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L. Camejo
12-31-2004, 09:34 AM
Hi folks,

I was reading "The Book of Five Rings" for the umpteenth time recently and came across a phrase that I realise had applied nicely to how we train Aikido as well.

It had to do with how one moves a sword at all times with the intent of killing or cutting down the opponent. Even what one may call "defensive" movements being done with the intent to cut the opponent. Every little movement is done keeping this basic intent in mind.

In randori I've found when I keep this mindset (always moving to be able to apply a technique) I am able to see a lot more openings for techniques, setups and counters than I usually would with a "passive" or "defensive" mindset, depending on which word you prefer. I have found that in actively and deliberately looking for and moving in a manner that creates a possibility for technique out of everything, one has a significantly increased probablility of executing a successful technique - even with the other person seriously resisting and countering as well.

On the reverse side, I have found that when we train cooperatively alone, although Uke feels the movement of the technique and this also teaches one how to begin understanding kaeshiwaza, the "aggressiveness" if you can call it that, to quickly and seriously apply a counter with intent is not trained so well. What you find is the Uke/student who may well be capable of successfully countering a particular technique, but has a false image of his/her own skill level since the intent and aggressive desire to look for the places where these things can be applied is not really focused on until maybe much later in training. Basically, Uke is not trained to resist, but expected to be always compliant, which gets him into a psychological structure that is hard to break when the intent of his training is changed.

We see it often when we ask instructors about possible technical flaws and of course the instructor proves us wrong. The thing is though, are we really trying and testing the concept or just cooperating (unable to exit the compliant Uke mindset) and giving the instructor a body to look good while executing a technique that may have a flaw?

I guess training in Judo as well has opened me up to these sorts of things. When training with someone who is aggressive but skilled enough not to give you openings, being defensive may not be enough and just delay the inevitable, but aggressive, focused intent in trying to get off a successful technique (fighting spirit if you want to call it that) has gone a long way to evening the bout. The same has applied to my Aikido in this regard - leaving the fear and limiting thoughts behind and just stepping in and acting.

This however has only been my experience, I can be wrong.:)

So what do you think, should the different expressions of intent / aggression / fighting spirit be something we should really focus on training and developing for both the roles of Uke and Tori?

Just some thing I was thinking of.
LC:ai::ki:

SeiserL
12-31-2004, 11:27 AM
IMHO, intent is very important. The thoughts we hold in our mind is transmitted neurally, muscularlly, and through Ki flow. Change the intent and you change the application. Learning to move the body is easy. Learning to move the mind is harder.

Also IMHO, the intent of Kenjutsu is very different than Aiki-Ken. One is to defeat the other. One is to gain victroy over the self.

ruthmc
12-31-2004, 11:56 AM
So what do you think, should the different expressions of intent / aggression / fighting spirit be something we should really focus on training and developing for both the roles of Uke and Tori?
Hmm, positive intent - yes. Aggression - not sure, it depends upon whether the aggression is intended to harm the opponent, or just to psych yourself up for the bout. Fighting spirit - I suppose again it depends upon how you interpret the term.

Some Aikido students are very aggressive - they really do want to hurt you. A long time ago a female beginner told me that she was coming to class because she could use Aikido to let out all of her aggression. She enjoyed cranking on techniques such as sankyo as hard as possible. Retaliation was not permitted - we were simply not allowed to hurt beginners. Fortunately she did not stay for long :)

I sometimes find beginners who think that a technique must be applied to them as hard as possible, or it's not "martial" enough. This makes me cringe at the damage they are doing to their unstrengthened joints :eek:

IMHO anybody under shodan should not be thinking about being aggressive in their techniques or their attacks. They will get damaged because their bodies are not yet conditioned to take that kind of training. Yudansha OTOH do need to train with very positive intent if they are to progress. For yudansha I agree completely with your post - look for openings, have a fighting spirit, and above all take responsibility for what you are undertaking by training in this way. Kyu grades are not yet able to shoulder this responsibility - they generally have not developed enough self-control.

Ruth

L. Camejo
01-01-2005, 12:15 PM
Also IMHO, the intent of Kenjutsu is very different than Aiki-Ken. One is to defeat the other. One is to gain victroy over the self.

This is true. I would not even compare the two actually. Aikiken is the use of bokken/sword as a training aid to understanding Aikido's empty handed movements. It is not a comprehensive method of understanding sword tactics and use in and of itself imho. As such Aiki-ken's philosophy is actually Aikido philosophy.

On the other hand there have been Kenjutsu Ryu that have "evolved" to the :do: aspects as emulated in the concept of the "life giving sword" etc. So the diferences between the 2 philosophies (and their intents) may not be as broad in some cases.

I guess in my thinking the principle from the Book of Five Rings is about being constantly ready to do what is necessary within your chosen method of training at all times throughout an encounter. It does not have to be with a sword, the same concept can be applied to empty handed arts or other weapon arts as well. When dealing with highly skilled opponents and training partners the first opening you see may be the only opening you see. One must train to capitalise on this at an instant in the midst of engagement.

Aggression - not sure, it depends upon whether the aggression is intended to harm the opponent, or just to psych yourself up for the bout. Fighting spirit - I suppose again it depends upon how you interpret the term.

Of course. Everything is perception and interpretation imo. The aggression I am referring to is about being aggressive in the sense of being always ready and in a mindset to move immediately in a way to apply technique without waiting to think or ponder about it. Aggression to deliberately harm anyone is not part of Aikido's philosophy afaik.

Some Aikido students are very aggressive - they really do want to hurt you. A long time ago a female beginner told me that she was coming to class because she could use Aikido to let out all of her aggression. She enjoyed cranking on techniques such as sankyo as hard as possible.

In the instance you indicate above I believe it is the instructor's responsibility to lay down the law as regards what is expected in training for beginners so that they know what is appropriate behaviour. There are many ways to work out aggression - I have had a few of those types myself. If they are allowed to get away with inappropriate behaviour they will continue imo. If they cannot follow the basic etiquette of the dojo then they should leave or sit on the sidelines.

IMHO anybody under shodan should not be thinking about being aggressive in their techniques or their attacks. They will get damaged because their bodies are not yet conditioned to take that kind of training.

I agree with you here in that I can see this point as it pertains to rank beginners and novices. However, I don't think that it is impossible to teach higher kyu grades to apply intent in a controlled manner. It's a matter of the teaching/training method one employs imo. I have 5th kyu folks and up who deal with this just fine while maintaining the safety factor in their training. I guess it's a matter of slowly taking them forward in incremental progressions to a point where they know how to control their own abilities. The learning curve does not necessarily have to take years.

As far as Yudansha, I think training with serious, focussed intent should be the minimum standard of operation, depending of course on what one is working on at the time (e.g. freeplay etc.).

Just my thoughts.
LC:ai::ki:

David Yap
01-01-2005, 12:44 PM
<snip>...
I guess training in Judo as well has opened me up to these sorts of things. When training with someone who is aggressive but skilled enough not to give you openings, being defensive may not be enough and just delay the inevitable, but aggressive, focused intent in trying to get off a successful technique (fighting spirit if you want to call it that) has gone a long way to evening the bout. The same has applied to my Aikido in this regard - leaving the fear and limiting thoughts behind and just stepping in and acting.

This however has only been my experience, I can be wrong.:)

So what do you think, should the different expressions of intent / aggression / fighting spirit be something we should really focus on training and developing for both the roles of Uke and Tori?

Just some thing I was thinking of.
LC:ai::ki:

Hi LC,

Aggression and fighting spirit - these are innate or requisites of all forms of martial art at some stage or another. The intend is always the objective or mindset of the offender or the defender. You draw on your experience as a competitive judoka - your objective was to win either being offensive or defensive. In sports karate, we were trained to be aggressive - charging into the opponent's line of attack with strikes and kicks - breaking the opponent's rhythm so to speak. We were trained to build up our fighting spirit - stand our ground and fight - no retreat, no surrender. Finally, we were not suppose to make any forceful contact on our opponent's vital points, face included - failing which, we would have points deducted or be disqualified from the bout/competition. One of the training is kime - focus, learning to control ones strike/blow and kick, stopping just at the point of contact . At this stage of competition training, the principles of moving of the line of attack, unbalance and control were unheard of; not until my competition days were over and moving back to the traditional art of karate jutsu.

For many of us who have gone to these stages, it is easy to understand that aggression and fighting spirit are no longer needed to be expressed. Being relax and calm reflects the level of ones skill and training. To attain that state of mind at all time is my personal goal for training.

Having said that, I will still dish out committed attacks as an uke (without the intend to maim, of course) :).

In modern time, the prevalent flaw in aikido is that many practitioners pick aikido as the first and only MA to train in. Many technical flaws are due to openings in techniques that can be easily be taken advantage of by an experienced MA or street fighter and such flaws are just not realized. Many of such instructors also brand/sell to the public whatever they learned/teach as art of self-defense. Yes, I agree that aikido is an art of self-defense - that depends on the level of skill of the practitioner and the teacher who taught him/her.

Just sharing my thoughts.

Regards

David Y

Lyle Laizure
01-05-2005, 06:41 AM
IMO intent is very important. Training in sword made me even more aware of this. When should a student begin thinking about intensity? I think almost from the beginning. Newbies aside, meaning one has passed their first 2 rank tests, the intensity should begin to show up more in their training. I think though intensity should be mentioned a long time prior to this to begin laying the groundwork for more spirited practices. Just my opinion.

happysod
01-05-2005, 06:49 AM
I'll add my vote to "positive intent as early as possible". I feel shodan is far, far too late to start down that route and I've had more problems with students lacking any aggression than being overly aggressive. Safety is, of course paramount, but safety should not equal no pain, bruising or the odd hit in the face.

Yann Golanski
01-05-2005, 07:37 AM
We have good days and bad days. At times, I want to just have a bash and bounce myself and others off the Mat. Then intent and "aggression" are there. At other times, I want to see connections, threads and themes in what I do. Taking the technique slowly and working out what basics are used here and there. Those two are different training intensities but are both worthwhile -- at least for myself.

Certainly the higher the grade that faster and harder you can apply technique because they know how to get out of it without hurting themselves. Sometimes, we do get hit and bruise but after all, we are doing a martial art not dancing. Those things are part of the package.

Of course, safety is paramount in whatever you do not just in Aikido. I remember a thread about Aikido driving back in the olden days of the board -- OK, not that olden.

L. Camejo
01-05-2005, 08:37 PM
Lyle and Ian hit the nail on the head regarding how I am feeling about this as well. I believe that the foundations of effective technique and continuous readiness to apply technique should be inculcated from a very early stage and improved as one moves higher in rank. At shodan one should be already highly adept at this.

I have also met situations where lack of aggression is far more commonplace than knowing and practicing how to constructively apply and utilise aggression or intent rather. I've found that for many, especially female students, the desire to "not be aggressive" or not put the proper degree of martial intent behind a technique results in a poorly executed technique or a technique that has very good technical form (if done against a very very compliant Uke), but is not given that extra energy to have it work when Uke is resisting even lightly, even though the physical form of the technique is sound.

On the reverse side, when these same students apply correct intent, their technique takes on a sort of life of its own, enticing Uke to move in ways that cause the resulting technique to be even more effective, if sometimes lacking the technical precision. Of course as Yann indicated, it is important to practice at the intense and not so intense levels as well to gain from the different aspects of training.

As said before, safety is always paramount and any training methods employed should conform to the tenets of good safety practices first imo.

Lyle from his sword training example alludes to what I was referring to of Musashi's statement in the Book of Five Rings that I mentioned in my first post. In correctly utilising intent towards an objective (eg. applying effective technique or quickly resolving the conflict) every movemenet we make (physical, mental or otherwise) should be made with this objective in mind and achieving it. From the initial aspects of engagement before physical contact is made, right through to adapting and applying counters in the event the initial technique fails, to instinctively knowing when to disengage from the attacker when he has decided to give up on the attack (if one is seeking resolution and not to immobilise the other person), every move we make should give us some psychological advantage, better tactical position or put us in a place where attainment of our objective is that much closer - "Every movement must be made with the intent of cutting down the opponent" in Musashi's lingo.

This is what I was getting at in my initial post. Although we speak of Mushin in Aikido, imo it is not a "passive" state where we wait for the attacker to indicate what technique is best, but putting ourselves on a mental and physical footing where we are "actively" scanning, sensing and looking where these openings might be and via mu gamae moving instinctively and naturally in ways that bring the achievement of our objective closer with every step.

Is this making sense? It's late and I need some sleep.:) What do you think?
LC:ai::ki:

Yann Golanski
01-06-2005, 03:29 AM
This is what I was getting at in my initial post. Although we speak of Mushin in Aikido, IMO it is not a "passive" state where we wait for the attacker to indicate what technique is best, but putting ourselves on a mental and physical footing where we are "actively" scanning, sensing and looking where these openings might be and via mu gamae moving instinctively and naturally in ways that bring the achievement of our objective closer with every step.

Is this making sense? It's late and I need some sleep.:) What do you think?
LC:ai::ki:


I remember a study done by the police (I think, maybe wrong) about gun drawing speeds. They found that at same level of skill, the one who was reacting to a draw was faster than the one initialising it. The reasons given were that your body knows how to react to a particular situation and can by-pass your brain -- hence have an increase in speed compared to the opponent.

I think that this makes a good illustration of what Larry is talking about with mu shin my gamae. Tori is actively looking at uke but does not consciously decide which technique to use. Of course, it requires that you know the techniques very well indeed in the first place!

When in randori, I try to focus of kuzushi at all times. The techniques (pins and/or throws) are kind of evident once uke balance is gone. But I think I spend too much time thinking about what I can do from where I am instead of just doing it. Ah well, more work to do before I a good at this Aikido lark. *grins evilly*

ruthmc
01-06-2005, 04:57 AM
I have also met situations where lack of aggression is far more commonplace than knowing and practicing how to constructively apply and utilise aggression or intent rather. I've found that for many, especially female students, the desire to "not be aggressive" or not put the proper degree of martial intent behind a technique results in a poorly executed technique
I seem to have had the opposite experience :D I find it it very easy to get somebody to be more positive in their intent, but it's really hard to stop someone being harmfully agressive!

Re: female students - I see it more as a lack of confidence problem. Women will often not really try, so they don't have to risk failing. Or they will go to the other extreme and put on a show of confidence that they don't really feel. Once they learn to just "be" positive, this usually solves the problem.

Although we speak of Mushin in Aikido, imo it is not a "passive" state where we wait for the attacker to indicate what technique is best, but putting ourselves on a mental and physical footing where we are "actively" scanning, sensing and looking where these openings might be and via mu gamae moving instinctively and naturally in ways that bring the achievement of our objective closer with every step.
I think I learned this in a different way. I was taught to throw from a static attack, then a moving attack, and finally from making a pre-emptive defence. This final stage gives you the tools to do what you describe. As you become more advanced, you can use this intent in the static and moving attacks also. I apologise if my understanding is incomplete - I'm still very much learning how to apply these things!

Ruth

L. Camejo
01-06-2005, 07:39 AM
I think that this makes a good illustration of what Larry is talking about with mu shin my gamae. Tori is actively looking at uke but does not consciously decide which technique to use. Of course, it requires that you know the techniques very well indeed in the first place!

When in randori, I try to focus of kuzushi at all times. The techniques (pins and/or throws) are kind of evident once uke balance is gone. But I think I spend too much time thinking about what I can do from where I am instead of just doing it. Ah well, more work to do before I a good at this Aikido lark. *grins evilly*

Yann you explained pretty nicely what i was getting at.

As far as how one gets to the point of being able to apply the techniques instinctively I have 4 words for you - Drill Hachihon no Kuzushi :). In most cases where I have been able to do this I never knew what technique I'd be doing until it was almost to completion. By following and tracking Uke's movements with my own that are designed to break balance I naturally end up in a position from which my body executes the technique that is most natural to me from that position. This way as long as one has the principle of kuzushi or control of the body (like in Judo) of Uke the technique sort of reveals itself and manifests itself trough instinctive movement.

It's like that scene in the beginning of Enter the Dragon where Bruce Lee is talking philosophy with the old master - "I don't hit (*Bruce raises fist*) - It hits all by itself." :)

I seem to have had the opposite experience I find it it very easy to get somebody to be more positive in their intent, but it's really hard to stop someone being harmfully agressive!

I agree with you Ruth. Please remember when I use the word "aggressive" in this context it is my way of using my English language limitations to indicate "not passive" and keep these words in the mind of the reader rather than an indication of a desire to injure or maim on the part of Tori. It is aggression in constantly and actively opening one's senses to openings for technique, not in applying techniques forcefully or in a manner to injure Uke. In my mind there is a vast difference.

Re: female students - I see it more as a lack of confidence problem. Women will often not really try, so they don't have to risk failing. Or they will go to the other extreme and put on a show of confidence that they don't really feel. Once they learn to just "be" positive, this usually solves the problem.

I can only agree partially with the lack of confidence concept. In the role of Uke, yes I have found women (and men) to hold back in attack to avoid falling (which does not help the practice of either partner). But this reluctance to positively act also comes into their technique as Tori, especially in the case of Atemi waza (how we refer to it) and Sen timing. As a result, their mind is not focussed on perceiving the instant that they need to enter and apply technique, but the mind is sort of in a "back seat" or "passive/disarmed" mode when the attack comes. The visual sign of this is an instinctive small back step (waste movement as they are shocked into action by the incoming attack) before they enter and do the technique. The result - their timing is totally off, they end up out of position when the attack lands and the technique falls apart. Of course this applies to men as well, there is no bias there. It's just that the reluctance to attack as Uke can often spill over into unwanted and unnecessary hesitation when one needs to step in and act as Tori when working on the sharper aspects of timing in Aikido (i.e. Sen and Sen no Sen).

What I have also observed though is that when these same people have had to be agressive in the day they had at work or school due to the conditions there on that day, and this mindset spills over into Aikido class, one sees some of the most effective and beautiful technique imaginable, because they have decided to take off the kid gloves from earlier in the day and get real because of some other situation outside the dojo. This is an interesting phenomenon that I have observed. Have seen wall flowers place bodies twice their size into orbit just because that day they broke a nail and was slightly pissed :). Hence the reason I use the word aggression, because on some very small psychological level it may have a part to play in positive action. But I am no psychologist, so I may be wrong.

I think I learned this in a different way. I was taught to throw from a static attack, then a moving attack, and finally from making a pre-emptive defence. This final stage gives you the tools to do what you describe. As you become more advanced, you can use this intent in the static and moving attacks also.

I learnt the same way actually. The thing is, even though the training methods may be separated for the beginner to understand and slowly move to the final stage as you put it, the actual application of the concept is inherent in all levels of the practice. In a static attack, if Uke really grabs us with a strong grip and sets his body behind it, we cannot move him to be honest, unless kuzushi or atemi or some other distraction is applied to generate movement. Even when we practice slowly and from static positions we need to start understanding the nature of movements and how they lead to other movements that can aid or hinder the completion of effective technique. This leads back to the drills I indicated to Yann earlier in this post, which is something we start doing from very early on in the Kyu ranks to understand the fundamentals of movement and how it puts one in position to better understand relationships and how they apply to instinctive technique.

Just my few cents.
LC:ai::ki:

Yann Golanski
01-06-2005, 10:02 AM
Ah Hachi hon no Kuzushi... If I could spend days practicing it, I would still not even being to understand all its applications. It's probably my favourite set of base practices. Certainly, I love to do it very slowly (almost from static) to start with then accelerate so that we are doing it fast then let uke introduces some resistance. I could do hours of it. There's just such a richness there.

For those not familiar with it, it's a set of 8 balance breakers (2 hight, 2 medium, 2 low and 2 from the back) done from grips (same and opposite side). The whole set can have three techniques are the end of each (thus making the kata a 3*8 one) but those are just the "official" techniques. You could do almost any from the balance breaker. Of course, all the movement in it are based on the basic movements we do at the start of each class.

So, is it worth doing techniques slowly at first (static) then fast then with residence? That would mean an average of 12 pass for each set so to speak....

So another question for you: how long do you let people practice a technique?...