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Old 01-27-2010, 07:14 PM   #23
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Dojo: Aikido of Northern Virginia
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

David Orange wrote:

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I agree with him on many levels. We probably agree more than we disagree, but I think he still has a deep level of conviction that aikido (and all TMA) is just repetition of patterns that conditions one to be unable to move or respond outside those patterns, and that is simply ignorant.
I think he has probably had alot of experience with alot of guys that simply do not understand what they are doing martially. There are plenty of them out there for sure to serve as bad examples! I'd say the majority. I live in DC and there are probably only a handful of schools that I believe are worth the money or the time, not that I have been to every single school mind you, but ...well...my experiences with TMA pretty much is Matt's.

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I just disagree with Thorton's assessments of aikido and of kata.
Categorically, I'd agree with you, however, his experiences are his experiences and I think that is what he is going on, so again...I can understand how he could reach this conclusion.

Keep in mind also that his criteria and value weights are focused on a particular area of budo, so based on that...sure, it is completely useless in that area.

I also teach Army Combatives, while certainly Aikido has RELATED skill sets and structure...it is a very poor delivery mechanism as practiced by the majority of aikidoka...so on that criteria and value weight (Army Combatives) I'd say the same thing!

Practicing Basketball won't help him much either in this area and is a waste of time! THe thing is you don't go to a "basketball dojo" and see them professing to teach self defense or skills to help you in a fight.

99.9% or Aikido and TMA dojos have "Self Defense" on their websites..pick one...anyone and they list it. Go there and I bet they are doing the same fricking kata and stuff that the next one is doing and VERY little in terms of REAL skill sets that are needed in a fight or self defense.

So, I'd say based on that criteria...the shoe fits and it is easy for Matt to categorically pass this judgement cause categorically it is the case 99.9% of the time.

Why, because the illusion of Self Defense and lure of Mastering esoteric stuff like Steven Seagal and Bruce Lee brings folks in the dojo!

If we stopped all the nonsense, maybe we'd all understand what we were doing a little and folks wouldn't get the wrong ideas and we could agree that we are simply entertaining ourselves and having a good time for the majority of the time.

I think the saying is..."if the shoe fits...." if not, then no issue and Matt's brashness probably wouldn't bother us too much! I think though deep down, many of us know that there is something not quite exactly right about what is going on out there in the martial arts world...and THAT is why we get a little anxious and miffed when guys like Matt bring up the subject...we simply have alot of time and emotion invested in what we do and we can't figure out how to fix it.

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That whole crowd really also fails to realize that kata were created by and for people who seldom had anything but severe and deadly experience that was always "life or death" rather than "alive training."
There's only so much of that all-out bloody "research" you can do before you simply die from an accumulation of serious injuries.
I've seen alot of stupid stuff passed off as kata. I have also seen alot of good kata become dead and pointless because over time the folks doing it have no basis or criteria to evaluate it or to really understand what they are doing. Hence alot of our discussions over the years on Aikiweb...AND the whole topic of "the lost internal skills of Aikido".

Ellis Amdur even wrote a book that is the best on I have ever read on this whole subject. "Hidden in Plain Sight".

I dunno, you can train pretty hard and seriously and still do it in a very smart way that allows you to capture "lessons learned" and interpret it and codify it into appropriate patterns to be replicated over and over (kata).

Heck I am going on 45 and still manage to get my licks in and sustain a robust practice that is alive. I don't go out and do "dog brothers" stuff on a daily basis, but you don't need to do that daily either....but once you understand the dynamics of what the dog brothers are doing, you can develop a practice (kata) that allows you to train "alive" without having to beat the crap out of each other. Matt has some very good examples on Youtube about this subject actually.

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And how do two seriously-blooded fighters share information on deadly techniques without killing one another in the process? Kata were made by seriously deadly men to let them share information with other seriously deadly men. It's not the fault of kata that modern people generally lack that whole level of experience. It's we who need more "alive" experience before we can really understand the meaning contained in the kata.
Why not go out and find guys that are legitimate and have the depth and experience? I agree that most modern people lack this whole level of experience, however, there are alot of good accessible folks out there that have that experience AND they understand the spectrum of training methodologies and what each of them are designed to do.

Student composition and base has alot to do with what we can train on as well. I have wanted to teach more advanced stuff in classes I have run, but frankly the level of conditioning of the average "civilian" student is not up to par to handle alive training.

If you do the necessary stuff to get them in shape, they will complain and say "hey" I came here to learn "self defense" and Aikido...not get punished, abused, and do a workout! Yet that is probably the best thing they could do martially!

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I don't consider kata to be "ritualized combat," as Ignatius suggests, but as a way for a deadly person to show you what he considers the most important techniques and, more important, the principles behind those techniques
Agree with this for the most part. Kata are simply drills. Drills to create appropriate patterns of muscle memory and habits in response to stimulus..whatever that may be.

They may also be used to implement Techniques, Tactics, and Procedures to do certain things in a fight or self defense situation.

Agree, all martial arts do them. Some do a better job at understanding why they are doing what they are doing than others. Some understand the pedagogy very well...most do not.

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I suppose if the most advanced kata you ever saw was from some homemade 10th dan who makes up a new "dance of death" every weekend, you would think there's not much content to it. But like aikido, you have to judge it by the best available instead of whatever scattered trash you find blowing against your shoes on the street.
Personally, when someone says "advanced kata" my Bullshit flag goes up right away. I have studied arts with Advanced Kata (tm). It is bullshit IMO. There is no such thing as advanced kata IMO.

When someone does advanced kata, the "advanced" part is them stringing a ever increasing bunch of moves and "special" thing together designed to be increasingly intricate and complex.

What this tells me is they either one, believe that there is advanced kata and they don't have no clue about Aliveness or fundamentals. Or they know this and they are a snake oil salesman selling belts along with "advanced" levels of training.

There are enough things to do with learning fundamental patterns of movements and principles at the basic levels...everything else IMO is simply a variation on the same them...sure, there are a zillion combinations and patterns to be devleoped.

that is why we have things like Jiyu Waza, Randori..and all the other forms of methodology that guys like Ueshiba, Funakoshi, and Kano codified into pedogogical practices.

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It just never fails to impress me with irony when people supposedly dedicated to open-minded exploration for the truth can reject so much that has been proven through centuries without really giving it much of a look
David, I personally don't think it is a issue with being open or closed minded, just simply getting tired of all the bullshit and crap that is thrown around in the name of martial arts. After a while you kinda develop a fairly good BS detector and know the patterns, language, and what not in order to see it, and Matt, I believe is a guy that has spent a great deal of time doing this.

Do some innocent folks and arts get taken out as "collateral damage" when he preaches his mantra...sure...I agree with that...but again...if the shoe fits.....

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