Dojo: Aikido Port Townsend
Location: Port Townsend, Wa.
Join Date: Jul 2003
Re: Baseline skillset
Wow. Just read the entire thread. Again. And aside from a certain amount of (perhaps understandable) sniping, there is a lot of meat in the respective camps' expositions. Perhaps one cause of friction/misunderstanding though, lies in our failure to define terms. The original question involved what "constitutes a baseline skillset". Skill, in my favorite dictionary is defined variously as,"1. Proficiency, facility, or dexterity that is acquired or developed through training or experience. 2a. An art, a trade, or a technique [!], particularly one requiring the use of the hands or body. 2b. A developed talent or ability..." A skillset is a group of related skills, but which meaning(s) do we use here?
"Baseline" has even more, and more varied meanings, with the usage in configuration management, "providing a basis for logical comparison", being about as close as I can get to what seems to be the subject here. Perhaps the poster meant "basic"?
"Baseline skillset", then, could mean a number of things. Throughout these pages, Mr. Sigman and others appear to have chosen the meaning, in this context, to be exercises conducive to developing the ability to generate a specific form of force, with the idea being that this force would then be available in the execution of techniques. One analogy was to train with weights, not because the lifting of them would directly inform a particular application, but because doing so would enable one to perform that application with more power. In an Aikido context, Ledyard sensei conjectured that development of ki strength could be useful in enabling more powerful atemi. In any event, the proponents of this view have repeatedly insisted upon separating principles from waza.
Mr. Mead (Mead sensei?) appears to be saying that the kihon waza embody the baseline skillset, that all of the fundamental principles and skills of Aikido are right there in front of us, embedded in the waza. He further indicates that the kind of practices that Mr. Sigman is advocating are antithetical to the practice of Aikido, that even though they produce an effect, it is not an effect consistent with good Aikido practice.
Both sides have employed mathematical justifications for their views, and it is on this level that I, personally, find the most compelling evidence one way or the other (I haven't trained with either person, so the logical arguments are what I have to work with). Mr. Sigman seems to have a working knowledge of basic geometry, but my impression is that, rather than using it to describe his practice, he uses it to rationalize it, and refuses to acknowledge other models. So he'll go on for a while talking about angular momentum and dear Mr. Newton, and then retreat to vague references of power sources and a need not to post information on a public site for people who haven't worked for it. Now I have no doubt as to the existence of those power sources, but I find this approach annoying for two reasons: the mathematical model does not appear to correspond to the phenomena being discussed; and I distrust the "it's a mystery for the initiates" schtick. Furthermore, rather than defend his calculations, or find provable flaws in competing calculations, he's inclined to attack (... why am I going to go through some silliness using long words and high math, just to give some dignity to a theory that is simply wrong. It's like you asking me prove that the moon is not made out of green cheese (I can't.... but I know it's not") ). If a theory is wrong, say why. If you can't say why, say that, rather than dismissing it as "simply wrong". And if you know the moon is not made out of green cheese, but can't say even roughly why, it rather throws doubt on your ability to explain something far more immediate.
Mead's math is more difficult to follow, but it is internally consistent, and he makes frequent and detailed references to the bases for his argument, drawing on an impressive array of engineering source material. He also responds, in like detail, to objections to his math. And of course he makes a committed, consistent effort to base his calculations on the teachings of the Founder, rather than relying on generalized references to practices found "in all Asian arts." He is attempting to provide an accurate mathematical model for the principles of Aikido.
To return to the original question, I would be inclined to say that the kihon waza do, in fact, embody the basic skillset of Aikido --- that seems to be the point of the kihon waza --- and that ki exercises bear the same relationship to Aikido as weightlifting does to baseball: possibly useful for power, but not at the heart of things.