Rupert Atkinson wrote:
Sport is new, yes, but it is not the totallity of Budo.
I often wonder why I train - I have no idea, I just enjoy it, but what I am after is always something useful self-defence. I do not do sport Budo. It is not what I want. I have tried it but it just is not me. I did enjoy Judo but I was doing it to improve my throwing ability, not to win competitions. I didn't see it as a sport.
If someone attacks my family, say two or three yobbos wanting money, I might just give it them - in fact, it happened, and I gave them $20, yet they knew I had more. If they attack just me, I might just show it them and put it back in my pocket. Part of me would rather die than give in - that is the martial, come what may, even injury or death. And if a fight ensued, what would the boxer do against a knife or if he were taken down? Lose. And what would a BJJ guy do if taken down by three people? Lose. You can't learn everything unless you are 100% committed to training everyday training to become some kind of champion of all styles. If you do that, fine. And how much more of that testosterone will you have to get you into trouble. And what when you are older? Will it all still work? Perhaps.
What I have noticed is that people who do sports intensly (which is of course good) seem to define their whole being around it. If someone asks me what I do, I say I'm an English teacher. That is who I am. I am not a fighter, I am an English teacher. My hobby is self-defence. It is not sport. The people who I am training to defend against are not sportsmen.
Of course, having a competitive element in your training is going to be positive. Can't argue that. But what is it's purpose? To wave a trophy? Not for me.
I see this as another rendition of the age old "But what if he has a sword?" argument. What you are saying here is that aikido training covers all situations, and sport training does not. I'd submit that aikido training does not cover all situations either and is just as vulnerable, if not more so the way its practiced by most dojo's. So what is the ultimate answer? I don't know if there is one universal answer.
The answer for me is 'aliveness'. I truly believe that training with aliveness better prepares me for situations I might encounter if I ever do need to prepare myself. I believe all the judo, bjj, mma, and boxing sparing I do helps me deal with taking the fight to where I want it to be, and being used to the stress and adrenaline of someone who wants to hurt you. I believe I would be even better prepared if I could do some aikido sparing on a consistent basis. (For that matter any other kind of sparing). I believe all the live sparing and drills with resistant partners helps me learn to be creative and work around people's resistance and modify my technique on the fly to meet any situation. And I approach this step by step. There is no reason to train against multiple attackers until you can deal with one good smart attacker. I do know a judo/bjj guy however that took down and submitted me and 2 other guys at the same time. Of course at our gym we do a lot of drills with multiple attackers to build take down defenses and submission defenses.
A good athlete is someone of good intelligence's, who never quits until he reaches his goals. A person like that will excel and adapt to most situations. I believe martial arts can turn a person into a good athlete (However, I believe great athletes are born not trained).
Of course I do not advocate that martial arts need to be sports in order to work. I advocate that you need to train with aliveness. Adding sparing, or resistance drills into any art will improve your ability to use the techniques for real. There is no reason to go to competition if you do not desire it. However competition does add a new layer or urgency and stress that club sparing does not. I do not go to competition (such as the judo competition I am going to sunday in chicago) in order to win a trophy or medal. I go to competition to fight against people I have never met, with different approaches and styles to the arts I train in. I like this because I know they are going to give me everything they got, they won't hold back like people do in the club. These people are not fighting to build up my skill level and help me out. They are fighting to beat me.
How many people can say in the dojo they have people who's sole goal is to beat them? You normally can't find that in a dojo, its not helpful in developing skill in training, plus most people are friends and therefor tend to not use the 'jerk' moves you would use on someone you just want to beat. A good example is the first rule of sparing, protect your training partner. In competition the first rule I heard was knock him out. That shows a big difference in mental attitude, which provides a much different experience in the fight. So I would have to say competition can become an important experience in your training.
Some drills I think would be effective for developing good alive aikido. Each of these should be done 2-3 minutes with 1 minute breaks. Possibly 1 station setup for each drill with a higher ranking person acting as uke so he can vary his level of resistance to match the skill of the nage.
1) Try to hit the person.
Start from a good distance apart. Possibly have uke put on MMA gloves or handwraps to protect his hands from injury, maybe boxing gloves to protect nage from injury if nage is new to full resistance drills. Have no set technique to work on. Uke's job is to try to actually hit nage anywhere in the chest as hard as he can as fast as he can as much as he can for 2-3 minutes. Nage's job is to submit or throw or knock down uke. If nage gets a clean technique, reset to starting points and continue. If Uke gets a solid undefended hit, again reset to starting points and continue. DO NOT keep score, this is a drill to help build nage's ability to move in non predictable fashion (aka I can't track you with my punch) and perform clean technique. This is not a competition. This setup should force uke to throw a lot of solid committed strikes, just touching nage should not count as a reset, it must be a solid hard strike to the chest.
2) The lift.
This is another drill to build up nage's ability to deal with minor clinching or grappling. Something people tend to do when adrenaline gets too high. It works simple, Uke has a goal of getting double underhooks and lifting nage off the ground, or pulling/taking him to the ground. He can do this any way he wishes, as long as he does it with double underhooks (both arms under the arms of nage). Nage's goal is to again perform a clean technique to throw, takedown, or submit uke. Once again, if either person achieves their goal, release, reset and continue. I have found that in unskilled attackers they normally attempt to clinch when under pressure. Its one of the two natural instincts a person has, grab on to the thing hurting you, or push away at the thing hurting you. The guys who grab are much more dangerous they the ones that bat and push away. Nage has lots of chances to stop uke from the time uke begins to close distance, to intital contact, to the actual clinch. Uke is forced to be committed because feints will never achieve his goal. Nage can also practice ki mind/body skills here if he does get clinched by working to keep himself from being lifted.
3. The reversal.
Here we actually start with a kata setup. Nage can do any technique he wants. He should not tell uke what he plans on doing. This drill is to teach nage to go with the flow and blend against resistance. Uke will perform the attack nage requests, but at the point nage begins his technique uke should do everything in his power to resist. This includes moving to regain balance, using strength, posture, even reversals to defend. This forces nage to blend and change what he is doing to perform a successful technique. The struggle continues until a statement, throw, or submission happens. Reset and start again. Of course the final goal here is to be effective enough that nothing uke does matters and your first technique is what finishes him.
Finally, each of these could also add another dimension of practice. You could require that you actually pin the uke for 2-3 seconds (with him trying to escape) or submit uke in order to complete your goal. For even more brownie points, try adding 2 more ukes.
Again, none of these should be looked at as competition. They are training drills designed to give you a small subsection of real resistance to work with, similar to how a living person would attack you. We do this by having an actual living person do their best to attack you. Ultimately the final goal would be to just have an uke to tries to throw, punch, kick, takedown, etc on you while you try to use your aikido to perform a clean aikido technique. However, even if you choose not to go to that level of aliveness, these drills I think would help improve technique in a person of any rank. These are only 3 drills I've suckered my friends into working on me with (I wouldn't mind seeing them in the dojo either). I've got at least 3 or 4 more.