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I find it amusing that people who practice Aikido are expected to perform at what would, in other activities, be elite levels. Aikido practitioners are expected, by the "hardcore martial artists" to be able fight off any type of street attack, defeat mixed martial artists, and generally be as "bad-ass" as Ueshiba Kaiso was in his "pre-war" phase. Conversely, the "spiritual types" expect people in Aikido to have more patience and pacifistic temperament than Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King combined.. any use of say "atemi" or "kime" is looked upon with horror and disdain.
In effect by expecting people in Aikido to always come up to the standard of Ueshiba Kaiso (either "bad-ass" or "saint", take your pick), we are being asked to be as good in our AIkido as say, Pele is in football, or Roger Federer in tennis, or Tiger Woods in golf (yeah, I just had to get that in, didn't I), or Manny Pacquiao in boxing (gotta be nationalistic!).
Yet, we don't expect everyone in football, tennis, golf or boxing to be a Pele, Federer, Woods or Pacquiao... so why is so much demanded of people practicing Aikido?
Of course, I recognise the need for an "elite" in Aikido.. they will pass on the high standard to the next generation.. but does everybody have to be in the "elite"? (that would be an oxymoron). And do we have to denigrate the "non-elites" by saying they practice "Aikido-lite"?
"Do you play tennis?"
"Yes, I do!"
"Are you as good as Federer or Venus Williams?"
Words of the Founder: "Learning from Failure"
by Morihei Ueshiba,
[Editor's Note: This writing of O-Sensei was originally published in The Aikido, Volume 25, No. 4, 1988 and reprinted in The USAF Eastern Region Newsletter in 1989.]
The principle components of Aiki Keiko training are Ki-form exercises and the Principle of Tanren (Tanren- ho).
The most extreme type of Ki-form training is a true life-or-death duel. Budo are originally devoid of the contests that are common to most sports. This is because in Budo, a contest invariably involves risking serious injury or death. It is, moreover, a great mistake to seek out contests, as to inflict a lethal injury on anyone is the greatest crime a man can commit.
From ancient times in Japan the guiding principle of Budo has been to avoid injury or taking the life of one's opponent. True Budo is the Way of Great Harmony and the purification of body and soul (Misogi). Budo is in other words, governed by the principle that, in order for man to practice the order of heaven on earth, it is first necessary for him to correct the self and bend to the Ten Thousand Things. It is for this reason that I am particularly saddened by the teachings of those who know little of the true Budo of which I speak and who have fallen, instead, in the militaristic-forms of martial arts that developed later in our country's history.
The wheel turns..
I went with three of my students to Oxford for their first ever grading for 6th kyu.. back in the Philippines I have graded students myself but this would be the first time my students here would be graded by an external grading panel.
I wouldn't say things went very smoothly, but in the end, all three of them passed.
Now to get back to training..
At class last week I was working with a relatively new member.. he actually has been training with us since last year but his attendance has been sporadic at best. We were practicing tenchi-nage and he asked what happens if uke tries to resist the technique. I said instead we flow with the resistance and apply another technique and demonstrated flowing into uchi-kaiten sankyo.. He then asked how does one counter the tenchi nage and I answered that that it also involves non-resistance and again by flowing with his intended throw, I applied uchi kaiten sankyo. The cultivation of non-resistance is done through ukemi training, and I showed this to him by taking forward ukemi from his tenchi nage several times. He then tried resisting more vigorously against the technique, but each time I flowed into a counter, not resisting at all but following the force of his movement.. He then tried forcefully resisting the technique and I used the momentum he created to torque him into a particularly tight sankyo which had him wincing and clutching his arm in pain. He remarked that he had never before experienced that kind of pain from a technique. I said that the because Aikido is non-resistance, the stronger the resistance applied the more painful the technique becomes.
All too often people in budo become rather myopic, forgetting there are many ways to train and many ways to access certain universally applicable skills. Just because one type of training provides you with a specific result doesn't mean similar skills are not achieveable by someone else thru a different pedagogy. Budo training can speak to each of us in very specific ways. Every once in a while an individual comes along with a unique set of keys to unlock skills we desire. The question is, can we be open minded enough to recognize these keys if they appear to be something we have already rejected or seem totally different than what we have come to expect?
I had the opportunity to go to the last day of Kobayashi Shihan's course in Bath. It was a good session, with Kobayashi Shihan teaching taijutsu (mostly against yokomen-uchi), jo-waza, and tachi-dori. Even at 71 years of age Kobayashi Shihan was quite spry and agile, even acting as uke when he demonstrated the techniques. He did not bring a designated uke but instead got a random participant from the tatami each time. I also met and got to practice with fellow Aikiweb member Daren Sims..
Urban Aldenklint Sensei also taught a session, showing how uke can be thrown in tenchi nage by relaxing one arm completely.
All in all it was a very enjoyable and enlightening day.
Roman and I have been having an interesting conversation, where he characterized Aikidoka who train only in Aikido as being unable to "fight". I asked if that included Morihiro Saito Sensei, and he said "yes". (cf the comments of the preceding blog entry).
How about another example, Hiroshi Isoyama Sensei, who's been used as an example lately as an Aikidoka who runs counter to the "pacifist" ways of the Aikikai (despite his being an 8th Dan Shihan in the Aikikai). From what I can glean from the available information about him, he has trained only in Aikido since he was 12 years old. Does that also mean that Isoyama Sensei "can't fight?"
I've been reading a lot lately that Martial Arts is all about fighting.
And that "Martial" means pertaining to the Military or waging war.
So Sun-Tzu's "Art of War" must be about Martial Arts, right?
Here's an oft-quoted passage from the "Art of War":
" Therefore One hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the most skillful. Seizing the enemy without fighting is the most skillful.
War is of vital importance to the state and should not be engaged carelessly"
In Giles Translation:
Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
He even adds in annotation:
Here again, no modern strategist but will approve the words of the old Chinese general. Moltke's greatest triumph, the capitulation of the huge French army at Sedan, was won practically without bloodshed.
As Nishio Sensei said, "The conflict should be over at the moment of contact."
But to achieve such ability takes practice, practice, practice, and more practice.
And what do we need to practice to get this ability to win without fighting? That's the eternal question..
I think this preface written by Nishio Sensei, has a lot of points worth pondering.
A number of people have suggested over the years that I publish a book. So far I have always refrained from doing so for several reasons. First, I have always considered myself simply another follower on the path, in a position neither to serve as a model for others nor to assert my views on budo technique.
However, having grown older, and having already mourned the passing of such teachers as Seigo Yamaguchi, who held my highest respect from the very beginning of my aikido career, and Morihiro Saito, who worked so tirelessly to transmit the Founder's aikido in its purest possible form, I began to consider what will happen to aikido from this point on.
Aikido is a "budo," a "martial way," and therefore inextricably rooted in "jujutsu" or "martial technique." Yet when I look at the aikido world today, I see very little "budo-ness" being expressed in technique, and I wonder if people haven't begun to forget these important roots. While people often say things like, "Aikido is sword technique…" and "throws and pins are actually strikes….," there is rarely any explanation of such ideas. There are even some who claim that aikido has no need for things like striking and weapons techniques. In many settings these days, aikido is becoming little more than a kind of health exercise pursued by the elderly and women and children.
Time and again I come across stuff posted on the web about the Filipino Martial Arts... being born and bred in the Philippines, I find some of what is written to be laughable and betraying an ignorance of the country of origin of the Filipino Martial Arts.
Misconception #1: The Filipino Martial Arts are a homogenous collection of systems with a common philosophy and technical approach.
Fact: There are probably as many styles and systems of FMA as there are regional languages and dialects (170 according to wikipedia). Just as there are many differing systems of Kung Fu, there are also different systems of Filipino Martial Arts. This is also evidenced by the various names there are for the art: Kali, Arnis, Eskrima, Singkatan, Kuntaw, Kabaroan, etc. Each has varying philosophies and technical approaches. This then leads to:
Misconception #2: To be a true FMA it must have <insert technique / training method / philosophy here>.
I remember reading an article in Inside Kung-Fu which purported to instruct the reader on how to discern what was a true FMA. It had to have, among other things, "hubud lubud" training, triangular footwork, no blocks - just hand smashes, etc etc. This was ludicrous and was pointed out by several FMA practitioners in the letters column some issues later... Given the variety of approaches existing in the FMA as a whole, it was unreasonable to expect that all FMAs used the same technques / methods used by the FMA of the article author. It would b