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Old 06-01-2005, 10:12 PM   #92
L. Camejo
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Dojo: Ontario Martial Arts
Location: Mississauga, Ontario
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 1,423
Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Hi Charles,

Great and insightful post above btw.

Charles Burmeister wrote:
The question remains as such, how one fosters correct training and correct understanding within their students to be able to reproduce a level of true spontaneous application. Some say forms training are all you need -- that it contains all the answers. You say that it does not.
Actually, Tomiki K., Ueshiba M.'s first 8th Dan also had this idea when he created his format for Aiki randori training. He saw kata and randori as two complementary elements of complete Aikido training and development. If you train in kata (forms) alone you will be good at executing technique but you will not understand what it is like to operate and apply those techniques within the context of resistance and chaos (randori) where the only thing to expect is the unexpected. At the same time if one neglects kata (forms) practice and does only randori then the quality of the waza being applied in randori will probably suffer and the result will be one who can "fight" and struggle using poor technique without understanding how to apply Aiki waza with finesse and control when under pressure. In this case one may be able to develop into a good "fighter" but one may not be a good Aikidoka as ones waza will not be up to par and probably be devoid of Aiki when in a spontaneous situation.

Charles Burmeister wrote:
There is not too much of that today. This day and age all are deemed entitled to the transmission without this seemingly ‘undue process' which has helped to foster this ‘age of martial mediocrity'. If all are entitled, then there is no need for extreme commitment. Without the extreme commitment how deep do you really need to penetrate to be satisfied that you have ‘it'? The cycle perpetuates itself until you get to the point where the instructors that are churned out are under the delusion that the have ‘it' no matter what and the only seemingly set standard of testing the level of spontaneous application is in the format of a demonstration scenario where the attack of the ‘madly running Frankenstein with the outstretched arms' is accepted as a truth.
Very well said.

The above point comes back to a concept I had earlier, regarding folks training in Aikido for a variety of reasons which may have nothing to do with being "martially effective" or understanding "martially spontaneity". I think when Ueshiba M. taught, (especially his prewar students) there was absolutely no question that what he was doing was a martial art and a martially effective art.

Today, the pool of students studying Aikido includes a great many people who have no intention of being martially effective or understanding the depths of appreciating and applying Aiki, they just want something to do with their extra time, a little exercise, friendly atmosphere, practice in easy going, non-threatening (aka harmonious), free flowing movements, or hope to gain some sort of spiritual revelation over a lifetime of practice etc. As such I truly believe those who are seeking martial effectiveness (which funny enough is another road to a lot of the spiritual and other developments the art may foster) may not be in the majority. As a result, the mere pursuit of this level of excellence may be something practiced by a periphery of the practitioners and not necessarily become part of the central core of the art's students worldwide. If this "revolution" does occur you may find a lot of folks leaving Aikido and deciding to go study Yoga or something more in tune with the "other than martial" aspects that they are seeking.

As far as "martially effective spontaneous application of Aiki" goes I don't believe that a huge sector of the current forms based training methods are even sufficient to really realize the goals of applying Aiki spontaneously in an expression of martial excellence. The reason is because forms that are not tested with some sort of resistance or opposing force to verify their martial integrity today are very apt to embrace technical holes that will become glaring and dangerous when placed under any sort of resistance (as we see regularly when a little resistance enters cooperative practice or when some folks walk into sparring dojos and try to test their ability).

Imho the form or kata, though not the most ideal way of training one to be spontaneous in one's application of Aiki by itself, is a critical technical foundation in trying to approach higher levels of spontaneity and in the move towards martial excellence. Without sound Aiki waza (learnt from forms practice) you may react spontaneously, but execute some good Judo waza or something else that does not utilize the tactical and strategic paradigms of Aiki to execute the technique. So kata does play a very important role imo, but it is only the first step on the stairway to martial excellence. Non-resistant randori (jiyuwaza) is only the second step (and is the lowest level of randori in Shodokan). Only after we can become spontaneous at these lower levels can we even hope to understand how to bring harmonious reconciliation of energy out of the chaos that is randori or the attacks one may meet out there on the pointy edge.

Imho Ueshiba M. knew that when he spoke of really understanding the depths of Aiki he was making a very tall technical and spiritual order that very many will find too difficult to even try to really achieve or understand. To be martially proficient is one thing. To be proficient enough to deal with any attacker and still be centred and controlled enough to not injure and reconcile the situation in harmony is another thing entirely. Do we merely assume it can't be done or do we prove that it can't be done by plumbing the depths of spontaneous Aiki ourselves? Maybe we'll be surprised.

Just a few thoughts. Great conversation folks.

--Mushin Mugamae - No Mind No Posture. He who is possessed by nothing possesses everything.--
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