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12-01-2003, 11:32 PM
From the "Samurai" Program (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?postid=58881#post58881) thread
...The current trend of martial arts in general today is this type of performance art with a lot of acrobats and "flash" as they say. It is very visual and entertaining, like the movies, but often lacks the virtue of "usage" and "application" as a real martial art. In the movies, it is important to "sell" the technique visually to the audience, and this often sacrifices any "real" aspect of how the technique actually works. Oh well. . . . . . In the Extreme Martial Arts (XMA) program on the Discovery Channel, they noted that if you were well grounded in the basics, you could go on to do flashy techniques. It was also noted that you needed the flash to get more points from the judges in competitive kata tournaments.

Is there any place in Aikido for flashy techniques? During a public demonstration it might help capture the audience's interest. Perhaps there no place in Aikido for such flash.

Once you feel confident in an Aikido technique, should you go on to try an advanced version? What is the difference between a basic version and an advanced version of the same technique? Is there a difference?

Any thoughts on this matter?

12-01-2003, 11:54 PM
What is the difference between a basic version and an advanced version of the same technique?
A friend of mine often says that there are no "advanced" techniques -- they're just basic techniques done really, really well...

-- Jun

12-02-2003, 03:47 AM
O Sensei used to allow people to attack him by holding out his little finger and suggesting they break it. He then whooped their asses.

He once held down a sumo wrestler with one finger.

He often allowed up to 8 or 12 people attack him at once with bokken or unarmed. They got whooped.

I heard that he once walked on dainty little tea-cups on TV. Or he would draw a little chalk circle around his feet and challenge people to knock him out of it.

You have to be able to sell your art. A flower has to attract bees if it is to survive to the next generation and so on.

Frankly...no-one is going to sign up for Aikido because they want 500 hours of frustrating ikkyo practice, are they? :rolleyes:

12-02-2003, 03:57 AM
I guess doing an katatetori soto kaiten nage is the most efficient way for this technique. But how about, katatetori tenkan uchi kaiten ura. It is the most unlikely and the least realistic of all techniques, invloves 3-4 changes of direction, but it's so much fun to do and feels like dancing. It also requires so much coordination between uke and nage. Ultimately these so called advanced flashy techniques could have other "advanced" benefits than the immediate self defence purpose.

12-02-2003, 04:00 AM
A friend of mine often says that there are no "advanced" techniques -- they're just basic techniques done really, really well...
Akiyama-han... you have enlightened me...

12-02-2003, 08:42 AM
They say "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". If this is true, in my opinion aikido sells itself. I think there will always be a certain amount of "flash" due to each practitioners stylistic interpretation. But I don't think we should ever sacrifice substance for style.

The most effective way to "sell" aikido is to demonstrate a technique in "real time" first. Hopefully the beauty (or art part) will be apparent and most of the uninitiated will have that "how did he do that" look in their eye.

I would also note that throughout the history of the arts (music, martial, prose, etc), "flash" has been known to delete the essense of the discipline. It is usually the "old school", through their vigilance, who remind us not to go too far.

Kensho Furuya
12-02-2003, 09:32 AM
I don't think Aikido has reached that point (I hope not, certainly not in my lifetime!) but many martial arts today are moving towards a "performance art" style in which the object is to impress the viewing audience with "flash" and fancy moves. If you look very carefully, you will notice that they move very fast, but there is no meaning of the movements nor do they even resemble a real, viable martial arts technique. Many older generation masters are lamenting such a development in their own arts. But, in performance style tournaments, demonstrating and competing in "kata," one can draw a lot of people and make a great deal of money - it always boils to that doesn't it?

In real martial arts - we "hide" the techniques. We never, never show what we are doing. Even O'Sensei said this very often: "I never show my technique, it is hidden - you have to steal it from me!"

We execute the technique but conceal it at the same time. Making the movements so obvious and showing off what one can do is simply exposing all your weapons to your opponent - what kind of strategy is that? What kind of martial art is that??? Today, I think, martial arts is moving away from a path of self-enlightenment or discovery of the true meaning of martial arts, but merely a venue to superficially satisfy an inner need to express ourselves or show off. It is in this way, that martial arts is dying. . . . . or, at least, evolving into something which is no longer a martial art. . . . Maybe as a way to express one self is ok, we all need this - but we must not confuse this with martial arts training. I apologize for being so critical about this point, but it is a matter of great concern to me and very close to my heart. Many thanks!

12-02-2003, 10:59 AM
You have to be able to sell your art. A flower has to attract bees if it is to survive to the next generation and so on.

Frankly...no-one is going to sign up for Aikido because they want 500 hours of frustrating ikkyo practice, are they? :rolleyes:
I must come from a different school of thought to you Mark. Aikido is not for the masses. People want great results instantly, and that doesn't occur. In my dojo I'd rather have 4 really good students, than 100 students who are just trying to look good. Who cares if aikido doesn't attract people? not me - as long as there are enough to train with, I'm happy.

Yep, it is compassionate to make people aware of aikido, however the majority of people are not interested in 'harmony' from martial arts, they are interested in power. Differentiating those who will give up when they realise aikido requires hard training, from those who will stick at it is important. Flashy stuff does not help!


12-02-2003, 11:04 AM
P.S. for beginners our training revolves around techniques, for intermediates it revolves around doing technique without thought, for more advanced, it involves integrating techniques such that there is no longer any technique.

This may sound like zen rubbish, like it did initially to me, but there is no other way to explain it.

12-02-2003, 12:49 PM
A few artistic ramblings on "Flash." (I must admit that when I first saw the thread subject, I thought "breaking news!")

Consider music. For many, many years music was spiritual, was for ritual, was for expression of life (celebrations, sorrows, etc.), was for war. Everyone could make music in some way. Everyone could sing/chant/drone. But no flash. How many composers or performers can you name from before the year 1000? No flash. But things changed about 500 years ago, and got flashy. Bach. Vivaldi. Mozart. Handel. ... to MTV.

Now almost all music is flash. And the folks walking around with iPods stuck in their ears, and great sound systems at home, can hardly make their own music anymore. After 500 years of "flash," music is the realm of exotic professionals (and not-taken-seriously children), and most of us are just consumers who are entertained. We are attracted, but we are not participants, we are not practicing and training. We are simply attracted to consume.

What happend to the spirit of music; what happened to music as an expression of life, of my life? How many of us can still sing our life accompanied by nothing more than a drone, a drum, or a string or two? How many can sing life and the universe? How many of us can sing to each other, to comfort, to encourage, to educate, to form character? What is the martial arts equivalent of karaoke? Are we there yet?

Similar things happened with other arts. We live in a world which is dominated by commerce, a world which cultivates consumers. It is no surprise that "flash" and "market demands" will have a great influence on martial arts.

12-02-2003, 02:05 PM
Now almost all music is flash. And the folks walking around with iPods stuck in their ears, and great sound systems at home, can hardly make their own music anymore.

I think you exagerate. Now almost all music is flash. is an opinion. One you are entitled to, but one I don't share. As for making music, inner-city kids have no problem do so with minimal/no equipment (Rap).
What is the martial arts equivalent of karaoke?
I am uncomfortable with comparisions between martial arts and music. Music, has a set start and finish...and is made cooperatively. Physical confrontations with set finishes are called "works". Works no more reflect reality than "Star Wars" accurately depicts history.

What is "flash"? I submit it is technique that is either unlikely or unable to be performed against a non-compliant attacker. If that definition is true, how can you determine "flash" without resistance?



12-02-2003, 02:11 PM
Frank - outstanding points! Ian - I also agree with you that aikido is not for everyone.

One thought though Frank. Are you saying that music is no longer "spiritual, for ritual, or expressions of life..."? Many may disagree but that is the essense of hip-hop and grundge. Look at all the boxers who enter the ring to rap or other athletes who utilize music. It gets them "hyped". We may debate regarding musicianship but I believe that music still evokes. National Anthems often stir the emotions of audiences. I also wouldn't call most jazz or gospel "flashy" or commercial, although of course there is a market for it. Jazz and gospel are just as spiritual as say Tibetan chanting. This seems more a matter of culture.

I love your expression "singing the essence of life" (I think I'll steal it :-). It reminds me of the sounds that babies make. Full of emotion not patterned (or polluted) speech without "realness", which is how we began this topic. So maybe it is OK or even necessary to be commericial or flashy in aikido as long as we hold on to the essence?


12-02-2003, 02:12 PM
I guess that flash, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. I know a very competent aikidoka, who adds flourish to everything he does on the mat. Quite frankly I think it looks ridiculous, but it doesn't diminish his ability. He is good, but this is extraneous movement that just seem to embellish rather than add anything. This is one of my ideas of what "flash" is. Another one that I think of is someone who is a high-flyer in ukemi. Loves to take the high falls, but takes them all the time when it isn't necessary. It is almost for the drama and the oooh factor that this person gets. This persons aikido is still very muscular and full of upper body strength. Many people (usually newer students) want to be just like this person. This to me is flash as well.

What do other people think of as flash?

12-02-2003, 02:15 PM
Frankly...no-one is going to sign up for Aikido because they want 500 hours of frustrating ikkyo practice, are they? :rolleyes:
Another honest soul. That makes two in one week. :)

Lyle Bogin
12-02-2003, 02:19 PM
"Flash" captures the mind, stimulates emotion, and serves as a gateway for many people to dig deeper into the arts and eventually see with better eyes.

I wouldn't be so hard on martial artists because they have learned to please the eye of an audience.

At the very least they have stimulated interest in the otherwise uninterested.

To critize performance martial arts is to admit ignorance as to its deeper meaning and relevance to the larger scheme.

12-02-2003, 02:33 PM
To critize performance martial arts is to admit ignorance as to its deeper meaning and relevance to the larger scheme.

please explain

12-02-2003, 02:40 PM
"Another one that I think of is someone who is a high-flyer in ukemi. Loves to take the high falls, but takes them all the time when it isn't necessary."

Good one Rachel. It reminds me of the football player who after he scores a TD celebrates for 10 minutes (and his team is still down by 20!). Now I get some much pleasure when I see a football player just place the ball on the ground. It is so understated that to me a football fan it is artful.

"To critize performance martial arts is to admit ignorance as to its deeper meaning and relevance to the larger scheme."

Rachel - not a criticism but "performance martial arts" seems almost like an oxymoron. Can you explain what is "performance martial arts"?


12-02-2003, 02:43 PM
Excuse me- Lyle not Rachel referring to 2nd quote above.

12-02-2003, 03:05 PM
Dear Asim Hanif,

You asked, "Are you saying that music is no longer "spiritual, for ritual, or expressions of life..."?

No. This is the essential life of music (or other arts), and the examples you mentioned are wonderful. They should be part of our ordinary, everyday life, our joys and sorrows, our grandparents and grandchildren, our loves and wars. This aspect of the arts, whether martial or musical, will always be there. It is essential. But it is also different from the flashy, market-driven aspects of the arts.

If Paul Watt would forgive me, I'll take my musical thoughts a little further. Back in the 1980's I became familiar with monastic chant. It was interesting, but I was not monastic. It was interesting music, but not part of my life. Now monastic chant (of various religions) actually sells pretty well, and there are a number of professional groups performing the music. But they are not monastic, either.

In the late 1990's, I actually became much more involved with monasticism, and became part of a definite, living monastic community. I began to chant, not as performance, but as part of a monastic life. Chant became an integral, important, artistic, beautiful part of an entire way of life. It was not just nice music purchased on a CD; nor was it part of an advertisement or film. It was part of life. Very un-flashy, and very real.

To move to an example perhaps closer to martial arts, consider yoga for a moment. Yoga is now getting very popular and flashy. Even the moose in "Brother Bear" does yoga! But is it yoga, really? So many books on yoga. But a yogi recently asked about American yoga--how can you do yoga without a sangha?

The risk of the "flash" is that it can separate the art from the life. But the art of life continues anyway. So don't worry too much. As Dogen said, "The joyfully seeking mind is primary." Seek the reality, and the art will come. And enjoy the "Flash!" Ha!

12-02-2003, 03:30 PM
I truly believe that "flash" is an important part of anything. Its what excited the imagination and draws individuals in to almost any activity. Yes, its easy to be a purest and say "We shouldn't have to show flash to get people interested" but what about youngsters? What about exciting the imagination. Isn't that a problem with a lot of education is the lack of flash to get youngsters excited?

Once someone is in the art for any length of time they will come to form their own purpose for Aikido. They will go beyond the flash, or they'll strive for it. That may be wrong, but that is their reason for being there.

I have a hard time believing that most of the people on this site were not drawn to this martial art or others by seeing something spectacular from that art... I know Seagal got me interested in Aikido originally. I know now that it wasn't necessarally a good reason, however, I am still here and loving it. So thats one student that has stuck it out because of flash.

Paul Sanderson-Cimino
12-02-2003, 03:40 PM
It seems like a good idea to define just what we mean by 'flash'.

The common usage of the word implies something that is done for the sake of appearance, with no 'substance'; kind of like candy compared with real food. It's fairly pejorative; hard to say something nice to someone with 'flashy'.

This kind of 'flash' seems entirely out of place in martial arts, of course.

On the other hand, it seems that aikido masters can do all kinds of very impressive things that nonetheless are not 'flashy'. For instance, when they often condense a large basic movement into a small advanced movement. This is entertaining to watch, but 'flash' isn't quite the word for it, since it also demonstrates real skill.

Lyle Bogin
12-02-2003, 04:22 PM
Shawn S. beautifully states part of my point.

To continue, I would argue that flash is art. It may also be sport. Both art and sport are venues for unifying mind, body, and spirit. Have you ever seen an incredible live wushu performace? Or even one of those Paul Mitchell kids really give their best performace from the heart? Hundreds if not thousands of hours of time are spent by those students in persuit of their art. Their coaches dedicate themselves to mentoring and teaching. Human relationships are formed, personal growth occurs, and the reputation of martial arts in the eye of the general public gains ground.

I believe it is important for martial artists to be comfortable on all reasonable levels, martial and artistic. When it is time to perform, one should do so with grace and flash. Maintain the essential character of the martial art, yet broaden its application to that of pleasing an audience. In aikido we often hear about "capturing the mind of the agressor". When we give a good performace, we can capture minds by the thousands and lead them all.

12-02-2003, 04:39 PM
not to belabor a point, but:
To critize performance martial arts is to admit ignorance as to its deeper meaning and relevance to the larger scheme.

It is the "to admit ingnorance as to its deeper meaning" part that I want you to talk about. You make the point about it bringing people in to the art, but what do you mean about the deeper meaning and relevance.

So, I am admitting ignorance and want you to explain it as you so emphathically state.

thanks, Rachel

12-02-2003, 04:44 PM
Shawn wrote: "I have a hard time believing that most of the people on this site were not drawn to this martial art or others by seeing something spectacular from that art... I know Seagal got me interested in Aikido originally."

I believe you. However, I fell in love with and started training in aikido 17 years before Mr. Seagal made his first movie, even before Mr. Carradine brought "Kung Fu" to American television. The attraction was interior and philosophical, and also fun!, and just part of my life influenced by Japanese and Chinese cultures. Of course, I can't remember not knowing how to eat with hashi, either. Maybe I'm old generation and not good for the statistics.

kung fu hamster
12-02-2003, 05:23 PM
Seems to me that if a person's aikido technique is solid and embodies precision and relaxed integrity, then pyrotechnics are inspirational 'gravy'. From Rachel's first description it seems that both teachers' skill levels are on a par as far as ability, I believe both sorts of teachers have a lot to offer. In defense of 'flash', as long as the technique works and has precision and integrity, I think it's great. It adds to charisma, and can be a 'value added' draw to attract new students during demos, etc. Personally, when I see a person doing something beautiful and creative as if second nature, whether it be art or music or aikido (whatever), I sometimes get carried away and say to myself, "I want to look/be like that! If they give lessons maybe I can look/be like that! I'll give it a try and see..." (yeah, I'm really delusional). On the other hand, another student told me the reason he started aikido is that he watched a class and saw this nondescript little sensei flinging large men all over the mat with a flick of the wrist, and he said to himself, "I guess if this person can do that, then so can I..."

12-02-2003, 09:47 PM
Shawn I actually left the "flashy" point fighting circuit when I saw an old 35mm film of OSensei who I don't consider flashy at all.

But I suspect your point is true more often than not.

12-03-2003, 06:29 AM
If Paul Watt would forgive me, I'll take my musical thoughts a little further.

Why wouldn't I forgive you?

The word isn't the thing , and the description is never the described .

You can use music as a metaphor for martial arts in general or aikido in particular. I believe (my opinion) that such a metaphor is inherently flawed because of the fundamental differences between music and any martial art/martial style/martial sport.

Further, I feel (again, my opinion) that using music as a metaphor for aikido will lead to "flash" --- techniques that are unlikely or unable to be performed against an uncooperative opponent. Hence my discomfort with any music/martial metaphor.

I prefer basic techniques --- techniques that have proven themselves over time to work against uncooperative opponents. To me, effectiveness is beautiful by definition.

When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.

------ Buckminister Fuller



12-03-2003, 07:44 AM
Isn't 2 minutes of jiyuwaza against 2 or 3 willing and pliant uke for a demonstration 'flash'?

12-03-2003, 07:57 AM
Isn't 2 minutes of jiyuwaza against 2 or 3 willing and pliant uke for a demonstration 'flash'?

Not necessarily! I've seen jiyuwaza against 5 people performed in such a calm and non-flashy manner. Very understated, the entire thing was practically silent and very little extraneous movement. No flash from nage, and ukes just going where they needed to so as not to get hurt.

12-03-2003, 09:05 AM
IMHO, "flash" Aikido is a good way to gain attention and young students. So it has its place. But is one of the reason Aikido gets criticized a lot, not being realistic.

"Subtle" Aikido is the way once you advance and is the way to keep students.

When I watch the "flash" in kata competition on television, it is very hard for me to see the martial application. The theatrical is obvious. I personally am glad I left that crowd before the priorities shifted.

Michael Brown
12-03-2003, 11:20 AM
Wow, everyone, some good stuff. Linda and Ian wrote eloquently on this subject. But, let's not get too hung up on the term 'flash'. I suppose that a technique done for someone who does not have a trained eye in any martial art may at first appear to be flashy, but the same technique to one who has often observed or practiced it would see it as "normal." A better term here might be "basic," instead of normal. Is this simply a situation of point-of-view? Like Linda wrote, doing anything creatively as second-nature is going to appear inspiring or eye-catching. It is like whenever you complement someone in what they do when you say, "you made it look so easy (or 'effortlessly')."

take care everyone,


Michael Young
12-03-2003, 02:02 PM
Hi, I'd like to weigh in with an opinion/observation on this.

IMO one who practices sincerely and without a mind toward flash will definitely advance in his/her practice much faster than one who concentrates and puts energy into "flashy" movements...movements for the sake of visual effect rather than effectiveness and improvement. This doesn't mean the first person can't or won't be able to do "flashy movements" and in fact will be able to as he/she advances if the need arises. A person who practices with nothing but a mind for "flashiness"; however, will have a much more difficult time when faced with a situation that calls for real "effectiveness" or "substance": their movements will tend to be filled with tension, muscle, and a lack of connectivity with their partner. I know that opinion seems a little black and white, and we are human beings that have a lot of grey area...who is to say that someone who trains "flashy" won't eventually begin to train with more of a mind toward more subtle and substantive movement. I think I'm a good example of this...I too was initially attracted to Aikido through Steven Seagal movies...used to spend all my energy toward taking those "flashy high falls", and making my partner do the same. Much to my astonishment (and happiness) someone senior to me showed me a lot of the places my Aikido was lacking and set me on a different path. So, nothing inherently "wrong" with flashy, but I just don't think that is a good place to put your efforts...flashy will easily come if you have a strong grounding in basic Aikido, but not the other way around. Again, just my experience and opinion...any thoughts?

BTW, great thread!


Kensho Furuya
12-03-2003, 02:13 PM
I think you are very lucky you had a good senior to set you straight. I believe you will do very well in Aikido, if you maintain that attitude.

In Japanese classical dance, there is an old custom followed during performances. Younger dancers may use various elaborate costumes and props to enhance and give interest to their performance but the master always, by custom, does what is called, "su-odori" or "simple (unadorned) dance," wearing only the simplest, austere formal kimono, usually black, and the simplest traditional hairdo, their only prop is the traditional fan. In this way, nothing can conceal any weak point in their performance and they must rely purely on the perfection of their technique and skill.

In Aikido, great masters execute basic techniques, but to us, they may seem so wonderful. This is not "flash," this is mastery - two different concepts completely. Good luck in your training.

kung fu hamster
12-03-2003, 02:50 PM
Come to think of it, I guess a person would feel kind of insulted if someone watched them do aikido and commented, "Hmmm...very flashy!" as opposed to, "What artistry! How dynamic! What flair!"


Michael Young
12-03-2003, 03:43 PM
Thank you for your kind comments and encouragement Sensei Furuya. The senior student I spoke of is actually now my Sensei. The history of the Japanese dance was very interesting. I think its wonderful that you take the time out of your schedule to participate in this forum and share your experience...truly appreciated.

Linda...love the username "Kung Fu Hamster"

gives a very funny visual...any story behind it?


kung fu hamster
12-03-2003, 04:03 PM
Hi Mike,

go to Walgreens and ask to see a Kung Fu Hamster. Press the hand and stand back - talk about 'flashy'...!


Lyle Bogin
12-03-2003, 05:13 PM
Tanizaki's "In Praise of Shadows" speaks well to the value of subtlety in traditional/classical Japanese culture.

I think that the value of flash is basic to American culture.

Many Americans practicing Japanese martial arts walk the line in their sensibilities.

I love a nice zen rock garden, but don't take away my Terminator movies!

Lyle Bogin
12-03-2003, 05:13 PM
Oh, and I have a Kung Fu Hamster too. It sit on the same shelf as Zen and Aikido ;).

Michael Young
12-03-2003, 05:57 PM
Adios ya'll, I'm off to Walgreens!


12-03-2003, 09:04 PM
Did anybody watch Extreme Martial Arts on the Discovery Channel? Did you see the guy with the katana that took 1st in the weapon competition? Now that's what I call flash :D


12-03-2003, 09:57 PM
As Furuya Sensei said, flashiness is a sign of youth.

Just look at the young instructors in aikido for instance, they have large and wide movements, generating a lot of power and forcing their uke to take spectacular ukemi. The older they get, their movements become smaller and their foot work almost imperceptible. One hardly can see what they are doing.

As Tamura Shihan put it so nicely: The best aikido is the one which uses the least possible movement.

I would say it is a natural process. I would enjoy large spectacular aikido while I can (as long as my age allows, I am 35 now), free to adapt my technique gradually as I get older to a more concise, economical and efficiency oriented aikido.

Kensho Furuya
12-03-2003, 10:28 PM
Sorry, I didn't say that or, at least, I didn't mean that. I am only making a distinction in modern performance-oriented martial arts of today which emphasizes "flashy" movements for dramamtic, visual effect for the entertaiment value of the viewer and in modern competition and which de-emphasizes its martial value as a defensive or offensive martial technique. In Aikido, we may try to be "flashy", I suppose, but, at the very least, the technique has to work well or it is of really no value. . . . . In competitive performance martial arts popular today, it doesn't make a difference if the technique works or not, as long as it looks good and the judge gives you points for "dramatic" effect.

I hope I am making myself clear here. . . . . this kind of "flash" has no relationship to impressive mastery or perfection of the art.

I was very amused when I heard one instructor cleverly call this kind of flash in Aikido - "Kabuki Aikido!"

12-03-2003, 10:43 PM
In my own simple understanding, flashy means spectacular, and it doesn't convey any sense of being inefficient or theatrical. I consider flashy as being the opposite of under-stated. Both are very efficient and powerful. To give you an example, just look at the aikikai hombu, the younger instructors (without namimg them) up to 7th dan have a flashy (read spectacular) technique, which can be even scary sometimes because of the sheer power used, while the older instructors are more under-stated, and even soft. The interesting thing is that these older instructors have been in their younger days the terror itself. They just mellowed-down.

Kensho Furuya
12-03-2003, 10:57 PM
I wasn't really trying to speak in general terms but addressing the original question of "flash" in terms of the recent Discovery program called "Extreme Martial Arts" in which they showed people competing in modern kata competition in which dramatic, visual effect was more important than usage.

L. Camejo
12-04-2003, 08:07 AM
I can understand Furuya-san's comments. I once trained in qigong directly under a former coach of the Beijing Wushu Team and asked a similar question regarding the realism of these demonstrations.

The idea is to make things appear beautiful and somewhat real and fast-paced, i.e. visually stunning, but every minute detail and movement is choreographed down to the wire. Any deviation/improv by one of the performers leads to chaos and often injury. In the case of these types of demonstrations there is not much martial except for the basic form, but a lot of choreography, which if attempted against someone training for effectiveness could end in disaster as the applications of technique is often not trained. These folks tend to be excellent at visual form, but the dynamics of movement learned through full sparring are often neglected.

It happens in Aikido as well if all you're exposed to is choreographed responses to predetermined attack.

To me, flash means excessive movements added for the sole effect of enterntainment. An example of flash to me is dropping your uke on his back with kotegaeshi and then doing a forward flip landing a heel kick on his face while he is on the ground, then doing a back roll to stand back up (I've seen this, not in Aikido though :)).

I see a lot of it here with folks who practice styles with a lot of gymnastic (power rangers) type movements that can be seen a mile away by any half drunk opponent, but is very pleasing to the crowd. It belongs to the realm of folks who teach MA to make money off of people who wanna look good or who don't know better. These schools are often extremely popular as well.

Is there any place for it in Aikido? I think Aikido's beauty and flash (if any) lies in the perfection of execution. I think Aikido actually looks better the less movement you use. If we take Aikido's old heritage, Aizu Clan Bushi probably knew flash equalled death, not to mention Ueshiba M. as well.

Just my thoughts. I reserve the right to be wrong :).


Kensho Furuya
12-04-2003, 08:49 AM
Yes, thank you. This is what I was trying to convey. I hate to make comments on or comparisons with other martial arts but I know that many Kung fu sifus are lamenting the popularity of wushu which emphasizes the acrobatics and flash of the martial arts movement casuing the usage or application of the technique to be greatly de-emphasized.

Recently, in Japan, the new Taiji form was introduced, as reported by a friend and Taiji instructor in Tokyo, by masters from China and many of the instructors were just shaking their heads. Apparently, this form will be introduced as the new competitve form for Taiji in the Olympics to be held in China. The comment was that there was so many somersaults and acrobatics involved and one can only do this form if one starts gymnastics training as a young child. Many of the teachers of older styles of Taiji, such as Chen Family Taiji lament that much of the application of Taiji techniques has been lost over the years with over-emphasis on the form (kata) of Taiji.

One can imagine that Aikido can possibly become more "form" oriented as attacks and responses, as mentioned in the above essay, become more "formalized," mechanical, and choreographed.

Already, I see a trend in many dojos where the attack never reaches the target (partner) nor does it contain enough impact force to be considered a real attack. Of course, there is always an important consideration of safety in our Aikido practice but, this is not an adequate reason to lose the virtue and integrity of the attack in practice. The execution of Aikido technique differs vastly when the attack is limp with no effort to make contact and an attack with above-moderate force aimed to reach the target with real power. If one increases this to a degree of practice, where the partner attacks with full force with the intention to make contact with impact, the technique is vastly different again. . . . . .

I think that we, as responsible Aikidoists, must always keep in mind that the integrity of the technique is dependent on the virtue of the attack. I am not saying that we must create an environment of dog-fighting, but in the most reasonable way, be ever conscious to make a good attack in our daily practice and maintain Aikido technique at its highest level of effectiveness and efficiency.

If we crystalize the form of practice or sink too far into a "dead" or unimaginative routine of training, we are in danger of compromising Aikido greatly, I believe.

I already see Aiki sword training becoming too routine and almost too "form" driven. Many do not make proper cuts or even hold the sword properly, nor do we practice against a "live" technique or attack. In such an atmosphere of "live" practice, how much our senses, awareness and mental focus are brought to the highest level of function. In this, I see such great "beauty," not flash, in the expression of the unity of power and focus in a living art - as I understand it. . . . . .

12-04-2003, 10:41 AM
Kensho Furuya, I would really like to train with you someday!

12-04-2003, 12:53 PM
Wow- I had no idea this concept of “flash” would spark so much light!

LC I agree with your statement. I would also add “high risk”. This is just my thinking. This morning I thought of something that I have often said to my wife - "Michael Jordan is one of the greatest martial artists of this time." First let me say that although I like Jordan I am not a big Jordan fan (I live and die with my Knicks so need I say more:-)

But after watching him mature as a player, coming back each season with an improved mental focus, working on his body, his technique, etc in my eye he elevated his game to a level of "art". He went from just flashy to highly effective AND flashy when necessary. Sort of like someone above spoke of "less is more". Where does the martial come in? We have spoken about flash and it's pros and cons. One thing I have witnessed with Jordan is his ability to demoralize not just a player, not just a team, but an arena, with his "flash". His flash surely at times came from spontaneous or Divine inspiration (takemusu aiki?) but at other times it was simply to mentally defeat his opponents. Also, from an Aiki perspective, he often made his team mates and opponents better by having them raise their level of play. Thoughts?

Kensho Furuya
12-04-2003, 01:31 PM
I think this is my last imput here, I don't want to spend so much time on "flash." I think it is too inherent in our popular culture today that, as I have mentioned often, we are losing our sense of what is a martial art.

I think (at least in my case), a professional basketball player makes far more money than a professional Aikido instructor. Why? Because he is paid to win the game and, at the same time, perform before the general public who will pay a lot of good money for tickets to see an exciting competition. What makes sports so exciting is that is it is also made to be entertaining and visually exciting to the spectator.

We don't know when we have to use our martial arts in a real situation, it can happen at any second and we have to be preapared and aware every moment of our lives - this is a part of our training. When our lives are in danger and it is absolutely necessary to use our skills, we have no time to call our manager, sign a contract, rent a hall, sell tickets so that, if we win or lose, we still make money. If we are concerned about what is a real martial art, we have to bring ourselves to the question of life and death - indeed, our own life and death and this, I think, is an extremely personal and private matter. No one can decide or solve this but your own self to your own self.

When we really have to use our martial arts, it will happen when there is no one around to help us or cheer for us, we will, most likely, be all by ourselves against our opponent or opponents. I certainly won't show him my weapons until the last moment when it is too late for him. Aikido is a dynamic life art and something which must be very personal and private because it involves our minds, bodies, emotions and our inner spirit and takes us to the brink of our own lives and final moments - not really something for display or show nor can it be sold for commercial merit.

Perhaps, eventually, Aikido will evolve into a performance art or sport because this is the only way most martial arts can make money, develop interest and survive in our society and culture today. I will not be around for this.

If Aikido is a true martial art, - a real martial, it will always remain as a highly evolved, sophisticated physical and spiritual discipline and as such, will always be something very personal and private to each of its practitioners, I believe. A martial art which addresses the matter of our own lives (and deaths) and our spiritual enlightenment (or salvation) can never, I hope, ever be downgraded or compromised into a form of entertainment. . . . . .

Kensho Furuya
12-04-2003, 08:11 PM
Daniel: Many thanks for your kind thoughts. You are welcome train or visit me at my dojo anytime! Everyone is always welcome, we have a very nice place here to train.

12-05-2003, 10:25 AM
being Flash is posing. You can look good without it. For me the most impressive thing in Aikido is someone who, no matter hard or fast an attack can perform their techniques with all the time in the world. Pure elegance and efficiency is so much more impressive than flamboyance

Joe Jutsu
12-05-2003, 11:28 AM
On a side note-

That XMA show was absolute crap, and the suckiness is unfortunately still burned into my retina, though admittedly it was sort of neat when they showed that a decent kick generates around 2,000 lbs. of force. It seemed that it was just an elobrate, two hour excuse to hype Mr. Cruise's new movie. It had sort of a Backstreet Boys plus gymnastics plus taekwondo feel to it.

I wish that they would just call this stuff gymnastics. Its cool for what it is worth, and I'd rather watch it than traditional gymnastics for that matter. But it gives the average Joe a very distorted view of MA's, i.e. if I get a black belt I'll be able to do spinning backflip kicks, killing three ninja's at once. It's just sort of unfortunate, that's all. And the "weapons kata's," are little more than baton routines, again cool to look at, but not MA's.


12-05-2003, 12:04 PM
I think the Rev. makes some very good points, especially the monetary aspect:-)

When comparing and contrasting various aspects of sports and martial I also agree we have to be very careful because ultimately, as the Rev said, in a life or death situation there is no one to call "time out". But in my involvement with both sports and martial arts I have known athletes who train with the mind set of a martial artist. Of course the reverse can be said of martial artists training like sports competitors.

Ultimately though, we come back once again to each individual’s perception of "flash" in the basketball analogy. Although spectators pay money and expect to be entertained there are many "purists" in basketball who deplore seeing (for ex.) a player putting the ball behind his back and through his legs, considering that high risk or unnecessary. Of course there are times when those techniques may be necessary and can be seen as "flashy", effective, and artistic. For them the game should be played a certain way and this "new school" style doesn't sit well. Sounds familiar?

I think this is a very interesting topic no matter what side of the aisle you may stand. It certainly has given me some food for thought and reminds me not to be so critical when I see something I may not understand or agree with.

But Joe – IMO, cutting to the chase – I think you are right.

12-05-2003, 12:50 PM
Asim, you've made a number of points I was going to make. Thanks for saving me the time. :)

Also, in the context of basketball I think whomever took the first jump shot could make for an interesting discussion. I can just see that guy's coach jumping off the bench and cussing the guy out no end. "God dammit Fred, set shots, quit showing off!" Or, Cousy throwing behind the back passes was probably a sign of the end of the world to many. Innovation is often seen as flashiness but sometimes it's the flashiness which inspires someone to innovate.

I don't have time to comment on money or the budo aspect but I think I'm in line with your comments as well.

12-05-2003, 01:26 PM
Erick LOL!

12-05-2003, 01:45 PM

I'm going to print out this thread. Amazing content. Lots to ponder.

Maybe because real-life threats are getting scarce nowadays, MA practitioners are finding different uses for it? Like the XMA show?

The watering down of MA always happen after several generations of peace. But I agree that the samurai of old didn't create these arts because they have nothing to do. They're survival skills created to protect life during war, and to hone the spirit during peacetime.

Reading this thread, I think I'll heed Furuya sensei's call to maintain Aikido's integrity, at least around me.