Christian Moses wrote:
I'd say that most people will never learn ‘this stuff' in the typical Aikido environment as I've seen it. ... The old "you must steal the technique" teaching paradigm worked in small groups where teachers took the traditional role as uke. I do not believe that it works in larger organizations or perhaps at all in the West. We simply aren't taught to learn that way. ... I've had multiple experiences where a senior aikido teacher was demonstrating something and sayng, "I don't understand why this works…" and found myself thinking, "I do. Why don't you know why it works?"
Western thinking has been bound up in reductionist dialectical learning for about three or four hundred years now (OK, thousands if you count Plato) and we're not about to give it up now -- it has taken us too far.
Has it occurred to anyone else that the reason why there is this sense of lack or ill fit in the learnign of such skills, is because the Western means of learning does not facilitate learning them in the way that the Eastern knowledge paradigms are prepared to teach them? They quite literally get taken out out of the Western learning process, because they are not reductive enough to pass through the fine seive of physical knowledge that is used here. They need to be broken down more.
O Sensei said this very thing. In Budo Renshu, he wrote "Today, it is important to train thinking (all this) in terms of scientific warfare." He also wrote in that same book that students should always be "keeping in mind the principle where...the spirit of Yagyu Jubei [and others] meet." Hiroshi Tada Shihan (9th dan) wrote in an IAF conference address in 2004, and quoted Yagyu Jubei saying "... the root of the art of warfare lies in the understanding of the reason of the mind and its underlying principle. Therefore, the root of the art of warfare is based on the training of mentality..."
What Aikido (and these internal arts) lack is a rigorous theory of action. If that deficit were remedied, then it would make the knowledge more reductive and it would then better pass through the Western seive. These thoughts would have a much better chance of continuity here, if that were the case. It would also put the knowledge back into an intellectually toughened mode of budo rigor that Westerners innately comprehend -- and away from the airy, navel-gazing associations that Westerners (unfairly) give to such knowledge presented in the traditional manner of ki and kokyu skills.
What they have now is the classical East Asian empirical complex of correlations organized into an coherent, organic sytem of reference. Don't get me wrong -- it is useful and rich stuff to mine -- but it must
be mined to find the essential nuggets in the cast-off rock. The nearest thing the West ever had to the Chinese traditional knowledge or the Japanese metaphysical tradition used by O Sensei was alchemy.
That type of system enables access to the knowledge and understanding of the correlation schemes that produce reliable results. But it must be duplicated rigorously to ensure the result, since the operative elements are never reduced to explicit terms. Much must be done that is not necessary, because those things were always associated with the process, and there is not a mechanism to test and eliminate them as non-functional agents. They achieve the result and transmission of knowledge -- but do not form a rigorous physical theory -- not in the Western sense of reductive learnign that we so excel at, and therefore prefer.
The closest that anyone I have seen come to this type of Western theory of action is Adele Westbrook and her husband, may he rest in peace, Oscar Ratti. Oscar Ratti's illustration work is particularly valuable in this regard. He had a keen sense of dynamics and a gift for representation in simplified schematic form. His images, if not their attempt at overall sytemization are a serious start. They basically interpreted the traditional mode into non-jargon English. They did not critically examine the nature of the system itself or really even attempt to describe a theory of action in physical or mechanical terms. Of course, no one else really has either.
I am not trying this because I am the best man for it (OH, HARDLY!), but because no else seems to be trying. I am doing it in discussions such as this, because ideas that attempt rigor need knowledgeable criticism and serious challenging to achieve it, without any excuses or apologies for the points scored, either way. Even if we get bogged down in terminology debates. Mike (when his rhetoric allows), Dan and many others have offered useful criticism to me -- which I frequently counter and argue, and they agai in fine counterpunnch fashion. It is all valuable even when wrong nonetheless for a fair swing at a valid target. Meeting and entering into those criticisms allows me to work out the issues even further as I go along this path.
To forestall one objection -- just becasue you put more rigor into a physical description does not mean you sacrifice intuiton and the innate "feel" of the art. Far from it -- the body must still be trained, but with rigor of description will come greater sharpness and rigor in training. Most advanced physics travels on well-trained intiution first and then confirmation for the advancing frontiers of those arts. Aikido should be no different.
By all means, someone please find a gifted physicicist or engineer with good knowledge of aikido to do this and I'll happily watch from the sidelines. Until then, ...