Sorry…this is long!
This debate about Aikido's effectiveness in a self defense scenario and/or the supposed long learning curve to get to a level to be effective in a live scenario has always disturbed me.
What are we selling? MOST of the schools that are represented by the people on this forum claim to have some level of self defense capabilities whether that is there main focus or not. I don't recall anyone's training brochures stating that -- "Oh by the way…it will take you a really really long time to be in any condition to use what you are taught in a manner that resembles competency. So, in conjunction to your regular Aikido training, you will have to attend my ‘dumbed down' self defense course.
If the argument is that we learn all this stuff to use outside the dojo walls and that it will be nullified by the adrenaline dump that is sure to come regardless of skill level -- then what is wrong in our approach?
George S. Ledyard wrote:
…Most self defense programs which are aiming for solid, reliable self defense capability in the shortest possible time focus on a set of simple techniques that rely on gross motor movements an the large muscle groups. I can't think of any Aikido school that teaches Aikido with that in mind as it would be completely wrong in terms of the principles we are trying to imprint in our training...
With all do respect, WHAT? We are talking self defense right? The only ethical stance on principles that I need to be making in this type of situation is do I kill them or not! Do I continue to apply that choke or lock or what ever to the point of no return or not? Are these not Aikido principles as well? My training never made a distinction between this is Aikido and this is not because I use muscular strength in my technique in a self defense scenario. That is what you are saying right? Self defense relies on using strength to be effective and therefore is not Aikido? On the contrary, my training dictates that this is in fact AIKIdo, on a lower level, but Aikido none the less.
If what is being represented as Aikido self defense is only the higher level of AIKI applications then yes, I concur. You will only be able to apply effective Aikido self defense techniques after you have reached the higher ranks.
George S. Ledyard wrote:
…Clint George Sensei told me a story about Shioda Sensei that he'd picked up from someone who had trained with him (Shioda). Shioda Sensei and some students were doing a demo after the War for some American GI's. After the demo, one of the soldiers said that it was pretty cool stuff but how would it work against a boxer? They of course had a guy with them who had been a golden gloves boxer in the States. Shioda Sensei had his boys try to show them but they couldn't get anything on the boxer so Shioda Sensei himself had to show them (in order to save the reputation of the art). Shioda Sensei completely ignored the jab, which had been so effective against his students and entered in and seized the boxer's rear hand and cranked a shihonage on him. Now I think that the Yoshinkan guys have the reputation for being the most concerned with the ability to do effective technique of any Aikido style and these guys were training directly under Shioda Sensei, yet they had a very hard time with the boxer... it took the big guy himself to actually do a technique against him. This story is completely consistent with my own experience that it takes quite a bit longer to reach some real functionality in Aikido than the other arts…
After reading Aikido Shugyo, I would have to say that you completely missed the point of Shioda sensei's account of this incident. He tells of this very story starting on page 56. He touches on the fact that his kohai was bested because of his preoccupation with HOW to deal with the opponent's attack. As such he was psychologically out maneuvered and placed in a reactive mindset. He goes on further to state, "This is why you must abandon any plans about doing one technique over another. It is not a matter of moving based on conscious judgment, but rather, when you rely completely on your five senses, you will for the first time be able to move freely. If you can do this, then the type of attack your opponent uses becomes irrelevant. As it was, my kohai was unnerved because he was up against unknown fighting techniques and even his stance seemed to be saying, "Now what do I do?" He had completely lost his own natural posture. As a result, he was already psychologically one step behind the opponent. He was defeated."
Sounds like he was beaten before the contest began and according to your own self professed biased definition as to what an encounter is between two martial artist; then this account is right in line with any other dual of past between two professionals where there had to be a loser. He made the 1st mistake and lost -- period.
For me, teaching self defense is not based on techniques. Anyone can come up with a list of techniques to present as self defense. All the arts have them and most of them are very similar.
Instead I try to make a point to be aware of the immediate surrounding, to be aware of the people in these surroundings. In general, to utilize the same five senses that Shioda sensei alludes to. I constantly strive to be aware of my body positions and stances in each and every one of my everyday activities. When I am practicing on a crowded mat: to be aware of my spacing and the activities surrounding me so that I can protect myself or my training partners.
For me this is the first line to good solid self defense. The addition of technique is secondary. If this awareness is not the focus of your entry level Aikido training program then [IMO] something is serious lacking and you will always have a division between what is perceived as Aikido and self defense Aikido.