Mark Walsh wrote:
How does aikido work for you in your actual non-fantasy real life (tm)?
Not the one importnat time you need it for self defence, but the rest of the time.
Keep it real youall,
Ali Mark G
"your trophy is your head" - Saotome Shihan
I am not sure that it does, in the sense that it is hard to distinguish specifically aikido elements from all the other elements that have contributed to make me the person I am now.
Until I came to Japan, the bulk of my own training, also, was from the Chiba lineage, with Minoru Kanetsuka providing the most intense input (before his cancer). But a small but intensely dedicated group trained so often and constantly at Ryushinkan, that we never considered how to apply it outside the dojo except in a strictly martial context ('what would you do if you were attacked in such and such a way?'...) and that was the only time that I have ever used aikido outside the dojo to deal with physical attacks.
My time in the US made me aware of what I would call a Puritan/Calvinistic interpretation of aikido, namely, that the benefits of training in the dojo should be tangible (and pretty immediate) outside the dojo in the way you deal with people. We did not think in this way in the UK when I first started and we virtually never think in this way in Japan now. At least this is how I understand your question (in the context of the other discussion on NVC).
At the moment we have a very good group of Japanese members, from students to dan holders (who come to train because we emphasize certain aspects that other dojos here seem to take for granted). These Japanese members have largely got over the shock of learning a Japanese martial art in Japan from foreigners and I suspect that one advantage for them is that they are learning a whole new way of looking at foreigners. And having to teach aikido to Japanese students in their own language is a major challenge for me.
I will be 63 next birthday and so one very important way that aikido works for me is that it enables me to grow old gracefully. I have to teach ukemi to my beginners and I have to do it properly, which means teaching 20-year olds how to realize the physical potential they have at their age. A kind of reverse side of of the coin is that I have seen too many high-ranking Japanese shihans, now no longer with us, whose aikido had precisely zero effect on their lifestyles. In this respect Minoru Kanetsuka (post cancer) is an awesome figure.
So, Mark, I am not saying that you are wrong to seek real tangible effects of aikido training in the way that people relate to other people. I think this is one way in which non-Japanese can make an important contribution to the heritage of aikido, for I believe it is something that (always in my highly subjective experience) that the aikido world in Japan has not considered. However, aikido is in some sense trans-cultural, but the frames and metaphors in which it is presented have to be quite sophisticated, to avoid, for example, the conclusion that if you cannot apply your aikido training outside the dojo in a tangible way, then there is something wrong with your training.
Moreover, and this is not really connected with aikido outside the dojo, just watching one session with Akuzawa-Sensei and Robert John (and, of course, reading the contributions of people like Mike Sigman, Dan Harden and also David Orange in various forums) has forced me to go right back and question all the fundamentals: what O Sensei actually knew and if and how it was transmitted.
So for me the issue at this moment in my life is not so much how I apply aikido outside the dojo, since I do not believe that the benefits can be quantified and 'applied' so easily, but how I actually do it inside the dojo. It is a major challenge to tear down and rebuild training habits formed over 30-odd years. But, and I am not in any way being condescending, I think you need to train longer to realize the full import of what I am saying here. I once asked Chiba Sensei, 'How can you be so sure that you yourself possess the truth about aikido?' I do not think he had ever been asked the question and he needed to take a deep breath before he tried to answer it.
So I would like to add a note of caution to the discussion. It is too easy for aikido people to settle into a position of 'comfortable mediocrity' (a phrase I first encountered in the Jesuits) and assume that their training is fine (they have a really great Sensei) and focus on how to apply the lessons outside the dojo.
Finally, Mark, I see that you are presently in Brazil, where there is a large and thriving aikido population. Have you considered going to Iraq or Iran? As IAF Chairman, I am often asked to give support to aikido groups in these two countries. Lebanon became an IAF member at the last congress, but it is very difficult for them to have a secure and relaxed training environment. So for aikidoists in Lebanon, the art is probably a means to help surviving from day to day. My predecessor, Giorgio Veneri, played a major role in spreading aikido in Eastern Europe and Russia. I myself am more aware of the need to look after Muslim countries in East Asia and also the Middle East.