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L. Camejo
05-25-2005, 10:59 PM
Hi folks,

The following is part rant, part serious soul searching question on the general practice and instruction of Aikido as done worldwide.

Have we as Aikidoka begun to accept a culture of martial mediocrity within our art? In other words, has objective martial effectiveness and its related elements within Aikido training become something so abstract, so diametrically opposed to the concept of "peace and harmony with the universe", so much not a major goal of modern training that often folks move through the ranks into the higher levels of Yudansha without understanding simple elements of body control that are addressed by training with the goal of objectively effective technique?

My reason for asking these questions is because recently I see a trend where many Aikidoka appear to be clueless about how to achieve simple tasks like maintaining one's footing and vertical posture in the face of a shoot or tackle, or questionable ability to comfortably evade certain types of unarmed attacks (i.e. tai sabaki) or have a very rudimentary understanding of how Aikido uses the balancing structures of the body to operate effectively. It's as if the fundamentals of Aikido only exist as sound principles in the protective environment of cooperative practice. As soon as an actual challenge or serious attack occurs the principles don't work anymore (at least this is the impression I get from many).

When I think of Ueshiba M. and some of his Uchideshi's raw martial abilities and what I often see today passing for effective technique by upper level Yudansha I tend to wonder. When one asks the typical Aikidoka "who is a great Instructor" you will often find the answer to be someone who is very good when his Uke cooperates (iow a good demonstrator) but suddenly questionable when faced with a serious attack. Why is this?

Has Aikido gone the path of modern Wushu, with practitioners learning movements that only work as shown in a choreographed environment? Are there practitioners and moreseo, Instructors who plumb the depths of Aikido as an effective martial art (along with the other development benefits as well) and embody the fullness of Aikido and teach these methods to their students?

Imho an Aikidoka who understands certain principles (not even having to do with offensive techniques) should be capable of not having his balance easily taken by a shoot or tackle, not allowing a situation of resistance allow him to resort to Jujutsu and Judo techniques or muscular and mental overtension, or not have to resort to ground grappling in the majority of serious attack situations because he does not easily allow himself to be taken to the ground (this does not mean not cross training, since there are special situations where grappling knowledge serves well). Basically, he does not allow the attacker or the attack to easily draw him out of the tactical range that keeps him in control and keeps his Aikido as usually practiced effective, without resorting to other tactics from other arts too easily and quickly. Is it that folks simply don't train anymore to the levels where the martial principles of Aiki are so ingrained that they quickly abandon Aiki principles when faced with serious attack?

This is my rant and my question. When folks see "flaws" and "lacking" areas in Aikido and try to "improve" it by simply adding things like boxing, Jujutsu, Judo or wrestling tactics is this a reflection of the general level of martial tuition available out there in Aikido, where the student rushes to every other style out there to act as a crutch towards effectiveness instead of taking the time to plumb the depths and learn what truly makes Aikido an extremely effective martial art within its own paradigm?

Have we grown to accept that in the face of other arts we cannot stand on the same level in the area of martial applicability? I am not referring so much to self defence, but more to the mastery of the Aiki basics that makes an effective Aikidoka and Budoka.

I thank for for allowing me the opportunity to get this out there. Apologies for the length of the post. Comments are very welcome.

LC:ai::ki:

Aristeia
05-25-2005, 11:36 PM
Great question Larry. There's some stuff I agree with here and some stuff I have a different take on (your characterisation of cross training - "resorting" to other techniques). A couple of points, ideas.

1. It's important to remember the raw material Ueshiba had to work with. Many of his students were highly ranked in other *fighting* arts. IOW they had already develeoped the sorts of attributes you see in seasoned fighters, Aikido was a refinement of existing martial skill. Today you see alot of Aikido lifers, who entered budo and never went anywhere else. Many of these people develop some odd ideas about how combat works. I've seen a relatively senior yudansha tell one of my guys who dabbles BJJ with me that when he hits the ground as uke, he should be trying to turn onto his stomach rahter than his back because otherwise he's too vulnerable to strikes. Insanity. But a symptom of the condition mentioned above.
2. I have seen elements in Aikido that are...well...cultlike. Particularly in terms of not being open to students looking at other things.
3. In addition, there are many people who are attracted to Aikido due to it's "gentle" reputation, and I think the art has been somewhat transformed as a result. These people would not be inclined to look at other arts, and are not inclined to reality test their own one. They will tell you they are pacifists. But you know that they beleive the way they are training Aikido will make them effective fighters, when it just will not.

I've given this alot of thought, and here's what I think. Alot of these problems occure when the art becomes too insular and inward looking without reference to what's going on in the real world and in other arts. This doesn't preserve the art so much as make the changes that *are* happening less visible, and allow for sometimes strange and unvalidated thinking to spread.
Here's a possible (and no doubt controversial) idea.

Aikido Sabbatical. What if we were to say that before you can attain a certain grade (and I'm thinking Nidan for reasons later explained), you have to have attained a certain amount of training in another art. Any other art.

Why Nidan? Well I think it's fair that up until Shodan people concentrate on Aikido. Plus as we know Aikido takes time to learn, by Shodan the student should have, if not the ability to apply it to all comers, an appreciation of how that may be possible. In other words sending them off to another art is less likely to undermine their confidence in Aikido. And by Nidan it is fair to expect people have a wider view of fighting, and of budo than just what they've experienced in Aikido.
Now I'm not suggesting we legislate to make everyone MMA fighters. Any other art is fine. In fact the more diverse the better. Some people will come back with views on striking they learned from Muay Thai, others with views on grappling from judo/bjj, others with centering from tai chi. And I'm not suggesting we tell them to go off and get black belts. I'd set the level at whatever would be reasonable for that art after a couple of years of moderate training. Moderate because it is desireable and likely that they will keep training Aikido as well.

The benefits would be threefold
1. Techniques - they'd come back with knowledge that while not being formally taught, would be interesting to all. I mean a guy that's trained for a year or two in Muay Thai isn't going to come back and start thowing low thigh kicks willy nilly, but his focus and power may well have improved. And with a variety of cross trainers, it gives us the opportunity to practice against a variety of *competant* attacks (as opposed to trying to practice kick defences against someone that struggles not to fall over when kicking even when you do nothing).

2. Outlook. Beyond the specifics of the techniques, students would begin to udnerstand that there are other viewpoints and ways of training, and that even though they are different to Aikido they are still valid. Both in person and online at various forums it seems clear to me that Aikidoka can be particularly prone to the "that's not how we do it and we do it the best way so that's inferior and wrong" syndrome. There's good reasons we train the way we do, but there's good reasons why BJJ'ers and Tai Chi players train the way they do as well. That way when we come across something new our initial instinct won't be to tell people why it's wrong but to consider it's merits and see if it fits into our paradigm before discarding or accepting it.

3. Reputation. This is a little more trivial, but Aikido takes it's share of heat in the MA community. I think it would earn us huge credibility if we said - not only do we encourage cross training - we damn well require it at a certain level. And there's good reasons why that should give us credibility - it's those reasons rather than the rep itself that are important (if that makes sense).

Some people may not want to cross train. May dig their toes in. That's fine, welcome to Shodan, make yourself comfortable you'll be there a while. Aikido is at heart about learning to fight. Part of that at higher levels is exposing yourself to other types of fighters. And in a spectrum that runs from tai chi to Muay Thai, there's gotta be something to appeal to most people. Hell we could set up exchange programmes and use it to expose people from other arts to Aikido.

Thoughts?

PeterR
05-26-2005, 12:19 AM
Great post. I would only add that a beginner should play around with various arts before deciding on where they want to go with their training. When they discover that then they should get serious before entering a second round of cross-training.

Too many people are governed by their preconceptions and with only one example it is very hard to break out of it.

CNYMike
05-26-2005, 01:41 AM
Hi folks,

The following is part rant, part serious soul searching question on the general practice and instruction of Aikido as done worldwide.

Have we as Aikidoka begun to accept a culture of martial mediocrity within our art? In other words, has objective martial effectiveness and its related elements within Aikido training become something so abstract, so diametrically opposed to the concept of "peace and harmony with the universe", so much not a major goal of modern training that often folks move through the ranks into the higher levels of Yudansha without understanding simple elements of body control that are addressed by training with the goal of objectively effective technique?


Good question.

I have no idea.

Compounding the issue is that Aikido techniques are automatically tricky -- the devil is in the details. Which is why after plugging away once or twice a week for a year, there are still plenty of things I have trouble with. Yes, I've done martial arts for 20 years, and yes, I am doing a ton of other things besides Aikido. But it is still slow going, in no part because by my own choice, I only go once or twice a week. If someone trained several times a day every day, it might be different.


My reason for asking these questions is because recently I see a trend where many Aikidoka appear to be clueless about how to achieve simple tasks like maintaining one's footing and vertical posture in the face of a shoot or tackle, or questionable ability to comfortably evade certain types of unarmed attacks (i.e. tai sabaki) or have a very rudimentary understanding of how Aikido uses the balancing structures of the body to operate effectively. It's as if the fundamentals of Aikido only exist as sound principles in the protective environment of cooperative practice. As soon as an actual challenge or serious attack occurs the principles don't work anymore (at least this is the impression I get from many).


They probably could work, but for most people, it will could take a long time to ingrane them.


.... When folks see "flaws" and "lacking" areas in Aikido and try to "improve" it by simply adding things like boxing, Jujutsu, Judo or wrestling tactics is this a reflection of the general level of martial tuition available out there in Aikido, where the student rushes to every other style out there to act as a crutch towards effectiveness instead of taking the time to plumb the depths and learn what truly makes Aikido an extremely effective martial art within its own paradigm?


I'm the wrong person to ask, because I've come the other way -- from more "combative" arts like karate, Kali, and Serak, and I've added Aikido to the mix.

One thing I've noted from all my crosstraining -- and Pembantu Andy Astle feels the same way --- is that when you come to something new (or, in the case of Aikido, return to something old), you are content with it as you find it. At least I am. I would never call Aikido "inadequate," preferring to say that it specializes. Yes, I'm aware of what Aikido training doesn't include, but (a) Guro Andy has those things covered; and (b) I'm taking Aikido to find out what's there, not what isn't!



Have we grown to accept that in the face of other arts we cannot stand on the same level in the area of martial applicability? I am not referring so much to self defence, but more to the mastery of the Aiki basics that makes an effective Aikidoka and Budoka.


How long is a peice of string? If a 75 year old Aikido teacher can say with a straight face, "Oh, now I think I'm finally getting the hang of shiho-nage," and O Sensei himself said, IIRC, "I'm still a beginner," at what point can you say you've mastered anything about anything? I've been doing MA for 20 years and I think I'm lousy at it! Who's to judge?

Here's an interesting aside: Because Kali includes Filipino Boxing, some weeks ago, Guro Andy spent the entire class -- 90 minutes -- on the basics: Stance, guard, and jab, cross and hook.

That was it. For 90 minutes. I thought I knew that stuff after seven years, but I didn't! His rationale was, "There are many ways to do them wrong, but only one way to do them correctly."

90 minutes on punches I thought I'd learned years ago.

So, how long will it take to 'master' the Aiki principles if you go to a 90 minute class once a week? How many people will stick with it that long?

Just my 2p.

Stefan Stenudd
05-26-2005, 03:55 AM
Interesting question from Larry.
I also have the feeling that many aikido practicioners lack a trust in aikido, its principles, techniques, and strategy. It takes time to learn, of course, but it is quite a complete and solid budo.

And there is so much in it! Aikido contains enough for a lifetime to explore. Although it is generally good to get some experience also of other Martial arts, I believe that it should not be done at the cost of focusing insufficiently on aikido. A superficial knowledge of aikido gives an incorrect impression of its qualities.

maikerus
05-26-2005, 05:11 AM
This is my rant and my question. When folks see "flaws" and "lacking" areas in Aikido and try to "improve" it by simply adding things like boxing, Jujutsu, Judo or wrestling tactics is this a reflection of the general level of martial tuition available out there in Aikido, where the student rushes to every other style out there to act as a crutch towards effectiveness instead of taking the time to plumb the depths and learn what truly makes Aikido an extremely effective martial art within its own paradigm?

Larry...excellent thoughts. Thanks for sharing them.

One of the frustrating things that I find when people talk about "needing" to crosstrain (as opposed to wanting to) is that I always understood that one of the precipes of fighting was not to be drawn into the other guys style/system/way of fighting, but to maintain your own and use what you know. To me the idea of "needing" to study something else so that you can approach another person on their home turf/style with some of the knowledge they have seems contrary to that idea and in fact undermines getting better at what your core competency might be.

I posted a note in a thread about a week ago that relates to what you I hear you saying, but it went ignored in the thread it was in. I bring it up again because I was really hoping someone would comment on it and because it mirrors the frustration I see in your post.

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?p=105038#post105038

I am not against cross-training at all and find it interesting to train with and to compare notes and ideas with people who study other martial arts and, of course, other styles of Aikido. Michael makes some excellent points as to why cross-training should be encouraged. In fact, I was told that one of my seniors at the Yoshinkan hombu was sent there from a ju-jitsu dojo specifically to bring back what knowledge he could.

However, for *me* I don't have the time to dedicate myself to another martial art in the way that I think it should be done. Any extra time I find I prefer to put into something I have already invested 20+ years in...namely Yoshinkan Aikido...in the hope that I will keep improving.

A friend of mine asked me the other day if I had good days and bad days in my training. I thought about it and realized that in the last few years I haven't had any bad days. I have had better days, but no bad days. This guy has been doing martial arts of various flavours for 25 years and nodded and said "consistancy...that's what's important" or words to that affect. It struck me as somehow profound.

FWIW...

--Michael

happysod
05-26-2005, 05:15 AM
Have we as Aikidoka begun to accept a culture of martial mediocrity within our art? No, I think we acknowledge it exists rather than passively accepting it, which does leave aikido open to heavy soul-searching on it's martial applicability, but on the plus side at least lets us re-evaluate things .

For me, there are several areas in aikido which lead to it's bashing as a martial art. Aikido has a very broad "church congregation" with a huge spectrum of reasons for training in the art, many of which are not directly connected to it's defensive value. The emphasis in some dojos on tradition, etiquette and a nicely turned out pleat in the hakama can lead to the "cult" tag being applied. Then there's the old bugaboo of cooperative training.

However, all these aside, I believe the main reason aikido comes under quite heavy criticism is that increasingly competition in a sport environment is seen as the true test of a technique, rightly or wrongly depending on your viewpoint. I think you'll find your own style of shodokan is increasingly viewed as the "best" form of aikido on many non-aikido sites for the very reason it used to be slated by more "traditional" styles.

As regards your point concerning losing the aikido in order to use brand x martial art, much more difficult to gage. While I think I know what you mean (and am guilty of it myself), as we can't get two dojos to normally agree on what is an isn't aikido I don't see how you'd address this. Where I think aikido should borrow and happily steal from any and all other arts is in the attacks, which, as has been alluded to before, I feel is the area of cross training that would benefit aikido the most.

Nice question, now bugger off and train.

Matt Molloy
05-26-2005, 05:44 AM
Where I think aikido should borrow and happily steal from any and all other arts is in the attacks, which, as has been alluded to before, I feel is the area of cross training that would benefit aikido the most.

Nice question, now bugger off and train.

Firstly thanks to Larry for opening this.

I'd have to agree with Ian as above. I've been at seminars where the attacks from fellow Aikidoka are pathetic. Shomenuchis that veer off from the head following the invisible forcefield around my body (hey if I don't move, hit me!) and Yokomens that remind me of being slapped with a wet lettuce (least said, soonest mended), and these from black belt toting hakama wearing exponents of the art.

At that level in a martial art you should be able to at least hit someone!

Technique number one in Wing Chun, the straight punch. Most people can do a halfway decent version by the end of the first lesson.

Half drunk people in bars usually manage a committed version of shomenuchi with a beer bottle in their hands!

*rant off*

The other side of the equation is the cry of, "You attacked me wrong." as people come stuttering to the end of what they were expecting to do.

Perhaps a culture of deal with the attack, whatever it is, and then say something like, "Now could you do the attack that we're training please." might go some way to sorting this.

I'm very lucky, I train in a dojo where we don't seem to have these problems but when you come across them in other places it can lead to asking a variant of Larry's question and it doesn't do anything for the rep of Aikido as a martial art.

Just my thoughts.

Cheers,

Matt.

PeterR
05-26-2005, 05:52 AM
On the other side of the coin I find the inclusive nature of Aikido training quite satisfying. I can quite easily satisfy my urgings for a good hard marshal training session alongside people who just don't want to go there. A proper training environment should deliver clean solid technique in a kata context by everyone no matter what their temperment.

Matt Molloy
05-26-2005, 06:04 AM
On the other side of the coin I find the inclusive nature of Aikido training quite satisfying. I can quite easily satisfy my urgings for a good hard marshal training session alongside people who just don't want to go there. A proper training environment should deliver clean solid technique in a kata context by everyone no matter what their temperment.

Absolutely. I believe that Judo manages the middle way on this one quite well without sacrificing martial integrity with light randori, kata, competition et al.

But a decent straight attack from yudansha shouldn't be too much to ask should it?

Cheers,

Matt.

PeterR
05-26-2005, 06:20 AM
Now I feel guilty - skipping Judo while I watch someone fix my computer. My role is that of dojo bully a role I relish :D. I take the young bloods (14 to 15 year olds) that are serious about their judo and exhaust the little devils, wind them, bruise them and worry what happens when they put on a bit more poundage.

Anyhow that little digression aside.

One of the major training problems that can be identified in Aikido is the concept of spontaneous generation of technique. A great idea as an end goal but the result of applying this to early is a belief that there is no kata training in Aikido. In reality the bulk of training is just poor kata training not an absence of it. In proper kata training attack is practiced as much as defense with the principles often intermingling. Larry you know what I mean vis a vis hontai no tsukuri, the attacks in tanto dori. By way of further example last night one of the yondans decided that my yari thrusts weren't up to scratch. I spent a good chunk of training time on that alone and opened up my blisters this morning with some more. There just is no excuse for poor attacks - in fact I would say it is the hight of rudeness.

Dazzler
05-26-2005, 06:31 AM
Great thread.

I think in a way we do accept some shortfalls in our martial arts.

There are exceptions...shaolin monks or the guys that maybe go off to training camps for professional muay thai fighters and such like.

Perhaps some that make the committment as uchi deschis also train to the absolute maximum and leave no room for anything else in their lives...maybe professional combat athletes too?

I stress 'Some' since some of the deschis I've met could train a lot harder.

But for 99% of MA out there ...not just aikido ...it is not the only thing in their lives.

Consequently there is a degree of compromise required...lifestyle , career , family, health all impact our training.

How many of us genuinely want to make the sort of sacrifices these folks make?

I'd love to train maybe twice as much as I currently do...I have done in the past.

Its just not possible at the moment so I have to accept that I could do better but have to deal with the restrictions.

all you can do is train as intelligently when you have a window of opportunity.

I'm not sure if this is accepting mediocrity...but its certainly accepting a capping on performance.

I'd also suggest that one has to take a long term view...I've seen other threads where people have talked about dropping out of uni etc to train harder and more often. The danger is that this impacts your future to the extent that you dont get to train so much further down the line.

I guess its a question of balance.

Theres still no excuse for lettuce leaf yokomen..! I think its a poor instructor that doesn't try to address this when they see it...I hope there aren't too many that actually teach it though.

Cheers.

eyrie
05-26-2005, 08:00 AM
Havng come from a striking art before doing aikido, and having also done other striking arts (both armed and unarmed) in between, there is certainly a good case for cross-training, if at least to learn how to attack properly.

I teach my students to really punch or cut thru, like they intend to really hit. None of this limp lettuce atemi waza stuff, I assure you! Besides, it's so much easier to apply waza when someone is really trying to knock your block off. :)

I think people are short-changing themselves if they're not putting an equal amount of effort into the atemi waza (when attacking), because from my point of view, it's the other side of the same coin.

Ron Tisdale
05-26-2005, 08:33 AM
Hi Larry,

Good topic. I'm sure it will ruffle some feathers, but good topic, and timely as well.

Michael Fooks,

That is an excellent idea. Absolutely fantastic. I may speak to my instructor about it when he returns from japan.

Aikido is at heart about learning to fight

I'm not conviced of that at this point. The discussion to explain why I say that would be way too long. I'll see if I can find a short way to explain why I say that.

Best,
Ron

Lyle Bogin
05-26-2005, 08:43 AM
I was discussing a similar topic with some athlete friends the other day. In almost all other physical endeavors, it is generally recognized that time has brought major improvements. Training methods and nutrition are better, and performance levels are rapidly approaching the limits of human capacity.

The martial arts is the only area of physical practice where the majority of opinions seems to be that we are headed down hill.

Why is that? Or to be more specific, is it even true? With sports we have clear win/loss records, or other measures of acheivement, but not so in martial arts. When we attempt to apply these measures, it's often implied that this in and of itself represents some sort of confusion or misunderstanding about what the martial arts are.

I find the whole thing very odd. Perhaps it is an unsolvable problem in general terms.

SeiserL
05-26-2005, 09:01 AM
IMHO, since mediocrity comes from moderate, meaning average between extremes, then yes, all cultures tend towards martial mediocrity. Especially since only a small portion of the culture practice martial arts to begin with.There are many soldiers, only a few great warriors. But generalizations stop there.

The question isn't are we tending towards or accepting a culture of martial mediocrity in Aikido, but are you personally going for excellence in your training.

L. Camejo
05-26-2005, 09:26 AM
Great posts folks. At least I see now that I'm not the only one feeling this way.:)

I think Maikerus and Stefan to a point are getting exactly what I am talking about.

As I may have indicated in the first post, the issue here is not with the benefits of cross training. There are so many and Aikido is a very good art to append things that have been taken or understood from other arts. I myself train regularly in Aikido, Jujutsu and Judo and to a lesser extent Wing Chun and Kali. I have found the interchange and inter-applicability of information to be very enlightening in different ways.

My issue though is not with cross training . The problem I see with how many Aikidoka approach things is that instead of properly trying to learn and really apply the principles of Aiki (which does not get down to the level of technique yet, just principle) many will simply resort to using what they know from other systems to get off a particular result without realising that the answer to these tactical and strategic problems exist within the paradigm of Aikido itself.

Here is an example: I have students who come from a variety of MA backgrounds, mostly the Judo and TKD/Karate types. The randori that we practice is designed to make your defenses shut down and make you really dig down deep to find the way to apply Aiki to get out of the situation without injuring your partner while being very effective. However, as I have seen many times, as soon as the going gets tough the folks who cross train will want to switch to Judo or some other method to put their partner down instead of sticking to the Aiki principles so that they can enhance their Aikido training, understanding and skill level. It is a challenge for them not to resort to old habits and other systems, but that is the point of Aikido training, to find ways of applying and understanding Aiki in different situations.

The above situation tends to expand into other areas of training where folks start thinking that Aiki principles simply don't work under resistance (when in fact you have not taken the time or gotten the training to really understand and use them effectively). The result of this sort of thing may be seen on AJ right now with one of the seminar instructors who believes that Aikido needs to be modified to meet certain combative requirements, but which in fact the art already addresses.

Many folks from grappling type schools always bring up the subject about the shoot and Aikido's defenses (or lack thereof) or that "most fights end up on the ground". To me an Aikidoka is firstly supposed to understand certain fundamentals of posture and movement that would make breaking his balance with a shoot or other pushing attack a very difficult thing to accomplish (not impossible, but not a given either).

I'll give a simple example of this aspect from my experience: I was attacked a while ago by a gang of muggers who were unarmed but whose MO was to tackle or push their victim to the ground where the group would move in and kick the victim's brains in. Others that day were not as lucky as I and ended up in the Hospital for falling down. When I was attacked, even though Aikido technique did play a part, a major factor in my successful defence was not allowing myself to be taken to the ground by maintaining proper posture and staying upright. This way I kept myself in a place where I could still use my Aikido, i.e. standing up.

However, often I get the feeling that these simple things like training in maintaining balance while applying effective technique or receiving a serious attack designed to disrupt balance is not utilised, taught or stressed upon enough as a vital element in having one's Aikido work in a resistant situation. Some folks refer to it as "weight underside" the name is not so important as the lesson imho. My issue though is that posture is one of the cornerstones of good Aikido, yet many will easily abandon it like other elements of Aiki strategy in favour of a sacrifice tech or something that is "easier" (I am talking about the dojo now, since in the street anything goes and the KISS principle is good). Imho the idea of training in AIKIDO is to enhance one's understanding of Aiki at all levels. If we can easily abandon what we know of Aiki tactics to something more "muscle oriented" or utilising non-Aiki principles to get off a technique then what are we in fact teaching to our students or trying to achieve in training? This phenomenon is even seen when some Yudansha Instructors are surprised by a bit of resistance to their usually flowing technique and instead of moving with the energy flow and adapting, suddenly stiffen up and say you are being a poor Uke (or something of the sort). Often the "resistance" is really just because the person does not give away his balance but must have it taken from him, which is part of effective waza.

Of course I know many don't engage in resistance type practice (which is not only physical), but for those who do, what are your thoughts? Should we not try to maintain our tactical advantage and Aiki initiative and work with it until it can no longer be maintained or until the conflict is resolved? If we don't then how do we improve in our understanding of Aiki and reconciliation of a seriously aggressive force? Again, this does not have to mean self defence, it has to do with sticking to our tactical methodology (or our game) and exhausting our options until the conflcit is reconciled, it is no longer available or we move into another tactical zone.

Just some thoughts. I hope I am making sense.

Thanks for the great replies.
LC:ai::ki:

Stefan Stenudd
05-26-2005, 09:45 AM
Of course I know many don't engage in resistance type practice (which is not only physical), but for those who do, what are your thoughts?
Larry, you are yourself answering the question so well that I regard it as purely rhetorical :)

Training should include resistance - not always, but regularly. An example of this, within aikido basics, is gotai - allowing uke to complete the grip and hold on to it. Most Japanese shihan I have studied for, have a lot of gotai in their classes. And they manage it well, indeed.

The aiki principles should work, and if they don't, we simply need to train more and/or correct our technique.

In a higher tempo, let's call it jutai, resistance and randori style training increases the risk of injury - for both tori and uke. So it has to be done with care, and in different ways for beginners and advanced aikido students. Still, it can be done, and I would say that it is part of the aikido curriculum.

Already when I started doing aikido I was immensely impressed by the brilliance of aikido strategy and principles: Moving completely out of the way instead of blocking, joining instead of resisting, leading instead of pulling, relating to uke's center instead of his/her hands, arms, whatever, and so on and so forth.

Of course, the aiki principles can be applied also to other Martial arts. The thing is to recognize the potency of those principles, and train enough to be able to apply them.

L. Camejo
05-26-2005, 10:04 AM
The question isn't are we tending towards or accepting a culture of martial mediocrity in Aikido, but are you personally going for excellence in your training.
Hi Lynn,

Good post. As far as I'm concerned one should at least be striving for excellence from the time they step on the mat until they step off. This is part of the personal development aspects of the training, the overcoming of challenges and limitations on the self.

What I am referring to however, is the lack of pursuit of excellence when it comes to applying and truly understanding the range of applicability of Aiki principles to more than just simple situations of cooperative interaction, but allowing Aiki to truly show its power as a group of principles that can bring reconciliation of conflict whether physical or otherwise while under the pressures of something that does not want to reconcile easily.

Just my thoughts.
LC:ai::ki:

L. Camejo
05-26-2005, 10:12 AM
Of course, the aiki principles can be applied also to other Martial arts. The thing is to recognize the potency of those principles, and train enough to be able to apply them.

Exactly.:)

But is it being done in enough places though? I get the feeling that many don't ever get to experience or even see this level of potency sometimes. I am not talking so much about the demos of exemplary Instructors, but in how they use their own training regimens to inculcate these traits into their students. To me the applicable range of Aiki no ri is so vast if we really try to understand it and get our minds and bodies to a level where we can execute it. The question is though, is this being done in a way that is sound enough that things operate in a same or similar manner even when resistant forces come into the mix? Or is it only explored at the cooperative level in the majority of cases?

LC:ai::ki:

jss
05-26-2005, 10:27 AM
An idea based on this thread:
perhaps UFC/NHB/... show that it is easier to become a competent fighter by learning some striking and some grappling and combining that with a thouroughly trained physique than by mastering one art; that it is easier (for lack of a better word) to combine basic skills with a well-trained body than to master one skill in all its depth.

Zato Ichi
05-26-2005, 10:34 AM
An idea based on this thread:
perhaps UFC/NHB/... show that it is easier to become a competent fighter by learning some striking and some grappling and combining that with a thouroughly trained physique than by mastering one art; that it is easier (for lack of a better word) to combine basic skills with a well-trained body than to master one skill in all its depth.

UFC/NHB/etc. show that you can become a better UFC/NHB/etc. competitor by cross training. But make no mistake, whatever hyperbole they may throw at you, they're sports. Any resemblance to a real fight is purely coincidental.

Matt Molloy
05-26-2005, 10:39 AM
An idea based on this thread:
perhaps UFC/NHB/... show that it is easier to become a competent fighter by learning some striking and some grappling and combining that with a thouroughly trained physique than by mastering one art; that it is easier (for lack of a better word) to combine basic skills with a well-trained body than to master one skill in all its depth.

A couple of thoughts in response.

O'Sensei never seemed to shirk the idea of maintaining a thoroughly trained physique so I think that this should be a part of Aikido training, not ignored as if it weren't part of what we do.

Secondly, the UFC/NHB type fighters generally know quite a bit more than "some striking and some grappling" and it may be prudent, before commenting, to see what some of them come up with as they reach more advanced years. I've read plenty of people, for example, that say that BJJ for example is plenty Aiki when you study it.

I always think of Aikido in terms of training the body as well as possible and then using that trained body as efficiently as possible.

It's a bit different than the usual no strength approach.

Perhaps you need a thoroughly trained body in order to master the skill in all its depth.

Aikido. You don't have to be tubby to practice. ;)

Cheers,

Matt.

jester
05-26-2005, 10:52 AM
However, as I have seen many times, as soon as the going gets tough the folks who cross train will want to switch to Judo or some other method to put their partner down instead of sticking to the Aiki principles so that they can enhance their Aikido training, understanding and skill level. It is a challenge for them not to resort to old habits and other systems, but that is the point of Aikido training, to find ways of applying and understanding Aiki in different situations.

I'm not sure about most peoples intentions, but I learn martial arts to be able to fight if need be. I try to see what techniques will work for my body size and strength, and don't focus to much on things I don't think will work.

After about 6 years of study in aikido, I felt there were situations that I didn't know how to deal with. For instance, what if your pulled backwards off balance with a rear choke, and the attacker isn't in motion and you are caught completely by surprise? What if your sitting in a chair and grabbed from behind?

I didn't train for those type of situations in aikido. A friend of mine opened his own school, so I decided to try something new for a while. I took up Miyama Ryu Jiu-jitsu, and that filled in all of the questions that I couldn't answer with aikido. It focused on a lot of grabs and holds that were static and ended with some really combative locks and controls. The founder of that style (Antonio Perera) studied with O'sensei, and studies Judo at the Kodokan, so his approach was very Aiki and it changed the way I looked at my aikido training. It also opened me up to blending judo aikido karate together into one art.

If this means doing a judo throw, or a jiu-jitsu arm lock, or an elbow strike, because that's what I'm given, then that's what I'll use.

I was blessed with having some great instructors. Karl Geis is a high level Judoka as well as an Aikidoka. Nelson Andujar not only does Jiu-Jitsu, but also holds a 6th dan in the USAF. Both of these men had a larger martial art experience to draw from which In my opinion is what makes them so good.

In my opinion, I think that the Miyama Ryu Jiu-jitsu I learned has more in common with the Tomiki Aikido I learned than it does with the Aikikai style of Aikido. The Aikikai style I was exposed to seemed very alien to me and unnatural. This isn't putting it down in any way, but it didn't have the similar linear approach or focus.

After a few years, I found the time to go back and study aikido again, and I saw things that I didn't see or realize before. The Koryu Katas were easier, and my focus was different.

I can only say that I cherish my martial arts experiences and was lucky enough to find the perfect instructors at the perfect time. The principles of Aiki were present in both arts, and I don't feel like there's anything missing anymore.

So Larry, I think it comes down to the way it's presented, and the instructor presenting it, and not a shortcoming with the art itself.

Stefan Stenudd
05-26-2005, 11:14 AM
For instance, what if your pulled backwards off balance with a rear choke, and the attacker isn't in motion and you are caught completely by surprise? What if your sitting in a chair and grabbed from behind?
I agree with Tim's conclusion, about aikido being practiced in so many different ways.
For example, in my dojo we frequently do the rear choke in gotai, which means applied by uke before tori begins the technique. I would not say that we are familiar with all kinds of chokes, but we are working on such things, doing our best to solve them the aiki way :)

As for being attacked when sitting in a chair, I have tried it a bit, but I must confess that it's not part of our dojo's curriculum - not only because it is disaster to the tatami ;)
I have seen very accomplished aikidoka do it, with impressive results. One who enjoyed showing it was Nakazono sensei.

And we have all seen films of Osensei, when he applied his principles to all kinds of tricky situations, with obvious amusement.

L. Camejo
05-26-2005, 11:28 AM
After about 6 years of study in aikido, I felt there were situations that I didn't know how to deal with. For instance, what if your pulled backwards off balance with a rear choke, and the attacker isn't in motion and you are caught completely by surprise? What if your sitting in a chair and grabbed from behind?

Good example of what I am referring to - this is something that we train a lot in our Aikido school and afaik is not outside of the Aikido paradigm. But then again I focus on principles and application of principles to situations, not 1 to 1 relationships between attack and technique. So in a sense, to answer the next quote, it may have something to do with what is being presented and the focus of the training by the instructor.

So Larry, I think it comes down to the way it's presented, and the instructor presenting it, and not a shortcoming with the art itself.
I never said it was a shortcoming of the art itself. In fact I have found many ways that the art works very well when many other folks say "we don't do that in Aikido" or "Aikido has no defence for ... attack" hence some of the frustration. To me if one truly appreciates and understands what Aiki means and how it is applied (not saying that I do all the time), responses to these static situations and other non typical attaks become evident because we understand how to really apply the principles to a myriad of situations, not resort to Jujutsu or Judo or whatever.

It is interesting however to see that many find what they need to understand about Aiki better by going to other styles or systems that have an Aiki component. So the question becomes, if these other arts are executing waza utilising Aiki principles and they are working then why is it not seen in the typcial Aikido curriculum, which is also an Aiki-based method that should have a sound martial aspect as a part of the training system?

Tim gives the typical response I get from many - they learn to deal with things from going to other arts and sometimes think they are doing some sort of Jujutsu technique (which Aikido is pretty much) when in fact all they have found is a previously hidden way (to them) of using the same Aiki principles they have been practicing all along in Aikido.

I honestly don't think the limitation is in the art, is it in the level of practical instruction then? Is it because some Instructors simply automatically relegate Aikido to the realm of a "non-martial art" (I have personally experienced this) and therefore don't even bother about making martial application part of their instruction? Why is it that the core of effective techs in some Aikido schools (which are basically variations of techs and principles common to all Aikido) more far reaching in application than the range found in other schools?

Iow why do we have to go outside of Aikido to understand some of the deeper or applied aspects of Aiki? Should this not be covered in our own curriculum a nd should we not aim to have a deep understanding of it? After all we are doing "The Wayof Aiki" or aren't we?

Just some more thoughts. Thanks for the insights.
LC:ai::ki:

jss
05-26-2005, 11:48 AM
Secondly, the UFC/NHB type fighters generally know quite a bit more than "some striking and some grappling" and it may be prudent, before commenting, to see what some of them come up with as they reach more advanced years. I've read plenty of people, for example, that say that BJJ for example is plenty Aiki when you study it.
You are right that I know far too little about UFC, etc. and the skills involved to comment on it. However your statement above might support the idea I had, since you wrote "as they reach more advanced years". I'd interpret that as they first become more or less succesfull fighters and after a number of years of practice, they come up with more interesting stuff. So they become 'succesfull' with a basic skill set and develop that skill set into something more profound later on.
(For clarity: this idea is just an idea, not a strong opinion of mine, so feel free to correct me.)

I always think of Aikido in terms of training the body as well as possible and then using that trained body as efficiently as possible.
It's a bit different than the usual no strength approach.
But isn't the ideal to aspire to the 'no strenght'-idea, since it implies a thorough understanding of other factors that make technique work, such as technique, timing, distance, adaptibility, ... ?
Which of course begs the question as to why mastery of those other factors is worth more than having a thoroughly trained body. (Standard respone: you grow old, you loose physical capabilities. But are well trained old(er) people really that much weaker physically?)

Perhaps you need a thoroughly trained body in order to master the skill in all its depth.
Interesting thought. Would you care to elaborate?

senshincenter
05-26-2005, 11:57 AM
Echoing some ideas already mentioned…

I think the crux of the issue is not necessarily between Aikido and some other martial art(s), but more specifically between the capacity to employ Aiki as a tactic and the comparative ease with which one can employ things like raw leverage, raw muscle, and/or direct resistance, etc., inside of dojo training environments. By “raw,” I mean, “these things in relative isolation from other tactical elements.”

Allow me to say this:

Aiki, when employed inside of spontaneous situations involving notions of victory or defeat (some sense of combat), requires everything that one might come to experience at the level of forms training. That is to say, one expects to see issues of timing, sensitivity, body/mind control, awareness, etc. However, in regards to spontaneous training, the develop of these things, or the rate at which they must be cultivated, is often beyond even the imagination of someone that only does forms training (or has their training dominated by forms training and not by spontaneous training). Because of ego attachment, like a frog at the bottom of the well, the subjective experience is mistakenly objectified by the person who experiences this discrepancy in skill level requirements. In the end, the tactic of Aiki is faulted rather than the self and its incapacity to cultivate the components of Aiki to a sufficient degree. Yet, this can only happen when one is confronted with such a need for high degrees of skill in the components of Aiki – within spontaneous training environments. If one’s training stays centered around forms training, and/or if one’s notion of “spontaneous” training is centered around three or four people all madly running at you with their arms outstretched, and/or if one’s notion of resistance is some higher-ranked stronger-than-you Uke screwing with your part of the two-man set during forms training, then one isn’t even going to realize that one is in a greenhouse (i.e. that one’s capacity at Aiki is problematic). And this is where I come in my own mind to the fine points raised by Larry. You got two human tendencies here – both related to ego attachment: One the one hand, you have the person that universalizes their own subjective experience (“Aiki doesn’t work”), and on the other hand you have the person that is deluded from truly seeing one’s own limiting subjectivity (“Aiki works perfectly” [in forms]).

Why is this here? To be sure, the human tendency to be attached to one’s ego and to the delusions of one’s ego is relative. However, there seems to be more involved here. Let us ask, “How does one get out of this cycle or this dichotomy?” Well, the easiest way is to be led out by another person that is already on the outside. Inversely, this also tells us why the dichotomy is so prominent in our art: There aren’t that many people that have achieved this level of Aiki or that are in possession of a means to assist others with a way out of the dichotomy of delusion. Moreover, nearly every aspect of institutional Aikido lends itself to not needing or even wanting these kinds of people, and thus to having ourselves never become one of these people – people we would say are truly skilled with Aiki and/or are excellent in their application of Aiki. The results: If you are clear-sighted, you see mediocrity all around you. If you are less clear-sighted, you start to redefine things like spontaneity, resistance, Aiki, etc., such that a forms specialist can be seen as miraculous, capable, and even excellent.

My own rant – since this seems to be a thread for ranting.

dmv

pezalinski
05-26-2005, 12:36 PM
RE: Mediocrity
"Familiarity breeds contempt" is a maxim thats been around for years. If you travel to other dojos, or attend the larger seminars, you'll see that the level of mediocrity is a local or transient phenomenon that comes and goes -- it's simply the fact that there are people who aren't trying their utmost to do their best at the time (or who are, but just haven't got it yet). "Mediocrity" is often in the eye of the beholder. :)

Aikido IS a martial art; how 'martial' is a matter of instruction, intention, and receptivity. Different instructors at different times have different things to impart; if you hang around and travel around long enough, you should begin to see the martial depths to the art. If you only show up on Monday nights to the beginner's class, you get what you pay for.

RE: Cross-Training
Here's my belief, after spending over 20 years in the martial arts world: While a few years of training in another martial art might teach you some different fighting fundamentals, unless it is related to Budo, it going to give you new things to think about (and maybe improve your physical fitness) but not otherwise improve your Aikido. If you truly want to "cross train" to improve your Aikido, you'd best pick an art like Karate, Jujitsu, Judo, Iaido -- since they are related arts, applicable things might transfer. (If all else fails, it'll give you a greater appreciation for pain as an instructional tool.)

In my experience, training under different Aikido instructors has been more illuminating to my Aikido development than "cross training" under a different art. Especially training under different Shihans -- Yamada's recent visit to Chicago's MAC was an incredible experience, for example.

senshincenter
05-26-2005, 01:53 PM
Peter,

Could you elaborate upon what was incredible with Yamada's visit and also how it is related to a notion of "excellence." - please/thanks.

I'm asking, because while I agree that "mediocrity" is a transient phenomenon relative to the individual, I would say that we are also dealing with a culture of mediocrity - which is not so transient, even if it if fluctuates between a will to exist and an actual manifestation.

In my opinion, seminars are a huge part of that culture. Why? Because they are by design only capable of providing superficial elements that are central to the cultivation of Aiki as a martial tactic that one can employ spontaneously. Moreover, for federations (especially the larger ones), seminars are part of a cultural capital that "exchanges" the superficiality of what is gained for a sense of broadening one's understanding. In other words, there's this whole "switch" that takes place regarding seminars - where depth is impossible but where breadth is upheld and valued over depth. As a result, today, when we hear of folks that have trained at lots of seminars we tend to see someone that is training "seriously" and not someone that is failing to penetrate the depth of his/her art. This switch, because it is so supported by a lot of other aspects relative to things like federations, to me, represents a culture - not just an individual tendency.

To be sure, there are things that one can learn from a seminar, but because these things are taking place in a larger cultural trend, they are often wrongly held up as being much more than they are. For example, one often learns what have to be considered small little intellectual insights pertaining to various architectural aspects of a given waza. However, while these things may very much allow one to perform a given waza more efficiently (even more correctly) inside of forms training, such "tricks" of the trade do very little in terms of cultivating Aiki at a spontaneous level. In the given culture, we tend to forget this, and/or we are distracted from this truth, and as a result we stop thinking about Aiki at spontaneous levels and become more preoccupied with the small tricks that make forms more easily to reproduce within our controlled environments. As I said above, the cultural part is that we come to think of these small, mediocre, achievements as something grand and excellent.

dmv

Ron Tisdale
05-26-2005, 02:21 PM
Hi David,

Thanks for those clips on the other thread...I'm still going through them.

Perhaps I've been going to different seminars for different reasons. When I go to Daito ryu seminars, they tend to be three days in length, and VERY in depth on each kata/waza taught. Not tips or tricks, but in depth study with Kondo Sensei, limited access, really great stuff. When I go to seminars like the one in Boulder, I hear things from my teacher that he doesn't always say in regular class...and I was told that Ikeda Sensei teaches and focuses on material he doesn't cover as much in regular class as well. I have seen some of what you talked about...but I don't tend to go to seminars where I think that is what I'll find. Even in the John Stevens seminars I've helped to arrange in the past, he took 4 or 5 days to cover some very good details...over the years I've gained some good exposure to his interpretation of misogi no ken and jo, and what he refers to as the 'pillars' of aikido. Again, long term, in depth. Not a casual or 'aikido light' approach at all.

So, I'm not sure I understand what you're saying about seminars...but then, maybe I'm just picky about where I spend my time. Actually, I think seminars like the aiki expo have a tough sell sometimes *because* there is soo much variety, it can be really hard to focus for the in depth opportunities, as opposed to the quick overview.

Best,
Ron

Matt Molloy
05-26-2005, 03:31 PM
You are right that I know far too little about UFC, etc. and the skills involved to comment on it. However your statement above might support the idea I had, since you wrote "as they reach more advanced years". I'd interpret that as they first become more or less succesfull fighters and after a number of years of practice, they come up with more interesting stuff. So they become 'succesfull' with a basic skill set and develop that skill set into something more profound later on.
(For clarity: this idea is just an idea, not a strong opinion of mine, so feel free to correct me.)

Thanks for the response.

Firstly, I'm not sure that I would classify the skills that such fighters/athletes have as necessarily basic. From what I can gather, the skills that they have developed to compete at such a level are quite sophisticated but then so are their opponents so it can sometimes be like watching top level Judo, it may look a little messy but only because they are quite evenly matched. Against someone of lesser skill we would probably see them setting up and using quite sophisticated takedowns that would look very smooth.

As to developing it into something more "profound" I personally think that just about all chat referring to "ki," "spiritual strength" or the like should be restricted to those of sandan or above. Most real enlightenment comes from first working your backside off but unfortunately too many people seem to leap to that instead of just shutting up and training.

If I can put it another way it would be that one should climb the mountain before dribbling on about the view.

Back on topic, who knows, perhaps there is a Kano or an Ueshiba in waiting going round the UFC/NHB cracking heads and quietly (or not so quietly) working on an educational or spiritual (respectively) idea of their art.

So as I said, perhaps it would be prudent to wait and see.

But isn't the ideal to aspire to the 'no strenght'-idea, since it implies a thorough understanding of other factors that make technique work, such as technique, timing, distance, adaptibility, ... ?
Which of course begs the question as to why mastery of those other factors is worth more than having a thoroughly trained body. (Standard respone: you grow old, you loose physical capabilities. But are well trained old(er) people really that much weaker physically?)

Whilst the ideal is to aspire to the "no strength" idea, we cannot get away from the basic fact that to move ourselves, arms, legs, whatever does indeed take muscular strength no matter how little.

Therefore, if we build our muscular strength and endurance, we have the capacity to carry on for longer, both in terms of a day's training and in terms of lifelong training.

If I may use the image of a bushi training himself to be as strong as possible then using the aiki arts to make his use of that strength as efficient as possible so that he is unlikely to run out of strength halfway through the battle, whether that battle be a day against the enemy outside or a lifetime against the enemy within.

Of course the challenge then is to resist the temptation to muscle techniques (hey, nobody said it was easy) but I seem to remember that Michael Stuempel mentioned on another thread recently something about doing 100, 200 or 300 breakfalls before the occaisional practice to exhaust yourself so that you wouldn't be able to muscle the technique so it would appear that the Yoshinkan at least are working in this area.

So I would say that you need the technical ability in conjunction with the strength (however efficiently used) to use it.

I don't think that there is any doubt that as you grow older you lose some physical ability (technical on the other hand is an entirely different matter) but the more you have when you're younger, hopefully the more will be left when the ravages of time have done their work.

Interesting thought. Would you care to elaborate?

It was just a thought that many people rush to try to emulate O'Sensei's gentle Aikido and spiritual path without ever doing half of the sheer physical work that he did.

Let's face it. The man was built like one of the tree stumps that he apparently used to work so hard to uproot on the farm. Doing hard farm work built him up quite considerably. Looking at photo's of him as a younger man you get a sense that this was someone you wouldn't want to tangle with just on a physical level.

Put another way, I showed my wife a video of him as an old man throwing around young fellows as if they weighed nothing and her first reaction, even with him at this age, was, "My god. He's built like the proverbial brick outhouse."

What would our modern equivalent be? Working on a farm? Doing the gardening? Working on a building site? Hitting the weights?

It just seems that from a very fit old man who turned out some incredibly fit and hard students to take Aikido to the world we seem to have got to a stage where we have people turning up totally out of condition and expecting to aquire the skill to fling people around without raising a sweat, even in training.

I believe that Peter Rehse has mentioned stuff like this before.

It's not the fault of the art. The art is fine.

Just some thoughts.

Cheers,

Matt.

senshincenter
05-26-2005, 03:40 PM
Hi Ron,

Thanks for replying and thanks for forcing me to be more specific here. Also – if you got some spare time, etc., please let me hear your view on the clips in the other thread on Shiho-nage. I am always very interested in your take on things. I find it always insightful and thus worth hearing.

As for this topic, certainly, I do not want to say that what is learned or taught at seminars is of no value. My usage of the word “trick” was polemical. My point regarding such things as they relate to a culture of mediocrity is that they are part of a larger system that attaches greater value to them than they deserve. This is particularly true, in my opinion, as it pertains to a capacity to employ Aiki under spontaneous situations that are combative in nature. It is this latter place where Larry’s reflections are the most relative – hence why I bothered to make the connection. After all, it is because we attach such wrongly placed value upon such matters that some of us tend to negate the art as a whole whenever these things fail – which is very likely to occur under spontaneous conditions. This is one way that we can connect what is going on with seminars to what I was trying to state in my first post.

Here is how I see it:

The capacity to employ Aiki under spontaneous conditions requires things like timing, spatial awareness, sensitivity, etc. These things in turn require a body/mind that is cultivated to be able to produce such things and/or to maintain such things under any condition. This means that we are looking at a body/mind that is physically fit, well coordinated, can manifest relatively high degrees of non-attachment, and has reconciled to an equally high degree the subject/object dichotomy, etc. All of these things require at least two aspects: Wisdom and the Passing of Time. In other words, you need to know how to cultivate these things, and you must allow the time required to pass so that you can actually harvest these things.

If we look at the person that has made the mistake of faulting the tactic of Aiki and thus opted to train in other things that appear to be “easier” or “more practical,” what is it we are looking at? We are looking at a person that is plagued by Ignorance and Impatience. These things are the very opposite of what is required to achieve a level of excellence and/or to be able to employ Aiki under spontaneous conditions. Now, let us ask, which side do seminars belong to?

Obviously, Wisdom is contained at seminars – it is present there. However, there is no capacity for a maturing process to take place. I would say that this is true even when we have seminars that are weeks in length. Why? Because the kind of time we are looking at for harvesting has in my experience been something more akin to ten years in length. However, everything about the seminar is about making the most of the little time you have. This is particularly true if it is a good seminar. As a result, however, those things that are most in need of a maturing process and thus most relative to the spontaneous application of Aiki are seldom addressed. Rather, what is addressed tends to be more related to things you can pick up right on the spot and/or things that you can take home with you and continue working with on your own in order to grasp fuller understandings. In short, if you will allow me an analogy, there is a kind of “fast food” and/or “take out” orientation to seminars, and as a result, ingredients and cooking processes that are more relative to fine gourmet dining are being left out and eventually devalued.

To the point: Seminars today tend to focus upon technical and/or architectural matters. I would say this is accurate whether we are talking about how to do Ikkyo, how to do Tai-no-Henko, how to blend with this given partner, how to generate Kuzushi, or what have you. To be sure, as we are becoming a more educated public, at least here in the States, we are also starting to see seminars deal with other things of the intellect (e.g. history, philosophy, interpersonal communication, etc.). However, seminars do not focus upon, for example, reconciling the subject/object dichotomy or non-attachment because these things cannot be addressed by their format at any level. Yet, it is these things and other things like them (that I mentioned above) that are the most relevant to the spontaneous application of Aiki and thus to achieving excellence in the art and not following prey to the “easy” route of looking outside of the art for ways of justifying one’s lack of depth. A over-valuing of technical matters is supporting all of this, in my opinion. Consequently, there is a devaluing of having one truly be spontaneous with Aiki under combative conditions. This is so much the case that today most deshi assume that their seminar leaders can rightly perform Aiki at spontaneous/combative levels simply because they have appeared to be wise technically. (This is a point Larry also brought up.) By extension, most of us today feel that our lack of spontaneity with the art is due to our lack of finer and finer technical detail. In this way, the cycle feeds itself. We have misunderstood and overvalued technical matters; we go to seminars; we assume technical proficiency (under controlled conditions) equates to or leads to spontaneity, ad infinitum. In the middle of all that, depending upon our character, Aikido sucks and/or Aikido “kicks ass” (or Aikido is not about martial effectiveness).

No one is teaching mediocre technical details at seminars (at least not in my experience). Things become prone to mediocrity because the excellence that is being taught there is being over-estimated in its capacity to cultivate the spontaneous application of Aiki. A culture of mediocrity is generated when we stop defining excellence in the art overall as the capacity to employ Aiki spontaneously and instead settle for technical excellence under controlled conditions as the apex of Aikido.

Here sort of an example from my life:

Once I was at a camp that had one of the highest ranking U.S. teachers instructing. In his first class we were doing Ikkyo. I got to be Uke for him. It was amazing. The weight of his technique was truly incredible – truly crippling. The power was awe-inspiring. Later, he did some multiple attacker classes – more free-style. Oh man! What a difference. Though successful in most folks’ eyes, he was the prime example of a fettered mind. He was plagued by hesitation, attachment, indecisiveness, etc. This kind of disparity can only exist because there is a culture supporting it – in my opinion.

Hope that makes more sense, if not, please feel free to grill me. :-)

dmv

Stefan Stenudd
05-26-2005, 04:00 PM
Once I was at a camp that had one of the highest ranking U.S. teachers instructing. In his first class we were doing Ikkyo. I got to be Uke for him. It was amazing. The weight of his technique was truly incredible -- truly crippling. The power was awe-inspiring. Later, he did some multiple attacker classes -- more free-style. Oh man! What a difference. Though successful in most folks' eyes, he was the prime example of a fettered mind. He was plagued by hesitation, attachment, indecisiveness, etc.
So, the teacher was weaker in taninzugake than he was in duo training? Could it be that his hesitation came from wanting to avoid any accidents and injuries? Usually, the first problem with taninzugake is to avoid people getting hurt.

Ron Tisdale
05-26-2005, 04:02 PM
Definately made more sense!

However, there is no capacity for a maturing process to take place. I would say that this is true even when we have seminars that are weeks in length.

Well, I never expected that from a seminar...I think the maturing takes place in the day to day sweat...not the seminar. That's just the seed...if you don't water the soil, all you get is bird feed! :) But I do think in terms of Larry's post and the general thread you have a good point here...your example highlights that very well.
Best,

Ron

Ron Tisdale
05-26-2005, 04:04 PM
I understand what you are saying Stefan, but that leads to another problem...the instructor whose skill is there one on one or even in group attacks, but if you push too hard, someone always gets hurt. I think David's point is that if the skill was really there, that wouldn't be as much of a concern.

Ron

Stefan Stenudd
05-26-2005, 04:27 PM
the instructor whose skill is there one on one or even in group attacks, but if you push too hard, someone always gets hurt. I think David's point is that if the skill was really there, that wouldn't be as much of a concern.
Ron, I have to agree with you - hoping never to need to prove it with my own example ;)
Well, what I demand of myself in taninzugake, is firstly to avoid injury, but still to be able to control the situation with authority. There are so many solutions, so one should always be able to adapt to the situation, without losing control of it.
Anyway, that's what I try to accomplish :)

tedehara
05-26-2005, 06:28 PM
...Aikido is at heart about learning to fight...
Thoughts?
Aikido is at heart about learning not to fight.

Ketsan
05-26-2005, 07:13 PM
I've always found Aikido to be very ridgid in it's teaching too, each student basically ends up trying to be a carbon copy of the instructor which breeds a mentality that doesn't really experiment or test but that is quite happy to accept that what's been shown works and leave it at that. Combined with, certainly where I train, a lack of time and space within training to experiment and explore the technique this leads to a state where every student is performing a technique in a way which may very well work perfectly for the person that taught it but not for the actual student.
Since the usual line is that "There are no counters to Aikido" nobody ever really feels the need to work on their technique, as long as it's good enough to pass the grading they assume it's going to work out in the real world.

It's a training system that breeds complacency and complacent people don't produce good technique.

I can also vouch for the insular nature of Aikido too, Aikido is the only MA I've done where there isn't banter about other martial arts. Before whatever I've done there's always been at least a casual interest in how other martial arts do things. Certainly in my kickboxing classes there was a mix of people from different back grounds and sparring and talking martial arts always went hand in hand and in a dojo you don't have talking for long before the demonstations start. It was brilliant because it ended up that there wasn't just the the official line of the martial art being taught, there were other view points there too.

I suppose the teaching methods (at least where I train) are too formal to allow that kind of free flow of knowlege and experience, everythings purely Sensei to student.
If there's any banter in Aikido, it's usually about such and such Shihan's irimi-nage and it's off the mat unless it's being taught. This means that only the Aikido viewpoint gets taught and the official line on other martial arts around here is somewhere between "There are other martial arts!?" and "Don't worry about other martial arts, Aikido can beat them all". I mean they're just dismissed out of hand on the odd occasion when they're mentioned which for me is a radical thing, everywhere else I've been it's "Wing Chung's bloody good" and such like. Other martial arts were treated with a great deal of respect.
There's also a culture of being as Japanese as possible, senior figures are treated like Daimyo and you're very careful about what questions you ask.

It all builds up to break down communication and produce an air of complacency. Why worry about how good your technique is when you pass gradings and you "know" that you're practicing a martial art that can take on all comers?

Just my thoughts, might only apply where I'm training.

Rupert Atkinson
05-26-2005, 07:27 PM
I did Judo for a fair while and one important thing I noticed was that, while I could play with a beginner like a baby, after just a few months, the average fit guy gets himself centred and becomes noticably more difficult to deal with. They wise up very quickly indeed. I am not saying they are experts by any means, just that they improve a lot in a short space of time. I don't see this in Aikido - it takes a lot longer before you notice that first jump in ability (not related to gradings at all, by the way).

L. Camejo
05-26-2005, 08:28 PM
Just one point to make.

David - you have hit the nail squarely on the head regarding what this thread is about. Your thoughts were formulated so well that my own thoughts started taking on a more coherent and structured fashion.:)

Your concept on seminars is very interesting and makes great sense. Often when I travel and visit Aikido dojos the measure I get of an Instructor's skill level is gauged pretty much entirely on his technical skill in cooperative practice or demonstration, which is a good thing, but often the Instructor's real knowledge and application of sound technique and spontaneous Aiki is a different thing entirely, as you indicated previously with your experience. I often wonder if many of these Instructors can execute the same quality of technique on someone from the crowd who is not a member of his dojo or not his official Uke during seminars. In other words, does the Instructor embody his technical knowledge to the point where it really does not matter who the attacker is, how tense, spontaneous or resistant he is, so the result is still the same every time the technique is done. I know there are a few Daito Ryu teachers (Takeda's direct students) who could do this to pretty much anyone.

In Aikido however I get this feeling that people assume that if the Instructor does not have his official Uke that his performance will be somewhat compromised (this does not refer to a demo which is something else, but during Instruction) and often any mishap or mistake is seen as the Uke's fault. Though this may be true for folks with poor ukemi skills, for those who can take the ukemi, what is the reason for this discrepancy in execution between someone familiar with the Instructor's movements and someone who will simply only take ukemi when actually thrown?

To me it reflects well on an Instructor when he has a degree of faith in his abilities to do seminars or visit dojos without necessarily needing a personal Uke, but being fully capable of executing technique and manifesting Aiki on pretty much anyone who takes part in the Instruction, regardless of how much that person may not respond in a "typical" manner.

Just some more thoughts.
LC:ai::ki:

Charlie
05-26-2005, 11:41 PM
Here is a link that was being discussed on a Yoshinkan e-group. I feel that it is quite relevant to this conversation.

http://www.nippon-kan.org/senseis_articles/05_traditions/05_traditions.html

PeterR
05-27-2005, 12:02 AM
I know there are a few Daito Ryu teachers (Takeda's direct students) who could do this to pretty much anyone.
Of course these people use uke just like in Aikido - same problems apply and also the inherent difficulty of evaluating just how good they really are.

xuzen
05-27-2005, 01:12 AM
When my sensei did his aikido full time at the Yoshinkan Hombu dojo back in the 60's what he saw horrified him, he told us. White belters who'd just begun their first lessons was given similar treatment when receiving technique as though they are Dan Ranked practitioner. He was covertly told to not to give quarters even though they are white belters. The rationale being it is to separate the wheat from the chaff. If they don't like it or can't take it... then leave. Those who stayed, received the full transmission, nothing was held back. If you can take the fall, you will learn how to give the fall as well. Simple as that. You are too afraid to take the fall, you'll be sidelined and nothing much will be taught to you.

Fast forward to now...I wonder how many people who comes into my dojo are going to stay on if we start pounding them hard into the mat on the first day?

Maybe aikido is a funny art... you just can't do it correctly by looking at it. A student has to feel the technique, the pain and agony included to fully understand the fundamentals of the technique. Maybe it is me (dumb, pain loving sucker) who must feel the technique done on me repeatedly for my dumb mind to register it successfully.

Larry, maybe now, there are more people who are afraid to take the hard route that are joining the dojo environment as oppose to genuine martial art enthusiast. You know, new age fruitie kind of crowd equating aikido with some kind of new age yoga? I can only guess.

I am saying this because, it is damn difficult to retain genuine students. We have lots of enquiry and newbie try outs. Somehow, when they go home after the first lessons with bruises and bumps here and there, we seldom see them again at the dojo. <Sigh...>

Maybe the Yoshinkan Hombu have a good methodology to cater to all flavours... they separate the class to three levels. Ippan, kenshu and Senshusei. Ippan for beginners or hobbyist; Kenshu for more serious hobbyist or budo enthusiast and the Senshusei course for the dumb sadomasochist individuals (apologies to all the senshusei trained friends on this forum :D ).

Another point that I want to address is that when those people who have done some prior MA before, then come and do aikido for 2 months, able to 'defeat' (whatever that means) the black belters of the said dojo and then bitch about how ineffective aikido is on the street; well I said, go and try be a dojo yaburi. Defeat the sensei there; if you are successful, then take down his dojo signboard, Break apart his signboard as in the traditional "Breaking of signboard ritual of olden days". Don't bitch about how ineffective aikido is when the only person who have defeated are some regular black belters (who could only be there as hobby). <--rant mode off-->

Boon.

CNYMike
05-27-2005, 01:58 AM
.... The problem I see with how many Aikidoka approach things is that instead of properly trying to learn and really apply the principles of Aiki (which does not get down to the level of technique yet, just principle) many will simply resort to using what they know from other systems to get off a particular result without realising that the answer to these tactical and strategic problems exist within the paradigm of Aikido itself.


Well, part of that has to do with what is in their muscle memory. To use an extreme hypothetical example, if someone who'd done karate-do for 25 years joined your dojo and at the end of his very first class, some weisenheimer fired a roundhouse kick to his head when he doesn't exepct it? What would he respond with? With karate-do, of course! Yes, Aikido should contain an answer, but he'll refelxively fall back on what's dominant in his muscle memory.

It's an issue we all bump into. A couple of my training partners in Kali have tripped over their muscle memory, doing something one way even though Guro Andy wanted it done differently. It's why his Kali instructor, Guro Kevin Seaman, had a policy of not letting Kali and Jun Fan students spar right away, especially if they come from other systems, because he wants his students to apply what they learn from him, not what they learned elsewhere. But even so, old habits never go away, as Michael Neal discovered in his "Aikido Works" thread.

I don't see this as a sign of Aikido being bad or inadequate, just a "cost of doing business." The only way to absolutely gurantee a "pure Aikido" response in most people is to have someone who has never done anything else. Neither you nor I nor a lot of people here can say that.


Here is an example: I have students who come from a variety of MA backgrounds, mostly the Judo and TKD/Karate types. The randori that we practice is designed to make your defenses shut down and make you really dig down deep to find the way to apply Aiki to get out of the situation without injuring your partner while being very effective. However, as I have seen many times, as soon as the going gets tough the folks who cross train will want to switch to Judo or some other method to put their partner down instead of sticking to the Aiki principles so that they can enhance their Aikido training, understanding and skill level. It is a challenge for them not to resort to old habits and other systems, but that is the point of Aikido training, to find ways of applying and understanding Aiki in different situations.


Well, apart from holding off on randori until they have better grounding in Aikido, following Guro Kevin's example, why not teach them how to do randori and practice randori before they do it?

It sounds redundant until you understand the approach Guro Andy is taking in readying us for kickboxing sparring in Kali. Neither ne nor Guro Kevin is a beleiver in just putting the equipment on people and letting them wail on each other; they want to teach you how to spar, and more importantly, to be aware of what you're doing while you're doing it, because that's how you use it as part of your training (I guess). So we've done a bunch of classes looking at kickboxing basics, and also been doing some drills. And when the sparring starts it won't be full tilt -- you start at maybe one quarter speed, partly for safety and partly to think about what you're doing.

So maybe you could step back and build up to randori, and then start it at a slow pace so they have time to think and apply Aikido, and that after being grounded in Aikido. Not everyone may agree with that, but it seems worth considering if you want to address this issue.


The above situation tends to expand into other areas of training where folks start thinking that Aiki principles simply don't work under resistance (when in fact you have not taken the time or gotten the training to really understand and use them effectively).


Another topic to cover then -- how to apply Aiki principles against resistance. And more drills to come up with.


The result of this sort of thing may be seen on AJ right now with one of the seminar instructors who believes that Aikido needs to be modified to meet certain combative requirements, but which in fact the art already addresses.


Again, it may be a good idea to look at those areas and come up with drills to address them. It may be one thing to say, "Aikido works on the ground," but that doesn't mean you know how to translate to that scenario.


Many folks from grappling type schools always bring up the subject about the shoot and Aikido's defenses (or lack thereof) or that "most fights end up on the ground" ....

I'm turning into a broken record -- how to adapt the principles to that? More drills and exercises! Whether you have much of a private life when not coming up with all these things is your problem.


.... I get the feeling that these simple things like training in maintaining balance while applying effective technique or receiving a serious attack designed to disrupt balance is not utilised, taught or stressed upon enough as a vital element in having one's Aikido work in a resistant situation ....

The techniques can be tricky enough; just getting them to work can be the hallenge, enver mind making them effective! It isn't easy; the devil is in the details. Someone has to have all the details ingraned before you naturally apply them to something unexpected, and that's going to take a while.

Chris Li
05-27-2005, 02:19 AM
IMHO, since mediocrity comes from moderate, meaning average between extremes, then yes, all cultures tend towards martial mediocrity. Especially since only a small portion of the culture practice martial arts to begin with.There are many soldiers, only a few great warriors. But generalizations stop there.

The question isn't are we tending towards or accepting a culture of martial mediocrity in Aikido, but are you personally going for excellence in your training.

This is more or less what I was going to say. It's not a new problem - Miyamoto Musashi complained about exactly the same kind of thing 400 years ago. The fact is, if you look at any large group of people they're probably going to follow your standard bell curve in terms of skill. There's nothing wrong with that, that's just pretty much the way that it is. Most people are just never going to be Morihei Ueshiba, Kenji Tomiki, or Gozo Shioda. That's not really a problem, IMO, not being Tiger Woods doesn't stop me from enjoyinga good game of golf.

Best,

Chris

Ketsan
05-27-2005, 03:38 AM
But even so, old habits never go away

So very true.

happysod
05-27-2005, 06:01 AM
I think this thread raises two important points when reevaluating (our) aikido.

The first is perception, often I read posts which tend towards the "back in my day we..." normally coupled with a bewailing of failing standards and lazy practitioners. However, what many people forget to factor in is their own increase in skill and thus the standards they are holding everyone else to. A persons assessment of skill is not an immutable bar, but develops over time. I've seen gradings changed to reflect this in such a way that they eventually become ridiculously extreme at the lower kyu levels and have to be re-done to reflect what each grade is actually meant to describe.

The second, and I believe more fundamental change, is the accessibility of aikido to the general populace. My understanding of the martial arts world (please correct me if I'm off base here) is that initially it was almost a glorious secret in the west, open only to those with the perseverance to find a dojo, be accepted and fully commit to train. With an initial "entrance test" such as this, yes I wouldn't be surprised that the average practitioner was of a higher standard, but I'd be surprised if the quality of those at the high end of the arts have declined.

I'm all in favour of pushing the boundaries within training, making every effort to retain the fundamentals of aikido and generally train and teach with purity of focus and respect. However, some recent posts (not just in this thread) have made me uneasy as I read them almost as a plea for aikido to be more exclusive, to only take the best and devil take the slacker.

Now I'm fully aware that I'm an aiki-fruitie hobbyist so may not be able to join the august club of aikido-excellence some may prefer, but for me if I can get any of my students to train to be the best they can be, I'll sit sweating and uncomfortable in my b*****d hakama, but at least I'll be happy.

On the flip side, there has been some very nice posts in this thread, much appreciated.

[you're right, this thread does lead to rants]

Stefan Stenudd
05-27-2005, 09:20 AM
I've always found Aikido to be very ridgid in it's teaching too, each student basically ends up trying to be a carbon copy of the instructor which breeds a mentality that doesn't really experiment or test but that is quite happy to accept that what's been shown works and leave it at that.
I would say that's very much up to the individual teacher. Students start their aikido by copying, but then they are supposed to develop their own "style", according to their own body, mind and all.

A brilliant example of this teaching is Osensei, whose direct students became more different than one could imagine: Yamaguchi sensei, Nishio sensei, Saito sensei, Tamura sensei - the list goes on. What seems to be significant for Osensei's students is that they became very different, their aikido exploring all kinds of directions.
In my mind, that's one of the many signs of just how outstanding Osensei was as a teacher. A great teacher, Osensei, indeed.

I feel that a teacher should encourage that - with the advanced students. The beginners do best to copy their teacher, during their initial learning period.

L. Camejo
05-27-2005, 09:21 AM
Of course these people use uke just like in Aikido - same problems apply and also the inherent difficulty of evaluating just how good they really are.
True Peter. The reference I was referring to though had to do with folks who actually tried to resist and counter the technique of the head student of a particular DR instructor in his office. The accounts were given by these guys who indicated that they were definitely trying to fully resist the techniques in different ways.

Of course I could also have read things incorrectly.:)

***********************************
Well, part of that has to do with what is in their muscle memory. To use an extreme hypothetical example, if someone who'd done karate-do for 25 years joined your dojo and at the end of his very first class, some weisenheimer fired a roundhouse kick to his head when he doesn't exepct it? What would he respond with? With karate-do, of course! Yes, Aikido should contain an answer, but he'll refelxively fall back on what's dominant in his muscle memory.
Michael, I am well aware of the effects of muscle memory and preprogrammed instinctive responses, we all have them. It is interesting to note though that these responses even show up in Instructors who have over ten years in consistently practicing and teaching Aikido when placed in situations where the Uke intends to attack, resist and counter wirth serious intent. It's like their mind crashes or something.

I don't see this as a sign of Aikido being bad or inadequate, just a "cost of doing business."
Just to keep things on target I repeat that I in no way believe that it is the art itself that is inadequate, merely the goals, methods and measure of "skill" that is used by many instructors and how it affects the overall transmission of the art and the understanding and application of the Aiki concept to unccoperative or pressing situations effectively.

So maybe you could step back and build up to randori, and then start it at a slow pace so they have time to think and apply Aikido, and that after being grounded in Aikido.
This is a regular part of our practice method, but as I indicated before, the issue here is not so much with the students as it is with the Instructors who are supposed to be indicating the way towards a deeper understanding of the art for those who wish to explore it. Instructors should be the measure of the quality of training at any dojo, yes or no? If yes, then that quality should have an objective measure that is independent of who is taking the ukemi, yes or no?

Again, it may be a good idea to look at those areas and come up with drills to address them. It may be one thing to say, "Aikido works on the ground," but that doesn't mean you know how to translate to that scenario.
This is an example of what I am talking about all along. If you have allowed yourself to be taken to the ground then you have already lost initiative, balance and posture which are integral parts of Aiki waza (at least as done in Aikido). It's not about getting Aikido to work on the ground (i.e. ne waza) but having Aikido that is sound enough that does not allow you to have to get taken to the ground and still works effectively from the vertical posture against a serious grappling attack. Imho (and I can be wrong) ne waza is the realm and combative range of Wrestling, Judo and a part of Jujutsu etc. So if you are on the ground as an Aikidoka you need to be effective in Ju waza and Ne waza as the opportunity for applying Aiki may have already been lost imho. Of course I can be wrong.

**********

Boon:
Larry, maybe now, there are more people who are afraid to take the hard route that are joining the dojo environment as oppose to genuine martial art enthusiast. You know, new age fruitie kind of crowd equating aikido with some kind of new age yoga? I can only guess.
Good point. From how I see it there will always be those who seek something other than martial effectiveness out of Aikido and that is fine. There are many ways for them to train in Aikido without going into sound martial tactics (which we see more often than not nowadays).

The topic I am referring to is really for those who are Instructors and students of Aikido who are honestly trying to understand the depths of Aiki and how to apply it in a myriad of situations without resorting to external systems or primitive responses before it is obvious that the Aiki state can no longer be maintained and by extension, the tactics and strategy contained therein are compromised. For example, it may not be the wisest thing to use a bow and arrow against someone who is holding onto you and pounding away. At this point it's time to dump the bow and pull the knife (or use the arrow as a close combat weapon or the bow as a strangulation device etc.) But once the enemy is within the effective tactical range of the bow and arrow as typically used, one should be able to maximise the bow's use imo and not pull the blade prematurely.

This is the point I am getting at. If we really start to understand, utilise and maximise the Aiki concepts and principles, then the place for using effective Aiki waza becomes obvious vis a vis other methods of combat. In this way we would not be trying to force Aiki into a mold it may not be designed for, but learn to maximise its strengths, and in the event things go awry still be able to fall back on things like Ju waza etc., hence the reason for cross training. It's about knowing the limitations of the principle by pressing, exploring and understanding its boudaries, not because we lack the ability to apply it effectively and therefore assume that the boundary between Aiki no ri and Ju no ri is a lot closer than it really is.

Am I making sense?

Thanks for all the great insights and replies.
LC:ai::ki:

senshincenter
05-27-2005, 11:45 AM
I would like to draw out a point that Larry made earlier. If I understand him accurately, I seem to have had a similar experience in the instruction of my own students. I am speaking of that moment when one’s students respond “spontaneously” but do so without Aiki.

First some background: At our dojo we center every aspect of the training around the capacity to perform Aiki within spontaneous conditions. For us, if we were to define “excellence,” or “achievement,” that is what it would mean. I am taking Larry’s usage of the word “excellence” (as a contrast to “mediocrity”) to mean just that. We have several drills or exercises that are part of a “method” we use to take a deshi from form to non-form to a reconciliation of form and non-form. You can see some of our beginner drills at the following links:

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/shuofri.html

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/metsukeangleofdeflection.html

From one perspective, a point in these drills is to employ Aiki – to veer away from using raw leverage, raw muscle, obstructing tactics, etc. The drills are of such a nature, in that they are aimed at the mind of the deshi, that they at first very much fetter the student in his/her response. Another relevant factor of these drills is that at first they only represent physically a small aspect of what is truly possible to experience within any kind of martial encounter. As one progresses, other, more “difficult,” aspects of combative engagement are experienced and/or included.

We have all kinds of students that train in this way. We have the person who has never done a martial art or any kind of athletic/competitive endeavor in the whole of their life. We have folks of age 20 to age 52. We have male and female deshi. We have folks that have trained and are ranked in TKD, Kenpo, Krav Maga, Karate, etc., and we have an All-State wrestling champion. We have Deputy Sheriffs and we have City Police Officers. We have folks that are as hard as nails and we have folks that are as delicate as a newly formed leaf. I am noting this because I think that we are for the most part representative of any dojo. In this way then, as a dojo, we do face some of the issues that have lately been brought up in this thread: training elite students only, training the masses, training those that have trained in other martial arts, training those that have never trained in any martial art, etc.

So, we are doing these drills, and a key moment arises: the deshi becomes fettered and their response loses its capacity for employing Aiki. At such times, whether it is the Krav Maga practitioner or the single mother of two that has never trained in anything, the response is the same. Either they force a technique (utilizing the wrong range, the wrong timing, the wrong weapon, the wrong target, etc.) or they retreat into a tactically inferior position in order to prolong their defeat but also to make it equally inevitable. I say these responses are the same because they both come for a lack of Aiki that comes from a fettering of the body/mind.

For the remainder of the discussion, I would like to talk about the first likely response: forcing technique. Through the training the forcing of technique is noted as wrong and it is made clear to the deshi that this is so. This remains so even if it may appear that the deshi’s response proved to be “successful.” It is wrong for two reasons: first it is wrong because it does not represent the type of spontaneity that the student has committed to attaining; and second it is wrong because its “success” is often only a result of the fact that the drill has compartmentalized the combative experience. As the drills advance, the value of the former aspect is found in its capacity to address larger and larger parts of an overall combative experience.

So, granting that there are a lot of folks that do not do such drills, that do not center their training around such drills, and/or that have poor substitutes for such drills, even within our own parameters we must acknowledge that there is a likelihood for being unable to perform Aiki at spontaneous levels of combat. At such times, to be sure, some of the previously trained folks will claim “muscle memory,” and some of the folks that have never trained will claim a lack of experience for their improper response. And, of course, others will come to say that they do not wish to be a “can of whoop ass” – that that is not what Aikido is about for them, etc. From one point of view, this all appears to make sense individually (concerning why someone responded without Aiki – in a “common sense” kind of way). However, from the point of view of unfettering the mind, these things are all the same.

For example, for the TKD guy who tells me that he is used to kicking, etc., I tell him that kicking is not the problem. The problem, for example, is not having the proper timing for the kick. I ask him, “Is it part of the TKD ideal to jam your kicks and to have your balance so vulnerable that you cannot really continue your attack and/or counter any counter-attack?” Obviously the answer is “no.” I ask, “Does not TKD have a notion of the right weapon for the right job?” Obviously, the answer is “yes.” “Does TKD teach you to cling to a weapon no matter what the circumstances or the environment?” The answer: “no.” I explain, “The issue here is not what weapon was thrown but how poorly it was employed in terms of the various aspects of Aiki and also how attached the body/mind was to something that was obviously out of harmony with the nature of the situation.” This is how the training goes, and it goes like this for the person with no experience to the person that clings to a notion of “Aikido” that does not possess such an understanding. Therefore, in relation to the previously trained person, because all of this is relating to a fettering of the mind, I do not believe that having aikidoka train in other arts prior to training in Aikido (“like in the ‘golden age’”) or allowing them leeway concerning “muscle memory” is the solution and/or even relevant to the culture of mediocrity we are discussing. These issues are going to arise no matter what. More than that – these issues are supposed to arise in the training. So too are our solutions (as teachers) supposed to arise in order to meet them.

For me, this culture is addressed precisely when one’s incapacity to employ Aiki at spontaneous levels is brought to the forefront of one’s awareness AND when one’s likely non-Aiki responses are exposed for their inferiority. If we are going to understand excellence as the capacity to perform Aiki within spontaneous combative situations, then there is no other way to address the culture of mediocrity but by these two avenues. Having tougher people train harder or in a more committed fashion will achieve little to nothing if it means they are only training harder and being more committed to a method of acquiring forms. Being able to raise more questions concerning architectural matters will also achieve little to nothing if those questions never leave the realm of forms training. In this same way, even “cross training” will not achieve what we think it might achieve if we again restrict it to a system of form.

Still, perhaps there is one more relevant notion: the capacity for accurate self-reflection. After all, we all think we are heading down the path of spontaneity, we may even all think we do the same kind of training (allowing for variation), etc. However, we could all be wrong – myself included. It seems the capacity to reflect upon one’s own Self accurately is a much needed skill as well if this culture is to be addressed in any real kind of way.

dmv

Ketsan
05-27-2005, 02:07 PM
That's the kind of training I want to see. Thanks for that, it was interesting.

L. Camejo
05-27-2005, 04:35 PM
Very very well put David. I think you opened up and clarified the point quite nicely.

The comment on self reflection is very apt imo. It is something I try to do honestly, regardless of the results I get and what it may reflect of my own training or lack thereof. In the end the idea is to see yourself through a clear glass and accept whatever level on may have acquired and then move towards consistently doing what is necessary to improve upon wherever we are at the point of reflection.

Being objective in reflection is pretty important here also imho, since many of us can easily toss around folks during kata or demos but not so easily, or almost never during a bit of resistance. In this way we are challenged to admit whether we are truly embodying the principles of Aiki unconditionally or if there is condition to our ability to employ Aiki, such as a cooperative partner who is accustomed to our way of movement or someone who gives an easily telegraphed or non-threatening attack or someone who is not seriously driven to attack with intent.

In other words if the reflection is a poor one, don't break the mirror or paint a false image over the one that is there and stick around with your dojo mates who will always tell you how great your demos and kata are (regardless of the reality), but accept what is really there in humility and work to honestly improve towards the goal of achieveing spontaneous Aiki and deeply understanding and applying the principles of Aiki.

Just some more thoughts. You folks are giving some very good insights into this concept.

Arigato Gozaimashita
LC:ai::ki:

pezalinski
05-27-2005, 04:38 PM
Since the usual line is that "There are no counters to Aikido" nobody ever really feels the need to work on their technique, as long as it's good enough to pass the grading they assume it's going to work out in the real world.

First off, before I respond to an earlier request, :confused: WHERE or IN WHAT DOJO is that "the usual line?" (I'd like to know, so I can avoid visiting there.) In 20 years of Aikido, I've never heard it said. Countering a poor technique is the simplest way to show the nage that they are doing ineffective aikido, in my experience. Every technique has a counter ;) -- if you're willing to pay the price (as uke). Why else learn and teach henkawaza and kaeshiwaza?

Second, anyone who assumes "good enough to pass" means "this works for me in the real world" is dangerously deluded. We all should realize that a gokyu-level test is not likely to demonstrate dan-level aikido. Passing the test means you have a certain level of understanding of the technique -- it may be real-world effective at Ikkyu; at Yonkyu it might not. (Remember what "assume" stands for?)

End rant. :)

Could you elaborate upon what was incredible with Yamada's visit and also how it is related to a notion of "excellence." - please/thanks.

Sure, David.

Yamada brought the "martial" back into what are thought of as "basic" techniques, by teaching them in a dramatic but wholly aiki way. And he didn't just demonstrate them and pray that people were watching closely -- he taught, observed whether or not it was being absorbed, worked with individuals as needed, and stopped the class to demonstrate fine points that were being consistently missed.

Here's an example:

Yamada-san was teaching a variant of iriminage from gyaku-hanmi katatedori in a series of lessons... Style: he would demonstrate, then we'd break off into pairs, and he'd roam and individually correct us. (Note that this was the extra Friday night class before the Yudansha-only seminar, so the mat was full of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Dans from all over the US, but some lowly Kyu ranks like myself were present.) Each successive technique in this series built on the ones before it:

First: practice the entrance - get into a very close, deep irimi-tenkan entrance that shifted uke's weight forward, out and down

Second: practice the choke-hold available at that position (!) to control uke's head and off-balance them - make it an effective choke

Third: progress from the choke-hold to a hip-shifting, head-taking, center-destroying iriminage.

Fourth: Yokomenuchi strike, countered by the same style of iriminage (if I remember correctly).

Yamada-san was careful to emphasize the roles of both nage, and uke in the technique -- both are active, with uke actively resisting the choke, which enables and powers the iriminage. And that took most of the first hour, giving us plenty of time to practice at each point and improve.

Thats what I mean about an excellent seminar - excellent teaching of excellent martial arts, not just a "show and try - this works for me" aikido variety show. :D An excellent seminar is one that helps you "polish the mirror." :ai: :ki: :do:

pezalinski
05-27-2005, 05:09 PM
A culture of mediocrity is generated when we stop defining excellence in the art overall as the capacity to employ Aiki spontaneously and instead settle for technical excellence under controlled conditions as the apex of Aikido.

David, if one examines your thesis carefully, then the only "real" measure of excellence in aikido is to look at the the randori portion at the end of a graded test -- that's one of the few places we can "employ Aiki spontaneously." And I tend to agree with you. Handling multiple attackers causes one to react spontaneously from one's core -- and you put out what you've put in, in my experience; sincere practice leads to a sincere response.

The alternative would be to set them up for a mugging and see how they respond -- not very practical, and some people would get seriously hurt. :dead:

So, I wonder if you're viewing the "cult of testing" and "teach to the test" and interpreting it as mediocrity.... Grading for "technical excellence under controlled conditions" is the only practical way to compare the proficiency of different individuals -- how well do they accomplish the same tasks to meet a set benchmark for technical ability. And without the controlled conditions, people get hurt. But, if the only aikido you see is just teaching the grading requirements, then you are seeing only a fragment of what aikido is all about. And that's not right - there is a lot more to Aikido than that. :D

senshincenter
05-27-2005, 07:36 PM
Hi Peter,

Thanks for replying. Much appreciation.

I would like to return the favor for both of your posts.

To be sure, there are those seminars out there where they are just so huge and short on time that hands-on time with the seminar leader is pressed and shallow. I think everyone has experienced something like that or has at least heard of such huge events. I do not think anyone would consider them “excellent” seminars, though they may still be informative for some. I was not really referring to those kinds of events. As I wrote in my reply to Ron, I had qualified what you yourself experienced and I also gave my reasons for saying that such events do not really directly contribute to a notion of “excellence” if we are defining excellence as the capacity to demonstrate Aiki spontaneously, etc. In other words, if it were an excellent seminar, I would say it was only that – it was an excellent technical seminar (assuming one feels Yamada/Doshu’s Irimi Nage is consistent with Aiki – which, I’m sorry to say, I do not.). It was excellent for what it attempted to cover and for the manner in which it attempted to cover that information.

My issue is that we tend to over exaggerate the scope or such events or the material that was covered at such events. In other words, these are excellent technical matters, but if we do not have access to a viable means of generating the spontaneous application of Aiki within ourselves, these things lose much of their value (when we are defining “excellence” in the art as we have been doing here). I do not wish to speak for the whole of Aikido – it is a very big world after all – but in my experience I have met a hell of a lot of folks that believe seminars to be “excellent” but do not have any viable access to generating the spontaneous application of Aiki within themselves. Something is wrong with this picture and it becomes evident when you ask: “If you have no viable means of cultivating the spontaneous application of Aiki within yourself, what are seminars excellent for?”

When we do not have a viable means of generating the capacity to demonstrate Aiki spontaneously, all technical matters become a matter of “form for form’s sake,” and/or matters of addressing the institutional and economical needs of our various political allegiances, etc., and/or cashing in one some cultural capital via these institutions. A culture of mediocrity does not come about because people start wanting to be mediocre. It, like all cultures, is not tyrannically placed upon oneself from the outside. Rather, they are always self-adopted. Today, even though it probably started a long time ago, “excellent” has come to be defined as, for the most part, what fulfills the institutional and economic needs of our self-adopted politics. That is why today, excellence sides more with form for form’s sake than it does with a reconciliation of form and non-form. This is why there are some very hardcore folks, very strong and powerful folks, very committed folks, alpha-type folks, etc., that are part of federations and that are great at forms. As part of a culture, federations are not, as some have been suggesting, lacking in hardcore “hard as nails” fully committed folks. They are there; only they are hardcore in relation to forms, committed to learning forms, and hard as nails within forms.

There is a logic to all of this – after all no matter how artificial a culture may be, it has to present a kind of sense. One can do nothing institutionally or economically with a reconciliation of form and non-form. I mean we can see right off the bat that an emphasis upon the reconciliation of form and non-form would lead to individual dojo and/or teachers being emphasized and not the art and/or the over-riding governing body said to head that art. Ultimately, a reconciliation of the subject/object dichotomy is always going to be anti-institutional. We can also note that even if folks were involved in such training, dissemination of the art will always take place faster than such reconciliation can occur in the individual. Hence, an upholding of form for forms sake has played a vital role in the spreading of the art and thus in the growth of the art (to some degree), and thus more folks will always be exposed to that type of training and its notion of excellence than to any type of training that has to do with spontaneity. Finally, when one reconciles form and non-form, the usual boundaries of one’s art (and the boundaries of other arts) become blurry, if not outright meaningless. Try rallying huge numbers of folks around that one! In other words, there is a very tight connection, culturally speaking, between federations, the dissemination of the art, the identity of the art, upholding form for form’s sake while devaluing the spontaneous expression of Aiki, and our current (popular) notion of excellence falling way short of what it could or should. In the same way, there is something very anti-federation, anti-disseminating, anti-identifying, anit-form-for-form’s-sake, etc., concerning a reconciliation of form and non-form.

Now, some very good people, with loads of talent, are working within these systems to be defined as excellent according to their cultural understanding of excellence. They are not setting out to be mediocre. Larry just seems to have turned things on its head – rightly so if I may add. He did this because he bothered to see one of the current backlashes to such a system: Folks trying out their Aikido spontaneously and not being successful at it and thereby making the mistake that it is the art that is flawed and not their own talent at the art.

Today, things seem to be ripe for the raising of these kinds of issues. Certain areas of the world have had enough exposure to the art and to its means of dissemination to go on to ask questions penetrating enough to force some changes according to its own stated positions and/or assumptions. For example, during a time of wide dissemination, during a time when no one was questioning “form for form’s sake” as a legitimate measure of skill, folks were still spouting the value of Aiki – as an apex of martial strategy and tactics. All that folks like Larry are doing nowadays is saying, in a way, “Hey, you are right, Aiki is at the apex of martial strategy and tactics, so don’t you think you should be able to demonstrate it spontaneously since that is really what ‘martial’ implies?” Personally, I think that is what our generation should be doing now – the post-Japanese Shihan era folks. We do not have such a huge dissemination problem to address – at least not comparatively speaking and certainly not in the States. The art does not need one more forms specialist. It is time for us to free ourselves from the culture of breadth and dissemination and to adopt for our own times a culture of depth and of penetration. Now of course, we all think we are doing this, so more specifically let me say: It is time for us to take on seriously the task of gaining the martial spontaneity of Aiki and to develop various viable means by which to lead others to that same level of cultivation.

In that way, in answer to your question, yes, I do feel that the “cult of testing,” because it is such a vital practice of the institutions that require excellence to be defined as form for form’s sake, is part of the culture of mediocrity. The only true test our generation should have is the test that takes place daily – the measuring of ourselves in terms of quality and in terms of distance from spontaneously being capable of performing Aiki within combative situations. Under such a daily measuring, techniques take on a completely new meaning. No longer are they mere answers to a type of physical quiz, they are now the real bread and butter of our practice. In a strange way, to truly come to value Aikido waza, we have to devalue them first to a secondary position in the measuring of excellence. That is to say, when the spontaneous application of Aiki from within combative situations becomes the central aspect of our practice, techniques, their proper and improper way of execution, become vital to that practice.

However, I would not count that the little randori one sees at the end of a test as really a departure from the cult of mediocrity. Such a thing is really the culture trying to stay true to its original discourse while not wholly subverting itself. One sees these kinds of things in cultures of all sorts. They, like in a test of form for form’s sake, often come whenever a culture comes closest to contradicting one of its most valued discourses (i.e. Aiki is at the apex of martial strategy and tactics). Colloquially, we call them “lip service.” But with all forms of lip service, if you look at them, no culture can really 100% mean what it is saying, so it is always said in a way that it more resembles the contradiction (i.e. form for form’s sake) than it does its discursive or stated truth (i.e. Aiki is at the apex of martial strategy and tactics). This is why randori often has folks doing expected things (i.e. uke madly running at nage with both arms outstretched in front of them and nage performing variations on kokyu-nage and ate-ago). In other words, at such times, the culture does all it can to appear to be addressing spontaneity while it equally does it all it can to not actually be practicing spontaneity.

Again, I think Larry has said it the best, when he wrote:

“In other words if the reflection is a poor one, don't break the mirror or paint a false image over the one that is there and stick around with your dojo mates who will always tell you how great your demos and kata are (regardless of the reality), but accept what is really there in humility and work to honestly improve towards the goal of achieveing spontaneous Aiki and deeply understanding and applying the principles of Aiki.”

If we do this, we are always going to see our way through things like seminars, tests, the “martial,” multiple attacker situations of three or four or more folks, etc., to our generations most important task: Cultivating Aiki spontaneity within ourselves and developing viable means for others to achieve this very same cultivation.

Thank you very much,
david

CNYMike
05-27-2005, 11:17 PM
.... the issue here is not so much with the students as it is with the Instructors who are supposed to be indicating the way towards a deeper understanding of the art for those who wish to explore it. Instructors should be the measure of the quality of training at any dojo, yes or no? If yes, then that quality should have an objective measure that is independent of who is taking the ukemi, yes or no?


Who determines what is an "objective" standard? By what criteria? If the instructors in question have met their organizations requirements for being an instructor, then what else is required?

Sounds like I'm fudging, but I think it can be a trick question: If I say "Yes" and then you set a standard almost nobody can reach, what does that prove?


.... If you have allowed yourself to be taken to the ground then you have already lost initiative, balance and posture which are integral parts of Aiki waza (at least as done in Aikido). It's not about getting Aikido to work on the ground (i.e. ne waza) but having Aikido that is sound enough that does not allow you to have to get taken to the ground and still works effectively from the vertical posture against a serious grappling attack. Imho (and I can be wrong) ne waza is the realm and combative range of Wrestling, Judo and a part of Jujutsu etc. So if you are on the ground as an Aikidoka you need to be effective in Ju waza and Ne waza as the opportunity for applying Aiki may have already been lost imho. Of course I can be wrong.


I don't know if you're right or wrong. The key question is if Aiki happens only at the outset of a situation, or if the opportunity can come and go at any point. My personal feeling leans towards the latter, based mainly on the experience of a pushing hands practice in Tai Chi where my partner put himself in nikkyo and I took advantage of it. If I hadn't, I would have been in trouble in the next second -- he was probably going for his own trap. I knew that hand position from Aikido -- it didn't come from anywhere else. So was it Aiki, or wasn't it?

creinig
05-28-2005, 06:06 AM
(Warning: long rambling)

Excellent thread. Many good ideas, and it managed to really stir up some (of my) thoughts. Now that idea of more spontaneity training is kind of confusing me a bit. We do this as well (mostly evasion drills against several attackers with or without light attacks), and I think it's great. But it seems to run counter to (what I perceive of being) the traditional kata-based approach.

I recently read that great interview with Kuroda Sensei (http://www.bugei.com/kuroda.html), who essentially said that he learned everything from diligent training of the kata. And the Shu Ha Ri approach also seems to me to "suppress" all spontaneity during the "Shu" stage, which most "non-professional" martial artists rarely get out of.

Now I'm trying to resolve that "conflict" between the two approaches. "Train for spontaneity from the start" seems to bring students faster to an "applicable" level of skill, but it might actually ingrain bad habits that are hard to get rid of again in the long run. On the other hand the "perfect form first" approach certainly requires more patience.
Now I have to interrupt that train of thought because I feel it misses the point. Maybe a more useful angle is this:

From what we know of great teachers, (almost) pure kata training can produce excellent results. I think we can agree on that. But it is certainly not easy to learn from kata, and neither is teaching them properly. I guess the largest part of the perceived problem with the "forms" crowd is that most students -- and teachers -- don't really penetrate to the meaning of the practiced kata and thus only learn a fraction of the knowledge they are designed to impart. Forms for forms' sake, as was already said.

So, in theory, one can become an excellent (in the sense that word has been used in this thread so far) aikidoka by doing forms training only. If (big "If") one is highly motivated and interested and has an excellent teacher who thoroughly understands the kata. But for most people it is very helpful to mix in some freeform / spontaneity training (a) to give them some usable skills before they retire and (b) to help illustrate the martial aspects in the kata. As long as the spontaneity drills are designed and executed in a way that minimizes the building of bad habits.

Well, that got quite a bit longer than I intended and morphed from a kind of question to basically a dump of my thought process *g*. Maybe someone can make some sense of it though ;)

L. Camejo
05-28-2005, 06:38 AM
Who determines what is an "objective" standard? By what criteria? If the instructors in question have met their organizations requirements for being an instructor, then what else is required?

Sounds like I'm fudging, but I think it can be a trick question: If I say "Yes" and then you set a standard almost nobody can reach, what does that prove?
I understand your point Michael and it's one that concerns many when asking themselves serious questions on excellence.

Personally I think the Aiki concept is subject to interpretation to a point. As such I don't think any monolithic hard and fast rule will apply to all people and all situations. There are a lot of different expressions of Aiki and Aikido out there and not many people (if any) are in a position to state categorically what is wrong or right (I am surely not in that list).

When it comes down to martial spontaneity I truly believe that you are your best rule setter since you will know your strengths and weaknesses the best if your are being honest with yourself. As such it's not so much about trying to achieve some amorphous, God-like powers of martial interpersonal coordination, but instead, a string of identifiable, obtainable, achievable short-term goals that goes on until you find your own highest manifestation of spontaneous Aiki. As a white belt a Shodan may appear to be a God, not so much so when you are Ikkyu about to test for Shodan.:)

Relating to my last post, I see it as a step by step process. Evaluate yourself and your practice with a clear, humble mind to see yourself and your training as it exists today, then imagine the end goal (in your own definition) of truly spontaneous and applied aiki (whether it be an idealised image of Ueshiba M., water flowing down a mountain or whatever you need), and then set a chain of small, achievable step by step goals to get you there. In time these goals may change as you get a better, clearer understanding of yourself and the Aiki concept as you walk the honest, humble path towards achieving a level of spontaneous Aiki. There will come a point where you may find revelations that make you feel like a beginner all over again, but it is part of the evolutionary process. In the end I think each person's manifestation of Aiki at their own highest level is, like Aiki waza, flavoured by their personality, character, mindset, spirit etc. etc. and as such is a very personal thing, being the best manifestation for you. Sort of like - why is a bubble round?:)

Even though the above subjectivity exists however, there is objectivity since the goal is no longer defined by a particular testing syllabus, a cooperative uke who makes you look good or any sort of assistance that exists outside yourself and your embodiment of Aiki. You no longer need the political belt systems to show your proficiency in Aiki because you now embody the concept and it becomes a way of expression for you, like speaking or walking. In fact, relying on the political grading syllabi as your only means of measuring an understanding of the art reminds me of the old Gracie saying: "The belt only covers 2 inches of your a$$, the rest you have to back up with skill." The syllabus is merely a guide, but when we begin to understand the thing properly it's value as "a guide" and not "the dogma" may be truly seen. So it depends on what you want to see as real. Regardless of what belt you wear you will know inside how much you truly understand and how far you may be from achieving true excellence. Remember a belt only shows that you have passed a test for a set requirement of movements, that is all, it does not necessarily denote skill in spontaneously applying these concepts or movements.

I don't know if you're right or wrong. The key question is if Aiki happens only at the outset of a situation, or if the opportunity can come and go at any point. My personal feeling leans towards the latter, based mainly on the experience of a pushing hands practice in Tai Chi where my partner put himself in nikkyo and I took advantage of it. If I hadn't, I would have been in trouble in the next second -- he was probably going for his own trap. I knew that hand position from Aikido -- it didn't come from anywhere else. So was it Aiki, or wasn't it?
Actually, I never said "Aiki happens only at the outset of a situation" I said that the opportunity to apply it effectively is lost when one loses the initiative among other things. There are at least 3 levels of Sen (initiative) in Japanese Budo - Sensen no Sen, Sen and Go no Sen.

As far as your Tai Chi push hands experience goes, if it truly felt like Aiki to you then it probably was. Didn't the "old man" say that anything that is forced is not Aikido? Sounds like your partner walked into that technique. Sounds like Aiki to me at a basic level. But it does not necessarily mean that this can be repeated had your partner been seriously attacking (not doing push hands to give you an initial comfortable touch point of reference), resisting (negating every movement you make) and counter attacking with intent. What David and I are getting at I believe is that many of us stop at the level of achieving Aiki in a very basic, cooperative setting (a mediocre level???) and think that we have reached the peak of the mountain so to speak (the level of excellence). Sometimes when at what we think is the "peak" it may be good to see if one can reach up and touch the moon itself. Just in case.;)

Gambatte.
LC:ai::ki:

senshincenter
05-28-2005, 05:50 PM
(This is long - please skip if uninteresting.)

When I speak of spontaneity, I am speaking of a reconciliation of form and non-form. I am not at all advocating a rejection of form or of forms training. Therefore, when I suggest that our generation’s greatest agenda should be the cultivation of the capacity to perform Aiki spontaneously and the development of viable means by which we can bring others to such states of body/mind, again, I am not suggesting that we do away with forms and/or with forms training.

Shu, Ha, Ri is a traditional model of such a reconciliation. If we would like, we can of course use such a model to develop such a capacity and/or to discover various means to accomplish such desired-for ends. However, many of us will have to uncover this traditional model for ourselves because many of us have either not heard of it or have only heard of it in passing via some sort of descriptive discourse. In other words, for many of us, this traditional model is either unknown or at most only known intellectually. As a result, traditional or not, such a model is going to have to be reworked and/or reinterpreted as it is ultimately going to have to address a lot of personal discovery on the part of the practitioner that is attempting to use it. For example, one of my past teachers was one of the few Shihan that have actually bothered to write about Shu-Ha-Ri. Meaning, he is one of the few students of Osensei that actually related some of his training and his teaching to Shu-Ha-Ri in some sort of overt manner. However, was our training any different from other dojo that did not at all make mention of this traditional model? No – not in my opinion. Were we by our system of transmission and practice any closer to reconciling form and non-form than any other dojo that never made mention of Ri? No – not in my opinion. I am not mentioning this here to comment upon the capacity of various aikidoka to act spontaneously and thereby to comment upon whether they were excellent or not in the art. I am mentioning this to suggest that our generation is going to have to get imaginative and creative, even when we look to traditional resources (which we of course should attempt), because this kind of material is not readily available in the same what that technical issues are today.

Some of the things we are going to have to get imaginative and creative over are going to require that we suspend our hardcore beliefs in some of the issues that are needed to support a form for form’s sake discourse. For example, there is the very common idea that spontaneity training is some sort of chaotic situation – one that is not only not conducive to the acquiring of details but actually counter-productive toward such acquiring. While I imagine that if one were to mistake a reconciliation of form and non-form to mean “do whatever comes natural and/or at first impulse,” then such a thing might prove to be true. However, since a reconciliation of form and non-form rests on the cultivation of non-attachment, which in itself would problematize habits and impulses in the very same way that it would incorrect form, any spontaneous training that is done in synch with forms training is going to always positively reflect back on that forms training. Under such conditions, when your techniques keep failing and/or being countered under spontaneous conditions, your first impulse is not necessarily to do whatever comes “naturally.” Rather, it is to figure out what you are doing wrong technically. That is to say, under such conditions, one is actually more prompted than ever to return to the technical chalkboard of form. The drive that accompanies this type of interest in form, in my opinion, dwarfs the drive that normally accompanies our interest in forms (e.g. testing requirements, social status, etc.). This is quite contrary to our common sense understanding of how spontaneous training relates to form and detail.

In addition, this new drive in relation to forms training, because it acts as a practical outlet, comes to inspire and/or determine our capacity for understanding forms at a much deeper level. Things like contradictions or inconsistencies in our arsenal and/or tactical theory become more apparent (or even just apparent for the first time) through spontaneous training. (I mention inconsistency here because I think a shallow understanding of one’s own art and/or one’s own theories regarding that art is marked often marked by inconsistency. A depth of understanding is marked by a consistency of thought and action.) Actually, as a way of providing examples, I would like to speak about a few of these things that I have come to discover. (By “discover,” I do not mean, “invent.” I simply mean, “to realize for oneself.”) Since I have been advocating the use of video in these forums, I will limit myself to addressing only those things I have accompanying video for.

Here are some things I have experienced that, because of the way I experienced them, I feel are relative to this discussion – to the points made by Larry. These things may reflect upon your own training or practice, however that is not my intention with mentioning them here. Here, they are mentioned so as to demonstrate how spontaneous training can deepen one’s understanding of forms by inspiring consistency in one’s tactical assumptions and/or theories.

- Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote: We all know what Shomenuchi is. We all know what a real strike is. We all know what Aiki is – or at least we can say, we all know Aiki is not a clashing of energies. However, throughout my own training and in a lot of training I have witnessed, these facts are often warped and twisted into a falsehood that simultaneously supports and hides an abundance of inconsistency. For example, I have been taught, practiced, and witnessed Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote as a meeting of Uke’s downward energy at the elbow with Nage’s upward energy. Yet, this is a clash and thus a violation of Aiki. I have been taught, practiced, and witnessed Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote as Nage making contact with Uke at his/her elbow and wrist. Yet, if Uke is actually striking with Shomenuchi, the wrist cannot be made contact with until the strike is already coming down – making this also a clash and a violation of Aiki. Alternatively, if Uke is not striking but simply sticking their hand out, and/or up and out, then this is not a strike and/or Shomenuchi and again I am not demonstrating Aiki in relation to the downward strike prescribed by the techniques idealized architecture. And I have been taught, practiced, and witnessed Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote as Nage striking at Uke’s face first, Uke then responding with the opening for Ikkyo, and then Nage completing the technique as described. Yet, in doing this, while I may have completed the ending of the technique, I certainly robbed myself of the opportunity to practice Aiki against the downward strike. In all of these variations, which I imagine we have all seen and/or even practiced, we are either inconsistent with what we know as a real strike, or we are inconsistent with what we know as Aiki, or we are inconsistent with what we claim one can do with Aiki regarding the downward strike of Shomenuchi.

If one stays within forms training, none of this is very problematic. There are ample distractions along the way to veer us off course from discovering these very easy to see inconsistencies. For example, there is the usual case that we were shown “this” way by a “great teacher” – a “student of the founder” – a “person who’s been practicing 40 years,” etc. If we are doing the “strike-first” method of this technique, we can be distracted by either a sense of aggressiveness and/or the need to get more aggressive. If we are doing the no-striking version, we can preoccupy ourselves with a sense of being smooth, gentle, fluid and of blending. If a clash gets too great, we can preoccupy ourselves with getting stronger. My point is that a culture of mediocrity that is basing itself upon a form for form’s sake discourse is going to have a lot of things that an agent can use to not see the inconsistencies of his/her own position and thus its (the culture’s) own right to authority (i.e. to determine reality). Spontaneous training environments aimed at reconciling form and non-form are one way out of such a quagmire of inconsistent thought and action.

When you try these variations on Shomenuchi Ikkyo inside a spontaneous environment, you start to notice something, long before you even realize these plain to see inconsistencies. You start to notice that you can never pull off Ikkyo – the very form you have likely practiced the most. Your technique is subverted, countered, or even ignored, or worse, you cannot even access the beginning of the form spontaneously. Here is where some folks, those that bother to train under such conditions, say, “Man, Aikido sucks. I need to either train in another art or I need to bring in some other stuff that actually works.” I do not want to be hard on these folks because they are really up against an entire culture. I mean, what else can one really say when you got a whole fallacy of authority, notions of aggressiveness, blending, fluidity, strength, etc., telling you these variations should work? Perhaps, at the beginning, you can tell yourself that you are just not in line enough with the given authority, or you just aren’t blending enough, or you aren’t fluid enough, or you are not strong enough, etc. However, if you keep up this training, and you do not fall prey to the egocentric mistake of universalizing your own subjective experience, sooner or later, you are going to stumble across the awareness necessary to see that part of the problem is how inconsistent these variations are with the art’s ultimate positions (which do indeed make sense).

You are going to see that there is only one way to employ Aiki in the technique of Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote: You must enter (yang) when the strike is going up (yin) – making contact at the elbow region (since this is the only point of contact on the arm relative to this position and conducive to the rest of the technique). When Yang and Yin are matched, energy is harmonized, and Aiki is manifested. Once you start practicing this you start to realize how freaking difficult it is to do. Why? Because you realize it is only partly an architectural matter. You realize that a huge part of it has to do with both contact-sensitivity and non-contact-sensitivity. More than that, as for non-contact-sensitivity, you start realizing that you are dealing with human sensory skills that though perfectly natural are simply not natural to you and/or to nearly anyone else you know. You also start to see how there are 10,000 things in you and around you that get in the way of you cultivating this perception/sensitivity and thus work to having you fail at this technique. However, you keep going. You keep going, even passed your likely suspicions that all these other methods you tried to learn before were partly supported by tradition but also partly supported by the fact that this other way is so damn difficult to learn. You keep going, and next thing you know, the technique is coming out left and right under any spontaneous conditions that present themselves relative to its architecture. In this way, spontaneous training and forms relate to each other. However, they not only reflect upon each other. Spontaneous training brings clarity to forms that often cannot be brought about in any other way.

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/shomenuchiikkyovideo.html


- Tachi Waza Yokomenuchi Irimi Nage Omote/Tenkan: Again, we all know what Yokomenuchi is. We all know what a real strike is. We all know what Aiki is – or at least we can say, we all know Aiki is not a clashing of energies. However, throughout my own training and in a lot of training I have witnessed, these facts are often warped and twisted into a falsehood that simultaneously supports and hides an abundance of inconsistency. For example, I have been taught, practiced, and witnessed Yokomenuchi Irimi Nage as a meeting of Uke’s inward energy at the forearm with Nage’s outward energy (whether this be at a place of zero-pressure or at a place of maximum-pressure). For a system that in many places claims not to block and/or to allow energy to continue upon its intended path of action – boom! – all of sudden, you got this thing. No matter how you look at this, it is a clash and thus a violation of Aiki. I have been taught, practiced, and witnessed Yokomenuchi Irimi Nage as Nage entering behind Uke and then pulling him/her into Kuzushi with the tenkan. Yet, if Uke is actually striking he or she has enough inertia on their body that such a step into tenkan by Nage is actually a clash of reverse energies. Again, this is a violation of Aiki. And I have been taught, practiced, and witnessed Yokomenuchi Irimi Nage as after generating Kuzushi, Nage should be looking in the opposite direction of Uke prior to the final throw. Again, this is another clash of opposite energies, not to mention that it clearly flies in the face of the most basic rules of tenkan-ashi (i.e. you should be looking in the same direction as Uke).

So here you go again, armed with these versions you step into some spontaneous training conditions. Again, they fail, and again you are left with the choices of faulting the art, yourself, or your understanding of the art. You opt for the third option. You start noticing that you are indeed clashing with your opponent at the initial te-sabaki – that combatants do not leave their hand up there for you to parry it; that if you stop their hand like that they just hit you with the other one real fast or transition to some other strike from some other part of their body. If you go against bigger people, you notice that you are not strong enough to stop any of their strikes in that way. You reflect back on your experience in forms and you realize that a huge part of your “success” had to do with Uke not really trying to strike you – but rather with having them meet your “block” in a blending-like fashion. At this point you realize not only are you being inconsistent with Aiki you are also being inconsistent in your claim to practice the technique against a strike. So you keep going, back to the spontaneous training conditions. Maybe you have figured out how to address a inward-angled strike with Aiki now, or maybe you are just trying to work Irimi Nage from any time you are actually able to get behind Uke. You try the Kuzushi from the tenkan – geesh! – the resistance to your maneuver is amazingly different from what you experienced in your forms training. At this point, you are likely to suspect that something artificial, like the Yokomenuchi substitute, was silently providing much of the ease you were used to feeling in this particular Angle of Disturbance. You go back to forms training and sure enough, you notice that your Uke often stops him/herself in attempt to prepare themselves for the Kuzushi. As a result, you realize you are not actually pulling them (clashing) in forms training the way you are in spontaneous training (where Uke has no idea what you are trying nor any agreement to attempt to figure out what you are trying). The pull or clash is not present in forms training not because you are blending better there but because Uke has no attacking inertia (i.e. there is really no energy here to have to blend with). Now, let us say you either figure out how to generate Kuzushi via tenkan without clashing with Uke’s attacking inertia and/or without requiring them to actually have no attacking inertia, or let us say you are just strong enough to pull Uke into the Angle of Disturbance with the strength of your grip and/or your arms. Now – Uke is staring right at you. Only they aren’t there “waiting to get up so you can do the throw.” Nor are they just running forward around you so that they can go flying under your arm like it is some sort of an electric fence. No, they, like any other time someone is looking right at you and is that close and is trying to gain victory over you, are striking right at you ready to keep the fight going, ready to take advantage of this latest clash. None of this changes under spontaneous conditions until you learn how to be consistent with your own theory and practice of Aiki. None of these things change in regards to this technique until you learn how to go from the inside to the outside of inward-downward-diagonal strike without stopping it (how to not clash and employ Aiki). None of these things change until you learn how to tenkan so as to push Uke into Kuzushi and not tenkan so as to pull against their attacking inertia (how to not clash and employ Aiki). None of these things change until you consistently follow the most elementary rules of tenkan-ashi and turn your hips that extra 180 degrees so that you are again facing the same direction as Uke prior to the throw (how to not clash and employ Aiki). When you get all this, low and behold, the next thing you know, the technique is coming out left and right under any spontaneous conditions that present themselves relative to its architecture. Just like in the previous example, in this way, spontaneous training and forms relate to each other. However, they not only reflect upon each other. Spontaneous training brings clarity to forms that often cannot be brought about in any other way.

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/yokomenuchiiriminage.html

A call for a reconciliation of form and non-form is not advocating a rejection of form. Rather, as such a thing relates to form, it is advocating even deeper understandings of all things technical – such that an overall consistency regarding one’s own tactical theories can be generated.

Chris Li
05-28-2005, 06:55 PM
We all know what Aiki is -- or at least we can say, we all know Aiki is not a clashing of energies.

No offense, but I don't think that there's really any general agreement as to what "Aiki" is. Even the Daito-ryu folks, who use the term in a much more technical sense, often disagree. The video clips were fine, but fairly standard, IMO. I will agree, however, that "Aiki" is quite difficult :).

Best,

Chris

senshincenter
05-28-2005, 07:41 PM
Chris,

No offense taken at all. Thanks for writing in. However, do you think that we could at least say tha ta clashing of energies does not represent an expression of Aiki? (e.g. Yang to Yang or Yin to Yin)

If not, can we say, "All things being equal, it is more effective martially to not clash with your opponent's energy but to use that energy for one's own intentions."?

If one can say either of the above two statements, I think my earlier points of how spontaneous training is not a rejection of form, etc., should remain supported.

Like you said, Aiki is difficult. :-)

d

Chris Li
05-28-2005, 07:53 PM
Chris,

No offense taken at all. Thanks for writing in. However, do you think that we could at least say tha ta clashing of energies does not represent an expression of Aiki? (e.g. Yang to Yang or Yin to Yin)

Personally, I would say that the either/or restriction of the question oversimplifies the principle, so a yes or no answer is not that meaningful.

If not, can we say, "All things being equal, it is more effective martially to not clash with your opponent's energy but to use that energy for one's own intentions."?

Sure, but I think that's only a small portion of the thing in question.

Of course, a lot of the above depends on exactly what your conception of "Aiki" is, both in a technical and a philosophical sense.

Best,

Chris

senshincenter
05-28-2005, 08:10 PM
Of course, a lot of the above depends on exactly what your conception of "Aiki" is, both in a technical and a philosophical sense.

Naturally.

However, leaving things so abstract that they resist linear expression, and/or qualitative statements of the simplest kind (binary), doesn't really get us any closer to being able to understand Aiki technically or philosophically either.

For me, in the examples I gave, you see contrasting energies clashing. Because of that one loses Aiki - of course as I am defining it. However, also because of that clash, one loses the probability of remaining tactically viable within spontaneous conditions - that however isn't so subjective and open to interpretation. Call Aiki what you will, or don't call it anything at all, the latter remains pretty much true where ever you go. For me, if one's definition of Aiki can include examples of tactically inferior strategies that fail pretty much everywhere you go, it's not worth attempting to describe, learn, teach, or save for future generations. And, again, for me, it's definitely not worth trying to stay "more true" to it by suggesting that it can only exist beyond language and/or beyond any of our attempts to grasp it. For me, whatever you want to call Aiki, or however you don't want to say it, it should not include any understanding that would make room for such clashes of energy and/or such tactics so prone to failure at spontaneous levels.

just my opinion - as I said, that is how I have opted to understand "Aiki."

thanks again,
d

L. Camejo
05-28-2005, 08:29 PM
Great post Dave.

Your previous post with the technical examples made perfect sense the way you explained it. I have experienced a similar thing in my own training and the approach we use is going back to the kata to research and understand what we may have done wrong in randori. Resistance randori acts as the "acid test' to see if we truly understand the principles embodied in the kata or if we are BS-ing ourselves as to our understanding and effectiveness.

In fact this approach was recommended by Tomiki who saw the practice of kata and randori as elements of training that were complementary to each other and inseparable. One studies the correct form in kata and attempts to apply it in randori of varying resistance. If the technique fails then one returns and re-evaluates one's understanding of and performance in the kata, now armed with the knowledge learnt from spontaneous randori and resistance, very much like what you said in your last post.

Most times the result is we need to work harder on our own application of the kata, utilizing and applying many of the subtleties of motion that we tend to leave out in spontaneous situations sometimes. On the odd occasion the kata itself may be influenced or improved by the dynamics appreciated in randori, causing the kata to become more effective within the theories of Aiki to deal effectively and efficiently with the dynamics discovered in spontaneous resistance practice. After this one then returns to resistance randori to see if one's application improves based on these modifications, to avoid things like clashing energy, overuse of muscle strength and other things that one may resort to in an attempt to "make the technique work" and unwittingly propagate the culture of mediocrity either by lack of ability or lack of insight gained from spontaneous practice.

Personally I think Tomiki foresaw this phenomenon and decided to utilize both kata and spontaneous, resistant freeplay training in a way that each element can act as a guard or "check system" to improve the other and give one a method to seek objective improvement in one's own Aikido.

Just a few more thoughts. Great insights and comments folks.
LC:ai::ki:

CNYMike
05-29-2005, 02:04 AM
.... As far as your Tai Chi push hands experience goes, if it truly felt like Aiki to you then it probably was. Didn't the "old man" say that anything that is forced is not Aikido? Sounds like your partner walked into that technique. Sounds like Aiki to me at a basic level.....

Yeah, at the time he was more certain than I was that it was Aikido -- it felt like nikkyo and other things shmooshed together.


But it does not necessarily mean that this can be repeated had your partner been seriously attacking (not doing push hands to give you an initial comfortable touch point of reference), resisting (negating every movement you make) and counter attacking with intent .....

Yes, and for that reason, I am nor sure what, if anything, from Aikido will "pop up" when Guro Andy gets us sparring. But would that necessarily mean anything one way or the other? Is Aiki impossible in that situation, or is it just so complicated with the roles of uke and nage unlocked that the opportunities for it pass in a microsecond?

I don't know. Maybe down the road, I'll be able to tell you.


What David and I are getting at I believe is that many of us stop at the level of achieving Aiki in a very basic, cooperative setting (a mediocre level???) and think that we have reached the peak of the mountain so to speak (the level of excellence). Sometimes when at what we think is the "peak" it may be good to see if one can reach up and touch the moon itself. Just in case.;)

Gambatte.
LC:ai::ki:

Well, I'm barely into the foothills, so I can't tell you how my experiences jive with that or not. But I don't see how "cooperative" can be "mediocre." How can you go beyond that without risking O Sensei's prohibition against comeptions? And even then, even most sparring is also, to a certain extent, aritificial. Do you send yodanshas into dark alleys with ten dollar bills hangining from their pockets? Sounds like a good way to get people to resign!

Chris Li
05-29-2005, 02:33 AM
Naturally.

However, leaving things so abstract that they resist linear expression, and/or qualitative statements of the simplest kind (binary), doesnt really get us any closer to being able to understand Aiki technically or philosophically either.

I don't think that I ever said anything about Aiki being so abstract as to resist expression, linear or otherwise. Not everything can be explained accurately in simple binary statements - that's true in law, science, and philosophy, and no less so in budo, I would say. Personally, I would say that the technical and philosophical explanations underlying and explaining Aiki are really quite complex. I'm not sure that they can, or should be, reduced to a one-sentence statement.

Best,

Chris

senshincenter
05-29-2005, 03:14 AM
Chris,

I guess the confusing part is that you seem to be suggesting that you cannot or that you should not state that a clashing of energies (yang to yang/yin to yin) is outside of Aiki. Your only reasoning for that is to say that Aiki is complex.

I can understand that Aiki is complex, no one would deny that. However, when you seem to be suggesting that we cannot or should not even say that a clashing of energies is outside of Aiki then you are either saying something like "Aiki resists language at all levels, even the simplest ones;" or you are going to have to say that clashes are in fact a part of Aiki; or you are going to have to acknowledge that no matter how complex Aiki may be we can in fact say that a clashing of energies is outside of Aiki. The clincher for me is why you suggest any yes or no answer to the question, "Are clashes of energies Aiki?," is meaningless. When you say something is meaningless, especially a simple answer to a simple question, you are saying something resists expression. You are not just talking about a complexity.

After all, complexity only denotes that there is more, it does not mean than negative statements cannot be deemed meaningful. In fact, in law, in science, philosophy, and even metaphysics, mysticism, and theology, negative statements are often used to tell us something about something else that is very complex by telling us about that which it is not. Saying that such clashes are not a part of Aiki may very well indeed not capture the totality of what someone might want Aiki to be, but it does very much indeed tell us something very meaningful about what is a part of that complexity by telling us what is not a part of that complexity.

In short, maybe I can understand you better if you can tell me why your resistance to saying that such clashes are not a part of Aiki can rest on a disclaimer of "meaningless" - one that is brought about by a complexity of what Aiki is or is not. Again - if you can explain that to me, I might be able to get better what you are saying. I'm afraid right now, it is very difficult for me to understand your position regarding why it is meaningless to say that such clashes are outside of Aiki.

thanks in advance,
david

senshincenter
05-29-2005, 03:39 AM
I should say, I've chosen to follow this line in the discussion because like testing, and seminars, etc., I also believe that the rhetoric of complexity that surrounds the art's most elementary and/or central concepts is also something that is very much a part of the practice of form for form's sake and the culture of mediocrity. I do not wish to suggest that you Chris have such a position - I don't know. However, for me, there is no doubt that where there is no depth, only the illusion of depth can guarantee prolonged exposure without the risk of any change or a transformation that would throw the whole system for a loop. For example, as I listed above, one of the reasons that forms often do not lead to the radical insights that would promote consistency is that errors, misunderstandings, and inconsistencies, are subsumed under some sort of complexity that is to be addressed at a later date - in a future that never ever becomes "today." No doubt, there is a maturing process to our practice. However, one of the things that a culture of mediocrity does is to substitute a promise for maturity (to come at some later date that never arrives) for actual maturity. In other words, techniques like Ikkyo are supposed to promote insights through the whole of one's lifetime. However, the whole of one's lifetime should not pass with only the same ol' insights and/or the same ol' mistakes ever being experienced. The latter is not what is meant by a "life-time technique." Mistakes or errors do not become accuracies or truths simply because we have managed to make them our whole lives. We all know this. However, when a culture of mediocrity manages to substitute the promise for maturity for actual maturity, we come to use our sense of "future" as a kind of hope wherein we believe that somehow mistakes and errors will transform themselves simply because time has passed. In this way, the "now" is sacrificed for "insights" that are supposed to come later - always later. Tied to this is always the notion that things, even the most simple, central, and/or elementary things, are too complex to grasp in the "now" or "today." Because they are so complex, we are always told that we can only grasp them in the future - which means never.


I am imagining that Chris has something very insightful to say regarding why such binary/negative statements should be seen as meaningless, however, I have heard many other folks use such reasoning simply to support the status quo of never truly understanding things in the here and now - never truly taking seriously the role and responsibility of self-reflection. For me, outside of what Chris is right to mention (i.e. Aiki is a complex thing.), this line of the discussion, or, rather, this type of discussion, is very relative to the overall topic.

L. Camejo
05-29-2005, 09:05 AM
Yes, and for that reason, I am nor sure what, if anything, from Aikido will "pop up" when Guro Andy gets us sparring. But would that necessarily mean anything one way or the other? Is Aiki impossible in that situation, or is it just so complicated with the roles of uke and nage unlocked that the opportunities for it pass in a microsecond?

Hi Michael,

Actually when I practice FMA I tend to feel like my Aikido is just below the surface and will spontaneously erupt and execute whatever technique is most appropriate whenever I set myself up in a position where this is possible and my mind and body are coordinated enough with what is going on to react as is necessary. So afaik it should "pop up" as you say and if it is Aiki I think you will know it, you'll feel it. Aikido is not the only MA that uses Aiki principles imho. The FMA I practice - Sadiq Kali Silat, has a Jujutsu type (grappling, throwing and locking) aspect that flows very well with typical Aikido waza. Sometimes the transition is seamless.

When the roles of Uke and Nage are unlocked it is the best time for spontaneous application of Aiki imo. Since you need to really be sensitive and correctly perceive your partner's movements and learn to adapt and counter in an instant. Often it does not pass in a microsecond, since you are a part of the interaction and can very often feel when you will have the opportunity to spontaneously apply Aiki waza, just like your push hands nikkyo experience, you get a feeling just before the opportunity shows itself. We may not be able to capitalize on all the opportunities but I am sure as you get going the opportunities will not pass as quickly as you may think. Let us know how it goes, I think your FMA sparring may do much to help your spontaneous Aikido.

But I don't see how "cooperative" can be "mediocre." How can you go beyond that without risking O Sensei's prohibition against comeptions? And even then, even most sparring is also, to a certain extent, aritificial. Do you send yodanshas into dark alleys with ten dollar bills hangining from their pockets? Sounds like a good way to get people to resign!

I don't mean to say that cooperative training in itself is mediocre, I mean that when we allow ourselves to get into the comfort zone of thinking that cooperative training alone will allow us to plumb the depths of applying spontaneous Aiki, it is then we are settling for a mediocre method, since it is insufficient to truly simulate the environment under which spontaneous Aiki can be developed, executed and allow the practitioner to evolve. Cooperative training is very important for learning the basics, the movements, the kata, the form and having a structural, theoretical and technical guideline to follow. But it is only one aspect of holistic training imo and is at the periphery of understanding how to apply Aiki to very dynamic situations where free will is allowed to run amok and there is no Tori or Uke, like in your FMA sparring.

As far as Ueshiba M.'s "prohibition to competitions" I am not too sure what he meant when he said that. In my understanding from also seeing Tomiki's perspective I truly believe that the 2 were talking past each other. Tomiki's idea of competition is as a method of improving one's spontaneous Aikido. It is a training tool and not an end in itself like a lot of modern competitive practices. It sets a sound foundation for the testing of tactics and strategies and the method can easily be expanded to allow for self defence type training as well.

Even if you don't agree with the above however (and most Aikido folks won't) there is the randori and jiyuwaza method as practiced by most dojos. However, instead of just running at Tori/Nage with hands outstretched expecting to fall or be pinned, start actually and seriously giving the Tori a realistic, focused, serious but controlled attack with intent (i.e. really challenge him but don't knock his block off if he slips up, maintain control of the attack). Don't throw a well telegraphed hay-maker when you can throw a focused, tight round punch or cross with your weight centered and balance under control. If using traditional aikido attacks like Shomen, Yokomen etc. keep it tight and make it a real, powerful and effective attack, not an unfocused, off target swinging of the arms. Striking as uke should be atemi practice for your own waza as Tori imho. This is a start, make the attacks honest, minimise any openings and don't give away your balance or your mind. As you improve, slowly open things up by allowing for more attacks, always keeping things honest.

The next level is to start adding resistance and counters to the techniques to the point where the line between Uke and Tori blurs. The idea in the end is to develop sensory perception to the point where one can quickly and sharply determine what attack is coming and practice applying Aiki principles in a way to effectively deal with the attack. If clashing, failure or muscling occurs, return to the practice of kata and see what nuance of your randori waza does not effectively match your kata waza. It's like checking your form against a kata template in an attempt to get better at doing it in randori.

You are correct that to a point most sparring is artificial, but it is of great assistance in one's dojo training when the attacks and mindset one deals with resembles reality as much as possible and the "most effective form of the attack" is what is being defended against. I think a lot of Aiki application works on the physical and psychological reactions of a person who is really attacking, which is why many things tend not to make sense when being practiced cooperatively, but make perfect sense when done in resistance randori.

The idea in the end is to forge oneself, one's technique and one's application and understanding of Aiki principles by challenging the self, the technique and the applications of the principles to the point of failure. It is only when this "failure" happens can we go deeper into the meaning behind the waza and understand what about our execution of the waza or the principle helped it to fail. Then we can identify the parts of the problem and work on it with the help of a good instructor and aim to improve in our spontaneous applications by serious, honest, humble self evaluation.

Hopefully if this is done properly we won't have to send Yudansha into dark alleys or Biker bars with $10 bills hanging out. But then again if it did happen they may be a lot more knowledgeable and skilled in spontaneously applying those things that they have been practicing for how many years.

Just a few thoughts.
LC:ai::ki:

Ketsan
05-29-2005, 09:19 AM
Could it not be that we live in a mediocre society and so that inherent mediocrity is just carried into martial arts.

senshincenter
05-29-2005, 11:03 AM
Excellent last post Larry - if you will allow me to say. Thank you.

david

Chris Li
05-29-2005, 11:43 AM
Chris,

I guess the confusing part is that you seem to be suggesting that you cannot or that you should not state that a clashing of energies (yang to yang/yin to yin) is outside of Aiki. Your only reasoning for that is to say that Aiki is complex.

Well, I'm not sure that this is the place to get into a detailed discussion of exactly what "Aiki" is, which is why I haven't gone into more detail. Not clashing is great - but my point here was, I guess, that it's too limiting to define the whole of Aiki of off a single standard. In any case, my primary point was that there is no general agreement as to what constitutes Aiki.

Minoru Mochizuki said that "artillary is Aiki" - how do you use artillary without clashing?

Best,

Chris

senshincenter
05-29-2005, 12:59 PM
Not clashing is great - but my point here was, I guess, that it's too limiting to define the whole of Aiki of off a single standard. In any case, my primary point was that there is no general agreement as to what constitutes Aiki.

Minoru Mochizuki said that "artillery is Aiki" - how do you use artillery without clashing?

Best,

Chris

I can agree with that - it wouldn't do any good to attempt to define the whole of Aiki off of a single standard. Yet, I feel that saying what something is not, is not an attempt to define the whole of something. It is simply saying what is not a part of that whole (whatever that may be). If you look at me and you say, "Dave is not a crab fisherman by trade," you'd be right, but (as you are pointing out) you wouldn't be able to say you understand the whole of me. Nevertheless, though you would not understand the whole of me, you'd be right, I am not a crab fisherman by trade. That statement is 100% accurate - regardless of what all else I might be.

This is how negative statements work - they aren't about trying to have huge detailed discussions on what something is. They are about having very simple statements concerning what something is not. As I said, great, huge, abstract, concepts, throughout human history have been described through such negative reasoning. This is true for things such as "God" and "Nirvana," etc. If we as humans can do it for "God," etc., we can do it for Aiki.

When I hear quotes like Mochizuki's, I take this in one or two ways: either the person is wrong and has no idea that he or she is wrong; or the person is speaking figuratively and/or is making use of Upaya (tailoring the discussion to the needs of his/her audience). I am guessing the latter for Mochizuki. For example, if I look at Mochizuki's audience and I can see that they are too "soft," too "non-martial," etc., and if I sense that they are these things because a particular understanding they hold on what "Aiki" and/or "Aikido" is is supporting that softness/non-martial aspect, then for sure, I'm going to guess he's speaking with Upaya. In that way, we are not looking at a call for going out and buying a cannon and/or to start clashing with our opponent. Rather, we are looking at an attempt to get folks to understand, when you are using Aiki, you are in tune with the whole of the Universe - and the Universe isn't as light as a feather (as they appear), isn't weak (as they appear), isn't so passive (as they appear), isn't so unstable in its control (as they appear) or in its intention (as they appear), and if you come up against such power - BAM! It's like being hit with a cannon shell - it's like artillery!

That is what I think he means. If I take it that way, it makes perfect sense to me. But if I'm going to take those kind of statements by great teachers like him to mean that we should start clashing, then I might as well take him to mean we should all go and buy cannons.

Charlie
05-29-2005, 01:22 PM
Very thought provoking...

There is much to agree with and much to question. To start with, I would like to say that I do agree with most of what has already been stated. I remember when I was still in Japan pondering this same line of thinking of how do I get past the form's technical stage to the next arena of "instant application" (a.k.a. AIKI)?

In an effort to continue this conversation, I feel I have to ask you to define applicable AIKI in a martial context as well as spontaneity in a martial application. I feel that there-in lays the crux of the problem in that we all will probably not agree on the exact nature and complete acceptability of the application of AIKI.

My interpretation of AIKI in these instances is - whatever is necessary to resolve…

I leave my interpretation open-ended on purpose. For me to limit my response is to limit my choice of resolve. An altercation can be returned to harmony with one bone shattering block of a strike or similarly with the slightest of touches. It depends on what is necessary for that situation. I agree, as others have eloquently written before, that there are different levels of these applications.

I am a believer in practice the forms and the AIKI will come. Keep practicing until the forms become formless. In order to forget form you must know form. In my opinion, the apex is reached when one finally realizes that the techniques in-of- themselves are useless and not the form! They are nothing more than the vehicle to carry the message of proper space/time/distance along with proper body mechanics and proper application. Not a means to an end (e.g. I am grabbed -- I apply shihonage). They can be (as I stated before in the shihonage thread) if the situation lends itself to be perfect for that technique which usually it isn't.

It is my belief that the techniques are the teacher of the correct forms (the underlying lesson that is essential to each technique). In other words, when I practice katate-mochi shihonage, it is immaterial that uke has grabbed my wrist and I want to apply a shihonage technique to counter his grab. What is material is how my body mechanics line up for me to correctly apply a shihonage technique at that very instance. Not because I want to or even because that is what I have been trained to do, but ONLY because that is what is proper for that moment in time [AIKI].

It reminds me of the following analogy (in short). A person is walking in the woods and comes to an impassable river. On the bank lays a boat. They use the boat to cross the river. When they get to the other side they then leave the boat and continue on their way. To continue to carry the boat would only be a hindrance and would take that tool outside of the original context of its intent.

With the knowledge that is gained through cooperative training, a person learns what a proper technique should feel like (in a controlled environment). In a practical application scenario it should then "feel" obvious when the technique is not proper for that application and we must move on to the next available option. The problem from my viewpoint is that many tend to hold on to the belief that the techniques themselves are the end means instead of moving on to the understanding that what they actually should be looking at is what lays underneath the technique, the underlying principles of AIKI that are taught through the mastery of the techniques.

This brings us very quickly to the non-attachment that David has already been talking about. If I cling to the notion that when my wrist is grabbed I counter with shihonage I have already failed AIKI.

So how do we resolve this situation? Good question! A beginning is very much what has been already stated. Committed attacks with testing of proper mechanics to make sure the mechanics are solid.

I was at a clinic not to long ago when I was working out with a high kyu. Every time that I would strike with a basic yokomen attack he would flinch during his block. I always attack committed (with control) in a manner that is appropriate for that student. Not to do so cheats the student and cheats the art. I finally had to stop him and tell him to trust in what he has learned so far. Trust in his ability to defend against my attack.

I stop students all the time after they have launched the attack of the wet noodle or the heat seeking fist and ask them, "What is that"? Many times I won't even move out of the way when they launch an uncommitted attack. Then I explain the difference and demonstrate to them the ‘whys' and ‘how comes'. A good portion of students just don't know the difference and it is my responsibility as an instructor to keep them real.

My instructor has said a million times to me and others, "If you attack/apply/defend like that all you're going to do is piss them off!" He keeps it real for me and that is what I try to do for my students now. Hopefully free of any attachment and/or delusion!

CNYMike
05-29-2005, 05:33 PM
.... I don't mean to say that cooperative training in itself is mediocre, I mean that when we allow ourselves to get into the comfort zone of thinking that cooperative training alone will allow us to plumb the depths of applying spontaneous Aiki, it is then we are settling for a mediocre method, since it is insufficient to truly simulate the environment under which spontaneous Aiki can be developed, executed and allow the practitioner to evolve ....

I see. I don't have enouogh experience with Aikido to agree or disagree, so I don't know how far you can go with cooperative training. But off the top of my head, a person who sticks with that may not be so much spinning their wheels in a "comfort zone" as actively practicing and examining those aspects of the art he wants to work on. To me, a "comfort zone" means you just stop, don't prgress, don't work on things. If someone is using coopertaive training to work on areas of interest, that doesn't sound like a "comfort zone" to me.

It all depends on what you want from the art and what works for you, which seems to be a reason why there's so much variation in Aikido in the first place! There are people who are perfectly happy doing it for spiritual and philospohical reasons and not interested in hardcore training on the techniques like you descirbe. Does that mean those individuals would be pushovers on the street? I have no idea. But can their training methods be called mediocre if they are going where they want to go with it? It may be mediocre from one persepctive, perfect from another.

I think we may be talking past each other again; it's possible I've completely missed your point (again). But that's the thing to consider when tossing around "comfort zone."


..... Even if you don't agree with the above however (and most Aikido folks won't).....

I don't have enough experience to agree or disagree. I do know I like the class I'm in. If it's what's considered "aikidance," oh well, I guess that's what it is. As I've said many times, I'm not going for what's not there -- I want to find out what is there, and see what I get out of it, which is true of anything. IOW, if you want to learn high, flashy kicks, a BJJ class may be the wrong place to go to use an extreme example.

Aikido seems to allow for people to come to it for a variety of reasons and stick with it for a variety of goals and objectives. Since I'm a newbie at Aikido, my goal is just to get the hang of it! So calling someone "medicore" because they're not purusing the same path you are may not be entirely fair. And who knows? Maybe those ultra copperative types could tie us both in knots and not even know we were there.

L. Camejo
05-29-2005, 07:28 PM
It all depends on what you want from the art and what works for you, which seems to be a reason why there's so much variation in Aikido in the first place! There are people who are perfectly happy doing it for spiritual and philospohical reasons and not interested in hardcore training on the techniques like you descirbe. Does that mean those individuals would be pushovers on the street? I have no idea. But can their training methods be called mediocre if they are going where they want to go with it? It may be mediocre from one persepctive, perfect from another.

Aikido seems to allow for people to come to it for a variety of reasons and stick with it for a variety of goals and objectives. Since I'm a newbie at Aikido, my goal is just to get the hang of it! So calling someone "medicore" because they're not purusing the same path you are may not be entirely fair. And who knows? Maybe those ultra copperative types could tie us both in knots and not even know we were there.

Michael,

I understand your position.

Now please understand that you are not understanding mine. Your last post proves that, and it's cool.

If you looked at the name of the thread and the general points of conversation you will hopefully see that the word "martial" and "spontaneous" are very prevalent. This means that this thread is not designed to marginalise or put down those who practice Aikido for the myriad of other reasons that exist. In fact it does not even address them. The topic of the thread is specifically targeted towards "martially effective" Aikido and understanding the depths of how the Aiki concepts operate in a truly martial context without resorting prematurely to methods outside of that contained within the Aikido and Aiki paradigm.

So just to recap, I have no problem with those who do Aikido for philosophical, spiritual, social, medical or whatever other word ending in "al" that one can find, except for the word "martial'. The culture of mediocrity (which is different to calling someone a mediocre Aikidoka who does not train martially, which I am not doing) that we are speaking about is with regard to those persons who seek to apply it in serious martial situations and who are trying to understand the depths o f applying Aiki as a sound martial paradigm.

Thus I would appreciate it if you not try to make me appear as if I am trying to label as "mediocre" those who are not training in Aikido for martially effective reasons. I have no problem with their training at all. If they feel mediocre in what they do then I don't think it is from something I have said here but maybe a reflection of the self.

I hope you understand now. This thread is not really for those who are not training Aikido with a martially effective goal in mind. I don't think it can get much simpler than that.

Gambatte.
LC:ai::ki:

senshincenter
05-29-2005, 09:52 PM
Personally, I think we have to allow for various means to spontaneity. This seems to me to be a product or a consequence of how important a role Upaya is going to play - for any teacher. Still, there is a Zen saying that comes to mind: "Don't polish a brick and expect to get a mirror." I think there are great things to consider in what Charles is saying, and to be sure much of it overlaps with things that I myself have come to experience, but here's this saying, always in the back of my mind - "don't polish a brick and expect to get a mirror." Sometimes, when I hear the position that forms training in and of itself can lead to spontaneity - there's that saying, "don't polish a brick and expect to get a mirror."

I don't want to say that form's training is void of moments of spontaneity. However, these moments really don't come to the forefront in form's training but for the person that has already reconciled form and non-form. The rest of us are attached to too many things, are plagued by too many delusions, are being lured by too many distractions, are suffering from too much temptation to universalize our own subjectivity, etc. In short, once you are spontaneous, you can bring spontaneity back into your forms training. However, trying to go the other way, trying to go from forms to spontaneity is like trying to polish a brick and expect it to become a mirror.

For me, and for the means we are developing to cultivate spontaneity in the members of our dojo, we have rejected this position. We don't rely simply on forms to bring about a reconciliation of form and non-form. We employ many other types of practice and training that we feel are vital to such a transformation of the Self. Without these things, with just forms alone, we feel the cultivation of spontaneity is impossible or at least improbable. However, we are just one way of many - one way of an infinite amount of ways I imagine that are possible.

The ultimate proof, or the ultimate test for the validity of one's own methods of cultivating spontaneity is going to be in quality of that spontaneity (i.e. how closely it manifests the ideals of Aiki) and in the number of deshi one has managed to bring to such a level of cultivation.

L. Camejo
05-30-2005, 09:36 AM
The ultimate proof, or the ultimate test for the validity of one's own methods of cultivating spontaneity is going to be in quality of that spontaneity (i.e. how closely it manifests the ideals of Aiki) and in the number of deshi one has managed to bring to such a level of cultivation.
Very well said David.

From my understanding, effective spontaneity is achieved by training an area of the mind/body that is not dealt with too much in the practice of form alone, namely the reflexive, instinctive elements. The practice of form mostly engages the higher brain functions, allowing one to think about and be mentally and physically engaged with achieving correct form. As you have indicated, if the mind is "fettered" during forms practice (which is pretty much a requirement of forms practice due to its particular goal - conscious development of one's form) then it is very difficult to imagine how this sort of practice alone will allow one to evolve in an area that requires the exact opposite, an "unfettered" mind that is not fixed on the execution of form or a particular technique, but on spontaneously responding to an unrehearsed situation in the most effective means possible while keeping in line with the tenets of Aiki (whatever one may define them as).

As I quoted from David's post above, the proof of whether the method used to develop spontaneity is effective and efficient is reflected in the degree to which spontaneous Aiki responses can be consistently repeated with effective results whether the attacker decides to use free will and resist or not.

This reminds me of an encounter I had at a dojo of another school (Aikikai) once. I had a T-shirt of a Shodokan yudansha sending a tanto-wielding attacker flying with aigamae ate (irimi nage) during a tanto shiai bout with the caption "Resistance is Futile" on the bottom.:) Little did I know that the Instructor at the dojo saw this and took issue and proceeded to use me to demonstrate his techniques.

As a matter of expanding my own training, when I visit other dojos I try to train the way the Instructor teaches, not do what I know from my own training. I am there to learn after all. So later when we are practicing he decides to resist my technique as I am trying to execute it his way during cooperative practice. It does not work (since the concept of kuzushi apparently eludes these people sometimes), so he smirks and says "See resistance is not always futile", I remember thinking (almost voicing) my immediate response "Only when I do it your way buddy.;)"

What this encounter helped me to see was that within the culture of martial mediocrity there are many folks, and Aikido has a fair share of em, that truly believe in their spontaneous martial ability from practicing in kata alone and try to prove this using bullying tactics since there are certain rules and norms to interaction during forms practice (i.e. Uke does not really try to defend himself). If faced with a spontaneous situation (like resistance randori for example) where the other person is allowed to use free will to counter and seriously attack and defend they may not be so quick to "show" others what is effective Aikido during one sided forms practice. It is easy to be effective when the other guy doesn't get to defend himself.:)

This is part of the reason I created this thread. This culture that is propagated by both Instructors and Students for different reasons can result in a severe case of delusion as to one's actual ability, and to what really works. Not to mention encouraging ego-driven, bully type responses when they feel that the false structure (illusion)given to them by the culture of mediocrity is challenged somehow in their own minds.

I mean it's interesting to see that when I do seminars on resistance tanto randori at other Aikido schools the Instructors often sit out that portion of the practice for some reason, when it is obvious to many that the reason is because all of a sudden the field is a bit more level as students and Instructors can both try to defend themselves from the other's technique with serious, but controlled intent while utilizing Aiki waza. One does not just roll over for the other's ineffective waza because that person is Sempai or Sensei but tries to resist and get off his own technique as much as possible and get his Aiki to work effectively on Sempai or Sensei.

It's an interesting phenomenon. God forbid the higher ranks actually have to show the lower ranks that they can apply this stuff in a spontaneous manner confidently in the face of resistance. No wonder folks outside of Aikido (BJJ, Judo, JJJ, JKD) have fun pulverizing a lot of Aikidoka who walk into their schools with this attitude. The result is that the image that many have of Aikido folks are that they are
1)delusional as to their actual martial ability,
2)full of ego, attitude and over confidence created by a system that encourages this behaviour since their spontaneous and effective waza is never tested and
3)are so enamored with the culture that has created this illusion that even after they have gotten their beating at the other schools try to console themselves and hide in the belief that these dojos are training for "sport" or that "in a real life situation they would do .... and that sparring is not a real life situation".

What do you folks think? It does not augur well for those who are actually doing what is necessary to maintain that standard of spontaneous martial effectiveness. In fact I believe that the folks who enter this sort of training towards understanding the depths of spontaneous and effective Aiki may be in the great minority.

Just some more thoughts.
LC:ai::ki:

senshincenter
05-30-2005, 12:19 PM
Larry wrote:

“So later when we are practicing he decides to resist my technique as I am trying to execute it his way during cooperative practice. It does not work (since the concept of kuzushi apparently eludes these people sometimes), so he smirks and says "See resistance is not always futile", I remember thinking (almost voicing) my immediate response "Only when I do it your way buddy."

What this encounter helped me to see was that within the culture of martial mediocrity there are many folks, and Aikido has a fair share of em, that truly believe in their spontaneous martial ability from practicing in kata alone and try to prove this using bullying tactics since there are certain rules and norms to interaction during forms practice (i.e. Uke does not really try to defend himself)…”



Yes, I would agree, this too is very much connected to the how the culture of mediocrity offers its resistance to the true cultivation of Aiki spontaneity (being spontaneous with the tactic of Aiki). It does this by again over-emphasizing forms training. In other words, because there are no true outlets for the cultivation of spontaneity, in the culture of mediocrity, forms are wrongly stretched beyond their actual nature in some sort of deluded attempt to capture something, anything, of spontaneous Aiki. Rather than leading to any real kind of insight into spontaneity, this type of training often leads to a kind of Aikido that is even further from such ends. This is because this type of training often comes to be heavily influenced by the culture’s sense of etiquette. As a result, you do not really get spontaneous Aikido, rather you get what could be called “Rank Aikido.” In “Rank Aikido,” he or she with the higher rank sets the rules for and determines the degrees of “resistance” by which spontaneity is supposedly gained. As a result, rank often determines what is successful and what is not – nothing or little else. In Rank Aikido, one’s proximity to protocol, rather than one’s proximity to the spontaneous application of Aiki, determines the outcome. In a way, this type of “resistance” is much like playing poker with the cards up. There is some chance involved, but still much of the game is missing – much of what is important. Because key things are missing, the kind of spontaneity that one often cultivates (e.g. switching from Nikyo to Rokkyo when Uke resists by straightening the arm or going into Kote-gaeshi from Ikkyo is the person stands up on you) by wrongly stretching forms training to this degree is radically different from actual Aiki spontaneity. That is to say, it is radically different from the kind of spontaneity that must take place outside of etiquette, outside of a choice of forms, and outside of a resistance meant to subvert a given form.

In short, when I talk about “resistance” or when I am referring to a spontaneous application of Aiki, I am not at all referring to someone that muscles against you (either intentionally or unintentionally, either with by agreement or without agreement) within forms training. This is right up there (i.e. down there) with using randori (i.e. having folks run madly at you so you can do Kokyu-nage and Ago-ate against four or more folks) as one’s outlet for cultivating spontaneity. I think Larry too is of this position. This kind of training does not at all, in my opinion, produce the kind of spontaneity that is truly necessitated by either the goal to gain some sort of martial effectiveness with Aiki and/or to reconcile the subject/object dichotomy at the deeper levels of Self. By comparison, I would call it a cheap substitute. The cultivation of the spontaneity of which I am referring not only requires a break with form but also a break with forms training. Environments where the underlying structures of form training can be subverted are necessary to reach, as Larry calls them, the “the reflexive, instinctive elements” of our being. This means one requires environments that are by design meant to do away with notions like these: action/reaction; nage/uke; my turn/your turn; throw/pin/lock/strike; start/stop; beginning/end; my space/your space; attack/defend; technique/counter; my style/your style; my rank/your rank; my experience/your experience; etc.

The goal is not to switch techniques, nor to resist techniques, etc., the goal is “to have the doer and the done become one” – such that techniques both exist (from an objective point of view) and do not exist (from a subjective point of view). If all you do is forms, and/or if all your training environments continue to make use of the substructures of forms training, in my experience, doer and done can only become one under conditions that for the most part remain artificial. Because of this, the “spontaneity” presented, for the most part, also remains artificial. As a generation, today, we simply must risk stepping away from forms, from forms training, and most importantly FROM THE SUBSTRUCTURES OF FORMS TRAINING if we are truly wishing to take the cultivation of becoming spontaneous with Aiki seriously. We do this along side of forms training and we do not have to stretch forms training beyond its actual capacity and/or feel compelled to simply add more forms from outside of the art. We do this along side of forms training, and we will definitely come to understand forms more fully and more accurately – such that the addition of more forms is seen for the absurdity that it truly is. These two aspects (i.e. forms training and non-forms training) are like two wheels of a cart, two wings of a bird that together lift and support the cultivation of Aiki spontaneity. First, we need to note their differences from each other, then we need to use them both to understand each aspect better through contrast, then we reconcile them, then we transcend them. In the process, as they support our practice, our cultivation of spontaneous Aiki is also supported.

dmv

Charlie
05-30-2005, 02:54 PM
There is a serious key element that I feel is being left out in this equation, that being the student. Yes, Aikido is for everyone, however, not everyone is meant to obtain the ‘higher teachings'.

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink!

Does this mean that an existing way of presenting the product is flawed? Or instead could it be that maybe the student has not delved deep enough to penetrate the surface teaching? I agree that many today are practicing the forms in a manner that is not conducive to reaching the higher levels. I don't think that the whole process is flawed though. If part of the test is going to be how many times you can reproduce the desired affect in others…you're destined to fail!

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink!

I polish my brick with the full understanding of what it is and what it is going to achieve. I know that my brick, by itself, is just that…a brick. But add that brick to my other polished bricks and what do I have? A well polished foundation to which will support anything that I add to it.

Creating and adding more exercises to your bag of teaching tools to try and reach a more spontaneous level of training is wonderful and highly encouraged. However, don't kid your self into believing that you're moving beyond a path of form training. In my eyes all you have done is added more form to your forms. [For this I am referring to the exercises on David's website…which I like by the way!] In order to reproduce the desired affect in others you have to create rules and boundaries. The whole process has to be defined and then practiced…correctly. What is so different about the exercises that you employ from that of doing jiyu waza with committed attacks? From forcing the students to practice with intent and to continually push them to the limits of what the forms provide? I personally don't see a difference it what you are presenting from what has already been presented (in my experience so far).

In my opinion, the difference is not in the presentation but in the presenter. Yes, you and you alone! You create the environment where this is possible. You are the one encouraging, pushing and defining. You are creating the pathway. Sadly, this does not mean that the student will always follow or even be able to for that matter. Because again you are the one that has done the leg work, has sweated, has pained and struggled and hopefully triumphed. It is your experience and your experience alone. And unfortunately, the only way to get a student to that same place is to concede the fact that they too must go through a similar process. They have to start at square one (e.g. this is proper kamae) and continue to move forward from there.

I don't feel that there is anyway around this process and to try to is to help sustain the current situation of today where anybody practicing Aikido thinks that they are martially viable. There are no short cuts. This is not my lesson but my teacher's lesson. So many times he has said, "If you would just listen to me you would already be there!" Yet he fully understands that he is only providing the pathway for me to walk on and that I would still have to do the leg work for myself. He provides me with the guide book to follow to show me what I should be looking for on the way. This, however, will only take me so far and then I have to eventually blossom on my own. This, to me, is the tried and true way of forms practice.

Forms are not spontaneity. It's not meant to be. However, they do provide the pathway to spontaneity if you look past them. To practice at an early stage of learning in a spontaneous manner without the knowledge that forms provide is an invitation to chaos.

I understand that no one here has suggested dumping the forms format. I guess all that I really wanted to say is that it is up to the student to take themselves to that next level of understanding. The instructor cannot take them there but only show them the way. If the instructor has done so with none attachment and the slightest of delusion then hopefully the student will continue on their way to make that reconciliation between form and none form. After all it is not an absolute that everyone will get there.

senshincenter
05-30-2005, 04:21 PM
However, don't kid your self into believing that you're moving beyond a path of form training. In my eyes all you have done is added more form to your forms. [For this I am referring to the exercises on David's website…which I like by the way!] In order to reproduce the desired affect in others you have to create rules and boundaries. The whole process has to be defined and then practiced…correctly. What is so different about the exercises that you employ from that of doing jiyu waza with committed attacks?

Using Charles' fine points to elaborate more upon my own (not really replying directly to Charles)...


As I said before, I am not advocating a rejection of form. And by no means am I suggesting that what we should do is add more forms. In short, the reconciliation of form and non-form is not an architectural matter. It will not come about either subtracting and/or accumulating things. It is at its heart an epistemological and/or an ontological matter. It is not about "things" but rather it is about "how we through our body/mind come to relate to things (but also ideas and our own sense of identity)." In other words, we cannot understand a reconciliation of form and non-form to mean that we either do not do Ikkyo and/or that we do new versions of Ikkyo. A reconciliation of form and non-form is about how we relate to Ikkyo at every level of our being. Thus, when one undertakes spontaneous training, one is not going to see an absence of things and/or of form and/or of rules and boundaries, etc. There is never going to be a construction that does not take place in space, and there is never going to be a space that is not constructed. No environment can escape this -- this is the nature of Reality as it is experienced. This is true whether it occurs inside the dojo or "on the street." Why? Because it is the subject that both experiences reality and that thereby constructs reality. Reality is always constructed. This is not a downfall of training. This is THE much needed aspect that leads to cultivating a spontaneity through training.

There are two important places where this aspect is used to gain reconciliation. I already mentioned one of them in the last post: how forms training and spontaneous training reflect back upon each other in order to deepen our understanding and/or realization of both. This is very much related to how the subject constructs reality by experiencing reality. The second place has to do with the cultivation of non-attachment. For the cultivation of non-attachment to take place, there must be some thing, some idea, or some sense of self, etc., to which we may become attached. In spontaneous training, we are attempting to cultivate non-attachment. If it were possible (and it is not) to construct a pure space free of all constructs, we would lose our chance of cultivating non-attachment because such a space would offer nothing to be non-attached toward. To attempt to build such a space (which again, I would remind you is impossible) is like cutting your head off to get rid of a headache.

At a simple level then, one is not looking to get rid of Ikkyo, or to add newer versions of Ikkyo. One is not looking to gain a form or to gain an anti-form. One is looking toward a type of being that can exist without being attached to form. What makes a technique like Ikkyo viable in a spontaneous environment is twofold: first that it is tactically sound in its architecture and its application, and second, that the practitioner is not attached to it. However this is not enough -- or what I have said is not descriptive enough. For what is Ikkyo? What all goes into Ikkyo as we are experiencing it as a practitioner of Aikido? I would say it is also all those substructures of forms training (see earlier post above) -- the means by which we are introduced to Ikkyo. As experienced by the subjective self, Ikkyo is, yes, this arm pin, etc., but it is also the means by which it is transmitted, etc. Combined, these things are our experience of Ikkyo -- our reality of Ikkyo. It is all of these things combined, because the nature of how the form is transmitted and how it must be learned, but also due to the nature of the small self and how it experiences reality, to which we must become non-attached. Toward this end, and because a spontaneous training environment both cannot and should not be a pure space with nothing to be attached to, such environments rather should be a space where attachment is both made obvious and negatively experienced. In addition, as much as possible, it should also be an environment where non-attachment alone succeeds and/or it alone is experienced positively. This is all one needs in order to construct a spontaneous training environment.

That said, I do not think it is accurate to suggest that what one can witness in our beginner drills is simply the construction of more forms. Rather, it is the beginning of cultivating non-attachment toward forms, toward things, toward ideals, and toward a sense of identity, even toward the constructs of the drill itself. In that way, while not rejecting forms training, it is very much different from it. So different, that should one return to straight forms training, once having cultivated adequate levels of non-attachment, forms training itself will become a spontaneous training environment. I mentioned this before.

Now is this different from Jiyu Waza? No. However, is it different from a "Jiyu Waza" that has been thoroughly subsumed by a culture of mediocrity? I would say, definitely, YES. How can you tell the difference? Try them both. It is not so hard to tell the difference from within -- only hard on paper. Video is also good at times. There is another thread here on how you can search for videos through Google.com. On those pages, there are many "randori" and "jiyu waza" demonstrations that are more about a continuation of being attached to form than about cultivating a non-attachment toward form. There you will see a "jiyu waza" that has been thoroughly subsumed by a culture of mediocrity and thus there you will see several forms that are not tactically viable in their architecture.

On another point: Before we all start talking about what the "masses" require and/or how we must limit our aspirations for "their own good sake," let us as a generation give it a shot. The time is ripe. These topics are on the minds of a great many practitioners even if the actual means are not yet firmly in place for most. Using a metaphor: Head up the mountain, see who follows. You cannot head up a mountain by waiting for everyone to head up with you. When you ascend first, I think you will be surprised by how many "masses" do just fine without "their own good sake" being taken as a reason to default on your own aspirations. At our dojo, as I said, our training is organized thusly, and every member, from every lifestyle, participates. Like now in other dojo where there is no such training and/or where it is just now being formulated, our deshi do this at their own level, at their own pace, and according to their own needs. That they are heading "upward," that they are oriented toward a reconciliation of form and non-form, is all that is important. We cannot ignore the significance of this orientation simply because of some false compassion where some unidentifiable Other that we call "the masses" makes it seem like it is better to do nothing than to do something.

dmv

CNYMike
05-30-2005, 10:06 PM
Michael,

I understand your position.

Now please understand that you are not understanding mine. Your last post proves that, and it's cool.

If you looked at the name of the thread and the general points of conversation you will hopefully see that the word "martial" and "spontaneous" are very prevalent. This means that this thread is not designed to marginalise or put down those who practice Aikido for the myriad of other reasons that exist. In fact it does not even address them. The topic of the thread is specifically targeted towards "martially effective" Aikido and understanding the depths of how the Aiki concepts operate in a truly martial context without resorting prematurely to methods outside of that contained within the Aikido and Aiki paradigm.

So just to recap, I have no problem with those who do Aikido for philosophical, spiritual, social, medical or whatever other word ending in "al" that one can find, except for the word "martial'. The culture of mediocrity (which is different to calling someone a mediocre Aikidoka who does not train martially, which I am not doing) that we are speaking about is with regard to those persons who seek to apply it in serious martial situations and who are trying to understand the depths o f applying Aiki as a sound martial paradigm.

Thus I would appreciate it if you not try to make me appear as if I am trying to label as "mediocre" those who are not training in Aikido for martially effective reasons. I have no problem with their training at all. If they feel mediocre in what they do then I don't think it is from something I have said here but maybe a reflection of the self.

I hope you understand now. This thread is not really for those who are not training Aikido with a martially effective goal in mind. I don't think it can get much simpler than that.

Gambatte.
LC:ai::ki:

Hi Again, Larry,

I rereead your first post and some of the latter posts to try and get a better handle on things. One question pops to mind: What is the "martially effective" situation you want people to train for?

A self defense situation would be outside the dojo, and if technques learned "cooperatively" work, then that would considered effective, but you said in the first post, "I am not referring so much to self defence.... " So what is the scenario you're talking about? Is it so that if a Shoot or a Judo person swaggers in and issues a challenge, you can face them with nothing but Aikido and be victorious? That would be nice, but if you're best buds with the guys who do that in your area, what are the odds that will happen?

Maybe I'm dense, but while I can see you want people grounded in Aiki principles as much as possible, I'm unclear as to what they're supposed to be grounded in them for.

L. Camejo
05-30-2005, 11:14 PM
I rereead your first post and some of the latter posts to try and get a better handle on things. One question pops to mind: What is the "martially effective" situation you want people to train for?

Hi Michael,

There is no scenario that one is training for. Training for a particular scenario would help create a mind that is attached to the peculiarities of that scenario, which will by nature reduce its ability to act spontaneously in a clear, non-attached manner. It is all about conscientious training and fully understanding what can be understood within the tenets of Aikido and Aiki as far as effective technique goes and more importantly spontaneous expression of technique within the Aiki paradigm. The same thing Ueshiba M. referred to as Takemusu Aiki I believe. It is an effort to move beyond mere form and technique and understand one of the true powers of Aiki - creative adaptation and manifestation of the appropriate response to any situation.

It is about fully understanding (or trying to understand) the depths of what you are doing before going elsewhere to find what has been sitting there in your face all along basically. This understanding can be applied to all levels of training, from the physical to the spiritual. The physical however, is most easily perceived and is as such a good place to start.

When I hear of folks who feel that their Aikido training or understanding of Aiki is so underdeveloped that they will not even try to think about how Aiki would actually work in certain spontaneous situations but instinctively defer to responses found in some other style I feel a bit of pity for them.

This is not about self defence, although the lessons learnt can be applied anywhere that Aiki can be applied, which includes a vast many things. It's about truly understanding the depths of one's practice beyond mere forms and "seeing how deep the rabbit hole goes" in a sense.

The lessons learnt from this sort of pursuit (for those who are willing and even care about going that far) can cause training itself to take on a new dimension. It is no longer an exercise in movements but helps in the creation of a self that is not satisfied by answers based on delusion, denial and cursory inspection but one that looks beyond the surface to see the true dynamics of any situation and as a result see more clearly the path towards the harmonious reconciliation of any conflict, in other words the path towards spontaneous application of Aiki in everythting we do.

But as I said before, this sort of training is not for everybody. And for those who want to do Aikido for other reasons I hope they are also evolving objectively in their pursuit instead of simply mimicking the guy in the skirt at the front of the class.;)

Oh and btw the local BJJ Instructor and I are good friends and cross train a bit together. Great fun.:)

Gambatte.
LC:ai::ki:

happysod
05-31-2005, 04:00 AM
Larry, would I be correct in presuming you're still advocating different levels of "spontaneous aiki" depending on the level of the practitioner in question? Sorry, getting lost in the various elements in this thread.

David, please write something I can disagree with, it's getting frustrating having to read your stuff and nod quite so much.

Charlie
05-31-2005, 06:02 AM
David...I have to thank you! The dust on my dictionary has been shown no quarter.

CNYMike
06-01-2005, 02:07 AM
.....It is about fully understanding (or trying to understand) the depths of what you are doing before going elsewhere to find what has been sitting there in your face all along basically .... It is no longer an exercise in movements but helps in the creation of a self that is not satisfied by answers based on delusion, denial and cursory inspection .....

I think I got it. FINALLY. Of course, I also picked up ont the interesting idea that the two possible outcomes, martially, from cooperative training are mutually exclusive: One either thinks Aikido is invincible or not capable of anything, nothing in between. Not being an extremist by nature, I'd like to hope there's a happy medium. But that's me.



.... Oh and btw the local BJJ Instructor and I are good friends and cross train a bit together. Great fun.:)

Gambatte.
LC:ai::ki:

Cool.

senshincenter
06-01-2005, 06:21 PM
Larry, I'm trying to reach you privately - do you think you would be so kind as to email at <senshincenter@impulse.net>.

Thank you in advance,
david

Charlie
06-01-2005, 07:46 PM
David…I feel you! I think that we are getting at the same thing but from slightly different angles.

My main point, however, is that the culmination of your thesis is yours and yours alone. Your students may agree with your conclusions and thus decide to study with you to try to get to your level of understanding and application but this does not make it their own understanding because they did not leg out the path that got YOU there.

My guess is that they are studying a set pattern from which you set the principles [from your experience]. Even in an exercise designed to foster spontaneity there are guidelines. As you stated, that will always be the case. My observation was only that I did not see an addition to what has already been devised but rather a continuation of what has already been presented [to me]. That, of course, being a viable interpretation of how to help foster ‘it' in a much less scripted training format.

The question remains as such, how one fosters correct training and correct understanding within their students to be able to reproduce a level of true spontaneous application. Some say forms training are all you need -- that it contains all the answers. You say that it does not.

I'm just saying, from my understanding, any device that I create is not going to be outside the already established realm of forms training but instead an extension of it. You have to be able to give it taste, feel and sound or how else can you transmit it? Even if you feel that the transmission itself is ‘formless' you have to have ‘form' to point this out. I understand that you are not disputing this [or I believe that you are not].

In my mind, this transmission can only be realized by understanding the correct nature and role of the student. If one is to take into account the beginnings of our art or even to look to the times before it, you will see a standard was in place to help insure that the finer details were not wasted on those that were not ready to receive them. A prospective student had to have references, invitations and prior experience as well as participate in a formal interview process or they were just not accepted. All these things lean towards an understanding that there was to be an extreme commitment by the student. In return for this "extreme commitment" the student receives the whole transmission of the art, of which its martial capabilities have probably already been proven to be effective by a fine display of spontaneous application or why else go through this process?

In the early days of Aikido there was in fact competition, challenges and such that tested the efficiency of ‘spontaneous' Aiki. If the accounts from so many early instructors are just half way factual, the level of spontaneous martial application must have been astounding! Of course, they, as students of Osensei, had to go through this formal process of commitment. This commitment, without a doubt, then trickled its way down to every aspect of their routine training.

There is not too much of that today. This day and age all are deemed entitled to the transmission without this seemingly ‘undue process' which has helped to foster this ‘age of martial mediocrity'. If all are entitled, then there is no need for extreme commitment. Without the extreme commitment how deep do you really need to penetrate to be satisfied that you have ‘it'? The cycle perpetuates itself until you get to the point where the instructors that are churned out are under the delusion that the have ‘it' no matter what and the only seemingly set standard of testing the level of spontaneous application is in the format of a demonstration scenario where the attack of the ‘madly running Frankenstein with the outstretched arms' is accepted as a truth.

But, alas, that is just my observation.

Very brave David…calling for revolution like that!

L. Camejo
06-01-2005, 09:48 PM
Larry, would I be correct in presuming you're still advocating different levels of "spontaneous aiki" depending on the level of the practitioner in question? Sorry, getting lost in the various elements in this thread.

Hi Ian,

Yes precisely. Actually tonight I did an exercise that is part of the Shodokan Randori system with my students, the highest of which are at 4th kyu. It is the middle level of randori we call Hiki Tate Geiko and it can be modified to suit what one wants to focus on, but we basically had one person attack with a tanto and as the other person tried to do technique the other would resist by using relaxation, sensitivity and correct body movement (not muscular tension) to negate the technique and try a counter of his or her own.

The end result was a constantly moving and flowing process from technique to technique with spontaneous reaction and application of kaeshiwaza. The process would come to an end when contact was broken, when one of the partners would launch an immediate attack again or when someone got off a successful technique. The key to the exercise however is to spontaneously react to the movements given by one's partner and use that movement to facilitate the next most appropriate technique. In this way one cannot be "bound or fixated" upon a particular waza (as David alluded to in an earlier post) but he must first focus on avoiding the partner's attack or technique and then work with the position he is in and manifest the most appropriate technique based on that position.

When this same sort of exercise is done by Yudansha the entire process is a lot more fluid, much faster, the waza have to be a lot more technically sound to end in a throw or pin and there is a lot more use of subtle movements to set up a successful technique. So this is an example of an exercise that helps to build spontaneous reactions that works for all technical levels depending on one's goals. The application of waza can go from light to full force depending on the degree of martial intensity desired a s well.

Just a few points.
LC:ai::ki:

L. Camejo
06-01-2005, 09:58 PM
Larry, I'm trying to reach you privately - do you think you would be so kind as to email at <senshincenter@impulse.net>.

Thank you in advance,
david

Hi David,

I sent a reply to your e-mail tonight. Sorry I took so long.

LC:ai::ki:

L. Camejo
06-01-2005, 11:12 PM
Hi Charles,

Great and insightful post above btw.

The question remains as such, how one fosters correct training and correct understanding within their students to be able to reproduce a level of true spontaneous application. Some say forms training are all you need -- that it contains all the answers. You say that it does not.

Actually, Tomiki K., Ueshiba M.'s first 8th Dan also had this idea when he created his format for Aiki randori training. He saw kata and randori as two complementary elements of complete Aikido training and development. If you train in kata (forms) alone you will be good at executing technique but you will not understand what it is like to operate and apply those techniques within the context of resistance and chaos (randori) where the only thing to expect is the unexpected. At the same time if one neglects kata (forms) practice and does only randori then the quality of the waza being applied in randori will probably suffer and the result will be one who can "fight" and struggle using poor technique without understanding how to apply Aiki waza with finesse and control when under pressure. In this case one may be able to develop into a good "fighter" but one may not be a good Aikidoka as ones waza will not be up to par and probably be devoid of Aiki when in a spontaneous situation.

There is not too much of that today. This day and age all are deemed entitled to the transmission without this seemingly ‘undue process' which has helped to foster this ‘age of martial mediocrity'. If all are entitled, then there is no need for extreme commitment. Without the extreme commitment how deep do you really need to penetrate to be satisfied that you have ‘it'? The cycle perpetuates itself until you get to the point where the instructors that are churned out are under the delusion that the have ‘it' no matter what and the only seemingly set standard of testing the level of spontaneous application is in the format of a demonstration scenario where the attack of the ‘madly running Frankenstein with the outstretched arms' is accepted as a truth.

Very well said.

The above point comes back to a concept I had earlier, regarding folks training in Aikido for a variety of reasons which may have nothing to do with being "martially effective" or understanding "martially spontaneity". I think when Ueshiba M. taught, (especially his prewar students) there was absolutely no question that what he was doing was a martial art and a martially effective art.

Today, the pool of students studying Aikido includes a great many people who have no intention of being martially effective or understanding the depths of appreciating and applying Aiki, they just want something to do with their extra time, a little exercise, friendly atmosphere, practice in easy going, non-threatening (aka harmonious), free flowing movements, or hope to gain some sort of spiritual revelation over a lifetime of practice etc. As such I truly believe those who are seeking martial effectiveness (which funny enough is another road to a lot of the spiritual and other developments the art may foster) may not be in the majority. As a result, the mere pursuit of this level of excellence may be something practiced by a periphery of the practitioners and not necessarily become part of the central core of the art's students worldwide. If this "revolution" does occur you may find a lot of folks leaving Aikido and deciding to go study Yoga or something more in tune with the "other than martial" aspects that they are seeking.

As far as "martially effective spontaneous application of Aiki" goes I don't believe that a huge sector of the current forms based training methods are even sufficient to really realize the goals of applying Aiki spontaneously in an expression of martial excellence. The reason is because forms that are not tested with some sort of resistance or opposing force to verify their martial integrity today are very apt to embrace technical holes that will become glaring and dangerous when placed under any sort of resistance (as we see regularly when a little resistance enters cooperative practice or when some folks walk into sparring dojos and try to test their ability).

Imho the form or kata, though not the most ideal way of training one to be spontaneous in one's application of Aiki by itself, is a critical technical foundation in trying to approach higher levels of spontaneity and in the move towards martial excellence. Without sound Aiki waza (learnt from forms practice) you may react spontaneously, but execute some good Judo waza or something else that does not utilize the tactical and strategic paradigms of Aiki to execute the technique. So kata does play a very important role imo, but it is only the first step on the stairway to martial excellence. Non-resistant randori (jiyuwaza) is only the second step (and is the lowest level of randori in Shodokan). Only after we can become spontaneous at these lower levels can we even hope to understand how to bring harmonious reconciliation of energy out of the chaos that is randori or the attacks one may meet out there on the pointy edge.

Imho Ueshiba M. knew that when he spoke of really understanding the depths of Aiki he was making a very tall technical and spiritual order that very many will find too difficult to even try to really achieve or understand. To be martially proficient is one thing. To be proficient enough to deal with any attacker and still be centred and controlled enough to not injure and reconcile the situation in harmony is another thing entirely. Do we merely assume it can't be done or do we prove that it can't be done by plumbing the depths of spontaneous Aiki ourselves? Maybe we'll be surprised.:)

Just a few thoughts. Great conversation folks.:)
LC:ai::ki:

senshincenter
06-02-2005, 07:09 AM
Two things:

1. Yes, I concur, a very nice post with great points Charles. Thank you.

2. Larry, sorry to be still trying to reach you through the thread. I'm afraid I didn't get an email - perhaps you accidentally wrote the address incorrectly? Would you mind trying once more - please/thanks.

I have been a bit under the weather but I'm hoping to find some time and some energy to address both of the latest points raised. Again - they are all very good in my opinion.

Thanks,
dmv

L. Camejo
06-03-2005, 09:52 PM
Ok so I've been following the comments on AJ.com in the aftermath of the Aikido Expo and it brought up another idea relating to this topic.

We've been addressing aspects of actual physical training so far that help aid the "culture of martial mediocrity" to exist and survive. But what about the non-physical, political, philosophical or other aspects of Aikido life that may propagate this sort of behaviour?

For example, many Aikido folks tend to pride themselves on keeping certain levels of "decency" and "goodwill" (some call it moral higher ground) towards one's fellow man, even when it is brutally obvious that the group or individual in question is in need of a good spanking to resolve something that is causing conflict :). Aikido is about finding the ideal solution, based on the problem, but oftentimes we stick to a "peaceful and harmonious" way of dealing with certain situations (iow our mind is fixated or fettered by this approach) even when it does not serve the purpose of actually resolving the situation. In other words we may sometimes act with kid gloves (evade/tenkan???) in situations where a firmer hand (irimi/atemi???) is required on a non-physical level.

This sort of behaviour also aids in supporting a culture of mediocrity, since Instructors who may be engaging in activities that weaken the martial (or other) foundations of the art or try to "create" or teach methods of operation that basically encourage a lack of secure understanding in Aiki principles (such as prematurely resorting to other, more force-based means of conflict resolution), are often given no more than a slap on the wrist (if so much) and are allowed to continue to disseminate these concepts by their superiors within their organisations or even leaders within the general Aikido community. This helps ensure that the understanding of Aiki principles remains mediocre in certain situations by allowing the idea of "abandoning Aiki principles at the first sign of resistance" to be propagated without being checked so as not to appear "disharmonious" or "unloving to one's fellow man".

If this is truly the case, then the erosion of the martial foundations of the art may be more institutionalized and embodied in our own perception of the philosophy than those who care about it may realize. There appears to be a strong culture of denial that provides fertile ground for this sort of behaviour and teaching to propagate imho.

Is it that we have in fact set things up already so that the martial foundations of the art will be one day degraded into nothingness by indirectly encouraging those who teach the art in a manner that lacks martial lustre and moreso encourage others to abandon the martial core of the art (physical and non-physical) for the sake of "healing the world" and "uniting mankind"? Imho the healing of mankind cannot be achieved through denial.

Or am I merely being delusional?" :hypno:

Comments are welcome.
LC:ai::ki:

CNYMike
06-03-2005, 10:17 PM
Is it that we have in fact set things up already so that the martial foundations of the art will be one day degraded into nothingness by indirectly encouraging those who teach the art in a manner that lacks martial lustre and moreso encourage others to abandon the martial core of the art (physical and non-physical) for the sake of "healing the world" and "uniting mankind"? Imho the healing of mankind cannot be achieved through denial.

Or am I merely being delusional?" :hypno:

Comments are welcome.
LC:ai::ki:


Delusional? No. Worrying too much? More likely.

IIRC, some posters way back in the thread accused Aikido of being "insular." I don't know how fair that is, given that being truly insular there wouldn't be any cross training, and I'm pretty sure people in the groups I've been with do things like Judo, Kendo, etc. But maybe if Aikido is "insular" to an extant, one symptom of that could be that Aikidoka are the art's (and their own) harshest critics, flagulating the art, each other, and maybe for all I know, themselves for inadequacies, failings, and the dire consequences of not addressing them. Because I've returned to Aikido after 16 years of doing other things, some of which I'm still doing, and I'm not the least bit worried about the issues you're raising. I'm more worried about making progress on my forward ukemi than anything else!

It's interesting that I go from Kali and Serak, where Guro Andy has emphasized his role as preserving these systems, and expressed his reluctance to change anything in Kali unless he sees Guro Dan Inosanto do it; and I come to Aikiweb where the tone seems to be, We have to change this, that, and the other thing, and we're doing this wrong and that wrong, and there are so many bad delusional people and it's all falling apart and everyone who came before us except Tomiki was wrong. Huh? :hypno:

Maybe O Sensei's rule about practicing in a "vibrant, joyful" manner should be the first rule of practice instead of the third one. That, or our society as a whole drinks too much coffee. It's one thing to have legitmate concerns; it's another to freak out over nothing.

Here is what I, as a Kali person think of Aikido people:

YOU'RE FINE! Now, could you not land on my foot next time?

Just my 2p.

:)

L. Camejo
06-04-2005, 04:40 PM
Interesting post Michael.

It sort of verifies the initial point of this thread though.;)

I'm not worried actually. Just observing certain things and tendencies and working to do my utmost best in this little corner of the world to understand, plumb the depths of and pass on something of quality and not a "blind paper tiger" to my students.

Yours.

LC:ai::ki:

CNYMike
06-05-2005, 01:34 AM
Interesting post Michael.

It sort of verifies the initial point of this thread though.;)


It does? :confused:


I'm not worried actually. Just observing certain things and tendencies and working to do my utmost best in this little corner of the world to understand, plumb the depths of and pass on something of quality and not a "blind paper tiger" to my students.

Yours.

LC:ai::ki:

Well, whether those things and tendencies lead to a "blind paper tiger," I don't know. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. Maybe people practicing cooperatively don't plumb the depths. Or maybe it takes them a little longer to do that. C'est la vie.

Good luck anyway.

senshincenter
06-05-2005, 11:01 PM
*Long. Skip if you need to.*




I think there are two interrelated issues here that have to be explored more deeply if we are going to get a better grasp on what we are all doing and/or trying to do and/or saying we are doing. These two issues are: a) Trying to gain a more accurate understanding of the “personal” in Aikido practice; and b) Looking deeper at what spontaneous training is and why it is vital, in my opinion, to our practice. With the first issue, we want to make sure that we do not dig ourselves into a hole by suggesting that while spontaneous training may be vital to our practice, it is not something that can actually be part of a teaching curriculum or part of a larger culture – that it must remain an individual thing. We want to make sure that we do have space for such training, not just at the level of the individual but also at some level of system. This is necessary if any such culture that we are trying to describe is to be addressed, because right now, “as is,” we already do have folks that address spontaneous training at an individual level. It is having little impact on the overall culture’s understanding of forms training. On the second issue, we want to be quite clear on three major aspects of spontaneous training: why do it, how to do it, and what is it. We need to do this in order to determine how it may differ from forms and/or the practice of forms training and/or from what is often going by the name of “spontaneous training” today (commonly). The first issue I can address today. For the second issue, I will require more time and will have to get back to you all later. (Apologies.)

One will see that there is much overlap between these two issues. Thus, I think one will still come to see a little of what I personally mean by “spontaneous training” even though I will not be discussing that practice in detail here. In relation to some of the other things that have been said thus far, I think one will see that for me such training is ultimately a spiritual matter. I do not hold it to be an alternative for folks that do not want all that “spiritual mumbo jumbo.” In fact, for me, if a person really wants to cultivate himself or herself spiritually, such training is perhaps even more vital toward that end than it is toward the end of martial effectiveness. Here, I may come to differ in my position from many of the folks that would wish to use spontaneous training as a cure to all that ails Aikido because of its “spiritual” attractions.

Personally, I would not suggest that the main and sole goal of such training is to become effective martially. Rather, spontaneous training for me is about the reconciliation of form and non-form. Thus, it is Budo’s particular way of addressing the subject/object dichotomy. Reconciling this dichotomy is very much related to cultivating a non-attachment toward dualistic thought, which in turn allows us to experience the ultimate Oneness of all creation. For me, martial effectiveness is a by-product and/or at most an interrelated consequence of such training. It is not the goal of such training. Martial effectiveness merely comes about because of the particular method that one is using (i.e. martial arts). (Note: In addition, I think one should point out that “martial effectiveness” does NOT mean “martial invincibility.”) In this way, martial effectiveness is very much like developing a low center, a strong back, a good digestive system, and very supple joints in the legs, from doing zazen. Such things, while not separate from the practice of Zen sitting meditation, are not the goals of such training – so too with martial effectiveness and spontaneous Aiki. (More on this when I try to address the second issue later.)

As for the first issue of how to better understand “the personal” in Aikido training, I think it is important to not over-extend the notion of “personal journey” too much when it comes to our Aikido practice. To be sure, no one wants to say that a deshi can have all of this just handed to them by someone else. However, before we start subverting the whole notion of transmission and/or of mentorship, let us note that there is a lot of room between “having something handed to you” and something being “yours and yours alone.” When it comes to Aikido, because of its universal aspects and aspirations, it is important to seek out some alternatives to these two poles and/or even (I encourage) to find a way off this entire spectrum of given options.

Paths like Aikido, like Budo, are indeed made of things like personal investment, personal experience, personal realization, etc., but these things are not necessarily akin to our modern notions of extreme relativism and/or what can be called a “constant interpersonal alienation.” It is important to realize that in the end Aikido is about universals and not about individualistic agendas. Aikido is only personal in the sense that it relates to a person, but this sense of person points in the end to a great Oneness of all things, all ideas, and, yes, all people. In other words, there is a sense of person but there is no sense of persona or of an alienation that underlies all things (i.e. that no two things can be alike) when it comes to the art’s worldview, philosophy, or its technologies of the Self.

This underlying Oneness is precisely why it is indeed possible to spiritually mentor another and/or to guide another person upon the path of spontaneity (i.e. the reconciliation of form and non-form). Aside from being possible, I would also add, being guided is actually the more optimal of choices for a deshi. To discover one’s path to spontaneity for oneself, while possible, is extremely difficult, and thus when combined with the trials and tribulations of existence, in the end, often improbable. Let us note that other traditions that also aim at such reconciliation always place great importance upon the seat and role of a mentor. While these traditions do have a place for those that want to “go it alone,” while they do agree that such a way is not impossible, they also have an abundance of cautions marking such a route. They are certainly not on the side of suggesting that mentoring is impossible or of limited value. I would suggest that such a position did not come into vogue until the New Age movement found some footing in popular culture. There, the modern trend toward self-alienation found comfort and perhaps some sense of justification in the position that social intimacy, especially of the mentor/disciple kind, was not only not necessary but also impossible.

I have taken the time to raise this issue here for two reasons. First, I think the current culture of mediocrity (or the current tendency for most aikidoka to not fully invest themselves in the process of reconciling form and non-form/the trend that most aikidoka train in either no spontaneous environments or in ones that remain suspect) is, as others have said here, supported by a lack of teachers capable of the spontaneous application of Aiki. However, the lacking of such teachers is supported by the common belief that the mentoring or the guiding of another toward such spontaneity is impossible. If one were to side with the reality of how little chance one has to “discover” such reconciliation on one’s own and actually press their teachers with the expectation of being mentored toward such transfiguration, teachers would be much less likely to find personal satisfaction in remaining “a master of forms.” By extension then, the cultural capital exchanged by Aikido institutions into things like rank and title would lose its “gold standard” – giving the entire Aikido “economy” that now supports the culture of mediocrity a kind of recession. For me then, one serious way of pulling the rug out from the culture of mediocrity is to simply hold an expectation (said and/or unsaid) for one’s teacher to provide mentoring in cultivating spontaneity. One way of keeping this culture going is to continue to hold the position that one cannot be guided thusly.

Second, the idea that such mentoring is not possible and/or is not (INDEED!) the ideal way of training, is part of a larger process by which forms have come to be wrongly inflated in terms of what they are and what they can do. In my opinion, this inflated understanding of forms is also a part of the culture we are attempting describe. In the absence of a strong and central interest in the reconciliation of form and non-form, a strange discourse on forms has arisen. This discourse is strange because it has in many cases adopted the terms and phrases of the discourse most commonly used to intellectually mark a reconciliation of subject and object. Without any significant practice centered on spontaneity, today, the practice of forms has often come to be spoken about via a discourse that was initially all about subverting the practice of forms. Now, in many places, forms are spoken about in a language that was first used to mark convention (i.e. form) as a hindrance to spiritual development (i.e. reconciliation of form and non-form/reconciliation of subject and object/spontaneous Aiki). In other words, when reconciliation of form and non-form was an issue, and/or where such reconciliation between subject and object is still an issue (such as in Zen or Christian mysticism, etc.), it was/is often said, as a form of Upaya, that the ultimate realization (you pick your own word) is so BEYOND that we cannot verbalize it, or conceptualize it, etc. With this ultimate realization now no longer firmly holding a place in general Aikido culture, the new “ultimate” (i.e. forms) has found no problem speaking of itself in a way that was first meant to lower its status and significance in the grand scheme of the training or practice. The wrongful adoption of this discourse, for the most part, has taken place completely unchallenged.

Today, forms are talked about as if they are loaded with the great unknown, as if they are the unknowable itself. They are no longer the pure architectural matters of ideal spaces and time. As a result, they, and their environment of practice, have come to hold all meaning by which an aikidoka tends to define him/herself. That meaning has one wrongly associating his/her skill at forms with an ultimate statement about who they are and what they can do. Everything about the current political structures of the art testifies to this fact. This is why today doctrinal formulas, juridical orders, and ritual exactitude are so much a part of forms training for many people. Much is at stake! This is also why you have folks “resisting” in forms and/or gaining a sense of accomplishment when such “resistance” is overcome in forms training. In my opinion, this is also where you get the notion that Aikido waza are inherently spiritual as well as the “confounding” hypocrisy found in folks that do the art for decades and still remain spiritually immature (i.e. defensive, overly aggressive, insecure, etc.)

(On a side note: My experience with folks that do a lot of spontaneous training holds that they can simply ask their partners in forms practice that might be doing something “weird” or “resistant” to “just do the form – please/thanks.” This is in contrast to those that have to define everything about themselves via forms training because they have no spontaneous outlet by which to rightly diminish forms training. Such aikidoka have a tendency – even a “pressure” - to “figure out” or “force” their partner into the form. I mention this here because I think it was in this thread that the topic of rough nage and/or nage that jump in and out of types of abuse in order to accomplish the “desired” effect was raised. For me, all of this is connected to the current culture of form for form’s sake.)

Through the unchallenged adopting of a discourse that was actually contrary to their nature, forms have come to mask themselves as a mystery that is beyond knowing – beyond being guided toward. There is no real downfall to this position once accepted because the cultivation of forms, unlike the cultivation of spontaneity, does not really suffer from the absence of a guide. Nevertheless, forms are like a kind of Wizard of Oz – in that they present themselves as this big mystery; only the mystery requires a big curtain to cover the fact that there is really no mystery present at all. In this way, the dominance of forms, but also the acceptance of low-level proficiency as the new “high skill” in Aikido, has benefited greatly from the modern notion that “one cannot be guided to the ultimate.” Such a position does much to leave the curtain in place and to keep forms appearing to be mysterious – appearing to be something capable of actually satisfying the true Ultimate. Therefore, today, it is perfectly fine for one to not learn Ikkyo, or to take a lifetime to learn Ikkyo, because the curtain of the “future” (a time that never sees) leads one to believe that his or her achievement of not learning Ikkyo is somehow a part of how “great and powerful” Ikkyo is as a form. In the end, technical incompetence is spun into statements on the depth of one’s teaching of forms and one’s teacher as a forms specialist. Aikido can now speak with a voice that resembles the spiritual but remains a practice that is for the most part secular and antimystical (which is a complete reversal from its Founder’s position – in my opinion). As a result, at every level of the culture, the reconciliation of subject and object, that which underlies the spontaneous application of Aiki, becomes more and more incomprehensible – more nonviable, irrelevant, or even absurd.

In contrast, I propose the following: Ikkyo is not the great Ultimate. Ikkyo is not beyond words. Ikkyo should not take a lifetime to learn. Teacher, book, video, theory, and practice, equally aid the study of Ikkyo. Ikkyo can be talked about and should be talked about. Ikkyo is no big deal. On the other hand, doing Ikkyo under spontaneous conditions without being attached to Ikkyo – this is the great mystery. Doing Ikkyo under spontaneous conditions without being attached to Ikkyo will fill a lifetime of study. Doing Ikkyo under spontaneous conditions without being attached to Ikkyo is an achievement that benefits greatly from a mentor. Again, if one wants to seriously challenge this culture of mediocrity, one has to challenge the wrongful borrowing of terms and phrases by the discourse on forms from a discourse that was meant to subvert our attachment to forms. In our training, we must make the top the top again. We must stop trying to make a lesser thing a greater thing by merely coming to talk about it in the same way that one used to talk about Aiki spontaneity.

Forms are provisional constructs that exist, for practical purposes, in a sphere of relativity. As such, they make use of, and thus contribute, to a like (mis)understanding of self. That is to say that they are in tune with our wrongful tendency to understand self-awareness as a process of thinking, observing, and measuring. This allows us, even inspires us, to develop consciousness as a subject over and against objects – moving away from any notion of universal Oneness and thus from a key component of Aiki. In terms of our training, this is why when we see one “forcing techniques” in a spontaneous environment, we also see present the desire to control things – the incapacity to become One with the attacker. That is to say, when such things are present, we are looking at the attempt to manipulate objects for one’s own interest. At the same time, we are also seeing the very process by which one isolates him/herself in one’s own subjective prison. In that prison, made up of walls that wrongly posit reality as a purely subjective experience, we become isolated from our experience of reality and thus only able to perceive the attacker as a thing to be controlled. We are closed off to the possibility, or the greater reality, of seeing him or her as a person with which to be in greater harmony with. The worst thing one can do here is to go on the search for more forms that will attempt to alleviate those problems (e.g. forcing techniques, etc.) that have arisen via spontaneous training. Personally, this is how I have understood Larry’s initial point – as a caveat against searching for more forms in the face of difficulties that arise from within spontaneous environments.

The solution is to “break out” of this self-feeding cycle of delusion and/or of false consciousness. To do this, a guide, a person who has already achieved such a breaking out, is most valuable. And to be sure, such a guide, and his/her capacity to guide, is far from being impossible. Here, with the assistance of guide, we come to realize that rather than more forms what is actually required by Aiki in spontaneous environments is a type of self-awareness that sees the self as something to be dissolved. Such a consciousness does not start from a thinking subject, or from construct and convention, but rather from a type of Being which is considered to be ontologically beyond and prior to the subject-object division we normally live and live in. That is to say we are not looking toward a “consciousness of” but toward a “pure consciousness,” one in which the subject as such disappears.

This is how we at our dojo understand forms, non-forms training, spontaneity, the reconciliation of form and non-form, and Aiki, etc. It is only our perspective. One’s own terminology is sure to be different and/or even appear to be contradictory. This is understandable – even expected. In fact, this is the very purpose of discussion – to put different ideas and different terms on the same table. For that, and for the participation of all of you here, I am thankful. I do not mean to say that everyone must practice like this or talk like this. Here, in this last section, I have merely tried to outline some of the major points that I will attempt to elaborate upon in the next part of this discussion and to also support my position that a guide is not only possible but very much beneficial. You can also see that I am attempting to “fuse” martial effectiveness with the cultivation of the spirit by seeing Aiki as the space/time for realizing a great Oneness.

In closing, I would like to leave you all with some relevant quotes by Osensei. I have taken them from readily accessible texts and commonly accepted translations found over at AikidoJournal.com. They are not given here to claim authority on the subject, and/or to make my position beyond refute. Rather, they are offered here as points of reflection – points that my second post will be attempting to consider in a more contemporary voice. I have tried to choose quotes that do not require too much cultural understanding, but I have also offered some short notes of explanation when the need for such understanding could not be avoided. The notes are marked in parenthesis with my initials “dmv.” Other parenthetical notes are from the translation itself. I find all of these quotes to be relative to any notion of fusing martial effectiveness with spiritual cultivation – with the capacity to execute Aiki under spontaneous conditions and to gain a sense of Union or Oneness with one’s attacker (and oneself, etc.) by moving beyond subjective consciousness and/or the small self.



From “Accord with the Totality of the Universe.”


“Aikido is the budo (martial art) which opens the road to harmony; it is that which is at the root of the great spirit of reunification of all manifest creation.”

“The universe and mankind are as a single body. However, while mankind has the ability to unify with the universe, the fact that he is unable to accomplish this union is his unhappy condition.”

“This world and all of Mother Nature's greatness are but one. In this unity there is nothing that defines an enemy, nor does it distinguish a friend.”

“Mankind's role is to fulfill his heaven-sent purpose through a sincere heart that is in harmony with all creation and loves all things.”

“In the past, there have been a number of superlative masters of martial arts but we should never forget the great number of them who disappeared on the battlefield of this material world simply for lack of enough training in the true spirit of budo, in sincere love, and in the battle against the self.”

“Thus, by imbibing the principle of the Universal, and receiving the ki of the Heaven and Earth, when I unified this entire human body, I realized the subtle depth of Aikido that manifests such great power, and attained the principle of oneness with the Universe.”

“To put it briefly, the problem with the weak-bodied people of today is that they are unable to survive in a world of absolute accord and absolute non-desire.”

“In summary, weak people are the result of not knowing the truth of the unity of mankind with the Heavens and the Earth. By realizing the principle of unification with the Universal (tenchi) and making it active in your daily life, human beings become capable of sending forth the "holy technique of the gods."




From “Takemusu Aiki”

(part one)

“Now aikido is the name given to our practice of the Way to attain oneness with the spirit and body of the Universe, and the Way of unification with the light of harmony.”

“I will tell you then how I, Ueshiba, was able to understand it. I had performed spiritual practices daily in order to rid myself of attachments to anything in the world and I had the experience of seeing my light body, which was once the body of Fudo Myo Ou (a complex figure with many understandings but often associated with wisdom, integrity, and the defeating of one’s own desires or passions – dmv) carrying a great shining light of fire on its shoulders, and at another time I became the body of Kan Zeon Bosatsu (the Bodhisattva of Compassion - dmv). I asked questions to myself and then understood. I have the universe inside me. Everything is in me. I am the Universe itself so there is no me. Moreover, since I am the Universe there is only me and no other.”

(part two)

“Through the union with God we produce techniques that are ever-changing into various forms.”

“Everything becomes reflected in me and I begin to understand all just by being here. All attachments vanish and I abide in the breath of our Original Parent emanating light to all things in the Universe.”

“In our country, originally, we do not have such sports as people have in Western countries. Some people are delighted to say that the Japanese martial arts have gained in popularity since they became sports. However, this is a gross misunderstanding that shows they do not know at all what the Japanese martial arts really are.

Sports are games and pastimes that do not involve the spirit. They are competitions only between physical bodies and not between souls. Thus, they are competitions merely for the sake of pleasure. The Japanese martial arts are a competition in how we can express and realize love that unites and protects everything in harmony and helps this world to prosper.”

“In a sense, with aiki, you purify and remove evil with your own breath of faithfulness instead of using a sword. In other words, you change the physical world into a spiritual world. This is aikido’s mission. The physical body is placed below and the spirit above and to the front. Thus, aikido leads the spirit to produce noble flowers and bear fruits.”

(part three)

“In olden times, numerous forerunners and teachers established different martial art schools. We must study these schools as one way of training. However, in order to achieve takemusu aiki, we must assimilate all of history since the Age of the Gods into ourselves, unify ourselves, and contain both time and space within.”

“Prayers are also born in the form of martial art techniques when coming into existence. Prayers themselves should without exception be martial arts. Moreover, prayers themselves must also actually purify this world. That is to say, prayers themselves are the same as the execution of martial arts. Thus, those who have faith in God like you (addressing the Byakko Shinko Kai audience) truly need to study martial arts. This is because one is not able to master takemusu aiki without having the virtue of faith, meaning that the practice and execution of aiki lies in learning from the manifestation of the Great God, the Source of True Love and True Faith, under the Great Spirit of Loving Protection of all nature; that is, it lies in working for Izunome2 with the virtue of faith. (Izunome is a deity born from the water purification – “harae” or “harai” - of Izanagi as he washed himself after having returned from the land of the dead. Izanagi, along with his female partner, Izanami, are primary deities of creation in the Shinto tradition. In later movements, such as in the New Religions, of which Omoto-kyo is one, Izunome comes to represent a notion of perfect union - dmv)”

“In short, you should understand what the Universe is and who you are. First of all, you must understand yourself. Knowing yourself is knowing the Universe.”

(part four)

“We must assimilate Eternal Life and the Universe within and become the Universe ourselves. We become one with the Universe, that is, to become one with Takaamahara (“Higher Heavenly Plain” – dmv).”

“All things begin when "one stands on Ame No Ukihashi.” (The bridge that connects the “Higher Heavenly Plain” with Earth. It is the kami of this bridge, Sarutahiko, that is enshrined at the Aiki Shrine and that at times “possessed” Osensei. dmv) This has gone unchanged in Japan since ancient times. When you pray while standing on Ame No Ukihashi, you must straddle between Heaven and Earth and your mind should not be overly focused on either Heaven or Earth. You must proceed while uniting yourself with the Heart of the Great God through your faith. Otherwise, you will not be able to perform O-Musubi (“uniting” – dmv) between Heaven and Earth, nor between the Universe and yourself.”

“How was I able to understand the true bu that had eluded all others? Where did I find the answer? I had looked for it in all kinds of martial art schools, but I was not able to find it in any school conceived by human beings. Then, where on Earth was it? Everything was within me. I found it when I became enlightened. Well then, how can one achieve enlightenment? The answer is that we must stand on Ame no Ukihashi.”

“This world has thus far been the material world of the physical body (haku), but from now forward the spirit (kon) and body must become one.”

“Human beings cannot work only through the spirit. We need a physical body. At the same time, if we lack spirituality, we will not be able to truly carry out our duties. We will only be able to carry out true activities when the physical body and spirit are united and assist each other.”

L. Camejo
06-08-2005, 10:39 AM
Hey Michael,

Not sure whaat happened to your last post, since its not showing up on the thread, but I did get it with the e-mail notification.

Your Guro Andy sounds like a great guy. I'd love to train with him sometime for sure.

The format you gave for the sparring training you guys did is exactly the same paradigm that we use in Shodokan, that of not "trying to win" but as a means of self development and clearing/emptying the mind and body to react spontaneously (mushin mugamae).

The levels of randori you speak of are very important, we also follow a similar format where we start with just evasion and intercepting drills,(tai sabaki), then medium speed, zero resistance freeplay (kakari geiko), then onto medium to high speed, medium resistance freeplay with counters (hiki tate geiko) and then onto full speed, full resistance freeplay with counters (randori).

As you also said, when simply training and reacting to the sparring situation you do movements which appear in different arts, as such it's hard to distinguish what is an "Aikido" technique. I think this is a major benefit of randori, freeplay or sparring. It causes one to react spontaneously to the situation, particulars of form (as in kata practice) becomes secondary in this instant. This is what I am getting at as regards Aikido training and why forms training alone may not be sufficient to develop this level of reactive or instinctive spontaneity for the application of good, sound Aiki waza (just as your Guro is trying to develop your spontaneous Kali responses to attacks in his Kali class).

Thanks for letting me know how it went. Your training sounds great. It seems like the FMA sparring class and Instructor you have will help in your development of spontaneous reactions. It may show up as an increase in spontaneous ability when you do randori in your Aikido dojo, since you would have had much more practice in "reacting correctly" to apply waza.

Thanks for sharing.
LC:ai::ki:

CNYMike
06-08-2005, 12:00 PM
Hey Michael,

Not sure whaat happened to your last post, since its not showing up on the thread, but I did get it with the e-mail notification.


I deleted it.

Glad you think Andy is a great guy.

As to which art helps what, we'll see.

CNYMike
06-08-2005, 09:25 PM
Hi, Larry,

A few more comments:

.... The format you gave for the sparring training you guys did is exactly the same paradigm that we use in Shodokan, that of not "trying to win" but as a means of self development and clearing/emptying the mind and body to react spontaneously (mushin mugamae).

The levels of randori you speak of are very important, we also follow a similar format where we start with just evasion and intercepting drills,(tai sabaki), then medium speed, zero resistance freeplay (kakari geiko), then onto medium to high speed, medium resistance freeplay with counters (hiki tate geiko) and then onto full speed, full resistance freeplay with counters (randori).

As you also said, when simply training and reacting to the sparring situation you do movements which appear in different arts, as such it's hard to distinguish what is an "Aikido" technique .....

Maybe I should describe exactly what happened:

Sometimes when my partner jabbed, say with his left hand, I parried by brining my hand in from the outside and then hooked down, so that the "blade" edge of my left bag glove was resting on his veins. At the time, I thought it had felt like kote gaeshi postion, just getting there more directly. But then I remember Fook Sao from Wing Chun and a block from Kali that are also similar; Kali alos has a version of kote gaeshi; we just call it the wrist lock. So that's why I backed away from saying it was an Aikido techique.


I think this is a major benefit of randori, freeplay or sparring. It causes one to react spontaneously to the situation, particulars of form (as in kata practice) becomes secondary in this instant ....

Ok, this is where you and Andy might part company. His goal is to have us develop "presence of mind" while we spar, so we can play with particular techniques in that random forum. Othwerise, you dumb down to gross body motions and don't use those nice techniques. "Well, if I can't do them while sparring," he says, "how can I do them on the street?"

This is why the sparring is starting off at quarter speed: to take the flight or fight reflex out of it so we can play with more detailed techniques. First, though, you have to kick out your ego, your pride, and your desire to win. I have a lot of work to do there.



.....This is what I am getting at as regards Aikido training and why forms training alone may not be sufficient to develop this level of reactive or instinctive spontaneity for the application of good, sound Aiki waza .....

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't (and every source I've read said there are not forms in Aikido; O Sensei didn't lock things down the way kata are. "Drill" or "exercise" might be more accurate). Another thing Guro Andy wants is for us to go beyond just seeing a colleciton of techniques and learn the principles. Well, Aiki is a principle; I am just at the "learning the techniques" stage. I'd have to get past the techniques to the principle before I know if it can be applied spontaneously. That I am not there yet after going once a week for a year doesn't reflect on poor training or anything like that, just the details of the material. I've internalized some things. But others aren't there yet.

..... Your training sounds great. It seems like the FMA sparring class and Instructor you have will help in your development of spontaneous reactions .....

Actually, I'm no stranger to sparring. What's new is the "quarter speed" regime Guro Andy is starting, but it's not like I've never sparred. I was just never good at it.


It may show up as an increase in spontaneous ability when you do randori in your Aikido dojo, since you would have had much more practice in "reacting correctly" to apply waza.

Thanks for sharing.
LC:ai::ki:

Well, first off, this is an Aikikai-affiliated dojo. So that should tell you what sort of randori there is.

Second, I am nowhere near there. I had class tonight for the first time in two weeks, and I am still very much at the where-do-my-arms-and-feet go stage, although some things have been internailzed through repition. If your response is to argue that randori will help get me there quicker, let me remind you of that although we did some soft stick sparring a couple of years ago, I did my first quarter speed session EVER last night, and I've known Andy since 1997. (Everything else to date has been drills and practicing techniques.) So, eight years with one instructor, seven years of continuous Kali training, and first quarter speed sparring about 24 hours ago. And my biggest issue in sparring, as I mentioned, seems to be my ego.

So maybe if I stay with Kali and Aikido for a few more years, I might see something of what you're talking about. But not right now, I don't think. And even then, one of my projects is to keep the arts separate, do Kali in Kali and Aikido in Aikido. That's another influence of Guro Andy's. So even if I develop presence of mind in Kali, the next thing is to apply Kali in that format. Whether that rubs off on Aikido, I don't know, but it's not because I'll be consciously integrating them.

L. Camejo
06-09-2005, 04:08 PM
Sometimes when my partner jabbed, say with his left hand, I parried by brining my hand in from the outside and then hooked down, so that the "blade" edge of my left bag glove was resting on his veins. At the time, I thought it had felt like kote gaeshi postion, just getting there more directly. But then I remember Fook Sao from Wing Chun and a block from Kali that are also similar; Kali alos has a version of kote gaeshi; we just call it the wrist lock. So that's why I backed away from saying it was an Aikido techique.
Right, well the human body can only be twisted in so many ways, a wristlock is a wrist lock, any differences are found in the "how" of achieveing it imo. I've found nothing totally unique in "Aikido waza" as yet.

Ok, this is where you and Andy might part company. His goal is to have us develop "presence of mind" while we spar, so we can play with particular techniques in that random forum. Othwerise, you dumb down to gross body motions and don't use those nice techniques. "Well, if I can't do them while sparring," he says, "how can I do them on the street?"

This is why the sparring is starting off at quarter speed: to take the flight or fight reflex out of it so we can play with more detailed techniques. First, though, you have to kick out your ego, your pride, and your desire to win. I have a lot of work to do there.
Not so sure if we'd part company. There are many goals to be achieved in doing randori and playing with the techinques at lower speeds and resistance so that one starts to internalise the basic movements that require one to adapt and apply the "nice techniques", as well as the not so nice ones, is only one aspect of the freeplay paradigm. The ones I outlined are others and do apply to what you were speaking of earlier. From my experience the more one trains in freeplay at lower speed and resistance levels and then slowly builds to the higher speed and resistance levels one slowly develops a means of not "dumb (ing) down and using gross body motions". It's all in what you focus on while practicing this way imo.

Actually, I'm no stranger to sparring. What's new is the "quarter speed" regime Guro Andy is starting, but it's not like I've never sparred. I was just never good at it.
I didn't think that you were a stranger to sparring actually. The training history you gave sort of indicated that.:)

Well, first off, this is an Aikikai-affiliated dojo. So that should tell you what sort of randori there is.
Right. That could be a challenge to spontaneous training with full resistance then, but may still be of assistance at the lower resistance, slower levels.

If your response is to argue that randori will help get me there quicker, let me remind you of that although we did some soft stick sparring a couple of years ago, I did my first quarter speed session EVER last night, and I've known Andy since 1997. (Everything else to date has been drills and practicing techniques.) So, eight years with one instructor, seven years of continuous Kali training, and first quarter speed sparring about 24 hours ago. And my biggest issue in sparring, as I mentioned, seems to be my ego.
I'm not arguing anything actually. My initial post was more of a rant than anything else.:) Our methods serve me very well in what I want to achieve regarding spontaneity and exploring the depth of Aiki strategy, tactics and concepts.

Everyone learns best at their own pace and with different stimuli and methods. I tend to do a lot of non-martial things as well that tends to help me to understanding my weaknesses in Aikido from a different perspective. Imo one needs to understand the ways in which one learns things best and try to use those methods to aid in understanding a concept, even if the required methods may not exist within the teaching paradigms of the school one belongs to.

So maybe if I stay with Kali and Aikido for a few more years, I might see something of what you're talking about. But not right now, I don't think. And even then, one of my projects is to keep the arts separate, do Kali in Kali and Aikido in Aikido. That's another influence of Guro Andy's. So even if I develop presence of mind in Kali, the next thing is to apply Kali in that format. Whether that rubs off on Aikido, I don't know, but it's not because I'll be consciously integrating them.
Well as one who Instructs Aikido and Jujutsu and regularly practices in Judo, Kali and Wing Chun/JKD concepts, I think keeping things separate is important for developing each one independently and allowing things to "gel" on their own when the time is right. However I have also seen that when necessary they integrate on a subconscious level and blend quite nicely if the situation ever arises and a spontaneous reaction is required. But this is just my experience.

In the end I don't think that one's devlopment of spontaneous reactions is totally limited to or by any style and has more to do with the individual's natural responses to conflict. Spontaneity training builds on this natural response (or way of responding) to conflict. So it is very likely that one may learn body movement and trapping/flowing drills in one art (like Kali) and be able to apply it to Aikido randori in some form (of course it depends on the person to discover this link and explore themselves). In my case, Aikido tai sabaki and tsukuri drills have helped in both my kali and jujutsu training in different ways. The Aikido tanto randori drills help the kali and the toshu randori drills help the Jujutsu - fascinating.:)
But this is only in my experience however.

Happy training.
LC:ai::ki:

CNYMike
06-10-2005, 10:29 PM
Right, well the human body can only be twisted in so many ways, a wristlock is a wrist lock, any differences are found in the "how" of achieveing it imo. I've found nothing totally unique in "Aikido waza" as yet.


Nothing's totally "unique." But I find Aikido quite compact compared to Kali, so I get to do the Aikido versions of some things more frequently in any given month.



Not so sure if we'd part company. There are many goals to be achieved in doing randori and playing with the techinques at lower speeds and resistance so that one starts to internalise the basic movements that require one to adapt and apply the "nice techniques", as well as the not so nice ones, is only one aspect of the freeplay paradigm. The ones I outlined are others and do apply to what you were speaking of earlier. From my experience the more one trains in freeplay at lower speed and resistance levels and then slowly builds to the higher speed and resistance levels one slowly develops a means of not "dumb (ing) down and using gross body motions". It's all in what you focus on while practicing this way imo.


Yes, that seems to be what Guro is aiming for.



Right. That could be a challenge to spontaneous training with full resistance then, but may still be of assistance at the lower resistance, slower levels.


When and how much to resist seems to be a complicated issue even within a "cooperative" format. Next time you are having a beer with an Aikikai fifth dan or higher and you don't have anything to do for an hour and a half, ask him.

senshincenter
06-23-2005, 04:33 PM
Just a quick apology for this long delay in providing my promised reply on how one might define and/or come to understand "spontaneity" training. I hope to have something to post over the weekend.

For those who might be interested.

dmv

Charlie
06-23-2005, 11:48 PM
I actually am waiting for the next installment!

senshincenter
06-27-2005, 07:14 PM
While starting to write my follow-up post here (the second promised reply), I came across this relevant article over at AikidoJournal.com. I am opting to post a link to that article here, and my own (forum) reply (pasted below), because I feel it is relevant to this discussion. In particular, for me, it raises the issue of how form and non-form must be reconciled – not opposed to each other – which is something I am attempting to put into words in the promised reply on the meaning of “spontaneous training.”

An interesting perspective on what has been said in the article and my reply can be achieved if one takes the time to look at how both the author and myself actually practice within the spontaneous training environments we are attempting to generate. Both of our web sites have video of such training. I came across the author’s video because I was inspired to learn more about him due to the polite manners and the kindness he offered at the end of our short thread.

You can see the author’s (of the article) video at http://www.roleystoneaiki.com and clicking on the “video” link on the left side of the homepage.

Our own videos regarding such training can be found here:

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/shuofri.html
http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/metsukeangleofdeflection.html
http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/newazaone.html

I do not want to hold up the author’s video (nor my own) as great pieces of “proof” to this discussion – as I am sure they were not made for the sole purposes of addressing these issues here. Undoubtedly, for both the author and myself, it should be noted that more pointed videos could have been made if one really wanted to address this topic more directly. So please allow for some distance or leeway concerning relevance. Nevertheless, in such video, I think the viewer is inspired to reflect upon some of the differences that arise. Though some of what we say may sound very much alike, I would suggest that it is the small differences between what we saying that is supporting the large differences between what we are doing. I do not here want to necessarily comment on what those differences may be and/or even to comment upon the quality of those differences. However, I think it is important to note how one’s conceptualization of both form and non-form training does come to greatly influence what one does and/or does not do in regards to both types of training.

The relationship between one’s conceptual understanding and one’s actual practice is very much at the heart of this discussion. Up to now, we have been satisfied with discussing the issues related to the conceptualization of “form training.” We have been discussing what we think, what we do not think, what we should think, what we should not think, what we can think, and what we cannot think – all in relation to “form.” We have been doing this because these things relate exactly to what we practice and/or do not practice and this, it has been said, plays a role in the culture of mediocrity we are attempting to delineate. Here however, we can see that the same conceptual issues remain relevant even when we are discussing spontaneous training. This has a lot to do with my efforts to better delineate what I mean by “spontaneous training.” Moreover, this is the very reason why earlier I suggested that the ultimate “proof” or “measure” of one’s capacity to cultivate spontaneity is going to be twofold. Allowing for the fact that folks are going to have different means to different ends, one’s spontaneity (i.e. the reconciliation of the subject/object dichotomy or one’s experience of “emptiness” – as the author states things) can be measured by its quality to sustain non-attachment (or the absence of cultural reliance) in various environments of application (both martial and non-martial, both training and actual), and by the degree to which others (i.e. deshi) are cultivated to embody this spontaneity.

Before I complete my promised reply, I thought this “detour” would prove most fruitful toward deepening this discussion.

Here is the link to the article in question – it is a good read even outside of this discussion:

http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=895

Here, pasted below, is my posted (forum) response to the article:

(Start of my post)

Quote from article:

“What is the 'path of Aiki'? The first thing we must achieve in our training in order to comprehend Aiki is to 'link ourself to true emptiness'. If this has not been realised and experienced then true Aiki will not be manifested.

If Nage and Uke both work together and fulfil their respective roles and work in harmony, is the feeling that they experience Aiki? No. It is choreographed practice at a high level. However, Aiki will not be achieved within this training environment because it does not require us to 'link to true emptiness'. If whilst in the role of Nage you ‘tell’ your partner what attack you desire and you have already selected the ‘technique’ you are going to do you are not empty. You have predetermined the future and the technique will be placed on top of the movement to create an unreal pseudo reality. Aiki is not possible when you have already decided what to do before the encounter has started. Uke also knows what technique is being applied and fits his body into the pattern of movement and thereby completes the intended outcome.”




In my opinion, it would go against the logic of emptiness if it were to be barred 100% from all levels of kihon waza training. I would suggest, much more could be detailed and/or considered concerning how the concept of emptiness might relate to our training overall. For example, outside of constructed realities that are choreographed purely in a training culture, there does lay a type of forms training that rest firmly within the present moment of measuring one’s proximity to an ideal.

In such a case, regardless of what an Uke might do, a Nage must be “in the moment,” or “empty of all expectations,” in order to be able to take what Uke has provided (by accident, by chance, by a given set of circumstances, by design, etc.) and through his/her own “in the moment responses” come achieve the ideal ending. If one is attached to the form and/or to one’s subjective experience of the form, a Nage’s proximity to the ideal is indeed dependent upon what Uke might do. However, if a Nage can experience the form without being attached to it, such a Nage will be able to take whatever Uke has done and act to reconcile that with the ideal - such that no matter what comes in, it will lend itself to the form.

In this latter case, you have difference on Uke’s part and instant and constant adaptation on Nage’s part. Under such conditions, a Nage that cannot touch upon such an understanding of “emptiness” will demonstrate a different version of the ideal technique each time it is performed. Alternately, under such conditions, a Nage that can touch upon such an understanding of “emptiness” will be able to take any difference that came in and make it look, every time, as if it was always the ideal initiating action. In the end, no matter how many times the technique is performed, and no matter how many differences Uke might bring to the engagement, a Nage’s technique always looks the same (always reaches the same proximity to the ideal being sought for). In many ways, this level of experiencing “emptiness” is more profound than “doing whatever against whatever” because in such a case a Nage is being asked to reconcile the unknown and the known simultaneously. (Noting here that the reconciliation of such dualism is central to the experience of emptiness.) That is to say, a Nage is being asked to face the in-the-moment actions of Uke and respond to them in such a way (not just a “do anything” kind of way) that they nevertheless add up to the same ideal objective. When a Nage is good at this, a spectator may never come to see all the micro-adjustments that must be made in the moment. The only clue that such a thing is occurring is the strange feeling that one is looking at a replay of a single (past) rep repeatedly.

On the other side of the issue: I would suggest we should probably also note that it is one thing to work within a fully choreographed universe, one thing to not know what attack may be coming in and/or not predetermining what response we may apply (neither ultimately or along the way), and another thing to train under truly spontaneous conditions – where the unknown remains dynamic throughout the engagement. For example, many forms of so-called spontaneous training may not possess the initial or predetermined constructs of a beginning (e.g. Katate-dori) and an ending (e.g. Ikkyo), but this is not to say that one is not operating within a prescribed culture nevertheless – where one is still facing the expected and not the unknown.

In particular, often what remains is a cultured sense of timing and of space. Potently, these things often function at a subconscious level. This makes it extremely difficult to reconcile our attachment to such things. Under such conditions, an Uke may enter with whatever, but he or she often does so with the predetermined intent to fall at a certain time and along a certain path. There are a few big clues that this is going on, and so we should always have a keen eye toward such things if we truly want to create spontaneous training environments: FIRST, we should note anytime our Uke demonstrates a rhythm or a pattern; SECOND, we should note anytime our Uke enters Kuzushi, falls, or flips, when we have not even done anything to physically inspire such a response; And, THIRD, we should always be able to see the science behind every one of Uke’s bodily responses. If there is no science capable of explaining our physical geometries and/or their related effects, or if Uke is violating scientific principles in order to (physically) provide the cultural expectation, one is not dealing with the true “unknown.” One is still in the realm of delusion, attachment, and cultural dependency - regardless of the fact that Katate-dori or Ikkyo was not predetermined.

dmv

(End of my post)

Okay – that is it for now. I am still working on that promised post. However, please feel free to continue in regards to new issues and/or in regards to what was just discussed above. Hope to be done with that post soon.

Thank you,
dmv

pezalinski
07-27-2005, 04:55 PM
Philosophically speaking, I agree with your conclusions about how aikido in its ideal should be practiced at a truly spontaneous and dynamic level. And I love the discussion.

But I think in your choice of the word, "mediocrity," you have touched a nerve -- all those of us who re striving to achieve the ultimate "aiki" level, and are yet failing, are thus "mediocre." We can't all be perfect, but some of us strive to be better than average, and labeling that as mediocrity is such a negative call.

On the other had, even if it is a poor word choice, it has fueled a great thread. :p

Main Entry: me·di·o·cre
Pronunciation: "mE-dE-'O-k&r
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin mediocris, from medius middle + Old Latin ocris stony mountain; akin to Latin acer sharp -- more at EDGE
: of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance

senshincenter
07-27-2005, 08:14 PM
Hi Peter,

Thanks for the reply. I can agree with what you are saying but I think the thread is trying to refer to a culture, not really to an individual level of competence. In that sense, I think it is more helpful to focus in on the phrase "culture of mediocrity" and not just the word "mediocrity." I think it was either Larry or myself that somewhere early on tried to make this distinction. For me, the reason why the distinction is important is because I don't think we can address anything real here if we stay purely at the level of the individual.

Much appreciation again for the reply,
dmv

Charlie
01-12-2006, 01:53 AM
David - I've been away for awhile. Did you ever post the follow up?

Alec Corper
01-12-2006, 07:31 AM
Hello Larry,
This thread is pretty old now but I've not logged on here for a few years. Please excuse me if I have missed the main thrust but you seem to be saying that Aikido practise has degenerated into something less than it was intended to be. I completely agree for myself but I am stuck with the ideal view that Aikido is for all and therefore all can practise according to their goals.
Personally I see that Aikido training can be broadly split into the simplistic dichotomy of the Aikibuki, ballet, dance, cooperative, harmony and love approach, and the hard line, "we're doing the real thing", jutsu, karate, mixed up stew. My ideal Aikido is neither of these, but is the effective implementation of a non-aggressive philosophy coupled to a refusal to accept defeat.
"The Way Of Aiki is winning without fighting" This stretches all the way from talking as a means of problem solving, to the other end of pre-emptive atemi so that the fight is over before it has time to develop. Again, both of these are ideals and reality is always much messier and far less predictable. This is what I am seeking to learn, and after a total of more than 25 years in MA, I find it very hard.
There is one other factor which I have tried to discuss before with many people and that is the role of fear in practise. In real combat the adrenaline dump which occurs when you realise that somebody is seriously trying to do you harm cannot be simulated in the dojo. However if we do not attempt to create the possibilty for experiencing smaller doses of fear we will never comprehend the very real physiological changes that take place in combat: the loss of breath, the narrowing of perception, the loss of fine motor skills, the reversion to our most ingrained survival strategies. To change this you have to train for it, but to train for combat is the role of the soldier, not the role of the martial artist. To train to develop the character of the warrior is Budo, to find the still center in the midst of the proverbial s**t storm.
Simply repeating harder and faster preset attacks will not create fear, unless of course, both uke and tori are trying to function above their level, and even then the fear is only fear of injury, which is entirely different than facing the alien beast of a truly violent person, or the potential terror of an impersonal foe like a flood or an earthquake. Is it possible to implement at higher levels of training in Aikido, graduated adrenaline based training without moving away from the essential philosophy of the art? I believe that for some of us this would be of great benefit, not for all, but the only models of this type of work are outside of the Aikido community and simply grafting on a bit of this and a bit of that do not, IMHO, help Aikido to continue to develop as a living art.
respectfully, Alec Corper

Mark Uttech
01-12-2006, 11:00 AM
even if you have the luck to make it to the center of the storm, you are still in the storm.

Edwin Neal
01-12-2006, 12:32 PM
Aikido is all about learning to fight... punching kicking locking throwing standing grappling counters counter-counters biting pulling hair etc etc... it is all inclusive, but its not really so much different from other arts what works works...unfortunately alot of mcdojos and mcsenseis water it down or only "get" some obscure part of it... i love the philosophy and all but some folk go off the deep end... so you end up with crappy aikido in lots of places... CHECK your Sensei and his pedigree or lineage carefully!!! if you go to macdonalds dont look for huate cuisine on the menu!!! Aikodo is just fine ... if you find the real deal... you practice as intensely as you and your partners want to... my college classes could be pretty rough, but i was gentle with people who didnt want to play that way... so many of you guys posting seem to be in poor situations... others seem to be getting something a little better... in MA in general any one can claim to be grandmaster of their style and people buy their crap... i have been fortunate my instructors have been close to the source... i wish i could have met and trained with Osensei, but some of my instructors have so again very lucky me... I learn alot from trying other MA doing Arnis with Remy Presas helped my Aikido ALOT (use the flow young jedi...), Royce Gracie helped my Aikido (relaxation!), and there are lots more... beginners who are afraid to hit you and dont know how to "PLAY" ukemi are great they are so genuine in their reactions... good luck keep looking Aikido is out there when you find it you'll FEEL it... just my rant...

Edwin Neal
01-12-2006, 12:42 PM
in reply to allec we sometimes train in the washing machine mode... randori style hard fast high resistance until exhastion... especially on tests... I'm proud to say I've thrown up and nearly passed out a few times it was so intense... been cracked in the head with a bokken so many times i stopped counting... split lips jammed fingers thankfully nothing too serious... but i think this does recreate as nearly as possible the Fear Factor of the street... does your school or style do this???

Alec Corper
01-12-2006, 01:07 PM
In answer to your question, yes sometimes with senior students close to ikkyu or shodan I will crank up the intensity, but mostly that tests their physical stamina, resilience, no quitting type attitude. However I don't think that Aikido is about fighting, there are more direct rapid means to learn to fight if thats your goal. When I was a lot younger I took part in Kyukushinkai and Chinese Boxing competitions, and I've got the injuries to prove it 30 years later ;-)
No, I believe that Aikido is exactly what O Sensei called it, but the meaning of blending, non-resistance, minimal damage to your "enemy", etc., these ideas seem to get changed somewhat.
Alec
P.S. Mark, you're right,but when it rains I like to have an umbrella.

Edwin Neal
01-12-2006, 02:12 PM
learning to fight is one goal but not the only goal and its not a race... all that philosophy stuff has to be taken with a grain of pragmatism ( betcha thought i'd say salt) ... minimal means the least necessary that might mean a whole lotta ass whupping... did a self defense thing with my ex girlfreind where i told her to fight like her life was at stake and i just held her down no strikes no wrist locks just gentle blending riding that sort of thing no matter how hard she tried she couldnt get loose after that she did let me train her in some simple self defense because even with me not fight ing and she fight ing she had a tough time with defense and really saw that she needed to learn to fight...
rule 1 aikido MUST work on the street against a resisting non compliant attacker
rule 2 when in doubt read rule one...

CNYMike
01-13-2006, 01:15 AM
Hi folks,


Hi, Larry,

Since the thread came back to life, I thought I might take another run at it.


..... Have we as Aikidoka begun to accept a culture of martial mediocrity within our art? In other words, has objective martial effectiveness and its related elements within Aikido training become something so abstract, so diametrically opposed to the concept of "peace and harmony with the universe", so much not a major goal of modern training that often folks move through the ranks into the higher levels of Yudansha without understanding simple elements of body control that are addressed by training with the goal of objectively effective technique?

My reason for asking these questions is because recently I see a trend where many Aikidoka appear to be clueless about how to achieve simple tasks like maintaining one's footing and vertical posture in the face of a shoot or tackle .....

You call that "simple"? Just maintaning good body mechanics during regular practice is difficult enough. I can't remember how many times I've been yelled at for letting my rear foot off the floor. (Happens in Kali, too, while throwing a jab-cross, so it's not an isolated problem.) Staying solid and stable while someone who presumeably knows what they're doing goes for your legs and does so correctly sounds pretty ADVANCED, not simple.


or questionable ability to comfortably evade certain types of unarmed attacks ....

What types of unarmed attacks? If they're not ones covered in the syllabus most dojo have, then you'd have to be pretty solid in the principles to pull it off. This may require mastery of the basics, but is not basic -- is porbably somewhere way beyond basic.

...... Has Aikido gone the path of modern Wushu, with practitioners learning movements that only work as shown in a choreographed environment?.....

I think the "choreography" is meant to help you learn principles and internalize reference points. I think that's how I wrist-locked my partner in chi sao some months ago. So it is an effective method of training but you have to be aware of what it is teaching you and how.

Since I've been surfing here, I've come across the two mutually exclusive shcools of thought: One that Aikido can handle anything you throw at it, and the other that it's almost useless in the real world, and God knows there's enough anecdotal evidence to support both positions. Reality is somewhere in the middle.


.... Imho an Aikidoka who understands certain principles (not even having to do with offensive techniques) should be capable of not having his balance easily taken by a shoot or tackle, not allowing a situation of resistance allow him to resort to Jujutsu and Judo techniques or muscular and mental overtension, or not have to resort to ground grappling in the majority of serious attack situations because he does not easily allow himself to be taken to the ground (this does not mean not cross training, since there are special situations where grappling knowledge serves well). Basically, he does not allow the attacker or the attack to easily draw him out of the tactical range that keeps him in control and keeps his Aikido as usually practiced effective, without resorting to other tactics from other arts too easily and quickly. Is it that folks simply don't train anymore to the levels where the martial principles of Aiki are so ingrained that they quickly abandon Aiki principles when faced with serious attack?


I think the real question is, how much mat time does it take to ingrain those principles? Probably a lot.

I've been doing martial arts for a few weeks shy of 21 years, yet coming back to Aikido, the main benefit seems to be I'm quicker at picking things up, ie I don't have the added burden of having to get my body to do soemthing specific. Even then, there are a lot of basic areas where I have problems. Forward ukemi explode to mind -- they were a challenge in Seidokan 20 years ago and while improving slowly, a challenge now. This is after plugging away once a week for a year and a half. Going from there to naturally being stable if faced with a Shoot, or evading any empty hand attack from any angle ..... It might take decades to get to that point. When you mention rnaking Yudansha, are you including 6th degree black betls with ~30 years of experiences? They'd be closer to the mark than anything.

Having said I have trained only three dojos and probably missed a lot of crap out there, the issue may not be that no one can get the principles you are talking about, just that it takes a long time to do it. Even with a teacher who explains everything to you, it is still long-hair stuff, somewhat tricky, and just plain difficult to get. It has nothing to do with "accepting" medicority or rejecting it -- just that in it's own way, Aikido can be difficult.


..... Have we grown to accept that in the face of other arts we cannot stand on the same level in the area of martial applicability? I am not referring so much to self defence, but more to the mastery of the Aiki basics that makes an effective Aikidoka and Budoka.


Maybe not, but mastery doesn't come over night, and simple things can be difficult to master. Just the other night in Kali, Guro Andy Astle devoted a chunk of the time to studying the lead hook, saying "The hook can be difficult to master." The HOOK! Something anyone familiar with boxing knows, and yet getting that right can be tricky! If people have trouble with some basics in Aikido, it may not be that they're instruction is bad or that they've resigned to being mediocher but that to get where they want to be is longer and more difficult than you might first expect.

Practice, practice, practice. That's the key.

xuzen
01-13-2006, 03:40 AM
in reply to allec we sometimes train in the washing machine mode... randori style hard fast high resistance until exhastion... especially on tests... I'm proud to say I've thrown up and nearly passed out a few times it was so intense... been cracked in the head with a bokken so many times i stopped counting... split lips jammed fingers thankfully nothing too serious... but i think this does recreate as nearly as possible the Fear Factor of the street... does your school or style do this???

Cracked head? Split lips? Jammed fingers eh Edwin? Is this YOU (http://www.ursulascostumes.com/Masks/THUG.jpg) ?

Boon.

Edwin Neal
01-13-2006, 06:31 AM
cute Xu, but not me ... i'm grabbing your wrist...

CNYMike
01-13-2006, 08:36 AM
rule 1 aikido MUST work on the street against a resisting non compliant attacker
rule 2 when in doubt read rule one...

Done. See:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showpost.php?p=126264&postcount=465

This one is the kicker:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showpost.php?p=122648&postcount=438

You can't do better than an endoresement from law enforcement. But then there's:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showpost.php?p=127475&postcount=514

Conclusion: Rules 1 and 2 are satisfied.

Now, if only the thread I cited would die ...... :dead:

Edwin Neal
01-13-2006, 08:41 AM
preaching to the choir, but not everyones singing the same hymn...

L. Camejo
01-28-2006, 08:00 PM
Wow, I didn't even know this thread resurrected itself from the archival abyss.

Just maintaning good body mechanics during regular practice is difficult enough. I can't remember how many times I've been yelled at for letting my rear foot off the floor. (Happens in Kali, too, while throwing a jab-cross, so it's not an isolated problem.) Staying solid and stable while someone who presumeably knows what they're doing goes for your legs and does so correctly sounds pretty ADVANCED, not simple.
Many things are difficult in the beginning. However if you are doing it repeatedly and seeing no improvement then you have to ask yourself why aren't you evolving - is it something within yourself, is it the teacher or teaching method, is it something else? I can see your point, but to me one who truly seeks to evolve in the way will attempt to find, even invent ways to address one's own evolution so that what may be perceived as "advanced" will not always be beyond them and will one day become the simple.

If the way is clouded even the simple and obvious becomes hidden and advanced imho.

What types of unarmed attacks? If they're not ones covered in the syllabus most dojo have, then you'd have to be pretty solid in the principles to pull it off. This may require mastery of the basics, but is not basic -- is porbably somewhere way beyond basic.The question here becomes - is Aikido only the syllabus or is it something else, something more? Does the syllabus embody the totality of what you want to achieve and manifest as your Aikido or is it merely a means of ensuring you understand certain fundamental elements that need to be applied to a much broader reality? To me, mastery of the principles is the gate through which one encounters the hidden and "advanced". But how does one achieve this mastery if one takes the role of a passive student (content on receiving only what his teacher gives) instead of an active student (one who receives the teachings but does his own research, practices outside the dojo time and attempts to find the path his own way, with his teacher as a guide). No teacher can make one a master. To evolve, one has to learn the path using the teacher as a guide. The teacher and the syllabus are guides, not the path itself imho.

I think the "choreography" is meant to help you learn principles and internalize reference points. I think that's how I wrist-locked my partner in chi sao some months ago. So it is an effective method of training but you have to be aware of what it is teaching you and how.I never said that choreography was not effective to learn certain things. I agree fully with what you say above. However choreography is not a means whereby one can develop spontaneity, one naturally precludes the other.


I think the real question is, how much mat time does it take to ingrain those principles? Probably a lot. Actually mat time is what you use to see if your own exploration is on track. Like the syllabus and the teacher, mat time alone does not embody the totality of the path. The dojo is a single, controlled environment used for learning and testing certain concepts within a limited time. If one depends on this alone, evolution is guaranteed to be slow. In my dojo I encourage all my students to study their fundamentals outside of mat time, especially since we do not train every day on the mat. Experiencing the core principles does not take much mat time. Exploration and evolution of understanding of those principles depends greatly on how much time you put into conscientious, goal-oriented study and training with realistic, objective performance testing along the way. This is the only way you can detect if you're evolving over time instead of "spinning top in mud" as we say in the Caribbean.:)


I've been doing martial arts for a few weeks shy of 21 years, yet coming back to Aikido, the main benefit seems to be I'm quicker at picking things up, ie I don't have the added burden of having to get my body to do soemthing specific. Even then, there are a lot of basic areas where I have problems. Forward ukemi explode to mind -- they were a challenge in Seidokan 20 years ago and while improving slowly, a challenge now. This is after plugging away once a week for a year and a half. Going from there to naturally being stable if faced with a Shoot, or evading any empty hand attack from any angle ..... It might take decades to get to that point. When you mention rnaking Yudansha, are you including 6th degree black betls with ~30 years of experiences? They'd be closer to the mark than anything. Firstly, congratulations for sticking with the arts for so long. This requires much dedication. Regarding the Yudansha issue, to me it depends on the focus of one's training and how the student approaches training. If we only wait until Sensei does that class to learn or begin to think or understand a principle then learning and evolution will take a long time. It comes down to the approach of both teacher and student imho. For what you refer to as being the realm of Yudansha, I have kyu grades who are not yet masters of these things, but pretty skilled at it and able to maintain at least a 60% degree of success when dealing with shoots and unchoreographed multiple angle strikes. On the other side, I have had visiting Yudansha from other schools who are unable to maintain this consistency. All this means to me is that there are different approaches to learning and teaching and people focus on what they choose to focus on. My overall point is though, whatever you choose to focus on - be able to think critically and objectively gauge your development.

Having said I have trained only three dojos and probably missed a lot of crap out there, the issue may not be that no one can get the principles you are talking about, just that it takes a long time to do it. Even with a teacher who explains everything to you, it is still long-hair stuff, somewhat tricky, and just plain difficult to get. It has nothing to do with "accepting" medicority or rejecting it -- just that in it's own way, Aikido can be difficult.Aikido can be difficult, which is why the teaching/learning process must be conscientious and focussed on achieving what one wants to achieve if one plans on developing and not just going to class to exercise and meet people (though there is nothing wrong with taking that path if it is all you want out of training). From my experience in different arts and other things to do with teaching in other aspects of life I have found that teaching/learning is an encoding/decoding communication process that takes careful skill and conscientious application to reach certain people. In my class I admit to my students that there are certain techniques that are difficult for me to teach since a lot of what is involved requires a touch response on the part of Tori and is very difficult to be explained. This is where skill in imparting the principles come in so even with a minimum of specific instruction, as long as the student adheres to known principles and fundamentals the gap between poor technique and acceptible technique is minimized.

If people have trouble with some basics in Aikido, it may not be that they're instruction is bad or that they've resigned to being mediocher but that to get where they want to be is longer and more difficult than you might first expect.
Practice, practice, practice. That's the key.

I never indicated that people resigned to being mediocre. Everything in life is difficult at some point, the only way we grow and things become easy is by focussed, conscious attempts to do better and finding a way even in the midst of adversity. This is part of the Budo spirit. It is not only a matter of practice, practice practice imho.

As someone else on Aikiweb said: "Practice makes permanent, perfect practice makes perfect."

Yours in Aiki.
LC:ai::ki:

Edwin Neal
01-28-2006, 08:26 PM
I said that but i got it from someone else who i think got it from some golfer... it is hard for most people to analyze their progress... and unfortunately "some" aikido is just crap, sorry if that offends anyone, but it is true... you can see a similar thing starting to happen in BJJ... when an art "splinters" you start to get watered down crappy stuff being peddled as aikido or any other art...

L. Camejo
01-28-2006, 08:40 PM
Hi Edwin,

I agree progress is difficult to judge sometimes, but one thing that starts to make things easy is brutal honesty with oneself.

Although splintering can lead to watered down stuff being peddled, sometimes it is not so simple as stuff being watered down or splintering but merely a limitation in conceptual understanding, teaching, training and evaluation methods.

Sometimes the splinter groups, by leaving the core institution, are less bound by traditional or institutionalized norms that prevent clear thinking and an honest approach to progress and evaluation. In the end they are the ones who aid in the overall development of the art by venturing into areas that may be seen as taboo by the core institution. It is difficult to generalize in these things imho.

LC:ai::ki:

Edwin Neal
01-28-2006, 09:33 PM
i totally agree larry in some instances breaking from a watered down style can lead to reaffirming, rejuvenating, or rediscovering more martial(or spiritual) effectiveness... i just think the other happens more often... i generally speak in generalities, generally speaking that is...

L. Camejo
01-29-2006, 08:50 AM
Breaking from a "pure" style or way of thinking that has become petrified by an unnatural fixation with tradition can also have the effects you mentioned Edwin. It has happened a lot in Japanese Budo over time.

LC:ai::ki:

CNYMike
01-29-2006, 11:29 PM
Wow, I didn't even know this thread resurrected itself from the archival abyss.


What, you're surprised that threads can come back?

How long have you been hanging around here? :p


Many things are difficult in the beginning. However if you are doing it repeatedly and seeing no improvement then you have to ask yourself why aren't you evolving - is it something within yourself, is it the teacher or teaching method, is it something else? I can see your point, but to me one who truly seeks to evolve in the way will attempt to find, even invent ways to address one's own evolution so that what may be perceived as "advanced" will not always be beyond them and will one day become the simple.


Well, some things have been improving lately; I'm not exactly where I was when I got back into Aikido last year. But getting back on track here, way back in your first post, you said, "many Aikidoka appear to be clueless about how to achieve simple" "tasks like maintaining one's footing and vertical posture in the face of a shoot or tackle ..... " I took the word "simple" to mean "basic." After I posted my last message, I thought, [i]Wait a minute, if this is so basic, why isn't it in the basics? It's not. Defending against a shoot isn't in the basics of Aikijutus either, at least not according to The Hidden Roots of Aikido. I just flipped through a book I have on Judo and nothing like that is mentioned either. I know that there are grappling systems that deal with this very early, but Judo, Aikijutsu, and Aikido aren't three of them. If it's in your shcool's basics, great! Your students get a leg-up on them. But none of the dojos I've been in do that, and none of the sources I've read claims it is.

One of things I've been paying attention to as a result of Kali and Serak is how arts are put together. What's presented as the "basics" represents, in part, a value judgment by what people who founded/propogate the system consider important while at the same time easy enough for beginners to handle. That Aikido doesn't start off teaching you how to remain stable in the face of a tackle tells me one of 2 things:

1. It is not easy to do.

2. It is relatively easy, but it is not something Aikijutusu's and Aikido's founding fathers felt beginners had to know right away.

If "1" is the truth, then how can we complain about how "Aikidoka can't do this simple thing" when it's NOT simple? That's a straw man.


..... All this means to me is that there are different approaches to learning and teaching and people focus on what they choose to focus on. My overall point is though, whatever you choose to focus on - be able to think critically and objectively gauge your development.


You remind me of that bumper sticker that says "Question authority!" And I always have the same thought when I see it: "Says who?"

I don't know if it's possible to "think objectively," because everything is "subjective." If you decide that an Aikido Shodan must be able to remain rock stable if someone tries to tackle him, that's not "objective;" that's a standard you've set.

To be honest, I'm not quite sure what your post is about. :o You ruled out the issue of whether Aikido works in self defense situations in your first post, so the question is .... what? How long it takes people to learn principles? Time. Whether they can handle something that is supposedly simple but not covered in several systems, including Aikido? Whether Aikido works outside the dojo? If it works is self defense situations -- and there are testimonials to that in another thread -- then the answer is "Yes." Whether higher students experiment? I've seen people doing thigns that might count as that. But that's not enough?

The answer is "42." What's the question?

Edwin Neal
01-30-2006, 12:41 AM
i'm gonna get into this on another thread, but unfortunately over time things that were considered basic in that most students that came to aikido already had some knowledge of judo and jujutsu have been lost ie no longer included in the aikido curriculum of most schools/styles and new students that come into aikido haven't had that experience... with the deemphasis on competition and functional practical skills and more emphasis on more philosophical/spiritual aspects... the art has in my opinion degenerated... simply put I believe Osensei intended for aikido to be a equally both spiritual and functional, practical art physically that in spite of the "mystifiers" was fairly easy to learn physically, but took longer to develop the deeper more subtle spiritual/philosophical aspects... defense against a shoot/double leg takedown easy try Kaiten Nage... control the head, hook the arm, turn tenkan... some wrestlers i know call it a "pancake" simple defense against a simple attack... why isn't it taught in all dojo... EGO, misunderstanding/misrepresentation/misinterpretation of what aikido is ... its as simple as that... so for the serious aikidoka you have to experiment, cross train, or get lucky and find a teacher that will teach these things... or be pulled to the over mystical side and forget about functional skill for some higher deeper more sublime mastery or shooting ki from your fingers into death rays and such... it is sad but that is how things have degenerated... even the great roman empire decayed with time...

Alec Corper
01-30-2006, 07:04 AM
the art has in my opinion degenerated... simply put I believe Osensei intended for aikido to be a equally both spiritual and functional, practical art physically that in spite of the "mystifiers" was fairly easy to learn physically, but took longer to develop the deeper more subtle spiritual/philosophical aspects... Yes!
I posted a blog about this central idea on Aikido Journal, Take the Budo out of Aikido and you have ballet, take the spiritual out you have modified ju-jutsu, take the kokyu out you have strength competition, take the Rei out you have sport. Aikido only becomes Aikido when the enigma of apparent opposites is resolved in the practitioner.

L. Camejo
01-30-2006, 08:52 AM
Good posts from Alec and Edwin imo.

Michael: Quick, stable, powerful, centred movement is a core principle of all Aikido - this is all that is necessary to deal with a shoot. Edwin gave one technical option. So I guess that knocks out your theory that it isn't taught in Aikido. If you need more clarification, google the words shizentai or mu gamae and see what you come up with. This is a central part of the core of Aikido's movement methodology, without this you have no structural foundation and everything else, no matter how pretty or "apparently" effective will fail. If you don't know how to stand properly, how can you know how to move properly?

What I am hearing from Michael is the same concept I alluded to earlier about the passive student. One must aim to see the principle behind the technique. it is often seen with students who can't handle a round punch even after having dealt with innumerable yokemen uchi attacks. They allow the change to take their centre instead of finding a way to adapt to the not so new pattern of movement.

In the end my post is about truly getting the most out of your training by deeply searching into the principles and not just sitting there, copying the sensei in "monkey see monkey do" manner and hoping that skill and understanding will come through osmosis or conduction.:)

As I also indicated in one of my earlier posts, this approach may not be for everyone as there are those who have no desire to actually evolve in their training but merely do it for exercise or some other value. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is important not to be delusional as to one's abilities at the same time. Again, this has nothing to do with self defence applicability, but honesty in one's understanding of Aikido and what one wants to achieve as a goal or final goal in that training.

Gambatte.
LC:ai::ki:

Edwin Neal
01-30-2006, 01:07 PM
good post larry i'm getting into the SD thing in another thread, but a lot of what we are saying here is applicable... does it necessarily take "many years" to be able to use aikido for SD... i think too many people over mystify aikido... the basic physical movements can be learned in a relatively short time, but deeper understanding and "gracefulness" come with more pratice... it is IMHO unfortunate for the art that so many have apparently missed the points that Alec and I seem to share from his post... aikido is equally both physical and spiritual... lose one and you lose both...

L. Camejo
01-30-2006, 03:35 PM
Well said Edwin.

My point entirely. It is a balance. Too often we get caught up in the parts and miss the whole - like the blind men and the elephant.:)

LC:ai::ki:

Edwin Neal
01-30-2006, 03:56 PM
yep i like that story too, but to respond to the idea of the monkey see monkey do type student i have no problem with people who want to "do" aikido for fun or anything else... i just think it is a little dishonest and egotistical to say things like we don't do this or that in aikido, or it take soo long to learn/become functional as SD... i'm getting ready to read that thread on chokes which i'm sure at least some one will say is NOT aikido... Osensei said to take from other traditions and make them new and part of aikido... i believe this, ultimately all arts and techniques are "aikido"... he said he did not invent aikido but found it from his studies... shouldn't we do the same?

CNYMike
01-31-2006, 01:19 AM
Good posts from Alec and Edwin imo.

Michael: Quick, stable, powerful, centred movement is a core principle of all Aikido - this is all that is necessary to deal with a shoot. Edwin gave one technical option. So I guess that knocks out your theory that it isn't taught in Aikido ....

Kaiten nage would have been my choice, too, although someone in another thread said it didn't work. In any event, none of the three dojos I have trained in, including the one I am in now, regualrly do it as a defense against a shoot. None of the books I have on Aikido, including both Best Aikido books, show it as a defense against a Shoot. And none of the seminars I've been to even mentioned the Shoot. If you're going to claim "it's taught in Aikido," you're going to have to explain why it's hard to find!


..... What I am hearing from Michael is the same concept I alluded to earlier about the passive student .....

What you are hearing from me specifically is the result of having a steady diet of hormat for the past 2+ years. Hormat is the Indonesian word for "respect." One of its implications within the context of learning Pentjak Silat Serak is that you learn the system exactly as it is taught to you and teach it exactly as your learn it. The reason for this is that it is not just something some guy knows but Maha Guru Victor de Thouars's sacred family heirloom, and absorbing and retransmitting is how it is kept alive. Failing to do so would be to break hormat, and anyone who does that is out of Serak. And when you're out, you're out. No, no one comes to your house and slits your throat, but you are out of the organization and you can't get back in.

Pembantu Guru Andrew Astle, who I'm learning Serak from, takes hormat very seriously, and he applies it to all the arts he teaches, namely Serak, LaCoste Inosanto Kali, and Jun Fan/JKD. It's not that he doesn't beleive in experimentation; that's what sparring's for, and why the his Kali students (including me) have been in what I call the ongoing run-up to sparring. We are not sparring yet but being taught how to. Yet that step only comes after you have abosrbed the basic grammar and principles of whatever art you are doing, and for those purposes, the student should make it his or her business to learn from the instructor. It is one things to ask questions. But if you question everything he tries to teach you, at some point, Guro Andy would be sorely tempted to kick you out. He'd kick me out if I were a horse's @$$, and I've known him for 8.5 years!

So hormat has provided the lense through which I look at Aikido as I've returned to it after 16 years "away." Right now I am in the business of learning and absorbing. "Experimenting" comes later. And even then, if you're told not to train in certain ways, you don't do it. That would break hormat.

What you call "passive" I call knowing your place. I'd be lying if I said I didn't screw up now and then. But I don't call it "passive."


One must aim to see the principle behind the technique .....

I agree with you; that's Guro Andy's thesis, too. His Kali instructor, Guro Kevin Seaman, is also big on "concept and principles."

Getting at them through regular Aikido practice may be another story, but you have to remember that you are not just learning techniques but learning something you are supposed to pass down eventually. So while veering from "traditional" methodologies may have some beneftis, are you losing something else? Are you failing in your role as an Aikido student if you decide, "Yeah, I'll listen to that guy in the skirt, but I ain't gonna train his way and damn if I'm going to teach his way"? I would say you are.


it is often seen with students who can't handle a round punch even after having dealt with innumerable yokemen uchi attacks. They allow the change to take their centre instead of finding a way to adapt to the not so new pattern of movement.


The only similarity between a hook and yokomenuchi is that they're on an arc; there the similarity ends. Even if you allow for a wide hook on some kind of downward arc, it's not going to be the same as yokomen because the elbow will be pointed up instead of down, and even then will (or should) snap back to a gurad position right after impact instead of following through.

There are enough differences between hooks and yokomens that I would be surpised if you could take a yokomenuchi defense and use it as is without any modificatiohns. Try amazed. The stance is different, there are differences in the mechanics, and the strategy and use is different. I wouldn't be surprised if someone who had never seen a hook before had trouble with it if someone sprang it on him.

In the end my post is about truly getting the most out of your training by deeply searching into the principles and not just sitting there, copying the sensei in "monkey see monkey do" manner and hoping that skill and understanding will come through osmosis or conduction.:)


I don't think anyone does hope it comes through osmosis. I certainly don't. But if I never did anything my sensei told me to do, would I gain anyting out of it? I don't see how. I'm there to learn from him, not just regurgitate what I already know. If I sprang kicks and punches on people who weren't expecting them, and back talked on everything, what would I get other than a chance to practice ukemi as I get sent flying out the door? And major trouble from Pembantu Guru Andy once he found out what had happened? And there would be trouble?

I agree with "getting at the principles." What I disagree with -- if not totally reject -- is this idea that doing what your sensei tells you to do won't help you get there. Presumably, he is where you want to be, so he is only trying to point the way and give you the tools to get there. If you "think critically" about things you really don't understand, are you helping yourself or shooting yourself in the foot? I think the latter. It's not that there isn't a place for it. But that would come after you get the tools you need to understnad what you're doing, not before.

Edwin Neal
01-31-2006, 01:47 AM
I understand that idea of hormat and some in aikido see the same thing, but...

Even though our path is completely different from the warrior arts of the past, it is not necessary to abandon totally the old ways. Absorb venerable traditions into this new art by clothing them with fresh garments, and build on the classic styles to create better forms. Osensei

All the 'oldtimers' had practice in judo,jj,karate,kendo, etc... Aikido IS made up of other arts... so i see no problem... :)

Alec Corper
01-31-2006, 04:21 AM
Hello Michael,
I read your last post with interest and agree with much of what you say. I think that respecting what your teacher shows means trying to copy it exactly for along time. Without going into the concept of shu, ha ,ri, which have been covered in other threads, there does come a time when a person begins their own study of what they have absorbed in an almost passive, imitiative manner, and begins to make it their own. I would not use the word experimentation, I would say study or research. I have also never seen a Shihan teach techniques against a "shoot" and I believe there are a number of reasons for this, IMHO. Somebody out there may "shoot" :D me down for this but so be it.
Aikido evolved from battlefield techniques against men wearing armour and carrying katana and wakizashi, baring your back, even momentarily, as in shoot fighting, is an invitation to death, this is not a competition. If you are wearing armour and the ground is muddy with rain and blood you will do everything you can to remain on your feet, taking your opponent down with you would be a last resort, not a strategy. However, being able to retain your balance against ANY kind of attack would be expected from a well trained warrior, not as a result of rehearsing specifics, but as a result of a centred, stable posture. So I dont think a "traditional" Shihan would depart from the standing posture in basic instruction, except in formalised suwari and hanmi handachi practice. Rolling around on the ground and wrestling is very undignified and beneath the dignity of most Shihans, and that's another reason it wont be taught. Furthermore in many dojos in the West the emphasis upon learning more and more techniques often precludes the study of basics until people are no longer at the mudansha level, and then they begin to develop some real respect and appreciation for the practise they found so boring in the beginning, such as strong kamae, ashi sabaki and tai sabaki, the foundations of dealing with any attack.
However, IMO, at a certain stage, depending upon years of regular practise, condition, personal goals and inclination, it can and must be possible for those who wish to take their study further, to examine Aikido in relation to non standard attacks, not in order to learn to fight against other martial artists, or to prove that Aikido is "the deadliest fighting system ever", or other kinds of nonsense. No, out of a deep respect for preserving the integrity of a great Budo, not to change it or adulterate it, but to fully cognize the teachings embodied in the fundamental practise. I only have stories to go on, and some old black and white photos and movies, but most of the now peaceful, dignified Shihans we see gliding across the mat were fighters in thier youth, testing each other and their art to the limit. Most of them cross trained, either secretly or not, some of them got in street fights (read Aikido Shugyo by Shioda Sensei!) by accident or not?
I am too old now to want (or be able) to fight as I did in my 20's, but I see how difficult it is for many people whose only exposure to the truth of Aikido is in an Aikido dojo. For those of us who are both students and teachers the need to continue to learn in order to preserve is very real.
with respect, Alec

Edwin Neal
01-31-2006, 05:25 AM
Alec... your example of battle field techniques while interesting and certainly true on some levels... suffers from some faulty assumptions... even IF a samurai trained to keep his balance against any attack... it is clearly impossible to do so... and even though you would not give your back to an armed opponent... your opponent may not be armed, so a shoot and takedown would be appropriate strategy... even as a last resort taking your opponent down with you would be a possibility that no warrior would overlook and thus not have an appropriate strategy for dealing with...
If by 'traditional' shihan you mean not willing to commit to the art in a sincere way and teach the truth in a truly dignified manner, rather than adopting some egotistical posturing that only does his students a possibly lethal disservice, then i believe we can live without that particular tradition...since aikido was composed from elements of various arts in infinitely rich and creative variations, there is no way to change or adulterate aikido other than by being insincere in your practice or teaching of the art... as i said Osensei and other old timers had extensive background in judo,jj,karate, kendo... that is still relavent today... unfortunately most new timer's have only done aikido with none of the other skills that these old timer's and ancient warriors had, plus a taboo about seeking for or even needing this knowledge, and IMHO this has led to a drift in the art as a result of loss of context... people fight pretty much the same as they ever have and probably ever will... this drift gives rise to the MYTH of ineffectiveness, which becomes the 'truth' and becomes more ingrained, and bolstered by 'tradition' and reluctance to ask questions (not the same as Challenging!), and over mystification, and this leads to a degeneration and stagnation of what i believe Osensei wished to be a LIVE, GROWING, DYNAMIC martial art...
just my take on it...

Edwin Neal
01-31-2006, 05:38 AM
Michael, try as defense against hooks depending on its roundness or shortness, yokomenuchi ude osae or ikkyo or even that yoshinkan shomenuchi ikkyo where NAGE initiates the attack with the shomenuchi... it is a sometimes better to think of attacking ukes attack rather than passively recieving it

Alec Corper
01-31-2006, 05:52 AM
hello edwin,
perhaps my post was not clear. i am not saying a warrior would overlook the takedown as a last resort but that it would not be a natural opening strategy as in BJJ type sports. I know that many people say it is often used in street fights, but that is not my (limited) experience. Fights end up on the ground afetr messy struggling and tripping over. I've played a bit with "shoot" takedowns, admittedly not against high level players and a knee to the chin at the right moment is usually all it takes. Anyway thats another thread!
Yes, maybe there is a degree of "posturing" amongst some of the higher level teachers, but I think most simply see Aikido as "win with the first moment and theres no need to fight" attitude and train and teach accordingly. Not being at that level I can't really argue with their philosophy.
As for the rest of what you have said that was exactly my point. It is hard to really appreciate Aikido if your total experience of Budo is within the "modern" Aikido dojo.
Alec

Edwin Neal
01-31-2006, 06:01 AM
true enough... but the win with the first moment is also a little impractical...
One should be prepared to 99% of an enemies attack and stare death right in the face in order to illuminate the Path. Osensei

Edwin Neal
01-31-2006, 06:02 AM
true enough... but the win with the first moment philosophy is also a little impractical...

One should be prepared to receive 99% of an enemies attack and stare death right in the face in order to illuminate the Path. Osensei

Edwin Neal
01-31-2006, 06:04 AM
hmmm how did i do that must have split the space time continuum or sumthin...

CNYMike
01-31-2006, 03:23 PM
All the 'oldtimers' had practice in judo,jj,karate,kendo, etc... Aikido IS made up of other arts... so i see no problem... :)

Except that when they taught Aikido, they taught Aikido. They didn't mix things up and say it was Aikido.

My sensei also does kenjutsu, and he does refer to it in class because ALL of Aikido's movements come from swordsmanship, but he doesn't shmush the two together and call it "Aikido." And if, hypothetically) I had to lead a practice tomorrow (which is unlikely because I don't hold rank, so it will probably be a long time before I'm in this position, but even so), I'd do it straight, not pile in Kali and Tai chi and some Aikido.

You don't agree with that, fine. But that's the way I do it.

CNYMike
01-31-2006, 03:27 PM
... it is a sometimes better to think of attacking ukes attack rather than passively recieving it

That's the idea behind Aikido anyway; morote dori (two hands grabbing one wrist) is based on that notion. In fact, "uke" doesn't mean "attacker" but the one who "receives" Nage's technique.

Doesn't change the fact that as far as I'm concerned, there are plenty of differences between a hook and yokomenuchi. You could apply Aikido's principles against it, but I doubt the result would look like a classic Aikido technique.

But that's just me; YMMV.

Edwin Neal
01-31-2006, 03:33 PM
in a sense ALL martial arts are aikido... i think of aikido as a Meta martial art... if takemusu aiki means that the techniques of aikido are infinite, then doesn't that mean all techniques of all arts... indeed in my experience the more you study other arts the more you see this... aikido is nothing new and its techniques come from many other arts... Osensei even said to absorb other arts and use them to further our own waza... see his quote in post #134

CNYMike
01-31-2006, 03:38 PM
in a sense ALL martial arts are aikido... i think of aikido as a Meta martial art... if takemusu aiki means that the techniques of aikido are infinite, then doesn't that mean all techniques of all arts... indeed in my experience the more you study other arts the more you see this... aikido is nothing new and its techniques come from many other arts... Osensei even said to absorb other arts and use them to further our own waza... see his quote in post #134

I'll agree with the idea that at a certain level, all martial arts are very similar if not the same. That's why Guro Dan Inosanto is famous for saying "motion is universal."

But he's part of Guro Andy;s lineage, and Guro Andy is adamant about keeping the curricula unchaged. "If I don't see Guro Dan do it," he says, "I won't do it."

It's one thing if you are creating your own art or your own style. You can do whatever you want. But when it comes to propogating someone else's art, I think you have an obligation to pass on what you've learned without messing with it. If you think it's ok to pile several arts together and call it "Aikido," go right ahead. But I never would.

Edwin Neal
01-31-2006, 03:50 PM
i agree with your thoughts and the guro's, but i also think that things must change or stagnate... the more things change the more things stay the same... it is also not necessary to lose tradition during this process of growth... here's an example that i just thought of... we all do the basic aikido attacks; shomenuchi yokomenuchi etc... but we must also learn and practice other strikes and atemi... you don't lose one when you gain the other...

L. Camejo
01-31-2006, 09:41 PM
Kaiten nage would have been my choice, too, although someone in another thread said it didn't work. In any event, none of the three dojos I have trained in, including the one I am in now, regualrly do it as a defense against a shoot. None of the books I have on Aikido, including both Best Aikido books, show it as a defense against a Shoot. And none of the seminars I've been to even mentioned the Shoot. If you're going to claim "it's taught in Aikido," you're going to have to explain why it's hard to find!Kaiten nage is only one example of powerful, centred movement which is taught in the major schools of Aikido that I have experienced - Aikikai, Yoshinkai, Ki no Kenkyukai and Shodokan. Applying this basic principle to a shoot is..... simple imo.:) I have done it and many of my kyu grade students are able to do it. Again, if we go back to the beginning of this thread we see the problem of the student seeing only the form and missing the principle which leads to the spontaneity of thought and action that defines Aikido.

So hormat has provided the lense through which I look at Aikido as I've returned to it after 16 years "away." Right now I am in the business of learning and absorbing. "Experimenting" comes later. And even then, if you're told not to train in certain ways, you don't do it. That would break hormat.

What you call "passive" I call knowing your place. I'd be lying if I said I didn't screw up now and then. But I don't call it "passive." In the above post you outline the lens that is allowing you to read things into my words that are not there, hence the misinterpretation my posts. Nowhere did I ever say that one should lose respect and humility for one's teacher or teachers. Without respect for your teachers in MA training you have nothing imo, but this does not mean that you merely swallow something as is without trying to learn the deeper meaning behind why something is the way it is. If you have a lens then it is difficult to see and think clearly about the topic since Aikido by nature requires the clarity of Mushin Mugamae which requires at least temporary removal of all lenses and prejudgement. What I speak of has nothing to do with unsanctioned experimenting, it is in fact shu ha ri as mentioned by another.

Also, the hormat you refer to is often cited by students of Koryu I have met (using the Japanese nomenclature of course). Again this is where deeper study is required imo, if you will allow me to use the Japanese naming to refer to the Pentjak Silat Serak you are doing, as it appears to me that you are confusing a traditional, ancient or family school (like Ono Ha Itto Ryu or Kito Ryu) with modern Budo (Aikido, Judo, Kendo). Serak is a family system where the training and tradition is designed to operate primarily as a preservation and transmission method for the family art, this is vastly different from a constantly adapting, changing, modern Budo. One is a preset, living archive, the other is constantly being rewritten while maintaining a link to the traditional methods. The mindsets of the students studying both types of arts are often different and should be, since the student of the first one is trained in being a living repository to transmit a system exactly as handed down, while the other allows room for development and application of principles taken from the traditional systems but given a progressive, modern focus. The Kali Silat system that I have practiced is one that is not as deeply concerned with preserving a particular family heritage, although this element is there, but its primary focus is one of self defence and application.

you have to remember that you are not just learning techniques but learning something you are supposed to pass down eventually. So while veering from "traditional" methodologies may have some beneftis, are you losing something else? Are you failing in your role as an Aikido student if you decide, "Yeah, I'll listen to that guy in the skirt, but I ain't gonna train his way and damn if I'm going to teach his way"? I would say you are.You would.:) This is where the maturity of the student as he becomes teacher is revealed. There is nothing wrong with learning from your teacher and being able to understand in a mature manner his areas of excellence and his areas of lack. In my opinion if you can identify the areas of lack of your teacher and decide to replicate this to your students without thinking because "my teacher did it this way" then you are failing as a teacher. You should at this point have an understanding of the principles such that you know where your teacher's way began to split from the way of the system he was teaching. If you can't do this then you don't have enough understanding of the core principles to be teaching imo.

Again, the teacher is not the system in modern Budo, he is a means whereby the principles and concepts of the system are passed on. Ueshiba M. invited his students to "stand on his shoulders" to find the way. To me, this is the way, to others it may not be so. One does not need to abandon the system or the teacher to do this, but one does need to attempt to understand the system for oneself instead of constantly and perpetually depending on another's description of the system.

Btw we don't wear skirts either.;)

There are enough differences between hooks and yokomens that I would be surpised if you could take a yokomenuchi defense and use it as is without any modificatiohns. Try amazed. The stance is different, there are differences in the mechanics, and the strategy and use is different. I wouldn't be surprised if someone who had never seen a hook before had trouble with it if someone sprang it on him.Again we return to the fixation with form instead of the understanding and application of principle. Btw there is only one stance in Aikido - mugamae. As outlined earlier in the thread (I seem to be repeating this) the fixation on form by nature precludes spontaneity.And you wonder why you will get caught off guard by a round punch that does not conform to your predefined format? I have seen many Aikido folks suffer from this particular afflication - every time the reason is that the fixation with form and preset structures locks the mind and body into a place where the most efficient and effective response is lost in a mental quagmire of "which stance should I be in to respond to this?". At least when they come to our dojo they realise that if things are approached differently a student with 6 months training or so is able to deal with these things spontaneously from mugamae and at least be able to evade the "surprise, targetted, stanceless round punch" without too much issue and mental gridlock.

I agree with "getting at the principles." What I disagree with -- if not totally reject -- is this idea that doing what your sensei tells you to do won't help you get there.Whoever said that? All I said that was that your Sensei is not the last word if you are learning a system of concepts and methods - iow don't mistake the messenger for the message.

Presumably, he is where you want to be, so he is only trying to point the way and give you the tools to get there.
As a beginner he may be where you want to be, but one should not settle for this when one attains a deeper, wider understanding of the principles.

If you "think critically" about things you really don't understand, are you helping yourself or shooting yourself in the foot? I think the latter. It's not that there isn't a place for it. But that would come after you get the tools you need to understnad what you're doing, not before.I would think the above would be obvious. How can you think critically about something you don't understand? You need to understand first. Your Sensei is one source (a major one) from which understanding is gained. But he is by no means the only source and if he is one runs the risk of becoming stunted in development at some point imho. This applies to Aikido of course and not arts where the Sensei is the system and whatever he decides to be the standard is the standard.

Gambatte.

To others: Apologies for the long posts. I am trying.:)

L. Camejo
01-31-2006, 10:11 PM
Regarding the other posts.

Alec I think you really understand the point I made regarding dealing with shoots and mastering one's own stability. What you gave above exemplified the point i was trying to make. In Aikido really knowing how to stand and move is extremely important and a deep practice in itself.

Edwin: From my experience at least, the "win with the first moment philosophy" works like a charm and is extremely practical, sometimes one's only choice. A major concept of Aikido strategy is Sen or initiative. Sen no Sen or taking the initiative (pre-emptive strike at the first sign of a willingness to attack by the other person) has the effect of stopping the attack (and the will to attack) dead in its tracks. This of course requires that the one using Sen no Sen have the mental clarity to perceive the subtlest of openings and capitalize on it (again Mushin Mugamae). A lot of Aiki operates before the physical engagement is even made.

Michael: Based on your later posts, if you only practice what your teacher has shown you and he has forgotten part of the repertoire because of a lack of systematic training methods (hypothetical case of course) and as a result you are never shown certain things, then is that area of the system lost forever?

Also, what if another student who trains with you today has experienced a technique from your instructor that for some reason you have never seen, does this give you the right when you both become teachers one day to say that what he is teaching is incorrect? Simply because you never saw it being done by your teacher?

This is why I say that the teacher is part of the training method (in the case of Aikido) and not the other way around. If you simply follow what your teacher does and don't attempt to go closer to the source of the system you still run the risk of losing parts of it if it is never revealed to you by your teacher for any reason. It seems to me that you are taking concepts from Silat tradition and applying them to Aikido incorrectly. Aikido is not Koryu.

Gambatte.
LC:ai::ki:

Edwin Neal
01-31-2006, 10:25 PM
Larry, i agree with you... i just meant in my post that you must ALSO be prepared IF you don't win in your pre emptive strike... atemi oftens finishes the confrontation with no need to continue in to a "technique"... we also practice 'natural' stance we say shizentai instead of mugamae, but it sounds like the same concept... you should be able to do any technique regardless of how your feet are... you just do it... no stances...

L. Camejo
01-31-2006, 11:50 PM
Exactly Edwin. I agree totally. Sen no Sen is good, but it does not belay having an effective failover mechanism. Aiki is about matching and blending after all. One should be able to move seamlessly and spontaneously into the next movement should the initial movement be thwarted.

Good post.
LC:ai::ki:

CNYMike
02-01-2006, 12:51 AM
Michael: Based on your later posts, if you only practice what your teacher has shown you and he has forgotten part of the repertoire because of a lack of systematic training methods (hypothetical case of course) and as a result you are never shown certain things, then is that area of the system lost forever?

Probably.


Also, what if another student who trains with you today has experienced a technique from your instructor that for some reason you have never seen, does this give you the right when you both become teachers one day to say that what he is teaching is incorrect? Simply because you never saw it being done by your teacher?


If I knew he got it from the same teacher I had, no. And I assume I would find out at some point.


.... If you simply follow what your teacher does and don't attempt to go closer to the source of the system you still run the risk of losing parts of it if it is never revealed to you by your teacher for any reason ....

And exactly how am I supposed to get "closer to the source of the system" than the person who has, presumeably, been doing it long than me, and logically, should be "closer to the source" than I am? What does "closer to the source" mean, anyway? Internalize the underlying principles? That's a matter of time. Get a better handle on O Sensei's thinking? There are books with that material are there. Study the arts he studied? That would entail going to a Kenjutus or jujutsu dojo. Daito-Ryu Aikijutsu is also around, though not as widespread as Aikido.

And how am I supposed to know what he is or isn't passing on? Who am I to presume what he should and shouldn't be teaching ME!? Would it be unable to do irimi nage exactly as I do in the dojo while sparring in Kali? There are any number of reasons why that would or wouldn't happen.


.... It seems to me that you are taking concepts from Silat tradition and applying them to Aikido incorrectly .....

Well, I've never been under the impression that hormat had any excpetions, ie was for Serak only but you could throw it out the window for anything else. Everyone in Guro Andy's lineages take respect seriously, and he's drilled that into me. I can't go wrong applying it to Aikido.

.... Aikido is not Koryu.



If that's your justification for advising people to question their senseis, I hope you keep that in mind when some jerks start talking back to you.

L. Camejo
02-01-2006, 01:44 AM
If that's your justification for advising people to question their senseis, I hope you keep that in mind when some jerks start talking back to you.
I always encourage them to challenge me and what I am teaching. If a question comes that I cannot answer then it is my failing as an Instructor and I must seek to learn more. If a beginner shuts down my technique, then he is not a jerk, I am, for trying to teach something I don't fully understand and can't apply. This method keeps me honest and constantly seeking and learning among other things. It's not about an ego trip where I tell people what to do and they have to do it, but honest training among individuals with similar goals and a willingness to improve together, which is what this thread has always been about.

It's about not being afraid to ask an honest question because you see your Sensei as some sort of Aiki_God who is infallible in what he teaches. Yes he may have knowledge to impart to you, but he is not responsible for the limits of your knowledge or where you want to go with it, only you are. All an instructor can do is illuminate a small corner of the path - it is up to you to plumb the depths. To question your teacher while seeking the path is not an act of dissension or defiance to your instructor, it is a show of willingness to understand fully what is being taught imho. It is a compliment to his teaching and a show of caring and appreciation for what he is offering.

If in your training a few pointed questions one core principles equate defiance to your teacher then I feel sorry for you. Honestly.

It is the Sensei-worship approach that creates and feeds the culture of martial mediocrity in Aikido and other MA. By the very nature of the approach you give as regards not questioning, the teacher is never challenged or encouraged to maintain a certain standard of skill, technical understanding and application. He has no reason to since he is surrounded by doting students and assistant instructors in a mutual admiration society. These types of teachers are the ones who will botch a technique in training or a demo and blame their Uke instead of admitting one's own limitations in skill or application of a principle. This even happened with Ueshiba M. at a demo in Manchuria. In his case however his technical core was strong enough to deal with the strong attacks in the demo and still execute superb (though not as clean) technique. He still referred to Obha Sensei as an idiot though. We must seek to control the ego at every turn if we are to understand Mushin. Even Ueshiba M. was not perfect at this all the time, so intense and conscientious study and practice is necessary if we are to ever hope to be anywhere near his level, if not better.

I still don't get where you think I'm saying that one should question one's Sensei in a negative manner (i.e. one that attempts to challenge his claim to knowledge of the material he is teaching). But the blind faith approach imho is just that - blind. There is a middle ground of intense personal study while in partnership with one's Sensei that is not difficult to find if one wants to see it. Edwin and Alec (and earlier David) have alluded to it and in Aikido it is often done in conjunction with one's Sensei - questions and all.

All Sensei means is - one who has gone before. To add too much more weight onto this simple designation can be dangerous imho and many know the results of this sort of behaviour.

Let's suffice it to say that at this point your lenses are not allowing you to get what I am talking about and leave it at that. Maybe when you start teaching it'll come to you. A search for answers does not equal disrespect.

Either way - Train safe, train happy.
LC:ai::ki:

Charlie
02-01-2006, 03:10 AM
Larry...you might want to check out the 'self-defense art?' thread as elements of this discussion have spilled over to that one.

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9710&page=2&pp=25

Charles

Charlie
02-01-2006, 03:35 AM
oops...looks like I liked it to the second page...oh well.

CNYMike
02-01-2006, 11:45 AM
i agree with your thoughts and the guro's, but i also think that things must change or stagnate...

Well, O Sensei did say that adaptiation and change are part of Aikido. Every source I have says how "personal" it is. But I also think there are places where you don't have wriggle room. At some point, when you change too much, it could stop being Aikido except in name. And it's even worse if you start from the assumption that what you're learing is somehow "flawed."


.... the more things change the more things stay the same... it is also not necessary to lose tradition during this process of growth... here's an example that i just thought of... we all do the basic aikido attacks; shomenuchi yokomenuchi etc... but we must also learn and practice other strikes and atemi... you don't lose one when you gain the other...

Probably, although I think you have to rememeber you're increasing the amount of work you have to do exponentially, because you should (IMO) learn how to do those attacks CORRECTLY in addition to getting a handle on Aikido's principles; then you have to overlay one on top of each other, asking "What does Aikido say about this type of attack based on this strategy and these body mechanics?" If you like everything you're doing and you're playing a "What if?" game with yourself, that's one thing. But if you're forcing yourself through that just to prove a point .... it had better be a mother of a point. Almost not worth it from that perpespective.

And even then, there' another question: What do the people above you say about that? If it's something along the lines of, "Well, as long as you hit the basics in the curriculum, we don't care what else you do," you're in the clear. But if they say, "No, you can't teach that," then you're playing with fire if you do IMO.

Edwin Neal
02-01-2006, 12:22 PM
i assure you my aikido is aikido, and is not flawed by my sensei's and i don't think it is possible to loose it... it is also never possible to learn too much, nor is the effort too much to spend... look at Osensei his aikido changed throughout his life so which is the 'real' aikido... the answer is it is all aikido... ultimately aikido encompasses all martial arts and techniques as takemusu aiki means infinite creativity of waza... my sensei's would never say 'no you can't teach that' unless i was teaching it wrong! you can never do the 'same' ikkyo twice any more than you can step on the same piece of water twice... the stream never stops flowing...

CNYMike
02-02-2006, 01:05 AM
..... It's not about an ego trip where I tell people what to do and they have to do it ....

Simple courtesy and respect shouldn't have anything to do with an ego trip.

..... It's about not being afraid to ask an honest question because you see your Sensei as some sort of Aiki_God who is infallible in what he teaches ....

I don't see any of my teacher as Gods who are infallible. And I've never been discouraged from asking "honest questions." Obeying some simple rules of behavior has nothing to do with seeing something as a god -- it's just being polit.

Asking a question about how to do something is one thing. But the underlying premise should be, Look, you're here to teach me something. I'm here to learn from you. How is that worship? It isn't. And there's room for questions. But the person leading the practice is still in charge IMO. That has nothing to do with ego. It's just The Rules.


..... It is the Sensei-worship approach that creates and feeds the culture of martial mediocrity in Aikido and other MA ....

If you equate behaving correctly and being respectful as "worship" then I feel sorry for you. Seriously.


..... I still don't get where you think I'm saying that one should question one's Sensei in a negative manner (i.e. one that attempts to challenge his claim to knowledge of the material he is teaching).

You're not? Good. My mistake.


But the blind faith approach imho is just that - blind ....

It's not a question of "blind faith" in anybody, just respect and a certain amount of common sense. If you go to a martial arts class, presumeably you want to learn that art, and learn something from the person at the front of the room. It has nothing to do with blind faith, worship, or anything like that. He's the teacher, you're the student. Yeah, I probably know some things my sensei doesn't, but I'm there to learn what he's teaching. It's not a question of "worship;" I'm not a "sensei groupie" with his pictures all over my wall. It's just a question of thinking that these are the rules of how you should conduct yourself.


.....Let's suffice it to say that at this point your lenses are not allowing you to get what I am talking about and leave it at that.


Ok.


Maybe when you start teaching it'll come to you. A search for answers does not equal disrespect.


But assuming no one else has no clue as to those answers because of how they teach is not a good place to start either.

L. Camejo
02-02-2006, 04:50 PM
Michael - What was the point of your entire argument again?

My point is that if one does not take personal responsibility for one's own training by asking serious, sometimes uncomfortable questions of oneself and one's instructor then it is very easy to contribute to the culture that is being addressed in this thread. The result is the possibility of an illusion of sincere development in the art that you are dedicating blood and sweat to because you are part of a self-supporting system that may be lacking in various quality assurance mechanisms that can gauge if you are improving in your stated goal - i.e. learning Aikido (and I mean Aikido - not just the kata, not just the randori, not just the spiritual/philosophical, but AIKIDO in its fullness).

Regarding your post above:

Simple courtesy and respect shouldn't have anything to do with an ego trip. It should not, but I've met too many MA Instructors and others who expect, even demand a degree of "courtesy and respect" that straddles the line of "worship and blind devotion". If a student must be so overconcerned with being "respectful" that one cannot challenge one's instructor with meaningful questions when it is obvious that he may be doing nonsense then to me the student is enabling the false role and teaching of his instructor and assisting in the culture of mediocrity. What you call respect and courtesy is the reason why a lot of McDojo exist with instructors who would not be allowed to teach or even practice MA if there were some sort of capable system of measuring performance in place. Gradings measure your understanding of certain principles in a preset manner, they are not measures of holistic skill and ability imo. It is important, expecially for instructors not to misrepresent what they are doing.

Asking a question about how to do something is one thing. But the underlying premise should be, Look, you're here to teach me something. I'm here to learn from you. How is that worship? It isn't. And there's room for questions. But the person leading the practice is still in charge IMO. That has nothing to do with ego. It's just The Rules. The person leading is in charge because you give them that power when in the time and place of practice. It is a social contract. This is how it is in many dojo and there is nothing really wrong with that. But if you ask a question and the answer you get is utter bull faeces then do you swallow it and say thank you Sensei or do something else? In this scenario, DIS-respect is to say - That is uttter crap!! and probably get the business end of some disciplinary action.:) Respect is to not say anything or react in any visible way regarding the crap you just heard, but go do some research on your own, ask some questions (of which your Sensei is one source) and see if it really is BS. If not you've learnt something about your sensei and yourself, if it is proven to be BS then you need to decide whether this is something you wish to take with you or leave until you have even more information to make a decision. The idea is you don't just take it as fact because "Sensei says so."

This thought process is important because it is often what can make the difference between a student who lives or dies when they are forced to use "something Sensei showed them" and find out at the worst of times that the technique that worked in the dojo is missing something critical in order to work. I've known more than one person who has either died or experienced grievious injury as a result of this type of scenario. A severe sense of responsibility is paramount for both student and teacher imo.

The beginner cannot determine the difference between BS and the good stuff. This thread by the very nature of its core question is designed for experienced students and instructors, not beginners who can't tell the difference.

If you equate behaving correctly and being respectful as "worship" then I feel sorry for you. Seriously.If you truly think this after reading this entire thread then like I said before you are totally missing my point and should really think before your next post or at least clear out those lenses.

He's the teacher, you're the student.Exactly! So what does this relationship mean to you exactly? One of a giver and a receiver, or of two human beings who are walking along the same path with one being further along than the other and takes the role as a guide?

But assuming no one else has no clue as to those answers because of how they teach is not a good place to start either. Who is assuming anything? You read much into my posts. What I speak of I do from experience.

For those who understand what I am getting at and have measures in place to address what has already been spoken of, there is no issue. The problem comes from those who know their methods will not stand up to objective evaluation mechanisms and refuse to address this. These people know themselves and have their reasons. If this is their choice, so be it. It is important for the stated student of Aikido however to be able to perceive clearly what is happening with one's own evolution in training.

Gambatte.
LC:ai::ki:

CNYMike
02-02-2006, 09:54 PM
.... The beginner cannot determine the difference between BS and the good stuff. This thread by the very nature of its core question is designed for experienced students and instructors, not beginners who can't tell the difference.:

Ah! I see the problem: I am a beginner (or at least still relatively new) and therefore have no clue what you're talking about.

Sorry to have bothered you.

Best wishes,

Mike

PeterR
02-02-2006, 10:21 PM
Hi Larry;

I've got to say that statements like "For those who understand" and "The beginner cannot determine the difference between BS and the good stuff. This thread by the very nature of its core question is designed for experienced students and instructors, not beginners who can't tell the difference." leave a bit of sour taste in my mouth also. I understand (at least I think so) what you are getting on about but the above are often used to hide weak arguments rather than reveal any truth.

Essentially we are responsible for our martial journey. A good teacher provides the framework, nudges you in the right direction if you deviate, and in the process continues on in their own journey. If you feel that anyone of those conditions is not being met then it is time to find another teacher.

Your teacher should never be the sole source of your art. Explore, study, reflect. Ask questions in the right circumstance. If you don't do that then you will always be stuck in the Shi. The individual style (Ha) is a reflection of all your experiences - not just in your home dojo. It is your personality.

Most people can tell relatively soon the difference between the BS and the good stuff. Beginners are generally not mindless cretins. I would say that the more experience you have the more discriminating you are - that's all.

Larry you generally train in isolation. That has the advantage in that you must think about these things vis a vis your students. It also has the disadvantage that sometime you over think. I don't think you are wrong but Mike has a point.

Edwin Neal
02-03-2006, 02:25 AM
I consider myself a beginner, but that doesn't mean as Peter suggested that we are incapable of at least getting a glimpse of the 'truth'... it is also clear that for various reasons some beginners and even advanced students miss the truth or deny it, whether through self delusion or delusion by some sensei or a combination of both... aikido is a complete art, encompassing 'all' techniques... what? you say you don't train those kinds of techniques, or they are 'not aikido' or sensei says it will work i just don't understand it yet... these are positions that i understand to be delusional in some sense... the practice of aikido is to remove these delusions both internal and external, but delusions are like 'mind weeds' they grow back... i wish i only had to mow my yard once and be done with it, but sadly the weeds grow nearly as fast as i mow them down sometimes...