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Old 09-10-2009, 07:19 AM   #9
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,996
Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Maybe its because Aikido has positioned itself as a martial arts with a different values system... maybe its because many of its practitioners are arrogant when they talk about the art, maybe its because so many of its practitioners are woefully ignorant about other martial arts (although any more so than the practitioners of those arts are of Aikido)... whatever the reason, Aikido seems to come into more criticism for not being an effective fighting style than any other art.
I think at some point, we, as people training in aikido, have to take a good hard look at our art. And if we compare people who have the same amount of training time, say 1 to 5 years, in aikido, judo, and bjj, we find aikido lacking in that comparison. How many in aikido, even at 10 years, are going to fare well in comparison?

For those apples and oranges crowd, look at Ueshiba, Shioda, Tomiki, etc and how long it took them to get good and how they fared with other martial artists.

Perhaps, rather than lament on receiving those criticisms, we should, maybe, look at addressing them within our art? Especially since, historically, there are valid training regimens to create good aikido people in a much shorter amount of time.

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
First of all, I question the assumption that the only measure for a martial art is fighting effectiveness. Who would maintain that Kendo and Judo aren't martial arts? Who would maintain that either is an "effective" fighting style? Are Iaido and Kyudo not considered martial arts? They are done solo and have no emphasis whatever on winning over anyone other than oneself. Are they not worthy practices for their own sake without considerations of whether they would defeat another art?
Well, considering Iaido and Kyudo are typically one-person martial arts, they sort of are bypassed by "sports" minded people. I think Kendo and Judo are valid points, though. As for judo, why is it that there aren't as many criticisms leveled against it? Could it be that if you compared a 1 year student of Judo and bjj, they can be considered equivalent -- just in different venues? One is more standup and one is more ground? Although, that's a generalization because both schools, from what I'm told, have components for both standup and ground.

Yet aikido remains criticized. As someone I know would say, Huh. Why is that? How can we change that ... yet remain true to the spiritual ideals?

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
It has been stated many times, by many people, that non-violence without the ability to defend oneself is just wishful thinking. I think that history would indicate that something else entirely is required for non-violence, or pacifism. The practitioners of Gandhi's satyagraha had no martial skills. They were ordinary people from various walks of life yet few would deny that they were peaceful warriors of the first order. The Freedom Riders of the 1960's had no fighting skills nor would they have used them if they had had them.

What is required to be non-violent is depth of character. What is required to be a pacifist is the ability to over come the fear of death. The followers of Gandhi and King walked unhesitatingly into situations in which they KNEW they would be beaten, perhaps killed, and they marched anyway; without the back-up of great destructive martial skill or weaponry of any kind other than their moral force.
History would also indicate that Ueshiba Morihei was no pacifist.

History would also indicate that while Ueshiba did not see sport competition as something in his ideals of aikido, he did view certain competitive actions as valid.

History would also indicate that Ueshiba took on martial challenges.

History would also indicate a lot of Ueshiba's students took on martial challenges.

I think history indicates that Ueshiba was not a pacifist, his spiritual ideals weren't new-age love and peace, and that he gained his spirituality alongside his martial abilities. None of the famous pacifists (ex. Ghandi) did that. And while I certainly admire some of those people, they do not have the same spirituality that Ueshiba had. Would Ghandi have ever used a strike to someone's face as a means to spirituality (Ueshiba is seen doing this in his later years -- see vid references below)? Then, perhaps, the spirituality of Ghandi is vastly different than the spirituality of Ueshiba.

Trying to mold aikido into that kind (Ghandi, etc) of spirituality is not something I think should be done.

Let me try a physically, martial comparison here. For techniques, we can see kote gaeshi, shiho nage, irimi nage, etc in aikido. Now, if we wanted to be more martial, how about if we added some muay thai kicks to aikido? Many people talk positively about muay thai kicks and how powerful they can be.

But, looking at it, muay thai kicks are just not part of aikido. In many ways. Same with the spirituality of Ghandi, etc. While not degrading anything about these men or their outlooks, they are not aikido.

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Why does everyone hark back to the 1930's when talking about what Aikido lacks? Why do so few people look at how O-Sensei changed the techniques he had learned and taught as Daito Ryu and then, later, as Aiki Budo into what became Aikido after the war? The Founder taught actively until his death in 1969. He frequently resided in Tokyo and taught at Headquarters, in addition he lived and taught in Iwama as well as traveling to the dojos of his various soto-deshi like Hikitsuchi Michio in Kumomoto and Tanaka Bansen in Osaka. Whatever happened to Aikido after the war, O-Sensei was an integral part of it.
It's a very good point. So, let me ask you some questions to see if we can't come up with some answers.

Why is it that one can view Ueshiba in his later years and he is doing stock Daito ryu techniques?

Why is it that one can veiw Ueshiba in his later years and he is doing atemi throughout his techniques?
Wakayama 1952, Ueshiba age 69.
2:10 - 1:12 Ueshiba uses atemi on elbow.
2:13-2:17 Ueshiba uses atemi on elbow.
2:18-2:22 Ueshiba uses atemi to face.

Why is it that Ueshiba taught Saito in his later years and Saito is looked at as being a very martially capable person? Did not Saito keep faithful to Ueshiba's vision of aikido?

Should we also be striving to become avatars for the kami?

There are a lot of questions like these that are valid and should be addressed if we're looking at Ueshiba's version of aikido. What then, can we do to fulfill the spiritual side and yet be within the parameters of Ueshiba's aikido? How about within his students' visions of aikido?

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
There seem to be two ideas which come up frequently in discussions of Aikido's so-called "failure" as a martial art. First, is the idea that somehow O-Sensei's son and the other post war teachers of the art took the art in a direction that the Founder either wasn't really aware of or didn't approve of. O-Sensei's statement towards the end of his life that "no one is doing my Aikido" is taken to mean that he felt that the art had gone wrong somehow in losing its martial character.

Actually, I personally take an opposite approach to that statement... I happen to believe that what he meant by that statement was that the various people he saw doing Aikido were too focused on technique and not enough on the spiritual side if the art. I think that, human nature being what it is, it was easier for many practitioners to focus on hard physical training and mastery of technique than it was for them to really try to understand statements like "Budo is Love" or the Founder's assertions that the art was not about fighting and that fighting destroyed the spirit of Aikido.
How do you explain Ueshiba yelling at his students for being too soft and that it took him 20 years of doing things hard before he could do them softly? (Sorry can't find reference right now. It's from Aikido Journal somewhere, I think.) Between that and the reference you cite, I, personally, think that many students were on the wrong track. Daito ryu aiki certainly makes both of those references understandable. It doesn't have to be the answer, but it definitely is a very logical choice.

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
The second idea that seems to form the foundation of the critique of Aikido is the belief that post war Aikido represents a degenerate form of the art that existed in the pre-war period. I would maintain that it was intentionally different, not a degeneration, but an evolution.


Now I am not what anyone would call a pacifist... I am non-violent up to a point. I actually do believe that ones Aikido should "work" at least within the stated context of the practice. But the practice has a form. If that form is absent, it becomes something else. The Founder quite consciously did not have a ground fighting component in his art. It wasn't that he forgot... it was purposeful. The techniques of Aikido got larger than their Daito Ryu antecedents. This also wasn't just some random occurrence, the move away from martially applicable small technique to a larger type of execution focusing on internalizing certain principles both in the body and in the mind was done, I think, specifically to take the practitioner away from the fighting mind. Aikido was meant to be less practical for fighting.
Have you pondered that maybe Ueshiba's evolution of aikido from his pre-war to later in his life actually made aikido more practical for fighting (Which boosts Ueshiba's fortitude as a person because he chose a more spiritual outlook and application)? What would it mean to you if this was true?

Historically, Ueshiba was a high level martial artist. IMO, just because he got older and just because he had a more spiritual outlook doesn't mean that his aikido lacked in the fighting or martial areas.

As a final addition, what if that evolution from Daito ryu to his aikido was something he did to make his aikido even more martially effective while retaining his spiritual ideals? Or perhaps his spiritual experiences showed him how to make his aikido more martial while retaining a better way of living?

As a whole, aikido has already taken the route of being more spiritual than martial. And as a whole, people have taken scores of passages to build their whole spiritual practice upon. And as a whole, we have gotten further and further away from the abilities of Ueshiba while being criticized by our peers more and more. Even with his complete spiritual outlook, no one criticized Ueshiba's martial abilities.

Isn't it time we stopped being status quo and took a good, hard look at our aikido training?
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