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Old 11-02-2005, 12:20 PM   #6
Robert Rumpf
Dojo: Academy of Zen and the Ways
Location: Kailua, HI
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 164
Re: A perspective on learning Aikido

Camilla Kieliger wrote:
However, I still stand there, holding my hand over the opening, ready to catch it. Talk about conditioning! And this is NOT something I have consciously worked on, it seems as if some secret connection between my body and mind just does it by itself. Amazing what it will hold on to on its own - what else might be lurking there? I even moved away for a year and a half, and when I came back I did it exactly the same way. Now, why can't my body just do the same thing in aikido???
A better question is why would you want your body to be conditioned in that way, and how would you go about resisting that conditioning in the future?

You've now got yourself hardwired with an essentially empty gesture - unless those exact circumstances come up again.. If you're in aikido class, and you have that same type of response, you just reacted to something that hasn't happened (and potentially missed something that has).

This can often be seen when nage gets tired of uke miming a "response" to an atemi to the head (or blocking) and instead hits uke in the stomach or in the groin. How often does this completely shock uke (and for once, a real atemi is an option)?

This muscle memory (that some of my training partners have cited to me as being so desirable) is, to me, the major danger of kata training (where kata is what much of Aikido is taught as most of the time) and training in Aikido in general. When you work within Aikido, most people's responses are, over time, conditioned to behave in the Aikido way.

This makes it almost impossible to train yourself to respond to other things in that environment, and can serve to make technique very predictable, unless a major effort is made to preserve that "beginner's mind" that lacks anticipation or a choreographed response.

That, I think is the main benefit of cross-training for those serious about self-defense, but that benefit can also be realized by a diversity in dojos and training partners, or an exceptional attention to detail and excellent instruction.

Well-developed reflexes and habits are fine and good, until you're dealing with a situation that falls outside of where the reflex was developed. Therefore, I think they are very dangerous. Its that old story about the horse racing back to the barn that is on fire, because they are scared and the barn is their safe place.

Its not just you who has these reflexes: we all have those types of gestures that we incorporate into ourselves - especially with daily routines such as the ways we brush our teeth, or things like that.

I know that I now pick up the garage-key for my parking garage at work every time I go towards a parking garage. ANY garage. I clearly need to be more mindful of my Aikido practice off the mat, and work at dispelling these types of basic habits.

These types of habits are detrimental to martial arts, for the obvious reasons. If our responses to a given set of stimuli are predictable, than a cagey opponent can generate stimuli that generate that response from us at an inopportune time. They can in this way control us.

That capability is very dangerous, and something that is probably more dangerous off the mat than on, but Aikido training could be a means of helping to solve this problem. However, I think that most people are fortunate enough not to have any serious enemies that understand them well enough to take advantage of their conditioned reflexes.

Talking to Saotome sensei recently, he said to me to get rid of all habits, both good and bad. I'm still chewing on that one...
Saotome is right, unfortunately. Making that happen though is extremely hard.

Maybe you should start brushing your teeth with your off-hand

Regrettably, we all tend to learn things by repetition. How do you learn something and then, having absorbed the skill, forget the habit and respond spontaneously regardless of what you are taught?

That is why sometimes I think my Aikido improves when I take time off. My conditioning than has time to be lost, somewhat, and I can move forth without that holding me back.

I think this goes back to the quotes like "Enter through form, exit from form" or something to that effect that you read in different dokas.. That Munenori quote about the six diseases also directly addresses this issue.

Truly a hard problem to solve.

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