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-   -   The MOST important technique? (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=11532)

TomGorman 12-28-2006 09:42 PM

The MOST important technique?
 
I have made an observation after, well... a few years of training in just a couple of arts, most years in aikido. And I think that my observation goes right to the heart of why we aikidoka are so often accused of being posers, fakes, and phonies.
We blend, experiencing a mutual sharing of energies, uke and nage connecting to each other's centers, culminating in a quasi-mystical, psuedo-erotic, oneness wherein one party gently controls the other with healing energy and a graceful turn of the wrist, returning to the earth the ki we so briefly borrowed, basking in the afterglow of aetheric bliss.
Of course, I am poking fun a bit and engaging in hyperbole to highlight something I think we are all familiar with: aikido exchanges are idealized and choreographed to the point of absurdity. 99% - yes, I sincerely mean 99% - of the aikidoka attacks I have seen are so wimpy, so flacid, so telegraphed from so far away, so unfocused and lacking in ki, so... well, unrecognizable as attacks that they cannot honestly be called such. Waving my hand in the air over my head as I stand seven feet from my victim and then sending a telltale 'hop' to signal "I'm about to run at you and hit you on your head!" is silliness for anyone beyond the level of white belt. Yet I have seen that exact behavior (no hyperbole this time) in demonstration after demonstration given by *high*-level black belts. Are we learning to defend ourselves against a slapfighter from high school? What peculiar madness is this for a "martial" art? Oh, let us not forget the ever popular pitched battles of running-around-in-circles-as-I-try-to-grab-your-lapels, the holding-my-arms-straight-down-at-my-sides-as-multiple-attackers-assail-me-and-never-go-for-my-face-neck-or-back-of-head defense, and the constant holding-my-attacking-limb-straight-out-all-the-time-even-when-my-attack-missed practice. I could go on but all of us who have trained this way and/or seen training like this know the numerous examples to be given. Only those who have never been genuinely attacked outside of a dojo setting could mistake this stuff for anything like the real deal.
"So what?" some say. So what? A good, smooth, powerful defensive technique has a good, strong, surprising, focused attack as it's raison d'etre!! How could I even have knowledge of a proper defensive technique without something to test it against? Jello against jello is proof of nothing and a sword will move through jello as if it were never there. Our attacks are like jello and we pat ourselves on the back for having defended ourselves. What happens when the sword comes? Who will stand then? Only those who have tested against the sword.
"Aikido is not a striking art nor an aggressive one." Of course that's true and I agree that we do not desire it to be that. Yet we hope to train ourselves to face agression and neutralize it. We have to know what that means on the physical level to legitimately gain confidence on the mental level and confidence is vital to the success of any endeavor. One goal of almost any art is unshakeable confidence in ourselves and our art. Our "martial" art.
Learning how to deliver powerful, focused, ki-filled attacks with our hands and feet and weapons, attacks that do not give away our balance nor leave our limbs hanging in space for an easy grab, that come from any and every angle, remains without appreciation among aikidoka generally.
Strikes are the most important techniques for without them we have nothing by which to judge rightly the value of our defenses.

I am, quite sincerely, unable to see past this logic but I value an open mind. Am I wrong? Why do you think so? Thoughtful feedback is most welcome.

L. Camejo 12-28-2006 10:15 PM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
Pseudo erotic??:) I have never been accused of such. It's either all erotic or nothing at all. :D

Assuming you actually want an answer to this ages old, done to death a billion times question given above I'd ask you to use the Forum Search function of this site using the words "striking" "effectiveness", "street", "self defence", "reality" etc. and read some of the many threads that have addressed this question in the past.

If there is still a question after reading those, please post it here.

Just my 2 cents. There is a lot of Aikido that does not train the way you describe above and therefore have no issue youo are referring to.

Gambatte.
LC:ai::ki:

xuzen 12-28-2006 10:20 PM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
Quote:

Tom Gorman wrote:
...<snip>... tl;dr...<snip>
I am, quite sincerely, unable to see past this logic but I value an open mind. Am I wrong? Why do you think so? Thoughtful feedback is most welcome.

I am, quite sincerely, unable to read past the few lines but I value a good write up. So if you could be so kind to paragraph, include less ranting and be more direct to the point, I would appreciate, thank you.

Well, you said you wanted feedback, no?

Boon.

Kevin Wilbanks 12-28-2006 11:31 PM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
The only problem I see here is that you are still practicing Aikido - either altogether or wherever it is you do it. If you earnestly seek out more alive or "realistic" training you can find it. How far do you want to go? If you want to emphasize striking, there are many forms of boxing and kick-boxing available. If you want anything goes, there are many schools and gyms that practice hybrid training and training for MMA fighting and tournaments. If you want to take it further, you can find places where people don Blauer suits and practice at a level just a few centimeters from trying to kill each other. If you want absolutely real realism, why not cruise bars in the rougher parts of town and look for real fights? It sounds to me like you are complaining about your own lack of imagination or gumption or aren't being honest about the fact that your real hobby is complaining. Lots of people are satisfied with their own Aikido training and what it does for them, if you aren't, move on.

Kevin Leavitt 12-29-2006 12:34 AM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
Have to agree with Larry and Kevin above. I study aikido. I also don Blauer suits and train full force these days.

We pretty much use decent attacks back home in my aikido dojo, centered, balanced, controlled, always ready to reverse.

The thing I think we have to remember is this. Expectations, goals, and endstates.

Why are you studying what you are studying? Don't try and make Aikido something it was never designed to do.

I think most of us from time to time, myself included, try and turn aikido into what we want it to be, and aikido has it's own goals. We should "let go" and learn the lessons it is designed to teach us....not try and beat it into something we want it to be.


Kevin Willibank's advice above is good advice, and good learning and perspective can come out of it.

Aikido is simply not going to turn you into a efficient fighitng machine, but it may teach you a thing or two about humanity.

eyrie 12-29-2006 01:07 AM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
I wouldn't say striking is the most important technique. To me, the most important "technique" is kokyu. Without kokyu, striking, throwing, etc. is meaningless, at least from an aikido perspective.

Aristeia 12-29-2006 02:42 AM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
I take on board what the Kevin's have to say. Aikido is aikido and if you want MMA go train it. But isn't there a mid ground? As Larry has alluded to, this type of thread comes up regularly. Regularly enough that perhaps we want to ask ourselves - are there enough people within the Aikido community dissatisfied with how we practice that we should look at it?

I agree with the original post in that the vast majority of Aikido attacks I've seen have been over committed telegraphed and unrealistic. Sure I've heard plenty of people say the dojo *they* train in doesn't suffer from that but most of the practive I've seen live or on video belies that.

And it annoys me because I truly believe aikido to be a wonderful martial art. And I truly believe that some of the seniors I've trained under can utilise it in "realistic" circumstances. But I think the majority of practitioners get stuck in a training method appropriate for white belts. There is often less of an expectation of failure than I've witnessed in some other arts. BJJers expect to get tapped at all levels, judoka expect to get thrown, kareteka expect to get hit, but many or most Aikido dan grades do not expect to get hit or fail in their technique. That is a cultural feature of aikido which results in attackers not pushing the attack for fear their nage *will* fail and that that's not acceptable.

Or it could be that I"ve just had too much wine tonight.

graham 12-29-2006 06:46 AM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
I would have thought that the most important techniques were soft words and kind eyes.

That may not work in the cage ;) , but it's kept me alive on the streets; you know, "in real life".

Mary Eastland 12-29-2006 07:26 AM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
Lol.....
the most important technique is being fully present in reality.
Mary

L. Camejo 12-29-2006 08:14 AM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
Quote:

Mary Eastland wrote:
Lol.....
the most important technique is being fully present in reality.
Mary

I like that answer. :)

Awareness of reality is paramount before one starts talking what to do when said reality decides to get up close and personal.

LC:ai::ki:

DonMagee 12-29-2006 08:29 AM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
Breathing too, if your not breathing, then self defense is a mute point.

Kevin Leavitt 12-29-2006 01:34 PM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
I would agree that having a smile and calm, confident aura is probably the best thing you can have! Great post all.

Ketsan 12-29-2006 08:07 PM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
Martial arts in general but Aikido especially are abstract. You need to remember that there are many layers to Aikido. The closest you get to practical technique is kata, which yes is choreographed so that you can learn the technique easily.
A lot of Aikido training is just (as I see it) exercises which at first glance make no sence but which teach you things, mai-ai, timing, body movement, breathing, which help you perfect the kata. Ultimately though the wackyness all teaches something useful even if it isn't immediately recognisable just what it is you're being taught or how that relates to the rest of the art.


Figuring out how to use Aikido techniques (which you learned by doing kata) against a resisting opponent is left up to you for some reason, but I figure the whole thing works like judo, you set up your opponent with one technique and bring them down using their resistance with another technique. Not sure if it's meant to be like that but it works for me.

This, I figure, is where all your ki, harmonising, blending of energies and all your "pseudo-erotic" stuff comes in, simply because I can't see where it would come into play in kata; after their attack uke is perfectly stationary, so to be in harmony with them you should also be perfectly stationary, not swinging them around in a circle and dumping them on their behind.
In Judo randori there is harmonisation and redirection and so that forms my basis of my understanding of how Aikido should be used in a practical sense.

Or maybe I'm just doing a wacky form of Judo. :D

Aristeia 12-29-2006 08:15 PM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
Quote:

Alex Lawrence wrote:

Figuring out how to use Aikido techniques (which you learned by doing kata) against a resisting opponent is left up to you for some reason, but I figure the whole thing works like judo, you set up your opponent with one technique and bring them down using their resistance with another technique. Not sure if it's meant to be like that but it works for me.

*nods* I think that is common. So the question becomes - should it be left to individuals or are many clubs stuck in a training method most suitable to beginners?

Kevin Wilbanks 12-30-2006 01:09 PM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
Quote:

Michael Fooks wrote:
*nods* I think that is common. So the question becomes - should it be left to individuals or are many clubs stuck in a training method most suitable to beginners?

I would say that if you are looking for practical application against resistance and non-aikido style attacks, then yes, mostly. Perhaps the problem is that many places don't have enough advanced members or class time to have regular, truly advanced classes. At most dojos I've been to, they only have a few class slots per week, and the 'advanced' class just means there are no raw beginners there who need special help with their basic falling skills.

Aristeia 12-30-2006 03:31 PM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
Quote:

Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
, and the 'advanced' class just means there are no raw beginners there who need special help with their basic falling skills.

Unfortunately that's my experience as well. What I'd most likely to see is the setting of a culture that allows and even expects failure from nage. I remember teaching a couple of classes where I told the group that if as nage they're not getting clobbered from time to time it means either uke was going through the motions or nage wasn't testing to see where their limits were in terms of timing, entering etc. Unfortunately I just got a bunch of blank looks back.

Kevin Wilbanks 12-30-2006 11:31 PM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
Quote:

Michael Fooks wrote:
Unfortunately that's my experience as well. What I'd most likely to see is the setting of a culture that allows and even expects failure from nage. I remember teaching a couple of classes where I told the group that if as nage they're not getting clobbered from time to time it means either uke was going through the motions or nage wasn't testing to see where their limits were in terms of timing, entering etc. Unfortunately I just got a bunch of blank looks back.

The logical extension of this idea is that in order to practice to a level that you'll be ready for "real" fighting, you'll not only fail frequently, you'll also get injured frequently. If the punch you get clobbered by doesn't damage you when you don't get out of the way, it wasn't a very real one - same for attempts to break limbs, damage joints, etc... For this reason, there's a definite limit to how far I want to take realism in training. I have enough injury trouble as it is.

I agree though that if uke goes down every time and you never get hit or reversed, the training is too easy, too basic - at least for my taste. I wouldn't say that in an absolute sense though, as many people seem to get what they are looking for out of training that you and I might find wimpy, and I know there are people who find my preferred level wimpy.

I would also prefer more room for creativity in training than many or probably most Aikido places endorse. I like to experiment a lot - even with things that may end up being dumb or unmartial - and I would rather change technique and try something more appropriate in an instance where the one I tried to do isn't going to work than force it or just quit and start over. I don't mean degenerating into goofing off or ignoring the instruction, but sometimes. I had pretty good latitude to do this at my home school, but it seems to be an exception among schools I have visited.

Kevin Leavitt 12-31-2006 07:13 AM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
I am doing a bunch of experimenting these days.

I am fortunate to be in charge of training at one of the Army's premier Combative Training Centers.

In terms of martial training, I have a pretty big budget and little risk of liability, and a pool of soldiers willing (for the most part), to train.

We try and prepare guys for realism as best as possible. It is expensive, time consuming, yes, you can get injuries (people to end up in the hospital or on the injured list from time to time), and did I say expensive.

To train properly you have to use what I call a layering strategy. You simply cannot train totally realistically or people get hurt and there is no learning.

Layering might be practicing BJJ ground skills, practicing boxing skills, going to the range and practicing CQM skills. Occassionally we will pull out the armor and padded suits and go NHB. For those that are interested in refining things, I might work on some aikido drills to encourage relaxation, breathing, timing, distance etc.

I am in the process of getting a couple of 100 thousand dollars worth of gear from Blauer along with training from them.

We send our instructors through 4 levels of trainng that is about three months at 40 hours per week....

So what is the point I am making.....

We are STILL not able to train to perfection, it takes a butt load of time, and a butt load of money to create the ultimate warrior. Money and time that most of us don't have.


I think what Kevin Willibanks is saying is pretty good. I think we have to recognize that we are not going to be able to train ideally, but yet, we can certainly improve the way we train a great deal through creativity and experimentation.

I think we need to go into the dojo, listen to our instructors, don't interupt, train, and then go home and assimilate it into our own genre. I think everyone has a responsibility to do this. We must take someone elses lessons and figure out a way to make it our own art.

No two people will be exactly the same. In the end we will all have our own style, our own way of doing things, and our own opinions.

In my current training, I like the way we are doing things...A couple of us get together and train regularly, we have no sensei, but work out our things together as a collective group. It does seem to work, we are all open for criticism and exploration. In the 2 years I have been doing this, we have not really degenerated into just a bunch of guys doing what we want to do, but we are moving forward to a common goal of martial refinement.

Niadh 12-31-2006 11:46 AM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
[quote=Michael Fooks]
.... I think the majority of practitioners get stuck in a training method appropriate for white belts. There is often less of an expectation of failure than I've witnessed in some other arts. BJJers expect to get tapped at all levels, judoka expect to get thrown, kareteka expect to get hit, but many or most Aikido dan grades do not expect to get hit or fail in their technique. That is a cultural feature of aikido which results in attackers not pushing the attack for fear their nage *will* fail and that that's not acceptable.
[quote]
I find the times when I fail in a technique, especially when attacked by a beginner that "doesn't know what is supposed to hapopen" the MOST instructive to me. These instances help me to really see wher I am getting sloppy with MY technique, or not controlling ukes center or.....
Niadh

kokyu 12-31-2006 06:46 PM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
There's a great article on Aikido as a fighting art that sort of ties into this discussion...

Aristeia 01-01-2007 12:20 AM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
Quote:

Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
The logical extension of this idea is that in order to practice to a level that you'll be ready for "real" fighting, you'll not only fail frequently, you'll also get injured frequently. If the punch you get clobbered by doesn't damage you when you don't get out of the way, it wasn't a very real one - same for attempts to break limbs, damage joints, etc... For this reason, there's a definite limit to how far I want to take realism in training. I have enough injury trouble as it is.

I take your point here. It's not necessarily a case of doing mma style training, my point holds true even within our usual training paradigm. How often do you see dan grades being hit with a shomen uchi because they're experimenting with their timing etc
Quote:

I agree though that if uke goes down every time and you never get hit or reversed, the training is too easy, too basic - at least for my taste. I wouldn't say that in an absolute sense though, as many people seem to get what they are looking for out of training that you and I might find wimpy, and I know there are people who find my preferred level wimpy.
I agree. People derive a great deal of satisfaction and personal development from trainning that is very unmartial. Which is well and good, provided everyone is honest about what they are doing I have zero problem with it.
Quote:

I would also prefer more room for creativity in training than many or probably most Aikido places endorse. I like to experiment a lot - even with things that may end up being dumb or unmartial - and I would rather change technique and try something more appropriate in an instance where the one I tried to do isn't going to work than force it or just quit and start over. I don't mean degenerating into goofing off or ignoring the instruction, but sometimes. I had pretty good latitude to do this at my home school, but it seems to be an exception among schools I have visited.
Exactly. I think this is part of what I've been trying to get at. It's like we spend a bunch of time practicing scales but never get to improvise our jazz as it were. And I find myself in the unusual position of disagreeing with Kevin L. We spend so much time in formal classes I think saying "it's up to you to go and take that stuff and integrated it" is not acceptable. I think Kevin W as hit on it - there should be more "unstructured" time in classes to allow for more open practice.

Mike Galante 01-01-2007 01:20 AM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
For me the most important technique is the one which, in the moment, uses the least ki for the most harmony.

The argument about weak attacks is a great one. How can anyone hope to learn without uke giving anything. For me, good ukemi is where there has been a strong initial attack with much ki, committing all the way, then if nage leads, then uke loses and never regains full balance. But, for example uke gives a "stingy" attack holding back, it may be impossible to do the technique. But if uke is not being honest, and wants to trick nage, then, especially for the beginner, this will make progress difficult at best.

In my humble opinion:

What is fighting?

The attacker wants something from nage.

The attacker is incomplete in himself he wants some of your energy, maybe your love. He needs a teacher but does not know it.

The attacker would not attack if he could help it.

If the attacker had inner peace he would not attack.

You practice Aikido, you have inner peace, he wants it, he would like to learn how to obtain it.

He attacks, you guide him into submission, at first he feels afraid, that you may hurt him, but, surprise! By the time he has realized, you have not hurt him!

You have opened him, enlightened him, you gave him what he wanted with an open heart you taught him, he learned.

He now feels no malice, just gratitude that this "superior" being with his gentleness, loved me instead of punishing and resisting me.

Conflict resolved, Technique complete.

You have succeeded in bringing heaven down to earth, the aim of Aikido. The way of harmony with spirit.

So simple and easy!
(yeah right)

HAPPY NEW YEAR ONE AND ALL

Love, Peace, Harmony, God Bless,

Mike Galante

Kevin Wilbanks 01-01-2007 02:31 AM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
Quote:

Michael Fooks wrote:
Exactly. I think this is part of what I've been trying to get at. It's like we spend a bunch of time practicing scales but never get to improvise our jazz as it were. And I find myself in the unusual position of disagreeing with Kevin L. We spend so much time in formal classes I think saying "it's up to you to go and take that stuff and integrated it" is not acceptable. I think Kevin W as hit on it - there should be more "unstructured" time in classes to allow for more open practice.

I think it probably seems more sensible to KL because he does this for a living, and his his own training facilities. Most of us don't have our own mats or space, or an auxilliary martial arts club in which to do our own 'jazz'. Even if we had an option to get into something like that, would we have the time, the money to pay dues to two clubs, etc...?

Ideally, to my preference, I think the kind of training we are describing should become a regular, integral part of things after one has been training a few years. Perhaps what we are describing is introducing free-play and 'realism' training into the Aikido curriculum in the same way that other arts have competition or sparring. I wonder if we are talking about spawning a whole new art. Like many have said, globalization, the internet, and the rise of MMA competition fighting have really changed the way we perceive martial arts. Maybe it is time for Aikido to change or for it to shrink and something else that is related, which has prominent Aikido elements as well as current 'aliveness' elements in it to grow.

L. Camejo 01-01-2007 07:20 AM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
I think the problem is not with Aikido training as originally intended by Ueshiba M. but the later superimposition of pacificst idealism upon something that was originally intended as a form of Budo. Ueshiba M. was not a pacifist. This information can be found in interviews with his son and can be attested to by many of his deshi.

Folks talk about pre-war and post-war Aikido, often indicating that the former had a more live martial edge and the latter was more "spiritual" in orientation. The question is, even near his death was Ueshiba M.'s Aikido still martially sound (i.e. would you be thrown/locked/struck by him even if you did not want to be)? If the answer is yes, then it means that even though Ueshiba M. evolved in his spiritual maturity in his later years, it was not at the expense or exclusion of his martial edge.

If the above is true then how can we justify training in a non "live" manner. How can we support the practice by many to degenerate Budo training into dance and falsely enforced harmony as a result of dojo norms instead of through honest and true understanding of Aiki waza?

How can we manifest harmony with a serious aggressor who is bent on our own destruction if we do not first have the physical, mental and spiritual training and understanding of Aikido to deal with that aggression? The answer is: we cannot. It means that the only "harmony" that the majority of Aikido practitioners will ever understand or experience is that which is imposed in the dojo by rules, since the skill level and trainign methods needed to maintain harmony in any sort of resistant situatiojn are simply not developed. Iow true harmony and attainment of skill is sacrificed for a false harmony and attainment of "skills" that can only work within the controlled, protected environment of the dojo.

It is interesting that competitive Aikido is often bashed for having "rules" which "limit free expression of technique" when in fact those who train in a dead environment are using rules to excuse poor technical execution (for the sake of "being harmonious") and to force Uke to be unnaturally compliant even when they know that the waza will never work if a little resistance was used. In this case the rules that mandate harmony limit the free expression of one's will, i.e. the will to resist the technique and reveal your partner's flaws so he can honestly evaluate himself and find truth through his training.

I submit that Aikido itself does not need to change to allow for more competitive elements, sparring etc. The technically sound Aikido I know and have seen in other schools already exist. Environments where "live"training is practiced are found in many Aikido dojo across styles. The sad problem is that the "general" view of training and possibly the majority of training paints an opposite picture of what is supposed to be a highly efficient form of Budo where spiritual development is attained through the practice and deep understanding of physical technique.

Just my 5 cents. Sorry for the mini rant.
LC:ai::ki:

L. Camejo 01-01-2007 07:22 AM

Re: The MOST important technique?
 
Quote:

Kevin Leavitt wrote:
Have to agree with Larry and Kevin above. I study aikido. I also don Blauer suits and train full force these days.

Kevin I envy you man. What I would give to get one of those Blauer suits to practice with, especially for our self defence and DT classes. I hope I can afford one someday.

Hope training is coming along well.
LC:ai::ki:


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