Recently on an internet forum I read that we must...
"Embrace O'Sensei and teach actual Aikido."
Embrace Osensei? I am curious as to what that means. I see a disturbing trend in Aikido, the deification of Morihei Ueshiba. The phrase 'Embrace' reeks of a religious connotation. I suppose people want a religious leader. The image of a white haired Ueshiba appeals to the Nippophile Zen wanna-be in all of us.
There is an excellent phrase in Zen. "If you meet Buddha on the path to enlightenment, kill him" As humans we so easily become enthralled with the teacher, we put too much on him. We lose sight of the message, the practice and what is important. Perhaps a revision. "If you fall in love with Ueshiba on the path of aikido, kill him"
Another piece of wisdom from the Zen tradition. When the master points to the moon, the students watch the finger and not the moon. The path is obscured by the short vision, unable to understand what to focus on. On forums and in literature I see hundreds of love sick Aikidoka, pining away for a master they never knew, claiming to understand his teaching from a foreign language, long ago. They claim to know what he knew while selectively cherry picking quotes and actions that back up their point of view. They become enamored with the finger, while the moon shines bright above.
Another piece of wisdom comes from Issan Newton. "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants" Giants indeed. Our paths are laid out by giants before us: Takeda, Kano, Ueshiba, Tomiki, Sato, Shiodo and even every teacher tirelessly working away in every dojo to this day. Giants. I acknowledge them. However I dont feel the need to move into the woods and shave my head to study their ways.
Embrace Ueshiba? Ueshiba never threw me. He never had the chance to teach me. I never had the chance to counter him. Why? Because he is dead. Buried. Gone before I was born. I learned from him what I could and find the modern artists to play with. Some of them are still tearfully clutching onto a symbol of saint buried long ago. But the truth is Aiki is a living art. It's not meant for the dead. It only comes alive in the here in now. 今ここ. Only in the moment of constant practice.
I was once an accolyte for the cult of Ueshiba. I met him on the path. I stood on his shoulders. I killed and buried him so I see what he was pointing at. I buried him long ago.
Embrace Ueshiba? No thanks. I grew out of that stage. I am a man capable of thinking and feeling and creating on my own without the need a fantasy saviour saint. Aikido is what I do, and what I create. Ueshiba died. Clutching onto the past is not living in the now - one of the the more profound messages of Zen. 今ここ