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Old 11-08-2005, 09:41 AM   #1
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Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
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Rank-Aikido (pun intended)

Here in this link you will see some beautiful photos, at what obviously turned out to be a wonderful event:

I realize that a photo does not always reveal everything, and I realize that there are huge elements of technical applications that just have to be felt in order to truly be commented upon, etc., but still frame technology also has its place in the realm of refining body mechanics. Today, still frame technology has firmly become a part of any serious athlete's attempt at cultivating finer technique - no matter what the endeavor. It is through this avenue that I would like to begin a discussion on what I am calling "Rank Aikido." Here is how I would define "Rank Aikido." "Aikido that 'functions' only in accordance to both the rank of your own person and the rank of your Uke, where if your rank is greater (especially significantly greater) than Uke's, your tactical architecture will be allow to succeed no matter how ill-performed and/or ill-designed."

Please note that this is not meant as an attack on the current Aikikai Doshu, nor is it to a testament to the martial prowess of those who seek to train under him, etc. To participate in this discussion, one must move beyond the personality captured in the photos and instead focus in upon the issue of body mechanics as it often comes to be related to the institutional practice of issuing rank. Moreover, one must realize that such nice photos are hard to come by on the net,and that this topic is really a topic that is pan-Aikido federation. I, and I imagine it is the same for everyone, have never been in a place where "Rank Aikido" was not being practice by somebody in one form or another. In addition, it may very well be the case that some of us, perhaps most of us, came to the art of Aikido by seeing tapes of old Morihei practicing what could very well be described as "Rank Aikido." Lastly, and most significantly, one must realize that the heart of this topic is really centered upon our own practice, as we should be the one's most responsible for not coming to practice Rank Aikido, for not spreading it from generation to generation, from dojo to dojo, as we mature in the art and/or in the ranks of our particular governing bodies. This is a discussion about ourselves and our own Aikido - not Moriteru Ueshiba, East Asian Aikido, the Aikikai, etc.

In that light, I would like to address your attention to the following photos:

PB060285, 284,248, and 245.

Let us note that these still frames capture some key parts of the architectures related to at least the first three pins. If one wants to understand these pins more broadly, which is obviously fair to do, one could say that these still frames are capturing some key elements to entire tactical curriculum. That is to say, these are not pictures of some minor and/or irrelevant aspects of a once-performed rep. Moreover, for those that have seen/felt these exact versions, you very well know that you have also seen/felt these versions being performed by a great many other individuals - all over the place.

However, if you look at the photos, you cannot help but to notice a body alignment (i.e. a lack of body alignment) that would get most Nage to "fail" in their application of the technique. If one were to have a higher ranked Uke, this type of body mechanics would not provide the necessary mechanical advantage to function as designed or as attempted. This is not because a lower ranked aikidoka could not (i.e. unskilled) transfer their weight/center into their hands in order to apply enough weight/mass to bring Uke back from the outside to their centerline/center. Rather, this is because an Uke who could (equally) transfer their weight to their feet/base opts to do so if they have higher rank Nage but opts not to do so if they have lower rank Nage.

What are the causes of Rank Aikido? What are the ramifications of Rank Aikido? What are the solutions to Rank Aikido? How does one prevent Rank Aikido from popping up and/or spreading?

For me, the best solution is a simple one: An instructor must learn how to say these words, and say them often, until their Uke are cured of the virus of Rank Aikido themselves*: "Don't do that. Don't give me the technique. Just attack. If I fail, I fail. Stay true to the martial behind the culture, not to the culture that has given face to the martial."

What say you?

*In my opinion, the virus of Rank Aikido enters at a very young age in the art. It first attaches itself to the fear Uke normally feels when it comes to falling, being thrown, attacking, etc. Here's how: These fears are often somewhat alleviated by the instructions to follow Nage's lead, which in turns allows an Uke to feel that he/she should KNOW what Nage is going to do. It is this "knowing" which addresses the source of the fear of falling, being thrown, attacking, etc., because the source of these fears is ultimately a fear of the unknown. In a way, because instructors or seniors are often the ones that provide this instruction, "follow Nage's lead" institutionally comes to support a fear of the unknown.

This is detrimental to one's progress in the art since one's progress, in many ways, can be measured by how much one has reconciled his/her fear of the unknown - which is one of the most primal fears related to self-attachment and thus is a resistance toward the practice of love, wisdom, and compassion and/or any other human virtue worth intentionally cultivating. When this resistance, when the fear of the unknown is being institutionally supported through instruction, when this self-attachment by Uke connects to Nage's own ego issues (which are centered around a fear of failing, pride, and/or a lack of humility, etc.) you get a full blown case of Rank Aikido. This explains why Rank Aikido is a contract of sorts - a cooperation to defraud oneself for the sake of feeding one's own primal fears and/or attachment to the self. In Rank Aikido, Nage and Uke meet in a pact to feed each others fears and each other's propensity for self-attachment.

David M. Valadez
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