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.