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I feel like I'm ready to start the "Lake Woebegone" section of the Prairie Home Companion radio show: "It's been a quiet week here at the dojo. . . " But, it has been a quiet week.
We're assimilating two new students, both women. They're friends, and they practice Tai Chi together at another dojo. They seem to be adjusting well to the way we do things in our dojo. As usual with new students, rolling is causing them a bit of trouble. We also had a guy stop in last night who had practiced for a few months in Ohio a couple of years ago. He did pretty well last night and has joined the dojo.
Things are busy for me personally. My wife and I are in the process of buying a house. There's a AAA summer camp the weekend before we settle, and I'm trying to figure out how I can go to the camp and still do the things I need to do for moving. Robin is planning on coming with me to the camp, though not to train. Still, it'll be nice to have her along.
I said I was going to write about competition, so I shall. The arguments for competition in aikido generally make the following points: (1) competition exposes one to unscripted, unpredictable action; (2) it adds pressure to ones training that can simulate the stress of a real encounter outside the dojo, (3) it is a good way to counter the problem of ukes who cooperate too much with nage's technique.
The arguments against competition generally go like this: (1) O Sensei found the idea of competition anathema to aikido; (2) using competition as a training tool can gradually change the art to being focused on competition -- I've read complaints that this has happened to a certain extent in some karate, tae kwon do, judo, and kendo dojos; (3) any competition requires rules which, by their very existence, make for an artificial environment. There are other arguments on both sides, and a lot can be found at the Aikido Journal web site, especially in its forum.
My purpose is not really to rehash old arguments. Rather, I'd like to point out a couple of things that I've read that really make sense. At my dojo, and in our organization, we do not compete. While I don't think competition is inherently bad (and I'd love to study kendo if I ever get the chance), there are at least two compelling arguments against it in my mind.
The first is that O Sensei felt that competition was counter to the ideals expressed in aikido. This is not enough in itself to end the argument, but understanding his reasons may be enough. The Spirit of Aikido by Kisshomaru Ueshiba addresses this point. I'll have to look it up again, but the gist, as I remember it, is that competition rapidly becomes the end rather than the means of martial arts practice. It is important to remember that O Sensei and his son were most likely looking at the issue from an organizational, not individual, perspective. O Sensei put a lot of store in the idea of cooperative practice and building harmony. This precludes the kind of win at all cost attitude that can quickly become a part of practices geared toward competitions.
The second argument is that competition really does not add anything to aikido practice. Again, this is from an organizational perspective. Kenji Tomiki, the founder of an aikido school that does incorporate competitions, was a professional educator and student of Kano -- the founder of modern Judo. Tomiki felt that competitions would serve as an excellent teaching tool. He also probably wanted to emulate Kano's success with Judo. Further, I think that Tomiki's initial work on a sporting form of aikido was intended specifically for the university physical education program at the university where he worked. In that context, in that time (1950s-1970 ish, I think), Tomiki's efforts make a lot of sense. But, Peter Goldsbury has posted on the AJ bulletin board that he feels he doesn't need competition as a teaching tool. He's also said that competition does not add anything to aikido.
In short, competition is not needed to fill perceived flaws in aikido training -- the three arguments for competition I highlighted above. In our dojo we use randori (multiple attackers using any attack), and jiyu waza (single attacker continuously attacking with any attack) to provide unscripted situations for nage. Testing, which at higher levels incorporates those exercises, adds stress and exhaustion to the factors affecting nage. Good ukemi (see my posts below) strikes a fine balance between cooperating with nage and resisting him.
Having said all of that, I at one point looked at competing in a tournament -- until I looked at the rules and saw that pretty much nothing of what I knew was legal. Still, the idea of seeing how I'd do against people studying other styles still intrigues me.