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Old 05-26-2005, 12:41 AM   #4
Dojo: Finger Lakes Aikido
Location: Cortland, NY
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 980
Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Larry Camejo wrote:
Hi folks,

The following is part rant, part serious soul searching question on the general practice and instruction of Aikido as done worldwide.

Have we as Aikidoka begun to accept a culture of martial mediocrity within our art? In other words, has objective martial effectiveness and its related elements within Aikido training become something so abstract, so diametrically opposed to the concept of "peace and harmony with the universe", so much not a major goal of modern training that often folks move through the ranks into the higher levels of Yudansha without understanding simple elements of body control that are addressed by training with the goal of objectively effective technique?
Good question.

I have no idea.

Compounding the issue is that Aikido techniques are automatically tricky -- the devil is in the details. Which is why after plugging away once or twice a week for a year, there are still plenty of things I have trouble with. Yes, I've done martial arts for 20 years, and yes, I am doing a ton of other things besides Aikido. But it is still slow going, in no part because by my own choice, I only go once or twice a week. If someone trained several times a day every day, it might be different.

My reason for asking these questions is because recently I see a trend where many Aikidoka appear to be clueless about how to achieve simple tasks like maintaining one's footing and vertical posture in the face of a shoot or tackle, or questionable ability to comfortably evade certain types of unarmed attacks (i.e. tai sabaki) or have a very rudimentary understanding of how Aikido uses the balancing structures of the body to operate effectively. It's as if the fundamentals of Aikido only exist as sound principles in the protective environment of cooperative practice. As soon as an actual challenge or serious attack occurs the principles don't work anymore (at least this is the impression I get from many).
They probably could work, but for most people, it will could take a long time to ingrane them.

.... When folks see "flaws" and "lacking" areas in Aikido and try to "improve" it by simply adding things like boxing, Jujutsu, Judo or wrestling tactics is this a reflection of the general level of martial tuition available out there in Aikido, where the student rushes to every other style out there to act as a crutch towards effectiveness instead of taking the time to plumb the depths and learn what truly makes Aikido an extremely effective martial art within its own paradigm?
I'm the wrong person to ask, because I've come the other way -- from more "combative" arts like karate, Kali, and Serak, and I've added Aikido to the mix.

One thing I've noted from all my crosstraining -- and Pembantu Andy Astle feels the same way --- is that when you come to something new (or, in the case of Aikido, return to something old), you are content with it as you find it. At least I am. I would never call Aikido "inadequate," preferring to say that it specializes. Yes, I'm aware of what Aikido training doesn't include, but (a) Guro Andy has those things covered; and (b) I'm taking Aikido to find out what's there, not what isn't!

Have we grown to accept that in the face of other arts we cannot stand on the same level in the area of martial applicability? I am not referring so much to self defence, but more to the mastery of the Aiki basics that makes an effective Aikidoka and Budoka.
How long is a peice of string? If a 75 year old Aikido teacher can say with a straight face, "Oh, now I think I'm finally getting the hang of shiho-nage," and O Sensei himself said, IIRC, "I'm still a beginner," at what point can you say you've mastered anything about anything? I've been doing MA for 20 years and I think I'm lousy at it! Who's to judge?

Here's an interesting aside: Because Kali includes Filipino Boxing, some weeks ago, Guro Andy spent the entire class -- 90 minutes -- on the basics: Stance, guard, and jab, cross and hook.

That was it. For 90 minutes. I thought I knew that stuff after seven years, but I didn't! His rationale was, "There are many ways to do them wrong, but only one way to do them correctly."

90 minutes on punches I thought I'd learned years ago.

So, how long will it take to 'master' the Aiki principles if you go to a 90 minute class once a week? How many people will stick with it that long?

Just my 2p.
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