“PARDON! JUST TRYING TO MAKE A FEW SALES!”
Stanley Pranin’s comments in reply to a posting on Facebook by a gentleman who will remain unnamed regarding the “Expunged” figures mentioned in his video blog.
Thank you, Sir, for your observations which motivate me to express a few views of my own on this fascinating subject. With any luck, I’ll be able to peddle a few more subscriptions due to the controversy in progress to which you have graciously added fuel. I’ll place my comments after yours in quotes so readers will be able to more easily follow.
“It’s fun to spin conspiracy theories and may help the Aikido Journal sell more subscriptions as well as other products. However, I don’t know of a single company that makes any efforts to extol the virtues of former employees that were either fired or left on their own to set up competing organizations.”
SP: It’s no secret that the Aikikai has a long standing policy not to recognize certain historical figures who have fallen out of their good graces, regardless of how important, in print or otherwise. One merely has to look at Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei’s biography of O-Sensei, “A Life in Aikido”. If I have alleged a conspiracy on the part of the Aikikai and implied that they have acted in secret, perhaps you could tell me what has led you to believe that I have done so.
To develop my “Expunged” hypothesis, I have mentioned six historical figures: Sokaku Takeda, Noriaki Inoue, Kenji Tomiki, Kiyoshi Nakakura, Koichi Tohei and Morihiro Saito. As an aikido history buff, amateurish as I may be, I’m having difficulty understanding who among them you might consider an Aikikai employee.
Sokaku Takeda, Morihei’s teacher, was actually quite well-to-do and predated the Aikikai. Cross him off the list.
Noriaki Inoue was the son of an extremely rich man who happened to marry Morihei’s elder sister. Inoue’s father, Zenzo, and uncle Koshiro helped finance Morihei at an early stage of his life and made donations to the Kobukan Dojo at least through the 1930s. Since the Inoues were filthy rich, donated money to Morihei, and predated the Aikikai, it can’t be Inoue to whom you refer either.
Next is Kenji Tomiki. He was a school teacher, then a martial arts instructor in Manchuria, perhaps paid a salary by the Kwantung Army (I don’t know for sure. Remember I am only an amateur historian) and Shinkoku University where he taught. After the war, Tomiki was a professor at the elite Waseda University. Perhaps the Aikikai gave him some travel money from time to time when he taught there, but I doubt that he could be considered an employee either before or after the war. I will take the liberty of scratching him off the list too.
Next is Kiyoshi Nakakura who married Morihei’s daughter and lived at the Kobukan Dojo from 1932-37. He was given the name of Morihiro Ueshiba. He was a star in the kendo world and was being groomed to be Morihei’s successor.
Maybe you mean him? But somehow I don’t think so. In any event, he predated the Aikikai, so this is a moot point.
Then we have Koichi Tohei. Perhaps we’re zeroing in on your target, no? His ranking was of course the first 10th dan issued by the Aikikai. He filled the position of Shihan Bucho — chief instructor — of the Aikikai for many years. He was the leading light of the Aikikai, a charismatic teacher, an author, the pioneer of aikido in Hawaii and USA. But… I’m sure he DID receive money from the Aikikai. That must be the Aikikai employee you mean! Well, he wasn’t fired, he actually resigned. And I suppose you could say he set up a competing organization. We have finally found an employee among the list.
One more to consider. This would be Morihiro Saito, my personal teacher. He worked his entire professional life for the JNR (Japan National Railways) and could travel free by train anywhere. This made him cheap to have teach because you didn’t have to cover travel costs. Oh, I almost forgot, he learned aikido a bit from O-Sensei. Also, he and his wife were servants of Morihei and his wife Hatsu in Iwama for almost 20 years. But since he was a government employee, I don’t think we can justify calling him an employee of the Aikikai. He died wealthy, but not because of the Aikikai, but because he was a damn good teacher!
So, by process of elimination I can guess that you mean Koichi Tohei was the employee you were thinking of. Sorry it took so long to figure it out.
“So, in this case, neither are the so called “Expunged” innocent victims nor is the Aikikai guilty of any nefarious action. Koichi Tohei left the Aikikai and became one of its largest competitors. He also openly disparaged the technical prowess of his teacher, Morihei Ueshiba, in an Aikido Journal interview. Under the circumstances, what duty does the Ueshiba family have to preserve and praise his memory?”
SP: Your next comment opens up a bag of worms. First of all, who stated that the “Expunged” were innocent victims? Do I detect a straw man argument here somewhere? You see, as I mentioned in my video, I had some or extensive contact with all of these figures except of course for Sokaku Takeda who died before I was born. I can confirm what you say that they were all critical of the Aikikai, except for Kenji Tomiki who was a gentlemanly type figure who did not speak that way to me. You’re right that Tohei Sensei openly disparaged Morihei. In fact, he did the same thing to me in private when he called me into a room on the second floor of Hombu and chewed me out! Boy, was I pissed at him too! I got over it eventually, and even was able to get on good terms with him years later and interviewed him several times.
He may have wished to compete with the Aikikai, but he did not succeed. His organization is dwarfed in size by the Aikikai. I doubt that the Ki Society is even one-tenth the size of the Aikikai.
I agree that the Ueshiba family has no duty to preserve and praise his memory. I’ve done it for them. Tohei Sensei was not my favorite person in the world, but I’m big enough to recognize his preeminent role in the development of aikido. With me, it’s a moral obligation to recognize these important figures, my personal feelings aside.
Let me tell you what’s wrong with the Aikikai ignoring these people. First, the books authored by Kisshomaru and Moriteru are perhaps the most widely read works on aikido. Many of them were published by Kodansha, Japan’s largest publishing house. If you pretend to write about the history of the art, use a large publisher, and your books sell the most, you’d better do a good job of it. If you don’t, some cheeky, upstart American is going to come along and put your thesis under the spotlight. And then the discrepancies between the two views will come to light. If you’re the Aikikai, you’re going to have some explaining to do. You can remain silent, but the Internet will judge you harshly. You’ll lose in the world of public opinion because your tactics are untenable.
“Morihiro Saito openly derided Hombu and successive generations of the Ueshiba family for decades while remaining an Aikikai employee and residing on Ueshiba family property. After his father’s passing, Hitohiro, in gross insubordination tried to claim an “inheritance” that, in his rank of a junior Aikikai shihan, wasn’t his to demand.”
You are indeed correct that Morihiro Saito, my teacher, derided the Hombu Dojo. He did it in my presence a thousand times. I repeated to him privately over and over again that I thought that this was a bad policy. But he didn’t listen and continued. We have seen the consequences of his actions.
An Aikikai employee? Do you refer to monetary gifts he received to cover costs to keep up the Iwama Dojo, the Aiki Shrine, and Ueshiba property? Was this a salary he received? He lived on Ueshiba property? Sir, you know not of what you speak. The Saito home in Iwama next to the dojo and opposite the Aiki Shrine is SAITO property! The land was a gift from Morihei to Morihiro Saito for having helped settle a land dispute that O-Sensei was involved in in the early 1950s. O-Sensei told him to build a house there. Saito Sensei did so. It was understood that Saito Sensei and his wife would serve Morihei and Hatsu for their rest of their lives. And that was what they did. They were not ungrateful freeloaders, but accepted a subservient position out of Morihiro’s love for the Founder.
As to your unkind remarks about Hitohiro Saito Sensei, I doubt that you have any first hand information. I will limit myself to offering a link to Hitohiro Saito’s comments in an open letter about his resignation from the Aikikai. You may not agree with what he writes, but at least readers will get his side of the story.
“What, in turn, has the Ueshiba family said about any of this in public? Nothing. Not one word. Is this due to some conspiracy? Hardly! The Aikikai does not memorialize any of its deceased or departed Shihan. The Hombu website makes no mention of ANY deceased Aikikai Shihan (i.e. Kisaburo Osawa, Shigenobu Okumura, Sadateru Arikawa, Michio Hikitsuchi, Seiseki Abe, Hiroshi Kato, Shiji Nishio, Nobuyoshi Tamura, Seigo Yamaguchi, Aikira Tohei, Masando Sasaki, or Mitsunari Kanai)”
SP: I would agree with you here. The Aikikai has done nothing in public. They act behind the scenes. I have been the target on several occasions where unscrupulous means were used by those at the highest levels of the organization to attack me. I am battled tested, my friend. I know who I’m dealing with.
A final thought. Neither does the Aikikai memorialize the Founder of Aikido, not just departed shihan. Morihei Ueshiba is just a fatherly figure who lends credence to the Aikikai cause. His life, his techniques, and his philosophy have very little impact in the aikido world thanks to their non-efforts. You praise their silence. I am saddened by people who don’t practice the concept of “ongaeshi”, the return of gratitude for services rendered. We’re talking here about the Founder of Aikido. He surely merits prominent mention.
But that’s ok, I’ll do it for them.
Stanley Pranin has been researching the origins of aikido, the life of its Founder and related topics for over 40 years. Information on this huge body of research and publications is available here.
[The continuation of our exchange can be found in the comments below the blog.]