Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)
Again, I think that folks that practice Rank Aikido end up missing the bigger picture here because they cannot see the observation as anything more than a criticism - which is an attempt to suggest that it is not an observation. It is not a criticism to say that today, Nov. 18, is Friday. It is an observation. However, it has to be a "criticism" for someone that wants to say that today is not Friday. See how this works?
This resistance to the observation is making folks just focus in on one part of this thing. The other part of how we as senpai uke act differently toward kohai nage is totally being ignored - WHEN THIS IS PROBABLY THE LARGER AND MORE SPIRITUALLY DETRIMENTAL PART OF THE PRACTICE. Moreover, because we cannot get this far in the observation we are missing an even more spiritually detrimental part to our training - that which comes with our expectation of Rank Aikido.
I am here referring to those times when we are senpai nage feel affronted when kohai uke either out of experimentation and/or ignorance end up doing something as that presents a "resistance" to the waza being practiced. When this happens, we very often proceed to thrash them, make them pay, show them how they just jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire, force them into the technique, do atemi, etc. - you see that kind of advice offered all over the place on this site. Yet, what do we do when a senpai uke does such a thing, or when a teacher does such a thing, all of a sudden it stops being a martial challenge deserving of conquest. Instead, it becomes some sort of physical riddle that we are supposed to figure out in as pristine a way as possible. All of a sudden, there is no affront - there is only a great learning experience we are having difficulty grasping (for the time being) - there is only this great honor of being given so much needed attention, etc.
The other day I had a meeting with the Judo club's teachers. I showed up early to watch part of the class that evening. While I was watching the class, another spectator showed up to watch. He was interested in training in Judo. One of the senior practitioners came over to talk to him after he pulled out from the third hour of training. They proceeded to have a conversation about past training and what Judo might offer, etc. It came out that the spectator had done Aikido.
Upon hearing this, the Judo player said, "Well, Aikido is a beautiful art. It offers a lot of positive things. My younger daughter has actually opted to train in Aikido over Judo - the rest of the family does Judo. However, there are a lot of assumptions you have to accept in Aikido in order to train and sometimes those things get in the way of a great deal. In Judo, you know what you get. A throw is a throw, and when you are thrown, you are thrown. This allows folks to get along - as you can see. You can even have the toughest match of your life and then go out to get a beer with that person - laughing and talking the night away."
To this the spectator said, "Yes, I can see how helpful everyone is being (which was true) to each other. It is really great to see."
Later the senior Judoka left and the spectator started a conversation with me. It turned out that he had done some training with me as a teenager, when I used to instruct in Kenpo - when I used to travel around to dojo to instruct, etc. - he was at one of those dojo. We started doing some catch-up. The topic of past training came up and of course then so too did Aikido. Somewhere in there I told him that he should not think that there is only one Aikido - that instead he should realize that there are many types of Aikido - yada yada yada. Anyways, he ends up telling me this story:
"So I am at the Aikido dojo, taking one of my first classes. I don't know anything, and I certainly don't know what to do. At this place they all line up and have the nage throw everyone in the line before they go to the end. It is my turn to be thrown, only I have no idea what to do. I wasn't trying to resist anything, I just was ignorant of what all was going on. The person being nage was an upper-intermediate student. He could not move me at all, let alone thrown me, but rather than offering me some direction, he just got really angry at me for messing him up or for not cooperating or something. I took that as a bad sign."
If we are honest in our training, and if we have any mind at all for spiritual reflection, we are going to be able to look at how we have different emotional responses (and thus tactical responses) depending upon the relative rank of the person offering us "resistance" in our training. This is all part of Rank Aikido and why, in my opinion, Aikido in general often falls short in both martial and spiritual applications.
btw - great post Larry. Thank you.