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Interview with Bruce Klickstein, Bob Nadeau and Frank Doran (2)

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #40 (September 1981)

This is the second part of an interview with Frank Doran, Bruce Klickstein and Bob Nadeau which took place in September of 1979.

FRANK: The interesting thing is that everybody that I know that’s in Aikido and teaching Aikido is sincere. I can’t fault them for sincerity. And beyond our particular level, too. I look around at the Shihan and I see that they’re all incredible people. And I see this trouble going on between them and their disagreements. And the sadness is that everyone of them…

BRUCE: Feels in their own heart…

FRANK: …they feel in their own heart that they’re right. They listened to O-Sensei, and they heard his words, and they have the dedication in life to go out and spread that. And they’re doing it with the same kind of sincerity that I’m sure we feel and understand. And what’s difficult is that they sometimes don’t understand that in a room some thing can be said and different people will interpret it differently. That’s why I think it is so important for them to all get together in the same place and say, “Hey, you’re right. I remember him saying that.” because it seems like they’re all fighting, but the truth of the matter is they’re all saying the same thing. We hear them all say the same thing. So, what’s the disagreement?

Gentlemen, this leads us to another point. I hope I can verbalize this.

BRUCE: I’ve never seen you in trouble yet. (laughter)

FRANK: In four words or less, your next question, (laughter)

Don’t worry that won’t be on the tape. But look, this is going to be translated into Japanese. Now, obviously, the Japanese readers are going to look at this and find some very “foreign” ways of thinking here.

BOB: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

FRANK: Because we’re foreigners, (laughter) So isn’t that OK?

I really think that perhaps it’s time that the way of thinking of people practicing Aikido in foreign countries filter back to people in Japan who are in, physically speaking the birth site of Aikido. And who are training in their own way with a different perspective, with a different cultural background. Perhaps in some way, the discoveries that the people here make can have some validity and have some impact now.

FRANK: Maybe what you need to do is to preface this interview with some kind of statement like: Look, when you read this, read this from an understanding that this is coming from a culture other than yours and divorce yourself, it you can, from your attachment to Aikido and think of it in terms of being a dance. And foreigners wear different costumes than you do, and they sing a different song than you do, but, if you look, you see that their dance comes from the heart. And that music is universal. If you get stuck on the fact that their costumes are foreign, their faces are white and ours are brown, their music sounds different, I’ve never seen that instrument before, and so on, then you’re turning off to what they have to offer. The big sadness is that people can’t be open to the racial, the sexual, the whole thing of differences and of allowing people to manifest Aikido through their differences.

That’s my preface, isn’t it. Isn’t that a beautiful one? That’s going to be the preface. Thank you.

BRUCE: Stan and I have been friends a long time. And we are constantly beating on each others’ ideas. We use each other as mirrors to bounce off of. And even though we have a lot of varying ideas and big differences, what has sustained the friendship and has held it together is that we grow from our contact with each other. There’s a common goal. And it’s the differences that have sustained our friendship and made it grow. That’s why each of us can have his own dojo and his own teaching methods and at the same time be sensitive to all their different needs. We all have our own way of doing things and that’s why we can be open to each other.

BOB: Also, I need the other people. That’s why I set up San Francisco and tried to set up San Jose, for that reason. Because my particular thing was for a particular person at a particular time. But I need other people doing other things. What do you want to call it?

BRUCE: The conglomerate.

BOB: Conglomerate, yes. Because if I don’t have other people, if I’m by my self, I have to teach more form, more power, more this, more that. But when you’re around and Witt’s around, then I can let you and Witt teach form and power and I can do my number. And if you’re not around, then I have to teach those things. And I prefer not to.

Robert, for the first time, I think I understand you.

BOB: Do you?

I mean, that is very interesting to me.

FRANK: Explain him to me! (laughter)

He sets up, or attempts to set up, the environment around him in such a way that his students get all of the needed areas, so that he is free to emphasize that which has the most meaning for him. He would have the responsibility. And I never heard that verbalized before. I never did.

BOB: So that one day… See, for ex ample: Brown’s been coming to me, and he’s a Nidan and he’s good physically, he’s strong physically, and he says, “Hey. What’s next?” I say, “Another dimension.” He says, “I’m interested.” I say, “OK. Here’s how it works.” But until he finished up the barbells and the Aikido basic waza and all that, he doesn’t hear what I say. you see? I’m interested in a particular thing. Frank likes to do a lot of movement, and I like to do a lot of energy, and Bill likes to do a lot of basics. I need those guys. I want them to do their thing so that I can do my thing. And if you’re not there, then I have to do movement, and I have to do basics. And I really don’t want to do movement and basics. I want to do energy weird stuff, (laughter) I need you.

FRANK: That’s how we operate over there, too. It’s just really with that kind of understanding.

BOB: Now where we may conflict is, if you say movement is the most important thing, or basic practice is the most important thing, and I say energy is the most important thing, then we may conflict. But if you don’t do that, if you just lay it out and let the students do what they want, then one day they’ll come to me, and one day they’ll come to you, and one day they’ll go to Bill Witt, and they’ll get what they want. And that’s what I always, wanted, you see. It was 1963 at Dojo 12, which is the coffee shop around the block from Hombu, where I said, “We need a San Francisco Hombu Dojo. And this is how it’s going to be…” And that’s what we got. We have a place where everybody does their own thing and people can click into their slot when it’s comfortable for them. It was long planned out. I was planning out the pay scale and everything in ‘63.

FRANK: You know, the truth of the matter is, too, that if we all did teach, say, kihon waza, we would be arguing whether iriminage is more valid than shihonage or whatever. Right?

And which way the hand should be placed.

FRANK: Yeah. And then if it was just shihonage that we did, I’d argue that we should do tenkan before irimi because it’s more important to move properly, and you would argue that we should do irimi first because it’s more important to have a… You know. It’s just differences.

BOB: Yes, right. And I’m willing to live with that. I really am.

I hope the people back East understand a little bit of what we’re saying here.

BOB: Wouldn’t it be nice?


BRUCE: I think that there are a lot of cultural hang-ups in Japan that just make it so that they don’t see the potential for Aikido.

FRANK: Yeah, but, see, we’re doing the same number. They’re standing their ground that we should adopt their way and should have their understanding. And, in one sense, we’re telling them that this is American and they should see it our way. So, we’ve got to yield to a certain extent, too. There’s got to be a medium. We have to say, “Hey, look, we really do hear you and what we really see is that it’s coming from a cultural difference. And we’re really trying to understand. Please explain your culture to me and listen while I explain mine to you.” Then we can have mutual understanding.

BRUCE: You see, Japan was fertile for certain things to happen. The phenomenon of O-Sensei probably couldn’t have happened in America. It was the product of a lot of things coming together at the right time in Japan.

BOB: I appreciate O-Sensei loving Japan, which he did. He loved Japan. He loved the countryside. I remember him saying that and seeing him express that, and I appreciate that. And I also say, if O-Sensei was here, right now, in San Francisco, he would love these people. His technique would change, and he would see that these people understand energy, and they see through. He, and his technique, would change because of the type of people. So both are valid. We just never had a chance to see him in San Francisco.

FRANK: We see it in the Shihan who come through who adapt and change. Saito Sensei is very flexible. And all of them, they may come in very set at first, but then they look around and they’re adaptable. They couldn’t do that many years of Aikido without being adaptable. So to think that O-Sensei certainly wouldn’t adapt to whatever…

BRUCE: Teaching the right thing at the right time to the right people who need it.

BOB: Did we get anything decent on that tape?

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