Aikido’s Library of Alexandria by Stanley Pranin

The Alexandria Library was celebrated as the most important treasury of information in the world at the time. Its disappearance is rightly seen as a catastrophe and symbolic of the loss of respect for knowledge that followed the collapse of Classical civilization.

That’s how I conceive of the new Aikido Journal Members Site… “Aikido’s Library of Alexandria,” a repository for thousands of articles, photos, videos, audio recordings, and every sort of documentation pertaining to aikido and related subjects.

You know, I began research into aikido back in the early 1970s by translating a series of newspaper articles about Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Since that time, I’ve conducted more than 200 interviews with many of aikido’s greatest figures. A large portion of these edited conversations are housed in our indexed archives on this site.

During this long period, I have experienced the joys of many wonderful moments and research breakthroughs… meeting with scores of extraordinary people from all walks of life, the discovery of old photos, films, documents, and much more. I have also been frustrated by the realization that many of the most important aikido documents kept in private hands will never see the light of day. Far be it for me to judge the reasoning of those who have chosen to keep important materials to themselves, but the fact of the matter is that these precious documents might just as well not exist. As the years pass, the disappointment I have felt due to this state of affairs has diminished, for there is much to do. In fact, recently, I have come to the realization that I might be guilty of this same sort of neglect unless I take action. What do I mean by that?

Well, even though we’ve been active for several decades and have published thousands of pages, photos, and all manner of documents about aikido, there is much more material that remains stored away… unedited and unpublished. You see, we’re in a race against time. How many years will it take to process and publish all of the important items in our care? A long, long time, that’s for sure. The sense of urgency I feel is palpable.

That’s where you come in. Yes, you… each and every one of you. Many among you have supported this work for literally decades. Along the way, I have had many enduring friendships and assocations with people I know well, and others I have never met. This is something I treasure. Now I need your help!

Of course, I want everyone who finds this website of value to subscribe. That’s very helpful. It’s essential. But there’s more. I want your participation. A lot more research and writing needs to be done. How can you help?

Let me give you a specific example. I published “The Aiki News Encyclopedia of Aikido” in 1989. (You can download it here) It was quite a popular book, but went out of print many years ago. Maintaining it consumes a lot of time. It has lived on, albeit in a mostly untouched state, on the Aikido Journal website. It’s an important work, but it needs to be updated.

Each encyclopedia entry appears on this site as a “post.” Each post has a comment section on the bottom. What that means is that anyone can contribute additional information, corrections, missing kanji, etc. by leaving a comment. I can go through your comments, engage in a dialog with you, and then expand or modify existing entries, and add new entries. In this way, you can help us continue growing this reference work so that the aikido community has a central source of well-researched information to consult, a sort of “Aikido Wikipedia.” A team effort can make this possible. Are you up for it?

Here’s another example. Most of the source materials involving my research are in Japanese. The reasons for this are obvious. I need to assemble a team of Japanese-English speakers to key in and translate hundreds of pages of documentation. We don’t have the time or resources to do all of this. Either the community gets onboard and contributes, or the work won’t get done. That’s the stark reality. What is left unfinished will, for all intents and purposes, cease to exist. The Internet age has provided us the means to remedy this situation. I promise to do my part. I hope many of you will join me in this effort. I won’t hold anything back because I want to leave a long-lasting legacy.

That’s the thinking behind the Aikido Journal Members Site. You’re going to get a steady stream of stuff. You’re going to be overwhelmed! And you can’t say, “The dog ate my homework!”

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