Holes in the Real Attack
Lately there has been a lot of talk about the nature of Aikido's attacks as they are practiced generally among the members of the Aikido community. The argument, in brief, goes something like this: "Aikido's effectiveness, and thus it's overall integrity, suffers from a common tendency to face only weak or 'unrealistic' attacks when training."
This position would seem to make perfect sense. It is after all a variation of the idea that you "train with what you fight, and fight with what you train." But I think that somewhere in the midst of all this "common sense" we are missing something very vital to Aikido training. Namely, there aren't supposed to be "real" attacks in Aikido training - because "real" attacks can't exist in the dojo - because any attack that exist in a training environment is a priori an ideal attack - that is to say NOT REAL.
Please bare with me. I do not mean to suggest that attacks should not be made with sincerity - with a unification of mind, body, and purpose. I only mean to point out that that is all Aikido requires of its uke for training: a unification of mind, body, and purpose. This can of course be manifested in strikes that are thrown hard and fast, but this can also be manifested in strikes that are delivered slowly. This can be manifested in right rear crosses and rear leg front thrust kicks, but this can also be manifested in movements like tsuki and yokomen-uchi.
After all, it is my opinion, that Aikido only requires a manifestation of energy. Energy by which one will learn to harmonize with, deviate from, enter into, redirect, and ultimately launch - to name a few. And for this, any ol' energy will really do - even energy generated by a non-human form - as seen in the training techniques of many traditional Chinese martial arts, for example. The point is, "real" and "unreal" don't really come into play in Aikido training. As well they shouldn't. After all, if real is determined by what one would mostly confront on the street, as the wisdom goes, then perhaps one hasn't been in too many street situations if he/she holds this position. For, as any law enforcement agent, and/or seasoned street rat would tell you, in the street anything is possible, and that alone is what make it real: its infinite nature, its never-ending and unknowable potential.
With anything possible, better to train, as Aikido does, with planes of ideal paths of action. With anything possible, better to see that you develop the skills that make "aiki" a viable tactic, than to determine whether or not you can address your buddy's haymaker in class. For one (e.g. My senpai's hardest left hook), or even 100 individual aspects (e.g. the left hooks of everyone in my dojo) of infinity (i.e. the total variations of what might actually face in the street) are in the end meaningless. But three planes of action, which mark a three dimensional existence, that stand for both everything and nothing, can and do fully provide one with the energy necessary to develop and cultivate the martial tactic of aiki. And this is done in a way that no left hook, no right cross, no spinning back kick can ever do.
When we consider the infinity which we are dealing with on the street, we can see that the specialized practices and techniques of various other arts (e.g. karate, boxing, etc.) are in themselves no less ideal than are tsuki, yokomen-uchi, or shomen-uchi. Also - when we consider the infinity which we are dealing with, we can see that even sub-branches such as slow, strong, fast, and weak are themselves but ideals and as such are things cannot exist on the street. This is because the street, or any other environment of violence, can contain no ideals. An ideal is an ideal simply because it can be duplicated and repeated and ultimately predicted and determined. The street, that is to say, the chaos of violence, lends itself to no such type of thinking or acting. What you face in the midst of violence is what you face. It is beyond judgment, distinction, and discrimination.
That being said, in training, whether a strike come slow or fast, hard or soft, is not really the issue it is cut out to be by many current thinkers on Aikido's "inefficiencies." All that mattes is whether nage was able to manifest and cultivate aiki as a tactic. Toward this end, slow, fast, hard, soft, roundhouse, tsuki, kick, strike, it matters not. Do you demonstrate and cultivate aiki? That's all that matters - that is everything. To believe otherwise is to reify an ideal into something it is not - into something it can never be: reality.
Though I have posted this amateur attempt at logic, this is not to say that I do not agree with many of the heartfelt positions offered here at AikdoJournal.com on the "problems" of Aikido. It's just that I do not see, for example, that attacking with Karate's ideal strikes over Aikido's ideal strikes will bring any great change to our art. Instead, as an alternative course of action, if we want to deal with Aikido's "problems" - let us look away from notions of fake attacks and real attack and look better at the countless examples of absent kuzushi - no loss of balance.
For example, if we are honest, if we take the time to look at tapes of ourselves, or tapes of others, we will see a preponderance of occasions where uke is launched or pinned from a base of support that has either two fully grounded contact points or at least one - which in combat would be used by uke to either counter a pin, throw, or strike, and/or launch their own pin, throw, or strike, etc. As a result of the trend to have no actual kuzushi, today, ukemi, "nice ukemi" has come to be synonymous with uke being able to post a foot, if not both feet, prior to "flying through the air". Today, generally, throughout the Aikido community, uke is standing when he/she is thrown. He/she is rarely ever falling before he/she is thrown. And yet, there can be no other way of understanding that when a foot, or feet, is or are posted, that this is a based that is engaged, that this is an absence of kuzushi, that this is a throw or a pin that would never happen in "reality."
Hiding behind the flawed common sense of "real attacks" will do nothing to address this (I would say) dominating trend in training. And such a detour from this trend is unlikely to occur since both parties have great stakes in the current misunderstanding of kuzushi. That is to say that uke (speaking generally) is highly unlikely to pursue a type of ukemi that places him/her emotionally, spiritually, and physically in a completely vulnerable position. (I didn't say "more vulnerable" since there is nothing vulnerable at all about being launched from a posted base of support.) And it is unlikely that nage will require such kuzushi skills of themselves since such a skill requires a much greater stability of base (which is as much physical as it is spiritual) - this is because uke's luxury of being allowed to post up, allows nage the luxury of posting up as well. The loss of this pseudo-stability on nage's part would mean that nage would require a dynamic stability, one capable of dealing with the reactionary forces of uke's movement - which would certainly require higher levels of investment in training, etc. - no matter how high those levels currently are.
Perhaps we do not become more "real" by adding things (i.e. "real attacks"). We seem to become more real by taking things away (i.e. allowing uke to post up before a pin or a throw). And maybe that's just a cute way of saying, "If I allow uke to post up before he/she falls, if I do not throw or pin uke as they are already fully falling, whether my attack was a straight cross or tsuki, even if I demonstrated aiki with it or not, I am just as "unreal" as ever. In the end, to be satisfied with the unreal, and this is where I agree with many of the commentators at AikidoJournal.com, is to have reconciled with nothing, is to have cultivated nothing - not physically, not mentally, and certainly not spiritually.
Is that a question?
ANY attack and ANY defence has weak points - however it is whether they can be noticed in time to react. Aikido attack and defence are radically different. Attacks are not intended to blend - they are just solid, fast, sinlge attacks of a formulaic nature. If uke and nage are equal within the encounter (i.e. competitive situaitons), you are right - the situation looses its realness because you get into a never ending spiral of response directed towards their last response.
We often specify the type of response uke makes for a particular technique, to enable nage to understand why we would e.g. move under the arm or enter rather than turn.
Sincerety in training, realisation of what we are simulating and constant directed practise is the only necessity - sometimes we get caught up in believing that the attacker knows exactly what we know.
I'll be honest in that I didn't read your entire post. This section:
Payton Quinn, Tony Blauer, et al, do a great deal of scenario based training which is "real" enough to have participants experience regular adrenaline dumps. These scenarios do not involve ideal attacks but ambushes, sucker punches, verbal misdirection and the like. In short, something most people would witness and believe they were watching a real self-defense situation.
Being new to Aikido, I'm out of my depth here, but having practised different martial arts for a while, I would think that, if ambushed on the street, first and foremost, getting out of the way of the first attack (tai-sabaki) is more important than counterattacking - this gives you a chance to assess what is going on, how many attackers, etc. and helps you to prepare yourself for a second attack when you are truly ready to act on it (correct mindset/posture, or time for sobering up quickly, for example!). It also gives you the chance to run away too if need be :)
Good call, Khalil! I'd want to know all that and not be reeling from the first attack while trying to figure it out!
Again, I'm kind of new and inexperienced. I know that I allow my uke to "re-post" all the time because I'm doing the technique so slowly. ("OK, this foot is here, I move the arm there, trap, then, um, finish the turn -- oh yeah, sink. And lead with the hips...") Also true that when equally inexperienced classmates are working me there are plenty of points where I could get my balance back. If I don't get unbalanced much at all, I just brace and stop moving, and the technique fails.
But when sensei or the senior student work a technique, I'm off balance almost immediately and I never get a chance to get it back, usually even if they're moving slowly. I had a brother about my age (which I think is about as close as you can get to regular "street fighting" and still have teeth), and I'm experienced at trying to get out of something or back on balance. So I know aikido can be taught in a way that does not encourage uke handing tori the throw from a "posted" position. There are dojos that do that? Forgive my naivete; there is much I don't know, and I haven't trained other places...
whats weak on a jodan tsuki? u do in early stages crappy attacks cause they make u learn the system cause taking a jodan tsuki is very hard. and shomen uchi is very good shown as a knife attack.
As I understand David's post, he is saying that Aikido practice is not "real" in terms of actual fighting, and that we should be conscious of this and practicing accordingly. This makes sense to me.
I believe the best thing to do is to treat practice like a math problem or science experiment. The teacher gives us a specific attack to work with and shows how he/she could deal with it. We then pair up with a partner and experiment.
Applying this to Cindy's situation, I think her uke is wrong. She takes her partner's balance and he takes advantage of the slow speed and moves his foot to the place where his balance is broken. It might help to encourage the science experiment metaphor. You can work on developing good rapport with your partners so you can say to them that he/she is only able to move that way due to the speed.
This problem doesn't affect senior students only because they have a lot of experience practicing slow and simple. I agree with David's post, but I think it would be more helpful to discuss practical things we can do to solve the problem.
That's the longest post I've ever seen.
Attacks and Intention
I'll post the same repy I did on the Aikido Journal thread:
Practice of so-called "non-traditional" attacks is quite useful and has a necessary place in the practice of Aikido as a viable martial art. But that isn't the main thrust of the critics of Aikido attacks, of whom I am one. My problem is that in many dojos I see, there are NO attacks.
I was at a seminar in which visiting Ikeda Sensei called up a shodan to take ukemi. This young man was directed to do munetsuki but Ikeda Sensei didn't move when the attack was made. Six inches from his chest the young man's tsuki suddenly deflected off into space. Ikeda Sensei directed him to really hit but after five attempts, the young man was still unable to get himself to make contact.
This is a massive failure of training. This man has gotten up to Yudansha Rank and can't do a tsuki. Having this person for a partner is not just useless but actually counter productive for one's training. Repetitive parctice of technique from attacks which are energetically false imprints a whole range of associations which are wrong and will prove disastrous when a real committed attack is made.
One doesn't need to get into non-traditional attacks to find out where the problem in Aikido attacks lies. Stick with Shomenuchi, Yokomenuchi, and Munetsuki. I consistently visit dojos in which mid-level yudansha routinely deliver strikes to each other in training which one would find vaguely annoying at worst if one were struck. I have watched Randoris on Yudansha tests in which several ukes did their level best not to strike the nage but rather held their arms out for the necessary time to allow the nage to do the technique of his choice. There was no need for nage to develop proper timing and spacing as the ukes fascilitated everything for him.
If Aikido is to have any real value other than as a dance form then things need to be seen and practiced for what they are. A shomenuchi is a knife edge strike to the front of the head. Whether you do it off the front foot, off the back foot, as an extension outwards (like the Shingu folks) or as a powerful vertical downwards strike (like the ASU folks) doesn't matter. What matters is that it is a strike and that the uke is attempting to strike the nage. If nage is too junior to handle a full out attack then the attck is adjusted to make it safe. But if he makes a mistake it should still hit him; it just doesn't hit hard enough to injure. When you get to yudansha level you should be seeing committed and powerful attacks. If nage makes mistake he should get hit.
Attacks in many dojos are completely lacking in intention. You can casually move off the line of attack and the uke will dutifully strike the spot where used to be standing. No matter how slowly you make your entry somehow the uke never hits you. You attain O-sensei level of ability to move around without anyone ever hitting you (as long as the attackers are from your own dojo where this type of detrimental practice is condoned). I consistentlly encounter people at seminars who are shocked to find that they can't actually do the irimi movement they thought they could. Repeatedly my hand stiops touching their heads no matter how they try to escape. Their problem isn't that I am somehow so much faster than anyone else they train with... it's that I have a clear intention to strike when I strike. They'd been cruising along in their dojos thinking that they could actually do that irimi nage and then they find out it was all a dream.
Once again I was at a nidan test in which the person testing looked fairly competent but was not, in my opinion, being challenged in any way by the ukes who were all from his own dojo. At one point Saotome Sensei called fr a new uke and a student from outside that person's dojo stepped in. His first yokomen strike went right through this fellow's attempted deflection and bopped him upside the head. To his credit he was able to make the adjustment and handled the next few committed attacks. But you could see the shock on his face when that first "real" strike came in. It made it painfully obvious to everyone present who cared to look that none of the previous ukes were actually trying to do a strike.
I think that people need to make an attack be what it is. It is a strike and the person doing it needs to think of it that way. He should be trained to have the strongest intention to hit that safety allows. This starts with the teacher. If the teacher accepts unreal attacks from his ukes than the whole basis for training at the dojo is undermined. My teachers, Ikeda Sensei and Saotome Sensei absolutely expected you to do your level best to nail them. On those very rare occasions when one of us would succeed you'd get a smile and a "very good". We trained with each other the same way. In my early yudansha days I got hit as many times as I succeeded on my entries. But as frustrating as that was sometimes, when I pulled one off I KNEW I had pulled one off. I didn't have to wonder if my partner had given it to me.
In many dojos there is so little intention in the attacks that when someone who can really attack does so, the students can not stand in front of it and keep their centers. You can feel their energy field collapse as you start to move forward with the strike. If you can't hold your mind steady when the attack is delivered, then no amount of training, no amount of technical acquisition, no amount of detailed understanding of how a technique works will make any difference. If your Mind goes into retreat at the instant of the attack, everything else is over before you even make physical contact. It doesn't matter that you know hundreds of techniques. They are simply hundreds of techniques which you can't do.
This is the fundamental issue with Aikido training today. You take care of this issue and adding some practice once in a while using non-traditional attacks is just a detail in the development of the students skills as martial artists.
you do need real attacks for real defense.
many dojo's have neither.
it is not the waekness of the aikido, but of the instructors and the students.
Re: Holes in the Real Attack
It's true that there should be no real intent to do harm in the dojo. However, even intent to do harm in "real" out-of-dojo attacks doesn't matter either. As an Aikidoka, we aim to lose selfish perception and rise above taking an attack personally. Otherwise, it can be our demise. Therefore, with all intent being moot, inside or outside, the attacks should be the same. I have earned the right to get hit if I don't get out of the way, and Uke had better be looking for openings in my technique, and trying to use them. If not, then my the training is virtually useless, given the entire purpose of Aikido--RESOLUTION OF CONFLICT.
What I'm tired of, in fact, are the spaghetti, limp-garbage "attacks." If there is no attack with intent to make contact, then there is no technique. I don't even bother doing techniques anymore if I get a lazy attack.
:freaky: Whoa. I just dove into the rest of your post, bud, and I am thoroughly lost.
I think the philosophy trying to come through is sound, but the words are screwing it up for me.
:rolleyes: Wow Mr. Ledyard,
You sound just like my teacher!!
You start to strike, and he lowers his guard for you to illustrate the point, you had BETTER be landing your yokomen, shomen...etc. etc.
I would like to get better at my entering to deal with kicks though.:freaky:
Reply to Mr. G. Ledyard
RE: George Ledyard's post
Please call me Dave. Thank you for your reply. Forgive me for not replying sooner to the list, but it seems, in my opinion, that these forums are not always cut out to be what they should be. I think a lot of folks are shooting off on some wild tangents here, and truth be told, I was wondering if I should continue the discussion since it was obviously going off in a different direction - which is the right of any group anyway. Your reply however was a great exception to this, of course. So I wanted to say thank you - to show my appreciation.
If you may allow me to make one brief comment here - since I'm not sure I'll be replying to all of the wild tangents on the list: I have to say that I do agree with you entirely. I hope that isn't too surprising since I never meant to suggest that weak attacks are the way that we should train in Aikido. My only point, which was a philosophical one, is that strikes in the dojo are always ideal strikes - whether they are hard or fast, tsuki, or right cross. It is my position that if we do not understand this fact, we will be missing a great wisdom that Aikido has passed down to us, namely that it is best to train with ideal strikes that cover the three planes of motion in the face of an infinity that is the chaos of combat, RATHER THAN training with individual manifestations and/or combinations of those planes of motion IN THE ATTEMPT to have gained more of a hold on what cannot be held (i.e. the infinity of violent expression). This is why, where you would say that training against the ideal strikes of karate is "necessary", I would merely say "it can't hurt" - as long as one doesn't believe that he/she is now better prepared for what he/she may encounter in the street. In short, and for example, there is a reason why Aikido has only three strikes, it's a very good reason, and it often tends to be lost on those folks that spout a "cure-all" in the form of adopting attacks from other arts. I do not mean to suggest that this is your position, however. I am merely restating my original point on this matter.
Reifying the ideal attack is what I'm against. I'm not against strong attacks. And this is why I can totally agree with your position, since your position is a call sincere attacks. The cases you brought up were horrendous. And I have to say that I too have been in attendance at such transactions between these great teachers and their distant students - even been at one such occasion where one of these teachers had to stop a test to offer advice and admonishments over such things. Still, said teacher did go on to rank the persons (yudansha ranks) in question - so go figure.
I see what you are getting at in your comments, and I see the heart behind it all, and all of that is something I myself would very much line up behind. Where I veer however is when your comments potentially lend themselves to reifying ideal attacks. I cannot say your position does this outright, which is something I can say about some of the other posts in this thread, but to make my own point and to leave yours aside for a moment: Your sample case to me, as tragic as it is, is not a case of an unreal (as opposed to a "real") attack. It is a loss of integrity; a loss of sincerity - and this of course is only from a Budo perspective. I tried to cover this critique in my first post when I said that energy has to be provided with sincerity and with a unification of mind, body, and purpose - that this is what Aikido requires. By thinking of things in this way, one does not have to risk the danger of reifying ideal attacks, nor risk losing the wisdom that is Aikido's way of training for the infinity of the street. One is also given the more practical means of fixing this problem (discussed briefly below). After all, giving a person that lacks integrity and sincerity a left hook to deliver will only replace a tsuki that is lacking with a left hook that is lacking.
When a teacher does not move because a strike was lacking, I do not have to see a teacher asking for a 'real' strike (i.e. one he believes he is likely to face in the street). I see a teacher asking for integrity and sincerity. But the situation you describe is more than this since there is the tragedy that said person is actually donning accolades of integrity and sincerity (e.g. hakama, yudansha, etc.) That last line may be a bit of a digression, but allow me...
Integrity grows where integrity is demanded to grow. The lack of integrity is nourished where the lack of integrity is allowed to be nourished. To me this means that the solution to these kind of attacks is not found by bringing in strikes from other arts (which was my initial critique, and not necessarily your position), but by demanding integrity, by weeding out places where a lack of integrity can be nourished. Someone else on this list said that this is all the fault of the teachers - and I'd have to agree. If you want to fix this, you don't just wait till someone actually tries to hit you till you move - that seems so "band-aid-like" in its remedy. For though it makes the point to us "believers", I'm sure to others it was merely a bit humorous. Not being there, I wonder if their were chuckles in the crowd? I wonder if the uke had a smile or smirk on his face? If so, this tells me that the lesson is not enough - that more has to be done. More like not ranking folks, like demoting folks, by telling folks straight out, etc. But, truthfully, how much can one really say and do when room (we must admit) for such kind of training can be found at the very pinnacles of Aikido pedagogy. That is to say, when you say or allow folks to say, when it is said, that one can "train for all kinds of reasons;" that "Aikido is a non-violent martial art; that "some folks train for the community, for the philosophy, for the exercise;" etc., whenever one makes a distinction between what is martial and what is anything else in Aikido, be this through verb tense, narrative linearity, or word selection, etc., one has made room for attacks that are no such thing at all.
Even my own teacher, a student of the Founder, and a practitioner reputed to be quite severe in his training and teaching, will at one time leave little room for attacks that lack integrity when he says things like Aikido is a technique by which the keen edge of martial arts is used to cultivate the spirit, etc., BUT THEN go on to talk about roots, and trunks, and branches - where all things martial are the roots and something like exercise and fun are the branches, and all of them have their place, and some folks come just to do the branches, etc. This kind of thinking goes all the way up the Aikido echelon and historically can probably be attributed to Kisshomaru Ueshiba himself. For as we can all only be men of our times, and such was the popular discourse at his time, the first Doshu almost had to speak like this. And so, anyone can find a "legitimate" basis in Aikido pedagogy for what I call a lack of integrity and you would call a weak attack and others would call an unrealistic attack. The fact that said uke in your example was donning a hakama and a dan rank is testament to this fact. In that, he is both tragedy and legitimate.
How many teachers out there today don't just follow suit along with these kind of "allowances," even if it's just in terms of their discourse on what the art is and isn't? How many teachers today expect and demand that every positive form of cultivation in Aikido come through the "bu" of Budo only? I can say in my own dojo, I am quite comfortable saying, "If you want to cultivate your spirit, in Budo you do it through the martial. If you just want to cultivate your spirit - go to a temple, go to a church. If you want to learn to be intimate with friends, in Budo you do it through the martial. If you just want to make friends, join a club. If you want to get in shape, in Budo you do it through the martial. If you just want to look good in a suit, join a gym. Etc." Saying this as the law of the land in my own dojo, I know that most folks today do not train in Aikido like this, and I also know that they have clear lee-ways not to train like this - lee-ways paved in the writings and talks, and even through the promotions, of some of Aikido's giants.
Let's face it, Aikido first left the poverty of potential extinction, something other arts of the time didn't not suffer through so well, by adopting the rhetoric that was being successfully used by physical education programs in Europe at the time (around the first half of the 20th century). As a result, in a way, there became at least two kinds of Aikido that were fully given the legitimacy of the establishment - one grounded in history, and one grounded in the practicality of modern adaptation. And yet, these two types of Aikido were at odds - completely at odds. And this is why what I see as a lack of integrity, can easily be seen by others as "an evolution in the modern repulsion toward violence." I just can't see this changing on any kind of grand scale, since those of us that would like to have it change would in one way or another have to subvert some of the most potent elements and figures in Aikido history. I think this can only change at an individual level - from person to person. You attack me with integrity. I make you attack me with integrity. I attack you with integrity. You make me attack you with integrity. And we pass this along to our students. That's how this is dealt with. But even at the personal level, this may not be an easy thing to change, since there still remains all of the small-self issues that have always been a part of Budo training. In particular, I'm referring to that silent agreement that tends to happen between nage and uke: "You don't make me too vulnerable and I won't make you too vulnerable." And this is very much related to my critique of "kuzushi" where uke is allowed to post either one foot or both feet prior to any throw, pin, or strike, etc.
Re: Reply to Mr. G. Ledyard
I agree that the attacks we have in Aikido are pretty much enough to develop the eessential elements of a true budo practice. I was trained by Saotome Sensei and generally we stayed fairly traditional in this area. When I was later called upon to develop a program of police defensive tactics for some Seattle police officers I didn't find that I had any problem taking what I knew and adapting it for them. I had the essential principles down so all I did was adapt them for a certain purpose based on what htey told me they needed to be able to do. I had developed that ability through standard training methods, not by doing some sort of "street" Aikido.
I am somewhat more eclecticin this area than my own teacher because I simply enjoy playing around with training methods. It's as much for my own training as it is for any stratgey in teching my students.
I checked your profile and it didn't mention particulars on who your techer is and what your background is. I am curious if you feel like sahring. Feel free to e-mail me privately if this isn't something you want to post. firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for pointing this lack of integrity out... I will do my best to stop this in my own practice, and insist uke attacks me honestly!
I have been following the thread here and in aikidojournal.com (interesting how the responses are quite different) and I have a pretty good idea about the identity of Mr Valadez's teacher. Concepts like integrity, honesty, commitment, even the tree analogy, immediately struck a chord and reminded me of conversations I had years ago with the same teacher.
I have some reservations about the validity of the general distinction being made between 'real' attacks and something else. I suppose the opposite could be either 'unreal', or 'ideal', but these are not the same.
In his second post, Mr Valadez claims to be making a philosophical distinction and I wonder about the basis for the distinction. Plato, for example, who pretty well established the distinction between an ideal and its ‘real' instantiation, would have had a major problem in explaining the relationship between 'ideal' attacks and the other sort, which we would actually do in the dojo.
Mr Valadez suggests that in the dojo the attack is ideal because it is not the kind of attack that would happen in the street: to me this seems more like saying the attacks are unreal, because they do not come anywhere near to achieving their aim (the latter understood in a wide sense—and your own remarks are very relevant here). An attack could be said to be ideal if it embodies a certain absolute form and is executed with a certain absolute intention. The better the form and the purer the intention (I suppose), the closer to the ideal. I do not see why street fighters cannot use these paradigms, in the same way as practitioners in a dojo.
My aim here is not to make mere verbal distinctions. I think the way aikido was conceptualized after the war is a crucial factor in its success and this was done by the second Doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba. In fact, Mr Valadez's first post pretty well sums up what Doshu wrote in "The Spirit of Aikido": the importance of KI and the spiritual value of training. The point is that he abandoned his father's prewar blend of Shinto/Omoto mysticism, but I am less convinced that postwar attacks became any more ‘ideal' than the prewar variety in the Kobukan ‘hell' dojo.
Alas, this is all I have time for. I am preparing a longer response, but the thread might well die before I have time to finish it.
Reply to Mr. Goldsbury
Dear Mr. Goldsbury,
In attempts to "inspire" you to please provide your longer post, which I look forward to reading, I'd like to be a little more specific about how I was using the terms "real", real, and "ideal" in my initial post. Undoubtedly we will, if we push this semantics far enough (and one may have to), indeed have to get into Plato, or at least make firmer distinctions between the subjective and objective experiences of "reality" ala your favorite philosopher, but I'm hoping/wondering if some working definitions won't do the trick.
Specifically, I was using the term "real" to denote how most folks seem to be using this word when they are talking about the inclusion of attacks from various/other arts - as a kind of statement that, for example, tsuki, yokomen-uchi, and shomen-uchi, are somehow deficient and/or incomplete. That is to say that I was trying to capture that part of the "real attack" position that states that "real attacks" are what one is most likely to experience in the street; that tsuki/yokomen-uchi/shomen-uchi are not attacks one is most likely to experience on the street; and that holds that dojo training is about a "one to one" relationship between the street and the dojo or about substitutionary scenarios (e.g. "The experience of the right cross in the dojo is meant to and can correspond directly with the experience of the right cross in the street." OR "The experience of tsuki in the dojo only prepares you for when folks attack you with tsuki on the street.")
I was using the term real (without quotation marks) to make a distinction between the knowable (the "ideal") and the unknowable, the unrepeatable, and the undeterminable and which manifests itself only in the immediate present (i.e the irruption of the infinite into the manifest) - that which philosophically represents that infinite potential of what one may actually face within any given moment (in the street or in the dojo - though in this case I leaned more to the environment of the street since this is the side the "real attack" position tends to lean on in their rejection or partial rejection of tsuki, yokomen-uchi, or shomen-uchi).
This section of my original post perhaps sums it up:
"After all, if "real" is determined by what one would mostly confront on the street, as the wisdom goes, then perhaps one hasn't been in too many street situations if he/she holds this position. For, as any law enforcement agent, and/or seasoned street rat would tell you, in the street anything is possible, and that alone is what make it real: its infinite nature, its never-ending and unknowable potential."
As for "ideal" - I am using it to denote that which is not real, not of the "street" - that is to say - that which is without the full infinite potential of reality - that which can manifested at will in the dojo.
I think this passage from the original post re-states that position:
"An ideal is an ideal simply because it can be duplicated and repeated and ultimately predicted and determined. The street, that is to say, the chaos of violence, lends itself to no such type of thinking or acting. What you face in the midst of violence is what you face. It is beyond judgment, distinction, and discrimination."
It was my intent with these working definitions to show that tsuki/yokomen-uchi/shomen-uchi could not so easily be dismissed as either inefficient, incomplete, or unrealistic. In short, and perhaps I should have said this up front, "tsuki is both as unrealistic/ideal/"realistic" as is the right cross when it comes to kihon waza.
Hope that helps with your coming post.
Peter and David
My friends, I am reminded of that old story about the Indian Holy man who proclaimed that all was Maya "illusion" in the face of an elephant stampede. Of course the "illusion" flattened him.
Whether "real" or realistic, ideal or representative, if I hit someone with my yokomen they will know it. It will have sufficient power that no one will want to stand in front of it and take the hit. People will have to execute their techniques with some degree of correctness in order to not be crushed by the strike.
For me the point is that whatever we do in our Aikido practice, we must do it well, with power, speed, and intention. This is true of the attacks and it true of the defenses. If you train this way, constantly push the envelope, never stop trying to take what you are doing to the next level, then you are doing Budo. You will become more centered, you will develop some personal power, you will have some ability to defend yourself but will probably be less likely to have to. If street fighting is your goal then some attention to that issue would be advisable but the main components of being able to fight will be there already.
I remember Shioda Sensei's description of his encounter with the members of a Chinese gang in Shanghai. The first guy through the front door coming after Shioda sensei got a broken bottle in his face. One suspects that no where in the Daito Ryu or Aiki Budo repertoire is a form in which one takes a bottle and shoves it into someones face. Obviously Shioda Sensei was generalizing from specific principles of openings, lines of attack, and atemi waza to spontaneously deal with a life and death martial encounter. Clearly though he had the intention necessary to do what was needed. That came from training.
I think that training in the dojo is and should be largely about training in principles. To do this properly and safely the principles should be made as clear as possible. They should be isolated by various attacks / techniques so that they can be understood and internalized by the practitioner.
If you want to go beyond that and do scenario training, which is the state of the art in training technology these days, then feel free. One can get an armored assailant as in model mugging and pound on him, although joint techniques are a bit dangereous since the pads won't protect against that.
But then the armored assailant is so armored that he can't actually fight realistically. So this type of scenbario training isn't "real" either.
In fact the only way I can see to really work on your street fighting skills is to street fight. It's the only thing that has all of the reality and none of the limitations of other ways of practicing. So you do the dojo thing to imprint skills and develop your strength and intention in a controlled environment and then you go out to bars and get in fights and see if your stuff works. A number of the uchi deshi did just that.
But then street fights are with street people. These are possibly dangerous but largely untrained folks. As Ellis Amdur pointed out "martial arts are about training to fight another professional." So to be realy sure that your training is addressing the issue of non-traditional attacks etc. one should go to the local boxing gym and challenge an experienced fighter. One should go dojo busting, visiting every style of art and challenging their seniors to fight for the honor of the school. That's the only way I can see to test what you are doing against every possible attack and response.
Larry Bieri Sensei said that Budo isn't about dying, we all die sooner or later no matter what we do. It is really about what you do with the time you are alotted when you are alive. Training should be about developing those characteristics which will contribute to having a great life in which you basically "serve and protect". To do this one needs to train hard and with realism but it doesn't mean that we have to make the training in to some kind of urban survival scenario based comabt course. That may make you better able to survive on the street if that is your requirement but it probably won't serve to improve your life much.
David and George,
Please do not misunderstand my talk the real and the ideal. Plato is not at all my favourite philosopher: he is too much in his ideal world and not sufficiently rooted in everyday life. Aristotle is more down to earth and his ideas have been the spur for much interesting contemporary thinking about actions, intentions, motives, and the ethical dimensions thereof.
In my opinion, attacks in the street and attacks in the dojo are equally real, or ideal, depending on one's "working definition", as Dave put it.
Thus a gang member who specializes in street fighting or assassinations might well have a very sophisticated concept of an 'ideal' attack, as a pattern which is constantly being tested and refined (providing he/she survives the odds to fight another day). Of course, there is a randomness and clarity of intention to kill or maim which is not seen in a dojo, but this random element does not nullify the real/ideal paradigm, nor the viability of training for such attacks.
I myself would not say this form of training is humanly enriching (because of the wider dimensions involved than simply trying to match the pattern), but some of the literature on the Japanese yakuza presents a different opinion. However, I think no one would deny that attacks in the street, even though they might fall short of some ideal, are very real indeed, especially for the victim. Thus, it is very dangerous, in my opinion, to make overly sharp distinctions between training, as applied to the dojo, and training, as applied to the street.
Equally, someone training in a dojo can execute very real attacks, but they are also attacks which conform more or less to an ideal pattern or form, which they are trying to match (which, incidentally, is at root a Platonic/Aristotelian concept).
In a dojo, however, there is an essential element of 'artificiality', drama even, which is an essential component of the concept of training. I think this concept of artificiality overrides the distinction between real vs. ideal attacks.
In one of my university classes I am using the movie "Gladiator". The historical bases of the movie have been attacked by scholars, but what is not in any doubt is the existence of gladiatorial schools in the Roman Empire, usually organized round a ex-gladiator turned 'Master', who taught his deshi the skills he had learned of attacking and defending.
There was, however, a dimension which probably was not reflected even in the most rigorous training of the Japane samurai in the pre-Tokugawa era: (1) being a gladiator was not a voluntary activity and (2) the line drawn between the training ring and the 'real' result (i.e, death or survival in the arena) was much more finely drawn than in a dojo, even a Muromachi-era dojo, if there were such.
Note also that the master of the gladiator schools had to teach real skills, otherwise he would lose too many of his deshis in the arena. Thus, the training would be artificial, in the sense that it was never a fight to the death in the school, but had to be realistic: to come as close as possible to that potential life/death situation—or to come as close as possible to the Master's ideal patterns of training, whichever was closer, in order to ensure that in a fight to the death, his deshis had the best possible chances of emerging victorious.
Note that a point made by Dave Valadez is covered here. Attacks in the arena were 'in(de)finite' or unpredictable, in the sense that they were conditioned only by the weapons the attackers happened to be using (if I have a trident, I would be unlikely to attack by kicking, but the fact that I attack with a trident channels the unpredictability somewhat, wide though it still is). But the gladiators had little idea beforehand of which of attacks they would actually face, so they had to be prepared for anything—and had to cover this possibility in their training.
The point I want to make here is best made by introducing another concept: authenticity. To what extent can an essentially artificial training situation be authentic?
There are at least two possibilities: (1) How close does the training situation have to match the 'real' situation, for which the training is intended? This is a huge question. (2) How close does the training situation have to reflect the original skills, or blueprint for success, of the master of the school.
In all the previous examples, the training is parasitic on a 'real' stituation which tests the skills acquired by the training. But another interesting question: can you have an authentic training situation in which skills are taught which will hardly ever be put to use in a situation for which the training is intended, which I think is the case in aikido? Obviously you can, but what is the factor which makes the training authentic?
Thus, to generalize, the question arises: what is the ideal form of an attack, understood generally? Well, of course, it depends on the context. No one would really want to compare an infantry battalion in Baghdad with a kitten and a ball of wool, or a gladiator school with a contemporary martial arts dojo.
A better question perhaps would be: what is the most authentic form of attack in an essentially artificial situation. I am with George here: it is as close to edge as possible, but given a very clear sense of the very different capabilities in the dojo and outside the dojo.
Finally, earlier I mentioned the element of drama in a dojo situation. If I were an aikido master training uchi-deshi, I would require them to read the classic works of tragedy, especially Sophocles and Shakespeare. Aristotle has much to say about catharsis in tragic drama. An audience watches—actually participates in—a stage performance which re-enacts a certain sequence of events. As such it is artificial, in the sense I suggested earlier, but the audience experiences a process of catharsis by going through a similar process as the characters which the actors are portraying. To my mind training in a dojo is a cathartic experience: to the extent to which it brings the participants closest to the edge.
I learned this, as I learned how to attack, from a very famous Japanese shihan, now residing in San Diego, USA, and from his father-in-law, who gave a differnet view, equally authentic, in my opinion.
First, let me compliment the erudite entries which I've read with interest (and the occasional twinge of envy), my own contribution I fear is much more minimal.
The real problem as I see it, which has been touched on many times, is not so much the attack, type of attack or even the type or number of attackers, but rather endgendering the correct feelings in the person attacked. That wonderful, mind-numbing "oh s**t I'm going to die" trip which can make a stunned bunny look positively proactive.
With relative beginners, it's reasonably easy to get the andrenalin response - real weapons practice an obvious answer. However, how do you maintain that edge of fear and "authenticity" (nice word, I'm borrowing it) with people who've practiced together for years, even assuming the attacks are committed?
Without adding a "death by misadventure clause" to the dojo rules, I don't think it's possible and the only thing I've found helps in a "real" situation is practice until the brain isn't involved. The attack shouldn't matter, the weapon used shouldn't matter, you should have moved before you've had a chance of thinking, which of course means practice until you're too tired to think then try the "hard" stuff and practice some more.
(One of these days I must take my own advice on this)
Re: Attacks and Intention
I understand where you coming from. Many years ago, a couple of us students questioned our teacher about the authenticity and realistic of the aikido attacks -- lack of commitment and honesty and the telegraphy of the attacks miles away - plus some of the unrealistic moves contradictory to self-defence principles. We asked, "Isn't Aikido a martial art as O sensei talked about Budo and related stuff?" The reply was "Aikido can be anything for any individual. For you, it is a martial art -- self-defence, for others, it is an exercise, to sweat, to socialize, etc. " Twice I was asked to grade for Shodan, as I took a look at my otagani who were about to grade with me, I asked myself, "So, which Shodan am I grading for - Aikido, aerobics or socialite?" Twice I declined amongst other reasons I best not pen here. I was already a Yudansha in other martial arts discipline and I don't really need another, I told myself.
Today I found a new class and a new teacher. Things are still the same but answers are more straight to the point -- "David, not everyone trains the way you do. As per O sensei, Aikido is for everyone. I can't conduct the class according to the way you preferred to train, it is too hard, my other students may not like it and will go away." Aaah!! Now I am beginning to understand real (istic) Aikido.
Will catch up with you later, right now I'm preparing to go help my teacher in a demonstration to a ladies' club interested in taking up Aikido for self-defence. It is an expressive opportunity. It's never too late to learn.
David, I'm intrigued. Your replies to recent threads have been forthright and indicate not only a long-time relationship with martial arts in general, but a sort of "in spite of yourself" one with aikido. So using, this thread as a bounce off, I'd like to ask the following:
1. How would you make the training "more realistic", with particular reference to the attacks etc. ?
2. Where do you feel aikido is lacking in that martial feeling in general. If it has not been your intention to intimate this, apologies.
I'm honestly just curious as you indicate you've spent many a year pondering these areas and you're too damn far to get you drunk and ask direct.:)
I'd also love you to ask what keeps you coming back to aikido (oh yes and why you haven't started your own dojo using your principals). But as these come under the heading of "too personal" I'll probably have to just keep guessing...(?)
what aikido lacks
Re: Holes in the Real Attack
I stopped reading your post at this point.
Btw, I myself of the opinion that Aikido attacks should be practiced as they are, but with sincerity and speed.
I'm going to do my best to give you a shomen uchi or mune tsuki as if I am actually striving to hurt you with it.
The slow motion slaps that a lot of people do for yokomen attack, or the gentle caressing of the forehead that some people think is shomen uchi, are what invalidates the training for both uke and nage.
P.S. I have taken great pleasure in reading Mr. Ledyard's post.
Few things are more upsetting than a non-beginner uke that is twice as large than me, who
a) Gives a yokomen attack with power which would barely squish a fly on the wall. In fact, it may not.
b) "Dutifully" strikes the spot I was initially seen in 24 hours ago.
c) Seems noticeably upset at my committed attacks (where I actually follow his movement), which he probably interprets as some sort of abuse.
Aikido is an art of peace and harmony, after all. (/sarcasm)
d) Does not realize that if I start giving him the same type of attack as he is giving me, he will have to start muscling his way through; also doesn't realize that the reason I'm not doing this is because I don't want this to become some sort of antagonism or competition.
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