View Full Version : Do you practice Aikido on a blank canvas, or do you fill in the background?

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Peter Boylan
03-29-2017, 12:57 PM
Aikido, like all budo, originates in place and culture that is alien to everyone who starts training in it. Even for modern Japanese, the world that molded Ueshiba Morihei is strange and hard to imagine. Do you do anything to fill in the your understanding of the history and culture that shaped the creation of Aikido, or do you practice it in a vacuum? I wrote about filling in historical details and how they can illuminate training in this blog post http://budobum.blogspot.com/2017/03/are-you-practicing-budo-in-vacuum.html

What do you do to illuminate your training?

03-30-2017, 07:49 AM
A very interesting question! Something to ponder :)

03-31-2017, 02:49 PM
In communication we say that any message is best understood within the context it was created.
Any foreground implies a background (even if you do not focus on it).

Michael Hackett
04-04-2017, 10:14 AM
Yup, I visit AikiWeb every day. Seriously, I am/was a subscriber to Aikido Journal and have a fairly extensive library of books relating to aikido, Japanese culture and Japanese history. I'm not sure that everything beyond AikiWeb and Aikido Journal were intended to inform my aikido training, but maybe the art just spurred my interest in Japan.

04-04-2017, 04:55 PM
Good points. Clothing, customs, and day to day living affect movements and available weapons. Kobudo was all about using what was on hand; today almost no one has the same tools readily available. One Judo had an older form for people in armor, MMA's technical base has changed in part because clothing is restricted. I remember an old applied karate book with Nakayama talking about rapidly and forcefully backing up the driver's seat and reclining it in a car when an attacker was in the back seat - and then my parents bought a car with power seats.

If the path to understand a Budo is to put it in context, is the path to updating a Budo also about exploring the current context? For example, I have students practice variations on tanto nage with cell phones.

Glad to hear from you Peter. Congratulations on your upcoming book and your recent promotion.

Rupert Atkinson
04-05-2017, 12:21 AM
Like many, I studied other arts. Like fewer, went to Asia and spent 20 years there and trained in many places. Like even fewer, studied Asian languages. My main art has been Aikido. I still know next to nothing, which is fine, well, it must be because wherever I go people try to tell me what it is and how to do it. My current energies have now switched to guitar, Aikido is just ticking over.

As some say, we should be versed in many areas. I have done gardening so can feed myself; I have been an engineer so could theoretically sharpen my own tools, well, at least I can fix a car, motorcycle, boat - so I live in the present; and I have bought and sold lots of stuff so have been a bit of a merchant. And I can read, so I am an English teacher. Next/now is music ...

I think my reading of Asian philosophy as a teen set me on a path of trying to do lots of different things.

I would say, if you have any blanks, go try fill them in.

04-08-2017, 07:55 AM
Mainly books on training and history

04-10-2017, 08:40 PM
My first teacher would talk about Japanese culture and the background to what we were doing, from bowing through to (what he understood were) the basis of techniques. It was very helpful, if, in some respects, slightly misleading, as not actually being in Japan we weren't getting the full picture.

What is amusing to me now, in retrospect, are things such as Japanese visitors from other Aikido groups being unsure how best to bow in and whatnot when coming to our dojo for the first time. I never would have imagined it before living here.

Since Peter's blog is related to it, it does come to mind that many techniques in Aikido, especially ones like yonkyo, seem to assume the person applying it has a strong grip as a result of sword work, something I have found worth explaining to my juniors or students to put them in context.