Originally posted by Chuck Clark
I have heard over the years some aikidoka state that "aiki" weapons techniques and principles are "different" than koryu arts.
I disagree, principles of efficient movement are universal. Strategy and movtive or intent are other subjects. I think the principle of the technique is the same, form may vary depending on the person, and style surely differs from person to person.
Do we practice the sword that takes life or the sword that gives life? There's lots of room for semantics and hair-splitting there. I suspect the easiest way that I can express it is: principle is the same, technique should be able to be successful at whatever level of force is deemed necessary by the budoka. Make successful technique and do as little harm as possible.
Kano Jigoro's maxims: Seiryoku Zenyo and Jita Kyoei (Best use of energy and mutual benefit) conveys this attitude well, I think.
Is the issue here one of "are they different" or "should they be different"? Most of the kobudo teachers with whom I am familiar ie. Ellis Amdur, Meik Skoss, Dave Lowry etc. (all people that you are intimately familair with I know) have substantial Aikido backgrounds. I have never heard any of them maintain that the use of weapons in Aikido is the same or even very close to the use of weapons in kobudo. In fact they seem to go out of their way to distance themselves from Aikido. I have heard them discuss the fact that even amongst the highest level Aikido Sensei, none of them, Saotome, Saito, or Nishio Senseis have actually studied in a classical Ryu Ha in sword. I understand that there a a few that did study Jodo, Iamaizumi Sensei being one who comes to mind right away.
It seems very important to the practitioners of the Koryu that the distinstion be very clear so I respect that and make no claims for Aikido weapons work being the same as in classical styles. That said, there are certainly some of us who have endeavored to conduct their Aikido weapons work and indeed the empty hand practice as well "as if" they were more classical in nature. It is absolutely true that "principle" is universal and therefore the same in Aikido or classical systems. But the koryu are full systems with the details of practice written in stone so to speak for each generation to practice without variation from the previous generation. That is certainly not true in Aikido! Saotome Sensei's forms used to change over time as he taught them (at least until they finally got immortalized on video and became the "standard" version). My versions of his forms are slightly different from other senior student's versions as we have each encountered various technical issues through their practice and have solved these issues in different ways. I think that this is fine as Saotome Sensei has from the very first maintained that we each have to find the way that works for us, not simply be an imitation of someone else(including himself - I once heard him chastizing one of his senior students, "don't do it the way I do it!", not something you are apt to hear from most teachers). I have always tried to adhere to a way of training that puts some large emphasis on efficacy. It has never been clear to me why some teachers seem to maintain that techniques that do not work are somehow more "spiritual" than those that do. But my struggle to determine those issues through my own training merely points out the difference from a classical system. In the koryu those issues were ironed out at some distant point in the past by warriors who used the techniques in combat. It is not up to the student to play around with the techniques and decide which ones work for him. You study the forms for many years until the underlying reality is understood, you don't adapt the practice to your own needs and capabilities which is certainly what happens in Aikido.
Does that mean that my basic sword cut is essentially different than one done by a Yagyu practitioner? Possibly not. Do I do incorporate elements from the training I did in classical styles into my Aikido? Absolutely! But I think it would be presumptuous of me to maintain that my practice is the same as in a classical ryu. My teachers would be all over me (I suspect that I'd get a comeuppence from Relnick Sensei as well) if I were trying to draw the association. One of the things I have heard consistently from the classical style instructors is the need to not have the teachings of their styles be too public ie. in videos etc. because that would lead to pieces of the practice being taken out of context by people who don't understand them fully. But in fact that is what many of us in Aikido do. I bring things into my Aikido practice from whatever source is avalable to me if I think it enhances my own practice and that of my students. I admit to bringing things in from styles in which I have no teaching credentials, merely some short term exposure. I always give credit to the source of the technique, I don't try to maintain it as something I made up or discovered. But it gets Aikido-ized in the process. When I have brought it into our system it ceases to be what it was when it was part of the style from which I learned it. I think that this is essentially what most serious Aikido teachers do when they want to expand their technique beyond the limited repetoire that is offered within Aikido proper.