View Single Post
Old 01-26-2010, 12:38 PM   #7
David Orange
Dojo: Aozora Dojo
Location: Birmingham, AL
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 1,511
Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

Keith Lee wrote: View Post
The blog itself is more of his usual thing, Aliveness v. dead patterns and science v. religion, but he uses his an encounter with a friend who had been training in Aikido for ten years an an example for his arguments.
Geez. I finally managed to find the aikido part after skimming over that long-winded diatribe.

Interestingly, he first states that the aikido guy was a "lifelong" practitioner of aikido, then says he actually had ten years' experience. And then he used this one guy as "the" aikido that he could bash, putting all aikidoka in the world to shame.

The biggest fallacy I see in that article is the "alive" versus "traditional" martial arts. I know I never saw him at the old yoseikan hombu, where the training was very much "alive," though not to the point of cage matches. We didn't really try to hammer the uke, but the training was definitely very hard, strenuous, wiley and always overpowering with numerous highly qualified black belts to follow any one you had just fought. Aikido was used against karate attacks, judo attacks, weapons attacks, wrestling attacks and if the aikido man didn't make a clean final throw in the first instant, then the encounter virtually always went to the ground for a few minutes of newaza leading to a submission or choke from either one who could get it. And when you struggled back to your feet, here came another fourth or fifth dan to get you and you had to do it again--maybe with six or seven attackers in a row, each one taking you to the ground if you didn't throw him at first contact.

Would I be able to beat or wear down Matt Thorton today?

Well, he is professional martial artist and, despite my history in martial arts, including some long stints where that was my only source of income, I'm a researcher in public health now. So he could probably beat me. But I guarantee you I know some aikido men that can flat kick his ass.

So, while the yoseikan of that day was not entirely "traditional" because Mochizuki was such a maverick, the big difference was not in the techniques but in the wide diversity of techniques he taught--aikido, judo, jujutsu, karate, sword, bo, tanbo, tanto and anything else anyone could bring. He loved it when a prison guard who trained with us started bringing in sambo. That training was all traditional--in the original sense of traditional: learning everything possible for the sake of survival. Our training in those days was very much alive. But it still stopped far short of real, all-out combat (most of the time). What I'm getting at is that Thorton didn't look too far and wide for the best of "traditional" martial arts. I know multi-degree aikido black belts that are sheer embarrassments when the subject turns to serious physical results. But why use them as examples of 'real' aikido? They are, at best, examples of what happens when an art spreads too far and too wide too fast. The standards drop. If you want to bash an art, you should find the best man in that art and try him out before you speak.

Another big weak point in that article is the hard-headed belief that standardized patterns of kata are necessarily "dead".

Mochizuki Sensei created several very interesting kata of his own and he taught many, many others. We spent a lot of hard work refining those kata, but the core of all our training was randori with heavy resistance. We tried to apply the principles from the kata to improve our performance in randori, but we had to know both with considerable depth.

The kata are like the "encyclopedia" of the arts. A scientist doesn't say "All those old formulas and axioms don't apply to me because I only work in the 'real' world of test tubes and chemical reactions." He knows that there is tremendous value in all the documentation of all the scientific research that has gone before. Traditional MA katas are just like that. They contain the documentation of what other people learned the hard way long before us. They didn't survive because the guy who created them was a weakling. They survived because he was very good and the people who followed him accepted them as his gift from history.

Surely, Thorton's group has some kind of patterned basics. They undoubtedly use lop sau and pak sau and some of the other wing chun basics. Those are very old patterns of movement but I think they have a lot of very good content.

Another way of looking at kata is to compare them to the works of Shakespeare. Should we dismiss Shakespeare because "no one talks like that anymore"? Despite the archaic language that you can't use in the modern world, Shakespeare's plays are full of the depth of human nature and intrigue--things that will remain as long as humans live. So to reject all kata and patterned teachings is extremely dumb or arrogant and probably also hypocritical (if he does use at least some patterned basics).

It seems that all his knowledge of TMA comes from the soke-dokies who made up half their katas and teach them as "what to do" instead of as examples of approaches. Even the most avant garde jazz musician is an expert in scales. And just so, a martial artist should really understand kata as a historical starting point. Thorton wants to convince us that TMA "forces" us to limit ourselves strictly to what is in kata and to do it exactly as it is done in kata. That's either simply ingnorant or it's willfully ignorant. In either case, it's wrong.

No doubt the Gracies have great stuff. They came out with their challenge to all comers with a $50,000 purse while I was still living at the yoseikan, well before they started UFC. Everyone at the yoseikan was very impressed but it wasn't so much their techniques that made the difference as it was their emphasis on real fighting, and that's just not something you can apply to everyone who is interested in learning some self-defense. You can't go totally abstract (as some aikido schools do) but you can't put boxing gloves on a twenty-year-old secretary and "teach" her by knocking her out. Geez. Get real. You have to teach to the person's level and cultivate their abilities.

I used to spar from time to time with a jkd guy. He only agreed to spar with me if I promised not to do any throws on him. Should I use him as "the" example of JKD and as proof that JKD is weak? That was over 30 years ago, before JKD included throws or extensive ground fighting. I sparred that guy many times while leaving out all my best techniques. And I was able to use the aikido movement with karate hands and feet to do quite well against him, especially since I was using my weakest stuff against his strongest.

About a year ago, I met one of that guy's top students while comparing notes with a mutual friend. He wanted to see what I did so I stood in an open, natural stance in front of him, arms down, and said, "Attack me."

He couldn't believe it. He said "Do you fight with the strong side forward or the weak side forward?" (which right there is a "pattern" of thinking and acting.)

I said, "I don't fight with any side forward. This is "zero stance". Attack any way you want to."

He attacked with a front kick. I sidestepped and scooped his leg from below and had him dancing around on one foot while I controlled his kicking leg. I made no other technique, though I could have put him on his head in that same move. He didn't seem to realize that I had just handed him his butt without doing anything. He said he didn't want lessons or didn't want me to show him techniques. He wanted to fight.

I woudn't do it because of fear.

I was afraid that if he got a little frustrated he would do what his teacher did, which was get mad and really go after you to hit you at all costs. And if that happened, I would instinctively go into sutemi waza and put him on his head. I was afraid that I would break his neck and put him in a wheelchair and that people who go around saying what a violent guy David Orange is would have more things to say about me. So I let him go away telling people I was afraid to fight him.

Of course, I was also considering the potential for the opposite, that I could get seriously hurt while trying not to hurt him, and that I could lose my ability to work and support my family. It simply wasn't worth either outcome for me to impress someone who didn't get the message when I absorbed his first attack without warning or preparation.

Last, I just can't forget that the root of all that kind of superior talk is Bruce Lee, who died at age 32 after doing a lot of that kind of talking, himself. Speaking of dead, that ought to be a warning to anyone but it doesn't seem to get through to some people.

Best to all.


"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

"Eternity forever!"
  Reply With Quote