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Old 12-14-2008, 08:35 AM   #256
C. David Henderson
Location: Santa Fe New Mexico
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 607
Re: The continued Evolution of Aikido

Hi Kevin,

I think you're right. This discussion has a different flavor from past discussions about martial effectiveness, etc., but martial effectiveness seems to be the obvious benchmark for 'evolution'. And seen in that context, it's not clear martial arts as most of us practice them are subject to the kinds of pressures that make "evolution" a good analogy.

"Good shiho nage -- now I will live to throw another day."

I went back to the OP. Much of what is said there could have been in a post entitled -- How can we make Aikido more effective? For example:

"Should we as Aikidoka sit back and stagnate our methodology. Or should we evolve Aikido, arming ourselves with the best knowledge possible to move Aikido to the next stage of progression? Should the Aikikai organization and it's many practitioners advocate for a different methodology of practice to test our skills? Should Aikido take on a different form?"

The OP also uses, however, what I would describe as social Darwinism to frame the debate -- i.e., that Aikido must adapt ("improve") or it will "die."

The whole idea that martial traditions survive based on their "effectiveness" makes sense of combat arts and, to some extent, sport-oriented art forms.

But so long as people are interested in, say, traditional Japanese archery or spear techniques, there is the chance those arts will continue to be taught. They certainly don't survive because their practitioners believe in -- much less would try to demonstrate -- the superior martial effectiveness of the bow, the spear, or what-have-you in a modern context, be it battlefield or barroom.

What may make a martial art popular, meanwhile, may include a whole host of attractions.

Let me concede for the sake of discussion, for example, that one of the real attractions of MMA does resolve around its perceived martial effectiveness and superiority over other arts in a ring setting. And those perceptions are pretty rational and subject to falsification, at least in the context of MMA contests.

That doesn't say, by the way, that it is or is not a really good way to train for other purposes, such as self-defense; it's just my take on where claims that MMA is "effective" are pretty hard for a reasonable person to deny.

But the popularity of MMA -- which I do not begrude it -- does have to do with the "popularizing" of MMA as well as the "evolution" or "refinement" of its methodologies, concepts, techniques, and training.

Professional wrestling is popular too, and also unlikely to die out soon. Which would I rather be able to use in a fight? Well, that's a different question than "which would I rather watch on TV," even though in this case my answer to both questions is the same.

But while it's easy to invoke with respect to martial arts the red-clawed image of classical Darwinism -- survival of the fittest -- and then infer that the "survival" of the arts reflects whether it's adherents can kick ass on all comers -- I can't find any reason to conclude that is paramount to whether an art, for better or worse, becomes wide-spread and popular.

It's like the day, which seems likely to occur this Century, that Chinese overtakes English as the lingua franca of the modern world. It won't be because the English language, while once a superior tool for speaking, changed and became a poorer language than, say, Manderin. Or that some revolution in Manderin grammar made it better than English.

It will be because so many people are speaking that language, it becomes the dominant language.

So, I guess I'd rather talk about all those complicated questions in martial effectiveness without looking over my shoulder for the shadow of HMS the Beagle.