Thread: Punishing Uke
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Old 06-22-2006, 06:25 PM   #46
David Orange
Dojo: Aozora Dojo
Location: Birmingham, AL
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 1,511
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Well, anyway, I just wanted to ramble a bit more on punishing the uke. I don't recall many onfield cricket fights (though the bat would make quite a weapon), but sports generally do devolve into a lot injury to the "partner." The understated theme of much of modern entertainment sports is literally to damage the other player or team to the point that they cannot continue. Which is why I found the Gracie fights of the early 90s very interesting. At least there it was submission at the loser's discretion. In football, you never know when another player is out to paralyze you or permanently wreck your knee.

Maybe this is a lot of what has carried over in Western translation of aikido. In Japan, in Mochizuki sensei's dojo, even though there was effective resistance at high speeds about fifty percent of the time, I very rarely saw anything get harsh. It was always a draining, grueling grind, with most of the randori being sequence sutemi waza, often ending in a choke. And failed techniques meant counter attacks and grappling on the floor to submission or choke-out. But people didn't get mad out there (very, very rarely).

And in this, it was, in a way, like little league baseball. Those guys had been doing that heavy aikido together for many long years under a unique master. Why? Because he lived just up the street from them. They went there when they were young. They went to him just like we go to to Grandmaster Pete. He was the one who was there. People in Shizuoka did not know there was a really huge meijin living among them. Really? They would say. We didn't know that. But impressive people from around the world came to bow to him and learn from him.

And among his hometown students, he had developed some real tigers, who met these trained martial artists from around the world and bested them on the mat, time after time. And I mean always. It wasn't competition, but it was close to it.

Still, there was a difference. It was not competition. We weren't there to win or lose. We were there to find out the truth and participate in the polishing of ourselves in that grinding process.

But people did not get injured in all that. I don't mean "never" injured, but I found that most injuries come more from your own daily life than they do from good, intense aikido training. It's the way you think about yourself as you go through life, how you shape your body into the specific form of "you" that governs how you learn and "do" aikido, which determines whether you get injured.

However, a punishing nage is a danger to society. UNLESS the attacker actually attempts to injure you, you really have no right actually to strike him. And to strike in vital points outside actual self defense is foolhardy. To experiment with such strikes is to gamble with the partner's life, which is to gamble with your own freedom. Oh, yes. It's also to gamble with making a stronger person angry as well as giving him a legitimate right to respond with self-defense technique and actually DO to us what we TRIED to do to him. So it's also gambling with your own life. There is no right to strike anyone who isn't really trying to hurt you and you're better off developing aiki instead of striking him.

999,999 times out of a million, my experience at the old Shizuoka hombu was camaradarie and intense training. People didn't get mad on the mat. Seniors might express some displeasure toward a junior's behavior--usually peripheral to training--and the shihans could be rather explicit with that, but the training was sort of like stepping into a grinding machine. Everything was smooth and continuous, going round and round. Attacks came down like hammers swung by workmen: people didn't throw themselves off balance. It was work, not abstract symbollism. And though they had all trained together in the same thing with the same teacher for a long time, the people who were out there were each individuals. There was no trouble telling them all apart. Each was his own self-possessed artist. And it was a tiger-like art, so if you missed your aiki technique, they would be all over you like tigers. And they would play with you just savagely enough to let you progress. They played with you like older-brother tigers, teaching you how to be a full-grown tiger. And you had to really push them to make them lose their cool.

Tezuka, for instance. Tezuka Akira Sensei, one of the ones who got menkyo kaiden from Mochizuki Sensei. One night, I saw him warming up for class, doing the wrist bending stretch, when he looked oddly at something on the floor a few feet away. He didn't realize I was watching him. He went over to a makiwara post that came up through the dojo's wooden floor. There was an eight-foot banana bag, about 250 lbs of sand, lashed to the front of the makiwara post. As if he were kicking someone in the shin, Tezuka Sensei kicked the banana bag at its base and the makiwara post broke off at floor level. He was a small person. I will never forget it.

Washizu Sensei was like a fighter pilot who would sutemi rings around you. Kenmotsu Sensei was a farmer who cultivated people's inner feeling for aikido as if they were his garden.

So there were hours of strong, precise attacks, lots of clean, effortless aikido, with all kinds of weapons practice, attacks from all directions. If you did it right, the aikido really did work effortlessly. If you missed, you had to struggle to submission one way or the other, but people didn't go around hitting each other in vital points. That's where I think western aikido may have picked up some mistaken attitudes from sports. If we think that budo is even something like a sport, it's bound to breed some violence, which is not the purpose of aikido. I think "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is a bit dangerous for aikido because some people are self-destructive, even though they belong to well-respected organizations and have recognition from those organizations. And they act destructively toward their training partners.

When it comes to aikido, maybe we should say, "Regardless of what you want for yourself, do RIGHT to others."

Masakatsu agatsu.

Twenty years ago, right about this time of the summer, Murai Kyoichi Sensei was teaching us kenjutsu. He taught us suburi and said, "When you strike, see your worst enemy there and strike with the real intention to kill him."

So we practiced hundreds of suburi and I thought about what Murai Sensei had said. And I thought, "Let's see, now." "Who is my worst enemy?"


Well, I could think of some terrible people, and even some who might have deserved to be split with a samurai sword, but I couldn't think of anyone I'd really cut with a sword. I did not have a single enemy that bad that I could think of.


And then I thought about who it was that was always getting me into trouble. It was really myself. And it was not without Christian sentiments that I thereafter saw myself where my bokken struck. I always struck to kill.

So we should really always be glad if uke is a little bit troublesome. We should not punish him for being honest. The answer lies in our own technique and resistance by nage against uke, which is backward aikido.

Thanks for all the comments!


"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

"Eternity forever!"
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