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View Full Version : I'm tired of questioning my Aikido.


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drDalek
09-13-2004, 08:11 AM
I have been doing Aikido for about 2.5 or so years, give or take a month here or there. In this time I have gone through a few stages that I believe are quite common.

At first I was a zealous newbie, ready to believe the hype surrounding Aikido, how it makes you an unstoppable ass-kicking machine and all of that silly Seagal-action-movie type stuff.

Then I became a doubting beginner, constantly asking myself if this would work against this, or if this would work against that. I was obsessed with Aikido for a while, it constantly occupied my mind and I was learning alot about the hidden ideas and philosophies behind all this peace-love-harmony stuff. I also worked very hard to become technically as proficient as I could by specifically focusing on breathing / posture / blending / not using force each lesson.

These days, I am tired of being the doubting regular, I know that my newbie zealotry was immature and a sign of ignorance about the art and I dont need or feel like going back to that. I just want to stop constantly doubting myself. Sure I felt like I was accomplishing a lot by pushing myself to overcome these insecurities but I dont know if I actually did overcome them, I still have a lot of work to do but Aikido cannot occupy such a large slice of my life anymore.

I also feel that following the what-if road (what if its in a bar, what if he is armed with a knife, what if he kicks this way or punches that way) is a way to either burn-out in Aikido or get yourself hurt trying to prove something. I am not a martial arts superhero yet, and I would probably die long before I reach the kind of mastery I am striving towards, but if I quit I wont have anything to do after work, I will lose my dojo social circle, I will go flabby and out of breath again.

Is this another phase I am entering in my training? Have any of the old-timers here gone through this or are the current group of high-ranked yudansha still on the doubting-beginner mindset?

happysod
09-13-2004, 08:48 AM
My answer would depend on what day, season, feeling from my last training session etc... I think you should only stop asking yourself questions about anything that you do when you're dead, otherwise you're not participating, you're just turning up. Also, anything done to excess is boring, so always be prepared to give yourself (and others) a break from the dojo. Finally, all others' advice is always complete bollocks unless it agrees with what you want to do, so choose wisely, be prepared to choose wrong and stop giving advice when you start down the "kung fu teaching" route

Stopping now...

SeiserL
09-13-2004, 08:48 AM
Like a Zen koan, to find the answer you have to drop the question.

IMHO, that internal intellectual obessing and questioning will take the fun out of anything and everything.

Now is the time to train.

billybob
09-13-2004, 08:55 AM
same reason i started judo at age 13 - self defense. HAHAHAHAHAHH

i cause my own problems. my second night i asked the assistant sensei (a
man studying at the seminary to be a priest) what i should do in a fight.
he replied - run, or hide. those are a good start.

i asked the sensei in the following weeks ( a woman in her 60's with arthritis
from a car wreck) about fighting - she said. please bow to me, stand in line,
and do what you are told. imagine my rancor!!! but her smile held such warmth
that i continued training.

when i stopped fighting myself - i found power! when i stopped being a jerk
(well some day) i no longer needed to fight.

train - you don't know what you don't know. and it's ok. have fun.

i love aikido.

billybob

Chuck.Gordon
09-13-2004, 09:26 AM
The ONLY question that needs answering is: Are you enjoying training?

If the answer's no, then go somewhere else.

If it's yes, then don't worry about all the rest, just train joyfully and let the rest go.

Chuck

Amassus
09-13-2004, 07:15 PM
I have been training for just under two years and so I guess I'm at about the same place as you, Wynand.
Now and then I wonder if all this stuff really works, then other times, like the weekend just gone I discover to my utter amazement that it does. My belief in aikido was enforced when I was playing around with my brother who studies a fairly traditional system of Jujutsu. I discovered that my training has allowed me to feel comfortable with whatever is thrown at me. I don't always succeed at neutralising the attack, but I have peice of mind, contentment during conflict. I'm proud of that and I know the training has put me there.
I'll probably go back to doubting again sometime, but unitl then I'm just going to enjoy the atmosphere of the dojo and train some more.
Who has that great sig around here? - something about you try to rise to your expectations but fall to the level of your training?. Its a good thought.

:)

Mel Barker
09-13-2004, 07:16 PM
Humm, I like Chuck's advice. I'd only change it slightly. If you haven't enjoyed training for over a year, then it's time to move one. Try to find "Learning to Love the Plateau" by George Leonard. Very helpful in the middle years (sankyu to sandan).

Mel

maikerus
09-15-2004, 04:08 AM
I'd say you're worrying about it too much.

Chuck's right...enjoy it and stay or find something more interesting ( I can't think of anything off-hand, but there may be something out there).

I went through similar doubts and thoughts and what-if's. I think that everyone has.

What I decided after talking to other people and instructors was that Aikido as a set of techniques could not handle everything that might be thrown at you in a self-defence situation because there was no way that you could train for every possible attack with everything from bare hands to a truck chasing you.

I took that as a given and then looked at what I was able to do with my training and what that training gave me. Some examples:

1. I can fall down a lot better now (and get back up!).
2. My reflexes are faster and more coordinated
3. My body moves together when I try to apply power in any particular direction (like pushing a car out of a ditch. or throwing a frisbee. or even when nailing someone in yonkajo.)
4. I am more aware of how people move around me and what their intent might be
5. I react in a clear focused way without getting freaked out by the unexpected
6. etc...

So, I found lots of stuff that it did for me and I believe that if I was in a "self-defence" situation I could react to whatever came my way. Might win. Might not. But my chances are much better than they were before. But the important point is that after looking at all the things that my training has done for me the self-defence aspect stopped being a primary concern. In fact, it became a by-product or a single point of a larger whole. However you think about it, it is a personal decision, but this worked for me.

An interesting side-note...when I was doing my senshusei course at the Yoshinkan hombu dojo we asked Chida Sensei if he had ever used Aikido in real life. He answered "yes".

Well, as you can expect we were really curious. "What happened, what happened?"

He told us that every time he needs to move quickly through a crowd (as in a crowded train/subway/metro station) he lightly touches people on the back or the shoulder or the side so that they will move a little in whatever way he wants them to go. This is in contrast to shoving through a crowd by pushing people strongly to one side or the other. All that happens then is that they push back, or glare at you or knock over some little old lady standing next to them.

A "light touch" vs a "strong push". It's interesting and very Aikido-ish that the light touch accomplishes more.

If truth be told, I think that this is a really, really, really *practical* technique. I use it almost every day, and it certainly works for me in the crowded Tokyo subway/train system.

Just a few thoughts...

--Michael

kocakb
09-15-2004, 04:59 AM
I'm also questioning "my" Aikido...sometimes I don't know how useful-effective it is etc...but I know very good what people can do if they really do aikido.
When I am doing a technique, I know it is not fluently enough - there is something missing.
When I am watching my sensei doing a technique, I just feel filled with admiration and wish to be as fluently as him. My sensei is a 3.th Dan...I am a 3th Kyu - this shows me how long the path is. What's more, I can not imagine how a 7.th-8.th Dan would be, unfortunately never met one personally. My recommendation, just train...let's train.

Olga Mihailova
09-15-2004, 05:03 AM
Probably because I am a woman and a peaceful person and my last fighting experience was some fifteen years ago with my brother I never even considered Aikido to be a way of self-defence. This has never been a problem at all - the best way to defend myself is not to get in this sort of situations. Or to run - if you were not so lucky. And you know Aikido works in this way - I have developed some awareness of what happens around, I have a better reaction, I feel other person's mood and intentions better than I used to, and I breathe better and run faster.

As to the doubts - I don't worry about things I don't understand and can't do. I used to but then I calmed down somehow. It is okay as it is. As one of my fellow aikidoka says: "Yes, I am a fool - I don't feel the movement. So what?" :) And then trying to amke a technique once I said to my sensei "I don't understand this kokyu". He smiled "Neither do I".

Good luck to you!

ian
09-15-2004, 07:16 AM
No what-ifs - they're rubbish and unrealistic. Effective self-defence is usually about getting a few techniques which you practise reaptedly until they are second nature. Don't worry about burn out - do aikido at the pace you feel comfortable with - there is no end goal. Just by practising you are improving your reactions and internalising the techniques. Everyone has plateaus, but it is these plateaus where we actually learn the most.

Maybe even look at other martial arts? I think aikido is sometimes understood better when you see it in relation to other martial arts. Trust your brain and do what is right for you.

Maybe you've reached the stage where you realise aikido does not have an end point.

Amassus
09-15-2004, 06:46 PM
Maybe you've reached the stage where you realise aikido does not have an end point.


What? No end point? Nooo!
;)

Dissipate
09-18-2004, 01:41 AM
Wynand van Dyk: I suggest you find someone who is a blackbelt in Muay Thai, who is big and strong, tell them to attack you with full force. If you can take them down, then you have no need to doubt. If you cannot, just train some more. Some of you may flame me for suggesting this, but I think this is really what he needs to do to get rid of his qualms about defending against "this attack" or "that attack."

xuzen
09-18-2004, 02:20 AM
1. I can fall down a lot better now (and get back up!).
2. My reflexes are faster and more coordinated
3. My body moves together when I try to apply power in any particular direction (like pushing a car out of a ditch. or throwing a frisbee. or even when nailing someone in yonkajo.)
4. I am more aware of how people move around me and what their intent might be
5. I react in a clear focused way without getting freaked out by the unexpected
6. etc...
--Michael

Exactly. This is also how I feel aikido has benefited me. Item No. 1 is an extremely important self defense application. If I am ever to slip on a banana peel, I sure damm hope my ukemi learnt from the thousands of hours practice is gonna save my butt, literally!

Wynand van Dyk: I suggest you find someone who is a blackbelt in Muay Thai, who is big and strong, tell them to attack you with full force. If you can take them down, then you have no need to doubt. If you cannot, just train some more.

Even you are able to beat this Muay Thai practitioner, then he probably will say at the moment of defeat, we was urging to go to the loo and therefore lost his concentration. There is no end to these discussion. Be at peace.

Boon.

adwelly
09-18-2004, 03:39 AM
Try to find "Learning to Love the Plateau" by George Leonard. Very helpful in the middle years (sankyu to sandan).
Mel

You can find the piece in an expanded form in _Mastery_ by George Leonard. Published by Plume. Amazon details here (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0452267560/qid=1095496458/sr=ka-1/ref=pd_ka_1/104-1093887-2939130)
. It is very helpful (it's on my bedisde table as a matter of fact).

JessePasley
09-18-2004, 03:39 AM
Wynand,
I've actually felt this way at a couple points in my training. The root cause of this feeling was that I was failing to take responsibility for my own training. It seems that many people in traditional martial arts seem to use their teachers as crutches. Don't be this person; it's lazy and it's disrespectful to your teacher. But...since you are having doubts, that's a good sign. Now take action. Work with your instructor and perhaps develop new ways of training. Perhaps train on the side a different martial art.

Jorx
09-20-2004, 01:57 AM
Well here's how I solved my doubts:

I am an ikkyu with 5 years of quite active experience and 2 last years as a teacher also (first year assistant, last year full). I had all the similar doubts you had. Then I started taking BJJ & MMA and now I don't have to worry about weather my Aikido works in a fight or is SD situation a fight or not and blah blah blah. Because I KNOW that I have somewhat solid fighting skills which has proved in sparring. I don't have to QUESTION my Aikido anymore with the "what ifs"

I still do Aikido because I still like it and I teach it to people who like it because what it is not what "it could give" them.

I personally think it is completely wrong and useless training in Aikido with a goal of self defence and/or fighting in mind. It will get you nowhere within the context of Aikido nor the context of fighting ability.

Pauliina Lievonen
09-20-2004, 02:26 AM
Maybe you've reached the stage where you realise aikido does not have an end point.

What? No end point? Woohoo!!!
:D

kvaak
Pauliina

jester
09-20-2004, 09:34 AM
Then I became a doubting beginner, constantly asking myself if this would work against this, or if this would work against that. I was obsessed with Aikido for a while, it constantly occupied my mind and I was learning a lot about the hidden ideas and philosophies behind all this peace-love-harmony stuff. I also worked very hard to become technically as proficient as I could by specifically focusing on breathing / posture / blending / not using force each lesson.


If you've trained correctly, all your techniques should be subconsciously executed and automatic. Take for instance slamming on your brakes while your in your car. You most likely didn't think to yourself that:

"hey a car in front of me just hit his brakes, maybe I should do the same thing"

You just react. This is your subconscious taking over. If you would have let your conscious brain analyze things, you would have gotten in a wreck! Thinking of this scenario and that scenario is futile in the end, because if you've trained long enough, then the information and muscle memory is there.

In my opinion, all the peace-love-harmony stuff might help you avoid a fight (which is good), but if your jumped, surprised or attacked, it probably won't help you that much.