View Full Version : Different Styles of Aikido, same smiles?

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Sue Hammerich
12-05-2004, 03:38 PM
I am new to Aikido and have enjoyed perusing this website. I thank all of you who post, as it helps with my learning curve. I've read posts regarding different styles of Aikido, hybrids, how Aikido grows with different practitioners, etc. I can appreciate the early history, but what draws YOU, the individual, to a particular style? What makes, say, Shotokan different from Iwama (forgive my spelling) or from some of the others (one of which starts with a "Y" but I cannot remember what it is.
I can read websites and books, but everyone's journey is different. Clearly, there are different styles; not better, just different. The "why" I can understand, but what makes them different"?
Thanks for your time and understanding.

Janet Rosen
12-05-2004, 04:51 PM
Hi, Sue.
For me, one big difference between styles is pedagogical: how are newbies taught? Yoshinkan has a very specific syllabus of techniques through which one progresses, learning proper hand and foot placement and movement. Ki Society has ki exercises that are a specific way in which students get a handle on incorporating breathing, relaxing, centering into the techniques from the get go. Under the Aikikai umbrella, things are a lot more variable: one group, for instance, might stress proper step by step form of basics like suwariwaza shomenuchi ikkyo; another might more explicitly integrate relaxation and flow right from the start.
Each of these will appeal to some folks' learning styles and/or goals, and not to others. It's one reason, if there are options for training in a person's area, the best advice is to visit and watch a lot.

12-05-2004, 05:55 PM
Hi Sue,
I think one thing to be wary of when choosing a "home" dojo within any style is the breadth of the individual dojo's style. If you haven't heard it yet, you will - The phrase "Takemusu Aiki[do]" can mean many different things...Aikido is ever-changing, ever-evolving, reborn with each attack. WE are all unique, and each attack is unique, therefore each execution of any particular technique is also unique, etc.
I have visited dojos where they had a very set way of expressing each technique, and to depart from that was incorrect. I think this is a big mistake. It seems to happen mostly at small dojos, where the dojo-cho has been the primary instructor of most or all of the other instructors (if any). I think the students and the art are better served by dojos that bring together instructors of different backgrounds, even occasionally from different "styles". I realize that this can be difficult for a very small dojo, but they should at least be of the mind to encourage their members to seek out as many different sources of training as they can manage. They should teach with the attitude that "this is just one of an infinite variety of ways to do this technique or to respond to this attack." If you can find such a dojo, you will be in aiki-heaven.

12-05-2004, 06:30 PM
Hi Sue,

I think all the styles eventually end up at the same place. The easiest analogy being that its the same mountain, but the different styles are just different ways of getting to the top.

The difference is probably most seen in the training methods and where the emphasis is placed within that training. In addition to seeing that, you also have to ask why the emphasis is placed where it is and then decide if both that training style and that reason suit you.

To give an example from personal experience, Yoshinkan (one of those "Y" styles <grin>) emphasizes a very strict core of basic movements and basic techniques. In basic training and testing there is very little margin for differences (including placement of hands, and angles of feet) within a technique. The reason for this emphasis is that you are taught how to move your partner where you want them to be when you want to do a specific technique. In training and in testing, therefore you are focused on a particular technique and are trying to learn how to do that technique even when it might be "easier" to do something else. By doing this you are hopefully learning how to stay very balanced and focused throughout the technique and to keep control of your partner from the moment of the initial attack. That being said, there are advanced techniques and training where you keep the ideas that you learn from doing the basics, but there is more freedom in how to implement the technique and the ability to choose the technique based upon what is happening with any particular attack.

The Aikikai classes I initially watched confused me because the teacher would demonstrate a technique to practice and when you look around the room only about half of the people would be doing that technique (although they would all start from the same attack). I didn't understand this at all until I asked and someone told me (a little bit incredulously) that different attacks caused different flows because of intent, timing, balance, body type, speed, etc. and the final technique to be done was a direct result of that flow. So, even though the initial idea was to do the technique demonstrated by the instructor the final technique that came out of it was totally dependent upon what happened during the technique. The emphasis in this training is just different from what I was used to. They were all trying to feel the flow and the way of least resistance to determine which technique to finally use.

With respect to Devin, I believe that both ways of training are valid as long as neither of them gets hung up on the training method itself and ignores the actual goal of training, which is to become strong, balanced, controlled, flowing and fluid from any unique attack and able to do any particular technique.

Other styles have there own emphasis which comes out in the training method.

I hope that all made sense :-)


Nick P.
12-05-2004, 09:20 PM
This is exactly why it is so important, as a newbie, to go audit several dojos, and decide where you are drawn to: the style or affiliation matters so very little, and what really matters is how it all feels.
In fact, that should still apply as we "age", but somehow gets forgotten.

Your question of what draws people to particular styles is valid for those who are looking to start or are looking to change. Once on the path of your choosing (remembering that it is, after all, all Aikido) look around every now and again and ask yourself if it is still where you want to be, but it is the perseverance in any given style that will likely be the most important thing.

Nick P.
12-05-2004, 09:34 PM
...damn Submit button....

And remember there is an awful lot of range in each and every style, and they sometimes overlap a bit; what might be considered soft in one style might be middle-of-the-road in another. Add to that how some dojos in the SAME style have harder or softer reputations, and you can see where the broad statements about styles looses clarity.

A new member recently came to our club (NOT the same one I vented about a month or so), who is from Yoshinkan. I had heard the stories, and was a little apprehensive; turns out we give as good as we get (we're Aikikai), and we enjoy training with each other and trading pointers and noticing and trying each other's differences.

It's like a language, this Aikido: we all speak the same one, with different accents (I lived in Atlanta for 4 months, I still miss the accent). Some of us speak the same English or French that came over 400+ years ago (Newfoundland), and some have developed unique accents, but it is at it's root the same thing. A way to talk to each other.

At least that's how I prefer to see it.

12-06-2004, 12:23 AM
I like the accent metaphor!

Two of us from Ki Society spent a Christmas break at a Classical Aikido dojo, and we definitely spoke with a kind of lilt...you could look down the line of students and pick out the two bouncing heads. Some footwork differences there. But it was clearly the same language, and I had a great time.

To be honest, I chose Ki Society (properly, Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido) because the dojo was four blocks from my house. But I think it's a good match; the Ki Society dojo I've visited all share a rather intellectual, talky approach to the art that works well for me. The solo drills provide a powerful vocabulary for breaking down throws into basic elements and analyzing them, as do the ki tests and exercises. However, I suspect that a more body-memory-oriented student or someone impatient with "mystical-sounding" talk would be happier elsewhere.

If you have the opportunity, once you learn some falling and rolling it's a lot of fun to visit different dojo and sample their styles. (You can do it earlier, but it's not as much fun because there are so many things you can't do. Aikido is interesting to watch but glorious to experience.) I travel a lot for my job, and I've gotten to train in three styles, eight different dojo--every one of them a very cool experience, from the lavish dojo full of black belts in Hawaii to the nervous yellow-belt substitute-teaching his first class on loose gym mats in a Cape Cod community center. It's kind of like knowing Esperanto--you can find someone to talk to wherever you go.

Mary Kaye

12-06-2004, 08:46 AM
IMHO, the difference is best account for in the personality, emphasis of what belived important, and when the originator actuall trained with O'Sensei. Ultimately, there is only one aikido.

12-06-2004, 09:17 AM
When I was a kid I didn't even know there were different styles of Aikido. My parents took me to many seminars over the years and I would notice the different styles of training, but it never seemed to be different styles, just different dojos. It all seemed like basically the same Aikido to me.

I think (as someone else said) that the most important thing is the feeling and overall atmosphere of the dojo. It should match what you are looking for. Some styles tend to seem a little more physically demanding, some focus on mental or spiritual strength. This varies between different dojos of the same style too. The main thing is to find a dojo you like.

I really didn't have a choice which style of Aikido to practice, but if you do, just look and you'll feel what's right. :)

Nick P.
12-06-2004, 10:33 AM
IMHO, the difference is best account for in the personality, emphasis of what believed important, and when the originator actually trained with O'Sensei. Ultimately, there is only one aikido.

OK, I will bite:
With all due respect, in your opinion, which is the one?

12-06-2004, 11:41 AM
OK, I will bite:
With all due respect, in your opinion, which is the one?I would say for Lynn Seisser the one true style is Seisser-ryu (style). For you it would be Pittson-ryu.

Ultimately, there is no good style for Aikido. There are just good aikidoka.

A good aikidoka will transcend any stylistic quirks and express the heart of a technique.Place pithy comment here.

Nick P.
12-06-2004, 12:59 PM
I would say for Lynn Seisser the one true style is Seisser-ryu (style). For you it would be Pittson-ryu

Ooooooh! I like the sound of that "Pittson Ryu Aikido" or P.R.A. for short.

My own federation, Hombu.....gasp! My own minions to roam the world's dojos and say "Bah! That is not Aikido!" in my name. Perfect.

12-06-2004, 01:35 PM
Ooooooh! I like the sound of that "Pittson Ryu Aikido" or P.R.A. for short.

My own federation, Hombu.....gasp! My own minions to roam the world's dojos and say "Bah! That is not Aikido!" in my name. Perfect.Oh, Oh! What did I start?
:eek: eek

Sue Hammerich
12-07-2004, 01:29 AM
Well, thus far, I seem to want to partake in the Run, Fooo...(L) style. And I would, except...you know how in each style, one has to fall often, to be a good Aikidoist? When it comes to running I am, at that, probably a good Aikidoist.
Anywho, I want to thank you all for taking the time to read my post and answer. Additionally, I'd like to commend you all on not taking a "mine is better than theirs" approach. I participated in another MA prior to finally having to opportunity to become involved with Aikido. You, and the people with whom I have begun training, really honor what I seem to understand what O'Sensai was trying to say. It took courage for him to take that stand then; it takes courage for you to take it now.
Thanks very, very much.