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AikiWeb System
11-18-2005, 03:53 PM
Discuss the article, "On the Interdependent Nature of Tactics and Strategies" by "The Grindstone" here.

Article URL: http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/thegrindstone/2005_11.html

senshincenter
11-18-2005, 04:46 PM
So folks know - there are videos that go with this article. They help demonstrate the topic more clearly. You just have to click on the hyperlinks (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3 and clip 4) to view them.

Thanks,
dmv

Kevin Leavitt
11-19-2005, 11:41 AM
Good job Dave, well thought out. These are basically the same experiences and epiphanies I have had in the last year. It is an interesting paradox-The relationship between atemi, cooperation, and martial intent.

While I certainly would not "fight" with the same martial paradigm in a real fight as I train in aikido, when practicing it as a "do" art or methodology to improve correct form and martial habits, aikido the way it is practiced in most good dojos, is 100% correct and must include atemi or the threat of it, as we have discussed in order to make it "honest".

Wonderful article!

senshincenter
11-20-2005, 09:06 AM
Hi Kevin,

Thank you for your reply. I am glad you found the article interesting. Hope the videos were able to add something to the clarity of the piece.

I imagine we are talking about the same things here - especially since you've come to the same set of experiences. I think we all do - if we take training off in this direction, away from the standard kihon waza dominant slant we usually practice. Like in our other talk, I try to define "real" in my martial training as consisting of at least two interrelated aspects: 1. The real is marked by the fact that anything can happen (i.e. anything can be real - the real is marked by pure potential); and 2. The real is marked by the unknown. This is why, for me, kihon waza can never be real - why it must remain (and should remain) part of an artificial constructed reality. Kihon Waza is ideal, not real, because it manifests one to several things in order that they can be more clearly known - this is the exact opposite of something existing in pure potential and/or of being unknown.

However, because reality is marked by pure potential and the unknown, we can never really say that what we practice in Kihon Waza could never be part of the real. It very well can be. However, because it can only be a part of the real it must be set within its prime conditions for existing in order to be that part. In reference to this article, the throwing techniques of Aikido waza, for example, are ripe for existing under real conditions when the attacker has set his/her tactics within the prime conditions of commitment that mark the logic of the technique in question. Thus, for me, if an attacker came to function within the exact energy to energy relationship that we see in Kihon Waza Irimi Nage Tenkan, I most certainly would fight for real in exactly the same way that I perform this technique under ideal conditions. The thing is, in my opinion, we aren't too prepared for doing this if we do not come to realize, for example, the interdependent nature that exists between atemi tactics and throwing strategies (or throwing tactics and atemi strategies).

In the end, this inspires me to keep training as real as possible. This means I am inspired to confront pure potential and the unknown as much as possible in my training. However, I do not try to do this because I want to learn how to fight better. Fighting skill is only an incidental of the training. I choose to confront pure potential and the unknown because these things are also central elements in the refinement of the human spirit. Therefore, I could never suggest that we could train or should train one way for "do" and another way for "fighting." I imagine you mean the same thing here only you are coming to point in this direction via a different set of expressions - in response to something else you are trying to check from happening, etc. I would be very interested in hearing what that something else might be. Maybe you don't know what I'm talking about - my fault. But maybe if you answer this question it might reveal itself for us to discuss: "Why can we not train to fight for real and have that training be of Budo?"

thanks for your comments - hope you continue with them, would love to hear them.
dmv

Keith R Lee
11-20-2005, 02:39 PM
Nice article. The clips were good and helped flesh things out. In your post you ask:

"Why can we not train to fight for real and have that training be of Budo?"

Just from my personal experience, I have found that there are those who want to learn to fight, and there are those who want to learn Budo and never the twain shall meet. I have encountered very few "fighters" who want their training to be any overt type of cultivation of the self. And most of the Aikido practioners I have encountered want the cultivation and somewhat-martial training, but they definitely don't want to train at the level required by "fighters."

I think part of the issue is that so many people have the idea in their heads that Aikido is some type of egalitarian/sophisticated martial art that is above devolving into the clinch, groundwork, striking. People would rather just be like "tenkan...just move...blend...if there is not intent in the attack you aren't in danger...etc." Aikido folks tend to be an insular bunch as well and don't seem to want to branch out that much. Not to mention the near deification of Ueshiba sensei. He was unstoppable, one with the universe, etc. Anyway, the combination of: hearing legends that Aikido can produce "unbeatable" people like the founder, the philosophy of the art, the "graceful" movements, the "trappings" of a dojo (the language, dogis, kamiza, regimentation, etc.) all add up to attracting a certain type of individual. What I like to think of as the "casual" martial artist.

The casual martial artist isn't in that good of shape and wants to do something to get in better shape. Nothing too strenuous though. They don't like gyms though, too many jocks there. Maybe martial arts! This person likes the Matrix, that was cool. They look around a bit. They don't want to hit things, so no karate or anything like that. Finally they hear about Aikido. It sounds cool and seems to have a neat philosophy behind it. So they go find a local dojo. It seems Spartan and mysterious. But everyone is smiling and having a good time, so they sign up. This person might come for six months, or stay for six years but the reason they are there is not to learn how to fight. Oh, they might want some self-defense, but they don't really want to get their hands dirty, if you know what I mean. And Aikido makes it easy for this person because it starts of nice and easy with them, learn to roll, basic techniques, etc.

Contrast that with a twenty-something year old fit male (generally these are most "fighters"), who played sports in high school, probably a football player or wrestler. This person is already fit and is used to high-stress, high-risk training already. They've heard about the Gracies, and have caught some of the recent Ultimate Fighter stuff. Maybe seen a UFC PPV or if they've got the right friends, they've seen PrideFC.

They walk into an Aikido dojo for a look. Everyone is wearing uniforms and skirts! It looks all soft, not like the fighting they saw on TV. No competition, that's weak. This guy has been competing his entire life, he's fine with it. Everything is in Japanese too. I have to learn a different language to learn this stuff!? They seem to roll around all the time and do blending exercises. There's also a bunch of bowing and stuff. The weapons are kinda cool, but he doesn't really plan on carrying a sword around with him all the time.

Then he goes to a BJJ or MMA gym. Gym! It's already better. No fancy names for everything here! Everything's pretty much in English. Some guys are wearing uniforms, no skirts though. Lots of people are just in shorts and rash guards. They do a bunch of conditioning at first. Cool. This guy is in shape. He likes doing sit-ups and push-ups and stuff. They do some weird things he's never seen before but he can recognize them for conditioning drills. No one bows, they all just shake hands. Much better. They really go at it while training too. No big throws or anything but, depending on if it's a BJJ or MMA place, the guy might see combination drills, lots of movement drills, takedowns, bag work, mitt work, groundwork…Hey, this is like the UFC. These guys are getting ready to fight! Then they do fight! At the end they spar or roll till one taps out. And everyone is intense. There is no one casual here. Everyone is an athlete.

Where do you think our potential student is going to go?

I just think that the majority of Aikido dojos just aren't attractive to the type of person who wants to fight. Sure there are people like Kevin and myself, but I don't think we're in the majority of Aikido practioners really. Also, how many Aikido instructors are out there such as yourself David? Really trying to expand their horizons and integrate new things into Aikido. Are willing to put on gloves and go at it? Work on groundwork and so on? Not that many I think. I know there are exceptions and there are many hard training Aikido dojos out there. But in general, I think everyone can agree that they have seen or been to a dojo that focuses on the "trappings" of the art more than the martial aspect. Also, I think we can all agree these dojos outnumber those that art martially intense.

This comes up again and again and I'm sure the usual suspects will come out and defend Aikido. Which is easy here on AikiWeb because there are some very talented Aikido practioners. In general I can think of the same group of 10-15 talented people who make there voices heard about topics such as this and who I think are good at Aikido, train hard, and are open minded. However that's 10-15 people. AikiWeb has over 6000 members. The group I'm talking about composes less than 0.003 percent of the people on the board. They are the exception to the rule. If you can find that exception, if it's where you train or there is one near to where you live: awesome! Otherwise, you're probably SOL.

There are those who want to learn to fight and have that training be budo, but they are few and far between. "Casual" martial artists will be attracted to places where they can fit in and adapt gradually. "Fighters" are going to go somewhere that they are going to be pushed to achieve and challenged to succeed. I just don't think most Aikido dojos appeal to those in the latter group.

senshincenter
11-20-2005, 10:42 PM
Keith,

Great reply. I have to say that I think you are right on the money with a lot of what you said - I think sociologically you got it nailed. But still, what you said may explain why it may not happen or may not happen all that often - it doesn't really deal with the position of why "can't" we. I think I can read into what you are saying and get a sense that you would agree that it is possible to make a fighting art a Budo - just that not many folks do it (for one reason or another). However, perhaps you know that there are some folks out there that like to draw a very sharp distinction between the two - and personally that has never made sense to me (especially if we cannot answer the question of "why can't a fighting art be a budo?").

This may be important - at least in my own mind - because I think once you try and make a fighting art a Budo you are going to look into two very important things: 1. you are going to look into things like the stuff being covered in the article (e.g. the interrelatedness of tactics and strategies); and 2. you are going to wonder if a Budo that is not a fighting art can ever really cultivate us beyond the more superficial levels of human virtue (i.e. be a good/moral modern citizen). Personally, I'm fine saying that fighting is not my main purpose in training - that fighting skill is an incidental of Budo. However, I am totally against anything that understands the former position as a reason for why we don't require our Budo to be up to par as a fighting art. For me, when our Budo is not a fighting art - there too much room for habitual attachments to remain, too much room for ego and delusion to settle in and remain in place unreconciled.

thanks again Keith for the post - I really enjoyed it.

dmv

Kevin Leavitt
11-21-2005, 01:36 AM
This is the best thread I have seen in a long time! Wow!

I struggle with these very issues. How do you balance "fighting" and budo? It is not easy.

Me dealing with Army combatives program...well the major intent of the program is not to necessarily develop fighitng skills but instill the warrior spirit (Budo)...

BUT, talk about budo to any of the guys I train with and they will call you a "homo" and never come back!!

They care about the effectiveness and the efficiency of what they are studying, however, what they really get out of it is BUDO!!!

Out of 200 soldiers I train, I have a handful of guys that have taken to martial arts. I even have about 7 now that will incorporate aikido into our training. These 7 are starting to "listen" to the situations, they are developing finer skills of blending etc. They are beginning to understand mushin, and ma ai.

Talk to any world class athlete and you will find that they indeed embody the same concepts of BUDO, (that is throwing out the professional basketball, football, and baseball players that act like spoiled brats!).

I think all great "fighters" like the guys in the UFC really "get it". They may not outwardly talk about it...but they are warriors.

But what separates "fighters" and "budoka"? We all seem to know that there is something different between them...what is it?

Is it because fighters have a endstate of Winning regardless of your position? WIN/LOSE and Budoka have a WIN/WIN endstate.

I think it is not quite this easy.

Even in the UFC, yes, one fighter wins and the other loses on the surface....but look what happens after the fight...they are both WINNERS! They both typically have the utmost respect for each other and share a common bond!

So, what is it that separates fighters from budoka...is it ethical goals? Do budoka focus more on trying to resolve conflict and create a better world through martial arts?

Interesting conversation!

senshincenter
11-21-2005, 02:04 PM
Hi Kevin,

Thanks for reply. Lot of great insights in your reply - keen observations. Your post made me think about some things – so I’m kind of using it as a springboard…

I imagine all this stuff is going to depend upon how we define Budo – in particular, what we hold its ultimate objectives to be, and how we believe one goes about obtaining that objective. Historically, I would say that Budo has been many things – some good, some bad, some deep, some shallow (in my opinion). Moreover, I would say that Budo is still very much in the process of being defined.

In my opinion, this is because it is now more than ever that traditional weapons and hand-to-hand combat are in a position to address the luxuries that can only come when such technologies are no longer the main tools of the martial sciences. It is kind of like this: Once we know how to make stainless steel pots and pans, ceramic pottery can become art. Before we know how to make stainless steel pots and pans, that ceramic pot was just the piece of junk that keeps leaking and that eventually breaks and that I will have to make again. In short, Budo is a kind of luxury of modern warfare. Additionally, Budo is in a key state of existence today because it offers us Moderns a venue away from the plagues of materiality, but it does so in a way that addresses our culture’s need for actual experience and for reconciling our fears (and thus our tendency to wage war over material things).

For example, I imagine that if one were to understand Budo as the cultivation of a martial spirit, just about anything could do that – even hell week in football training does that. Therefore, for me, it makes perfect sense that an Aikido training that is based in kata/kihon waza (or primarily based in such things) can also achieve the same end. Kata/Waza under controlled and/or choreographed conditions could indeed become the vessel in which one could generate feelings and ideas of a martial presence. It would indeed not require that martial practicality be a part of such training. Let us not forget that martial spirit in Japanese history has been (or at least believed to have been) cultivated through things wherein no combat has taken place (real or mock). Zazen functioned in this way, for example, during the first half of the 20th century. Other types of physical austerities have also been understood in this way throughout Japanese history. In short, we do not necessarily have to fight to develop a martial spirit.

However, what if Budo was not simply about the cultivation of a martial spirit? What if Budo training is about a reconciliation of the subject/object dichotomy, through which one could fuse a moral philosophy/practice of love, harmony, and union onto the very core of one’s being? To do this, one will require a practice that truly does seek to penetrate to the core of one’s being. For Aikido to do this, in my opinion, we cannot have it remain of mock battles and/or of choreographed movements. It must remain real – which is to say it must place us in the very nature of reality itself. Our training must move away from Kihon Waza at some part and fully into the realm of the unknown and of pure potential. For me, there is no other way of understanding Budo and/or the phrase “takemusu aiki.” For me, this means that fighting skill is not a thing we can contrast in opposition to something like spiritual maturity – Budo does not present them as choices. Rather it uses the development of one toward the development of the other.


dmv

Kevin Leavitt
11-21-2005, 03:09 PM
Dave, I will have to read through your post and think about alot of what you wrote, but here is what comes to mind as I read it.

In Budo, translated by John Stevens, O'Sensei defines the purpose of budo.

"Budo is a divine path established by the gods that leads to truth, goodness, and beauty; it is a spiritual path reflecting the unlimited, absolute nature of the universe and the ultimate grand design of creation."

He goes on to say: "Techniques also display the marvelous functioning of kotodama".

and then "Reform your perception of how the universe actually looks and acts; change the martial techniques into a vehicle of purity, goodness, and beauty; and master these things."

So, I think O'Sensei developed aikido as a methodology to acheive enlightment.

So how much martial technique really remains in aikido? I believe it was changed enough to serve as a methodology to not instill a "killer" spirit in someone, but to "...teach a warrior how to recieve and fill his mind and body with a valorous spirit..."

Later he goes on to say: "The appearance of an "enemy" should be thought of as an opportunity to test the sincerity of one's mental and physical training, to see if one is actually responding according to the divine will."

So aikido becomes an allegory. We learn through the study of budo to conquer our enemies. Those enemies can be our fears and prejudices.


it also mentions sports:

"Sports are widely practiced nowadays, and they are good for physical exercise. Warriors, too, train the body, but they also use the body as a vehicle to train the mind, calm the spirit, and find goodness and beauty, dimensions that sports lack."

I appreciate his feelings on this subject, sports can be incorporated into a practice to develop the mind, but I believe the main point is, that it is not the main focus of sports to do this.

So the quesiton that lingers in my mind, is how "honest" does the art have to be with regards to "martial effectiveness", or efficiency in order to acheive these goals?

If you think about it, how does the practice of aikido really differ from yoga...it has the same endstate? Yoga follows universal principals of dynamic movement and correctness.

To me, it is about the concept of "enemy". Some of us have a need to feel strong and many of us, like myself, grew up in the military and have spent my whole life practicing military or "martial arts". I believe Aikido can serve as a bridge to help those of us that possess the "killing spiritu" to show us "options" of how to use those same feelings and emotions in a more positive way.

Likewise, many people are timid and weak. They have a inate fear of being trampled and run over, they avoid conflict by hiding from it, or ignoring it. AIkido can give them the ability to be strong and face those fears.

Yoga attempts to heal and create this in a different way.

I think in order to accomplish the goals of aikido, it is important that it is practiced in a honest way. While it is very important that the techniques be "martially correct" in form and application, it is not so important that we learn how to "win" or "overpower" as in a sports contest, as that is contrary to the goals of budo.

So I have no issue with how aikido is practiced.

That said, some of us have real issues within ourselves that aikido cannot "heal" and we need to reach out and understand much more of the underpinnings by training aggressively and hard.

I find ultimately though that it comes back to aikido for me.

I wonder if it is really possible though to study only aikido and reach an understanding of all this? This is the "BIG" question in my mind.

It was not until I really started doing MMA and BJJ that I began to see what is "so right about aikido"! Then again, I am a hardhead and don't do things based on "faith".

It is an interesting journey!

John Brockington
11-22-2005, 07:35 AM
Please forgive me if I misunderstand the point, or points, but Kevin are you saying that in order to gain some understanding or enlightenment in conflict resolution (with others, self, the world) that one must confront one's deficits or allow them to be challenged and even better to actually engage in conflict as a process of examining one's self? Sort of a moment of epiphany in a garden by a persimmon tree, perhaps? And if this is so, then do the specific details of the conflict or challenge matter as much as the confrontation of self? If this is what we are trying to really achieve, it seems to me that the only possible judge of what needs to be addressed and whether or not it is adequately addressed is the individual in question, as long as they are brutally honest with themselves. On the other hand, I'm sure there are as many reasons for budo and martial training as there are individuals, and not everyone has this sort of goal in mind and not everyone wants to be brutally honest with themselves.

Ben Joiner
11-22-2005, 07:38 AM
Interesting thread. I have one or two questions though in relation to the conclusions drawn from what's shown in the clips. The option to revert to striking tactics seems to me to presupose a relationship between attacker and defender where reverting to striking tactics by the defender is a viable tactical option. For example it would be intresting to see Sean and David reverse rolls in the above drill. Do you think this would lead to the same outcome? Or perhaps it would better illustrate what I'm trying ask if we could see the drills performed with a large male taking Sean's roles and a small female taking Davids. I understand that this doesn't really follow the direction that the thread has subsequently taken but it is I feel relavent.

Yours humbley as more of a lurker than a poster.

Ben

senshincenter
11-22-2005, 08:22 AM
Hi Ben,

Thanks for posting. Good question.

If I am understanding you correctly, "yes," would be the answer. While the point of the article was to show how striking and throwing, for example, need to work off of each other, and not necessarily to say that we "should" look to strike at our attacker, one could say that underneath all of this there is an assumption that striking is a viable tactical option. I think that would go for anything however - the suggestion of any tactic assumes its viability.

Using your example, when a smaller person vs. a much larger person, the smaller person is going to face the performance envelope of any tactic more quickly than when size is more evenly matched. A greatness in size variation will always require a greatness in skill acquisition - in other words. It takes skill, as it always does, to push the limitations of any tactic back far enough so that one is still operating within its sphere of influence. Thus, I would not want to say that a smaller person cannot strike at a larger person, nor that a smaller person cannot be effective against a larger person when it comes to striking (heck, this is what Karate is all about - right?) - it's just that skill is going to play a larger role for that smaller person (vs. the inverse). BTW: Sean is a larger man than myself. He has the size, but, for the moment, I got the skill.

Still, out of the major options of striking, pinning, throwing, and/or taking it to the ground, and with all things being equal in terms of your example's capacity to generate power, the smaller female in your example will probably be able to utilize her size disadvantage better by striking (e.g. to vulnerable parts of the body) than by anything else. It will be easier for her to be successful in striking than in throwing, pinning, or ground-fighting, and this becomes more true the more skilled her attacker is. (Do not forget that this would be against the non-committed attack - that is what we are talking about in the article.)

my opinion.

Thanks,
dmv

Ben Joiner
11-22-2005, 08:38 AM
Have I misunderstood, or are you suggesting that for a small person wishing feel confident in their ability to defend themselves against likely bigger assailants, they are better off learning a striking art than a throwing art such as aikido? Apologies I may have lost the gist half way through your answer.

Ben

senshincenter
11-22-2005, 08:54 AM
Hi Ben,

My fault if I was not clear. Please excuse.

I'm suggesting that against a larger attacker that is ADVANCING IN A NON-COMMITTED FASHION, a smaller person is much better off striking at that attacker than attempting to throw them, pin them, or take them to the ground.

For me, as you can see in the article, Aikido IS a striking art, is a throwing art, is a pinning art, is a ground fighting art, etc. So - no, I would not say that a smaller person is better off taking Karate (for example) than Aikido. But I would say that a smaller person, as is any person, is better off training in an Aikido that includes striking training (over one that does not).

Hope that makes my earlier reply a bit clearer. If not, please feel free to question again.

thanks,
dmv

Ben Joiner
11-22-2005, 09:03 AM
"Um... just re-read your edited post :o . Yes I agree with what you're saying in relation to the example. Would you say that such a response could be considered aikido? ;)

Ben"

Argh! you keep prempting my posts before they appear, can you see my screen as I type? Lol. :D

senshincenter
11-22-2005, 09:24 AM
Kevin,

It is interesting that you mention Yoga. In my opinion, in a way, Yoga is going through a similar process of redefinition. In particular, Yoga, like Budo/Aikido, is being re-understood according to Modern systems of meaning and practice. This is unfortunate because both of these practices would otherwise be quite capable of providing us Moderns with an alternate way of understanding the world – one outside of Fear and Materialism, for example.

In Yoga today, like in Aikido, we see a focusing in on the forms – having all other aspects of the practice fall to the wayside. In a way, Modern cultures that are now practicing Yoga are really doing nothing more than stretching – calling that “Yoga.” Can we not say the same thing in regards to Aikido? Do we not just do these play fights and call them “Budo”?

As the “yogi” of today has for the most part abandoned all of the other practices that gave context and support, and thus viability, to the Asanas (the postures), have we not as aikidoka, for the most part, also abandoned those practices that give our forms context, support, and viability? I would say, “Yes, we have.” When we leave out things, like the things you see being practiced in the article, I believe our understanding of Irimi Nage (for example) is going to be way different than if we put those things back into our practice. Moreover, I suggest that as one’s overall practice would be incomplete without such training aspects, one understanding of Irimi Nage would also be incomplete.

It is interesting that Yoga has gone from the practice that the Buddha said was too extreme to the practice we can now do to relax at the end of the day and/or to feel good in the morning, or to have our body become more appealing in today’s culture. There is a “softening up” up of Yoga that has it now becoming the very thing it was supposed to be a remedy for. Do we not see the same exact process happening in Aikido? I believe we do, and I believe it goes hand in hand with the abandoning of Aikido’s supporting training regiments (those universal to any martial science) and the focusing in on Aikido’s own Asanas – its Kihon Waza.

Please, Kevin, if you got a spare moment, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Thanks in advance,
david

jonreading
11-22-2005, 11:30 AM
Fighters are individuals that have the combination of physical ability, mental ability and training to make them superior physical specimens for combat.

Budoka are individuals that have the desire to enhance their lives through focus and training. In martial arts, focus and training is militaristic so we use fighting science to hone our skills and our attitude.

In some cases, these two definitions will overlap to identify a group of individuals that possess both the physical prowess of a fighter and the refinement that comes from intraspection. These are our champions. As children we knew them as firemen, policemen, Superman, Spiderman, etc. As adults, we know them as (insert shihan here).

I don't mix my oil and vinegar, and I don't confuse those students that are fighters with those students that are budoka; it's a pleasant suprise when a champion shows up.

The question David brings to the table is can aikido resist the degradation of martial arts as we (as a society) continue to reduce the effort that is required to participate. A friend of mine is a chef and once explained the purpose of a reduction as this, "A reduction removes water from the sauce. Through concentration, the sauce's flavor will be strengthened and therefore create a more flavorful taste when eaten. But, if the sauce is reduced too much it will burn and become inedible."

Ron Tisdale
11-22-2005, 12:17 PM
Thanks for that Jon. It really struck me when I read it.

Best,
Ron

cck
11-22-2005, 12:37 PM
…However, what if Budo was not simply about the cultivation of a martial spirit? What if Budo training is about a reconciliation of the subject/object dichotomy, through which one could fuse a moral philosophy/practice of love, harmony, and union onto the very core of one's being? To do this, one will require a practice that truly does seek to penetrate to the core of one's being. For Aikido to do this, in my opinion, we cannot have it remain of mock battles and/or of choreographed movements. It must remain real -- which is to say it must place us in the very nature of reality itself.

For aikido to be budo that makes us one, we must commit to real situations… I am really struggling with this thread - you are hard for me to follow this way; I wish I had you across from me instead. I am one of those people who learn best through demonstration and hands-on practice. I can't read my way to an understanding very well. I think that's why the mock battles and choreographed movements work really well for me - there is a known outcome, and if that outcome does not happen, I must figure out why and adjust appropriately. In a deeper way, too: aikido demonstrates in a way I have never experienced elsewhere how "I" get in the way of things. There are physical, direct consequences of my assumptions. So I am with Kevin on the allegory - aikido can be a very effective way to mirror your pitfalls back at you. Whether you see and deal with it or not is another matter.

So do you mean that you can refine yourself to react to what is, instead of what you think is, only through what you term "real" training? To me, there are always filters -- I practice with the same folks all the time, I have experience with them and hence deeply rooted assumptions about how they move and feel. Those assumptions might get in the way of seeing what really is in the moment. How do you train your way out of that in the dojo setting?

…commitment is actually a cultivated state of being. Commitment is not something that comes to us through our own volition. This is true of commitment whether we are talking about a marriage or whether we are talking about attacking. Commitment is a matured state of existence; it is learned only as much as it is practiced, and it is practiced only as much as it is learned.

I am very grateful for those about whom I have the assumption "I won't hurt her/him." Things just flow better -- it feels like they know me. My ambition (right now) in aikido is to give ukemi that allows nage to feel completely confident that they can do whatever they have to and not hurt me. But that ambition is very clearly only brought about by my own fear of hurting others -- I may in fact not share that with anyone else. So commitment through familiarity… and attendant assumptions… Commitment is a two-way street, I think. You have to will it to practice it -- as you also said, you first mimic commitment -- you make yourself do it in spite of whatever reluctance you might have. It becomes easier the more you do it, and the more you see people react to it (reflection in others).

I really don't know how you would ever identify and remove all the filters -- it seems to me that our brains make assumptions to allow us to act. Can you really be all-aware? We feed off others as well -- some Harvard study on body language (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4180263) indicated that empathy is hardwired and not cultivated as previously thought (and yes, I am willing to take that on faith and experience and assumption). We seemingly cannot escape the effect of other peoples' emotions. Are we really learning how to -- ahem, distance ourselves from them in aikido? To manage that effect? Does aikido bring us closer to others or to ourselves? Is there really a core, or are there only reflections of everything else?

My answer right now would be that it brings us closer to ourselves. Whatever we find there determines how we relate to others. I find aikido's ability to illuminate aspects of myself that I may be unaware of magical and endlessly fascinating. But it is only through the reflection in my fellow students and instructors that I become aware of this.

The question David brings to the table is can aikido resist the degradation of martial arts as we (as a society) continue to reduce the effort that is required to participate.

I lived in China for two years in the late 80's - early 90's. When I returned to "civilization", I felt completely deflated. I had used so many parts of myself while away, it seemed as if I only needed 10% to get by back home. But it's all up to you, innit? You can choose to participate. So whether aikido can resist the "degradation" is really up to the practitioners/sensei. I would assume that many people are drawn to the martial arts for the challenge - possibly to escape the drudgery of "real life." The building block is there.

One thought just leads to another in your threads, David. I am sorry for being so long-winded without a seeming point. And again, the forum is hard to work in -- much better suited for in-person discussion. Just had to put this down, though, 'cause it made me think.

Kevin Leavitt
11-22-2005, 01:58 PM
So much material! So rich in thought! it is overwhelming!

Jon, Excellent post as always! You do such a good job of distilling the subject! Thanks.

Camilla Wrote:

So do you mean that you can refine yourself to react to what is, instead of what you think is, only through what you term "real" training? To me, there are always filters -- I practice with the same folks all the time, I have experience with them and hence deeply rooted assumptions about how they move and feel. Those assumptions might get in the way of seeing what really is in the moment. How do you train your way out of that in the dojo setting?

Yes I think there are probably always filters to a certain degree. I believe awareness of them is much better than unawareness though! I like your example of China. I too live outside of the U.S. (incidently going to China on Thursday!). I think that you experience a paradigm shift through experiences that allows you to see things differently which increases your ability to see things, if not more clearly, certainly in a different perspective. I think this is wisdom. I would hope it allows you to make better decisions (if there is philosophically such a thing!).

I follow the Dali Lama for the most part. He is somewhat of an enlightened individual I believe, at least more so than I! He seems to be all about experiences, not so much about preaching, but exposing himself to ideas, concepts, and alternate view points...and then using his "methodology" to process them into "embodiment" for personal improvement.

So, I think as budoka, and aikidoka we must constantly be exposing ourselves to a new way of looking at the same old thing. Might be irimi nage with a different instructor, partner, or school, body type etc. What I believe is important is to constantly question and reconsider. That will be different for every individual. You may be able to do this to a degree with the same people you train with all the time, or you may have to branch out.

For me, in aikido, it was and is, exposing my aikido to brazilian jiujitsu and mix martial arts, and re-interpreting it, questionng it, and now re-assembling it.

Again, I think one of the things Dave is asking me to respond to in post #16 is related to this. What is vital, if I understand Dave is that we must think for ourselves and constantly be thinking about what it is that we are trying to accomplish in our study.

Simply showing up and practicing is not enough. The "softing" occurs I think in our society because we are so used to walking into a store, purchasing stuff in a box with a money back warranty and having our problems solved. That is why infomercial do so well selling diet plans!

So, what is vital, again, is understanding WHY you are doing what you are doing and begining to make it your own and internalizing it. No right way, no easy path, and the path to aikido....may not involve an aikido dojo at all! It depends on you.

So basically in the end...I don't know the answer! :) Have a nice day!

Kevin Leavitt
11-22-2005, 02:15 PM
Dave to respond to your post on yoga and aikido.

I just answered some of it in the previous post about the softing up stuff. But, I think that is okay to a degree.

My wife teaches yoga on a miiltary base in Germany that is full of people that you would put into this category of "softing up". To her yoga is much more than a set of stretching exercises, but all the stuff that yoga represents with the OM, breathing, spiriutality, unification, healing, chakras and all the good stuff!

Her students all come to class for "exercise" for the most part. She has to leave out the "heart lanquage" and all that so as not to "weird out" anyone or offend anyone.

Well after a year of teaching, she found that the benefits alone of simply doing yoga produced many of the same benefits without all that.

I think the old bell curve applies to everything, even in the "old hard days" in Japan. There will only be 20% of the students that study that will stick with it, and out of that 20%, only 20% of them will go deep into the art.

I think what happens alot is dissonance. We look back in our years and tend to only remember those that stuck with it and were successful and then lump them together and then look forward and see only a few that are on the path and say "it is eroding".

So, in the end, I think we keep our doors open to all people and "go through the motions" a small percentage of people will begin to see as they mechanically work their way through irimi nage that there is more to be discovered through the study of the technique, and they will blaze their own trail.

What is vital though is that guys like you continue to think and break down things and re do the analysis. Yes, O'sensei did it for us so we don't have to...that is true....BUT I think if we don't have people that "re-invent the wheel" by questioning, and re-interpreting, and re-discovering the art.....then it will become lost and we will simply have a bunch of exercises that some righteous old dude invented that we no longer know why we do them!

I always remember a story about a sensei conducting a seminar that did not draw his sword straight and high over his head. It bothered a new student because it was contrary to what he had seen in the past. He constantly asked his sempai the reason why and he always got an answer like "it is because sensei is so good and we don't question it" or "it is much more effective than the other ways, (secret technique)"

One day the student, still bothered got up the courage to ask the sensei why he did this, hoping to unlock the secrets of a deep and effective technique. Sensei just laughed and said, "oh yeah, sorry, bad habit" In old dojo ceiling was too short!

This is why to me, it is important to have these discussions.

Kevin Leavitt
11-22-2005, 02:32 PM
Please forgive me if I misunderstand the point, or points, but Kevin are you saying that in order to gain some understanding or enlightenment in conflict resolution (with others, self, the world) that one must confront one's deficits or allow them to be challenged and even better to actually engage in conflict as a process of examining one's self? Sort of a moment of epiphany in a garden by a persimmon tree, perhaps? And if this is so, then do the specific details of the conflict or challenge matter as much as the confrontation of self? If this is what we are trying to really achieve, it seems to me that the only possible judge of what needs to be addressed and whether or not it is adequately addressed is the individual in question, as long as they are brutally honest with themselves. On the other hand, I'm sure there are as many reasons for budo and martial training as there are individuals, and not everyone has this sort of goal in mind and not everyone wants to be brutally honest with themselves.


John, I probably answered your question in my other two lengthy post so appologize if it is somewhat redundant.

I believe I am simply saying that from O'sensei's point of view, it appears he developed aikido as a methodology or practice using conflict as the basis of acheiving enlightment. I am not saying anything other than that.

I believe that he thought that we can understand the basis or root causes of conflict, and that we can develop a personal practice through aikido to abate conflict and acheive happiness/peace/or enlightment.

I don't think the specific details of the conflict are all that important. What is important and Key (KI) to aikido is that we are overwhelmed in our lives with conflict to the point of not being able to correctly or properly respond or cope with it. By developing a controlled conflict scenario in the dojo students can slowly and methodically develop coping skills under the tutelage and guidance of a qualified instructor.

I think that this gets lost and confused from time to time. Many of us, myself included, get caught up in the whole "reality" of the art, or the "does it work in real life" thing being important, when it really isn't or wasn't meant to be the focus.

Yes, I agree, it comes down to the individual being honest with themselves. However, I find that sometimes that is not enough, because the individual may be deluded, confused, or misinterpreting his/her reasons for doing certain things. The responsiblity of instructors of the art is to gently guide people on the path in the right way.

Although we shouldn't lie to them, or be politically correct and try and make aikido something that it is not. At some point and in some way we must be very clear about the intent of aikido.

no your right, there are many people that simply want to be deluded and not honest with themselves. Actually all of us really are that way, it is easy, fun, and ignorance can be bliss! Eventually though, those that tend to focus on the "warm and fuzzy" part of life tend to grow bored eventually with things like aikido, after all you can master the rote techniques in a few years!

I also think though that a dojo needs these types of individuals as a dojo should also be a reflection of life. It is as important to surround yourself with people that want to work hard and train serious as those that simply want to "just do it". How would we ever learn to cope with the many situations we will deal with in life if we don't have the challenges in the dojo?

senshincenter
11-22-2005, 03:18 PM
Jon, Camilla, Kevin - Man! You guys took this thread to another level - fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing. Just got time to say that - I'll try and reply later and/or answer some of your questions. Again - fantastic.

Thank you,
dmv

Kevin Leavitt
11-22-2005, 04:03 PM
Thanks Dave. To be honest, I felt kinda guilty for sort of "hijacking" your thread in this direction, but I think you really touched upon somethings that are at the core of the art and it has generated much thought and discussion at what I consider to be the essence of aikido.

Kevin Leavitt
11-22-2005, 04:10 PM
ya know, I just found this article by George Ledyard that essentially does a heck of alot better explaining this than I just attempted to! I think it is worth reading if you are interested in this topic!

http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/gledyard/2005_11.html

senshincenter
11-22-2005, 05:17 PM
Kevin,

I think you are on topic. Please, no worries. As I said, I think this comes down to how we each define and/or understand "Budo" (or "Aikido"). As for the article, I too see a connection - one that stems from here, in my opinion:

(from the article) "Why do you need to decide? Because one needs to be absolutely clear that the decisions one makes about one's training determine this outcome and yet often, people simply drift into a pattern that is at odds with how they see themselves."

Will reply more later,
thanks,
dmv

senshincenter
11-22-2005, 09:38 PM
Ben asked:

“Would you say that such a response could be considered aikido?”

I would say yes for three reasons. First, I would say yes because of how such a response relates to the overall training of Aikido – as described in the article (e.g. the interdependent relationship between striking tactics and throwing strategies and the vice versa). Second, I would say yes because of how important striking tactics and strategies are to truly spontaneous training environments, and then because of how important truly spontaneous training environments are to the cultivation of the deeper aspects of Aikido. Third, I would say yes because I do not define Aikido by its basic curriculum and/or by any other architectural manifestation. On one hand, Aikido represents a methodology for personal cultivation and, on the other hand, a harmonizing of Yin and Yang energies marks it. In either case, striking is not at all outside of the scope of these things and thus neither is it antithetical to Aikido training and/or Aikido application.

Jon wrote:

“The question David brings to the table is can aikido resist the degradation of martial arts as we (as a society) continue to reduce the effort that is required to participate. A friend of mine is a chef and once explained the purpose of a reduction as this, ‘A reduction removes water from the sauce. Through concentration, the sauce's flavor will be strengthened and therefore create a more flavorful taste when eaten. But, if the sauce is reduced too much it will burn and become inedible.’”

This is right on the money! This IS the question one should pull out of the article and this thread.

Camilla asked:

“So do you mean that you can refine yourself to react to what is, instead of what you think is, only through what you term "real" training?”

Of course, I would never reject the idea that personal cultivation happens or can happen via forms training. It can and it does. However, I would propose that forms training can only take us so far in this regard. This is because ultimately there is a lack of congruity between our deeper inner selves and anything that is fabricated, constructed, of the material world (the world that is made – if you will). Forms are a made thing. To penetrate and/or reveal, and thus reconcile our inner self, I would propose that we need a tool that is of the same nature. Our inner selves are marked by emptiness – in the Buddhist sense of the word – of pure potential, of unknown. Alternately, we can say that our inner selves are of a state of pure Is-ness. We are at this level beyond our intellectual capacity and so we require a vessel that is of like essence to truly expose ourselves for what we truly are. This is where spontaneous training environments come into play in Budo. This is why, in my opinion, “takemusu aiki” is so upheld by Osensei.

Forms are a constructed reality, and as such, we cannot NOT relate to them via what we think. Yes, to refine ourselves to react to what is, instead of what we think, yes, it is only through real training that we can do this – i.e. training environments that are marked by the same nature as our inner selves, by pure potential and by the unknowable.


Camilla asked:

“How do you train your way out of that in the dojo setting?”

This is the constancy of the practice. In a way, it is no different from any other type of spiritual cultivation that orients itself toward such an end. Think of Zen, with the Master’s tailoring of the teachings to have the disciple WAKE UP! You do it with constant modification of the training – all aimed toward not having the deshi become attached to their own identity, their own fear, their own pride, their own ignorance, nor to the teaching itself, nor to the teacher.

For example, the videos in the article were not filmed for the article. They were part of “waking” my deshi up to the assumptions (what he thinks of reality) that have come to him unconsciously through his own training in Aikido. He had allowed himself (as we all do) to be conditioned to the belief that if he did not commit he would be further from “defeat”. I explained how this happens to aikidoka near the end of the article. For him, in his own words, that class was one big WAKE UP! Yes, it was a modification of the teaching, and in the end it shed light on the role of commitment, the reason behind Uke’s choreography in Kihon Waza, the relationship between tactics and strategies, etc., but ultimately the real lesson was on how we may still be trapped by our intellect, by our habitual responses, even when we may feel the most free and the most natural (or when we are told to feel free and to act natural).

Camilla asked:

“Can you really be all-aware?”

I have to believe that we can. I have faith that we can.


Camilla asked:

“We seemingly cannot escape the effect of other peoples' emotions. Are we really learning how to -- ahem, distance ourselves from them in aikido? To manage that effect?”

I would not say that awareness comes from some sort of Vulcan restriction on emotions. Rather, it is when we are slave to our emotions that we become most blind to them, and thus most unaware of them and of anything else. Self-awareness cannot have us emotionless. When we are self-aware, we love not less, but more deeply. Etc. Take note of how distant we are from our uke or our nage when we are being plagued by fear. We find it impossible to do anything but travel inwardly (egocentrically) with our minds and with our bodies. We become selfish in our thoughts and in our actions. Are we to search for a state of no fear? No, this is only a reaction to the fear – still. We are to seek a reconciliation to the fear – meaning we must be aware of the fear, at the exact same time that we are aware of how we are responding to the fear. Then and only then do we have a chance of remaining aware of our partners – and thus of relating to them, of remaining intimate with them. Aikido brings us closer to others by bringing us closer to ourselves. In this closeness, there is a oneness that exists – in us and in the other. It is the same who ever we are.

bye for now,
dmv

George S. Ledyard
11-22-2005, 11:32 PM
Ben asked:

"Would you say that such a response could be considered aikido?"

I would say yes for three reasons. First, I would say yes because of how such a response relates to the overall training of Aikido -- as described in the article (e.g. the interdependent relationship between striking tactics and throwing strategies and the vice versa). Second, I would say yes because of how important striking tactics and strategies are to truly spontaneous training environments, and then because of how important truly spontaneous training environments are to the cultivation of the deeper aspects of Aikido. Third, I would say yes because I do not define Aikido by its basic curriculum and/or by any other architectural manifestation. On one hand, Aikido represents a methodology for personal cultivation and, on the other hand, a harmonizing of Yin and Yang energies marks it. In either case, striking is not at all outside of the scope of these things and thus neither is it antithetical to Aikido training and/or Aikido application.

Jon wrote:

"The question David brings to the table is can aikido resist the degradation of martial arts as we (as a society) continue to reduce the effort that is required to participate. A friend of mine is a chef and once explained the purpose of a reduction as this, ‘A reduction removes water from the sauce. Through concentration, the sauce's flavor will be strengthened and therefore create a more flavorful taste when eaten. But, if the sauce is reduced too much it will burn and become inedible.'"

This is right on the money! This IS the question one should pull out of the article and this thread.

Camilla asked:

"So do you mean that you can refine yourself to react to what is, instead of what you think is, only through what you term "real" training?"

Of course, I would never reject the idea that personal cultivation happens or can happen via forms training. It can and it does. However, I would propose that forms training can only take us so far in this regard. This is because ultimately there is a lack of congruity between our deeper inner selves and anything that is fabricated, constructed, of the material world (the world that is made -- if you will). Forms are a made thing. To penetrate and/or reveal, and thus reconcile our inner self, I would propose that we need a tool that is of the same nature. Our inner selves are marked by emptiness -- in the Buddhist sense of the word -- of pure potential, of unknown. Alternately, we can say that our inner selves are of a state of pure Is-ness. We are at this level beyond our intellectual capacity and so we require a vessel that is of like essence to truly expose ourselves for what we truly are. This is where spontaneous training environments come into play in Budo. This is why, in my opinion, "takemusu aiki" is so upheld by Osensei.

Forms are a constructed reality, and as such, we cannot NOT relate to them via what we think. Yes, to refine ourselves to react to what is, instead of what we think, yes, it is only through real training that we can do this -- i.e. training environments that are marked by the same nature as our inner selves, by pure potential and by the unknowable.


Camilla asked:

"How do you train your way out of that in the dojo setting?"

This is the constancy of the practice. In a way, it is no different from any other type of spiritual cultivation that orients itself toward such an end. Think of Zen, with the Master's tailoring of the teachings to have the disciple WAKE UP! You do it with constant modification of the training -- all aimed toward not having the deshi become attached to their own identity, their own fear, their own pride, their own ignorance, nor to the teaching itself, nor to the teacher.

For example, the videos in the article were not filmed for the article. They were part of "waking" my deshi up to the assumptions (what he thinks of reality) that have come to him unconsciously through his own training in Aikido. He had allowed himself (as we all do) to be conditioned to the belief that if he did not commit he would be further from "defeat". I explained how this happens to aikidoka near the end of the article. For him, in his own words, that class was one big WAKE UP! Yes, it was a modification of the teaching, and in the end it shed light on the role of commitment, the reason behind Uke's choreography in Kihon Waza, the relationship between tactics and strategies, etc., but ultimately the real lesson was on how we may still be trapped by our intellect, by our habitual responses, even when we may feel the most free and the most natural (or when we are told to feel free and to act natural).

Camilla asked:

"Can you really be all-aware?"

I have to believe that we can. I have faith that we can.


Camilla asked:

"We seemingly cannot escape the effect of other peoples' emotions. Are we really learning how to -- ahem, distance ourselves from them in aikido? To manage that effect?"

I would not say that awareness comes from some sort of Vulcan restriction on emotions. Rather, it is when we are slave to our emotions that we become most blind to them, and thus most unaware of them and of anything else. Self-awareness cannot have us emotionless. When we are self-aware, we love not less, but more deeply. Etc. Take note of how distant we are from our uke or our nage when we are being plagued by fear. We find it impossible to do anything but travel inwardly (egocentrically) with our minds and with our bodies. We become selfish in our thoughts and in our actions. Are we to search for a state of no fear? No, this is only a reaction to the fear -- still. We are to seek a reconciliation to the fear -- meaning we must be aware of the fear, at the exact same time that we are aware of how we are responding to the fear. Then and only then do we have a chance of remaining aware of our partners -- and thus of relating to them, of remaining intimate with them. Aikido brings us closer to others by bringing us closer to ourselves. In this closeness, there is a oneness that exists -- in us and in the other. It is the same who ever we are.

bye for now,
dmv

Hi David,
Good stuff I must say. I am often amused by how you and I can find such different ways to say the same thing.

First of all, have you read "Kata: The Essence of Bujutsu Karate" by Ushiro Kenji Sensei? He has a marvellous section on shu-ha-ri and the relationship of kata to application of the principles and how application always rests on the kata. It's very interesting because many folks worried about martial application issues tend to believe that kata is this thing you do at the beginning but as you get better you leave the forms behind and really focus on application. Ushiro Sensei Sensei points out that you don't ever leave the kata behind rather you go off and validate your understanding of the kata via application and then return with new insights and look at the kata again and again.

We don't have kata per se in our empty hand practice of Aikido in the way that karate has kata but the practice of our kihon waza functions as kata for the Aikido practitioner. Training in realistic application is very important in Aikido because it allows you to test out your understanding of the technique you've learned and the principles that govern them. But over and over again we come back to the basics because the basics contain all of the principles we need to understand, level upon level of increasingly deep understanding. That's one of the reasons why the old guys always end up doing kihon waza. They have already understood the issue of application and their real interest is in getting deeper into their investigations into principle via the basics. It's just that after this process of going from the kihon waza to application and then back to the kihon waza, over and over, every time they return to the kihon waza its different than it was before.

I have been fortunate enough to have two separate areas in which I get to work. Because I have an Applied Self Defense class (formerly my Defensive Tactics for Law Enforcement but now open to anyone who wishes to train) I can work with some of the training methodologies you are experimenting with and still keep them separate from the Aikido (although there tends to be some spill over from one into the other). It's certainly helped my Aikido tremendously to be able to do that training regularly but I have also come to appreciate what O-Sensei gave us when he created the art we do. All the "goodies" are in the basic traditional art of Aikido.

Some people insist that fighting and experience in fighting is the end all be all. But actually most of those people have jumped into fighting and the world of applied technique without having a very deep understanding of principle. And simply fighting they won't get it... Now I want to make sure that people don't misunderstand me here. What the Gracies and the Machados do is an art. Thes guys have spent years doing the basic exercises which constitute their "forms". In fact they started studying these principles when they were kids. By the time they are adult they have it in their bodies. But they didn't get that just by fighting alot.

If I understand Ushiro Sensei, fighting, ie. application of technique is important because it is where you test your understanding of principle. But you develop the understanding of principle via the forms. This is my take on it as well.

The problem lies in not executing the forms properly or well. Training with no intention, sucking the energy out of the physical movements, kills the forms and the cannot teach the lessons intended. Therefore folks find themselves unable to apply the principles and they blame the art. It is the misundretsanding of the proper way to train in the forms which leads to lack of ability to apply the principles in technique outside the formal structure of the kihon waza.

Anyway, one last thing... looking at the clips it seemed that the focus was on experimenting with the relationship between varying degrees of commitment on the part of the attacker and how atemi utilized by the defender "creates" the technique. We do quite a bit of that in my Applied self defense class. I was wondering if you also do some practice in which you focus on what is at the heart of traditional Aikido technique which is taking the center on the first beat of the movement? I have been working on having my partner attempt to attack me as your partner was doing and trying to execute my irimi in such a way that there simply is no second attack possible. Of course this has always been the goal of Aikdio technique but in the basic practice no one actually attempts to attack in this manner. We should, of course, execute our techniques as if the attacker were actually attacking this way but in reality very few folks do that. It's very useful to take someone with some decent boxing or karate skills and tell them to launch an attack utilizing combination striking technique and the see if you can execute your irimi in such a way that his intention do do this becomes mute becauise you have him before the first strike is even complete. I suspect you must do thios but I was wondering if you have some different approach to it?

senshincenter
11-23-2005, 01:32 AM
Hi George,

Yes, I’m right there with you on the shu-ha-ri stuff – especially the part about all this stuff leading back to Kihon Waza. I too consider any attempt to just “fight” or to see fighting as the end-all of technical application as shortsighted, immature in its vision. This I hold even if one is not interested in spiritual matters. It is the same for me when it comes to seeing forms as the alpha and omega of everything. Forms that come before spontaneous training applications/environments are not the same thing as forms that come after it – in other words. That is to say, we want the forms, but we want the forms that comes via the insight gained in non-choreographed applications – only then, in my opinion, can we truly understand that everything IS already there, at the same time that we first begin to truly understand that “all.”

Anyways, your points are excellent and I want to thank you very much for joining in here. Great post.

On your last question:

We have some other beginner drills – with clips of it on our web site – where we are experimenting with taking Uke’s center via Irimi, on the first beat. The drills are very basic, but the principle is the same. You can see those drills here:

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

Wwe also connect these drills to awareness issues. Some other folks have come to try these drills out as well – Pauliina for one. She has started a thread on these drills. She shares some great stuff. You can read this thread here (I’ve posted there as well, explaining some points on the drills in question):

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8854&highlight=david%27s+drills

In these clips, however, we not only take the traditional irimi of Aikido, we also take the traditional attack of Aikido (i.e. committed) – though not the traditional form of Aikido (i.e. we are using boxing-like attacks). In my experience, the committed attack is the attack that is most difficult to deal with (e.g. requires the most skill), penetrates the deepest into our person, and is the one we will most often face in real life self-defense encounters. The non-committed attack is more of an academic issue for me, or it is the one I have to deal with as a teacher who is trying to get his Aikido trained students to attack with commitment under spontaneous conditions.

Since the clips in the article are from a class where I am trying to instill in my deshi the downside of attacking without commitment – under spontaneous conditions – I did not really attempt to do an Aikido technique. I really only sought to demonstrate how with some crude knowledge, and with even cruder technique on the part of the defender (my person in this case), one could be put in a disadvantageous position just from not committing when attacking. I tried to keep things as unsophisticated as possible – so this lesson would really hit home for my deshi. However, even in those crude applications, you can see how there is some Irimi involved and how that does indeed prevent the attacker from launching any sort of follow-up attack - there is just no traditional application of Aikido technique being utilized.

I have seen applications where someone tries to do this very thing but has it end in Ikkyo Omote or some other arm bar/trap from Aikido, etc. Personally, I think this is very interesting and quite beneficial to aikidoka that have perhaps never looked at Ikkyo outside of Kihon Waza, but I also have a feeling that such applications are forced – like one is trying to make Ikkyo fit everywhere. This could very well be a result of my own bias to not understand Ikkyo Omote as an arm bar technique (seeing it rather as a hip throw with the arm incidentally in place for a pin at the bottom of the technique) and/or a result of my 5’5” frame trying to do an arm bar/trap on the big heavy Uke we have in our dojo.

In Parker Kenpo we have a move very similar to this one – they are his freestyle moves “B1A” “B1B,” etc. In those moves, one advances on the opponent and then checks the opponent’s arm at an downward 45 degree angle, setting it up for more strikes and/or an arm bar etc. The downward angle checks the cross lateral side of the body, etc. No second attack can follow. It works well in theory, but several things come up in application when they are not done against the committed attack. First, when an attacker is not committing, he/she is very mobile in the backward direction. Hence, you move in, try to trap the arm, and they just move back out of the trap and the ensuing angle of cancellation – which then allows them to counter attack, etc. Moving backward is so subversive to this tactic that when you see this being demonstrated you can almost 100% predict that the Uke it is being applied to is choreographed NOT to move backwards. He/she is either slightly moving forward or staying still, in place, when the other person advances on them – either option is not too skillful a response, in my opinion. The other thing that came up is that a person that is not too committed in their attack is also very capable of changing levels. This means, you come in, you trap the arm downward, they lower their center, reduce the effect of the angle of cancellation, and go in for the takedown/ground fight, etc. Again, this is why when you see this advance/arm trap movement being demonstrated, you see the Uke being choreographed not to change levels. Nothing but choreography is every really stopping them from moving backwards and/or changing levels.

For me, these experiences led to a particular insight: We cannot by ourselves directly control Uke’s center – not ever.

Rather, when we control Uke’s center it is more that we do it in conjunction with other forces that are acting on Uke’s center in a controlling fashion. These other forces are gravity, inertia, and will. Thus, when we have only our architecture, and little gravity, and/or inertia, and/or will, affecting uke’s center, as we might in the non-committed attack, it is impossible to control the center of Uke as we do in Kihon Waza (which requires a committed attack and thus for the forces of gravity, inertia, and will to be acting upon Uke’s center). For me, this means, when confronting the non-committed attack, one will have to rely upon a means to victory, or a means to self-defense, that does not require that Uke’s center be completely controlled (e.g. striking, trapping, clinching, in-fighting, knife-fighting, etc.). The choreographed restrictions on Uke not moving back and/or changing levels is the artificial way that Uke’s center is being controlled – it’s a fabricated way of trying to deal with the uncontrollable center. For me, real encounters require that we do not expect an Uke who is not committed in their attack to stand still – to not move backwards and/or to not change levels. Inversely, Kihon Waza require that we come to understand how we use our architectures in conjunction with the gravity, the inertia, and the will that is acting on Uke’s center in order to control that center.

Anyways, George, if I did not get what you were asking, please let me know. This is fascinating stuff – what you brought up here. If you got some video of what you are referring to – that would be great to see.

Thanks again for posting,

Humbly yours,
David (it’s late, this post is a mess – more than usual – please forgive)

SeiserL
11-23-2005, 08:11 AM
Great article and discussion. Compliments and appreciation.

IMHO,
Strategy = concepts
Tactical = technique, application of the concepts
Intent = the purpose, focus, or goal. i.e. training, fighting, or Budo.

Pauliina Lievonen
11-23-2005, 09:57 AM
This discussion has been like a good steak. Yum. :)

For me, this means that fighting skill is not a thing we can contrast in opposition to something like spiritual maturity -- Budo does not present them as choices. Rather it uses the development of one toward the development of the other.
...............
Personally, I'm fine saying that fighting is not my main purpose in training - that fighting skill is an incidental of Budo. However, I am totally against anything that understands the former position as a reason for why we don't require our Budo to be up to par as a fighting art. For me, when our Budo is not a fighting art - there too much room for habitual attachments to remain, too much room for ego and delusion to settle in and remain in place unreconciled.
This is pretty much spot on how I think about my training, and how I wish my training to be. I'm not a fighter, and I don't feel I need to be in my way of living, but what David said in a couple posts explains very well why I want to keep looking at my aikido training and to dig deeper into it. Because I feel that at a certain point, I'll otherwise have gotten what I can out of it, and I could just as well stop training, really.

I'm suggesting that against a larger attacker that is ADVANCING IN A NON-COMMITTED FASHION, a smaller person is much better off striking at that attacker than attempting to throw them, pin them, or take them to the ground.So far, this has been my (very limited) experience as well. Interestingly, the better I learn to respond to my sparring partners at first rather un-committed attacks, the more committed he's been forced to become. His attacks are turning more and more into something that I could really use for an aikido technique. What is stopping me at this point isn't really his manner of atttacking anymore, it's that the mere idea of executing a "technique" makes me stiffen my arms and that gives him a chance to use them as levers... :rolleyes: This observation in turn has made me look more into what I do in our regular training - and of course the same tension is there as well, but because it's very slight, it's easy to ignore, intentionally or not, in the more controlled circumstances of our forms training. Uke isn't free to exploit it either, which means it's up to me to be honest with myself in that situation.

We played a bit with really committed shomenuchi last Monday in class, btw. It both made the technique of the night (iriminage) easier to do, and more difficult. Easier because there was something to do it with, so to say, but more difficult because tori really had to move right away. Lot's of people getting very high with their centers, into bad positions, pushing and pulling, blocking the attack. At the same time, there was a very clear sensation of the whole group getting more focused, and more relaxed or free as well, despite the anxiety of the startling attacks.

Shoot, I have to go! would love to babble on and on...
kvaak
Pauliina

Pauliina Lievonen
11-23-2005, 10:04 AM
Just a little bit more...
There are physical, direct consequences of my assumptions. So I am with Kevin on the allegory - aikido can be a very effective way to mirror your pitfalls back at you. Whether you see and deal with it or not is another matter.
The problem is when there aren't any consequences... a lot of people I've come across train this way. No matter what silliness I come up with, they fall down.

Can you really be all-aware? Personally, I would say probably not, but it's more useful to live as if it was possible, and try to get as far as possible. becuase even if it wasn't possible to be all-aware - where would we set the limit?

kvaak
Pauliina
and now i really need to be gone!

senshincenter
11-23-2005, 10:15 AM
So far, this has been my (very limited) experience as well. Interestingly, the better I learn to respond to my sparring partners at first rather un-committed attacks, the more committed he's been forced to become. His attacks are turning more and more into something that I could really use for an aikido technique.
--------------------------------------------------
What is stopping me at this point isn't really his manner of atttacking anymore, it's that the mere idea of executing a "technique" makes me stiffen my arms and that gives him a chance to use them as levers... :rolleyes: This observation in turn has made me look more into what I do in our regular training - and of course the same tension is there as well, but because it's very slight, it's easy to ignore, intentionally or not, in the more controlled circumstances of our forms training. Uke isn't free to exploit it either, which means it's up to me to be honest with myself in that situation.
------------------------------------------------------
We played a bit with really committed shomenuchi last Monday in class, btw. It both made the technique of the night (iriminage) easier to do, and more difficult. Easier because there was something to do it with, so to say, but more difficult because tori really had to move right away. Lot's of people getting very high with their centers, into bad positions, pushing and pulling, blocking the attack. At the same time, there was a very clear sensation of the whole group getting more focused, and more relaxed or free as well, despite the anxiety of the startling attacks.


All of this is in line with my experience - exactly. Thanks Paulinna for sharing.

d

MM
11-23-2005, 10:52 AM
"Why can we not train to fight for real and have that training be of Budo?"


I guess I would look at that question a little differently.


First perspective: In the essence of Budo (as defined personally), I would say that we are training to fight for real. Let me give you an example. Let's say that I have trained in some style of Aikido for some undetermined time. I find myself with friends at a bar and I bump into some drunk. I apologize but the drunk wants to fight. Not very prettily and not very smoothly, I do manage to avoid getting hit and push the drunk away. Then after the initial encounter, when the drunk turns, I again not very prettily avoid getting hit and manage to get the drunk on the ground subdued. In some way, Budo did train me to fight. Now, apply that principle a little further … suppose I get into a "fight" (can't avoid it) with a normal person who doesn't have any martial arts training and let's say I have a yondan degree in aikido. For the most part, I will have the advantage and it won't be much of a fight. In essence, Budo has trained me to fight. Or, let's say I'm a Shodan in Aikido and I get into a fight with a Shichidan in karate. For the most part, I won't have the advantage. Does that mean Budo hasn't trained me for a real fight? No. There will always be someone better but that doesn't mean I haven't trained to fight for real in my Budo training. Finally, let's say I have a Lokudan in Aikido but I find myself in a very bad neighborhood where I'm jumped by ten or twelve people (at once) who have knives, chains, and various weapons. I would venture to say that I wouldn't have the advantage, especially if some of them knew how to "fight" from any kind of training. Again, there are always options and possibilities and each situation is imaginary, but I'm using it just for example purposes only. Just because you find yourself outmatched in the real world in a fight doesn't mean that your Budo training isn't training you to fight for real.


Second perspective: Why aren't you training to fight for real and have that training be Budo? What definition of Budo do you employ? What aspect of the training in Budo doesn't apply to training to fight for real?


Third perspective: At what stage in training does one find oneself? That is a very critical element in your question. If you take a first-day student in Aikido and they find themselves in a fight, then I'd say that their training hasn't gone on long enough for them to apply their Budo training to a real fight. Closer to the point, even a shodan in aikido may not have trained long enough for them to apply their Budo training in a real fight. I think that what matters here is the level of the student's understanding, not the level of their rank. But, at some point in the higher levels, one should be able to understand (and apply) that both (train to fight for real & training of Budo) are the same. In this, I look to my shihans (past and present) and their capabilities for affirmation.


Fourth perspective: Are you defining "fight for real" as in two people squaring off against each other where one attacks in a manner of various punches and kicks and grabs, etc while the second defends in a manner applicable to his Budo training? If so, then I would say that it might not be the Budo training at fault but the application and/or execution of the training. At each level of my training, I have been able to view others above me and their ability to apply and/or execute. The abilities did progress. I have been able to read about some of the older Aikido shihans who demonstrated abilities with Sumo/Judo/Karate people. I would venture to say that if one had access to some of the direct students of Osensei, some of the higher shihan in Aikido organizations, etc, that one would come away with the knowledge that training of Budo is very much training to fight for real. It's just the personal application and/or execution that varies or might not work. Someone has mentioned a phrase that sums up my fourth perspective and I don't remember who said it or the exact phrasing, so I apologize ahead of time for possibly butchering it. Your aikido might not work, but mine does. :)


Thanks,
Mark

MM
11-23-2005, 11:05 AM
So folks know - there are videos that go with this article. They help demonstrate the topic more clearly. You just have to click on the hyperlinks (clip 1, clip 2, clip 3 and clip 4) to view them.

Thanks,
dmv

I watched the clips. Very interesting. And yes, they did help with reading your article. Thanks for taking the time to include them.

There is one thing that sticks out in my mind, though, as being an error of sorts. Maybe error isn't the right word, but it's close. Watching the clips, there is one aspect of that kind of training that you didn't account for in any of your discussions. There were no committed attacks in your videos. Yes, you had attacks, but none that I would classify as committed. Some of them I would say were jabs or jab-like strikes, some grappling, some clinching, but overall, no committed attacks. And there wouldn't be, otherwise you would have some sort of injury.

Outside the dojo, when someone decides to throw a punch, it isn't going to be half a strike, it isn't going to be pulled at the last moment. There may be a jab or two, but when the "committed" attack comes, it'll have a good bit of force behind it. I never saw anything like that in the clips. The punches or jabs that landed produced no effect like one would get with a full force blow. Least it didn't look like it. :)

That's really the sharpest thing that struck me as I read and watched the video. Not the idea and/or theory behind the writing, nor the training in the video, but just that solid, powerful strikes weren't taken into account.

Mark

senshincenter
11-23-2005, 11:16 AM
Hi Mark,

Thanks for posting. If I could sum up what you are saying, I would agree that martial victory (i.e. the defeating of another human being martially) is not necessary for us to understand that we can be training for real fighting. For those that like to clearly separate "real fighting" from Budo - not seeing it as I described above and as you are understanding it yourself - the questions still remain: How can we do that? Why should we do that? Do we lose anything by doing that?

Another way of looking at this is to say that Budo is about victory over the self and/OR that Budo is not about fighting for victory over another (as you say, defeat does not ruin or void the training). Again, this would not mean then that I can separate the means for achieving victory over the self from the means of achieving victory over another. This is merely a causal matter - which way I go in the practice/logic. In Budo we go from studying victory over another to gaining victory over the self - we do not go (as I understand it) from victory over the self to victory over another. In my experience, the latter is impossible (though this is how many folks in Aikido tend to practice today). In Budo, I use the latter type of training (i.e. studying victory over another) to discover how I have been defeated by my (small) self nearly the whole of my life.

thanks,
dmv

senshincenter
11-23-2005, 11:32 AM
I watched the clips. Very interesting. And yes, they did help with reading your article. Thanks for taking the time to include them.

There is one thing that sticks out in my mind, though, as being an error of sorts. Maybe error isn't the right word, but it's close. Watching the clips, there is one aspect of that kind of training that you didn't account for in any of your discussions. There were no committed attacks in your videos. Yes, you had attacks, but none that I would classify as committed. Some of them I would say were jabs or jab-like strikes, some grappling, some clinching, but overall, no committed attacks. And there wouldn't be, otherwise you would have some sort of injury.

Outside the dojo, when someone decides to throw a punch, it isn't going to be half a strike, it isn't going to be pulled at the last moment. There may be a jab or two, but when the "committed" attack comes, it'll have a good bit of force behind it. I never saw anything like that in the clips. The punches or jabs that landed produced no effect like one would get with a full force blow. Least it didn't look like it. :)

That's really the sharpest thing that struck me as I read and watched the video. Not the idea and/or theory behind the writing, nor the training in the video, but just that solid, powerful strikes weren't taken into account.

Mark

You are right, there are no committed attacks being performed in the clips where Sean is the attacker. That is the problem being addressed: How the level of commitment affects the relationship between striking/ground fighting tactics and throwing tactics.

The training environment that day was "do whatever you want." Sean, my deshi, felt his advantage would rely in not committing in his attack. Out of habit, he was trying not to get thrown. This is a result of how subconsciously we as aikidoka are trained to believe that commitment leads to defeat. To unlearn this wrong subconscious view, other crude tactics, tactics that take advantage of the non-committed attacks, were used.

Like Pauliina said, after a while, a person learns he's no better off by de-committing and/or by "attacking" without commitment. Thus, he starts to attack with commitment again (inside of these training environments) and this prompts the energy prints for Aikido's nage-waza to show up - making him prime for throwing.

When we first enter spontaneous training environments, it is like we know nothing. This is because we cannot access what we know. We are stuck dealing with our small self. Thus, we are more reactionary to our delusions of reality than we are aware of reality. This means, for example, we may first come in and attack hard, then we get thrown (in a way totally different from kihon waza - at least as it is subjectively experienced). As a result, we habitually react to the feeling we had when we were thrown - this means we try not to be thrown (i.e. we resist being thrown) and thus we try not to commit in our attack (i.e. the delusion that all we have to worry about is what our training culture has led us to believe is of concern). We wrongly feel safe here - in not committing.

Then we get the heck pummeled out of us or we end up in a ground fight - for example. Of course, the person new to this type of training is forced by their small self to either take a beating (which they work hard to deny that a beating is taking place - which one can often do in the dojo) and/or to charge in again balls to the wall. Of course they either get beat harder or they get thrown harder and this brings them back to quandary: What do I do? This is the "I" you want brought to the surface, because it is the "I" of "Why can't 'I' do x?" or "Why am 'I" doing y?" When training reaches this level, you aren't dealing with pure technical matters any longer. You are dealing with the underlying character/being issues. This, in my opinion, is where Budo training belongs.

thanks,
dmv

George S. Ledyard
11-23-2005, 11:42 AM
Anyways, George, if I did not get what you were asking, please let me know. This is fascinating stuff -- what you brought up here. If you got some video of what you are referring to -- that would be great to see.

You are spot on with what I am talking about. Great exchange and thanks for making such a huge effort to both post and put the video clips in your posts. Hope you are a better typist than I am... it takes me so long to get my thoughts down. Take care and everybody have a great Thanksgiving, assuming you celebrate this holiday and if not, then just have a nice day off, and if you don't get the day off, have a good day at work.

MM
11-23-2005, 02:05 PM
For those that like to clearly separate "real fighting" from Budo - not seeing it as I described above and as you are understanding it yourself - the questions still remain: How can we do that? Why should we do that? Do we lose anything by doing that?


Well, yeah, I do think that you can separate the two. But then I compare it to separating the physical study of Aikido to the physical & spiritual study of Aikido. One can get very good at Aikido just by being understanding the purely physical side of Aikido. And one can get very good by understanding the physical & spiritual side of Aikido. Let me try this example. I hope that you've heard Fleetwood Mac sing The Chain. Back when they first recorded it, they were going through some tough times. Listening to that song, you can almost feel them pouring their soul into it. A few years ago, they re-recorded the song. While the mechanics are there, the beat is there, the words are there, it's a rather lifeless song. So, technically, they were good at playing the song. But, they did not get close to how good they were at the original.

Or take someone who knows how to play an instrument by rote. Sure, they can become good at it. Sure, they can play a blues song, but bring someone along who can play as good but with some soul/spirit into it and it is a whole new level.

This doesn't invalidate the purely physical aspect of learning. I think we all hit this type of learning. I think there are some very good and competent people out there who are a genius at the physical learning. I just think some go beyond it with the spiritual aspect. But that's me. And that's how I view separating the two. The UFC, UMA, etc, to me, are the purely physical aspect and thus can be separated from Budo training.

How do we do it? Sparring, competing, contests for prizes.

Why should we do it? Because some people want to do that. It's why we have sports and competitions, etc. It's just another venue.

Do we lose anything by doing that? No, I don't believe we do. If you're in it for "real fighting", then you train for it and maybe somewhere along the road, you start picking up Budo. If not, you're still happy. If you train Budo, maybe somewhere along the road you pick up "real fighting". If not, you're still happy. But, I see it as an individual choice and even that can change over time. If someone was 18 and took Karate and Gracie and was in the UFC, they would almost have to learn something. When they're 40 and switch to Aikido (for whatever reason), they have a background in something which they can apply to Aikido. Nothing really lost. At least IMO.

Mark

MM
11-23-2005, 02:13 PM
You are right, there are no committed attacks being performed in the clips where Sean is the attacker. That is the problem being addressed: How the level of commitment affects the relationship between striking/ground fighting tactics and throwing tactics.

The training environment that day was "do whatever you want." Sean, my deshi, felt his advantage would rely in not committing in his attack. Out of habit, he was trying not to get thrown. This is a result of how subconsciously we as aikidoka are trained to believe that commitment leads to defeat. To unlearn this wrong subconscious view, other crude tactics, tactics that take advantage of the non-committed attacks, were used.


Ah, I see. I never learned it that way. My learning in being uke and/or attacking was to give a good committed attack initially. For training, it helps tore work with energy and it helps uke deal with energy. Now, in randori or in free style with peers, uke makes a committed first attack but after that, it's a matter of who gives the opening and who is able to take advantage of it.

Viewing it like that, I don't mind being uke and dealing with getting thrown because throughout the whole process I'm learning to spot openings, learning to take advantage of openings, and learning when/where/how to move from off-center to centered. Uke's training, therefore, is never about defeat at any time. Uke's training is all about how to take ukemi. In other words, how to deal with energy in a safe manner. If that means falling, that's fine. If it means reversing a technique, that's fine. If it means moving from off-center to centered and able to deliver a good attack again, that's fine. But, half the fun is finding openings and exploiting them. :)

I never learned that commitment leads to defeat.

Mark

senshincenter
11-27-2005, 07:49 PM
No, I wouldn't say that anyone was taught that commitment leads to defeat. It is a subconscious construct of our training culture - that was my point. Moreover, because commitment is a cultivated state, this subconscious construct becomes reinforced by our own ego hangups - particularly our fears. This means that we can subconsciously come to associate commitment with defeat (in truly spontaneous environments) at the same time that we can satisfy our habitual tendencies to have our fears dictate us along a path of non-commitment.

My experience suggests that we can never see this for what it is if we only continue onward with our Aikido training. This is like the eye trying to see itself. We need a mirror or something, some kind of contrast. One way to gain this contrast is to go 180 degrees opposite to Aikido training paradigms, such as, "In this training, we just do whatever. You do whatever, and I do whatever."

The closer you get to this kind of training, all the assumptions and/or the subconscious constructs of our own Aikido training culture come to the surface in a sea of awareness - awareness that comes to us via the type of self-reflection that makes use of contrasting training cultures. This is just straight Bruce Lee/Krishnamurti stuff - or, if one is not familiar with the thinking of these men, this is how you come to see the States more clearly after you take a trip abroad for a relatively long period of time.

MM
11-28-2005, 06:12 AM
No, I wouldn't say that anyone was taught that commitment leads to defeat.

I didn't mean I was taught. Just that I never learned. :) Probably my stubborn streak got in the way.


It is a subconscious construct of our training culture - that was my point. Moreover, because commitment is a cultivated state, this subconscious construct becomes reinforced by our own ego hangups - particularly our fears. This means that we can subconsciously come to associate commitment with defeat (in truly spontaneous environments) at the same time that we can satisfy our habitual tendencies to have our fears dictate us along a path of non-commitment.

Okay, I can understand that. But, you wouldn't just jump right into spontaneous environments in training, would you? You'd start with basics and slow movements and progress to spontaneous environments, right? In my view, from the beginning as an attacker, if you learn to give a good committed attack each and every time as a building block to help tori/nage, then it isn't really defeat, but training for tori/nage. Then at some point as an attacker, you learn to give a committed attack but then look for openings and reverse the situation, especially on that very first movement by tori/nage. That's training for uke. (Why should we train just for tori/nage?) And if you train as an attacker to look for and take advantage of openings, you won't get any good openings unless that first attack is committed and good. Otherwise tori/nage doesn't have energy to work with and won't be able to make the glaring mistakes. Some time later, the committed attacks and committed techniques become more subtle and require less energy to complete and tori/nage and uke find themselves interchangeable until someone makes a big mistake. :) Along the way, uke finds that giving a committed attack isn't a defeat but an opening of sorts to reverse the situation. That's my view of taking the "fears" and "non-committed attacks" out of training.


My experience suggests that we can never see this for what it is if we only continue onward with our Aikido training. This is like the eye trying to see itself. We need a mirror or something, some kind of contrast. One way to gain this contrast is to go 180 degrees opposite to Aikido training paradigms, such as, "In this training, we just do whatever. You do whatever, and I do whatever."


Don't get me wrong, I think that this kind of training does help. And I think that a good teacher will know when to use it and when to use something else so that the student's comprehension keeps rising. Course, being a good teacher is another topic. :)

Mark

doronin
11-28-2005, 02:21 PM
Jon, very well said!



Where do you think our potential student is going to go?

Keith, do you think Aikido would benefit if students of second category you described, the fighters, would prevail? If it happened, I'd be concerned with possibility of Aikido to evolve into just another UFC-kind of sport, you know, gym, English terminology, no fuss around tradtion, just as you described... Mutual respect attitude would change to sports-agressive. Is it a fair price for becoming truly martial?

senshincenter
11-28-2005, 02:36 PM
Mark wrote:

“Okay, I can understand that. But, you wouldn't just jump right into spontaneous environments in training, would you? You'd start with basics and slow movements and progress to spontaneous environments, right? In my view, from the beginning as an attacker, if you learn to give a good committed attack each and every time as a building block to help tori/nage, then it isn't really defeat, but training for tori/nage. Then at some point as an attacker, you learn to give a committed attack but then look for openings and reverse the situation, especially on that very first movement by tori/nage. That's training for uke. (Why should we train just for tori/nage?) And if you train as an attacker to look for and take advantage of openings, you won't get any good openings unless that first attack is committed and good. Otherwise tori/nage doesn't have energy to work with and won't be able to make the glaring mistakes. Some time later, the committed attacks and committed techniques become more subtle and require less energy to complete and tori/nage and uke find themselves interchangeable until someone makes a big mistake. Along the way, uke finds that giving a committed attack isn't a defeat but an opening of sorts to reverse the situation. That's my view of taking the "fears" and "non-committed attacks" out of training.”


Yes, I can agree with all of this. In my opinion, for anyone that takes their Aikido training seriously, this is the way to understand that training. On the other hand, it is also a kind of “party line” for Aikido training – we have to admit that. As a party line, we often say “yes” to it before we truly understand it. Therefore, we commonly end up saying “yes” to a whole lot of other things that we should be saying “no” to (if we understood the party line better). The things that we should be saying “no” to come to the forefront of our awareness only when all the prescriptions of our training paradigms go away. As “free”as such a paradigm may appear to be, and as total as it may seem to be in addressing our fears and our understandings of committed attacks, there is a whole lot of assumption that is included in that model – assumption that comes with the very nature of design. I do not mean the nature of its design; I am referring to the nature of design itself. In other words, there is too much “I do this and you do that” and/or “When you don’t do that, I do this,”to truly know who we are outside of these constructs – outside of the design of our training paradigms.

Whenever we have design, we have a role to play, and (in the beginning) no matter how well designed a role may be, it is never us – it is a role. This becomes very complicated the more trained we are. This is because once we are more trained we are often able to fulfill the role to such a degree that it seems very natural to us; the only way to be. However, because of that, the more trained we are, the more often we take the context of the role for granted. Thus, we do not see how the “naturalness” of the role is dependent upon the context in which it is being played. Nor do we see that the assumed context is THE THING that makes such a role to appear natural. Thus, the training paradigm you laid out functions very well when the roles are taken as “natural” (i.e. when the supporting context is adopting without question). However, when the context is not taken as natural, but seen as designed (which it is), which often comes out for all of us whenever we train with beginners (folks less engrained in the training culture), the whole paradigm falls apart (e.g. smoothness goes out the window, etc.). For example, when the beginner does not look for openings and reversals, but instead seeks to create openings, you see even advanced training partners have their technique go right out the window. This happens to them because the context that is supporting the role they are playing is no longer present. Hence, a “real” you (i.e. the you that exists outside of design, context, and assumption) comes out. At such a moment, we see ourselves not blending, not moving, not capitalizing on the target creation tactics of the beginning training partner, etc. We see an “us” that is stuck on the context, stuck on how things are “supposed to be” rather than being able to deal with things as they are, etc. This is what we often experience when we cross train and attempt to go freestyle with a person from another art. What is being exposed through such situations is not a shortcoming of the art of Aikido; it is the problem of being blind to and thus attached to one’s own cultural contexts. This problem is universal to every art.

The same thing happens to uke. Within the training paradigm, uke functions in a way that it is possible for the small self to see such behavior as context-free, as natural, etc. However, once nage does not allow uke that “out” some of us so come to rely upon – when nage just decides to front kick uke in the groin for coming in from a million miles away, etc. – you immediately start to see the same sort of “fish out of water” reaction to uke as we saw in nage. Thus, we also see uke struggling with the attachments to his/her own training culture. For example, we see that after a few stop-hit tactics performed by nage, tactics that are capitalizing upon the million mile launch of uke’s attack (which do a great deal to provide the out uke is seeking, or even the “suki” he/she is looking for), uke has no idea how to attack now - no idea how to balance not giving openings and not de-committing, etc.

It is the same with the philosophy of Aikido. Inside the dojo, at a seminar, etc., it is so obvious, so easy, so natural for us to respond to others in a way that is filled with love, compassion, and wisdom. However, when we are at home, with our spouse, with our children, with our parents, etc., when we are outside of the context that supports our “natural” moral behavior, all of sudden, we have a different “us.” We want to know this “us” because this is the real us – the real us that exists outside of the pristine constructs of the dojo. If we really want to know if we can attack with commitment, we will need to drop all the supports that are there by design to help us stay committed in our attacks. If we really want to know if we can embody the philosophy of the art, we will need to see how well we can embody that outside of the dojo – with our spouses, with our friends, with our children, etc.

Personally, I’ve never met an aikidoka that a few stop-hits can’t lead him/her into a state of culture shock. I’m sure they are out there – just never met one.

Great post Mark - thanks for sharing. Good points.

dmv

George S. Ledyard
11-28-2005, 05:58 PM
One of the problems, from the standpoint of Aikido as a martial art, is that for many, if not most, Aikidoka the process is out of sequence or by-passes certain stages.

In many arts, the highest level of skill is arrived at well after the period of peak physical performance. Usually, the late teens, the twenties and the early thirties represent the period at which the body functions optimally from the physical standpoint. In most competitive arts it is rare to find people able to compete at the top levels after this point in time. The rougher and more physical the practice, the more this is true ie. Muy Thai or Mixed Martial Arts.

Aikido is an art which people often start well into or past their physical prime. It is also an art which has a large proportion of people who have done no other martial arts training. Because there is no competition in most styles, very few participants train as if they were preparing for competition.

The normal progression of skill and knowledge starts with development of basic physical skills. The progression then proceeds to application allowing the students to develop good solid understanding of how to apply their skills in an "open skills" environment. Sparring, competition, or just freestyle practice is used to deveolp this ability. At this level one can function as a "fighter" but typically one hasn't even come close to mastering the finer points of the art.

As one continues to train the emphasis becomes takin gthese skills to the higher levels. One doesn't normally develop these skills by simply fighting or sparring. These skills are in the art's kihon waza. But at this stage of the training, with the highly developed sense of the "context" into which the kihon waza apply in reality, their understanding of the kihon waza is different. In Aikido this stage represents the point at which the deep principles of the art are discovered. Technique shifts from the physical more to the energetic having more to do with the use of aiki than the previous physical stage at which technique was largely the efficient application of physical principles.

The problem for most Aikido folks is that they've skipped the first step. Very few Aikidoka compete or even have any real practice of application in a non-traditional sense. The original uschi deshi all had substantial martial arts backgrounds. Coming out of largely judo and kendo, with a smattering of other experience, these folks didn't need to be taught how to train, how to condition themselves for competition, how to get mentally tough enough to deal with resistant partners, etc. The fact that most, if not all, engaged in fights during their young uchi deshi period to test their ability to apply what they knew. Many had to proove themselves later when they were sent to spread Aikido around the world.

The reason that these teachers got to such a high level of skill in relatively short time was 1) they trained extremly hard, as if they were world class athletes getting ready for a championship and 2) by the time they were training with the Founder they already had the "context" to view the Kihon Waza which they were taught.

This simply isn't the case today. The "average" Aikido practitioner has little or no ther martial arts experience. Many don't even start Aikido until they are at the end or are past their period of peak physicality. The vast majority do not train even as hard as a typical high school athlete. The majority of Aikido practitioners are attempting to understand and master the higher principles of the art without having gone through this basic period of intensive physicality during which they developed their bodies and their strength of spirit.

Some experience of other martial arts is important to develop the ability to apply technique oustide of the controlled "context" of traditional practice. But even if one isn't interested in martial application, it is still important to have trained out at whatever ones physical limit is, usually by taking ukemi from the teacher, in order to develop that same strength of spirit and intention which other martial artists develop through sparring or competition.

This is why there has to be so much discussion of how one trains to develop ones Aikido fully. It is not because the people intent on developing these methods are not aware of or are not interested in the higher levels of sophistication which Aikido contains. They are simply aware that there is NO WAY to access these levels by by passin the hard training that initial stage of foundational training should contain. It is possible that someone might bypass this first stage and go on, in the very contrrolled confines of the dojo, to discover various advanced principles of the art. But that person would be alomsot entirely theoretical in his knowledge and would have little or no ability to apply the principles in the real world.

If you take a look at the training exercises which David has been using to work on this aspect of Aikido or get a hold of the videos of Jason Delucia (poorly titled Combat Aikido) you can see methyodolgy which can provide the aikido practitioner a way to develop his "context" so that his dojo Aikido can get to a higher level eventually.

The problem is that people get trapped in one or the other mode... either they think its all about application and don't go beyond the physical level (this totally misses the understanding of the spiritual principles embodied in the higher level technique) or they want do the spiritual stuff without understanding the limits of the most physical technique.

This essential dichotomy has existed since people first started trying to understand the nature of reality. Is reality limited to what we can see and measure, ie essentially material, or is it really about the spirit, which tends to demean the physical, demeaning the body, the sensual... Aikido is the art which purports to contain both aspects but its practitioners continue to shape the art to their own limitations rather than try to accept the challenge of leaving behind what they know and what they are comfortable with in favor of the transformation that comes with practice.

senshincenter
11-28-2005, 07:43 PM
A most excellent post George - if you will allow me to say. Excellent! Excellent! Excellent!

Thank you for the time and effort,
d

MM
11-29-2005, 09:40 AM
However, because of that, the more trained we are, the more often we take the context of the role for granted. Thus, we do not see how the "naturalness" of the role is dependent upon the context in which it is being played.


I cut out a bunch just because I agree and there wasn't anything I could add. :) Here, I just wanted to add that when the above happens in a non-purposeful manner, it's usually because we get lazy in our training. When it happens in a purposeful manner, I think it's because one is either afraid to change or one is bolstering one's ego.


Thus, the training paradigm you laid out functions very well when the roles are taken as "natural" (i.e. when the supporting context is adopting without question). However, when the context is not taken as natural, but seen as designed (which it is), which often comes out for all of us whenever we train with beginners (folks less engrained in the training culture), the whole paradigm falls apart (e.g. smoothness goes out the window, etc.). For example, when the beginner does not look for openings and reversals, but instead seeks to create openings, you see even advanced training partners have their technique go right out the window.


Yes, true. Even for not so advanced partners. I can't count the times that a green to brown belt has said, "Hey, this isn't working the way it's supposed to" when working with a beginner." lol. And the answer is usually, "of course it isn't". A beginner hasn't learned the training paradigm that we use, so naturally, they aren't going to do what others do and the techniques aren't going to look smooth.


This happens to them because the context that is supporting the role they are playing is no longer present. Hence, a "real" you (i.e. the you that exists outside of design, context, and assumption) comes out. At such a moment, we see ourselves not blending, not moving, not capitalizing on the target creation tactics of the beginning training partner, etc.


LOL, how very true. And point of fact, I still find myself not blending, not moving, etc even when doing slow randori. (Randori defined as any free attack - nothing predetermined or defined). And more often than not, smoothness goes right out the window. But, I do find that I am getting better as my training progresses.

Mark

Erick Mead
11-29-2005, 11:35 AM
Hi George,
In these clips, however, we not only take the traditional irimi of Aikido, we also take the traditional attack of Aikido (i.e. committed) -- though not the traditional form of Aikido (i.e. we are using boxing-like attacks). In my experience, the committed attack is the attack that is most difficult to deal with (e.g. requires the most skill), penetrates the deepest into our person, and is the one we will most often face in real life self-defense encounters. The non-committed attack is more of an academic issue for me, or it is the one I have to deal with as a teacher who is trying to get his Aikido trained students to attack with commitment under spontaneous conditions.

This, and the overall theme of your article reminded me of a boxing match I saw years ago. I cannot remember the fighters's names, but they were two welterweight Hispanic guys, of only middling fame.
One of them was a lefty and just lightining fast with the jab. The other guy basically walked backwards under blow after blow, with only a few counter punches for about two and half rounds. He displayed virtually no technique, not much in the way of bobbing or weaving.

The whole thing was looking like it would go down to a boring unanimous decided match, with the lefty WAY ahead on points. Then, in the third round, the other guy seemed to get really beat and start dropping his right hand, little by little. He started to let the other guy com close to a couple of left hooks connecting and backed away even more than in the first two rounds.

Then one left hook came sailing in to his head, and this time he did not back away. He turned into the arc, like a little tiny yokomenuchi kokyu, carrying the blow down with the right and then just exploding up into an right uppercut to the chin. I swear he lifted the lefty two inches off the deck before he staggered back. Best six-inch iriminage I ever saw. The lefty was completely addled, could not recover, and got clobbered twice more that round, before the match was called a TKO.

Your points about comiitment and noncommitment and how thaey each can alter the other's approach are spot on. That guy intimately understood how to make the tactics and distance work to his strengths, by using his weakness (or its perception), patience and and willingness to be hit a little in coordination with a larger strategic goal. The same sort of thing is illustrated in vastly different form in the final sword duel in the film "Rob Roy."

Cordially,
Erick Mead

senshincenter
11-29-2005, 06:11 PM
Yes, I agree that a whole lot of stuff creeps in by us not taking the training as seriously as we can and/or need to. However, there is also a whole lot of stuff that we do not get, but that we need, precisely because we take the training seriously – precisely because we use the now customary training paradigm and little or nothing else. The latter part interests me most because it is this part that has to do with overall spiritual development of the Self. For it is in the cultural blindness of our training that much of our ego goes unreconciled.

Lately, in the thread, there has been some talk of context. When we speak of context, what we first and foremost need to realize is that we are not talking about a single universal. When we speak of context, we are attempting to speak of specificity. That is to say, when we say, “X is the context for Y,” we are also saying that “X is not the context for Z” and/or that “A (for example) is not the context for Y.” Yet, among many aikidoka, even those of us that like to mention context, we come to the training as if it were a single universal. For example, we may attempt to see Irimi Nage as viable under any and all conditions – that all we need to do is find the necessary matrix to make it work, etc. We may, as I mentioned earlier, attempt to find ways to apply Ikkyo here, there, everywhere, when in fact such actions are most often forced, show great attachment to Ikkyo, and bypass many other tactics (e.g. striking) that are more in harmony with what is happening. Additionally, we may come to the training itself, its customary form, and see it as fulfilling all conditions either martial or spiritual.

All of these things are highly problematic in my opinion, in my experience. What is most troubling of all is that we are often blind to our attachment to the training culture, and so we do not see how “train harder” is often more part of the problem than part of the solution. Thus, for me personally, I cannot say that every shortcoming in our training can be solved simply by training harder and/or by taking our training more seriously. Rather, I would suggest that a wisdom has to penetrate the whole of our training – a wisdom that has each of us being more critical (i.e. examining) of ourselves than any outside party could ever be. When we are capable of bringing this level of self-examination to our own training, we will see the context of each customary training aspect – customary training will cease to present itself as a single universal meant to address all things spiritual and/or martial. In the end, as we become dissatisfied with the view of seeing customary training as a single universal, we begin to wonder how we ever thought such a thing. (As George mentioned: “It is not because the people intent on developing these methods are not aware of or are not interested in the higher levels of sophistication which Aikido contains. They are simply aware that there is NO WAY to access these levels by bypassing the hard training that initial stage of foundational training should contain.”)

Thanks,
dmv

mikebalko
04-18-2007, 06:22 PM
How is sparring, striking with kickboxing tactics one on one with a couple of half hearted attempts at groin kicks that never land thrown in, relevant to aikido? When you are exchanging blows with your partner at that distance, dancing, circling, backing up, shooting and ground grappling/pounding, how does that take into account the possibility of concealed weapons (his, yours or both) or other attackers. Freestyle training like this is a good idea, it is the specific tactics that you use which are deficient and cause you to come to conclusions which do not fit with my experience.

1) Uke "committing" to an attack alone has nothing to do with an inabiltiy for nage to strike uke. If uke attacks like in your videos he can be hit whether he (A) stalks/ taunts with feints, pot shots from the outside or (B) comes forward aggressively. If he chooses option (B) he just gets hit worse, either method of unskilled attack without knowledge of how to not present any openings for strikes are not designed to be dealt with by an aikido throw but a strike. One exception being when someone is so inexperienced, out of control and uncoordinated that he strikes at you with all of his strength in a telegraphed manner. Moving out of the way alone often will cause him to lose balance or even fall, so will everything else you do with varying degrees of damage to your attacker. If uke doesn't foolishly put all of his strength behind the strike, he can get his balance back and resist nage's aikido technique. Thinking you can gauge if he is using 100% of his strength as opposed to 80% is impractical when hitting him does the job either way.

2) If both participants agree not to strike as in experiment 2, aikido waza where nage remains standing can be performed effortlessly as a counter to any committed grappling attack which attempts to lock and control, throw or take down, however both partners should start at a close distance, almost body to body (where you are too close to strike effectively) and not back away any further at any point during the exercise.

3) Shooting in for a tackle at a striker who stays on the outside, dances and circles, (usually due to a reach advantage) is suicidal as can be observed in the second Liddell v.s. Couture fight. This tactic is effective( one on one, both fighters unarmed) when uke attacks aggressively as in clip 1, as can be seen in the first Liddell v.s. Couture fight.

4) In experiment 3, this will not necessarily encourage uke to attack aggressively with grappling, but to be cautious or just exchange with you toe to toe, the better kickboxer will knock out the other, (after eating a few shots himself the vast majority of the time, even if he lands the first one) should he adopt this kickboxing style of standup as a defensive striking method. Wearing a cup and incorporating groin kicks is a good start, but get some eye protection and open your hands! When you hear your partner's finger nails click against the goggles you are wearing, stop. If you want to train to defend yourself against the average guy, as nage take off your goggles and have uke wear gloves( so he can punch), goggles and a cup.

5) As can be seen in your videos, an aikido throw is not designed to deal with a type of attack which can be diffused by a simple strike as uke can resist the technique at any point forcing nage to resort to a strike anyway, increasing the time needed to dispose of his attacker and decreasing the efficiency of nage's entire defensive strategy. Even if uke does not resist the technique and follows along after his initial "attack" where he is open to be hit as a first defensive response by nage, uke can still be hit even worse due to the vulnerable positions he allows himself to be placed in by "blending" with nage.

I have a problem with the following statement:

"From here, as we can see (inversely) in the video, we should note how many of Aikido's prescribed ukemi responses are actually expected responses mature attackers make in order to not be debilitated by such things as a crude rain of punches and kicks. Additionally, we can say that Aikido's prescribed ukemi responses are actually expected responses mature attackers make as a result of being committed to their victory (i.e. the defeat of the defender) and thus to their attack."

The way aikido is generally taught and practiced, uke is "taught" to attack in manner which makes him easier to hit than most untrained attackers are! As can be seen in clip 4, at least your attacker keeps his hands up as opposed to letting one hand hang dead at his side, he makes an attempt not to telegraph strikes which might actually have some effect if they were to land on a sensitive area (as opposed to an empty handed shomen/yokomen uchi) and balls up in a fetal position in a feeble attempt to shield himself from your blows when he is laying on the ground and you are in a position of dominance. This is still more effective than any attempt to protect yourself once you have been pinned flat on your belly with your face in the mat after not resisting an ikkyo because your instructor could not make the technique work any other way so he tells you "it is the only way for you to learn without injuring you" (when the exact opposite is true) while at the same time he claims that "aikido protects your attacker" (no matter how incompetent he is or what he does). Another one of my favorites is "don't roll away to safety when you feel you are in a vulnerable position and you no longer have any intelligent offensive options available to you, allow me to put you in a positon where I can (1) hit you (2) slam you into the mat face first or with a breakfall instead of getting your arm broken ( both of which you could easily stop/counter ) so that I can practice my pin afterwards" :crazy: :hypno:

senshincenter
04-19-2007, 12:59 PM
Hi Mike,

Thanks for writing.

I’ll try to reply, assuming I understand your positions, while noting that it is difficult to get across what one is talking about here – which I why I have made use of video. If you have some video to illustrate your points, that would be very much appreciated – if you could post them. Without the video, if I have failed to understand your positions, please forgive.

Your first question: What does this have to do with Aikido?

Answer: I wasn’t trying to capture all of Aikido via these drills/experiments. So, undoubtedly, there are clearly parts of Aikido that have little or nothing to do with what we are attempting to illustrate in the videos. You are right in that sense. For example, your concerns with weapons and with multiple attackers, but also Aikido’s ethical positions and its spiritual cultivations, have little to nothing to do with these experiments. What these experiments were pertaining to were the more generally practiced waza of modern Aikido as it is practiced in most places all over the world. In particular, we were experimenting with what constituted an “opening” for said waza and thereby what constituted a better opening for other tactics that are not usually part of the general Aikido curriculum. This also led us to ponder over whatever relationship could exist between the two. In that sense, I feel these drills aptly explore when/where, for example, a striking opening presents itself in light of when/where a locking or throwing (as found in general Aikido waza) presents itself. From this perspective, these experiments are very relevant to Aikido practice.

1. I understand that any attacker can be struck under most or even all situations. However, not all situations are the same and thus not all tactical responses should be considered equal. There are places where certain tactics work better than others, etc. For example, if an attacker has 100 lbs on a defender, and said attacker is running in balanced and aggressively, applying an onslaught of offensive pressure, the defender may be able to “hit” the attacker (from wherever on the spectrum of tactical yin and yang) but the effectiveness of such strikes in the end require higher degrees of accuracy, coordination, and timing, which in turn start to take the tactic away from its true tactical opening (i.e. a still target is much easy to hit, must easier to apply power upon, and much easier to measure). In short, the principle of tactical advantage implies that a strike can “never do it both ways.” (Your position in point #2 seems to be suggesting this as well.) There are places and times when strikes work best. Additionally, I would say that knowing or being aware of how much pressure an attacker is employing is not impractical but something that is totally necessary and paramount to both striking and throwing tactics. To understand this point, one is advised to look away from weight class match-ups – looking to mismatches. For example – see the following video and note where and when the striker’s strikes stop and start finding their tactical advantage:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aovZKxdnpJM

2. It is not that both partners opted not to strike in experiment 2. Actually, the “attacker” opted only to come in “cautiously” without what we can call aggressive pressure. The position of the article was that coming in this way made one more open to strikes than to throws. It’s not that throws cannot be performed in this case, it’s that it’s not as tactically advantageous to opt for throws over strikes. Additionally, experiment 2 dealt with the “coming in” of the attacker, not the final destination of the attacker.

3. I can concede the tactically viability of what you propose here but my agreeing comes less and less when one is not dealing with equally weighted bodies. Additionally, it should be noted that we are not saying that a defender cannot come in with some sort of grappling maneuver, only that under such circumstances the tactical advantageous becomes smaller and smaller, as the tactical advantage of other tactics become larger and larger.

4. Here we are addressing two folks that can both strike, but where one is looking to be the aggressor. We are not just dealing with two folks that can strike that are waiting for a bell to ring (i.e. sit on the outside and exchange blows). The latter could be related but it doesn’t entirely capture the former. An example of this could be taken from your examples, from nearly every Liddell fight – folks get hit coming in, folks start coming in more aggressively. When they don’t, they get hit again, only harder. When they do, Liddell looks to other tactics. Note in the following video where Liddell’s strikes are most effective and least effective in relation to when his opponent is applying aggressive pressure and when he is not. Additionally, note when Liddell opts for other tactics other than striking in the face of his opponent’s aggressive pressure and how these other tactics compare in terms of advantage to his striking tactics that are thrown in similar situations:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoMzRLGukxA

5. The first point you make here is our point. The second point is not our point. I think the two videos posted in this reply equally demonstrate that the tactical advantage of striking goes down in relation to how much aggressive pressure an attacker is employing. Other than this, I cannot comment on your “blending” since this is not something I’m practiced in.

thanks again,
dmv