View Full Version : A non-martial art

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01-03-2003, 09:52 AM
I've said this a number of different times on these forums, but I wanted to put it together and try to make it coherent, and I'm interested to hear how this relates to other people's experience.

There are many interesting aspects of AiKiDo as a movement art or as a road for personal growth, but at the heart of AiKiDo for me is the way it can be 'the art of being non-martial.' The way I understand (and try to teach) AiKiDo, we are learning to take situations of conflict and conflicting interests and re-interpret them from a perspective in which the initial sense of conflict becomes secondary or even irrelevant.

Note that I said re-interpret and not change; to me that's an important difference. The art is, to me, primarily about having a choice in how I see things and about allowing that choice to affect the situations. I learn to communicate (through my body) my sense that there is no conflict and no struggle between us to my uke, and as a result it can call into question for them, as well, the sense that we are struggling.

This sense of what AiKiDo is affects every aspect of my practice. I work to have a hanmi and a posture which does not communicate threat or 'martial skill' to my uke because these are likely to reinforce their sense that we are in conflict. I had a teacher who could stand and smile in a way that made it hard to even clench your fist for munets-ski. This is the AiKiDo that I strive to emulate. I've heard a number of teachers say that when an AiKiDo technique is performed effectively, uke feels less like they were thrown and more like they happened to stumble. I don't want uke to be afraid to get up and try hitting me again so much as I'd like them to feel like it would be silly and unnecessary.

Similarly, I worry that an undue emphasis on AiKiDo's 'martial effectiveness' (which implies that conflicts can and should be won) or that training in things like sparring which, definitionally, have a winner and a loser can easily distract from the pursuit of this ideal. I've certainly seen aikidoka with lovely, flowing and gentle AiKiDo who were also obviously martially aware and concerned with martial effectiveness, so I recognize that it's possible. Right now I am happily training and learning in an ASU dojo where a 'martial spirit' is considered a primary virtue. I've learned a lot from everyone there about being martially aware and I'm glad to have learned it. I guess, though, that I sometimes feel like they miss the point of the whole thing.

Anyway, this is long enough. I look forward to hearing opinions, particularly from people who feel quite differently than I do. I just want to stress that I'm aware of (and comfortable with) the fact that different people are looking for different things. If it's important to someone to feel like they can win fights, and AiKiDo offers them that feeling: that's great. I'm just saying that, from where I stand, it seems like they are missing out. I'm certain that some of them feel similarly that I am cheating myself of some of the art's most valuable aspects. I try to be open to the possibility that they are right.

01-03-2003, 10:29 AM
I've heard many others about "resolving" conflict with another, or try not to be in conflict. But, has any ever thought of resolving conflict with oneself. Anyway, that's another topic. As for this one...

Although the martial aspect of Aikido is rarely taught in some or maybe most of the styles, we could still "call it out" when the situation arises. Many that are skeptic or disappointed with Aikido are actually people that are blinded by techniques, and they didn't even get to explore Aiki at all.

If one wants Aiki to be martial then one has to be able to apply it in daily life. It will not be enough to just practice at the dojo. I don't mean it in a technical sense. For any martial arts to be martial one has first to understand Budo and Bushido.

01-03-2003, 12:05 PM
"I guess, though, that I sometimes feel like they miss the point of the whole thing."

That would assume that your point is the "correct" one. You see that with very little effort you have turned Aikido into a matter of contention...(i.e They "miss" the point, and you get it.) In other words.. You're right and they are wrong.

Hmpph! Maybe you want to re-think that...

01-03-2003, 12:10 PM
Have I? I thought I was just expressing a feeling that I sometimes have. Feelings, I think, are neither right nor wrong but rather express a very particular perspective on the truth that can be illuminating if taken in proper perspective.

01-03-2003, 12:29 PM
Experiencing a boxing punch or a football tackle is a great way to get a dose of "martial" reality that some of us so desperately need.

01-05-2003, 12:30 AM
"I guess, though, that I sometimes feel like they miss the point of the whole thing."

That would assume that your point is the "correct" one.
It seems Opher's focus here is not on someone else missing out on something, but rather on effective shodo-o-seisu and martial aspects of aikido.

Thalib has a good point too, and I think he's referring to a balanced approach in training.

Aiki and "martial" can certainly co-exist, but I'm not smart enough to know how. :) Try teaching aiki to an army platoon, I suspect that's similar. Martial-ness seems to often stifle the beginner's mind into becoming an entire machine rather than a piece of a greater machine. I don't think it's bad at all, just that it can constipate the aiki processes.

On the other hand, without "martial", learning goes right out the window, and you end up with a class of students with ADD.

Opher sounds like he trains in extremes, something I can relate to. You learn one extreme so you can learn the other extreme -- Opher, you almost sound tired at the end of your essay. :) Hard work, but I enjoy this manner too, and the learning that results is exquisitely delicious.

I don't think there is anything wrong with either (Aiki/martial) approach -- diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks. But both are certainly needed, and in careful mixture because it affects the entire class (drastically, I feel).


mike lee
01-05-2003, 02:29 AM
For me, when I enter the dojo, the martial effectiveness of my art is JOB ONE. I resent anyone else who comes to a martial arts training hall for any other purpose. They not only waste their time, but the waste other students' time and the teachers' time.

No one knows when the moment will come when one has no other choice but to fight for the life of a loved one or one's own life. It would be a shame if the only reason one failed was because one didn't train diligently with the proper mind-set.

It's often the same people that come to the dojo to socialize and "just have fun" that often question and cause others to question the martial effectiveness of aikido.

The martial effectiveness of a martial art should be a primary concern. This should be serious business. This should also be common sense, but for some reason in the modern feel-good aikido community, it's not.

But aikido is also a "Do," and it therefore incorpoarates concepts and philosophies beyond martial arts. "Fun" may be one of the byproducts of aikido training, but if students believe that the main purpose of training is to have fun, progress will be severely limited.

Only with budo as the root, can all other benefits spring forward and bear fruit in aikdio.

01-05-2003, 08:46 AM
I think the aiki and martial aspect of Aikido are inextricably linked. One will have a difficult time growing if the other is stifled.

Opher and Phil, run a common theme I agree with. I think what they are getting at is that Aikido is just as much mental as it is physical (correct me if I am wrong guys).

In our style we are taught to make a connection, lead uke's mind, and the rest will just fall into place as long as we retain our mind/body coordination. Just because this is our focus, does not mean we diminish the martial effectiveness of our Aikido. We just tend to be more flexible and not clash, but, blend with the attack to neutralize it. Whatever the attack may be. There is a natural ebb and flow to the hard and softness of Aikido, both mentally and physically.

PhilJ has a great analogy he will use with students on the mentality of someone's Aikido training.

He asks, "Who will attack you more in your lifetime...someone on the the street, or the people you love?"

This puts a whole new lite on effectiveness. When your wife verbally attacks you do you apply yonkyo and pin her to the ground? I don't think so. You have to be like a willow bending in the wind to resolve this situation.

As an Aikidoka, if I can defuse a situation without it becoming physical it will always be my priority. This doesn't mean that I will not be able to defend myself if I am physically attacked. It just means I have more ways of dealing with the attack.

O'Sensei made a very succinct point when he stated that Budo is loving protection, not winning over and subjugating.(paraphrase)

Very cool thread guys. I look forward to hearing more.

01-05-2003, 03:08 PM
I resent anyone else who comes to a martial arts training hall for any other purpose. They not only waste their time, but the waste other students' time and the teachers' time.
We've been around on this one before. I'm not going to say much about it except that while I feel that people who come to AiKiDo because they want to be martial may be slightly misguided, I certainly never feel like they are wasting my time. There's only one person I ever felt didn't 'belong' in a dojo I trained in and that was because I was afraid he was going to cause injury. In the end, I learned and I came to feel that he, too, was a valuable part of our community.
No one knows when the moment will come when one has no other choice but to fight for the life of a loved one or one's own life. It would be a shame if the only reason one failed was because one didn't train diligently with the proper mind-set.Or, alternatively, no one knows when the moment will come where clearly seeing alternative options could save you from entering into (and possibly losing, including the lives of those mentioned above) a fight that was completely unnecessary. It would be a shame if too much emphasis on martial effectiveness biased your view and prevented you from seeing options where you didn't have to either win or lose.

01-05-2003, 04:14 PM
This thread reminds me of a guy that came to the dojo some years ago to train for a while, all he wanted to learn was how to maime, injure and break others bones. He was apparently a Nidan in Karate, and it's true his warm ups, flexibility, kicking, movement/kata reflected this. He was also already graded 5th kyu and allowed to retain it, but would have to resit it when he graded for 4th kyu under our school.

Unfortunately though, his understanding of Aikido (from where this came from I do not know) was that it was very very martial, and you could "break bones and throw them around and make it hurt". Of course this is quite possible, but the delemia was he wanted it all NOW. He wanted a blackbelt NOW, and was willing to pay whatever to have it right away.

He was told constantly he had to wait a considerable time before he would achieve that level, but it never stopped him from wanting to apply what he learnt 'full on'.

Consequently, people did not want to train with him, he was sloppy, overly aggressive, never listened and took too many shortcuts which resulted in a non-technique, just a tie-up of hands etc.

Even though we spoke to Sensei about it, he just replied that the chap was a little harder to teach, and that he would 'come around' at some stage.

All this guy wanted to learn was Technique etc: ikkyo, nikkyo, Sankyo(his favourite), yonkyo and how to really turn them on.

I was one of the ones who disiked training with him, but since others really avoided him, I saw it as a challenge. He was a good test of patience, and I do mean it really.

One night during trianing, we had all gathered in a circle, with one in the middle, the rest practicing an attack and nage would defend however they chose. Well, this chap took me into Sankyo, and twisted so far and so fast that I had barely time to move. My hand made that nice knuckle popping sound and had twisted almost right around facing me, the pain was tremendous. It looked/sounded that bad that one of the girls in class let out a very loud scream and felt quite sick, even the Sensei for the evening asked if I was ok.

I looked at this guy, who appeared to have the look of "I just shitted my pants" for a few moments, when he smiled at me!! It was a this point my patience ran out. He let me go, and I remarked " now it's my turn!!"

I performed kokyu nage on him and the Sensei finished the class for the evening.

Funny things is, I have never been gentler with anyone since. At the time, all I wanted to do was rip his head off, but I didn't. Just a very gentle koyu nage. The rest of the class was very surprised at my restraint, and it was at the end that some said I should have dropped him.

The next night the Dojo-Cho gave a small speech about the fundementals of Aikido, and used this chap for an uke. Well, smiles all round the dojo that evening as the lad got what he came looking for, the martial aspects of Aikido!!!

Sorry for the long rant, but it really highlights my feeling on this subject. Aikido IS martial, if you know how to apply it that way.Even if you don't, by training in the techniques, over time you will figure it out at some stage. It IS also fun, sociable, enjoyable,inspiring,thoughtful,compassionate and so on.

I'm in agreement with Opher, Phil and Micheal in their views.

Martial & Aiki??

I personally don't believe in a balance as such. I see it as this: When balanced nothing moves forward. I prefer the yin/yang approach of constant movement in balance, that at some stage one is greater than the other, but neither is ever more than half of the whole.

Well, I think that's enough from me.



Jeff Tibbetts
01-05-2003, 07:07 PM
Opher, I must say I'm kindof surprised that you bring this topic up so bluntly© I mean, it's something that's been talked about in several different threads from different perspectives, but now it's out of the bag© Is it martial or not?

Well, clearly people have a very wide range of opinions© I'm of the opinion that it can be used very effectively and thought of as quite martial, but I don't train with that in mind at all© Before I get flamed, let me make this point© I don't intend to ever be in a serious fight© I want to know how to avoid fights ¥read Verbal Judo€, but if I ever get in one it's nice to know I won't have to break any necks or bash anyone's face in with a brick to resolve it© I arm myself with Aikido so that I have the confidence to make choices that I'm happy with under pressure© I like to remain as impartial as I can with an argument, and not having to size people up or get myself pumped up because I think I'm going to fight makes things a lot smoother, in my opinion© Right now I'm reading the much debated "Angry White Pyjamas" and I am shocked at the martial spirit of the dojo that the author is describing© I can't imagine a place like that, not that there's anything wrong with training so martially, but I certainly wouldn't want to do that© The fact that those in the Senshusai course can withstand all that punishment makes them better MEN than me, for sure, but that machismo doesn't suit me© If I wanted to brag about my cajones and watch football all day I would, but I'm just not like that©

You get what you're looking for in Aikido, although this can certainly be influenced by the dojo you train in and the Sensei you train under© I don't know that there is a right way or not, I think that it's all very much subjective© Just how I wouldn't want to train in that aggressive and martial dojo, there are a great many people who wouldn't want to train in mine, which emphasizes safety and a more relaxed learning environment© I would contest the idea that my form will be less martially effective than the other, but I would also admit that that doesn't concern me as much, either© As I've said in the past, there are many great martial arts out there, and if my intention was to learn how to break bones and throw people all over than I would train in those© Aikido is what I want it to be for me, and that's a wonderful thing because for me there's nothing else like it©

01-05-2003, 07:11 PM
Mike Lee, do you go to that aikido class taught in the army platoons? ;)

Mr. Lee's perspective is an excellent point to take -- for an example on training in extremes. Are there any folks out there who train in an environment where there is little/no martial at all?

Too much martial constipates ki, as seen in Mr. Lee's message. There is no flexibility of thought, only the road of martial. Since "martial" is more of a concept than a definition, what happens to a student when one is not seen as "martial"?

On the other hand, not enough martial is the same effect. I used to err on that side: too loose and nimbly-pimbly. :) I felt the effects and I ended up losing my effectiveness in technique.

Shouldn't we ask ourselves what is useful in life off the mat? Does aiki complement martial, or is martial actually a component of aiki (the universe)?


01-05-2003, 08:53 PM
Too much martial constipates ki, as seen in Mr. Lee's message.I'm not sure what you mean here, but it didn't come of as being too polite.

01-05-2003, 09:22 PM
Budo and Bushido are not trained by techniques, it comes from oneself. If one is looking for the martial side of Aikido through techniques, one won't find anything.

This is going to be long:

There is a story the my Sensei told me back in the days when he was training the Presidential Security Guards (PasPamPres - Pasukan Pengamanan Presiden). In Indonesia the armed forces don't take styles into their training lightly, they have to go through series of tests. One of them is challenging the one(s) that brings in the style.

Before Aikido could be accepted, it had to be tested. They have passed the first test which was a simple demonstration in front of the commander of the guards. But the commander now had to convince his men. Therefore a demonstration was scheduled.

My Sensei's friend, also a yudansha, was the one that first came up with the idea of entering the presidential guards training curriculum. He brought my Sensei and a few other Aikidoka to do a demonstration. But, the demonstration is not like what they expected. The partner must not be from Aikido, instead it is taken from one the soldiers.

They called in this "monster", which is bigger than the door they walked in. The commander pointed at the smallest one in the Aikido group which is not a yudansha yet anyway, "You said that Aikido could take care of people way bigger than you. Prove it. Put this guy in a lock." Then he instructed the big-guy, "Whatever happens, you will hold your position." The giant answered, "Yes, Sir."

This guy from Aikido is already scared to death. The soldier did a one handed shoulder grab. This guy tried to put this guy into a nikkyo and to much his effort failed. The soldier choked him and slammed him into the table and kept choking him. The commander snapped at the soldier, "I said hold your position, not retaliate." The soldier letting the guy go replied, "Yes, Sir."

My Sensei's friend said that that paticular person is not experienced enough yet and offered that they test my Sensei. They agreed. Looking at this guy, my Sensei can't help being jello at the knees. So the same demonstration was applied to my Sensei. From what my Sensei told me he refused to even looked at the guy and just focus on what he is doing, nikkyo. The giant fell down, and everything went silent. My Sensei was curious, there was no tapping. So he thought that the lock was still unsuccessful, and continued locking the giant on the ground.

Suddenly the giant's hands went limp and my Sensei saw that the face turned red already. My Sensei finally let go of the giant. He got up and went screaming to the corner. His other colleagues asked him if it was painful. He snapped back at them, "Of course it's painful you idiot."

After this demonstartion, the other Aikidokas regained their confidence and continued with other demonstrations with having the soldiers as training partners. Aikido was then accepted to the guards.

But, it wasn't easy training soldiers. THey are really skeptic. They just wan't instant martial arts. Therefore many applicative techniques were shown more than basic techniques. But they always test the instructor from time to time, it is just their mentality. Therefore the instructor that was put in there must have a good attitude. They have a tendency to test egotistical instructors that thinks he knows everything.

Anyway my Sensei was one of the instructors that had to train these guys. It was an interesting experience, I've even got a chance to train with some these soldiers myself. There are instructors that won't even last an hour with these guys. They are a bunch of stubborn, egotistical SOB's. But they accepted my Sensei, which proved that Aikido wasn't just a bunch of song and dance.

Because of "political" reasons Aikido is no longer taught in the guards. It's quite a shame really.

Which comes back to the point. It is not the art, it's the person. The spirit of Aikido, Budo, and Bushido are not taught in techniques. It comes within the self. The only thing that limits Aikido is oneself.

01-05-2003, 09:50 PM
I'm not sure what you mean here, but it didn't come of as being too polite.
Thanks Opher, I see your point. It wasn't my intent to berate Mr. Lee, he is an active member on these boards. And everybody deserves the right to follow their own beliefs, no question.

I see where Mr. Lee is coming from, and I'm not condemning it -- God knows, I could have used a more strict atmosphere during my early training. I'm in a stricter environment now, and appreciate its benefits. While I don't agree with his words, I'm truly grateful that I can benefit from his viewpoints.

Opher, putting my lack of eloquence aside, Mr Lee comes from a very martial background, it's clear in his message. I was using the message as an example of extremity -- certainly, there is no aiki if ki doesn't flow. How can it flow if certain ideas and notions are summarily excluded, without regard?