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View Full Version : 079) The Delusions of Self-Defense in Aikido: March 2011


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Marc Abrams
02-28-2011, 09:00 PM
I find the concept of “self-defense” to be a thread of delusions wrapped around a core of fear and insecurity.  Some people conveniently use this term to justify their distorted views of their world which can range wildly on a “fight-peace” spectrum of possible responses to potential threats.
On one end of this spectrum we have those who view their world as dangerous.  They perceive that the best way to survive is to be tough enough to deal with that threatening world.  They tend to promote the “We must practice hard in intense encounters in order to to be able to use Aikido as a martial art.  All that soft ki  stuff is useless and crazy….”  The more macho, tougher, beat-up you become, the safer you become.  People who practice like that over a long period of time end up with chronic injuries that prevent them from being able to continue to train in the manner that they are accustom to.  They then tend to replicate that with the next generation and reminisce about the good old days and complain about how soft the next generation has become.  They absolutely miss the proverbial boat in learning another way that is also effective, but allows you to still practice effectively in old age.  Of course, they cannot “see” this and instead talk about how the students are taking dives for that old person out of respect….What bunch of nonsense!  Their initial premise  about their dangerous world is suspect at best.  We need to explore with them what exactly they feel the need to defend themselves against?  Statistically, what are the odds of you being attacked?  Attacked by what?  You have “mastered” the ability to engage in hand-to-hand fighting only to be attacked by a machete, wielding attacker.  You have “mastered” the ability to engage in edged-weapons-to-hand fighting only to be attacked by a machine-pistol, wielding attacker.  You have “mastered” the ability to to engage in firearms-to-hand fighting, equipped with the top-of-the-line ballistic-proof shielding only to be struck by an attacker who hijacked a bus to run you over.  You have built an impenetrable fortress only to die from bubonic plague from the rats and mice within your fortress.  What they fail to see is that in trying to make themselves “tough enough” they are actually weakening themselves in the long run.  This of course is their right to continue to practice in that manner.  They can try and deny a larger reality that they ultimately will have to face.   This is all done in the belief that what they are doing will allow them to defend themselves.
On the other end of the delusional spectrum, you have people talk about the” highest level” of Aikido achievement in which you can induce a state of harmony in your attacker through your mere presence.  Their practice  of Aikido tends to resemble over-reactive, collusive and overly-compliant responses to almost anything as long as it “goes with the flow…”   I can see this higher level now….. The mugger is about to jump you from behind, stab you and take your wallet while you are left to bleed to death.  Instead, you turn and extend positive ki toward the would-be-mugger.  That mugger suddenly is overwhelmed with love and hugs you like a long-lost sibling.  The next thing you know, you two are sitting by a campfire, roasting marshmallows and singing “Kumbaya” in a perfect two-part, acapella  harmony.  This too, is a bunch of nonsense.  The reality is that there are people out there that actually like to harm other people.  There are people out there that do not care what happens to another person as long as they get what they want.  They look at these idealistic people as easy targets (and they frequently are).  These “targets” typically do not respond appropriately when the idyllic responses that they expect from others do not materialize.   These people can practice that form of Aikido into old age.  Of course it is just practice and fails soon after the opponent “decides” not to harmonize in peace.  I am reminded of a story told by one of the early, female pioneers of Aikido in the US.  She talked about an incident in which someone tried to mug her.  She put the person in a joint-lock and the mugger screamed in pain.  She released the lock because the person screamed out in pain.  The mugger then attacked her again and this time she got hurt.  She certainly learned an important lesson that she felt was important enough to share with others.
Let me cue some people into a well-known secret.  Self-protection is a far smarter area to focus in on than self-defense.  If you take the time to study “predator behaviors” you will quickly notice that the predator hunts out victims based upon some criteria.  If you study what the criteria are, you can do things to not fit a “victim profile.”  Proper preparation, situational-awareness and pro-active actions (including the use of self-protection tools) can go a very long way toward preventing ever having to defend yourself against a predatory attack.  Another aspect of self-protection is the acceptance of reality.  That means that the world will never be all loving and kind.  It also means that the world will not be a dangerous place that requires constant vigilance and defense.  Being aware in the moment, without those preconceived biases can assist you in making better decisions in evaluating and responding to potential threats.
Aikido is a martial art.  In essence, it is a slice from the larger pie called budo.  Like other slices, it tends to be stylized, with a distinct set of characteristics that can be viewed as being positive, neutral, or negative (depending upon your perspective). Needless to say, the range of styles within the art of Aikido can be quite large, each with their own unique sets of characteristics (which will also be viewed differently by different people).  The practice and study of Aikido can be a very positive experience for some people that can directly translate into better self-protection and self-defense skills.   I can only talk about what I believe to be the benefits from practicing the style of Aikido that I do.  I leave it to others to come to their own conclusions as to any “costs” or “benefits.” To date, it has worked fine for me and I only seem to be getting better at what I am doing.
I believe that the study of Aikido is not easy and takes long to be able to effectively utilize because you are essentially re-programming the person to respond to an attack in a manner that is different than what one would typically do.    I am not in a rush to defend myself.  If there was any kind of urgency, I think that a shotgun is your best bet.  I am willing to allow myself and my students the time necessary to deeply understand how one typically responds to situations so as to begin to change that response set.  Time is necessary in order to reprogram the body to respond differently when having to immediately respond under atypical, high stress conditions.  The typical response set is based on reciprocal tensions.  This is a force-on-force based paradigm that has it’s own set of “positives” and “negatives.”  I am training myself and my students to not respond with reciprocal tension to an attack.  The alternative is using a set of principles centered around “Aiki.”  This appears to be a subset within “internal strength.”  Some people simply do not believe that this stuff exists and others believe that this stuff is no different that what one can do through physical training.  Not surprisingly, those opinions are typically expressed by those who refuse to explore the differences.  I frankly do not care whether or not people choose to believe in it or not.  I have experienced it’s effectiveness for myself in martial applications and can say that it is remarkably different from other types of training.  I will admit that some of the stuff simply looks fake and can look like movements that are not “aiki” based.  Once again, people can choose to believe what they want to believe.  I personally find this “stuff” to be a more efficient and effective manner of responding to attacks (albeit, longer to learn).  This type of reprogramming is based on utilizing incoming force so as to neutralize the force while simultaneously opening the attacker up to having the openings created by the attack exploited.
Retraining your body in the above-mentioned manner can allow you to move more efficiently and effectively.  It can allow you to strike the person in a manner that this person’s body has a hard time managing the incoming force.  It allows you to unbalance a person in a manner that creates the unbalance before the person is effectively aware of that condition.  Simply put, it allows you to do more with “less.”
Retraining your body in the above-mentioned manner helps you to become significantly more aware of yourself and your surroundings.  In terms of self-protection, situational awareness is one of the foundational elements.  The sooner that you can become aware of potential dangers, the more choices you typically have in being able to address the situation so that it does not move to a self-defense situation.  If it did have to turn into a self-defense situation, the ability to be deeply aware of what the other person is doing (or potentially doing) is a major tactical advantage to have.  You should always want to respond and adapt quicker than an attacker.
Retraining yourself in the above-mentioned manner should help you become better adept at managing interpersonal interactions.  That should hopefully be able to be translated into having better relationships with those around you.  This should help you exist to thrive within a better-connected community.  That type of community typically serves as a deterrent to predatory attackers.
This type of training can and should utilize increasingly more realistic types of attacks as a person begins to function and respond in this new and different manner.  This type of practice needs to be cooperative and not collusive in order to train intensely and safely.  This practice requires a bracing honesty in how we interact with our partners.  It is not easy and takes practice to learn to be a good partner so that both people are always learning and moving forward.  This type of training can entail a wide range of response sets ranging from the neutralization of the attack to the demise of the attacker.  You need honest training partners in order to practice dangerous outcomes in a safe and controlled manner.  To me, one of the benefits of Aikido is that it is like most Chinese restaurants.  You can get Hunan, Cantonese……  Aikido can provide a person with a wide range of responses to situations with the ultimate goal of you being allowed to live in peace (even if that means that you kill another person).  This month we will look at some of the ranges of options contained with the techniques practiced.  After all, techniques are kata.  Effective utilization of these kata is what enables Aikido to be used effectively to defend ones’ self.  This can be done without having to turn yourself into a “tough person” or turn yourself into a “new-age pacifist.”
Marc Abrams Sensei


(Original blog post may be found here (http://aasbk.com/blog).)

Janet Rosen
02-28-2011, 11:57 PM
Nice post!

Mark Freeman
03-01-2011, 03:35 AM
Hi Marc,

Excellent post, and a reminder that there are always more ways of looking at things than from down one extreme end of the aikido stick.

I think there is truth in the views presented at both ends, even though they might see the other end as nonsense.

I prefer your place of balance, in the centre, working from the inside out.

regards

Mark

Alex Megann
03-01-2011, 06:12 AM
Good post, Marc - I agree with much of what you say!

In particular, I like "self-protection". In my classes I never talk about "self-defence": there are so many misconceptions of what this means, and I believe that a martial arts class is not the place for this anyway - this is not really what we are training for.

Instead, I think that "self-protection" covers almost everything we do in the dojo - awareness, safe body movement, ukemi, body preparation, and so on. Even the etiquette we observe in the dojo, which can easily slip into slavish copying of quasi-Japanese behaviour, is much easier to understand in terms of safety and respect for potential dangers.

Alex

Marc Abrams
03-01-2011, 07:21 AM
Good post, Marc - I agree with much of what you say!

In particular, I like "self-protection". In my classes I never talk about "self-defence": there are so many misconceptions of what this means, and I believe that a martial arts class is not the place for this anyway - this is not really what we are training for.

Instead, I think that "self-protection" covers almost everything we do in the dojo - awareness, safe body movement, ukemi, body preparation, and so on. Even the etiquette we observe in the dojo, which can easily slip into slavish copying of quasi-Japanese behaviour, is much easier to understand in terms of safety and respect for potential dangers.

Alex

Alex:

A good way to distinguish self-protection from self-defense is in regards to proximity of time and distance. For example, listening to tunes on your i-pad while texting on your i-phone makes you particularly oblivious to the world around you (how often do we see that). By the time that a person is aware of a danger, the person typically has the aggressor so close that he/she must defend against an attack. The person who is wearing footware that allows for mobility and is tuned in to their environment senses a person stalking them from a block away. That person executes a self-protection maneuver by stopping into a coffee shop for a drop of java while watching what the potential aggressor does next.

We typically practice a mix of things in a dojo that can be used for both defending against an attack and protecting yourself so that you are not approachable for an attack.

Regards,

Marc

Alex Megann
03-01-2011, 07:55 AM
Alex:

A good way to distinguish self-protection from self-defense is in regards to proximity of time and distance. For example, listening to tunes on your i-pad while texting on your i-phone makes you particularly oblivious to the world around you (how often do we see that). By the time that a person is aware of a danger, the person typically has the aggressor so close that he/she must defend against an attack. The person who is wearing footware that allows for mobility and is tuned in to their environment senses a person stalking them from a block away. That person executes a self-protection maneuver by stopping into a coffee shop for a drop of java while watching what the potential aggressor does next.

We typically practice a mix of things in a dojo that can be used for both defending against an attack and protecting yourself so that you are not approachable for an attack.

Regards,

Marc

Again, I definitely agree.

As someone who cycles to work in the rush hour every day, I see so many people oblivious of the world around them, whether it is texting pedestrians or cyclists with iPods. I don't understand why people do this, and certainly couldn't bring myself to handicap my senses in this way! In fact, I prefer to go sans helmet myself, since I feel I am more alert that way, as well as more in touch with my vulnerabilities.

Strangely enough, I think that training in a crowded dojo is an excellent exercise for awareness and avoidance. Normally in our own dojo there is plenty of space, but I have spent many weekends in packed spaces, and have managed to avoid any real collisions for many years now. I have often been surprised when my unconscious senses have suddenly come into play - this is surely a a useful skill in self-protection!

Alex

Tony Wagstaffe
03-01-2011, 10:48 AM
Its funny how all the bunnies agree with the bunnies......:)

Marc Abrams
03-01-2011, 10:55 AM
Its funny how all the bunnies agree with the bunnies......:)

I agree. It is also funny that all "tough people" agree with the tough people. Sharing skewed perspectives is quite easy. ;)

Marc Abrams

Alex Megann
03-01-2011, 11:33 AM
Its funny how all the bunnies agree with the bunnies......:)

Hmm. I never thought of myself as a "bunny". Interesting.

Alex

phitruong
03-01-2011, 12:00 PM
i ate both "tough people" and "bunny". they tasted the same, like chicken. :D

Marc Abrams
03-01-2011, 12:03 PM
Alex:

The truly sad part is that the particular poster had an opportunity to experience the validity and martial effectiveness of the IT stuff with Dan Harden coming there to teach. The fear that keeps a person locked in his warped perspective has prevented him from having to own up to his not only having to acknowledge his mistaken beliefs, but to the fact that he has spent all of those years ending up in a blind alley, instead of heading to richer pastures... Ah the walls people build to "defend" themselves.....

Regards,

Marc Abrams

Marc Abrams
03-01-2011, 12:04 PM
i ate both "tough people" and "bunny". they tasted the same, like chicken. :D

Phil:

I like those people with some fava beans and a nice Chianti......:eek:

Marc Abrams

Tony Wagstaffe
03-01-2011, 02:14 PM
Alex:

The truly sad part is that the particular poster had an opportunity to experience the validity and martial effectiveness of the IT stuff with Dan Harden coming there to teach. The fear that keeps a person locked in his warped perspective has prevented him from having to own up to his not only having to acknowledge his mistaken beliefs, but to the fact that he has spent all of those years ending up in a blind alley, instead of heading to richer pastures... Ah the walls people build to "defend" themselves.....

Regards,

Marc Abrams

Oh Dear Marc......... you will have to do better than that.........

Alex Megann
03-01-2011, 02:28 PM
Alex:

The truly sad part is that the particular poster had an opportunity to experience the validity and martial effectiveness of the IT stuff with Dan Harden coming there to teach. The fear that keeps a person locked in his warped perspective has prevented him from having to own up to his not only having to acknowledge his mistaken beliefs, but to the fact that he has spent all of those years ending up in a blind alley, instead of heading to richer pastures... Ah the walls people build to "defend" themselves.....

Regards,

Marc Abrams

Did Dan really come here? I would have been very interested to come and see him.

Funnily thing is, Tony and I are only about ten miles apart...

Alex

Marc Abrams
03-01-2011, 02:44 PM
Did Dan really come here? I would have been very interested to come and see him.

Funnily thing is, Tony and I are only about ten miles apart...

Alex

Dan will be there in May

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=19319

Worth it and then some...

Marc Abrams

Marc Abrams
03-01-2011, 03:54 PM
Oh Dear Marc......... you will have to do better than that.........

Actually Tony, the responsibility for action appears to lie squarely on your plate. You are the person who claims stuff based upon no real knowledge (about the IT stuff) and gets challenged for doing that. It seems to me like you can either continue to speak from a place of no real knowledge or you can get some first-hand experience and report back. Dan Harden was kind enough to want to allow you to experience something different and you did not take him up on that offer. I'm sure that you would agree with the expression that "talk is cheap."

At the end of the day, you can continue to make your bunny comments and they only reflect negatively on a person who has a wealth of experience and more that he could gain as well. The only thing that stops you is what you believe that you know.

Marc Abrams

Alex Megann
03-01-2011, 04:16 PM
Dan will be there in May

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=19319

Worth it and then some...

Marc Abrams

Just checked that link, and the event is full with a waiting list, unfortunately...

Alex

Dave de Vos
03-01-2011, 04:49 PM
Nice post!

Minor issue: an empty line here and there would have made it easier to read.

Erick Mead
03-01-2011, 06:22 PM
If you study what the criteria are, you can do things to not fit a "victim profile." ... I believe that the study of Aikido is not easy and takes long to be able to effectively utilize because you are essentially re-programming the person to respond to an attack in a manner that is different than what one would typically do.


There are reflexive mechanisms aswell as perceptual manipulations exploited in aiki (and esp. evident in kokyu tanden ho) that bear on points made in this lecture (http://www.gil-bailie.com/2010/06/rene-girard-has-slightly-more-nuanced.html). -- esp. beginning at @ 4:33

I have often pointed out to students that the most obvious cue for a "not-prey" signal to a would-be predator is rather basic -- and very hard to unlearn signalling "prey".. Essentially, "prey" prepares to flee - "not-prey" is actually more prepared to fight, while not seeming to care about any fight.

"Prey" tense, lift their CG to enable omnidirectional mobility. "Not-prey" relax, lower their CG, gain stability, and are ready to fight but seem unconcerned with the possibility of attack. These systemic postures biomechanically predispose or potentiate different suites of reflexes to fire more easily than others.

I say "not-prey" because being a predator is yet a third thing. Only predators seem ready to fight, basically, a threat display to ward off competition for a kill. There may be deep reasons O Sensei forbade competition.

Tony Wagstaffe
03-01-2011, 07:01 PM
Actually Tony, the responsibility for action appears to lie squarely on your plate. You are the person who claims stuff based upon no real knowledge (about the IT stuff) and gets challenged for doing that. It seems to me like you can either continue to speak from a place of no real knowledge or you can get some first-hand experience and report back. Dan Harden was kind enough to want to allow you to experience something different and you did not take him up on that offer. I'm sure that you would agree with the expression that "talk is cheap."

At the end of the day, you can continue to make your bunny comments and they only reflect negatively on a person who has a wealth of experience and more that he could gain as well. The only thing that stops you is what you believe that you know.

Marc Abrams

I assume you invited Geoff Thompson to your IT course....?
I wonder if he would be interested...?

Marc Abrams
03-01-2011, 07:08 PM
I assume you invited Geoff Thompson to your IT course....?
I wonder if he would be interested...?

Not my course. Dan works with ALL types of martial artists, MMA guys, you name it. IF Geoff was open minded, he would likely be interested. Please pass the word on to him. Dan's course is currently overbooked, but if he returns, I would assume that he would graciously extend an invitation to both of you.

Marc Abrams

dps
03-01-2011, 07:30 PM
Not my course. Dan works with ALL types of martial artists, MMA guys, you name it. IF Geoff was open minded, he would likely be interested. Please pass the word on to him. Dan's course is currently overbooked, but if he returns, I would assume that he would graciously extend an invitation to both of you.

Marc Abrams

Why doesn't Dan go see them when he is over there?

dps

raul rodrigo
03-01-2011, 07:38 PM
For my part, I will just step back from Tony W. and let him have his way.

Marc Abrams
03-01-2011, 08:12 PM
Why doesn't Dan go see them when he is over there?

dps

David:

Dan is going to England. He did invite Tony to meet him. If you would like to handle those logistics with Dan, by all means contact him.

Marc Abrams

guest1234567
03-02-2011, 02:26 AM
Thank you Marc for an excellent post!
And for the tough people if there wouldn't exist bunnies, the world would be kind of boring wouldn't it?;)

Dazzler
03-02-2011, 04:29 AM
I assume you invited Geoff Thompson to your IT course....?
I wonder if he would be interested...?

Well..the course was advertised openly to the public so from that you can conclude that everyone is invited..

On my 1st BCA course which was around 1994 Geoff T didn't appear to have much time for Aikido...but from what I've seen on DVDs of his masterclasses recently and from his regular articles he seems to be far more open ...and he talks openly about those looking for violence finding it.

Geoffs life experiences seem to have opened his mind greatly and on the confident platform of his undoubted ability he seems comfortable in acknowledging many aspects of MA other than just how to hurt other people.

I think he'd be very interested in what Dan has to show. ...I know I am.

I spent 8 years with Kevin O'hagans Combat academy (BCA coach) which has greatly coloured my perspective on Aikido and while I respect those here that want to keep martial arts as fighting arts only...my personal belief is that there are further layers and levels of practice achievable which can offer more than just fighting ability as in punching/kicking/grappling using athletic prowess.

IP/IS for me equates to kokyu / ryoku ...from what I've been taught by Pierre Chassang this seems to be the final level of practice in Aikido.

I'm hoping to see if Dan can unlock my access to this and clarify my progress to this higher level.

I look forward to finding out in may.

D

George S. Ledyard
03-02-2011, 05:53 PM
What I particularly like is who is being called "aiki bunnies"... No one in this Aikido universe would consider Marc Abrams an "aiki bunny". Not on his nicest. most user friendly day...

I spent years with various Aikido people scared to death of me and now I am supposed to be an "aiki bunny"... just because I advocate going beyond our very narrow paradigm of traditional Aikido practice.

All of this is based on no direct information whatever. Not of me or Marc or any of the other folks here and certainly not an iota of any direct experience of the folks we are talking about training with.

c walker
03-02-2011, 06:09 PM
It's funny that Geoff Thompson has been mentioned. I attended his seminar last august, and he started his session's with breathing exercises. If I remember correctly he said they were Tai Chi exercises that he was working with to better relax, prepare and understand his body. He also came across as a very spiritual and decent bloke. His constant message throughout the day was not on fighting or violence but the development of the Self. Of course that includes the physical self and we did a lot of work with this in mind but he goes a lot deeper than just the physical.

Hello Daz I liked your comment on kokyu ryoku. I know we both follow Tamura sensei's foundations via Pierre Chassang. So like you I am under the impression that it is final level off understanding, and that's why it's the last foundation.

P.S. I will see you in London mate I managed to get a spot on Dan's weekend seminar, cheers.

Chris.

Dazzler
03-03-2011, 03:55 AM
It's funny that Geoff Thompson has been mentioned. I attended his seminar last august, and he started his session's with breathing exercises. If I remember correctly he said they were Tai Chi exercises that he was working with to better relax, prepare and understand his body. He also came across as a very spiritual and decent bloke. His constant message throughout the day was not on fighting or violence but the development of the Self. Of course that includes the physical self and we did a lot of work with this in mind but he goes a lot deeper than just the physical.

Hello Daz I liked your comment on kokyu ryoku. I know we both follow Tamura sensei's foundations via Pierre Chassang. So like you I am under the impression that it is final level off understanding, and that's why it's the last foundation.

P.S. I will see you in London mate I managed to get a spot on Dan's weekend seminar, cheers.

Chris.

Thanks Chris. Appreciated.

Be great to see you in London - think there will be some very good people there.

Cheers

D