Bryan Bateman wrote:
I agree with most posted above. I thought that it was actually quite an interesting video. I wish I could get hold of it to add to my collection. From the physical aspect, I thought there was a lot of good stuff in there, Barrish sensei had very nice movement at times. There were a number of instances that, as previously mentioned, over stretch rational thinking, uke's seemed to fall at points when not necessary, or overplay the ukemi. Having said that, there was a lot of atemi in there, if the uke's believe that they are going to get clocked if they don't move, then some of the movement was justified. I think I would like to uke for him, with an open mind. If O Sensei were alive today performing similar feats, how would we be reacting here? I do think that video will fuel a lot of fire, but it also provides a lot of food for thought.
I thought it was actually a plus point that someone was making an effort to explain parts of Aikido philosophy in English. As far as O Sensei was concerned, the philosophy is key to Aikido
I think Bryan has some good points. Here are some observations.
1) I was impressed with Barrish Sensei's movements. He was really fluid and in part was reacting well to the ukes attack although when you work with your own uke's that has to take away more than 50 percent of what you are looking at. I was impressed though with the blind fold demo. I didn't think it demonstrated ki but rather a lot of practice with those ukes. If he really wasn't peeking - that was impressive! (I really had to believe he was peeking but that would be a little hard to do and still be that fluid. That is why I thought it was probably a ton of practice).
2) I thought Barrish Sensei's positioning was pretty good too. It shows he learned some real Aikido somewhere that wasn't all ukes falling for him. (Does anyone know his background? Who was his teacher?)
3) I agree with the comments about the ukes finishing too soon by taking the falls (or making the falls). The nage never finishes the technique. That is the key point that stretches credibility. At this point, you have to accept invisible Ki power or know that you have some highly mentally conditioned ukes (if the ukes believe they have been thrown by ki). I tend not to believe in that (although it is claimed for O Sensei) because Kisshomaru Ueshiba apparently never picked up those powers from his father. Although I have never liked his Aikido that much, I have a lot of respect for Nidai Doshu because he never tried to imitate his own father. He accepted who he was, he trained, he went out there, he did things in an unassuming way with no flash, no aiki tricks and he went home. He did his job of being the leader and promoting the art and he did so as a gentle, quiet man with no flare or frills and he didn't try to tell anyone else what they had to be.
4) I think there's a big discussion to have about the "overplaying" or "conditioning" of ukes.
I think all the great Aikido masters have "conditioned" ukes. I have always felt that Master Gozo Shioda's ukes were highly conditioned because the type of falls they took have to be learned and take a lot of work to learn like the backwards fall. That kind of a fall on the strikes he gave wouldn't happen in real life. If he hit me in the throat with his fingers like that, I think I would just go splat. Not going slat means I had the time to make the adjustment to the fancy break-fall. To me that is cooperation between the two parties. My own Shihan, when he was young, did real Aikido and really hard Aikido. I happen to know he taught ukemi but just the rolls. He doesn't teach people how to take break-falls. Either you had learned them somewhere else or if you were his original student and you flipped, then it was because he flipped you but I don't think he believes you should break fall yourself. (His theory of ukemi is really unique and interesting). I have a tape of him doing a Basic Technique series about 17 years ago. The ukes are really being thrown. They flopping all over the place. They look terrible but that's because he is really throwing them. If you slow motion frame by frame it, you can see that. (For example, from watching him, I learned that if you are really going to flip someone with iriminage, you have to do it differently than if they are helping you by also projecting themselves for safety. When it is for real, it is different. The same goes for kotegaeshi.)
Now having said that, as his own students get more experience, they teach themselves how to do ukemi break-falls but because he doesn't teach that, they all have come up with different methods!
It has to be admitted that we do condition our ukes so we can work with them and so they won't get hurt as we practice. I do that too. BUT- we shouldn't try to play that off as some invisible power. My Shihan though is very unique in that he has dedicated his life to what is real. He doesn't ask anyone to tank for him. Some of us though tank so we won't get killed because when I didn't tank, it was really bad. Once, I was knocked out because I failed to move. It was really my fault. I found out he was really doing the atemi and I'd better get out of the way or drop before he hit me (That's what John Riggs is talking about). Once he got me in a sankyo and when I didn't start running backwards, he nearly tore my arm off. I think it was the scream I gave that startled him that made him let me go! He was not try to intentionally hurt me like some do. He was just doing the technique for real and I was on my own. Any way, I think I'm still on topic because these ukes on the video are doing way beyond their job to make things look real. They are into super-real.