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Old 08-10-2005, 03:25 PM   #7
Keith R Lee
Location: Alabama
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 219
Re: "Traditional budo" and "Fighting art"

Warning: long incoming post

I don't want to speak for Jorgen, but I think what's getting to him is the same thing that gets to me. I'll get to this in a little bit.

Budo have an explicit purpose of character development and polishing the self, that's a given. Getting more specific, Aikido has a very specific philosophical basis that is manifested in practice. Now certainly the degree to which this philosophy is emphasized will vary from style to style and dojo to dojo. For many these are the notions of harmony, blending, and non-competition.

If one's goal is to pursue a budo in order to cultivate the self and to get some physical exercise and to understand more about a foreign culture that is fine. These are notable goals, and are honestly the ones that most people who are curious and enter martial arts are looking for.

However, combative sports are an entirely different beast and require an entirely different set of skills. They also generally involve "live" training. Furthermore, conditioning and strength play a far greater role in combative sports. And most importantly, the goal of combative arts is to win.

The problem I have (and I think what Jorgen is getting at, though please step in here and correct me if I'm wrong Jorgen) is typified in the Exaggeration in Aikido thread. I have seen many claims on boards such as Aikiweb that Aikido is some sort of "ultimate" martial art. I think most of this is linked to the near deification of Ueshiba sensei by many aikido dojos. An example is the name "o sensei." As Peter Rehse stated elsewhere it smacks of arrogance and ignorance to called Ueshiba sensei "o sensei" and not Kano sensei and Funokoshi sensei as well.

These stories and legends about Ueshiba sensei to provide a skewed view of physical combat because people begin to rely on hearsay and not empirical evidence. It's very easy to walk into a dojo and see many people doing something that looks like a physical conflict. And then they both get up! No one gets hurt! Then you hear about the wonderful philosophy behind the art about "taking care" of the enemy. "Harmonizing" with them, etc. Well that sounds very appealing, and "enlightened." No brute are these Aikido folks! They are sophisticated and intelligent, says the potential Aikdio student, I want to be part of that.

So the student joins and is slowly nurtured into the non-resistant environment. The student is constantly assured by their seniors that this stuff "really works." And there is some testing now and then, some resistance, but in a very controlled manner. But the only problem is that this is how the student's seniors were reared in the art as well. They have no real, personal, empirical knowledge if their Aikido works or not. They only have hypothesis and hearsay. This might go as far as 3-4 generations of instructors and student who are removed from anyone who has first-hand experience of physical conflict. So the student begins to take whether or not their techniques work on a matter of faith not experience.

And if the student is misled badly enough, overconfidence emerges and the student begins to think that they can handle that 275 pound NFL linebacker over there. The student definitely thinks they can take that pretty regular looking guy who's had a few drinks. That they can handle some MMAer. Because the student takes a "sophisticated" martial art, not one that involves all that grubby rolling around and the ground and hitting each other.

That is the problem I have with some who practice Aikido. The sense of arrogance some seem to have because the art is "sophisticated" and has a philosophical backing. Arrogance and ignorance because as soon as someone begins to cross-train they will be rudely disabused by the pre-conceived notions they had about the effectiveness of their Aikido techniques.

Everything changes in a "live" environment. And what frustrates people who do train in "live" environments is this: being told by people who practice only in kata based environments that the kata practioners would be "just as effective" if they entered into a "live" environment. Because the "live" practioners have real experience in the environment and the kata-based practioners do not.

It's akin to what a 13 year old thinks sex is like. He's heard stories form his friends, seen pictures, some video, whatever with the internet. He thinks he's got a pretty good idea of what sex is all about. Compare that to a 28 year old woman who has been having sex for 10 years. Who is the better authority on sex? Who would you trust to give you sexual advice?

And lastly, like most everything else, fighting has evolved and changed over the years. Ueshiba sensei was a very talented martial artist. However, I do not think he would be able to stand toe to toe with any of the top MMA fighters today. Everything from fighting skill to conditioning to human physiology has changed. No one would argue that plucking Harrison Dillard (a gold metal track star the 40's) and putting him up against Carl Lewis would result in a win for Dillard. Or to keep it nearer to combative sports and budo, no sane person could argue that Floyd Patterson, won the gold for the United States in boxing in 1952, would be able to compete with Lennox Lewis.

So in terms of MMA, after someone like Pawel Nastula (a veritable judo deity, gold medals, 300 straight wins, etc.) lost in under 3 minutes to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira I just don't see Ueshiba sensei competing at a high MMA level. The people at the top level of MMA (which is PRIDE btw. Most people seem to think the UFC is the end-all, be-all word on MMA. It is decidedly not.) are the best martial artists in the world today, at least in terms of combat effectiveness. Therefore it logically follows that if what one wants is combat effectiveness than one would follow their training methods and not blindly follow those of the past.


While I am not training in Aikido at the moment, I still enjoy it. I think it is a great martial way. I have made many life-long friends from Aikido and I plan on continuing my training in it. That being said, I believe there are issues with the way it is practiced and the training methodology leaves something to be desired. Not to mention there are some techniques and attacks that are unrealistic and unnecessary. Cheers if you read all this!

Keith Lee
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