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Peter Boylan
08-28-2014, 10:07 AM
I've heard discussions about making an art one's one and personalizing your art, and I decided to weigh in with my thoughts. So here's what I think about the idea of adapting an art to oneself and making it your own.

http://budobum.blogspot.com/2014/08/how-to-adapt-art-to-yourself.html

What do you think?

jonreading
08-28-2014, 11:55 AM
Great read!

From a judo perspective, I know several judo people who would advocate that the IJF is actually looking to differentiate judo from other grappling arts and rule changes have been to that effect, not necessarily returning to Kodokan style. Politics, but something of note.

Best description I ever heard of making an art your own... "You saw how John Wayne walked, right? Yep. That." He just walked, but what a walk.

Currawong
08-29-2014, 08:04 AM
Very good read. I would put forward the thought that in Aikido, rather than choosing techniques, rather we end up choosing a style, based around our teacher (or for say Yoshinkan/Renshinkai members, what Shioda Sensei and Chida Sensei developed, as there are no variations I know of). While the modern Aikikai style is based around what Kisshomaru Sensei taught, more or less, there are variations in how many of the students of O'Sensei Ueshiba developed their Aikido, though I'd say from observation that a number of general themes in the variations have developed.

In Aikido I don't think one could develop only particular techniques in Aikido and sacrifice the quality of the rest (though we could limit the variations we do of them), as dan gradings require an equal level competence of all of them.

Dan Richards
09-05-2014, 08:40 AM
Interesting read, Peter.

The idea of an "art" opens up a new can of worms. What is it? How is it defined? Who decides how it's defined, and does that even matter? Is an art static, or is it something that's in a dynamic evolution?

Art seems to be a personal expression. There's also the idea of a "craft," which is really the nuts and bolts and processes that one would need under their belt before they could approach the idea of "art."

I do agree that on the level of learning what we might call a "martial craft," that one would need to subjugate themselves – or, as you say, "...mold yourself..."

But possibly, we take this idea of martial "art" way too seriously. It also seems that we often see examples – in just about any area – of an "art" having an initial spark, and then slowly and progressively being diluted to the point where it's obvious the "craft" has been lost, or at least not respected, along the way.

The "craft," to me, would really be the essence, and not the art itself. The emerging artisan movements we're seeing in so many areas – food, beer, farming, etc. – show countless examples of people knowing that they were being fed, and drinking, crap, and decided to get back to basics and the "craft" of producing something with some real substance.

Yamada (who was my first teacher) himself has stated that Aikido has the quantity but now it's time for quality. Aikido was admittedly – and we all know this for an absolute fact – renamed, slapped together, and presented as an "art" after WWII. It was tooled up for mass production.

We're in an age where we not only have access to more information, more people, and more ideas, but we're also in a place where those who want to contribute can do so, irrespective of politics, ranking, lineage, etc. And if you're looking at real evolution and a return to quality and underlying essence, you're going to find – in many cases – the people involved in real innovation are going to be the ones who have removed themselves from the product line, and have the freedom to explore and re-examine.

I think many see modern Aikido as something that has not only lost the "art," but also hasn't retained the "craft." It's something that was boxed up and packaged for mass consumption, and day by day more people are finding that Aikido has become something of the corny Smooth Jazz of the martial arts world. It's like trying to pass off Wonder Bread as real bread, and telling people that it's nutritious and part of a healthy diet. And people, in droves, just aren't buying it anymore.

So, to reference your article: How are we supposed to "mold" ourselves to an "art" that reached a point in its evolution where it has become plastic, bloated, and – all too often – just plain out-of-sync in an age and culture to whom it's obvious the Emperor is naked?

On the upside, it does appear that while the essence of the "craft" of Aikido and related martial arts has not been completely lost; it's been widely scattered. And similar to the rise in microbreweries and the re-adoption and re-assembling of classic, time-honored principles and practices – we're certainly poised for something along the lines of a renaissance. Whether the "art" will re-emerge as Aikido or something else is anyone's guess.

For now, I'll take the road of those who have a desire to remold, reform, and reshape, rather than be molded by something that is but an incomplete shell presented as an "art."
So how do you adapt an art to yourself? You don’t. You mold yourself to the art.

Another view might be: So how do you adapt yourself to an art? You don't. Initially, you mold yourself to the underlying essential craft. Then the art will mold itself to you and become your own free expression. You define the art. Don't let the art define you.

Cheers...

Peter Boylan
09-24-2014, 10:18 AM
Interesting read, Peter.

I think many see modern Aikido as something that has not only lost the "art," but also hasn't retained the "craft." It's something that was boxed up and packaged for mass consumption, and day by day more people are finding that Aikido has become something of the corny Smooth Jazz of the martial arts world. It's like trying to pass off Wonder Bread as real bread, and telling people that it's nutritious and part of a healthy diet. And people, in droves, just aren't buying it anymore.

So, to reference your article: How are we supposed to "mold" ourselves to an "art" that reached a point in its evolution where it has become plastic, bloated, and Ė all too often Ė just plain out-of-sync in an age and culture to whom it's obvious the Emperor is naked?

On the upside, it does appear that while the essence of the "craft" of Aikido and related martial arts has not been completely lost; it's been widely scattered. And similar to the rise in microbreweries and the re-adoption and re-assembling of classic, time-honored principles and practices Ė we're certainly poised for something along the lines of a renaissance. Whether the "art" will re-emerge as Aikido or something else is anyone's guess.

For now, I'll take the road of those who have a desire to remold, reform, and reshape, rather than be molded by something that is but an incomplete shell presented as an "art."

Another view might be: So how do you adapt yourself to an art? You don't. Initially, you mold yourself to the underlying essential craft. Then the art will mold itself to you and become your own free expression. You define the art. Don't let the art define you.

Cheers...

Just because Aikido in the US seems to have not maintained a full transmission, doesn't mean that the art is lost. It is still possible to find people teaching the complete art, but you have to work at it. I'm primarily a koryu bugei guy these days, Finding anyone who can teach koryu can be challenging, even in Japan, but there are lot of people doing it. If you really want to master the art, koryu or Aikido, you have to be willing to change yourself. Yes, arts evolve and change over time, but that change is slow. To truly master an art, you have to be willing to change yourself or you aren't really mastering the art, you're just fooling yourself that you are mastering the art. Some things I thought were kind of silly early on in my training I now see as absolutely essential.

Carsten MŲllering
09-24-2014, 11:23 AM
Just because Aikido in the US seems to have not maintained a full transmission, doesn't mean that the art is lost.
It is still possible to find people teaching the complete art, but you have to work at it.
...
If you really want to master the art, koryu or Aikido, you have to be willing to change yourself.

Yes, arts evolve and change over time, but that change is slow. To truly master an art, you have to be willing to change yourself or you aren't really mastering the art, you're just fooling yourself that you are mastering the art.
Some things I thought were kind of silly early on in my training I now see as absolutely essential.
Simply yes.

Dan Richards
09-24-2014, 02:00 PM
Just because Aikido in the US seems to have not maintained a full transmission, doesn't mean that the art is lost. It is still possible to find people teaching the complete art, but you have to work at it. I'm primarily a koryu bugei guy these days, Finding anyone who can teach koryu can be challenging, even in Japan, but there are lot of people doing it. If you really want to master the art, koryu or Aikido, you have to be willing to change yourself. Yes, arts evolve and change over time, but that change is slow. To truly master an art, you have to be willing to change yourself or you aren't really mastering the art, you're just fooling yourself that you are mastering the art. Some things I thought were kind of silly early on in my training I now see as absolutely essential.
Wait a sec, Peter. Did you really read what I wrote? And why are you assuming my experience of aikido has only been in the US? I started at NY Aikikai under two direct students. Then I subsequently moved to Scandinavia where I trained for years - with mostly Japanese teachers. One of them a direct student who developed his own ryu. The transmission came - and continues to come - through quite clearly.

I never thought anything in my training early on - or ever - has been silly. So, that's your bag, not mine.

I commented on your article where I separated the concept of "craft" and "art." They're different. And I completely agree with you about the adaptation and molding of self during the craft stage. That's the Shu stage. Really learning the craft; the principles, techniques, processes, etc.. But there come a stage - if you stick with it long enough - that you no longer serve the craft; the craft serves you - in your service to the art.

In your grand statement, you proclaimed, "So how do you adapt an art to yourself? You don't. You mold yourself to the art." No where in there did you use the word "change." Yet you bring in the word "change" when replying to my comments, and you - again assume - my unwillingness?

I agreed with you on adapting and molding, but only through the craft stage. The artistic stage is much more symbiotic and potentially liberating. The craft, you can put your finger on it, point to it, measure it, quantify it, put it in a box... The art is much more nebulous and elusive. You can't really touch it, point to it, much less box it up for international shipping.

By your own admission, you've been "bouncing around" martial arts and budo. I haven't. I hit water from the first step I took into an aikido dojo, and never stopped drilling or drinking. And my cup runneth over.

Peter Boylan
09-24-2014, 02:31 PM
Wait a sec, Peter. Did you really read what I wrote? And why are you assuming my experience of aikido has only been in the US? I started at NY Aikikai under two direct students. Then I subsequently moved to Scandinavia where I trained for years - with mostly Japanese teachers. One of them a direct student who developed his own ryu. The transmission came - and continues to come - through quite clearly.

(snip).

I commented on your article where I separated the concept of "craft" and "art." They're different. And I completely agree with you about the adaptation and molding of self during the craft stage. That's the Shu stage. Really learning the craft; the principles, techniques, processes, etc.. But there come a stage - if you stick with it long enough - that you no longer serve the craft; the craft serves you - in your service to the art.

In your grand statement, you proclaimed, "So how do you adapt an art to yourself? You don't. You mold yourself to the art." No where in there did you use the word "change." Yet you bring in the word "change" when replying to my comments, and you - again assume - my unwillingness?

I agreed with you on adapting and molding, but only through the craft stage. The artistic stage is much more symbiotic and potentially liberating. The craft, you can put your finger on it, point to it, measure it, quantify it, put it in a box... The art is much more nebulous and elusive. You can't really touch it, point to it, much less box it up for international shipping.

By your own admission, you've been "bouncing around" martial arts and budo. I haven't. I hit water from the first step I took into an aikido dojo, and never stopped drilling or drinking. And my cup runneth over.

Hi Dan,
After many years of working with people that many consider true artists (both in the fine and martial arts), I donít draw a clear line between craft and art. Art seems to happen when someone has completely internalized the elements of their craft and expresses them fully.

My apologies for poor use of the language. I was using change to indicate the changes required to mold oneself to your art. In order to mold yourself to an art, I believe you must change. I gathered from your original post that you objected to the idea of changing oneself to suit the art you are studying, since you said ďll take the road of those who have a desire to remold, reform, and reshape, rather than be molded by something.Ē That is my mistake.

Iím currently reading some thoughts on the whole Shu-Ha-Ri thing by Japanese writers, in Japanese. Itís immediately apparent from these that the Japanese and non-Japanese ideas of what that concept is about are almost totally unrelated.

I donít think the ďartĒ portion is really all that difficult to pin down. In painting itís usually clear from superior use of things like line, light, shading, perspective and color. In budo it shows up in the efficiency and subtlety of the technique, the imperturbability of the practitioner, and their clear master of things like structure, spacing and timing.

As for me, yes, Iíve been bouncing around the budo world for quite a while, but I havenít been bouncing around various arts and teachers. Iíve been doing Kodokan Judo for 28 years, Iaido for 21 years, and Jodo for 20. Iíve been involved with Aikido for something like 20 years, though I admit it is only something I play with, not something I actively pursue. My training though has taken me to the US, Japan, Canada, Germany, Greece and others. Hopefully it will take me to many more places.

Dan Richards
09-25-2014, 08:49 AM
Hi Peter, no biggie. I find your writing interesting and thought provoking. Although I may not all be one of the "yes men" lining up in the comments section of your articles.

Concerning shuhari, I don't tend to see them as fixed and linear stages. But that's for another time and topic we could all explore further.

I've been spending a lot of time dissecting and examining the components of aikido, and various training and teaching methodologies. [ Sort of the Ha stage ] And I do find and see a distinction between the technical craft of aikido, and the artistic - or natural - expression. And, of course, they are both interrelated.

There's info on the webs about craft and art, and here's a link that's not a bad place to start.
http://www.denisdutton.com/rnz_craft.htm

In other endeavors of my life - musical instruments, music production, audio engineering, cooking, writing - I've also found distinct "aspects" concerning learning and exploring the technical craft and the more free form expression of the art. I also find them feeding into, refining, and enriching each other in a continuous symbiotic relationship.

Anyway, keep up the good work. You've given me some things to chew on, and I hope I've done the same for you.

Cheers...

Rupert Atkinson
09-25-2014, 09:24 AM
I did Judo on and off for years and have seen it go from prominence to almost disappear. The problem is competition. It limits you too much. One of my best teachers taught all the kata, some Aikido, and Jujutsu stuff too. All came under his umbrella. If we fought - as in Judo - we would just follow the rules and do what was allowed. But he taught us so much more. I have never met a teacher like that since. Because of competition, people seem to just train according to the rules. I remember someone saying to me - you can't do that - and my reply was that this was not a competition. Of course, they did not understand and somehow thought me a bad person. Ha ha. Judo used to be/could be so much more. And so many of those that get to black belt just can't teach. They know nothing but a few limited waza. It has all but killed Judo. It fares better in Japan, I should add, but I rarely see kata in japan, and when I do, it is often an abysmal afterthought especially when looking at it from an Aikido viewpoint. Tell me it ain't so.

Peter Boylan
09-25-2014, 09:52 AM
Hi Peter, no biggie. I find your writing interesting and thought provoking. Although I may not all be one of the "yes men" lining up in the comments section of your articles.

Concerning shuhari, I don't tend to see them as fixed and linear stages. But that's for another time and topic we could all explore further.

I've been spending a lot of time dissecting and examining the components of aikido, and various training and teaching methodologies. [ Sort of the Ha stage ] And I do find and see a distinction between the technical craft of aikido, and the artistic - or natural - expression. And, of course, they are both interrelated.

There's info on the webs about craft and art, and here's a link that's not a bad place to start.
http://www.denisdutton.com/rnz_craft.htm

In other endeavors of my life - musical instruments, music production, audio engineering, cooking, writing - I've also found distinct "aspects" concerning learning and exploring the technical craft and the more free form expression of the art. I also find them feeding into, refining, and enriching each other in a continuous symbiotic relationship.

Anyway, keep up the good work. You've given me some things to chew on, and I hope I've done the same for you.

Cheers...

Hi Dan,

First, thank you NOT being a yes-man on this stuff. I write in the hopes of starting interesting conversations and getting new perspectives and ideas to chew. Thank you for giving me these.

Also, thank you for sharing the excellent essay on craft and art. In this area, I'm afraid my study and understanding in recent years is far more driven by non-Western thought and conception than by Western traditions, and I only realized how much this is so in reading that essay. That may well prompt some more writing down the line, but it's entirely too fuzzy to try to go into now.

I'm glad you enjoy my essays and find something worth considering in them. Please keep calling me out when you find something questionable in them.

With Humble Respect,
Peter Boylan

Rupert Atkinson
09-25-2014, 10:36 AM
In terms of making an art your own: I would say you can do whatever you like with it for yourself - after you have spent the required half an age learning it and making it fit yourself. Having spent half an age, my guess is you'd probably stick with it. Anyway, if you do adapt it to yourself - no problem. Except that is, if you end up teaching it - then - you had better teach what you were taught - rather than the particular slant you prefer for yourself. Just my 2c.

But what of Aikido? Many on here and elsewhere are waking up to the fact that after 20 years doing it - it still doesn't work as advertised. Older teachers are passing on. We have more freedom and less direction. It seems to me that we have no choice but to start searching. We have to rediscover that which has become lost. It may be that we have almost no choice to break away from tradition that has become stagnant. Aikido is not Koryu - it is not kata - it has life. We have Takemusu. We need to establish new focus and find ways to move towards it. We actually have no choice. Another 2c.

Peter Boylan
09-25-2014, 10:43 AM
I did Judo on and off for years and have seen it go from prominence to almost disappear. The problem is competition. It limits you too much. One of my best teachers taught all the kata, some Aikido, and Jujutsu stuff too. All came under his umbrella. If we fought - as in Judo - we would just follow the rules and do what was allowed. But he taught us so much more. I have never met a teacher like that since. Because of competition, people seem to just train according to the rules. I remember someone saying to me - you can't do that - and my reply was that this was not a competition. Of course, they did not understand and somehow thought me a bad person. Ha ha. Judo used to be/could be so much more. And so many of those that get to black belt just can't teach. They know nothing but a few limited waza. It has all but killed Judo. It fares better in Japan, I should add, but I rarely see kata in japan, and when I do, it is often an abysmal afterthought especially when looking at it from an Aikido viewpoint. Tell me it ain't so.

The competitive side is overwhelmingly what you do see, but kata and the broader elements of Judo are still practiced in many places. You have to look for them though. For many people the fun and excitement of competition is what they are after rather than good judo. With cacophony of cheering for the Olympics, everything else gets drowned out. It's not as bad as you fear, but it's not nearly as good as I would like.

Cliff Judge
09-25-2014, 11:48 AM
The competitive side is overwhelmingly what you do see, but kata and the broader elements of Judo are still practiced in many places. You have to look for them though. For many people the fun and excitement of competition is what they are after rather than good judo. With cacophony of cheering for the Olympics, everything else gets drowned out. It's not as bad as you fear, but it's not nearly as good as I would like.

I had a conversation with a Judo historian last month and meh...Kano absorbed so many ryuha into the Kodokan - it was a way for the teachers to actually get paid with the end of government funding for the warrior class - and then after he died, the Kodokan essentially abandoned koryu preservation. And now what happens is, judoka are overwhelmingly interested in competition, so they focus on that, and when they are older and not competitive any more, they find that their joints are not up to practicing these kata that use painful non-regulation locks and throws.

Peter Boylan
09-25-2014, 12:22 PM
(snip)
But what of Aikido? Many on here and elsewhere are waking up to the fact that after 20 years doing it - it still doesn't work as advertised. Older teachers are passing on. We have more freedom and less direction. It seems to me that we have no choice but to start searching. We have to rediscover that which has become lost. It may be that we have almost no choice to break away from tradition that has become stagnant. Aikido is not Koryu - it is not kata - it has life. We have Takemusu. We need to establish new focus and find ways to move towards it. We actually have no choice. Another 2c.

I would strongly disagree with the idea that koryu are dead and unchanging, and that kata are stiff, dried and dead. In fact, I have. Instead of repeating it, here's the link http://budobum.blogspot.com/2013/11/kata-is-too-rigid-and-mechanical.html

Adam Huss
09-25-2014, 07:22 PM
I feel like aikido, and any other martial arts, works exactly the way you train it to. There's a saying, or criticism rather, that traditional Japanese martial arts are designed to combat themselves. There is certainly some truth to that, but there's always a choice to train yourself however you want. Making the blanket statement aikido can't be trained in an environment of resistance is a cop-out. My friends and I hit aikido techniques occasionally in judo and jujitsu randori, and attempt them somewhat frequently.

To Peter's earlier discussion of craft vs art, and its correlation to 'making aikido your own.'
I've come to understand this concept from spending time in the art community with a good friend who is an artist and has been doing aikido for a couple years. He is classically trained in many kihon and oyo waza of art; sculpting, painting, taxidermy, welding, etc. Mastering and internalizing these basic skills was the starting ground for him making his own art. We were attending an art event and they were having a graffiti competition. Upon insistence, he entered the graffiti event with the stipulation that he could go last since he never did art with spray paint as a medium. They agreed and he ended up winning that small event. Some people were impressed but he said it was a simple matter of watching how experienced guys were doing their work, then relating it to the basic skills he already knows.

-I feel like aikido is the same way. Its critical to have an in-depth understanding of the basics - how and why they work. This is grossly not the case in many aikidoka. Many are taught, and learn, how Ueshiba instructed....observation with little to no guidance as to what was happening. But if one can break down, and understand what's going on with - most importantly - their body, then secondly their uke, they begin to 'make aikido their own' naturally. It just starts to happen.

Peter,
You mentioned about enjoying the arts. I don't want to discuss personal matters like your location, so I'm sending you a PM about an event you may be interested in.

Cheers all,
I've got to put a skim coat of plaster on a large living room before leaving for an all-weekend aikido seminar where I am wholly unprepared to uke for a nidan and yondan test...and am still reeling from my 22 hour flight back from Johannasberg. Yuck, I need a drink! I'm a bit discombobulated tonight so please don't read anything negatively as wasn't my intent.