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Why can't the Aikido world get together?

posted 1 Aug 2010, 03:25 by Unknown user
Well known and respected Aikido Historian Stanley Pranin published a somewhat provocative article on the Aikido Journal a week or so ago entitled "Why can't the aikido world get together?" it comes a a time that he is releasing a lot of research on the work of Koichi Tohei Sensei of the Ki no Kenkyukai and aikido's  first 10th dan.

He has the following memorable quotes
"I think I can safely say that few of today’s leaders are focused on the philosophy and technique of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Their main concern is the solidification/expansion of the organization and its smooth operation...."

..."My closing thought is this. Don’t look to Japan or any organization for leadership in aikido or any other field of endeavor. This world of dizzying technological advancement has left these bloated dinosaurs panting in the dust. In today’s networked world, any visionary and hard-working individual can produce prodigious results at lightning speed. The shaping of aikido’s future lies in our hands. Let’s get crackin’!"

I would be tempted to say reactionary and needlessly provocative were it not for the fact that Stanley Pranin has probably met and interviewed more of the founders students than any man alive, produced more aikido DVD's on historical footage and seminars. What is now the Aikido Journal began over 40 yrs ago I think. He has organised some of the most, if not the most, successful aikido friendship seminars (Aiki expos) that bridge aikido organisational boundaries and also inclusive of other aikido related arts (like Systema and a few Koryu arts as well)

In reading and reflecting on the article together with our own situation in Australia its hard to disagree with his conclusions. In the past twenty years or so we have seen the rise and fall of a number of styles of aikido, the favours of various Shihan, seen talented local aikidoka go independent, move to other arts or sadly leave Budo altogether.

My own experiences with Aikido Yuishinkai have fortunately led me to learn something of the roots of aikido through the Shinkage- Ryu and the Daito-Ryu within the school and permission to explore other lineages and arts as well. The leadership from Japan via Maruyama Sensei and his chief instructor Williams Sensei in this regard has fostered the acquisition of knowledge.

Dialling forward 20yrs or even just 10 yrs its hard to see where the situation will be. For example Aikido Yuishinkai is a Aikido Ryuha (branch school) and just one of the many in Australia. With the passing of  Shihans (e.g. Saito Sensei, Shioda Sensei) and the introduction of new ones (students don't sit still with globalisation - how is a fiefdom to be maintained?) there are new  Ryu ha appearing all the time. I suspect too many of the main lines aikido school are facing this as a future too, already many are prevented from interacting with each other what will happen when their Shihan move on? It leaves Australia in an interesting place, where like the lessons of the older schools such as karate and kungfu have already entered 3rd and 4th generation teachers and we see a proliferation of independant school,many with little connection of formal lineage.

Its something to think about but for now the message is clear, get access to as many top level teachers with connections to the founder as possible and worry about tomorrow when it arrives.