This Week In Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ #5
Apr 8, 2014
Greetings Nihon Goshin Aikido Aficionado!
Well I have been remiss in my updates, but I'd like to point out that last week was a perfectly good week to be working on my other "project" ~ namely rebuilding my 1985 Ski Nautique. It's a boat. We're not talking about rebuilding the engine either. This is a structural rebuild. It's like rebuilding the boat structurally from the ground up. I've attached a picture to better help your understanding. It's from late March, which means that there is much progress from this point, but it'll give you an idea of the process. Anyway, I logged many hours on the project last week ~ which took time away from my time from my ngaexperience.com website.
This boat rebuild is a project that I started last year. Like many things that you learn (and not altogether different from the experiences we have on the mats), it was an up and down process. Moments of great elation and enlightenment, were followed by huge letdowns, self doubt, and the necessity to tear down what had not been rebuilt correctly.
Generally speaking, I found that "tearing the boat apart," for example, was quite fun, and empowering. It didn't take long at all. After that was done, however, I found myself sitting in my empty boat shell, with no floor, and no stringers, looking at bare fiberglass for hours at a time every day, and wondering, "Now what do I do?" and thinking, "I should have taken more pictures when I was ripping all this stuff up." Months went by, and all I did was sit in the bottom of the boat, and try to figure out how much money I would need to get someone else to fix it for me. The answer was always "too much" ~ which meant at some point, I had to get it done.
That said, the boys at CorrectCraftFan.com (a website devoted to Ski Nautique Boat Owners) were a world of hope, encouragement, and expertise for me when I had no idea what I was doing, and when I thought I knew what I was doing and was mistaken. Long story short, they basically coached me through the entire rebuilding process ~ to the point that I can almost confidently say, "I will be done by April 21st (Easter)."
Looking back, I think that in many ways, CorrectCraftFan.com was the inspiration for NGAexperience.com I thought if I were to create a clearing house for all things NGA ~ students from all over the country could get together, and encourage one another in moments of discouragement and celebrate with one another in moments of accomplishment. I designed it to be a place for NGA practitioners all across the land to share their ideas, offer coaching that supplemented the efforts of their sensei, and build the community at large; connecting what was not connected, unifying what was isolated or divided, etc.
It's still a work in process.
My original idea for ngaexperience.com was a website in forum form, but that's already been done.
So I just began to post articles I had written to further my own understanding of our art, or clipped excerpts of conversations/ and emails I had had with my Sensei, John Carter, or direct link to articles that I had found online which helped me understand what was going on in the bigger picture, etc.
In all things, whether we're talking rebuilding a boat, our collective study in aikido, being a great husband, wife, father, mother, employer, church member, etc. ~ we must always move ahead. Some people confuse this with "chasing a dream that never seems to come to fruition. I think I disagree. It's not so much that the finish line is "cheating us by continually moving away as we advance closer" as it is that we are raising our standards as our goals come closer to fruition. Something to think about.
Here's a story I found interesting:
Today, I was speaking with a friend who has dan ranking in traditional aikido, and he relayed a story to me about a trip O'Sensei went on before his death. As the story was told to me, O'Sensei went to 4 or 5 dojos over a period of a week or two to demonstrate a specific Jo technique he wanted to add. The guy he took along as an assistant, later wrote that at each dojo, O'Sensei did something in the Jo kata demonstration slightly differently (adding a step where there hadn't been one before, reversing the order of a series of moves, etc.). The result was that while the grand picture was there, the mission was fatally compromised by inconsistency in the demonstration of the finer details.
Later, O'Sensei's assistant was not surprised when serious arguments between the leaders of these dojos came to a head over the proper way to do the Jo kata that O'Sensei had taught (as every dojo had been taught something slightly different).
Of course, the katas were each taught by the same instructor ~ who having since died, was unable to say which kata was actually the correct one. Division was the unfortunate but predictable result.
Since it is approaching Easter, I might relate a parallel story in John 13-17 (The account of the Last Supper in the Upper Room). In Jesus' prayer ~ the last prayer he has with the disciples, he prays for unity. Over and over again this is his prayer on that night.
While I believe that there are 7 "official" traditional aikido associations, I think there are probably more traditional aikido ronnin federations than you can realistically shake a stick at ~ all doing there best to continue the art as it was taught to them by O'Sensei. To further complicate matters, it seems that as O'Sensei got older, his techniques changed to fit his aging frame..... So, depending on "when" you studied with him in many ways determines what your aikido form looks like.
For reasons like these, I find the publication of Jeffrey Dutton's Nihon Goshin Aikido book an essential resource ~ as it formally codifies the 50 Classical Techniques as they appear now.
Available here on amazon.com:
Of course the limitations of print make it virtually impossible to capture the "nature of the movement" in book form, so it is my formal hope that a "video" should be in the making ~ ideally with Mr. Bowe as nage ~ explaining the techniques. This would seal the record and the standard for all time. I'm sure it would sell well on amazon also.
Now there are always updates happening on www.ngaexperience.com
but here are some updates that we at least wanted you to know about.
1) In a recent email correspondence with Mr. Bowe, I inquired about whether or not he ever came into contact with a Mr. Hiroshi Isoyama who was the leader of an aikido club on Kuma Station ~ the base Mr. Bowe was monitoring Russian radio transmissions from in Chitose. The answer was "Yes! ~ which surly means that Mr. Isoyama also knew Master Morita.
So, with a newfound interest in the time period ~ which is fascinating from a historical standpoint, I post this link to 2 separate interviews with Mr. Isoyama in hopes that you will read them. [Point of Order: the second article is attached at the bottom of the first article in the comments section. Further, the first article is a product of Stanley Prannin (Aikido Journal), while the second article is from "Stars and Stripes" ~ the official Army magazine].
Coming Next Week:
1) Some of us must be "gun-shy." Otherwise, I'm completely at a loss to understand why I have not received any stories involving Mr. Mihls. I am undeterred in my goal to write an article on him though. Still, since I never knew him, I must solicit your support for my article. Will you help by relaying a Mr. Mihls story or two? I'm looking for any stories you have as they relate to you personally. "One time Mr. Mihls and I were...."
Here is an excerpt from an email I received from Mr. Bowe describing Mr. Mihls:
"Mr. Mihls was my student for many of the 50+ years I have been teaching Nihon Goshin Aikido (NGA) in the United States. He had a philosophical/cultural advantage over many of his student colleagues in that he lived in Japan for a couple of years before his return to the United States and his undertaking the study of NGA. He was a true__________________________." (You'll have to wait until the article is completed to see the rest!)
Mr. Bowe has weighed in, won't you!
I also need pictures of Mr. Mihls to go with the articles so those are coveted also. You can submit your stories and pictures to me here at firstname.lastname@example.org
2) Got Seminar? If so, we would like to know so we can advertise it for you. You can post seminar information here, and it will be added to the website: http://www.ngaexperience.com/seminars.html
Going forward: if you like the content of the website, and the idea of increasing the awareness and popularity of Nihon Goshin Aikido, please encourage your friends and training partners to subscribe for the free weekly updates on our subscriber page: http://www.ngaexperience.com/subscribe.html The art can not be spread unless the opportunity to "see it" and "discuss it" is available.
If you see something that is missing on the website, and want to become the solution to the problem you perceive, feel free to submit your articles and videos for publication to the website. We welcome your input.
Mission & Belief Statement: We Believe in the growth of the art. We believe that Nihon Goshin Aikido can not grow unless the art is disseminated widely and discussed thoroughly. Along those lines, we plan to utilize every prospective medium to accomplish those ends. We look forward to your help in growing our great art.
Let's meet together on the mat soon,
Sensei John Carter and me
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My 1985 Ski Nautique 2001 in the process of a complete rebuild.
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