Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.


Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Saturday, April 25, 2020

Aikido, Daito Ryu and Money

Ellis Amdur wrote a very interesting piece on the relationship between Sokaku Takeda and Morihei Ueshiba, and how the relationship may have had a lot to do with money. 

Below is an excerpt that was published at Guillame Erard blog. The full post may be read here.


Some might find this an essay on a trivial subject—a one-hundred-year old personal debt. How this debt is interpreted, however, defines the nature of the relationship of two men: Takeda Sokaku and Ueshiba Morihei. It is remarkable how an assertion, however small, can create—or at least confirm—a myth. In this case, the myth is the domineering relationship of Takeda Sokaku towards his student, Ueshiba Morihei, and that, even further, Sokaku was grasping, even greedy. The account of this allegedly unfair debt is used to buttress the claim that Takeda Sokaku intrusively, inescapably controlled Ueshiba’s life.  For partisans of Ueshiba, he is perceived to be somewhat of a victim, bound by honor and loyalty to a teacher who made surpassingly unreasonable demands upon him.

Takeda, sizzling and sparking, wandering throughout Japan like a tengu clipped of his wings, and Ueshiba, craving teachers to mentor him, all the while accumulating social capital amongst terrorists and budoka, military and nobility alike.
To merely recount a story of a man who found a teacher, studied various wrist-locks, throws and pins, and came up with some new interpretations on how to do the same techniques is all too mundane. 

The birth of aikido, viewed as an art of spiritual transformation, and an invincible, unique martial art, requires myth. Therefore, the fraught relationship between Ueshiba Morihei and his teacher, Takeda Sokaku alone, quite apart from any technical or psychological innovations, makes this story one of high drama. First is Takeda, a paranoid irascible man, who seems to have lived torn between a need to bond to disciples, one after another, whom he later rejected or more-or-less ignored, having found another. And there is Ueshiba, a man searching for something beyond flesh and blood existence, paradoxically striving find it within the world of violence, like a gnostic striving to liberate the sparks of divinity from the clutches of the muck of the material world. And then they meet: Takeda, sizzling and sparking, wandering throughout Japan like a tengu clipped of his wings, and Ueshiba, craving teachers to mentor him, all the while accumulating social capital amongst terrorists and budoka, military and nobility alike. Takeda was, paradoxically, a free man, self-created, linked to no living teacher nor lineage, yet ensnared within his own paranoid temperament—nothing is lonelier than living behind a wall of spears. Ueshiba was, for much of his life, anything but free–once he found his teachers, Takeda and Deguchi, he was trapped by obligations to two men who tied their followers within feudal rules that they never followed themselves. Takeda, in his own way, loved Ueshiba, the kind of love of a feral cat that will never leave, but will claw your face every time you let your guard down. Did Ueshiba love Takeda? Maybe in the way one loves a crazy girlfriend—she shivers your bones in ways you never imagined, but she tries to run you down with her Pontiac Firebird, all rust spots and primer paint, every time you suggest breaking up.
So, of course they got in a fight about money.
On September 15th, 1922, Takeda Sokaku awarded Ueshiba a kyoju dairi, an assistant instructor’s teaching license, which clearly states, “When instructing students, an initial payment of three yen should be made to Takeda Dai-Sensei as an enrollment fee.” Stanley Pranin wrote about this: “Later each accused the other of improprieties with regard to financial matters, and reports of their last meetings reveal the unresolved nature of the disagreements between them.”

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