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View Full Version : Tradition Is Tending The Flame. It's not Worshiping The Ashes


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Peter Boylan
06-10-2015, 03:36 PM
Have you ever run into someone who has learned all the forms of the art, but there is nothing alive in what they do? This quote from Gustav Mahler made me wonder about that. I wrote all the thoughts out in this blog http://budobum.blogspot.com/2015/06/tradition-is-tending-flame-its-not.html

What kind of problems have your seen?

Rupert Atkinson
06-10-2015, 08:20 PM
Another good article! I think that we should be free to do whatever we want with what we learn but that when we teach we should teach what we learned - the simple basics. Aikido is far from free, and ditto many other arts. Huge problem I think. The only person with any freedom is the teacher, and often they are controlled by their seniors. Obviously, if all you ever do is what you learned - even Koryu - you will get nowhere fast. Mechanics fix cars; the smarter ones build their own from scratch; we all love to listen and/or play music, but the smarter ones can create new music; Work in a library and stack books? Do you read them? Try writing one? Ronaldo plays superb soccer and it is not what anyone taught him, and so on. He could not teach it to anyone. Inspire them maybe. It's just common sense. But if you taught mechanics you had better start at the beginning and learn how a car works. In music you need ABC etc. And soccer, well - it's totally obvious. If Ronaldo taught - it would be back to basics, not hairy-fairy crap with philospohy attached. But in martial arts? Well, a lot of people barking up the wrong tree in terms of learning paradigms, that's for sure. People discussin/arguing technical points in kata in Aikido after 20 years of training? Get over it. Shoulda done that in year 1 or 2. Just my 2c.

Cliff Judge
06-11-2015, 10:32 AM
Ever since I buckled down and got serious about Aikido training 13 years ago I've noticed a tendency for self-flagellation in the community, generally revolving around whether the training produces aikidoka who are proficient, by some metric or another (which is often a confused metric, for example why Aikido does not work in the ring or "against" a practitioner of some other art).

A pretty common next step is to pick a version of Osensei that is preferred. Daito ryu Osensei, Iwama Osensei, Asahi Osensei, Vegas Osensei, Malibu Osensei, Kung Fu Action Grip Osensei, Tai Chi Osensei, etc. And then to say, THAT's the proper Aikido. Let's focus on that, reconstruct it if we need to, and cleanse our practice of the trappings of the other versions.

IMO that's worshipping the ashes. But, to people who go that way, it's totally the opposite. And who is right or wrong?

jonreading
06-11-2015, 12:51 PM
Sometimes I think this boils down to function and relevance. I believe tradition has merit when it serves both in function and relevance. Once tradition strays from being either relevant and/or functional you run into a problem - nostalgia. Or worse, obsolescence.

Teaching tools like kata were intended to make students illustrate their knowledge of the art by demonstrating both function and relevancy in their movement. The geniuses demonstrate function and relevance beyond kata, beyond kumite and beyond their art.

I think it would be an interesting exercise to prove that your aikido was both functional and relevant as a martial art. I think it is a more difficult task than it seems to be. Certainly if your have to do it physically.

Riai Maori
06-11-2015, 02:00 PM
When I go camping, I use ASHES and sand to extinguish the flames of fire. Same applies for my Iwama Aikido.

Dan Richards
06-20-2015, 03:40 AM
It's a cake recipe. No one is handing you the recipe.

They're giving you the cake.

JP3
06-22-2015, 07:34 PM
I enjoy working on the koryu stuff as much as on the free practice actually. What we've done to sort of inject what we call "life" (but I supposed could as easily be called "function & relevance") into the koryu is to look at the situation that the individual kata technique is apparently representing (none of us was actually there, remember, so at some level we're all relying on what someone else told us it is supposed to be) and determine what premise is set, so that we can understand the principle the kata is attempting to reinforce. Once we think we've got that pretty good, a few months of work on a kata gets you there, nothing perfect, but most things workable if people are actually putting in the work, the kata starts to talk to you.

We start thinking about things like, "So, the Japanese sat seiza then. But, we don't sit seiza, we sit in chairs. What's this look like with a paired tori-uke combo going through the situation the same... but instead of seiza on the floor... sitting in chairs?" That's fun.

Another fun one is the phone booth fight.... or if you wanted to make it a little less restrictive I suppose you could call it the elevator fight. Consider your standard kata techniques you learned as a kyu grade, with all the flowing movements and somewhat large motions that are designed to get a certain "type" of movement out of you. Let's assume that it is working, or has worked if we're awesome.

Now, put the whole kata in an elevator, dude is a step away and you can't go but a step - if that - in any direction. The phone booth one is harder. Get in a corner, and have the bad guy literally right there, standing on top of you, at the opening of the confrontation/situation. Now, do aikido movement. I like it. It's possible, though you have to be very soft and relaxed but moving your center well. It's a good time. Got the idea playing with the daito-ryu folks. Using their paradigm, but using my aikido techniques. It all still works, though it can look weird.

In any event, if you stay inside the textbook forever, and don't go play in the lab, your understanding of the science will always only be partial and theoretical.