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majin29
04-15-2009, 03:14 PM
[note- I just cut and pasted this from my thread in the intro section]

So I just joined this website to learn more about Aikido. I have trained in Tae Kwon Do and Shaolin Kung Fu for several years but that was a little while back. I would like to begin training again with a new style but I'm a little undecided. I have been checking out American Kenpo (but there are no schools near where I live) and Wing Chun (plenty of schools but not sure about the style). I found a nearby Aikido school that is reputed to be very good.

I have checked out several threads on this forum and seen various YouTube examples (with the ubiquitous responses like "Aikido doesn't have a chance against MMA"- like you are going to tussle with one of those guys on the street- please).

At this point of my life, I want something that reflects my own disposition- which is, I firmly believe most accomplished martial artists can avoid a physical confrontation 9 times out of 10. Most schools of various martial arts I have visited or studied at of course espouse this doctrine but the undercurrent of what they teach seems to run counter to this ideology. I want to study a martial art that doesn't just put this out there to attract students, I want my studying to be as philosophically entrenched as my physical training.

That said, I am genuinely asking whether Aikido has practical applications should I have to defend myself or my 4ft 11 wife (who actually is Japanese). Should I look for a school that balances the defensive elements with atemi?

The majority of members on this forum look as though they have studied this art for many years which is cool. I respect any and all opinions as I do not possess enough knowledge on this art to make an informed decision at present.

David

Marie Noelle Fequiere
04-15-2009, 03:19 PM
Hi David, and welcome to the Aikiweb!
Now, to answer your question, I will say that the instructor is more important than the style. I would suggest that you go to this dojo and watch a few classes. Try to make out the personality of the head instructor. Is he patient and calm, or does he yell a lot? Does he encourage his students to be physically aggressive? Is meditation, either before class, of after, or both, an important part to the class? A martial art is like a rottweiler: depending on the way his owner raises him, he can be a vicious beast or an affectionate pooch. The pooch will not terrorize your friends, but when danger arises, you can count on him just the same.;)

Voitokas
04-15-2009, 03:27 PM
Welcome!

The only way to see is to try it out for bit - it sounds like aikido is definitely an art you should try! (I mean, I like it...:)) It is, in my experience anyway, more principle-based than some arts which market themselves as easy-to-learn, effective self-defense... and stronger for that, really. It's also great conditioning, while not being as hard on you as some of the more battering arts! I hope you get to try out a good dojo!

Kevin Karr
04-15-2009, 05:10 PM
First thing I would ask myself, If I were in your situation, would be:

"Do I want an art that focuses on kicking and punching or an art that focuses on grappling, throws and joint locks?"

This is just boilerplate for long-term dedication and enjoyment. Personally, I love the way Aikido teaches one to manipulate the balance of the other person, stressing "whole body movement" (I get bored with endless kicking and punching drills). And, in everyday Aikido practice, you can *really* throw someone onto the ground whereas in everyday Tae Kwon Do or Kung Fu practice you can't really punch someone in the face! So, if you really love kicking and punching, don't do Aikido. Atemi (strikes) are an integral part of technique in Aikido but it is not practiced anywhere near the same as in Okinawan Karate, Korean Tae Kwon Do or Chinese Wushu.

Any respectable instructor of traditional martial arts/budo will emphasize the principle of trying to avoid physical confrontations, no matter which style you choose. This is not particular to Aikido.

Aikido absolutely has practical applications, depending on the style and the instructor. Some Aikido styles tend to emphasize the philosophical and healing aspects of the art (practice will look more "flowing" and "dance-like" with falls being slow and soft) while others emphasize strong basic martial (and later, advanced) techniques (practice will look more strenuous with falls being faster and most likely ending in a breakfall or "slap out"). If you want to practice the more technically applicable side of the art so that you feel more confident in the unfortunate event that someone may threaten your person, you will want the latter style. At the beginning, it may be difficult to discern which style the school nearest to you is teaching, it is not simply black or white. There are many shades of gray...

Phil Van Treese
04-15-2009, 05:51 PM
The only way you will find out if it's right for you is to try it. Try it for more than 2-3 months---give it an honest chance. Being in Viet Nam, beginnings of Desert Storm and Mogadishu, Somalia (Blackhawk Down Fame), aikido has literally saved my life, more than once. Good luck with your quest.

Buck
04-15-2009, 10:41 PM
Yes, you should do Aikido.

majin29
04-15-2009, 11:09 PM
Thanks everyone. The responses have been quite informative. I believe the dojo close to me espouses more the healing/philosophy of Aikido. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. I have been able to avoid fights all my life (except one time during when I was studying Tae Kwon Do and I actually did not mean to use one of the techniques but it was automatic) so I'm certainly game for a martial art like this. It definitely seems rooted in mind/body moreso than the clubs of other styles I have seen around my location.

Janet Rosen
04-15-2009, 11:49 PM
Here's another vote for visiting local dojo, and if you are intrigued by what you see, trying it. It's not like you have to sign on for a long term commitment.

lbb
04-16-2009, 07:52 AM
I'm sure it's out there somewhere, but I've never yet seen a dojo that spent more than a tiny amount of time on "the healing/philosophy" or teaching you to avoid confrontations. The former involves esoteric practices that few martial arts teachers are qualified to teach (any more than they are qualified to teach you how to fly an airplane; it's a different skillset and there's no reason to assume they have it just cuz they're doing this Asian martial arts thing). The latter is more the province of a focused self-defense course; you're unlikely to find a dojo where they really teach you situational awareness.

Can aikido help you in a self-defense situation? Yes, but if that's your goal, walking into an aikido dojo (or the dojo of any other martial art) is not the most direct route. First, you need to define what it is you're trying to defend against. Statistically, your 4-foot wife is at more risk from a friend, acquaintance or relative (including you) than she is from the stereotypical stranger in a bad part of town, but most people can't let go of their fantasies. If you want to learn self-defense against a fantasy, I've got nothing for you, because that's a fool's errand. If you want to defend against realistic threats, you need to assess what they are, and then figure out the most efficient way to learn the skills to deal with them. I guarantee that the most efficient way will not be found in any dojo. So, if you want to train aikido, or any other martial art, self-defense should not be your only (or most important) goal.

majin29
04-16-2009, 08:03 AM
.

Can aikido help you in a self-defense situation? Yes, but if that's your goal, walking into an aikido dojo (or the dojo of any other martial art) is not the most direct route. First, you need to define what it is you're trying to defend against. Statistically, your 4-foot wife is at more risk from a friend, acquaintance or relative (including you) than she is from the stereotypical stranger in a bad part of town, but most people can't let go of their fantasies. If you want to learn self-defense against a fantasy, I've got nothing for you, because that's a fool's errand. If you want to defend against realistic threats, you need to assess what they are, and then figure out the most efficient way to learn the skills to deal with them. I guarantee that the most efficient way will not be found in any dojo. So, if you want to train aikido, or any other martial art, self-defense should not be your only (or most important) goal.

Thanks Mary for the input, and you are definitely correct. The prospect of running into such a situation that I described is very low. I'm not a small guy myself and have never been bothered probably because I have studied martial arts since I was 13 and carry myself in a certain way.

That said, I am looking for a martial art that is more about harmony and flow rather than conflict and offense. One of my instructors once said that there is no such thing as "self defence" martial arts. They are all offensive from the standpoint that they are systems of conditioning the body for combat. That said, from what I have read on this forum, Aikido does seem to be a system that fosters a less aggressive attitude. I would like to study a form that teaches this as the other systems I have studied actually reinforced aggressive and rather nasty tendencies. One of my instructors (a black sash) once claimed he'd been over 100 fights... My thoughts were that he was not a good martial artist if he had that many physical altercations.

Here's the dojo I am looking at:

http://www.georgetownaikido.com/

majin29
04-16-2009, 08:20 AM
.

Can aikido help you in a self-defense situation? Yes, but if that's your goal, walking into an aikido dojo (or the dojo of any other martial art) is not the most direct route. First, you need to define what it is you're trying to defend against. Statistically, your 4-foot wife is at more risk from a friend, acquaintance or relative (including you) than she is from the stereotypical stranger in a bad part of town, but most people can't let go of their fantasies. If you want to learn self-defense against a fantasy, I've got nothing for you, because that's a fool's errand. If you want to defend against realistic threats, you need to assess what they are, and then figure out the most efficient way to learn the skills to deal with them. I guarantee that the most efficient way will not be found in any dojo. So, if you want to train aikido, or any other martial art, self-defense should not be your only (or most important) goal.

Thanks Mary for the input, and you are definitely correct. The prospect of running into such a situation that I described is very low. I'm not a small guy myself and have never been bothered probably because I have studied martial arts since I was 13 and carry myself in a certain way.

That said, I am looking for a martial art that is more about harmony and flow rather than conflict and offense. One of my instructors once said that there is no such thing as "self defence" martial arts. They are all offensive from the standpoint that they are systems of conditioning the body for combat. That said, from what I have read on this forum, Aikido does seem to be a system that fosters a less aggressive attitude. I would like to study a form that teaches this as the other systems I have studied actually reinforced aggressive and rather nasty tendencies. One of my instructors (a black sash) once claimed he'd been over 100 fights... My thoughts were that he was not a good martial artist if he had that many physical altercations.

David Maidment
04-16-2009, 10:18 AM
If I might make an observation, it seems as though you've done your homework and have already answered most of your own questions. Aikido does indeed seem to be what you are looking for.

Check out a dojo and if you like what you see, have fun training!

lbb
04-16-2009, 12:51 PM
That said, I am looking for a martial art that is more about harmony and flow rather than conflict and offense.

I'm probably way too junior to be answering this, but while a lot of people would say that aikido is about harmony and flow, my thought is that that doesn't mean what most people considering the style think it means (i.e., that the style studies how to be all nice and peaceful and at one with the universe). Maybe you get there at the advanced levels, but in my experience, the "harmony and flow" that you strive for in the practice is physical rather than philosophical, and it's difficult. In karate, for example, if someone tries to punch you, the most common blocking techniques deflect the punch by knocking it aside. It's relatively easy to develop basic competence with these techniques, to the point that you can execute an effective block. In aikido, the responses to the same attack are going to attempt more than a simple deflection: instead of simply knocking the punch aside, you will attempt to move with it, match its speed and movement, and end up in a position that is somewhat more advantageous than you would be in if you'd simply deflected it. That's the "harmony and flow": the timing and physical movement that has to match the attack very closely.

One thing that's very misleading is the way that some people (aikido practitioners not least among them) attach value judgments to these skills. Again, they're physical skills, but the language we use -- "going against the attack" or "meeting force with force" for a karate technique, vs. "blending" or "harmonizing" for an aikido technique -- seems to make people think, "Karate violent and bad! Aikido harmonious and good!" IMO, people who make that judgment are flat-out wrong, and aikido practitioners who make it are missing the point.

majin29
04-16-2009, 03:00 PM
Mary, once again, thanks for your candid observations. I'm sure you are giving me a more objective opinion than even some sensei's since their motivation would be to get more students (aka business). So your input is very much appreciated. I have actually tried posting a link to the school I am interested in but it keeps disappearing. I guess there is some rule about posting links to schools in that it could be construed as advertising (I do understand if that is the reason).

Anyhow, I'm going to check my local dojo and see first hand how they operate. Luckily, there are a few schools around the area. This one teaches Yoshinkan Aikido. Is there a big difference between this approach/iteration of style and others?

Dave

oiwad
04-17-2009, 09:54 AM
Anyhow, I'm going to check my local dojo and see first hand how they operate. Luckily, there are a few schools around the area. This one teaches Yoshinkan Aikido. Is there a big difference between this approach/iteration of style and others?

Yoshinkan has more regimented/structured training methods than other forms (such as Aikikai) due to the necessity of finding practical ways to teach large numbers of people at once. The most fundamental indication of this exists in the form of the kihon dosa - six movement sequences which serve as a foundation of movement in Aikido, each of which aids the development of correct form/posture/physical conditioning in students.

Basic techniques (kihon waza) are practiced repeatedly, usually within the context of the kihon dosa. Emphasis is also placed on the first contact prior to the execution of a technique, with methods for dealing with "pushing" attacks and "pulling" attacks covered in equal measure.

There are some minor linguistic differences which set Yoshinkan apart too - "ikkajo" instead of "ikkyo" for example. Also, the person who performs a technique - usually referred to as "nage" elsewhere in Aikido - is called "shite" (pronounced sh'tay), which is fairly amusing for those of us in the UK.

You should have a look at some Youtube videos to find out more - search for "Joe Thambu" and you'll find some great demonstrations.

I hope this helps! I've been training in Yoshinkan for 8 months, and I love it.

oiwad
04-17-2009, 01:50 PM
Here is a recent video of Thambu Sensei at work! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaOXe_UsE4o)

GaiaM
04-18-2009, 07:48 PM
Hello David,
It sounds like Aikido might be just what you're looking for. I don't have any personal experience with Yoshinkan, so can't speak for that style at all, but if you want to check out another option, I would recommend visiting Toronto Aikikai (http://www.torontoaikikai.com). They are affiliated with the US Aikido Federation (Aikikai style) and I have met their chief instructor at seminars and heard good things about him. Best of luck!
Gaia

majin29
04-19-2009, 03:40 PM
Hello David,
It sounds like Aikido might be just what you're looking for. I don't have any personal experience with Yoshinkan, so can't speak for that style at all, but if you want to check out another option, I would recommend visiting Toronto Aikikai (http://www.torontoaikikai.com). They are affiliated with the US Aikido Federation (Aikikai style) and I have met their chief instructor at seminars and heard good things about him. Best of luck!
Gaia

Thanks for the link, I noticed they have a Brampton chapter since I live and work out in Milton which is 30kms west of Toronto. The other school is Georgetown Aikido which practices the Yoshinkan method. Georgetown is closer but more expensive. I'm not sure which direction I want to go in. It sounds like both a respectable so I probably ought to visit each dojo and watch to see which one resonates with me more. Also talking to the sensei after the class would probably help (if they were willing to take a few minutes to discuss things).

Thanks for you help. I must say I really like this forum. Everyone is really friendly, helpful, and nice. It's a great change from many other web forums that I visit or belong to where there's a lot of verbal sparring. I guess it just goes to show that Aikido is not just a physical activity but a way of life.

Cheers!

Basia Halliop
04-20-2009, 12:41 PM
Of course I love my dojo (Toronto Aikikai) and if it were me I'd probably bring a book and hop on the GO train to Toronto :). (not actually joking -- there are a couple of students who come from rather far). But in any case, I think your next step is simply to visit the places you're interested in. The dojos I've been at have all allowed guests to watch their classes, and some (like ours) even allow you to try a class before signing up. And unless they happen to be in a hurry one day, I suspect most teachers would probably be happy enough to speak to you after class and answer a few questions. I might want to watch a couple of different classes, maybe check out one of the intermediate or advanced classes and see what stuff looks like beyond the beginner class. Obviously watch people interact and get a sense if you like the training style and such.

And finally, give it a try...

YogaRen
04-21-2009, 03:57 PM
Yes, you should do Aikido.

hehe. good answer.