Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?
"So later when we are practicing he decides to resist my technique as I am trying to execute it his way during cooperative practice. It does not work (since the concept of kuzushi apparently eludes these people sometimes), so he smirks and says "See resistance is not always futile", I remember thinking (almost voicing) my immediate response "Only when I do it your way buddy."
What this encounter helped me to see was that within the culture of martial mediocrity there are many folks, and Aikido has a fair share of em, that truly believe in their spontaneous martial ability from practicing in kata alone and try to prove this using bullying tactics since there are certain rules and norms to interaction during forms practice (i.e. Uke does not really try to defend himself)…"
Yes, I would agree, this too is very much connected to the how the culture of mediocrity offers its resistance to the true cultivation of Aiki spontaneity (being spontaneous with the tactic of Aiki). It does this by again over-emphasizing forms training. In other words, because there are no true outlets for the cultivation of spontaneity, in the culture of mediocrity, forms are wrongly stretched beyond their actual nature in some sort of deluded attempt to capture something, anything, of spontaneous Aiki. Rather than leading to any real kind of insight into spontaneity, this type of training often leads to a kind of Aikido that is even further from such ends. This is because this type of training often comes to be heavily influenced by the culture's sense of etiquette. As a result, you do not really get spontaneous Aikido, rather you get what could be called "Rank Aikido." In "Rank Aikido," he or she with the higher rank sets the rules for and determines the degrees of "resistance" by which spontaneity is supposedly gained. As a result, rank often determines what is successful and what is not -- nothing or little else. In Rank Aikido, one's proximity to protocol, rather than one's proximity to the spontaneous application of Aiki, determines the outcome. In a way, this type of "resistance" is much like playing poker with the cards up. There is some chance involved, but still much of the game is missing -- much of what is important. Because key things are missing, the kind of spontaneity that one often cultivates (e.g. switching from Nikyo to Rokkyo when Uke resists by straightening the arm or going into Kote-gaeshi from Ikkyo is the person stands up on you) by wrongly stretching forms training to this degree is radically different from actual Aiki spontaneity. That is to say, it is radically different from the kind of spontaneity that must take place outside of etiquette, outside of a choice of forms, and outside of a resistance meant to subvert a given form.
In short, when I talk about "resistance" or when I am referring to a spontaneous application of Aiki, I am not at all referring to someone that muscles against you (either intentionally or unintentionally, either with by agreement or without agreement) within forms training. This is right up there (i.e. down there) with using randori (i.e. having folks run madly at you so you can do Kokyu-nage and Ago-ate against four or more folks) as one's outlet for cultivating spontaneity. I think Larry too is of this position. This kind of training does not at all, in my opinion, produce the kind of spontaneity that is truly necessitated by either the goal to gain some sort of martial effectiveness with Aiki and/or to reconcile the subject/object dichotomy at the deeper levels of Self. By comparison, I would call it a cheap substitute. The cultivation of the spontaneity of which I am referring not only requires a break with form but also a break with forms training. Environments where the underlying structures of form training can be subverted are necessary to reach, as Larry calls them, the "the reflexive, instinctive elements" of our being. This means one requires environments that are by design meant to do away with notions like these: action/reaction; nage/uke; my turn/your turn; throw/pin/lock/strike; start/stop; beginning/end; my space/your space; attack/defend; technique/counter; my style/your style; my rank/your rank; my experience/your experience; etc.
The goal is not to switch techniques, nor to resist techniques, etc., the goal is "to have the doer and the done become one" -- such that techniques both exist (from an objective point of view) and do not exist (from a subjective point of view). If all you do is forms, and/or if all your training environments continue to make use of the substructures of forms training, in my experience, doer and done can only become one under conditions that for the most part remain artificial. Because of this, the "spontaneity" presented, for the most part, also remains artificial. As a generation, today, we simply must risk stepping away from forms, from forms training, and most importantly FROM THE SUBSTRUCTURES OF FORMS TRAINING if we are truly wishing to take the cultivation of becoming spontaneous with Aiki seriously. We do this along side of forms training and we do not have to stretch forms training beyond its actual capacity and/or feel compelled to simply add more forms from outside of the art. We do this along side of forms training, and we will definitely come to understand forms more fully and more accurately -- such that the addition of more forms is seen for the absurdity that it truly is. These two aspects (i.e. forms training and non-forms training) are like two wheels of a cart, two wings of a bird that together lift and support the cultivation of Aiki spontaneity. First, we need to note their differences from each other, then we need to use them both to understand each aspect better through contrast, then we reconcile them, then we transcend them. In the process, as they support our practice, our cultivation of spontaneous Aiki is also supported.