View Full Version : Getting between the moves

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04-23-2003, 01:00 AM
I was reading a recent thread in which some people were comparing aikido with ballet. Actually; they weren't really comparing; it was more along the lines of a divergent dialog.
Anyway; it made me think about something from childhood. Back when I was a kid; my Mom was a stage performer with a great deal of experience in ballet. She was no company ballerina; but an excellent dancer (and actor and singer), so I've more or less grown up knowing how hard ballet is; in the vicarious sense; Mom certainly didn't take it easy on herself.
Anyway; I like watching ballet; and one of the things that struck me as a kid (besides Mom; when I said I didn't like ballet - LOL j/k) was that it didn't look hard at all - none of the moves (with exceptions such as going to pointe; extreme flexibility and those incredible jumps) looked really difficult to perform. I remember asking her about it once. (Only once; she's rather strict.) She told me that physically; many of the moves we see on stage aren't difficult in and of themselves; but ballet isn't the moves - it's how one uses them; puts them together that's so difficult. In other words; how one makes art from technique.
I was young; I didn't really know what she meant, and went back to doing the dishes.
A few years ago; I was listening to an interview on CBC radio; the guest being Itzhak Perlman. The interviewer asked him why one violinist stays good, while another becomes great, when the notes are there on the page to follow. He said "Because the notes are not the music; they're the alphabet of music. Music is what happens between the notes."

What does this have to do with Aikido? This:
One of the things I've spent some thought on is the development of skill in a student; the evolution from technician to artist. I don't think that anyone here would disagree with me when I say that if a person can do the techniques, and do them perfectly; that's good, but he's only getting a part of the picture. At some point in a practicioner's development; he starts drifting away from perfect techniques and starts exploring their boundaries. It starts simple; like spontaneously using a different finish to Sankyo during randori; let's say. Somewhere along the line; art creeps into the mix, he stops doing techniques and starts doing aikido.
He eventually starts practicing aikido according to his own interests and ideas. For instance; in my dojo; our Sensei enjoys the development of perfect technique; and exploring as many variations as she can. Our Sempai stresses ki development in his training, while I enjoy studying the tactical aspects of the discipline. It makes for interesting training sessions.
I don't really have a question; but I'd like to hear your opinions; such as when, on average, does a student start developing his aikido from technique? Do you see it in yourself? If so, how? What aspects do you enjoy developing?

For myself; I see myself starting to loosen up and have fun during randori. I've started doing things I haven't learned; changing my technique to fit the situation. I'll change techniques in the middle of a pass for instance; turning a kaitenage into an ikkyo; if I have need at the moment. I've lately been playing with drawing ukes out in such a way as they stumble over each other. Bags of fun; I can't really say if I'm starting to develop Aikido as an art yet; but everything seems to make much more 'sense' now; for lack of a better word.
How 'bout you?


04-23-2003, 02:22 AM
Our major problem seems to stopping the "little darlings" from improvising in their aikido from day 1! Seriously, seen two main types of improv aikido. The first is relatively new practitioners who after a year or so modify techniques for no real reason, just picked up some bad/lazy habits. After about three years they're starting to use what they know in the fashion you describe, with the final effect on the uke more important than the technique they're using.

This is a very gross simplification of what I've seen, people who come to aikido after doing another martial art throw this progression right out of the window. There's others who might never be precise in their "formal" aikido but seem to have been born with an overachieving melee gene who do their best aikido under the pressure of randori.

My own interest is in greater gentleness, this is because I still have the distressing tendancy towards the gouge then kick 'em when they're down school of thought when pressed...

PS Dave, your web-page doesn't seem to be working

04-23-2003, 02:33 AM
What an interesting subject you brought up dave, as usual i think.

Have you read Dave Lowry's book Beyond Stillness (i think)? In one of the chapters, it compares the Martial Artist and the Martial Artisan...i forgot why this is relevant...but you should read the book anyway.

Hmm... at what stage does a student develop his aikido from his technique. The most common answer from a sensei (especially the asian sensei's i have here) is after your 3rd dan. Thats when they say, you have refined the techniques such that the principles of aikido is understood and no matter what you do, your actions adhere to those said principles. Thats why, they further add... that yoshinkan practicioners start out looking like surf boards (i made this up), but in the end they all look fluid and circular just like the aikikai sets out to be. Interesting note: I read somewhere that although karate begins hard, after reaching a really high level, the master would really be doing a natural stance and having really flexible strikes and blocks (kinda rubbery they describe it). Makes you wonder on the comment by Tohei Sensei about how Osensei would ask his student to hold firmly while he himself hold in a relaxed fashion.

But for me... i don't know what aikido really is. if its the way of harmony... it means that no matter what conditions apply, i can employ my harmonious techniques or art to bring the conflict into a peaceful resolution. i don't think that gets taught around in aikido dojo. my first idea of aikido was just to throw someone a long ways away using their power... that sounded like fun. but if that's not what aikido is all about, then maybe its because my intentions were wrong that is delaying my understanding of the aikido art itself. until i do that, it will be impossible for me to apply my techniques as truly aikido.

So till that day, I stick by the saying... its not the destination, its the journey that counts. :P

Doug Mathieu
05-09-2003, 01:25 PM
Hi Dave

I've been at Nidan for a year now and been training for 12 years total. I don't think I would consider myself at the stage of an Artist.

I still work hard at applying correct body movement, breathing, flow and connection.

I have noticed occaisional times when bits of the artist might peek out.

1. Sometimes we play with an attack and try to figure out how we might do a particular technique against it that we haven't done. Eg: Koshinage from Ushiro RyoKatatori.

2. I have a friend who is a Yondan in Shotokan Karate. Several times a year myself and a few others visit with them and he gets us to watch one of their Kata's and see places where we might use an Aikido technique instead of the the Karate one in it. Its very interesting and I notice it makes me think of Aikido principles and I try to be "creative" which is an aspect of being an artist.

3. Randori/Jiyu Waza. I practice sometimes with a friend at another Dojo and lately we have done some Jiyu Waza where I pick a technique and he attacks anyway he wants. He continues his attacks until he runs out of ideas. I know what I am going to try and do but don't know until the last minute what attack to defend against. Its really fun and hard. Sometimes it felt like somethig came out totally unexpected and was nothing I had specifically trained at.

I think these are glimmers of what you are getting at. I agree wholeheartedly that eventually once the tools are learned we can turn to artistic expression. I might add the tools need sharpening to be useful consequently we can expect to always practice the basics or the artistry will degrade and it could be easy to think we have the tools ready when in fact they aren't.

This is an enjoyable idea to explore intectually and in practice. Thanks Dave