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Old 01-31-2010, 02:34 AM   #102
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Martial Ineffectiveness

Alex Lawrence wrote: View Post
Not really. I think you're assuming people are quite dim and can't react to the circumstances without very specific training. I went into break up a fight about a month back, got into contact with the opponent, slipped on the ice and took him down with me. I extricated myself from under him and got onto my knees and pinned him. I've never trained to do that, never even considered what I'd do in that situaton. I've certainly never trained on ice to have someone land on me while trying to take ukemi while trying to get a choke on. It was just the obvious thing to do with my training in the circumstances.
I was in a position which didn't suit me or what I'm trained to do, so I moved to one that did, that's a principle of Aikido; move to where you're strongest and work from there. I'd argue that for anyone with even a basic level of training in any art that is common sense.
The fact that you managed to come up with something for which you had not trained and were able to prevail does not in any way invalidate what I was saying. Scenario based training is absolutely the way to go if you are training for practical application. Just read
Peyton Quinn's book Real Fighting: Adrenaline Stress Conditioning Through Scenario-Based Training. His experience is replete with martial artists who could not access their skills under pressure.

Folks are always touting the "martial" effectiveness of Aikido based on encounters with subjects who have little or no actual training. Ellis Amdur once defined martial arts as "training to fight another professional". What you are talking about is simple "self defense".

In self defense, one is not training with the expectation that one will encounter a highly trained opponent. Dangerous perhaps. Armed, quite possibly, but not highly trained.

I'd be seriously shocked if we're not all thinking that way. Can anyone here honestly say that they've not contemplated how they would react in a given situation with the training they have? I think it's true of any art that you care to name that if you don't contemplate it's use outside of training it wont be effective. Otherwise you're just training to train, you're learning nothing except how to learn learning.
I'd be seriously shocked if many of the Aikido folks I know do think this way at all. This is a young males fantasy world. Sure, when I was young I thought about what I would do if I encountered one or more evil doers out on the street. Of course, in 34 years of Aikido that's never happened. Nor has a single one of my students ever done so except for my law enforcement, executive protection and security students (who did not study Aikido with me but a far more eclectic mix of skills)..

In an Aikido context that means you become brilliant at learning Aikido and no doubt your Aikido kata will be excellent, but what good is that? Is being able to perform Aikido kata of any use? Well you can't fight with it, so not martially it has no value. Is the simple repetition of Aikido kata better than the simple repetition of Karate kata? Will you reach any greater spiritual or philosophical insights by performing Aikido kata than you will performing Karate kata? No.
I absolutely reject the notion that the art of Aikido has no value outside of some anticipated practical self defense application or martial encounter with a trained martial artist (duel?).

Aikido is an art, the practice of which has its own inherent value. As I have said many times, if one is training properly, some degree of self defense capability is a by product of the training. But is not the point of the training.

This is not just an issue with Aikido, it exists in most traditional martial arts. If real world application is the standard by which we judge, then many of the elements of our training are archaic and irrelevant. And many practical techniques, strategies, and technologies are ignored. So we dump what seems impractical and add what seems modern and up to date. Soon it isn't the same art at all.

Aikido is an art which, in my opinion, is about the study of connection... physical, psychological, and spiritual. Nothing I have heard or read about the Founder or his deshi, including what I heard from my own teacher who was one, contradicts this view. If you look at the entire quarter century period of the Founder's life after WWII, which is when the art actually became Aikido (1942), I would say that the Founder's teaching showed a staggering lack on concern for the practical application of the art. His entire focus was on how the techniques of Aikido contained the various principles at work in the universe, that the doing of Aikido could and would on some level, bring things into harmony.

All the time I see people bringing the mind of conflict into the dojo and trying to remake Aikido into something it is not. The people who do this never get very good at the art. In the pursuit of "practical" skills, they content themselves with the surface and never delve into what is far deeper in the practice.

It's only when, IMO, you start imagining how you would apply the lessons of Aikido kata to the real world that you start to really learn Aikido. That's when it ceases to be the repetition of a dead form and becomes a living process and it's only when you start to imagine and mentally reherse its actual application that Aikido becomes an art seperate from any other otherwise you can repeat any kata from any art ad infinitum with the same results.
I think that this misses the point entirely. This kind of statement shows a lack of understanding of what kata is. It is not and never was a "stale repetition of a dead form". Kata means form. Marshal McKuen once said, "the media is the message". Well, in Aikido the form is the message. The basic techniques of the art illuminate the these fundamental forms. These then combine and recombine to create an infinite interplay of form. One can spend ones entire life in the study of how to bring ones body and mind into accord with these forms. The more you know, the more you understand you don't know.

Masakatsu, agatsu "true victory is victory over oneself". It isn't about winning over another.

I was trained by one of the most martially capable Aikido teachers of the post war period. I always find it ironic when I end up one side of a disagreement with someone who is championing Aikido as a "martial art". I've taught bouncers, executive protection, law enforcement, corrections, and security professionals. I get "application". But none of that was Aikido. Aikido is so much more than that.

As you've said, the spirtual content was in O-Sensei's spiritual practice not in his martial practice. So logically the martial practice isn't an efficent route to spirital insights or development. If you want those you have to meditate and practice misogi. Logically the martial side has to stand on its own as martial practice or it is simply a distraction from serious spiritual practice. If it doesn't stand on its own it should be abandoned as a pointless exercise and Aikido should adopt meditation and misogi as it's main practices. Or "recreate" a martially effective form of Aikido.
O-Sensei stated that training was misogi. The Founder made no distinction between his Aikido and the other practices he pursued. That included farming. It was all Aikido to him. There is no question that we have perhaps limited the scope of what Aikido is more than the Founder did. I for one am not prepared to move to the country and investigate how farming fits in to my Aikido. But I think we received an art from the Founder that quite clearly was not intended as a practical fighting style. Ellis Amdur has quite an interesting section in his latest book about how and why the forms of Aikido were developed by the Founder after the war. Practicality of application did not enter into it. Making the art about fighting will cause the practitioner to miss entirely what is right there before him.

Personally speaking I practice Aikido because for me it's an excellent martial art. For my spirtual development I go seek the advice and teachings of the monks and nuns at the local buddhist centre, they can help me more in my spiritual practice than my Aikido instructor can.

All the above is IMO of course.
The fact that your Aikido instructor can't match the local Buddhist teachers on the spiritual side of things is the direct result of the divorce of Aikido practice from its spiritual roots. When the art is merely physical, when technique is simply about whether it works or not, one isn't going to get very deep into anything more ethereal.

I am not saying that technique shouldn't "work". I am saying that practical application is not the point nor is it the standard by which the art's value is measured. It certainly wasn't what the Founder was thinking about when he created the art.

And all of what I am saying is certainly my opinion. People can make Aikido into whatever they want. There's no copyright or trademark on Aikido. The attempt to contain it in a box as in a certain style or other is laughable and can't be done. So make it whatever you want. I am just suggesting that folks not settle for Aikido lite. That's just what an Aikido limited towards practical application can be. It just misses the really good stuff.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 01-31-2010 at 02:41 AM.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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