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ChrisHein
01-16-2013, 12:50 PM
When I first started Aikido (in the late 90's) the prevalent idea in the world of martial arts, was that martial arts came from Japan or China- oh, there were some martial arts from Korea, but mostly Japan or China. All martial arts required you to wear a special costume, and observe special unusual customs (taking off shoes, bowing, saying strange words). This was to be expected if you wanted to learn a martial art.

As time when on, things like MMA, other cultural martial arts (South American, European, and North American), and "reality based self defense" became more widely know, and popular. This changed the way people felt about learning a martial art- or learning to "take care of yourself".

When I started our Aikido school was very large, it was the largest martial art school in Fresno (pop. 500,000), and had a thriving student base. I left this school, moved and trained in other martial arts (MMA, South American, North American and European martial arts). When I returned to become Dojo Cho of the same Aikido school I started in, the school was much smaller. There were hardly and Udansha left, and practice was much more "humble". I attacked the school with my usual excitement, and we now have a very full schedule, there are more "skirts" on the mat, attendance is way up, and things are going well. I've had to work pretty hard, but I love Aikido.

At the beginning of the year, I decided that I would like to share some of the other martial arts I've done. So I started a "self defense class". It doesn't teach to any one system, but offers an general view of many aspects of martial arts training: striking, ground grappling, stand up grappling, multiple attackers, weapon use, weapon taking etc.. We wear normal "street cloths", we don't bow into class, I don't have them say "onegaishimasu" or anything else to each other before or after they work together- it's really laid back. This class has been a huge success from the start, it's all ways full. People are always laughing and having the best time during class, and after people hang around more and talk with each other more then I see after regular keiko.

These are all people who have been doing Aikido for some time. Most of them have several years of Aikido training. But they all seem more comfortable and eager to learn in a more relaxed "modern" martial arts environment. It's really strange to me, but it reminds me of how the Dojo used to feel after Aikido class back in the late 90's early 00's. When I advertise Aikido, I don't get much response from the community, but advertising the "self-defense" class has already had a better response.

It really makes me wonder how I should be structuring my class schedule...

lbb
01-17-2013, 07:53 AM
Chris, thanks for this lovely portrait of a dojo with lots of life in it. It's giving me lots of food for thought. My dojo is hoping to grow in 2013, and I've been thinking a lot about what that means. Bringing in new people, bringing back people who have drifted away, elevating the practice of those who are already here? Hopefully all of the above, but the specifics...?

The other night as I was driving home I had the thought: sustained growth will only come by being ourselves. Not sure yet what that means, though.

Travers Hughes
01-17-2013, 03:26 PM
Nice post Chris. Times and trends (fads) sure are changing. Do you think the phenomenon of "instant gratification" has anything to do with it? Maybe I'm just getting old, but it seems that both in martial arts and work circles, a lot of people seem to be reducing goal timeframes - no such thing as long term goals any more. "If results can't be achieved quickly, its not worth it" seems to be the general attitude.

ChrisHein
01-17-2013, 03:37 PM
It is true, people like to get things fast. People also like to feel comfortable fast. I think both of these things are aided by teaching a less formal type of martial arts.

I really love Aikido, it's given me a lot in my life. I want to give that back to other people. How I can best give this to them is my real question. Perhaps more non-traditional classes are the way to go. And yet, there is something I feel I gained from the more ceremonial aspects of Aikido training, something I don't want to lose.

Understanding how to do this is my current goal.

Dave R
01-17-2013, 03:48 PM
When I advertise Aikido, I don't get much response from the community, but advertising the "self-defense" class has already had a better response.

I think you make an interesting point, Chris. Not every potential aikidoka wants to wear a gi, bow or learn a foreign language. We never bothered with workout costumes when I studied CMA and, if I'm honest, I've never been comfortable in my hakama. It's just not a good look for me. I suspect that the millennial generation (who make up the core of our potential newbies now) are even less impressed with the costume than I am. I'm not sure that aikido without gis is the answer to dwindling class sizes but it's something to think about.

A friend once recounted a story about coming out of a karate class at the YMCA and hearing some guy yell, "Look at the (pansy) in his pajamas!" My friend turned around ready to return the insult but thought better of it when he saw the guy was about twice his size. The gi and all the culture that come with learning the art are simply not held in esteem by many people.

Coincidentally, I was at a seminar this last weekend where everyone wore sweats. It brought a welcome informality to the experience and helped bring focus to the material at hand. This in contrast to what I've come to expect when I enter a dojo. There always seems to be just a little bit of ego introduced when budo people gear up; which is odd when you consider that gis are essentially just underwear.

Best,
Dave

Janet Rosen
01-17-2013, 04:30 PM
When I lead my small "low impact aikido" class, I am the only one in a gi. I feel it makes my role as class leader more apparent - though I admit the day when it was really cold and I was migraining a bit and stayed in my street clothes, it was just fine...we do quick informal standing bows only at start and end of class and don't line up for demos. I'll mention the Japanese name for an attack and a technique but don't really use much Japanese otherwise.
Mind you it is a small class - no more than 3 or 4 of us on the busiest night - but I could see it working just fine w/ a somewhat larger group.
The main thing I keep in mind is that these students are not likely to train in other classes or go to seminars, so it is not that important they know the etiquette that is standard both in our own dojo's regular classes + elsewhere - I do demo or mention it from time to time. I'd think this is more of a concern in a regular aikido class where students ARE likely to get out to visit other dojos or go to seminars. Thoughts?

ChrisHein
01-17-2013, 05:13 PM
If you are studying Aikido, I do think it is important to understand Aikido "culture". It is very nice to go into a new Dojo, in a distant city, and still basically understand what is expected of you, and what the teacher is talking about. The Aikido "culture" binds us together, and helps us share.

I think apart of the problem is cultural also. When I started Aikido, it was more understood by the general public that when you do martial arts, you're going to wear different cloths and going to observe different customs. Now, I think lot's younger people who are new to the martial arts think of things like MMA or even Yoga. They think of wearing athletic clothing things that are "normal" and comfortable. This new modern cultural model of how we "train", puts a barrier between the new student and us.

I recently watched a movie called "Gone", it was released in 2012. It deals with a young woman who has been kidnaped and escaped. In the beginning of the movie, it shows how differently she lives her life- post kidnapping. She's very alert, carries weapons, and keeps her head about her. At one point in the movie, she leaves her house, and I thought "oh boy, she's going to her martial arts class". I couldn't wait to see the Dojo she went to, and all the people dressed gi's and throwing each other, I was in for a surprise. She did go to her martial arts class, but it was a very modern looking gym. Everyone was dressed in normal athletic clothes, they were wrestling, and boxing with each other. Then it really hit me "these times they are-a-change'n". When I was a kid, there is no doubt that she would have gone to a traditional martial arts school, but now, people envision a different kind of place and atmosphere for training.

odudog
01-17-2013, 05:22 PM
Your regular Aikido students not hanging around after class and being friendly with each other is more a function on them and not on you. That is something they will have to figure out for themselves. I find it strange though.

As far as the self defense class, people already understand what it is and what they most likely will be doing just from the title. The word Aikido to them just doesn't register. As far as they know, it could be some type of yoga.. We will always have this problem with our preferred art.

James Sawers
01-17-2013, 06:32 PM
When I first started Aikido I was very frustrated by the use of Japanese and the dependence on it to understand and do the techniques. I thought that in the future, if I ever opened my own dojo, I would call it American Aikido, and everything would be in English. Prior to doing traditional Aikido, I used to do what was called Budo Aikido, basically a blended art, but it was all in English. So I know it can be done. I still have the frustration with processing the Japanese terms all these years later, but If I were to open a traditional Aikido dojo, I think I would be doing my students a disservice if I did not teach them the traditional Japanese terms and culture, even if it may differ somewhat with different places and organizations. They would still have a general knowledge of how to comport themselves at other Aikido dojos.

As for the gi, I first thought that sweats were better, too. But, experience has taught me that gis are very serviceable and hakamas, well, you get used to them. Personally, I do not understand those that wear their gis outside the dojo. When I finish my practice, I am usually a sweaty mess and can't wait till I change into my civies. If you wear a gi outside of the dojo, you should not be surprised at comments, good or bad.

Those who are seeking a true martial arts experience, will I think, seek out a traditional dojo. Those who want/need a self-defence course will seek that out. I have done that myself. In fact, they are probably better off taking a long weekend self-defence seminar if that is their only motivation.

MMA has done a good job of distilling what works and doesn't work inside a ring. But, some seek something more....A traditional dojo with its dojo culture and "weird" clothing can provide that. That "do" that some of us are looking for and should not be dismissed too quickly in response to trends and fads.

Just thoughts..........

danj
01-17-2013, 09:22 PM
Just a thought Chris

I've noticed dojos seem to run and reflect the energy from the front. So if you dig the 'other budo' then thats going to come out and catch on. Is this then a response to not just the new exciting material and the accompanying cultural shift to peer based learning but also your own enthusiasm (and presumably skills) for it ?

best,
dan

best,
dan

Mary Eastland
01-20-2013, 06:28 AM
Hi Chris:

Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts.
The following are just my thoughts and not judgment about what anyone else is doing.

I taught and trained in Self-defense for 16 years along side of Aikido. It was important to me for a long time. I really needed to feel safe and develop skills and strategies.
Then it become not the way for me anymore. The philosophy of Aikido is what makes the difference for me.

Self-defense seems to be focusing on the problem whereas Aikido seems to me to be focusing on the solution. Our dojo will continue to teach Aikido as we see perceive it. I feel the trend may change back to more peaceful arts. When that happens we will accept that, too. :)

Krystal Locke
01-20-2013, 07:22 AM
Hi Chris:

Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts.
The following are just my thoughts and not judgment about what anyone else is doing.

I taught and trained in Self-defense for 16 years along side of Aikido. It was important to me for a long time. I really needed to feel safe and develop skills and strategies.
Then it become not the way for me anymore. The philosophy of Aikido is what makes the difference for me.

Self-defense seems to be focusing on the problem whereas Aikido seems to me to be focusing on the solution. Our dojo will continue to teach Aikido as we see perceive it. I feel the trend may change back to more peaceful arts. When that happens we will accept that, too. :)

How do you see self-defense focusing on the problem and aikido focusing on the solution? How does your aikido practice prevent other folks' violence? How is aikido being a martial art not self-defense, and therefore equally focusing on the problem? What do you see as the problem, and as the solution?

Mary Eastland
01-20-2013, 12:55 PM
I intuitively knew that at a certain time it was time to stop training in self defense because it was triggering responses in me that were very uncomfortable. Part of training in SD is listening to the stories of students. I choose not to do that anymore.

Aikido is the solution for me because I believe that developing peacefulness while being safe and strong is a proactive solution.

Brian Beach
01-20-2013, 01:33 PM
"When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail" I was guilty of this mindset when training in a more self defense orientated art. Not that I was hammering a lot, but rather seeing a lot of nails.

Kevin Leavitt
01-20-2013, 03:42 PM
Good stuff Chris. I think today we are dealing with a more critical "customer" who is more informed. There is also alot more "experts" out there to choose from.

I think maybe somethings have changed and aikido as we know it in the past may have a smaller subset of folks whereas 20 years ago, you'd get alot more trying it out for a year or two and then leaving.

I'd wonder if based on these assumptions if attrition is going down. If you have a more critical consumer, well then it would also stand to reason that they are preselecting and therefore, you should see less attrition because you are getting a more serious student.

Also, though, I think that people might today be less concerned with the eastern trappings and more about "no kidding, what do your have for me".

Thanks for you thoughts and observations!

miso
01-20-2013, 05:28 PM
The decade before this was a war decade. In war decades, aikido isn't going to be the first choice. It's going to be one of the last.

Then there's youtube, as well.

Peter Goldsbury
01-20-2013, 05:35 PM
Hello Chris,

I think that if you are professional, and make a living from teaching aikido, you have to diversify in order to survive economically. The only dojo I am aware of (in Japan, of course) that does not do this is the Aikikai Hombu, which has a huge population base (Tokyo and its immediate environs, blessed with a very efficient transportation network) and which also is unable to diversify for ideological reasons.

Apart from the Hombu there very few dojos where the instructor is professional. I think there is also another factor here, which has to do with the intellectual and cultural climate of postwar Japan. If people want to practice aikido or judo or kendo, they will go to the appropriate dojo and get on with it. I have met very few Japanese who wander around to various dojos to check on how effective the training is. (In fact the only person who did this was a young Japanese 3rd dan who moved from Tokyo to Hiroshima: I am happy that he chose our dojo out of all the others, which, in fact, is the only one run by foreign instructors.)

I also teach at a dojo in Hiroshima City, where there is a large children's class. There is actually a waiting list, owing to lack of space. The main instructors are an 'aikido' family, where all the members are yudansha (from 6th dan downwards: I have been friends since I first came to Japan and watched the family members grow up).

I can see that the kids come to the dojo (their parents sometimes train in the adult class) because there is a very important element of social training, which, I suspect, is considered increasingly unavailable in the Japanese school system. Some of the kids are older, but entered the dojo when they were six, which is the minimum age.

I wonder how common this is in the US.

ChrisHein
01-20-2013, 06:20 PM
I have a good kids class. I only have two parents who train in the adult class as well. In the US, it seems that children's traditional martial arts classes still do very well. When I tell someone that I am a professional martial arts teacher they often assume that I teach children, and that this is what martial arts teachers do. There is sometimes a bit of a shock when I tell them that my main emphasis is adult learning.

However that might not have so much to do with martial arts specifically, and more to do with the idea that in general physical education is for children. A friend of mine (32) went to a large gymnastics school to enquire about their schedule and rates. They asked him "what age", when he told them that it was for him, apparently they were quite surprised and told him that they didn't have classes for anyone his age.

Janet Rosen
01-20-2013, 07:31 PM
The financial backbone of several northern California aikido dojos I've been associated with or visited is definitely the childrens' classes, including "non-professional" community dojos who rely on the kids' classes class fees to cover rent/overhead.

Eva Antonia
01-21-2013, 02:48 AM
Dear all,

I read this thread with as much interest as surprise - here in "old Europe" I never got the impression that people fine aikido (or karate, judo, taekwondo...) old fashioned and look for something more efficient and "quick & dirty", neither had I ever the impression that people were fed up with gis & hakamas. It's more the opposite - people are very keen on having a hakama, and not only because that's a sign of rank; it looks cool, and elegant, and somehow classy, and no one ever would (except for joking) confuse a hakama with a skirt or an aikidoka with a transvestite...

This said - if someone shows up without gi/ hakama in any dojo I know there wouldn't be a problem that he trains in normal street clothes, but somehow it is not that people are yearning for. Same with Japanese terminology - everyone learns it, some easily, some with difficulties, some not really well, but no one questions the necessity. I think it's great - you may go to Russia or to Algeria and train with Chinese or Zimbabweans, but there is a lingua franca, ushiro ryo te dori is everywhere the same.

Moreover, I think if you train in a martial art and want to do more than just the grips, you'd better take the whole package. Aikido without Japanese clothes, Japanese words, kamiza, bowing and all the paraphernalia would be like Nescafé instead of filter coffee or a Beethoven piano sonata played with an electronic keyboard...something would be missing.

And there is the choice - students can do
- traditional aikido
- other traditional martial arts
- self defense
- modern martial arts
- or they could cross-train and combine.
But I'd loathe to think that aikido in its traditional form would be "outdated" and needed to be reformed in order to become more attractive.

There is a very beautiful verse of the "Faust", saying
"Was ihr den Geist der Zeiten heißt,
ist nur der Herren eigner Geist,
in dem die Zeiten sich bespiegeln."
(And what you call the spirit of time
is just a mirror of your own state of mind)

All the best,

Eva

Dazzler
01-21-2013, 04:32 AM
For me the source of a successful dojo is the Sensei...or team of Sensei's if a larger dojo.

If they are happy with and see value in 'traditional' attire....then the students they attract will see value in it.

Even if the students prefer not to wear traditional clothes, if they value the instructor then they go along.

I have no problem attracting or keeping students, I have no problems with students not wishing to wear traditional stuff and take the time for traditional ettiquette.

Any issues I do experience are down to technical content not meeting expectations of individuals. Basically Aikido is too hard for some, too soft for others and even with the best will in the world no one can keep everyone happy when they let anyone in the door.

I would add that where I am, in a small city that has MMA, BJJ and such currently popular MA's competing with TMA's, the attention to ettiquette, to attire etc helps to differentiate us from the combat sports people or the 'reality based training' guys in sweats. I feel it actually works in our favour,- we've put ourselves 'out there' with demonstrations and multi-art seminars...and the outfits along with the ability of some of the people in the club....have been very favourably received.

Of course when it comes to the classes -It makes no difference to the technical content. or to the relaxed/serious nature of practice what people wear other than perhaps setting a tone at the start that allows an instructor to create an atmosphere that is right for learning....and at the end to send everyone home in a chilled mood.

Students vote with their feet...in my experience the traditional gear makes no impact numbers wise....either way. What makes the difference is quality.

In my opinion, a poor instructor can only hide behind the paraphenalia for so long...but with so much information, so much discussion, and so much advice on questions that a discerning student should be asking being so freely available....then in a competitive environment an instructor that fails to deliver to the aspirations of students....will see those students leave and not necessarily be replaced.

FWIW

D

sakumeikan
01-21-2013, 01:23 PM
For me the source of a successful dojo is the Sensei...or team of Sensei's if a larger dojo.

If they are happy with and see value in 'traditional' attire....then the students they attract will see value in it.

Even if the students prefer not to wear traditional clothes, if they value the instructor then they go along.

I have no problem attracting or keeping students, I have no problems with students not wishing to wear traditional stuff and take the time for traditional ettiquette.

Any issues I do experience are down to technical content not meeting expectations of individuals. Basically Aikido is too hard for some, too soft for others and even with the best will in the world no one can keep everyone happy when they let anyone in the door.

I would add that where I am, in a small city that has MMA, BJJ and such currently popular MA's competing with TMA's, the attention to ettiquette, to attire etc helps to differentiate us from the combat sports people or the 'reality based training' guys in sweats. I feel it actually works in our favour,- we've put ourselves 'out there' with demonstrations and multi-art seminars...and the outfits along with the ability of some of the people in the club....have been very favourably received.

Of course when it comes to the classes -It makes no difference to the technical content. or to the relaxed/serious nature of practice what people wear other than perhaps setting a tone at the start that allows an instructor to create an atmosphere that is right for learning....and at the end to send everyone home in a chilled mood.

Students vote with their feet...in my experience the traditional gear makes no impact numbers wise....either way. What makes the difference is quality.

In my opinion, a poor instructor can only hide behind the paraphenalia for so long...but with so much information, so much discussion, and so much advice on questions that a discerning student should be asking being so freely available....then in a competitive environment an instructor that fails to deliver to the aspirations of students....will see those students leave and not necessarily be replaced.

FWIW

D

Dear Daren,
Does dear old Kenny Rogers train in tradtional gear or does he occasionally practice in his demob suit[circa 1956]?How is the old codger ? g
Give him a big hug on my behalf.By the way , tell him he owes me a beer{ or do I owe him one??}Cheers, Joe

are

Dazzler
01-22-2013, 04:29 AM
Dear Daren,
Does dear old Kenny Rogers train in tradtional gear or does he occasionally practice in his demob suit[circa 1956]?How is the old codger ? g
Give him a big hug on my behalf.By the way , tell him he owes me a beer{ or do I owe him one??}Cheers, Joe

are

Oh ...he's a stickler for tradition. Always wears cowboy hat and shiny spurs.

I'd suggest as a scotsman...you may well owe the beer....but getting it out of that well trained Aikido grasp is the real challenge.

Cheers

D

Aikeway
01-23-2013, 11:04 PM
I tend to think that the aikido demonstrations and the aikido video clips posted on the internet are having the opposite affect to that intended. They need to be more realistic with committed realistic attacks with uke resisting and not just falling over so easily or jumping. People just don't think these demonstrations and video clip performances are plausible, and that leads to them thinking aikido is not plausible. If there were more realistic video clips available or demonstrations done which show how effective aikido can be against an unco-operative committed attacker, then there may be greater interest in aikido. Note that I fully understand that in training uke needs to be co-operative otherwise he/she will get injured.

amoeba
01-24-2013, 02:28 AM
I also feel that here in Europe the atmosphere in the "traditional" training is a lot more relaxed than what I heard from some people from the states. At least in most of the clubs I know, we do wear our hakamas and gis, we do bow before training and to each other, but it's still not a very "formal feeling". We have fun during training, laughing and (a little bit of) talking are allowed, we don't care who's sempai or kohai, we don't line up according to rank, we call the teacher by his or her first name.

So maybe the strange pajamas just don't make that much of a difference in that kind of environment?:)

Belt_Up
01-24-2013, 05:25 AM
I tend to think that the aikido demonstrations and the aikido video clips posted on the internet are having the opposite affect to that intended. They need to be more realistic with committed realistic attacks with uke resisting and not just falling over so easily or jumping. People just don't think these demonstrations and video clip performances are plausible, and that leads to them thinking aikido is not plausible. If there were more realistic video clips available or demonstrations done which show how effective aikido can be against an unco-operative committed attacker, then there may be greater interest in aikido. Note that I fully understand that in training uke needs to be co-operative otherwise he/she will get injured.

Taking YouTube as an example, it wouldn't matter. Every aikido video I've seen has the same set of interchangeable idiots commenting underneath it; aikido sucks, MMA/BJJ rules. It has nothing to do with the content of the video, it's just because it's aikido. You could show footage of aikidoka punching attackers so hard they explode, under the video you'd find someone dribbling about how aikido doesn't work/is for noobs, etc.

Aikido's image is firmly fixed. To change it now would require a unified public relations effort, which isn't going to happen.

lbb
01-24-2013, 07:52 AM
I tend to think that the aikido demonstrations and the aikido video clips posted on the internet are having the opposite affect to that intended. They need to be more realistic with committed realistic attacks with uke resisting and not just falling over so easily or jumping. People just don't think these demonstrations and video clip performances are plausible, and that leads to them thinking aikido is not plausible. If there were more realistic video clips available or demonstrations done which show how effective aikido can be against an unco-operative committed attacker, then there may be greater interest in aikido. Note that I fully understand that in training uke needs to be co-operative otherwise he/she will get injured.

Your last sentence kind of makes the rest of your paragraph impossible, doesn't it? "Realistic" = attacker gets seriously injured. Act otherwise and to the untrained eye, it's going to look like it's not "realistic", like they''re "just falling over" or "jumping". There's no getting around that, so why try? Do you think having the attacker scowl and grimace and bellow is going to make it more convincing? Why not have them throw a few gang signs while you're at it?

Aikeway
01-24-2013, 10:59 AM
Your last sentence kind of makes the rest of your paragraph impossible, doesn't it? "Realistic" = attacker gets seriously injured. Act otherwise and to the untrained eye, it's going to look like it's not "realistic", like they''re "just falling over" or "jumping". There's no getting around that, so why try? Do you think having the attacker scowl and grimace and bellow is going to make it more convincing? Why not have them throw a few gang signs while you're at it?

There's no valid reason why the attacks in these demonstrations and videos could not be more realistic. In terms of the excessively co-operative uke, perhaps some middle ground needs to be reached between resisting the technique and excessive co-operation, for the purposes of the demonstration or video. I know the demonstration or video would be less spectacular, but it would be more realistic. When a potential student is contemplating doing a martial art, one of the first things they often do these days is get on the internet and research it, which includes watching these you tube videos.

Aikeway
01-24-2013, 11:23 AM
Perhaps a similar example relating to myself - in the 70's and 80's I was slightly interested in Kung Fu. Now real Kung Fu is very good, but the Kung Fu movies were so unrealistic and fake in their fight scenes that it completely turned me off doing Kung Fu. It took many years before I started to gain a favourable impression of Kung Fu. However, I never ended up doing it.

Demetrio Cereijo
01-24-2013, 11:59 AM
"Realistic" = attacker gets seriously injured.

Not really.

Jonathan
01-24-2013, 01:32 PM
I've been running Aikido classes in street clothes for several years now. Not all the time, but regularly. And I've been adapting the longer, sweeping classical forms of Aikido to more common and contemporary types of attacks. Some people like it. Some people don't. Depends on what the person's goals in training are. Responses to the clips I've posted on YouTube have been generally favorable, though there are always the idiots who just want to make assinine comments. My ukes don't fling themselves around and make my technique look beautiful, so I'm not usually accused of overly collusive performance of technique. Regardless, there are always people who want you to know they think you suck. Ah, well. You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time. That's okay with me. :)

lbb
01-25-2013, 07:51 AM
There's no valid reason why the attacks in these demonstrations and videos could not be more realistic. In terms of the excessively co-operative uke, perhaps some middle ground needs to be reached between resisting the technique and excessive co-operation, for the purposes of the demonstration or video. I know the demonstration or video would be less spectacular, but it would be more realistic. When a potential student is contemplating doing a martial art, one of the first things they often do these days is get on the internet and research it, which includes watching these you tube videos.

Not having been a potential student of martial arts for a while now, I can't really state definitively what most of them are doing these days :D However, I do know that there's a danger in making assumptions about how other people's minds work. For example, you say that demonstration attacks could be "more realistic". But to an uneducated person who isn't a brawler, what does that mean? A person without experience or knowledge will not have an informed judgment about what's "realistic". They might be able to differentiate between "resisting the technique" and "excessive co-operation" at the extremes, perhaps...but again, there's that pesky "realistic" thing (how "realistic" is an extreme, almost caricatured situation?). So do you show them what they think is "realistic"...or what you think they think is "realistic"...or what?

It's not a new problem and it's not unique to aikido.

Aikeway
01-25-2013, 01:24 PM
Not having been a potential student of martial arts for a while now, I can't really state definitively what most of them are doing these days :D However, I do know that there's a danger in making assumptions about how other people's minds work. For example, you say that demonstration attacks could be "more realistic". But to an uneducated person who isn't a brawler, what does that mean? A person without experience or knowledge will not have an informed judgment about what's "realistic". They might be able to differentiate between "resisting the technique" and "excessive co-operation" at the extremes, perhaps...but again, there's that pesky "realistic" thing (how "realistic" is an extreme, almost caricatured situation?). So do you show them what they think is "realistic"...or what you think they think is "realistic"...or what?

It's not a new problem and it's not unique to aikido.

I think you would show them what you think is a realistic attack.

Basia Halliop
01-29-2013, 03:30 PM
However that might not have so much to do with martial arts specifically, and more to do with the idea that in general physical education is for children. A friend of mine (32) went to a large gymnastics school to enquire about their schedule and rates. They asked him "what age", when he told them that it was for him, apparently they were quite surprised and told him that they didn't have classes for anyone his age.

I think this is really true... people seem to divide up different kinds of physical activity in their minds as being 'for kids' or 'for adults' and often gendered as well (e.g. strength training = adult and male, aerobics = adult and female, yoga = adult and female, gymnastics = little girls, jogging = adults of both sexes, skiing = adults and kids of both sexes, etc) Not necessarily that people will give you a hard time if you don't fit the expected age and gender, but they'll be a little surprised.

Traditional martial arts, with the gis and foreign language, seem to be seen as mainstream IF it's for kids and much more niche if it's for adults. Something about that whole mantra about 'martial arts teach discipline and build character' that we often hear seems to translate as 'it's good for kids' to many people and make it seem vaguely incongruous or eccentric for adults. Not to the point of weird or anything, but it's an 'interesting' activity rather than an obvious expected one (like 'going to the gym' or jogging would be).

I also notice that it's more common to see kids with very regular predictable attendance than adults... Adults will make sure their kids show up at their scheduled activities regularly more strictly than they'll do the same themselves.

ChrisHein
01-29-2013, 04:32 PM
I think this is really true... people seem to divide up different kinds of physical activity in their minds as being 'for kids' or 'for adults' and often gendered as well (e.g. strength training = adult and male, aerobics = adult and female, yoga = adult and female, gymnastics = little girls, jogging = adults of both sexes, skiing = adults and kids of both sexes, etc) Not necessarily that people will give you a hard time if you don't fit the expected age and gender, but they'll be a little surprised.

Traditional martial arts, with the gis and foreign language, seem to be seen as mainstream IF it's for kids and much more niche if it's for adults. Something about that whole mantra about 'martial arts teach discipline and build character' that we often hear seems to translate as 'it's good for kids' to many people and make it seem vaguely incongruous or eccentric for adults. Not to the point of weird or anything, but it's an 'interesting' activity rather than an obvious expected one (like 'going to the gym' or jogging would be).

I also notice that it's more common to see kids with very regular predictable attendance than adults... Adults will make sure their kids show up at their scheduled activities regularly more strictly than they'll do the same themselves.

I think this is pretty spot on.

There was a time when movie tough guys- Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, Steven Seagal, and many other grown up tough guys were doing traditional martial arts. So to the American public, this seemed like something Adult males would/could do. Now that image is fading, and so is interest in traditional martial arts for young active adults.

miso
01-29-2013, 04:35 PM
Should Aikido be promoting itself as a martial art?

sakumeikan
01-29-2013, 04:54 PM
Should Aikido be promoting itself as a martial art?

Dear Mark,
Yes , if it is martial.The guys battling in the Gallowgate on a Sat. night might be more martial than some aikido dojos.Cheers Joe.Ps I lived in the Gorbals/Bridgeton inm my misspent youth.Where do you train??

miso
01-29-2013, 05:07 PM
As I see it, just now, promotion of a martial art seems to be of a kill or be killed variety, mma and ufc etc have defined what is martial to those who don't use or promote weapons (that it, it wins in a fight...which if you think of it is pretty fair enough). And for weapons enthusiasts there are many adept places as well.

I don't think Aikido falls into either of those places. It can certainly enhance them but that's different.

sorokod
02-06-2013, 05:01 AM
Some numbers

http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=aikido&cmpt=q

ryback
02-06-2013, 06:35 AM
I've chosen Martial Arts and specifically Aikido to be my way of life long time ago.Trying to live always in the way of harmony on the mats as well as off the mats i always try to find the common ground between myself and other people.So to me,a person who whould do anything in his training differently would still be a fellow Martial Artist in my eyes.
Still,every now and then i'm thinking that there are some lines that if crossed,what one does cannot qualify as Aikido anymore.
When i first started my training i used to be in pain trying to sit in Seiza.But this pain was a path to discipline,even if i didn't know it back then.
I also used to have problems with the use of weapons,but those problems were the path to correct technique and posture.
Kokyu was very hard for me as i had the habit of using muscle strength,but working on it was the path to Ki developement and effective waza.
The list can go on and on with dressing,ettiquette,technique names,nutrition habits,weight loss all things that looked like a huge mountain i had to climb.
Aikido the way i see it, is a spherical training in order to develope simultaneously the physical,mental and spiritual self,a way of life as well as self defense.One must not choose the easy and comfortable way,but the way Aikido is.Trends,fashions,action movie icons all come and go.But the principles and teachings of a traditional Martial Art are always there.
The student must not choose but face the Art as a complete set of training.The teacher must not regard the students as customers,and waste his time trying to find a way to gather more of them.He is responsible for the next generation of Aikidoka and he must rise to the importance of that role or the Art will fade away.
In Martial Arts trends, tides and mass comunication have no place,for it is a deeply personal choice of self discovery and developement.And at the end of each day,one should be in harmony with himself.The harvest of Aikido is always according to one's own seeding.

Rob Watson
02-06-2013, 09:39 AM
Some numbers

http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=aikido&cmpt=q

Same general trend as 'martial arts'
http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=martial%20arts&cmpt=q

sorokod
02-06-2013, 09:56 AM
True, but there are nuances:

http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=aikido%2C%20Karate%2C%20Judo&cmpt=q and even more so if you limit the data to USA:

http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=aikido%2C%20Karate%2C%20Judo&geo=US&cmpt=q

By the way, on the Aikido graph, there is a peak every September. Does anyone know what may account for that?

Dave de Vos
02-06-2013, 12:14 PM
By the way, on the Aikido graph, there is a peak every September. Does anyone know what may account for that?

Yes, a dip in July and a peak in September. People go on holiday in July. In September lots of people are considering taking up a new hobby. It's the start of a new hobby season.

ChrisHein
02-06-2013, 02:39 PM
Some numbers

http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=aikido&cmpt=q

This is a useful resource that I've never seen before. It shows the sad decline of Aikido in popularity. Also the word martial arts, is not so popular any more, but MMA and UFC are on the rise.

I guess it's just what's in the media, it's a big factor.

Krystal Locke
02-06-2013, 03:00 PM
True, but there are nuances:

http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=aikido%2C%20Karate%2C%20Judo&cmpt=q and even more so if you limit the data to USA:

http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=aikido%2C%20Karate%2C%20Judo&geo=US&cmpt=q

By the way, on the Aikido graph, there is a peak every September. Does anyone know what may account for that?

College classes start. Lots of aikido schools offer outreach or club classes to colleges.

Krystal Locke
02-06-2013, 04:04 PM
College classes start. Lots of aikido schools offer outreach or club classes to colleges.

Huh, looked a little deeper. The college class hypothesis does not hold up unless European schools start academic years in Sept. and more European students are looking up stuff to take. Another weird thing, judo seems to do the same in August. I am thinking an artefact caused by the survey methodology? Huh.

danj
02-06-2013, 04:31 PM
This is a useful resource that I've never seen before. It shows the sad decline of Aikido in popularity. Also the word martial arts, is not so popular any more, but MMA and UFC are on the rise.

I guess it's just what's in the media, it's a big factor.

wow aikido + UFC = 100% on the trend graphs ('cept its normalised scale so not really true)

Some might say Aikido is an early MMA, being a gendai sogobujutsu, just need to get ourselves a cage and rebadge ;)

dan

Krystal Locke
02-06-2013, 04:35 PM
There are minor local maxima on Januarys. New Year's resolutions?

Dan Richards
02-07-2013, 12:06 PM
The student must not choose but face the Art as a complete set of training.
Why? M. Ueshiba and all of his top students all trained in multiple disciplines and even belief systems. It's absolutely up to the student. Even by the time my teacher, Shoji Nishio, started training, no one in the dojo really knew anything about swordmanship. He had to go "outside."


In Martial Arts trends, tides and mass comunication have no place....
Really? Why? "Aikido," as many know it, wasn't even founded until after WWII, and it was under the direction of the Japanese government - as were all the other martial "ways." There were big changes from prewar Aikibudo through post-war Aikido, all based on "trends and tides..." M. Ueshiba had mostly retired by the early 40's when the name Aikido was adopted.

Mass communication has become an integral aspect of aikido, and everything else. And there's an interesting irony that you would post - on an internet forum - that it has "no place."

Trying to put aikido into some sort of static box that can be sold as a definitive product is precisely the problem for many. And that's true of those already in the aikido world as well as those outside who are considering joining it. And there is a lot of what's branded as aikido that is nothing but pure baloney - and people can see it. They can smell something isn't right. If we're selling baloney, then let's just call it baloney. But don't try and call it filet mignon.

Aikido, and other aiki-based arts, are actually in a really great place for further evolution.

What's passed off as Aikido, in many cases, these days is nothing more than Multi Level Marketing. A few at the top appear to have the wealth - and often don't - and there are people drawn into the bottom layers and are purposely held down to keep up the top of the pyramid.

Aiki, and all these types of arts, have been in existence for a very long time. As long as people have had two arms and two legs - and a neocortex . M. Ueshiba didn't start it. He was a flower growing on a vine that still very much exists today. And it's growing - as it always has - close to the ground - and under the ground - quietly and slowly - away from the limelight and hierarchical structures. And the MLM pyramid has already begun to collapse.

My 2Ē.

ryback
02-07-2013, 12:59 PM
Why? M. Ueshiba and all of his top students all trained in multiple disciplines and even belief systems. It's absolutely up to the student. Even by the time my teacher, Shoji Nishio, started training, no one in the dojo really knew anything about swordmanship. He had to go "outside."

Really? Why? "Aikido," as many know it, wasn't even founded until after WWII, and it was under the direction of the Japanese government - as were all the other martial "ways." There were big changes from prewar Aikibudo through post-war Aikido, all based on "trends and tides..." M. Ueshiba had mostly retired by the early 40's when the name Aikido was adopted.

Mass communication has become an integral aspect of aikido, and everything else. And there's an interesting irony that you would post - on an internet forum - that it has "no place."

Trying to put aikido into some sort of static box that can be sold as a definitive product is precisely the problem for many. And that's true of those already in the aikido world as well as those outside who are considering joining it. And there is a lot of what's branded as aikido that is nothing but pure baloney - and people can see it. They can smell something isn't right. If we're selling baloney, then let's just call it baloney. But don't try and call it filet mignon.

Aikido, and other aiki-based arts, are actually in a really great place for further evolution.

What's passed off as Aikido, in many cases, these days is nothing more than Multi Level Marketing. A few at the top appear to have the wealth - and often don't - and there are people drawn into the bottom layers and are purposely held down to keep up the top of the pyramid.

Aiki, and all these types of arts, have been in existence for a very long time. As long as people have had two arms and two legs - and a neocortex . M. Ueshiba didn't start it. He was a flower growing on a vine that still very much exists today. And it's growing - as it always has - close to the ground - and under the ground - quietly and slowly - away from the limelight and hierarchical structures. And the MLM pyramid has already begun to collapse.

My 2Ē.

Well,to be honest i agree with many of your points,speciffically the one about putting Aikido in a box and stop it from developing.

But you see,the point that i was trying to make is that we should not strip aikido of its essence in the favour of comfort.We cannot make it appealing to everybody just for the sake of gathering more students.

Yes aikido must evolve but not for the masses.It must evolve through the personal challenge of every individual aikidoka of taking himself a step further technically through constant practice and applying what o'sensei said:learn one technique and create twenty.Changing the dressing, the protocol or any other aspect that is essential part of aikido training only to be obedient to the latest trends sounds more like the choice of pop stars than Martial Artists, the way i see it!

Dan Richards
02-07-2013, 01:45 PM
Yannis, I completely agree with you about not stripping away the essence. But then I would add that it gets tricky when we start looking at things like dress and protocol, because even those changed over time during its development by M. Ueshiba from the initial aiki-jūjutsu days through to modern aikido.

The hakama is a perfect example. In the early days of Ueshiba's aiki-jūjutsu everyone on the tatami had to be in a hakama - even if it had bright stripes and was borrowed from your grandpa. After WWII material was in such shortage that people were making hakamas out of anything they could find - sofas, curtains, foton covers, etc. And then it was decided that only yudansha needed to wear a hakama.

Even the dan/kyu system. It wasn't in effect during the aiki-jūjutsu era. And in fact, the dan/kyu system came from the game, "Go."

My point is, even such things as hakamas and kyu/dan grades are the result of "trends and tides" that have little or nothing to do with the "essence" of any of these arts.

Speaking of "essence," I trained a few years ago with Mike Sigman. I ended up being his uke for most of the two day seminar. We were all in sweats and tennis shoes. What I got through Mike - in two days - pound for pound - contained more "essence" in it than I got from years of training in dojos and with top-level aikido shihan. I've continued to develop what I "experience" through Mike, and have passed it on to many people. I also continue to explore what I learned from Shoji Nishio - which was, more than anything, to explore and examine.

There's a big difference between being sold fish by others, and being taught to fish for ourselves. And it's a funny thing; the highest-level teachers to really teach us about catching fish are, ultimately - the fish.

Dan Richards
02-08-2013, 12:59 AM
... a lot of people seem to be reducing goal timeframes - no such thing as long term goals any more. "If results can't be achieved quickly, its not worth it" seems to be the general attitude.
Travers, that's an interesting point. It seems that one thing that's changing is people's concept of time. For one, so many are now living more asynchronously. The intersection of time as a specific space is disappearing.

I read an article, perhaps by Dr. John Painter, about Tai Chi. Saying that this idea that it should take 20 years to learn was not even the original intention of Tai Chi, and that people could be trained to be battle ready and use it within six months.

My teacher, Shoji Nishio, would say that the way aikido is often taught simple takes too long. That there are better pedagogical methods that can, could, and should be put into place to allow for a much more rapid advancement of students.

A few years ago, I had a student who came in all the time. Really worked at it. Lots of weapons works, lots of randori, exploration into rhythm, timing, and breathing. He attained shodan in under two years. I wasn't looking to graduate anyone quickly, but he did it. I was sitting in a chair at some point, and realized that he was using energy on a shodan level. I called him on the cell phone and told him he got shodan. And that was that. In my classes the "test" is every day.

Unusual perhaps. Maybe. Ueshiba nonchalantly graduated Yamada from shodan to sandan while Yamada was giving him a massage.

I think a lot of structure has been put in place over the years that was not there back when it was "old school." Modern aikido often has very structured time schedules when the classes are held. Why? We can have some of that, but what about opening it up. Instead of a 5-6 class, why can't there be an ongoing session from 5-9, and let people come in when they can. On a given day, if someone can't make it in the prescribed hour, they miss out. It makes the window of opportunity for training much more narrow. Why can't we open the windows.

These are just some ideas, since I've had some different experiences over the years, and been inspired by certain movements and schools. Take surfers for example. They're just out in it. And they don't have specific times to meet. And often, what they do is subjugated by the weather and the waves. Skateboarding came from surfers who wanted to do it more, and not be so dependent on mother nature.

Another thing with surfers is that they've really been creative, and used their imagination and technology to progress. Their progression was also not held back by those who went before them. In fact, innovation is encouraged. And if someone like Greg Noll might be considered the O' Sensei of modern surfing, look at how far Laird Hamilton has taken. Things Hamilton does blows Nolls mind. Noll was an integral part of modern surfing, but so many have gone so much further since then.

Another inspiration was from watching the Yip Man movie. Seeing all the "schools" in the town square lined up, and contrasting that with Yip Man hanging out at his house with his children, and training with people who would come over. One of his students, Bruce Lee, was another innovator. Watch this Danny Iosanto interview where he talks about how Bruce Lee's training methods developed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUgYRi1uSJw

Of course there can be time for putting on a formal gi and hakama and observing more formalized ritual. No problem with that. But we shouldn't limit training to that alone. I've trained in all sorts of clothing, including a nice dress suit. I love seeing those old videos of (I believe it's) Tohei and K Ueshiba training in a field with tall grass in their business suits. And Sunadomari in a suit with that short staff at the Aikido Friendship demonstration. And when we put on hakamas, let's have everyone where them. That's how it was at hombu before the war. After the war, with the scarcity of materials it was designed only yadansha. Why has the hakama become a source of pride. And in some many systems it's become some sort of proud garment worn by yudansha. At least in some schools, hakamas are put on at 3rd kyu. I've had a hakama since 3rd kyu. I remember a teacher saying that having a hakama meant that you could be thrown, and that you're ukemi was developed enough. I think that's a good start. When I started a school I allowed anyone to wear a hakama as soon as they wanted. And I can tell you from experience, it advances students faster.

There are so many tools that can be used to give people a better and more technically accurate experiential discovery of what they're doing. In almost every class I teach I'll use hula hoops, bokken, jo, and some kind of shinai and a soft foam bokken. And sometimes whatever else is around. There's no reason that even a lot of the training can't be Takemusu as well - sponanteously generated teaching techniques.

And IP / Ki / Integration training. Testing and practices along the lines of Ki Aikido as well as what people like Mike Sigman are doing. I work on, and teach, what Mike taught me in every class. This kind of stuff needs to be in there. And people like Dan Harden and Akuzawa Minoru are providing even more core components for us to learn and experience and pass on.

Systema concepts fit in with aikido training perfectly. Especially the slow randoori. We do that in almost every class.

There's no reason that training can't get back to the "lifestyle" that it's been for many. Open the doors, open the windows. Open minds. Play. Be creative. Have fun. Explore. Take boxing gyms as an example. Or just gyms in general. There open a lot of hours, and people get in there and train when they can. That often results in people
training much more intensely and more immersively, and progressing not only much faster, but on deeper levels.

Just some notes, and me thinking out loud. Cheers...

Janet Rosen
02-08-2013, 05:35 PM
Dan Richards, great post. Thanks.

George S. Ledyard
02-08-2013, 05:46 PM
And Sunadomari in a suit with that short staff at the Aikido Friendship demonstration.

Just an aside... it was Kuroiwa Sensei in the suit using the sticks to show technique.

Travers Hughes
02-10-2013, 04:17 PM
Travers, that's an interesting point. It seems that one thing that's changing is people's concept of time. For one, so many are now living more asynchronously. The intersection of time as a specific space is disappearing.

I read an article, perhaps by Dr. John Painter, about Tai Chi. Saying that this idea that it should take 20 years to learn was not even the original intention of Tai Chi, and that people could be trained to be battle ready and use it within six months.

My teacher, Shoji Nishio, would say that the way aikido is often taught simple takes too long. That there are better pedagogical methods that can, could, and should be put into place to allow for a much more rapid advancement of students.

(SNIP)

Why can't we open the windows.

Just some notes, and me thinking out loud. Cheers...

Hi Dan,

Nice post - agree entirely.
I think a couple of your points here reinforce what I am at a crossroads with my aikido now (and appear to be what Chris was mentioning from the OP - apologies if I'm wrong) :

I think that a lot of how some dojo train new members is almost backwards - learning ukemi first, and then "technique". I'd like to hear from others who have experimented with teaching a first class on say ikkyo prior to learning the ukemi for it.
(Note: Of course I get the importance of ukemi - not saying its not important. I'm trying to put a new members spin on it - if I come in and on the first class I learn how to do something that has practical value in my mind, then I'm more interested that say the other person who comes in and learns how to do a forwards and backward roll).

It almost the difference in TMA and MMA training (broad statement). In aikido, we are learning how to blend and are told that over time we will realise the martial effectiveness (whatever this means). Compare this with an MMA approach - getting in there and having a go at the techniques and over time learning fluidity etc - both get us to the same point, but the MMA approach seems to take less time, which is probably why this approach is more popular these days.

I particularly enjoyed your comment about "opening the windows" - how much of this is a result of us shutting the windows in the first place? (not just in class tiems etc, but also in how we teach / learn).

Thanks for your post.

Messias
02-10-2013, 06:37 PM
I'd like to hear from others who have experimented with teaching a first class on say ikkyo prior to learning the ukemi for it.

Well, Iīm in my second week of training, and I was quite surprised to read here in the forum about a separate "begginers class", front and back rolls all day, etc... For me and a few other new guys, itīs nothing of that. We just joinned the normal class and do whatever the others are doing. Hey...I donīt even know the names of the techniques yet!
The Sensei as well as the other senior members are constantly making sure that thereīs a high ranked guy "leading" us through class. And when the exercise allows it, we end it with a front or back roll.
At the end of the class, we maybe do some 15min of rolls.

I donīt know if itīs the right approach (never saw another, so...) but itīs perfect for me. I might not be getting everything out of the exercises yet, but Itīs certainly a great method for experiencing the efectiveness of a hand twist, while feeling integrated with everyone the class. We keep changing partners and in fact... Trainning is a real joy to go!
Ohh... and another thing: I can go in whatever day, schedule or Sensei that I want.

Iīm really happy with it!
Cheers,
Messias.

Janet Rosen
02-10-2013, 09:56 PM
I think that a lot of how some dojo train new members is almost backwards - learning ukemi first, and then "technique". I'd like to hear from others who have experimented with teaching a first class on say ikkyo prior to learning the ukemi for it.

Well, in my "low impact" class aimed at folks w/ mobility, pain, disability issues, "teaching ukemi" focuses purely on proper, on target attacks w/ intent then staying connected to give accurate feedback to partner (we aren't taking folks down to the ground, though - so for ikkyo, just to point of balance break)

Dan Richards
02-12-2013, 08:48 PM
Thanks for the comments. And I appreciate Chris for starting this evolving thread.

We have to understand something about "power." The average teenager today - with access to the internet and a credit card - has more power available to them than all the kings and queens of civilizations past. We have far more power available to us than the founders of aikido did. And, in fact, it is our very power that will empower them even more.

M. Ueshiba learned, and was taught, in an age of largely one-to-one communication. Then the age of one-to-many came about over time, and largely through media. His son, K. Ueshiba, and Tohei were largely responsible for the one-to-many model and the growth of Aikikai and Ki Society, respectively, as well as the founding of "branch" schools by other direct students.

We have entered an age of many-to-many communication. A new level of "structure." And, as such, we are discovering that the very institutions, hierarchies, and power structures that were once effective, trusted, and supportive - are becoming irrelevant. The pyramids of power - by their own design - are collapsing under their own weight.

To be honest here, I started training at NY Aikikai under Yamada many years ago. And I've got to say that for many years after, I didn't like him. I didn't like the "power structure." But Yamada's really been receptive to the "turning of the tide." He's started his own organization. He's also speaking out on things such as belts and dan grades, politics, and how the internal structure of aikido - where it was once supportive - can not longer support aikido. Aikido has grown, and by definition, now requires a structure that allows for more freedom, more autonomy - more power.

Which sort of gets us back to "skin as structure." M. Ueshiba was the architect. K. Ueshiba was the engineer. The direct students were the builders who constructed the building. And we have reached a phase not only in aikido - but in our civilization - where the scaffolding is being removed. Interestingly enough, if you want to look at power, look at what Stanley Pranin has done. He has, as an historian, nearly single-handedly exposed and dismantled the old power structure - for all of us to see. It's not that there was anything wrong with the "old" power structure at the time. But we are all moving to a new level. He's also been responsible for bringing more aikidoka together than anyone else.

In the new many-to-many model, Stanley Pranin is the Toto in the Wizard of Oz, who pulls the curtain away, to expose, not a powerful being who rules through fear, deception, and smoke and mirrors - but a simple man - with his own frailties, imperfections, and "partial understandings." Stanely Pranin has pulled the curtain back to show us ourselves.

And believe me. Ueshiba wanted us to see that. Because, even today, Ueshiba has a greater understanding.

Aikido to me is not a "path" but a process to greater understanding. And, by design, will always contain segments of "partial understanding." Perfect understanding, while we get glimpses of it, will ever remain a blueprint rather than a final destination. Aikido, like enlightenment, and even love, is not a destination, but a practice. In fact, if we take away words such as "way" and "path" and install practice - it's makes for something more alive, more dynamic, more - eternal. And the definite article, "the," doesn't really serve us. "The way to harmony with the spirit" may have had some cache at some point, but it doesn't really have the same impact as it once may have.

I've also seen a high-level shihan comment that what Ueshiba meant by his practice was, "You're relationship with God." I could go for something like "A practice of harmony with spirit." Ueshiba was clearly "in process." Nothing more. Just like the rest of us.

Anyone who says, "I got it." Doesn't have it. They are the Wizard of Oz.

But if someone says, "I have a partial understanding, and I want to explore and create more - and that together, we can all make something greater." Therein lies a child. Ueshiba became a great man - precisely because he remained a child. Look at him. The guy was like a kid in a candy shop.

George S. Ledyard
02-13-2013, 04:34 PM
It almost the difference in TMA and MMA training (broad statement). In aikido, we are learning how to blend and are told that over time we will realise the martial effectiveness (whatever this means). Compare this with an MMA approach - getting in there and having a go at the techniques and over time learning fluidity etc - both get us to the same point, but the MMA approach seems to take less time, which is probably why this approach is more popular these days.

Here's where I would disagree. I do not think both ways get you to the same point. No amount of MMA training will result in the ability to apply technique with "aiki". Yes, really good MMA practitioners get flexible, more relaxed, develop more power but it is an art which is dependent on muscular strength and external power. Getting into competition right away will not result in the kind of re-programming of mind / body required to do technique with aiki.

That said, most Aikido one encounters doesn't really have any "aiki" either. But that isn't because of the emphasis on ukemi as opposed to nage waza. It's because we ask our students to execute very complex techniques, attempting to duplicate something they just saw from the teacher, with no understanding of how to properly use one's body. There is no alternative to either muscling the technique concerned or having the uke tank for you so the technique will "work".

If I were to be left completely to my own devices, I would have the student do static technique, and basic connection exercises of the type one would do with Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei (or any of the internal power teachers) and spend 3 - 5 years getting the body / mind properly programmed. Than I'd start doing more technique in a dynamic fashion. I would not have the student do anything resembling what folks often refer to as "resistant" training until they had been training this way for 5 years or so. I would also teach the ukes to attack using the same principles used by the nage. Right now we have one person attempting to do very sophisticated technique against an attacker who is totally remedial.

I think at the end of 8 to 10 yrs of training properly, we could end up with someone who currently operates at a fairly high Dan rank. In other words, after 8 - 10 years of training we would have someone who functions at or better than what passes for 6th dan at this point.

I wouldn't do any "mixing it up", or sparring before five years or so. Before that the student will fall back into old body habits in order to "win".

- George

Chris Li
02-13-2013, 05:21 PM
If I were to be left completely to my own devices, I would have the student do static technique, and basic connection exercises of the type one would do with Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei (or any of the internal power teachers) and spend 3 - 5 years getting the body / mind properly programmed. Than I'd start doing more technique in a dynamic fashion. I would not have the student do anything resembling what folks often refer to as "resistant" training until they had been training this way for 5 years or so. I would also teach the ukes to attack using the same principles used by the nage. Right now we have one person attempting to do very sophisticated technique against an attacker who is totally remedial.

Oddly enough, this sounds quite a bit like what we've been doing out here. But we have the advantage of being left completely to our own devices (or maybe it would be better to say - we took that advantage). :)

Best,

Chris

oisin bourke
02-14-2013, 01:58 AM
Here's where I would disagree. I do not think both ways get you to the same point. No amount of MMA training will result in the ability to apply technique with "aiki". Yes, really good MMA practitioners get flexible, more relaxed, develop more power but it is an art which is dependent on muscular strength and external power. Getting into competition right away will not result in the kind of re-programming of mind / body required to do technique with aiki.

That said, most Aikido one encounters doesn't really have any "aiki" either. But that isn't because of the emphasis on ukemi as opposed to nage waza. It's because we ask our students to execute very complex techniques, attempting to duplicate something they just saw from the teacher, with no understanding of how to properly use one's body. There is no alternative to either muscling the technique concerned or having the uke tank for you so the technique will "work".

If I were to be left completely to my own devices, I would have the student do static technique, and basic connection exercises of the type one would do with Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei (or any of the internal power teachers) and spend 3 - 5 years getting the body / mind properly programmed. Than I'd start doing more technique in a dynamic fashion. I would not have the student do anything resembling what folks often refer to as "resistant" training until they had been training this way for 5 years or so. I would also teach the ukes to attack using the same principles used by the nage. Right now we have one person attempting to do very sophisticated technique against an attacker who is totally remedial.

I think at the end of 8 to 10 yrs of training properly, we could end up with someone who currently operates at a fairly high Dan rank. In other words, after 8 - 10 years of training we would have someone who functions at or better than what passes for 6th dan at this point.

I wouldn't do any "mixing it up", or sparring before five years or so. Before that the student will fall back into old body habits in order to "win".

- George

A great post. I pretty much agree, and this is how I am attempting to approach training. However, most people simply won't put in the time and effort in this model, not in the modern world.I don't know if it's possible to run a viable dojo on this model. At best, you'll get a loose affiliation of small groups of dedicated individuals.