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On O-Sensei’s Doka

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #46 (March 1982)

The bilingual publication of the “Doka” of 0-Sensei is I think a significant event in the sense that this presentation of the Founder’s ideas offers a unique opportunity to appreciate the originality of his thought through his own words. AIKI NEWS owes a great debt of gratitude to Seiseki Abe Sensei (see AIKI NEWS No. 45 for an interview with this fascinating and sensitive teacher) for granting us permission to republish the “Doka” in their entirety together with an English translation. Some of these poems have been published before privately but have not been generally available to the public, hence the importance of Abe Sensei’s efforts.

The English translation was rendered by Larry and Seiko Bieri whose credentials in this field are unique and who have been extensively involved in the area of traditional Japanese martial arts both as practitioners and scholars. They have been the mainstay of the AIKI NEWS translation staff in recent months and are also responsible for the English translations appearing in the monthly newspaper published by Hombu Dojo.

A tremendous amount of effort went into the preparation of this material and we have endeavored to make the text more intelligible for Western readers by including copious notes providing essential explanations without which many passages would no doubt remain hopelessly obscure. Out of deference to Abe Sensei’s views in the “Afterword” section of the text we have not translated the notes to the poems into Japanese but we are prepared to do so if this should prove desirable at some future point. Also, by virtue of the fact that the original Japanese text is included, sufficiently motivated foreign readers may refer to the Founder’s words directly to elucidate any difficult points keeping in mind that a translation is at best an interpretation, particularly when a text of this difficulty is involved.

We feel that the efforts of our staff will be rewarded by the knowledge that these poems will afford readers an opportunity to access first hand important source materials regarding the underlying principles of 0-Sensei’s Aikido thereby enriching their understanding of the art.