A blog with some news, reports and articles from the Aikido community around the world.
Edited by Lawrence Warry & Ze'ev Erlich

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August 2012

Birthday Special

Today, on the 13th of August 2012, Karl-Friedrich Leisinger Sensei became the grand age of 83. After a successful heart valve operation in January this year, Leisinger Sensei is almost fully recovered and looking forward to some more Aikido action. We wish Leisinger Sensei many more joyful years of Aikido practice in Holland and Germany.

Leisinger Sensei at the Annual Meppen BBQ last month

Yamashima Sensei in Hawaii
Over the end of July to the beginning of August, I enjoyed the classes of Yamashima Sensei in the Big Island and Oahu islands of Hawaii. This seminar was cooperative effort between many of the local Aikido groups and the atmosphere was very social and enjoyable with a sincere learning drive. My thanks to the organisers of this event. Very good translations were given by Christopher Li who followed Yamashima Sensei to every class. Looking forward to hopefully pass by next year for more Aikido friendship exchanges.

From Hawaii to Europe!
In September this year, Yamashima Sensei will be back in Europe (teaching in Belgium, Holland and Germany).
The dates are as follows:

Belgium (14 - 16 September)
Friday 14th of September (19:30 - 21:30): Molendreef 8, 2288 Bouwel, BE
Saturday 15th of September (10:00 - 12:00): Watersportlaan 3, 9000 Gent, BE
Sunday 16th of September (10:00 - 12:00): A. Stockmanslei 121, 2640, Mortsel, BE

Holland (17 - 19 September)
Hagukumi Dojo and EPO Dojo.
Details coming soon!

Germany (21 - 23 September)
Friday 21st of September (18:30 - 20:00): Aikido-Zentrum-Düsseldorf, Helmholtzstr. 20, Düsseldorf, DE
Saturday 22nd of September (11:00 - 13:00 & 16:00 - 18:00): Judohalle Lessing-Kollegschule, Ellerstr. 84 - 94, Düsseldorf, DE
Sunday 23rd of Sepetember (10:00 - 12:00):
Judohalle Lessing-Kollegschule, Ellerstr. 84 - 94, Düsseldorf, DE

Solving the Aikido Lineage Problem
After an eventful almost two decades of practicing Aikido (mostly enjoyable and enrinching events only perturbed by the unfortunate but innevitable destiny of older generation teachers eventually passing away and/or becoming ill) and after a plethora of visits to different Aikido dojos all around the world, I have noticed that the issues of "lineage" and "style" regarding variations in Aikido background and branches and sub-branches originating from the uchideshis of O-Sensei are much discussed in Aikido communities.
I'm not sure that it will ever be possible to fathom out a solution which will allow all to agree about how lineage of Aikido masters should be perceived. Every group will make their own interpretation and probably stick to it until the end of time. The mere subject arising will lead to differences of opinion and eventually conflicts of interests within Aikido groups.
With a varied background of Aikido influences, I know what it is to be free from lineage and, at the same time, with a strong influence of the line of Masatake Fujita Shihan (8 years of the master's regular visits to my Aikido club in The Hague), I also have some idea of what it is to uphold a lineage.
At the point when Fujita Shihan was no longer able to continue to travel to dojos around the world to teach Aikido for health reasons, the question of lineage was obviously going to arise for Shihan's followers.
I feel fortunate to have practiced with a large number of the followers of Fujita sensei around the world (including groups of Holland, Israel, Bulgaria, Hungary, Russia, Romania, New Zealand, Hawaii) and, especially the older generation followers who have a deeper insight into Aikido's developments than I have.
I'm impressed most of all by the way that all the groups I know have upheld a strong continuation of their Aikido practice although, in their Shihan's current state of unavailability, it is clear that some groups have taken it upon themselves to either find another shihan or sensei or to promote themselves to the position of technical guru in the "style" of Fujita Shihan and, thereby, uphold their continuation.
Which choice a group makes as to their continuation, I guessed was a very critical and important choice and was very much based on the group's philosophy on lineage and culture. The groups which wanted to stick only to Fujita Shihan's technical keiko-ho would be left with no other choice but to promote the most senior member as the group's representative of the Fujita Shihan line. A group which wanted to take the change as an opening for an opportunity to branch out their Aikido knowledge and gain inspiration from another shihan would be left with the need to search for a new shihan.
Whichever way a group has gone, one thing is for sure, each group has had an excellent education about the ideas of Japanese Budo culture and, as a result, I feel an enourmous sense of respect for Fujita Shihan, coming from all of those groups. Ultimately, Fujita Shihan has collected a large number of good people around the world who have shown a genuine interest in the aspects of Aikido that Fujita Shihan was propagating.
My former guess, however, led me to be concerned, for a number of years (since 2008), about the idea that two very different continuation approaches could possibly lead to a conflict of interest between the two branches of thought. In particular, I was sincerely sad about the idea if this would cause a global division in the group of good people that Fujita Shihan had spent decades collecting together.
It was then, for me, a marvellous discovery to have found Glenn Yoshida sensei, 6th dan Aikikai, from Hawaii Renshukan dojo, at the latest semiar of Yamashima sensei in Hawaii Oahu Island in the beginning of August this year. I luckily got talking with Yoshida sensei after the last practice with Yamashima sensei and discovered that Yoshida sensei had been a long time student (dating back to the 1970s) of Fujita Shihan. I put the question to Yoshida sensei regarding my concern and, to my pleasure, the solution was so simple and obvious, the only reason I didn't think of it myself is because my experience and historical understanding of Aikido is much more narrow than Yoshida sensei's.
One aspect of Yoshida sensei's research is to map out a schema/flowchart of all of the aspects of Aikido necessary to have a complete knowledge of the art (much of this schema has come from the teachings of Fujita Sensei). Yoshidsa sensei has kindly allowed me to publish some of his ongoing and not yet complete work. With this schema/flowchart as a reference, Yoshida sensei explained to me that each sensei is covering some or many of the aspects of Aikido as schematised and some teachings may correspond/overlap and others may be mutually exclusive but none would contradict because they are all aiming to fill up the gaps which prevent a student from having a complete knowledge of Aikido.
After this excellent but unfortunately short conversation with Yoshida sensei, I feel more than ever convinced that the two different approaches of continuation do not conflict. They are complimentary and they are both good and healthy continuation approaches to take. Neither one nor the other is a better approach. They are mutually valuable in their own right and should be respected for what they uphold. The one who wants to take over the technical direction as taught by Fujita Shihan is more likely to strongly impose a sampai/kohai relationship which fits in very well with the Japanese budo culture as taught by Fujita Sensei. The one who wants to find a new shihan is upholding an equally valuable learning of Japanese Budo Culture by putting their heart and soul into seeking to complement their current learning of Aikido.
Where both approaches have a common ground is that the leaders of these groups have good hearts, are sincere learners, have a mutual respect for each other and Fujita Shihan and look upon Fujita Shihan as a father of their line.
I sincerely would like to thank Yoshida Shihan for having shed this light on me and for allowing me to publish some of his material. I feel, with the true spirit of budo, that a difficult chapter in my own understanding of lineage is behind me despite the ongoing puzzle that the lineage question will all always spark opinionated debates for many years to come.

Disclaimer: This chart is part of an unfinished Japanese Budo classification project by Glenn Yoshida sensei of Aikido Renshinkan, Oahu, Hawaii.


Christopher Li said...

It's an interesting chart, although I think that Glenn and I would have different opinions as to what compromises a complete understanding of Aikido (that's a longer discussion, though).

I don't think that placing Aikido and Aiki-jujutsu on separate lines is historically accurate. And of course, the Chinese influences on the Japanese arts are completely missing.

Christopher Li said...

It's an interesting chart, although I think that Glenn and I would have different opinions as to what compromises a complete understanding of Aikido (that's a longer discussion, though).

I don't think that placing Aikido and Aiki-jujutsu on separate lines is historically accurate. And of course, the Chinese influences on the Japanese arts are completely missing.