who profess allegiance to Aiki Principles, and who willingly and openly share their understanding with others similarly motivated.

The O Sensei videos are entertaining, but lack sufficient definition to truly learn much from. Those words, aphorisms and phrases attributed to the Founder are too often influenced by the translators’ bias and lack of full research, along with a woeful lack of cultural exposure and in depth training in the Aikido of the Founder. We can, and we must do better, by first acknowledging that the Aikido of the Founder is not a done deal. It is an indefinite work in progress for those who willingly take up the challenge to first internalize those Principles, and make them available to all who wish to train, to study, and to eventually share the length and breadth of the Founder’s vision.

In fairness to those who genuinely attempt to reconstruct the elements of the Founder’s personal history, his notable contacts in the field of art, politics, religion, martial arts etc., I do believe that they do their level best with what is available. The Founder left little in written provenance, and the general consensus of those who had first hand contact with him were varied and too often contradictory. They all agreed, however, that most of what they saw, heard, and experienced was unintelligible to them at that time.

In fairness to the direct students of the Founder, who were usually men without much formal training, business training, and demonstrably lacking in people skills, they did succeed in gleaning enough from their experiences to successfully develop their individual styles of training and transmission. It is fair to also say that they did attempt to continue their own sense of growth and development of the multiple skills required of a successful instructor, albeit with varying degrees of success.

The major names such as Kisshomaru Doshu, Tohei, Mochizuki, Shioda, Tomiki, Saito, Nishio, and others I fail to name, were all uniquely qualified to represent their understanding and learning from the Founder. It is no secret that each one was also uniquely and totally different from each other, in both interpreting and teaching their individual sense of personal stewardship of the Founder’s legacy, and often in open contrast and mutual refutation. This was predictable, since, they were all ambitiously human.

In fairness to the sensibilities of those who claim to be “Old School” devotees of the traditional styles of martial skills transmission, I acknowledge that this is a valid option for the serious student to consider. Nonetheless, it seems archaic and often inefficient and counterproductive to immerse their students in arbitrary situations of harsh and often injurious training, in cultural sub climates requiring the learning of special language and rituals that do not translate to the modern world, to which they must all eventually return, become reacclimatized, and to embrace once again.

In fairness to those who feel entitled to blithely treat old wisdom, proven skills development, and established training systems as optional, you are blindly mistaken. One cannot successfully negotiate the future without a foundational connection to the past. It is in the present that such an amalgamation of wisdom and new knowledge can occur. It is only by having an open mind, a humble heart, an ego unfettered by narrow and misguided agendas, and a child like curiosity for trying new approaches with boundless energy, that can assure, but not guarantee, the best chances of real success, and achievement.

In fairness too, to the countless thousands who have trained, are training, and will train in the system of aikido they choose, there are no legitimate templates for comparative evaluations of the presently existing systems, their martial efficacy, their provenance back to the Founder. I find no supportable evidence of any pre-existing basis to claiming authenticity over any other system or style. The Aikikai Foundation may correctly claim to be the most consistent in their stewardship by virtue of the “Iemoto system”, producing an unbroken lineage of Ueshiba males directly from O Sensei. This does not, however, automatically give this style any copyright, or any historically based authority over any other system claiming O Sensei’s example and teaching as the basis for their individual legitimacy. Once anyone finally chooses a system to devote full attention and energy to, there should be no need to expend any needless and wasteful energy in minimizing or criticizing any other system.

Finally, in fairness to myself, I resolve to treat myself kindly, with patience and with full appreciation of how fragile, frail and fault ridden I truly am. I will build on my strengths, and buttress my weaknesses, accepting that I need not be the best there ever was. All I need to do is to be better than my opponent on that fateful day. I recall the story of someone calmly tying on his shoes in the middle of a field with a raging bull bearing upon him and his friend. When told that they could not hope to outrun that bull, he turned to his friend and sadly revealed, “I only need to outrun you.”

In our travels, training with a wide assortment of partners, being exposed to situations mild or menacing, we need to remember to choose our battles wisely, and to foresee those situations that need to wait their turn for another day, when preparation has hopefully caught up. Life itself is not fair, nor was it ever intended to be. We are given choices, and with only our wits, experiences and relationships to assist and guide us. Yet, it is because of our abilities to learn and to choose, that allow us to compete in our chosen environments. It is, after all, only fair.

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  1. Thank you Takahashi Sensei for another wonderful article, this is my own phrase I’d like to add to your nice post:

    In fairness to the Founder of Aikido, he may be looking down at this former young boy, who met him but once, in only one training session, and in passing, and be honored by his writings that are spreading Aikido and Aiki principles to anyone who like to read them and so contributing to develop this indefinite work in progress and encouraging others to do the same.

  2. With respect Francis, I must somewhat disagree with some of these points. Having had the good fortune of having known others of Morihei’s ilk and caliber there is a definite grandness of vision that accompanies such extraordinary mortals. Yes, they are human. No they refuse to be restricted by the blinding entanglements of the Matrix that ensures suburban predictability of habituated rigor mortis of the soul. Such Super Alpha individuals live to tear and increase a hole in that Matrix of common darkness and let some of the Greater Light into the world. Reminiscent of Plato’s allegory of the cave they often sacrifice a great deal of themselves willingly and knowingly and with such lack of equivocation to offer the rest of us a thread of hope, some have arrogantly called them naïve.

    I ask you this: Can you imagine a world without Aikido?


    Some of us would be dead. Others soul dead or in other ways seriously hampered in the drab, dull, misadventure of the suburban morass of political correctness drowning in the squalor of affluent mediocrity!

    That such individuals, met the asymmetry of great challenges not readily known, believed or understood by the too comfortable of today, whether with full knowledge or understanding or by Divine serendipity, it matters not. That they left and continue to leave an indelible influence and legacy in the sands of time is an indisputable fact of history that influences us all, and the world, for the better, to this very day. The rest is mere details, mostly misunderstood and the rest not the jurisdiction of the average mortal to even comprehend.

    The fact we are graced with a Path that enables us to elevate ourselves is sufficient cause for gratitude and I simply say thanks and continue to train, knowing that at least my life is the better for it and with all my fallibility, hoping I’ve done less harm with my sometimes clumsy moments and hope to have contributed in adding to greater good because of it.

    I’m still learning, making mistakes, doing silly things, tripping and blundering. We all do. And perhaps from time to time so did these greats, but all in all, I think the world is better for it.

    Young men like to imagine they can reach to the levels such as Morihei did. Most do not have what it takes to meet the intensity, consistency and spirit required. Undoubtedly some reach a measure of ascension on this mountain of mastery. But know this: It requires the meeting of challenges that are beyond the usual capability of those who would be followers and self-excusingly inept. Budo demands a proponent give all of him or her self. Aiki Budo more so. Too many would have it as a light and easy recreational pastime which is not budo-like at all. But if Aikido better arms us to deal well with the very real challenges of today, then these giants who gave us and future generations the foundations to build upon will have fulfilled their mission. And thence we may go on and fulfill ours.

    Thank you.

  3. Charles Humphrey says:

    A quick comment before class. My sense as a kind of outsider is that too much attention is focused on doing “Morihei Ueshiba’s Aikido”, trying to emulate a dead man rather than create a living example. Did Ueshiba spend his days trying to imitate some other master or did he forge his own path through the brambles? Seems its hard enough to learn “my aikido” without getting caught up in the details of another man’s path.

    • Hello again Nev. Thank you for responding and sharing your unique and interesting viewpoints on things Aiki and Aikido related. Again, I warn you that I may well misinterpret what you espouse, and beg your forgiveness, and your kind correction.

      First of all, I do not understand what a Super Alpha individual is, or should be. You say that you have interacted with several individuals similar to O Sensei. I say “so what”. History is rife with the countless people who have met greatness and have not been changed one iota, or if so, in any objectively measurable way. I do believe that at any one time, there are literally thousands of O Sensei quality individuals “doing their thing”, with only their specialty to define them. I place no special value to them at all, even as I would not single out the tallest mountain from the rest of the chain.

      Plato’s famous allegory was a simple tale, elegantly written, and unwisely directed at an unwilling and unappreciative audience. I dare say that modern scholars may be better fans of his wit, but not significantly so beyond appreciation for good prose. What is this Matrix fabric that is so important? Daily living is the fabric I admire.

      A world without Aikido? Why, do you really think it exists now? If so, for what genuine reasons? Aikido is just a noun, not a verb or adjective, attached to some phenomenal human comet. If it existed at all, it is due to those who recognized the greatness of the Lesson Principles, not the man Ueshiba, that O Sensei himself admonished us to get straight. He clearly recognized his personal insignificance, but was proud to align himself and his pedigree with proven concepts that can endure over time, and be constantly nurtured with the fertilizer from future minds and imaginations like his. Fundamental philosophies that favorably guide mankind are never in short supply, only the vision, energy and will to employ them.

      Nev, I came across a silly aphorism that I treasure still today. “The accomplished consider themselves no greater than the least, and no lesser than the great.” If true individual greatness ever existed, it was but one of an interminable line of similar lights. To place extraordinary significance to fatally flawed mortals is to ensnare us all at the depths of folly. Rather, let us treasure how their example inspires and ennobles us. It is only natural to think and behave so, and it is only fair.

      Mr. Humphrey, we are not now, never have, or never will “emulate a dead man”. Rather, we honor the legacy of his thinking, the impact of his vision, and his examples of personal achievement, flawed and futile seeming as they appear to be, as optional beacons we can appreciate and choose to utilize on our own meager paths to our own pursuit of achievement. And how did you arrive at deciding what and from where “your aikido” came from, and if there really is, in your mind, no identifiable connection to the genius of Morihei Ueshiba? If you really think so, I respectfully recommend that you find another word than “aikido” to use for your purposes.

      • Well, I never really set out to define ‘alpha’ and I just invented ‘super alpha’ to define a rare type of individual, but I’m glad you asked.

        In nature, whenever there is a tribe, community, herd, pack… any group there will be the great leaders who consider the greater good as primary. Males and females using different technique will work together to preserve continuity of their species. The others are mainly interested in just eating and defecating, like most people.

        Most people are beta but they dress up eating and defecation with a lot of noise. Notwithstanding the play-acting, they make the choice to live in fear, to stay there and to be followers in the herd seeking the approbation of their peers and subject to all the strictures that come which such shrinking attitudes. They are usually defined by multiple fears, fear of being, fearing to attempt, fearing newness and change, fear of initiating change or meeting it frontally when it comes, fear of making mistakes and thereby multiplying their learning curves. Most are still bonded slaves by another name, strangled by some mortgage or another and fear moving. They are literally rooted by their fears and mostly dishonest with themselves about it.

        Alpha individuals, some good and others not so benign will lead these sheeple. If the beta sheeple are lucky they will temporarily get good leader but mostly they end up with quasi alphas who merely exploit, overtax, predate and leech on them and lead them into hell, like lemmings.

        The super alpha steps out of this game. He or she is a matrix-buster and ferociously takes on all comers in order to achieve a grand vision that will augment the greater good for all life, nurture, protect etc. Such a one has no need of hiding behind stunts, fake niceness, bits of paper or what most very, very mortals regard as ” security.” Such a one is prepared to leave perceived security, insurance, family and all the trappings that traps the weak man, well behind, in order to achieve the grand vision that inspires a knowingness that the world can be made better and is prepared to pay the price and make the necessary sacrifices. Even unto meeting death if necessary. Many have died serving their country and protecting their loved ones. Others caused death to turn away and postpone.

        If you are married to your job, cling to your domicile as a safe haven, rely on the trappings of society, insurance, approbation and the names of those who going before afforded you the luxury of an undeserved position, if you are arrogantly blind to your foibles and weaknesses, if you are squandering an inheritance, you are beta or less.

        Super alphas move forward facing fear overcoming insecurity anew and forge new paths of discovery that enables the followers and their pseudo leader the opportunities to be as safe as this world of perennial change can be made.

        Mid life is no crisis but enlightenment if you embrace the devastating changes it will bring.

        Betas like to fake it by hiding behind bureaucracy to avoid real confrontation and action. As they gradually decline, they stamp documents and imagine that to be “power,” but when the chips are down requiring decisive action they mess their pants and make excuses, happily cutting adrift those whom they are responsible for. Betas will compromise their integrity then rationalize it.

        Betas will trade essential liberties for a usually fake promise of obtaining a little temporary security.
        Betas will pay others to fight their battles. Betas are cowards at heart. But they will rationalize this with piles of voluble bullshit.

        When super alphas swim with sharks, the sharks leave.
        A super alpha does not rely on money for the illusion of power rather generates real value which attracts money naturally.

        A super alpha lives his ideals. If he fails or stumbles, as all living creatures do, he learns from experience then keeps repeating the necessary drills until he kills out self-delusions and the inadequacies they create. When he or she gets it right he or she does not stop practicing ever even after he or she can no longer get it wrong, but rather continues to refine skillful means.

        A super alpha refuses to compromise his integrity or lie to himself about it to feel good, rather welcomes the discomfort of self correction.

        Betas are ruled by self-interest. Alphas can be either good or bad, and depending on the luck of the draw, some are merely ambitious sociopaths hiding behind a career perceived to “have” power. Super alphas unconditionally live to generate immense value, with the greatest possible good for all at heart but are realistic enough to not be Quixotic about it.

        The super alpha condition cannot be faked. All that the rest of us can do is start where we find ourselves. Hence the Do or Michi to make awakening available to anyone who is prepared to pay the price demanded by the Universe!

        A tip, anyone can become a super alpha but the condition is, “Of what use to gain worldly things in exchange for your soul?”
        A foremost super alpha said this 2000 years ago and lived it by example. He too, looking behind, found very few walking the talk. Also it will not happen overnight by reading a book, but requires in the field action, in real life, making change where it matters most.

        If you are still clinging to your petty ego and things you are not even a quasi alpha. Throughout history super alphas are the true and enduring warriors of peace that hold the line and enable forward evolutionary progress.

        Question is: How much are you prepared to give up to become one and serve life unconditionally?

        I think I’ll rest my case now. Please no mass-debate. There is work to be done.

    • Charles,you just made the most salient point of all.

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