Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ueshiba's influence on Peter Ralston and Cheng Hsin

Maurice Gillis
Iwama, Japan
Dear Peter
I would like to thank you for not only allowing me to take the degree one test this past summer, but encouraging me and giving the necessary guidance. I had a great time, as usual, and taking the test
added a whole new dimension to the Cheng Hsin challenge. I believe taking the test forced me to learn a lot more than if I hadn't. Lastly, I was wondering if you could elaborate on something for me. You have spoken well of Ueshiba in the past. I see a resemblance between some of your techniques and those of Ueshiba. What if any influence has Ueshiba had on you?
I want to thank you again for sharing what it is you have worked so hard to find, and I anxiously await your next seminar.
Maurice Gillis

Of course Ueshiba has influenced me as have many others. I studied Aikido with Robert Nadeau, who studied with Ueshiba (so you've heard many "insider" stories). And I think Aikido done right is very beautiful to watch. Some Cheng Hsin techniques may look like Aikido techniques but when you work with them you will find they in fact are not, they just have a familiar look (Aikidoists have as hard a time learning them as anyone else).
I've studied many martial arts, and when I learned something valuable (i.e. if it had some effective functional purpose for being) I tended to keep it, and what was not valuable, I tossed. But don't misunderstand, I don't believe in jumping too quickly into revision or eclecticism. My philosophy has always been to master what is taught, before I would even think about changing it. This may have slowed me down in some cases, since I was hesitant to change what was asserted, even though I may have failed to find genuine value in it. But it also forced me to discover things I never would have if I had rushed to modify something due to a lack of immediate understanding. Eventually, however, I did begin to toss what proved to be remnants of techniques lost, or that were poor inventions in the first place, and to keep only what showed itself as a useful contribution. Of course by that I don't mean I kept the techniques as I found them, I just kept the direction or sometimes the look, and changed them or redesigned them to be consistent with Cheng Hsin principles. Since, as you know, my commitment is to the principles and not to
any form or specific art.
I never really wanted to create a new martial art by creating all new techniques. That pursuit seemed rather useless and I felt no need to do it. (I have known several people who tried that, and I thought their efforts turned out to be bogus and superficial.) But I did want to communicate the incredibly valuable principles of Cheng Hsin and so this is why Cheng Hsin T'ui Shou, Cheng Hsin Boxing, Cheng Hsin Body-Being, etc., where created.
Of course, standing on the basic design of techniques from other arts has sometimes proven to be a mistake. In trying to "reinvent" a technique to be Cheng Hsin consistent, I have discovered that a distortion of both the technique and the principles was often the result. In such a case, I found it was better to throw it out and start from scratch. But then again sometimes I was forced to learn (invent) a particularly difficult form of using intrinsic strength in order to accommodate the basic design of a technique that I never would have discovered without going down that road. So it seems to have evened out.
Not to understate his many genuine technical and systems contributions, the greatest influence Ueshiba had on me was inspirational. By the time I saw him, I had already gotten to the point of feeling like the world of martial arts didn't hold much more for me. And I was still a young man. But everyone I saw seemed worse than I, or doing systems that lacked what I already experienced as possible. Then I saw Ueshiba and conceded there was more to be done. I admired his attempts to go deeper even at an old age. I loved the beauty of his art. I enjoyed his ideas and intelligence. So it re-inspired me to study more. To look even deeper and push on. This was his main contribution to me personally.

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1 comment:

  1. Dear Maurice,
    Ohisashiburi! I am so happy that I stumbled upon your post here and.. gosh!, is that you for real? How about that!? Talking about serendipity! I was just thinking about you the other day..
    I remember the last time we talked (right before I left Japan .. btw did you keep my car or did you sell it right the way?), how fervently you were speaking about Peter's school, describing to me how well he had structured the program and the training there. It almost made me do the trip to his dojo (then I went to China instead.. what do you know..). Well, I just didn't realize how serious you were about it back then. I surely do know. Well, I must here also thank you for the question you asked on the influence of Ueshiba's Aikido on his style. I always wanted to ask the same question and, as you may remember, I was quite intrigued myself when you told me that he (Peter) went through a background of study that touched quite extensively Aikido as well. Now I got my answer. I do too think that the Aikido 'ab origine', the genuine one, as inherited after the death of Ueshiba, soon to be forgotten or distorted, can inspire one's mind and positively compensate for the 'general lack of', as Peter put it, of many, if not all, of the styles and schools that exist today. The concept of 'awaze' which is stressed by so many but never understood and practiced by anyone (probably not even by Morihiro Saito himself), is something that I would love train on if I'll ever get to Peter's dojo.
    I truly sympathize with Peter's feelings when, young and in constant need of more 'inputs' and new challenges, he felt let down, unsatisfied, unfulfilled by the limitations shown to him by what was considered to be the 'universe of martial arts' at the time. I empathize with his experience which reminds me of my own today. I do feel held back by what I had considered to be the top of Budo, yet, amazingly enough, even today, I still look for a way to go back to the dojo in Iwama to seek more, knowing that there isn't any 'more' to be found there. Am I in denial? Is this conflicting feeling of mine something that has to be expected at some point in life? Did Peter have to go through a similar experience too?
    Would love to hear from you Maurice.
    Keep in touch,
    Best Wishes,
    Alan (aka the dude from Italy)