Michael Gallagher wrote:
Yes, and for that reason, I am nor sure what, if anything, from Aikido will "pop up" when Guro Andy gets us sparring. But would that necessarily mean anything one way or the other? Is Aiki impossible in that situation, or is it just so complicated with the roles of uke and nage unlocked that the opportunities for it pass in a microsecond?
Actually when I practice FMA I tend to feel like my Aikido is just below the surface and will spontaneously erupt and execute whatever technique is most appropriate whenever I set myself up in a position where this is possible and my mind and body are coordinated enough with what is going on to react as is necessary. So afaik it should "pop up" as you say and if it is Aiki I think you will know it, you'll feel it. Aikido is not the only MA that uses Aiki principles imho. The FMA I practice - Sadiq Kali Silat, has a Jujutsu type (grappling, throwing and locking) aspect that flows very well with typical Aikido waza. Sometimes the transition is seamless.
When the roles of Uke and Nage are unlocked it is the best time for spontaneous application of Aiki imo. Since you need to really be sensitive and correctly perceive your partner's movements and learn to adapt and counter in an instant. Often it does not pass in a microsecond, since you are a part of the interaction and can very often feel when you will have the opportunity to spontaneously apply Aiki waza, just like your push hands nikkyo experience, you get a feeling just before the opportunity shows itself. We may not be able to capitalize on all the opportunities but I am sure as you get going the opportunities will not pass as quickly as you may think. Let us know how it goes, I think your FMA sparring may do much to help your spontaneous Aikido.
Michael Gallagher wrote:
But I don't see how "cooperative" can be "mediocre." How can you go beyond that without risking O Sensei's prohibition against comeptions? And even then, even most sparring is also, to a certain extent, aritificial. Do you send yodanshas into dark alleys with ten dollar bills hangining from their pockets? Sounds like a good way to get people to resign!
I don't mean to say that cooperative training in itself is mediocre, I mean that when we allow ourselves to get into the comfort zone of thinking that cooperative training alone will allow us to plumb the depths of applying spontaneous
Aiki, it is then we are settling for a mediocre method, since it is insufficient to truly simulate the environment under which spontaneous Aiki can be developed, executed and allow the practitioner to evolve. Cooperative training is very important for learning the basics, the movements, the kata, the form and having a structural, theoretical and technical guideline to follow. But it is only one aspect of holistic training imo and is at the periphery of understanding how to apply Aiki to very dynamic situations where free will is allowed to run amok and there is no Tori or Uke, like in your FMA sparring.
As far as Ueshiba M.'s "prohibition to competitions" I am not too sure what he meant when he said that. In my understanding from also seeing Tomiki's perspective I truly believe that the 2 were talking past each other. Tomiki's idea of competition is as a method of improving one's spontaneous Aikido. It is a training tool and not an end in itself like a lot of modern competitive practices. It sets a sound foundation for the testing of tactics and strategies and the method can easily be expanded to allow for self defence type training as well.
Even if you don't agree with the above however (and most Aikido folks won't) there is the randori and jiyuwaza method as practiced by most dojos. However, instead of just running at Tori/Nage with hands outstretched expecting to fall or be pinned, start actually and seriously giving the Tori a realistic, focused, serious but controlled attack with intent (i.e. really challenge him but don't knock his block off if he slips up, maintain control of the attack). Don't throw a well telegraphed hay-maker when you can throw a focused, tight round punch or cross with your weight centered and balance under control. If using traditional aikido attacks like Shomen, Yokomen etc. keep it tight and make it a real, powerful and effective attack, not an unfocused, off target swinging of the arms. Striking as uke should be atemi practice for your own waza as Tori imho. This is a start, make the attacks honest, minimise any openings and don't give away your balance or your mind. As you improve, slowly open things up by allowing for more attacks, always keeping things honest.
The next level is to start adding resistance and counters to the techniques to the point where the line between Uke and Tori blurs. The idea in the end is to develop sensory perception to the point where one can quickly and sharply determine what attack is coming and practice applying Aiki principles in a way to effectively deal with the attack. If clashing, failure or muscling occurs, return to the practice of kata and see what nuance of your randori waza does not effectively match your kata waza. It's like checking your form against a kata template in an attempt to get better at doing it in randori.
You are correct that to a point most sparring is artificial, but it is of great assistance in one's dojo training when the attacks and mindset one deals with resembles reality as much as possible and the "most effective form of the attack" is what is being defended against. I think a lot of Aiki application works on the physical and psychological reactions of a person who is really attacking, which is why many things tend not to make sense when being practiced cooperatively, but make perfect sense when done in resistance randori.
The idea in the end is to forge oneself, one's technique and one's application and understanding of Aiki principles by challenging the self, the technique and the applications of the principles to the point of failure. It is only when this "failure" happens can we go deeper into the meaning behind the waza and understand what about our execution of the waza or the principle helped it to fail. Then we can identify the parts of the problem and work on it with the help of a good instructor and aim to improve in our spontaneous applications by serious, honest, humble self evaluation.
Hopefully if this is done properly we won't have to send Yudansha into dark alleys or Biker bars with $10 bills hanging out. But then again if it did happen they may be a lot more knowledgeable and skilled in spontaneously applying those things that they have been practicing for how many years.
Just a few thoughts.