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niall 05-18-2012 02:51 PM

Why Have Martial Arts Demonstrations?
 
Why Have Martial Arts Demonstrations?
by Niall Matthews



photo: teppotai enbu by kanko sekigahara
Budo is not a thing for show. Budo is a matter of life or death. So what is there to show?
Kinjo Asoh Sensei

In aikido demonstrations, the more advanced the persons executing the techniques and taking the falls are, the more balanced their minds, techniques and bodies become. As their kokyu or breathing becomes united, the artistic beauty of harmony emerges. This beauty is different from the elegant beauty of dancing or gymnastics. I would describe it as a severe beauty, that is, like an autumn frost.
Gozo Shioda Sensei

The martial arts are not theatre or entertainment. That is not the true Budo.
Taisen Deshimaru

I believe that it cannot be said that one's aikido is genuine unless his technique looks false or rigged to the eyes of observers.
Yoshio Sugino Sensei
Are martial arts demonstrations necessary?

And if they are necessary why are they necessary?

Many modern martial arts have tournaments. The All-Japan Judo Championships are held every year on 29 April at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. It is a very popular traditional event with no weight divisions. This year it was nice to see that the winner was the lightest champion for 40 years. On a global scale there are the World Judo Championships and the Olympics. Karate and kendo also have national and international championships.

Most aikido styles do not have tournaments because there is no concept of winners and losers in aikido. But many martial arts organizations and dojos hold demonstrations.

One reason for demonstrations is public relations. Demonstrations introduce martial arts to a wider audience. They can be a form of advertising.

Demonstrations can also be a good way to showcase individual styles and differences within the world of martial arts - different kobudo for example - or within a single martial art.

For students a demonstration is a chance to prepare seriously for an event. It's a little like the strict preparation for a test.

Also a demonstration can have the aim of bringing a dojo or an organization closer together. Everyone's energy is used for the same purpose. The demonstration is just one of the annual calendar of events. This is a positive and valuable reason and the one I like best.

So there are lots of reasons to have demonstrations.

But what is a demonstration? Performances at the All-Japan demonstration last just a couple of minutes. They start and end with a drumbeat.

At teachers meetings at the hombu dojo Hiroshi Isoyama sensei always asked us to try to go the student aikido demonstration at the Nippon Budokan. To encourage the next generation of aikidoka.

I talked about the All-Japan aikido demonstration before in No-touch aikido: defence.

Like Kinjo Asoh sensei Sadateru Arikawa sensei believed that aikido was not a thing for show. I was his uke at the hombu dojo for about thirteen years until his death. He did not participate in the All-Japan aikido demonstration. In all those years he only did one demonstration. He did that as a personal favour. It was in 1995 in Hibiya in Tokyo. A video of that demonstration was posted in this thread. It was nice to see that video again after many years. It was a very pure high-level demonstration.

In May every year the All-Japan Aikido Demonstration is held at the Nippon Budokan. In fact the Budokan was originally built for the judo events at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Aikido was a demonstration sport at those Olympics and Asoh sensei did the translation into English for the aikido demonstration. But for people all over the world the Budokan is more famous as a concert hall. I saw Bob Dylan play there once.

Niall

http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=3
interesting article about Yoshio Sugino sensei

http://cebuaikidokai.multiply.com/reviews/item/17
interview with Yoshio Sugino sensei

http://www.aikidojournal.com/article.php?articleID=102
interview with Hiroshi Isoyama sensei

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All-Jap..._Championships
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nippon_Budokan

my blog on aikiweb | my blog on wordpress

niall matthews 2012
Niall Matthews lives with his family in Japan. He teaches aikibudo and community self-defence courses and has taught budo for twenty-five years. He was the senior deshi of Kinjo Asoh Sensei, 7 dan Aikikai. He was the exclusive uke of Sadateru Arikawa Sensei, 9 dan Aikikai, at the hombu dojo in Tokyo for thirteen years until Arikawa Sensei's death in 2003. He has trained in several other martial arts to complement his aikido training, including judo (he has 4 dan from the Kodokan in Tokyo), kenjutsu (for about ten years) and karate (for about three years). He originally went to Japan as a staff member of the EU almost thirty years ago. He received 5 dan from Arikawa Sensei in 1995. This 5 dan is the last aikido dan he will receive in his life. His dojo is called Aikibudo Kokkijuku 合気武道克輝塾. Arikawa Sensei personally gave him the character for ki in kokki. It is the same character as teru in Sadateru - not the normal spelling of kokki 克己. It means you make your life shining and clear yourself.

aikishihan 05-18-2012 02:52 PM

Why Have Martial Arts Demonstrations?
 
Hi Niall, I am in sympathy with all the views above, and embrace most of them as intrinsically valid. For myself, I believe that embu, or demonstrations are another form of keiko. The sparse opportunities to experience stress in our training make testing and embu prime chances to incorporate all feelings of anxiety, hope, ambition, empathy and fear into one glorious outburst.

philipsmith 05-19-2012 07:50 AM

Re: Why Have Martial Arts Demonstrations?
 
Demonstartions for me are publicity - pure and simple.

BTW thanks for posting the video

graham christian 05-19-2012 11:02 AM

Re: Why Have Martial Arts Demonstrations?
 
Hi Niall. A question I have mused over too. I agree with all the points you make there and also that some or maybe many like your own teacher didn't see the point in them.

Personally I have been to demonstrations and watched with interest and also been to classes of various styles and watched with interest. I much prefer watching a class live than watching any demonstration. Thus demonstrations don't really mean much to me.

If someone asked me for advice who was interested in seeing Aikido in action I would advise them to go watch a class rather than a demonstration.

So I conclude it's more an organization thing. Seen as good for their cv, and public image.

Not to say it shouldn't be or it's wrong or no good for they can be interesting and there is nothing wrong with that.

Peace.G.

Benjamin Green 05-19-2012 04:08 PM

Re: Why Have Martial Arts Demonstrations?
 
Quote:

Budo is not a thing for show. Budo is a matter of life or death. So what is there to show?
Kinjo Asoh Sensei

The martial arts are not theatre or entertainment. That is not the true Budo.
Taisen Deshimaru
While I can see this side of the argument - that guns for instance aren't toys in the sense that you'd give them to your children, that you don't mess about applying full speed locks without any restraint and expect things to turn out just fine. Nonetheless I must say that nations show off their armed forces all the time. Even animals do it as a threat display.

The social display and management of force seems to be one of the more sensible things that people do. It discourages more serious, physical, violence because you can make a guess that you wouldn't win easily without actually fighting and risking death or serious injury. There's a trust aspect to it as well, within the community. When you show things off people get to see what sort of folks you are, they get some idea of how you relate to the rest of society. Certainly it reassures no-one in the community if martial artists are all a bunch of secretive people with steely gazes muttering about how what they do is a matter of life and death; that just makes us sound like some crazy cult. It's not a whole lot of fun either.

My take on it: Take joy in what you do and share it with people honestly. Politically, it reassures them. Spiritually, happiness and trust tend to resonate among social networks.

Is it necessary? Well, you can get by without doing it. But it does have a whole host of potential benefits.

hughrbeyer 05-20-2012 01:45 PM

Re: Why Have Martial Arts Demonstrations?
 
Quote:

Benjamin Green wrote: (Post 309353)
Take joy in what you do and share it with people honestly.

Nice.

Janet Rosen 05-20-2012 03:32 PM

Re: Why Have Martial Arts Demonstrations?
 
Quote:

Graham Christian wrote: (Post 309344)
Personally I have been to demonstrations and watched with interest and also been to classes of various styles and watched with interest. I much prefer watching a class live than watching any demonstration. Thus demonstrations don't really mean much to me.
If someone asked me for advice who was interested in seeing Aikido in action I would advise them to go watch a class rather than a demonstration.
Peace.G.

Strikes me that a person needs to KNOW about aikido in order to ask you about it. The idea of a demo at local events is to get it on the radar of folks who have never heard of it or considered it but might go "oh, COOL!" and come check it out.

graham christian 05-20-2012 04:44 PM

Re: Why Have Martial Arts Demonstrations?
 
Quote:

Janet Rosen wrote: (Post 309388)
Strikes me that a person needs to KNOW about aikido in order to ask you about it. The idea of a demo at local events is to get it on the radar of folks who have never heard of it or considered it but might go "oh, COOL!" and come check it out.

Shame it strikes you as such.

The idea of a demo may well be as you say no doubt. As I said I agree with such things as pointed out by Niall.

Some may say 'cool', some may say 'rubbish', some may say 'impossible', some may say many things.

You may say 'to get on peoples radar', I've said my view.

It's all good.

Peace.G.

niall 05-23-2012 08:54 AM

Re: Why Have Martial Arts Demonstrations?
 
Thanks for the comments. There are a lot of good arguments for demonstrations as everyone has pointed out.

Quote:

Benjamin Green wrote: (Post 309353)
Nonetheless I must say that nations show off their armed forces all the time. Even animals do it as a threat display. The social display and management of force seems to be one of the more sensible things that people do.

But the social display of force is not one of them. Unless you live in a military dictatorship on the Korean peninsula. Or perhaps in prison.

The argument against budo demonstrations is fundamental and simple. In an emergency you react automatically depending on your training. If you are holding back or deliberately doing something for an audience it is by definition fake. That's why many budo teachers do not like demonstrations.

Niall

aikishihan 05-23-2012 09:19 AM

Re: Why Have Martial Arts Demonstrations?
 
Greetings Niall,
Am totally in sympathy with the naked eliticism of certain tradition minded martial artists. Nonetheles, there is Satsujinken, and there is Katsujinken. Perhaps the Founder, and other compassion driven masters, felt it appropriate, and even necessary, to demonstrate the critical difference. Perhaps just another example of Bushi no Nasake.

Benjamin Green 05-24-2012 09:11 AM

Re: Why Have Martial Arts Demonstrations?
 
Quote:

Niall Matthews wrote: (Post 309470)
But the social display of force is not one of them. Unless you live in a military dictatorship on the Korean peninsula. Or perhaps in prison.

I get a couple of heavy set lads along it's a show of force. I have them break someone's head in it's a show of violence. I guess that'd be the relevant distinction here.

Quote:

Niall Matthews wrote: (Post 309470)
The argument against budo demonstrations is fundamental and simple. In an emergency you react automatically depending on your training. If you are holding back or deliberately doing something for an audience it is by definition fake. That's why many budo teachers do not like demonstrations.

Niall

Not too many emergencies in budo either, hopefully.

It's not that I don't understand that sentiment, but I can't follow the reasoning. You're pretty much always holding back -- if you didn't people would end up maimed.

- Ben

niall 05-24-2012 11:22 AM

Re: Why Have Martial Arts Demonstrations?
 
Thank you Francis. That is a very interesting point about O Sensei and Satsujinken and Katsujinken - the sword that kills and the sword that gives life. O Sensei didn't seem to mind giving demonstrations and perhaps you have hit on the reason. Bushi no nasake - the compassion of a warrior.

Niall

Carl Thompson 05-24-2012 03:56 PM

Re: Why Have Martial Arts Demonstrations?
 
As I understand it, the need to popularise the art was one reason the Founder began giving more public displays. However another relates to the lack of competition, which Niall mentioned in the column. There are shinsa (tests) and there are embu (demonstrations) which put you in a position in which the spirit is tested at least. For some it may be easy, but for others, public speaking can be mortifying enough. Showing your aikido to around ten thousand people in the same venue the Beatles played at can be very different from regular training.

There are some traditional aikido songs that were sung by Osensei, Nidai Doshu, Shioda, Tohei et al. One relates specifically to demonstrations and is called "Hana no Aikido" (The Flower of Aikido). Here is a small sample of one of the verses:

一たび内に備えれば外には全て憂いなし
技と心の一体をこめた演武に花が咲く

My rough translation (corrections appreciated):

Once you have prepared on the inside
All anxiety is gone on the outside
With your techniques and mind as one
The flower blooms in the embu


The English version of the programme for the 50th All Japan Demonstration is now available here:
http://www.aikikai.or.jp/eng/info/2012/enbue.pdf

Good luck to anyone taking part

Carl


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