George S. Ledyard
If you take the atemi out of Aikido there is no Budo. It's just a dance. With no atemi, no one understands openings, no one has to worry about proper structure, no one understands about proper spacing, one can totally resist technique in the dumbest ways because there is no consequence.
Well, for me, this discussion has been very interesting, positive, and revealing. I've enjoyed it. But at this point, for me, it isn't going anywhere. The above statement exemplifies, for me, why.
When definitive statements like this are made (forgive me for singling you out, but it's an example for me) there's no where to go - because my experience, in real life, on the mat, in actual encounters etc., is different, and in my life, in my world, I have learned differently. To say that without atemi there is no budo simply means to me that we have different experiences, but for you, it seems at least, that you know the truth, and that truth must be mine as well.
It isn't. Not in theory, and not in actuality.
I think this happens a lot in Aikido, well, in life in general. Everything is relative. I could refute the above easily, simply with a different argument. To say that without atemi no one has to worry about proper structure or spacing, that there is no understandinag of opening, in my world, in my training, is incorrect. In fact, in my training, it's a ridiculous statement.
In fact, in my style, atemi (nage striking or strikng at uke) has no real bearing on how nage carries himself or where he is. And structure, positioning, timing etc. are all important aspects of our training. Understanding those things along with openings and other fundamentals, comes from a different motivation, but they are all there, and integral to the basic understanding of a certain level of Aikido.
I am not saying that nage doesn't look out for a strike coming from uke. We are -always- looking for that. The positioning of nage in terms of always being safe, is paramount. The "martial" aspect of my Aikido is very important. I also train something I call (cleverly) Chaos Aikido. This is where nage is taken by surprise, they're freaked out, uncentered, proper ma-ai and position has gone up in smoke, and things look bleak. We then practice how to still do Aikido from that situation. It's great training.
To say that without atemi one can totally resist technique in the dumbest ways because there is no consequence - is amazingly not the case in my experience. I know what that means, and I know why one would make the statement, but it is Not my experience. My experience is that perhaps they can go about the process of resisting etc. But that is just what one "blends with" and goes with. To me, it is a great opportunity to understand many aspects of connection, movement, positioning, timing, unfolding dynamics, kuzushi.... I can go on.
I have seen a lot of Aikido where the success of a technique is based on the fact that if uke doesn't get out of the way, they will (potentially) get hurt. This, to me, has nothing to do with the success of -my- technique or the encounter. I'm not interested in training in that kind of Aikido, never have been. I've done it, to be familiar with it, but it's not my path. For me, Aikido is based on other things. In fact, the success of my Aikido is never based on any pain or threat on any level.
And yes, I have been there and done that in the sense that I have been attacked at various times, in various ways, and everything is fine. I've worked with many Aikidoka at several seminars where people put this to the test. Everything is fine.
I know from experience that there is a Vast difference in how people approach the very core nature of Aikido, and this is reflected in how they teach and train. I have learned from all that I have encountered. The way I do it is different than some, perhaps most. It is definitely not for everyone. But when I taught at the Aikido-L seminars in Indie and at Stanford, when I go to Boulder or elsewhere and show it, it's tested, and it goes over pretty well. :-)
It's interesting to me that some people believe that their way is the only way, that their perceptions of and experience in Aikido that defines it for them, believe that it then defines it for eveyone, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong, or just doesn't understand, etc. But that happens in the world all the time.
I am reminded of the saying:
""An interesting thing about life is, for every truth that is real for one person, somewhere in the Universe the exact opposite is also true for someone else. And that somewhere may be very close at hand."
As a last note, I have seen Systema on video. I think its great. There is a very strong similarity between their notion of kuzushi (when it is not based on striking) and ours. By the way, I've never said that -knowing- atemi is not part of our training. But.....
Well, there you have it. I think I've written enough. Maybe I really do have too much time on my hands.... :-)