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Chris Li 08-29-2002 06:19 AM

Then and Now
 
This is actually a branch of the "New Dojos" thread, since that's what put me in mind of it. What are the differences in Aikido and Aikido students (and teachers) now as opposed to when you were starting out? What's better, what's worse, what's the same (for better or worse :) )?

I'd agree with George Ledyard that there seem to be fewer people aiming at becoming professional Aikido bums. In a way, this is probably an effect of the greater availablity of Aikido. For example, if you look around Japan (where there are a lot of Aikido folks) it's very unusual these days to see anybody attempting, or hoping to attempt, to do this kind of thing professionally, or even to see anybody trying to set up a permanent establishment. It's not hard to run into folks (not just in Aikido, but in many arts) who have been training 30 or 40 years, but don't have dojo of their own - many of them don't even teach.

Other things - the general level of knowledge is much higher now than it was when I started (when almost nobody had even heard of Daito-ryu), and I think that's a good thing.

There are also a great many more qualified teachers available in the west now, especially non-Japanese teachers, and I think that's also a good thing.

OTOH, as things move away from the "owned and operated by students of M. Ueshiba" model that initially prevailed in Aikido I worry that things will start to fragment, which is already happening to some extent, although that's also a component of size and numbers. Not so much technically, since Aikido has never been unified technically, but in terms of purpose and motivation.

I also see an increasing trend in many sectors towards a "Budo aversion", in which Aikido practice is completely divorced from anything "warlike and violent". For example, I recall one person who told me that they would walk out of any dojo that practiced with rubber guns, presumably because such a tool of violence would be anathema to the peaceful ideals of Aikido. It didn't help, but I pointed out that there are many pictures of M. Ueshiba training, not only with pointy weapons of destruction, but also wooden model guns (for bayonet training), and that he taught such things even post-war.

What do you think?

Best,

Chris

Chuck Clark 08-29-2002 11:34 AM

I agree with what you said above, Chris. I see trends that have developed over the years that are interesting, to say the least.

I saw Tohei at the US Judo Nationals in 1964, I think it was. (some of my memories are melting together these days!) Lots of water under the bridge since then.

I think the fragmenting is a natural and good thing. I agree with some things and, of course, disagree with others. That's the nature of human stuff.

What I do think is exciting and a powerful force that will change things is the amount of information that is available now and the openess that many teachers and students have with sharing and widening their perspective.

I suspect that these wider perspectives will, in time, possibly bring many people that have only experienced one flavor of aikido back to budo practice that expresses the paradox of violence vs peace, etc. and often brings about the transcendence of these dualities.

In truth, I'm interested and involved in this exchange of philosophy, etc. but what I'm really into is my own practice and widening my view and becoming more aware and sensitive to what's around us. We all have much to learn from each other.

Regards,

DGLinden 08-29-2002 01:42 PM

Chris,

I think that the most interesting thing to me about now or then is the passion with which we trained.

It might have been a result of the overall passion we felt as a Country devided by the duality of war. We seemed to believe more deeply then. We were willing to spend our lives in a worthy cause. Hooker Sensei and I are both veterans of the Viet Nam war.

We are both volenteers. We were the generation that created the Peace Corp, hippies, Acid rock, Free love, herpies, AIDS, the space program, velcro, felt tip pens, P.C.s, and all the rest of what the world today is reeling from.

We had more time to train and to dedicate to training. We believed in social change, not in any damn salad bowl philosophy. We believed that we could change the world with hard work, grass, and love, and Aikido fit that idea perfectly. We believed. We were willing to forego and sacrifice a lot to be part of it. Look at all the teachers today who married late and are without children. It is seriously disproportionate.

The teachers of today had the opportunity to train with mystical entities. Great magicians of whom Saotome Sensei is really the last. NO one embodies the power, grace, and magic of the old masters as closely as Saotome. And we are still here and close enough to embrace the magic he still serves up.

Chris, I feel like there is a gulf between this generation, those thirty plus year veterans and those still coming up that is a great deal more real than mere age. Today there is only hope, where we believed. There is a serious deference to science and mechanics instead of 'ki'. Or there are merely goofy kids who want to feel 'the force' and wonder when we are going to bring out the light sabers.

OTOH yes. You cant empty a beer bottle and throw it out the window these days and not hit a godan or rokudan. So the level of training is much higher than in the old days and truth be told, most of the old guys bodies are really broken up. I hope we learned from this and protect our students better.

I have hope. I have respect for all those brave men who went before me. I have passion still, but the magic is fading. And tomorrow there is no magic at all.

Dennis Hooker 08-30-2002 12:32 PM

Today I don't hurt so let me put my cynicism aside. When days with pain start

overshadowing the ones without my cynicism rises.

Now I can only address Aikido and budo/buhutsu in America with any degree of authority, no matter how small and localized that authority might be. I can to some extent talk about the Japanese experience only as a sociologist who has through personal interest explored the relevant literature. It seems to me one of the perceived problems with budo in America is that most everyone wants to be an innovator and few wish to be caretakers. Not so with the bujutsu arts. Caretakers are everywhere. When given such an open format as Aikido then true to the American touchstone belief Aikido like anything else can be improved upon. Many of the individuals involved in Aikido here seems to believe they have the cojonies to do this and that it is not only their right but duty to do so. Reshape Aikido in their image. Hell maybe their right! I'm probably one of them. No, I know I am one of them and so is every other American teacher I know. In the Japan, at least the Japan of my literature, innovation is frowned upon and convention is the touchstone of their cultural identity. Don't think outside the box. I believe the reason Ueshiba Sensei shook things up so bad is that he did think outside the box. Some people still can't and other won't admit that such a thing happened. He didn't just start another line of the same thing. Hell started something new. He took a concept called Aiki which had been a concept of war and redefined it as peace and had the juice to make it stick. Almost every effort I have seen from Japanese Sensei (exception Saotome Sensei) has been to put him back into the cultural box of caretakers and forget the innovator he was. On the other hand in America they try to out innovate the innovator. I do not think we will ever find a way out of this thorny dilemma but if we do it will be through cultural rejoinders not philosophical one.

Chris Li 08-30-2002 10:22 PM

Quote:

Dennis Hooker wrote:
I believe the reason Ueshiba Sensei shook things up so bad is that he did think outside the box. Some people still can't and other won't admit that such a thing happened. He didn't just start another line of the same thing. Hell started something new. He took a concept called Aiki which had been a concept of war and redefined it as peace and had the juice to make it stick.

I'm going to argue the other way :).

I'm not so sure that he did shake things up. Looking around the Tokyo area I see a lot more Judo than Aikido. I see a lot more Karate than Aikido. I see a lot more kendo and even kyudo than Aikido. M. Ueshiba doesn't seem to have had any effect on those arts. If you mention Aikido to the average Japanese person they really have only a vague idea what you're talking about...

He was a giant in modern Japanese martial arts, no question, but so were Kano and Funakoshi, among others.

The concept of "Aiki" as used in Daito-ryu doesn't have much to do with being warlike or not, it's primarily a technical/strategic concept. That technical/strategic concept hasn't really changed in Aikido. What's changed, IMO, is that M. Ueshiba used the same word as a philosophical/religious concept - that, I believe, is primarily what he meant when he talked about using the word "Aiki" in a different sense than it had been used previously.

As I see it, the base concepts that M. Ueshiba espoused were all in place previously, for many hundreds of years, in most cases. In my mind his innovations were primarily ones of emphasis. That's not to belittle what he created - I wouldn't have chosen to spend years delving into it if I wished to do so, but neither do I believe it to be something that is a complete break with the roots of previous martial traditions.

Best,

Chris

Peter Goldsbury 08-31-2002 12:36 AM

Hello Chris,

I touched on matters germaine to this thread in another post, which should have been more strictly about kotodama and the origins of aikido. I will go back to that thread later, since I have quite a lot more to say about kotodama. I have a research budget and recently treated myself to the 14-volume Morohashi kanji dictionary. I want to check all my kanji references before committing myself.

A striking difference between aikido now and, say, 30 years ago when I started, was brought home to me recently at the IAF meeting in Sweden. The IAF usually discusses matters of little interest to the average aikidoist, but this time we had some very good and vigorous discussions on matters of great interest to the average dojo population: violence in the dojo, sexual and other forms of harassment, aikido and HIV/AIDS, drugs and aikido. Four of the participants were Japanese 8th dan shihans, and all the continents were represented except America, though some of the above issues were raised by aikidoists in the US who have corresponded with me privately. I think it is the first time these issues have ever been publicly discussed in an aikido organisation, certainly in my experience of the Aikikai and the IAF.

The discussion of violence in dojo was in response to a complaint made to me privately by someone who was injured in a dojo run by an 8th dan Aikikai shihan. I advised the person to take the matter through the courts and have the shihan publicly defend himself. This very much caught the attention of the Japanese participants (all of whom knew and trained at the hands of the Founder himself), one of whom stated quite candidly that violence in the dojo was to be expected. Wanton or culpable violence and accidental injuries were hardly ever distinguished when he started training: so much so that if you didn't sustain some injury or other, you felt you had not had a really good practice; had not been "blooded", so to speak. I for one was surprised that what I had suspected for years and had discussed only in private with individual shihans was being openly admitted at a public meeting, the results of which would soon be generally available on the Internet.

As we all know, some shihans convey this general attitude more than others, even now. I, also, never made the distinction between gratuitous violence and unusually hard training and regarded such violence and the occasional injuries they caused as a response to my own poor ukemi or intended as a means to greater humility. I have long believed that in aikido you lend your self (body, mind and spirit: there is no need to distinguish) to your partrner, who returns it in a better state than it was to begin with. But the quality of this state is not always obvious, either to oneself or to one's dojo mates.

Nevertheless, as a tatemae, we all agreed at the IAF meeting that times really had changed. Gratuitous violence and injuries were both unacceptable and aikido teachers had to learn this for themselves, or be taught, by the Aikikai or other bodies. The problem this caused was also admitted to be quite real: in the past a line was never drawn between hard training and such violence. Now a reasonable distinction has been made and the line has become harder to draw: for the warlike aspects of aikido are essential to the art and it will change if these are forgotten. In some respects Sokaku Takeda and O Sensei saw things in much simpler terms than we do today.

Best regards,

Peter Goldsbury

Chuck Clark 08-31-2002 09:10 AM

Hello Peter,

I'm enjoying your participation here as usual, welcome back.

I think your post shows the willingness to be open and discuss publicly what used to be taboo that I mentioned in my last post. It will most likely be uncomfortable for some for awhile, but it will be positive in the long run, I'm sure.

Your bit about how you felt about the violence and injuries in training brought back memories for me. When I was a teenager, I can remember not feeling like I was training properly unless I had "battle scars" all of the time. Some of this, as you say, comes from strong training, but lots of it also came from training partners that, I suspect, enjoyed "making an impression on you" and leaving their mark. For a long time I looked forward to engaging in the battle, but at some point about 15 years ago I lost that. (I think being involved in the Viet Nam war for 6 years had something to do with it.)

I want to TRAIN with people that practice mutual respect and welfare. I hope to never have to engage in encounters again where people are hurting each other either knowingly or through disregard for the other's welfare. If necessary, I will, but not on an ongoing basis in training.

Thanks again for your lengthy and interesting posts. I know that it takes lots of your time. I think your participation on these forums is important.

Regards,

Peter Goldsbury 09-20-2002 10:48 PM

Re: Then and Now
 
Quote:

Christopher Li (Chris Li) wrote:
I'd agree with George Ledyard that there seem to be fewer people aiming at becoming professional Aikido bums. In a way, this is probably an effect of the greater availablity of Aikido. For example, if you look around Japan (where there are a lot of Aikido folks) it's very unusual these days to see anybody attempting, or hoping to attempt, to do this kind of thing professionally, or even to see anybody trying to set up a permanent establishment. It's not hard to run into folks (not just in Aikido, but in many arts) who have been training 30 or 40 years, but don't have dojo of their own - many of them don't even teach.

Other things - the general level of knowledge is much higher now than it was when I started (when almost nobody had even heard of Daito-ryu), and I think that's a good thing.

There are also a great many more qualified teachers available in the west now, especially non-Japanese teachers, and I think that's also a good thing.

OTOH, as things move away from the "owned and operated by students of M. Ueshiba" model that initially prevailed in Aikido I worry that things will start to fragment, which is already happening to some extent, although that's also a component of size and numbers. Not so much technically, since Aikido has never been unified technically, but in terms of purpose and motivation.

I also see an increasing trend in many sectors towards a "Budo aversion", in which Aikido practice is completely divorced from anything "warlike and violent". For example, I recall one person who told me that they would walk out of any dojo that practiced with rubber guns, presumably because such a tool of violence would be anathema to the peaceful ideals of Aikido. It didn't help, but I pointed out that there are many pictures of M. Ueshiba training, not only with pointy weapons of destruction, but also wooden model guns (for bayonet training), and that he taught such things even post-war.

What do you think?

Best,

Chris

I should preface these remarks by the observation that my experience has been solely with the Aikikai. However, I am very much aware that there are many non-Aikikai participants in this forum, but what I say needs to understood in that context.

I would be very curious to know what proportion of the dojo-leaders / shihans on the Aikikai list are actually professional aikido instructors. I suspect that, outside the Aikikai itself, there are very few. Here in Hiroshima I have noticed a pattern that senior instructors will open their own local dojos and teach there in the evenings on a regular basis, after the have finished work. The unfortunate consequence of this is that it is very rare, extremely rare, for higher grades (5th dan 6th dan level) to train together. I also have followed the trend and have a dojo which is operated in the evenings, but we still reserve time for the instructors themselves to train together, with only enough senior students to make up the numbers.

I also think the Aikikai are making strenuous efforts to ensure that the "owned and operated by students of M. Ueshiba" model continues for as long as possible. These efforts are being made, though, in the context of declining manpower & the diminishing attractiveness of the career of aikido shihan in presentday Japan and thus the inability of the Aikikai to replace shihans like Toyoda and Tohei, for example, as the older generation passes away. What you have now are weekend seminars around Japan and gasshuku abroad taught by Moriteru Doshu and Shidoubu instructors. The Aikido Shimbun is always full of these events.

Two things upset me about this, both connected with Japan's seeming inability to conduct international relations on a satisfactory basis. The model is still too much "Aikido is a Japanese martial art, which foreigners can practise almost as well as we can". This causes friction when a young 6th dan Shidou-bu instructor goes abroad to teach at a seminar where there are foreigners equal in rank. The other is the continuing need for "gaiatsu" and the great difficulty of actually talking to the Aikikai about pressing international matters, mainly because the world outside Japan is mainly seen as a place where Japanese instructors go to give seminars.

I think the "budo aversion" syndrome is also a sign of the times. I see this most clearly in the university, where the martial arts clubs are having great trouble to recruit enough students. There the message has to be, "Come along and enjoy it: 楽しんで下さい"; there is little idea of a challenge to be accepted which might make a difference to your life. In my own dojo, however, quite a few of the non-student members like to train as a relief from stress. We place great stress on stretching exercises and ukemi and this is quite hard for some of the older students. And I have never been asked here whether aikido works in a 'real' situation.

Best regards,

DGLinden 10-04-2002 07:05 AM

Wonderful posts. As for Dojo violence and changing attitudes I am torn between seeing students train and challenge both themselves and each other to move higher, stronger and farther...

...and seeing them live to be my age without so damn many nagging injuries and outright crippling problems from training too hard, long, and relentlessly. On one hand I have seen too many sandans who have not ever 'trained' in the old sense, but they might be able to train a lot longer. I think it comes down to purpose. When I ran the Rocky Mountain Aikikai I had Denver Police, FBI, Secret Service, ATF and Border Patrol all training in the dojo and we trained hard because these men had a purpose. In my dojo today we have engineers, musicians and accountants. Why beat the snot out of them?

I look around and see all my friends with surgery on knees, shoulders, backs, wrists etc. due to things they did 20-30 years ago. This is supposed to improve the quality of our lives? I am changing, I don't know if for the better, but I don't want (can't stand) to see my people hurt anymore. Life is long.

Rocky Izumi 11-22-2004 07:21 PM

Re: Then and Now
 
I guess I must be of the old school since many of the Shihans who have visited my dojos have often said that the feeling in my dojo reminded them of the old "Hell Dojo." But we have never really had a lot of really bad injuries (my apologies again to your son for his nose, Chuck :)). I have always tried to follow the idea that harmony meant that if someone wanted to practice so that we knocked the snot out of each other, we both practiced in that manner. However, if someone needed to practice a little softer, we also did that; and learned from both types of practice.

As I get older, I suppose I have gotten a little softer, especially since a lot of my students now are starting at their senior ages.

I found the best answer for why not practice hard all the time? You do that and nowadays, most of the students will not put up with it and you don't have a viable dojo since we no longer have the support of rich sponsors like they did in the old days (well, most of us don't and I have to be my own sponsor these days).

Yet, I still work as an Aikido professional with law enforcement and military so I have to keep up the hard practice as well. If I don't, I will be injured by those youngsters from those professions that want to test me or those from the other martial arts that also want to test me. I also find that if I don't have the hard practice, I get bored (some people have said I have a sadistic streak and maybe they are right).

I haven't come to a satisfactory conclusion on this matter other than to choose who I practice hard with. I try to do it in private so as to not scare away potential or existing students.

I can't start them right away with hard practice with most of them since they are not used to it. However, I must interject at this point that I now have one dojo where this is not the norm. I just came back from doing a seminar in my Jamaica dojo where most of the students are at least Nidan from Karate or Judoka or semi-pro boxers. Boy, it was neat, like being back in one of my old dojos! We practiced without mats on a wooden floor and people were slamming each other all over the place! Now, I must admit, their technique was not very good and they were all using too much muscle power rather than technique, but their spirit was fantastic! It reminded me how much I missed that type of dojo.

Yeah, surgery,pills, and all that are now part of my life but I certainly wouldn't have given up the memories and the learnings from the old Hell Dojos for the anything.

Chuck Clark 11-23-2004 08:36 AM

Re: Then and Now
 
Hi Rocky,

I don't have a problem with "hard training" if both people know what the plan is and the skill is there to do it in relative safety. However, an old friend of mine that's been doing "hard training" along with softer training since the mid fifties is living with what's known as "pugilistic dementia". He's been hit in the head too many times. I also know a few people in their seventies and early eighties that have been training very strongly most of their lives that are healthy and seem to be about thirty or so in their internal stuff. I am trying to follow their example and view budo training as "old age benefits" that will enhance our lives instead of progressively and predictably chew us up.

By the way, Aaron's nose is fine and it's getting harder and harder to hit him in the nose!

Safe Holidays Everyone!

Rocky Izumi 11-23-2004 10:55 AM

Re: Then and Now
 
My forgetfulness these days makes me think I might be punch-drunk too. :) But then, I have so much I would like to forget as well. Too bad I keep forgetting the things I want to remember and remember the things I would like to forget.

By the way, folks, don't get me wrong. Hard training for me does not mean use of muscle and punching in the head. It means throwing softer so the person lands harder and resisting the pins so that the person has to do them with control all through the pinning procedure. As well, it means if you can counter, you counter. If there is an opening for a strike, you hit hard enough to disrupt their concentration and flow so that you can counter. And, you hit for the centre, not necessarily for the head so that you can move them better to do the counter. Strikes are done with the intent to hit and hit hard enough for the other person to feel it. No need to close the fist when hitting the head. A slap will do, even to the chest. Fast, soft and to submission is my definition of hard training so that it is closer to what you would want to do in reality. I try and dissuade strikes to the head as if a police or security officer is caught on TV doing that, it tends to be detrimental to their career. Strikes with closed fists are also dissuaded for the same reason.

Holidays, what holidays?

Rock

Rocky Izumi 11-23-2004 11:00 AM

Re: Then and Now
 
P.S.

These days, with the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, I try to dissuade all police and security officers from doing any strikes. The less blood, the better and safer for Nage, even in the dojo. If you have to strike, don't strike where you will draw blood or make the person vomit. Also, be careful of the nerve points because it can make people throw up and you don't want to be cleaning the mats of that stuff, especially if the person has just eaten some pudding and souse.

Hee hee.

Rock :drool:

Chuck Clark 11-23-2004 11:31 AM

Re: Then and Now
 
Quote:

Hiroaki Izumi wrote:
Fast, soft and to submission is my definition of hard training so that it is closer to what you would want to do in reality.

Holidays, what holidays?

I started to comment on the early part of your post, Rocky, but I can't remember what it was about... :confused:

I agree with the quote above 100 percent. Fast = whatever the skill level can deal with appropriately.

I like Thanksgiving Holiday because it's the only one that makes much sense to me. I'm very grateful for just being here and able to take part freely and responsibly. I give thanks many times during each day and try to be of service. The sharing of good food during this holiday is also special. :)

Best regards,

Rocky Izumi 11-23-2004 01:03 PM

Re: Then and Now
 
Ah, Thanksgiving!

Sorry, forgot about that one down here.

We do Cropover to celebrate the harvest of the sugar cane, etc. We may not share much food but definitely share our beer and rum. Yummm. Hmm. Got to finish my work first! Drats!

I do get into a lot of trouble by not explaining myself clearly, don't I?

Yeah, too fast and the training becomes useless because you end up messing up and not using technique but rather something resembling pounding on people with a sledge hammer. Then it becomes just fun, not training. (Or maybe not fun.)

Rock

Rocky Izumi 11-23-2004 02:59 PM

Re: Then and Now
 
Oops, that was blatant commercial advertising for Barbados beer and rum. Bad boy!


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