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Recent discussions on various bulletin boards have prompted me to think a bit about the way we train in aikido. Nearly every aspect of training (weapons, testing/ranking, atemi, cooperation/resisting, realistic vs. stylized attacks, etc) is discussed at great length on the Aikiweb and Aikido Journal boards. Every time I think I've read the last word on a subject, it comes up again on a slightly different tack.
The problem is that most of these discussions eventually come down to an individual's goals and expectations. A further problem is that one's goals and expectations will probably change during the course of training. Finally, there is a persistent idea that aikido as an art can be considered apart from its practitioners. This is the root of all the "is aikido effective or not" threads.
I believe these types of conversations can be very beneficial. The can lead to more informed training and provide part of a mental framework for integrating what one learns in class. At the same time, some of the assumptions behind the discussions are very odd, or even flat wrong, from my perspective. Over the next several entries, I'm going to record my thoughts on the various aspects of aikido training. Ideally, I'll revisit them and refine them many times over the coming years.
I'm organizing my thoughts on the uke/nage relationship for my next entry. I'll need to touch on the nature of our attacks, resistance versus cooperation, the speed of our practice, and the value of l
Monday, my wife and I came back from a week long vacation celebrating our wedding anniversary. I missed three training sessions, but the vacation was wonderful!
Tuesday's class went well. It's good to see the same group of guys showing up regularly. We worked on two variations of ryotetori kokyunage with a pivot that I was unfamiliar with (I already know one variation). This is a good thing since our sensei has set a test date of June 14, and that particular technique is one I need to know.
I've read some very interesting things lately about aikido; many of them contradictory and many of the highly critical of aikido. The topics range from the effectiveness of aikido techniques to the realism of the attacks we use for training. In the end, the opinions on those matters reflect the state of development of the person holding them. I think some of the opinions are very valuable, some are dead wrong, and for some, I just don't have the experience to evaluate.
The bottom line is that there is no shortcut to experience. I can learn some things from other people's experiences and stories. But I'll learn the most from my own practice. It is best to view books, video tapes, bulletin board postings, and even a teacher's instruction, as guides for my own practice. They are not doctrine that should be swallowed whole without critical thought or testing though experience. The flip side is that I need to be patient enough to give my experience time to catch up with my ideas.
Oddly, I've been reluctant to post my thoughts on the war in Iraq. This is an issue that can deeply divide people and there is much fanatical talk on all sides of the issue. But the war is a big event and even though things are apparently going well now, I feel that an examination of ethics, aikido, and the war is in order.
Pretty much everything is arguable when it comes to aikido. Conventional wisdom has it that aikido is not a religion, yet from all accounts, O'Sensei saw his aikido practice in religious terms. The Omoto religion was a profound influence on O'Sensei and therefore a major influence on aikido. I don't know much about the Omoto religion and nothing at all about the Kojiki -- a religious text from which O'Sensei apparently drew a lot of inspiration. (for more on this, see "TOUCHING THE ABSOLUTE: AIKIDO VS. RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY
by Peter Goldsbury http://www.aikidojournal.com/new/art...sp?ArticleID=2). At the same time, O'Sensei did not require his students to agree -- or even understand! -- his religious views.
In any event, it is clear that O'Sensei saw aikido as having a much larger relevance than just self-defense. For example, he said:
Aikido is not a technique to fight with or defeat an enemy. It is the way to reconcile the world and make human beings one family.
The real Art of Peace is not to sacrifice a single one of your warriors to defeat an enemy. Vanquish your foes by always keeping yourself in a safe and unassailab
Some day, we're all going to look back on this winter, tell stories, and our grandchildren will think we're nuts. Sunday night and most of Monday (April 6th and 7th) Central Pennsylvania got about 4-5" of snow. Early to mid March is about the latest that we get any snow around here. It seems the perfect cap to a very snowy winter.
The snow didn't keep me from making it to the dojo tonight (Tuesday); it has mostly melted. The cold, damp weather plays hell on my injured joints.
Still, it was a pretty good class, and I'm feeling pretty good about the techniques we worked on tonight.
This past Thursday I had a bit of a breakthrough. For months now I've been babying a hyper extended elbow. Last month, I strained the same side's shoulder. Thursday we worked on gokyo and I was afraid I'd either re-injure everything or simply not be able to take the ukemi.
The last time we worked on gokyo, I knew ahead of time that it was coming up and I worried about it for the week prior to that class. I was right to worry (or so I thought), as I couldn't take the ukemi for it. It hurt too much. Even worse, I had trouble doing the technique and ended up very frustrated.
For some reason things went a lot better on Thursday. For one thing, my elbow and shoulder are feeling better. I also asked my partners (we were in a group of three) to take it slowly -- which is different than taking it easy -- on the injured side. To my surprise, I found I could take the ukemi without a problem. This was a big boost for my confidence.
Most importantly, though, I saw how small and efficient a movement gokyo really is. I'm finding that I tend to make our pinning techniques more complicated than they need to be. The problem lies in my tendency to think of things in a step by step manner and to put pauses between the steps. I'm finally beginning to learn how to do the techniques more fluidly with more efficient motion. It feels good that something has finally clicked.
Part of the breakthrough is due to the fact that I was working with one of my sempai. For some reason, my sempai
Yay! I could train tonight! I held back a bit because it's still a little hard for me to breath, but overall I felt pretty good.
I've been thinking a lot about power recently -- partly as continued fallout from re-reading Dueling with O'Sensei, partly because of a visit from a friend I hadn't seen for four years, and partly because of a comment my wife made recently.
One of the essays in Ellis's book deals with abuse of power. It was an interesting essay because he highlighted the relationship between teacher and student -- and the inherent potential for abuse. I've never been abused, but I know those who have (not by a martial arts instructor, but by family). I got to thinking that any time there is a relationship based on trust and unequal power (student/teacher), there is a potential for abuse.
So, the first thing I wondered is what keeps some relationships from straying from one of shared or equal power to one of unequal power? I think part of it is that some people have the strength (often borne of painful experience) to never tolerate abusive behavior. My friend, whom I hadn't seen for several years, is divorcing her husband of less than two years because he was unfaithful to her. This was not abuse, but betrayal. My friend, drawing on the support of her family and close friends, after trying to work things out with her husband, that her power lay with her ability to leave the situation. It was painful for her, but staying would have been more painful.
I'm still sick, but I'm getting better. I should be able to train tomorrow evening, but I most likely won't be at the top of my game.
For the past month or so, we have been slowly gearing up for a test. Overall, I feel pretty confident, but I'm still going over the required techniques and other requirements in my head. There's a new round of attacks for which I only sorta have the Japanese names memorized.
What I do, and what I'll do until the test when I'm not actually in class, is perform the movements without an uke -- air aikido. I visualize the attack, and practice the movements that I need to do. I also practice putting the names for the attacks and techniques to the movements.
I didn't train last night...much. My wife, Robin, drove me down to the dojo and waited while I opened up for the open mat session. I helped answer some questions on weapons work, empty hand technique, and ukemi. I have a lot to learn about teaching.
As soon as our sensei showed up, we talked for a few minutes, and then Robin and I went home. I had to chuckle a little bit; Robin said she doesn't like to watch me train too much because she's afriad I'll get hurt (which is a valid fear, I guess). The part that made me chuckle is that she said she had an urge to run out on the mat and tell people to be nice to me. :-D
The title of this journal entry is "Drew the fanboy", here's why. A few years back, I bought "Dueling with O'Sensei" by Ellis Amdur. At that point in my training, I found the book useful and interesting. Then, this past January, I attended a seminar of his. It was a great seminar and I learned a lot.
Ellis (as he prefers to be called) has a very intelligent and logical view on atemi that helps explain the quote that aikido is 99% (or whatever high percentage you want) atemi. His argument is perfectly explained in the book, but a lot of it didn't gel until after I had actually seen him explain it in person and worked on the exercises he gave us. I reread the book after the seminar and a whole bunch of things really fell into place.
Aside from that, there was another lesson I learned at the seminar. I'm a big guy, very stable and difficult to force into te
The journals seem like a neat idea, so I'll give one a try.
We are gearing up for a test soon, maybe next month. I and another student will likely be tested for two kyu ranks: 5th to 3rd. Overall, I'm feeling pretty good about it, but I'm a little nervous.
Part of my nervousness is due to the fact that for a couple of months, I didn't train at all as I was recovering from an injury. Sometime in late January, I started training regularly again and things seem to be going well.
I won't, however, be training tonight. I've come down with a case of tonsilitis and I simply don't feel up to class. I have to go down to the dojo (a 40 minute drive) anyway because I told everyone I'd be there early to open up for an open mat session. I think I'll open up, get some of the beginners started on some exercises, wait for sensei to show up, and then head back home to bed. :-(
I'll miss Saturday's class too 'cause a friend is coming up from Florida to visit. Geez, I hope next week is better.