One of my more common statements that tend to get people prickly is this: MA doesn't work very well for self defense.
Any MA, that is.
Not just me; but a lot of people - trained and experienced individuals (and far more trained and experienced than myself, at that) - state this. There are a lot of reasons; one of the main being - as shown in another recent thread - the training one recieves in a MA school cannot prepare someone for the violence of an attack.
Thing is; while I say it; I don't completely believe it; otherwise; I wouldn't be studying aikido, would I? ;)
To me; the problem with applying an MA to a defensive situation is less a problem with the art itself; but rather how it is taught. IOW; the difference is in the teacher; rather than the subject matter.
Now - that out of the way; I'll restate the statement to read "Without specific self-defense training; MA isn't very useful for a defensive situation."
Why do I say that? I've spent a long time wracking my brains trying to come up with an acceptable answer to that. I think I finally have one. I'll use the analogy of a telescope.
Before I begin; let's be certain we understand my interpretation of defense. To me; defense is not about techniques, winning or losing, surviving, etc. I look at defense as True Defense - a term I use to mean the protection of the entire person - the mind, body and spirit. In other words; True Defense is the ability of a person to live in peace; free of fear.
People commonly say that "the defensive side of MA is a small part of the entire MA". I disagree. Based on my interpretation; I say that "MA is a small part of the lifestyle of True Defense".
That clarification will help explain the following analogy.
We live in an enormous universe - a vast and fascinating cosmos. You want to study that cosmos. So what do you do?
The easiest way is to provide yourself with the tool to observe the cosmos - a telescope.
So you head on down to the science store. There are lots of bright shiny telescopes to choose from; of many different sizes, shapes, uses, and prices. Here's your first problem: Which telescope is best for you?
You're no fool - you want your money's worth. So you check out the options very carefully. You want just the right telescope for you - one you can set up at your cottage; observe the Moon and planets; perhaps hook up a camera to to take pictures. You opt for an excellent model; spending enough to get a really good telescope - you know cheap instruments yield cheap results.
So now; you've got a brand-new telescope; one anyone would be proud to have. So you can go right out and start learning about the cosmos, yes?
No - this is your first telescope; you have to learn how to use it first. How to do that?
The first thing to do is the easiest - ask the guy that sold it to you. He'll know. And he does - he gives you excellent information on the care and use of your telescope; sells you a book on the subject. He loves the subject himself; he'll talk your ear off if you let him - and you'd be a fool not to; he knows more about it than you.
Thus armed; you head up to your cottage; set up your telescope. The things you see are incredible; magestic! You skim over the craters of the Moon; you count the rings of Saturn. You gaze at the angry glare of Mars and fall into the abyss of the Milky Way. It's awe-inspiring; wonderful!
How much have you learned about the cosmos?
That was your goal; after all.
Not, as it turns out, very much. You see the majesty of space all around you; but what does it mean? How does it work? What's happening out there? You don't know - because even with your great telescope; all you're doing is looking. You're not learning.
OK; you're learning a bit. But not much - because while you've made the effort to choose the right telescope and learned how to use it; in the final count you haven't learned about the cosmos; you've learned about the telescope.
Which was not your goal - fun as it is.
It must be said; you've also learned other things; some very beneficial. You learn patience; from having to wait long hours for your nightly goal. You learn care and accuracy; to both locate your target and observe it carefully. You learn thoroughness; in order to most effectively chart what you see. You also learn the peace and tranquility of swimming in the sea of stars; and the peace and wonder that brings.
But as wonderful as those things are; they're not your ultimate goal; though they're vital to achieving it.
But remember - the easy way to learn about the cosmos was to buy a telescope. You've done that. And you've benefitted from it. But there's another way - a hard way. You can start studying the cosmos itself.
There are many ways - obviously; the best way is to go to University and get a degree in Astronomy. That's very hard indeed - you have to change your entire lifestyle; quit your job, get the money for school, spend years studying, etc. On the way though; you earn your goal - to understand the cosmos. I repeat that - you earn it - through hard work and dedication.
And on the way; that telescope which once yielded so little results takes on a whole new meaning. Now when you bend to the eyepiece; you're not just looking - you understand what you're looking at. The telescope is no longer a fun toy; it becomes a powerful, important instrument of discovery. It becomes a critical tool in your quest to understand the cosmos - the easy way and the hard way support each other as never before. You're now using that telescope in the way it was built to be used.
In this analogy; the cosmos is True Defense; the MA of your choice is the telescope.
This is the point where MA instruction falls away from defense. You see; while you study MA; you're studying MA; not SD. The two are not equal; the martial art is a tool to help you get there; it isn't defense in and of itself. An important tool; but still just a tool. The thing is; learning MA by itself is no bad thing at all - it's a great thing. But if your ultimate goal is defense; until you actually learn defense beyond the MA world; you'll just be getting only the most basic structures - this is why there's so much wrong thinking and incorrect assumption about defense in the MA world.
But once you do learn true defense; your MA takes on a whole new importance - you understand the "Why's"; not just the "How's".
IMO; "Why?" is the most underused question in Martial Arts.
"But", you say, "There's got to be a middle ground, doesn't there? Isn't it possible to learn effective SD without going that deep into it?"
Yes - there is. Just like in the telescope analogy. The hard road is university; but there's all sorts of easier roads - some more effective than others. Self study is one; informal instruction from a person in the field is another. This is the road that 99% of those who learn SD take. But beware - the critical ingredient in this approach is the person you choose to learn from; and the books you read.
Unless you choose a true source; who knows how accurate the information you're getting is?
Going back a bit; let's look at the teachers you will learn from in the telescope analogy. Let me ask a question: If you want to learn about the cosmos; who would you rather learn from? An astronomer, or the guy that sold you the telescope?
An easy answer - the astronomer is the one that studies what you wish to learn; while the telescope guy knows all about the tool you're using. The answer is 'both'.
Ideally; you want a teacher that knows both sides - the 'scope and what you're pointing it at.
For SD; the astronomer is the person trained and experienced in defense; the 'scope guy is the teacher at the dojo - literally; he's the one selling you 'the telescope'. You ideally want a teacher that understands - and can teach - both MA and defense. Then you'll be getting the whole picture.
This, then, is why I say learning MA is useful for developing SD; but only if it is learned in conjunction with Self Defense. The two (ideally) are complementary; but not the same.
I hope this helps a few people; or at least raises discussion.
Re: The Telescope
oh, I'm very disappointed, I thought you will write about ways to use a weapon named telescope(kind of stick you can "fold" and unfold) :(
Re: The Telescope
There is a saying that goes; "A good martial art may include self-defense, but a good self-defense may not include martial arts." I think that is how that saying goes.
When it comes to self-defense though the primary factor is the practitioner, not the style of martial art, not the teacher, not the time nor techniques they have studied. "Outside of the safety of the dojo the strong may become weak and the weak may become strong." The most important thing is the mindset of the practitioner. Being able to stay centered and do what is necessary. No matter how good of a teacher, martial art, technique one might have, without the right mindset for the "street situation" everything will unravel.
Re: The Telescope
Who is an expert in True Defense?
I like your definition: "the protection of the entire person - the mind, body and spirit. In other words; True Defense is the ability of a person to live in peace; free of fear." But most of the people I know who live peacefully are not experts at winning fights, and most experts at winning fights are (pretty much by definition) not living very peacefully.
My understanding of the human condition is that being free from fear has little to do with actually being safe. It just means being free from fear. In other words, it has nothing to do with whether you can be killed in a fight, but rather whether you are *afraid of* being killed in a fight. I imagine fighting experts are probably people for whom fear of losing a fight has shaped their whole lives.
And that's why we practice an art, rather than a system of defense. If you're not getting enough peace from your training, and if peace is what you're looking for, try a spiritual master. If you just want to fight, forget anything with "do" at the end of it.
Re: The Telescope
Gareth - Though I am no expert on Japanese culture as a whole, nor budo and bujustu, it is my understanding that '-do' arts are those with a more spiritual based science, while the '-jutsu' arts are those of practicality. Perhaps we are just arguing semantics here.
A more important note is the general theory, I suppose, of budo/bujutsu/bushido. While these warrior codes are somewhat abstract and most likely more misunderstood as their prevelance fades, it seems that they fully embrace the dichotomy of war and peace. Practioners were most definitely trained in the arts of war, they also embraced a high code of ethics and virtues (referring, at the very least, to the 7 virtues of bushido). It seemed it was a most spiritual practice, so much that it took on a 'live to die' sort of meaning. I would say that anything dealing so heavily in the truths of life such as this should be classified as spiritual. Along with this, it seems fair enough to say, came the lack of fear in the face of death, an embracing of it, so much that death itself was a form of peace - the ultimate peace, perhaps. To make this come around full circle, those who were truly masters of death were those who were at peace with themselves - specifically their own (and their opponent's) mortality - and in tune with a high level of spirituality. It is as if true peace/defense can only be obtained once one has gone through the rigors of violence and war. Those familiar with Taoist thought would probably agree (at least from the basis that one is only defined by the other).
If you've ever seen Jet Li's Hero, they discuss the 3 levels of mastery of the sword. The first is mastery of the sword in the hand, whereby you can strike down any opponent. The second is mastery of the sword in the heart, whereby you can strike down an opponent, empty handed, from 100 paces away. The third is the mastery of the sword in neither the hand nor the heart, where the weapon has been laid down, and the swordman is at peace with the world.
While this may be just a snippet from a movie, the life and legend of Miyamoto Musashi seems to agree with this. Perhaps there is an innate peace in death and battle. Perhaps this only comes from true mastery of an art.
Being only recently aware of Taoism and the sword culture that was Japan, my thoughts and opinions are only forming. Hopefully I haven't convoluted them to the point where they are either illogical or do not accurately relay what I feel.
DaveO - An excellent analogy and a point definitely worth considering. At the very least, we should seek to know our own reasons for studying whatever it is we choose, as well as the limitations of the path by which we make our journey.
Take it easy,
Re: The Telescope
We're not even arguing semantics, we're agreeing. I said avoid the "-do" arts if all you want to do is fight. In other words, yes they are more spiritual and have less direct focus on fighting techniques.
You make a good point that the path of war was a spiritual one. I'm sure a high level of peace and personal development was achieved by many of the samurai. But, was it a higher level than that of the peaceful monks who simply studied themselves, without killing people? I would guess *generally* no.
Also, I think the cultural context is quite different. In feudal times, trouble came looking for you all the time. If you were born into a samurai family you had no choice but to live the warrior's life. Nowadays, depending on your background and where you live, it is either a little safer or hugely safer than it was back then. It is fairly easy to choose a peaceful lifestyle and succeed in maintaining one. I'm 33, and I've never been in anything that even resembled a full-blown physical self-defense situation, because I try to predict and avoid such situations. If I wanted to become a proven expert in defending myself in fights, I'd have to put myself in a position to get in some fights, which seems to me like a poor kind of self-defense (not to mention bad karma).
So I hold to my position that by DaveO's definition of True Defense, learning to win fights is less useful than, and not required for, learning to be at peace within yourself.
Re: The Telescope
Under the context of modern life, I agree. I think that the model of feudal Japan (as well as other historic Asian nations) can still hold true, but in the increasingly westernized world, it is less practical, most definitely not a requirement in most places, and much more difficult. Nowadays, yes, most of martial ways will simply never reach the pinnacle of spiritual achievement, and thus, should be considered 'less peaceful.'
However, as much as I dislike it, the human race is one of violence; "To secure peace is to prepare for war." This makes the other [mentioned] path to peace one of almost the same difficulty if one is to subject themselves to the confines of society. I, for one, would like to find a practical way to integrate the societal detachment and solitude that I think is very much a necessary part of finding peace these days with the more substinance rewarding ways of society (ie, be a hermit with a job and not have to farm all my own damn food :) ).
If that could be achieved, then I think the path to peace and true defense could be more easily be attained but also catalyzed through the martial arts. I would agree with you say that the study of martial arts specifically for fighting (self defense counting as well) would not get you there, but martial arts, as you mentioned, in the tradition of Buddhist monks to conquer one's self would. It is a concept that can easily be misinterpreted if not specifically spelled out, but given the right intention refutes part of the original arguement.
I hope this discussion can continue and go forward, if only because I enjoy the questions it forces me to ask myself, as well as stimulating my response by having to comunicate it through my fingers :). Domo arigatou gozaimashita.
Unrealistic demand of aikido
The thread starter has a good analogy wrt martial arts and self defense. I am writing to put my view across that many practitioner has unrealistic views of the functional aspect of aikido.
When one practices aikido, it is only natural to ask how effective it is against an aggressor. This is because if you are practicing, then you are concern that you are not wasting your time and tuition fees (m,'ship fee).
IMO, to be an effective aikido user, one should have a least sandan grade or 15 years regular practice to be CONSISTENTLY effective. Some may argue that they able and have successfully utilize aikido to fend off aggressor, well my say is you've got lucky, your opponent was unlucky, and probably you out-sized your opponent. In my view, to be effective, one has to be able to be consistently effective.
Look at the practitioner of old, e.g., the Osensei's uchideshi, they were practicing 5-6 days a week, up to 6 hours per day consistently for umpteen years. It was no surprise they were effective fighter. You seriously can't expect to be effective after practicing the art for only 2-3 years. Even when one is a shodan, my opinion he/she is only 50/50 effective.
After 15 years of regular practice (regular means minimum of 2 session per week), and at least having sandan, assuming sandan is a technical measure of one's proficiency, then you are at least effective.
In part 2, I will explain why I think it takes 15 years or sandan to be effective in aikido...
Unrealistic demand of aikido: part 2
Aikido is a comprehensive art, the syllables contain in its study encompasses reply to virtually every possible form of aggression.
Whereas striking and kicking are very apparent in its employment, certain aikido techniques are very subtle, and can only be known through feeling it. This is where aikido peculiarity and idiosyncrasies comes in. A spectator, or a book reading person on aikido can never fully grasp aikido. It is only illuminated through personal feeling of the art. This is again only applicable when one has a technically sound instructor.
Let's take kotegaeshi for example, any students, know that it is a inward wrist twist. However to be always effective, one must also adapt the technique to the various opponents. What if your opponent has very strong wrist, does one know what to do then, at that moment? Without such length of time in practice, the new students would most probably give up, or apply strength, which then is not aikido.
There is a big different in knowing the form and the essence/principle. Any newbie can copy the outer form (the kata). It takes the aforementioned number of years of constant practice to grasp the fundamentals (to have feeling of the technique).Then it takes probably up to sandan grade to know the technical repertoire to utilise aikido effectively in combat.
Having said the above, that is why IMO, aikido practitioner can only CONSISTENTLY be an effective combatant after a probably 15 years of regular practice and also has achieve a sandan technical proficiency. Anyone who wants a very quick to learn and effective martial art should choose something like ving tsun or kick boxing.
Just my $ 0.02 thought,
Re: The Telescope
Hello all; sorry it's taken so long to get back to this - real life intruded. :(
Please let me respond to some individual points. :)
Next; please let me address the last poster's excellent comments. Boon Soh is absolutely right in his analysis IMO; in that it takes around 15 years to develop Aikido as a defensive tool. However; I must make these points on it:
As a U/C instructor; I can train someone to effectively defend themselves in 8 weeks. Now keep in mind; this is due to some pretty specific conditions: The people I trained are already trained (to a certain extent) in the skills of war - they're soldiers. Young; tough, fit and aggressive as Hell. Also; I (along with more senior instructors) had them for hours a day; day after day in intense training no civilian could willingly withstand; using practices no civilian school could legally use.
However; taking the differences between military and civilian training into consideration; there is a vast amount of time difference between 2 months and 15 years.
What is the cause of that difference? Besides the above-mentioned conditions; that is.
For this; we must return to the telescope analogy. Learning to use a telescope alone; the amateur astronomer may over time learn things he never knew before. Through careful obsevation; he can chart the course of the planets and if he's real good eventually be able to predict - let's say - when the next solar eclipse will be.
It'd be a lot quicker if someone - oooh; like an astronomer; for instance - came along and told him what to look for; wouldn't it? :D
See; when people say 'it takes 15 years to learn to defend onesself using aikido'; they're falling into two traps: First; while the statement is correct; it is correct only if the person learns aikido alone. In other words; training year in and year out in aikido - which I maintain is an excellent goal in and of itself - one may learn the movements, concepts and bases of Self Defense. If, however, one learns SD [independant of aikido; whether that be in a separate school or by a Sensei experienced at SD - he can view aikido through the light of SD and understand its structure within the framework of self-defense. When he does this; he doesn't need to learn these concepts by trial-and-error; he'll already know them - and train accordingly.
These concepts and habits are remarkably easy to learn; if one is willing to learn them.
The second trap people fall into is exemplified by this statement:
In other words; in order to learn good SD; one must learn to stop thinking in terms of techniques. One must learn to think in terms of position, movement, lines of entry and routes of escape. One must learn awareness of their surroundings and the indicators of violent crime.
Now - all this being said; do not for one moment think I'm suggesting it's easy - it's not. To effectively defend onesself; one must put effort into learning; and one's teacher must put effort into teaching. It can't be done quickly; but it can be done much faster than people might think. Nor do they need to train intensively under 'real-life' conditions - I'm of the firm belief that training must always be a positive experience for a student; otherwise he doesn't learn effectively. Based on my own experience; I say that by teaching SD concurrently with aikido; a person can teach a willing student to defend him/herself in around 3 years of regular study - perhaps 4 or 5; depending on cases. At which point they've hardly started along the path of aikido; but that's another path entirely, isn't it? :)
Re: The Telescope
DaveO said: "In other words; in order to learn good SD; one must learn to stop thinking in terms of techniques. One must learn to think in terms of position, movement, lines of entry and routes of escape. One must learn awareness of their surroundings and the indicators of violent crime."
Most agreed. After such lengthy post, we return to what the founder (Osensei Ueshiba) believe in. Live in harmony and love your surrounding. Then the true manifestation of self defence occur. The technique or physical aspect is only the tool to express the principle of aiki.
Re: The Telescope
Oh one more thing you forgot to mention... self defense against illness and disease. Aikido and most physical activites are proven defense against illness (obesity, Diabetic, Cardiovascular etc...) Maybe this is discussion for another forum. :p
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