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Old 05-20-2010, 08:51 PM   #7
Location: Massachusetts
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 3,056
Re: The purpose of Aikido?

It's very common for people to start in the study of aikido (or medicine, or law, or music, or anything else you might name), and, once they're into it, find that it isn't like the preconception that they had before they started their study. At this point, they have several choices.

1. They can discard their preconceptions, open their mind, and see if there is something of worth. If they find it, they can stay and study; if they don't find it, they can accept that the cause of their disappointment is their own preconceptions and expectations, and not the fault of reality for failing to live up to them, and move on, having learned a valuable lesson.

2. They can declare that their subject of study is fraudulent because it isn't living up to their preconceptions, and demand that all practitioners join their movement to "reform" it.

3. They can decide that their current field of study is bogus, but that the Grand Ultimate Thing that will satisfy their expectations is out there somewhere, in another dojo or another organization or another religion or another field of study, and wander off in search of some other thing to be the Grand Ultimate Whatever They're Looking For.

If someone led you to believe that the study of aikido would make you the baddest mutha at your local watering hole, I'm sorry you were misled (and I say that because I don't know what other reasonable definition of "martial" there is, in the context of a modern society that's regulated by laws). However your expectations developed, your story sounds like that of a great many people I see who come into aikido or other martial arts: burning with enthusiasm at first, eager to eat drink and sleep aikido, the kind who say they're "training" as they ride the bus or pour their morning coffee or whatever. Honestly, this kind of sets you up for disappointment. It's great to have enthusiasm for something, but enthusiasms that burn this hot usually also burn themselves out in fairly short order. Why? I don't know, but I'd venture to guess that anyone who is that eager and that devoted to something on short acquaintance is probably telling themselves some stories about what they're doing that may be based more on wishful thinking than on fact...know what I mean?

If you want something that is "martially effective", first you need to define what that means. If you say that means the ability to defend yourself and your womenfolk and your walled against some imaginary Crack-Crazed Urban Street Scum(tm), I say you're wasting your time. The best defense against this mostly imaginary threat is simple commonsense in avoiding blatantly stupid situations, and not worrying about the equivalent of a meteor falling out of the sky.

By the way, I have nothing against training to deal with imaginary threats -- I do it all the time. It's called "weapons work" I enjoy it a whole lot, but my understanding of it as "martially effective" requires a complete shift of context. I can't get hung up on what is likely to happen as I walk down Mass Ave on a warm summer night, because whatever it is, it's unlikely to be someone attacking me with a sword. If the meaningfulness of my weapons practice depended on modern-day applications, it would be a complete bust. Aikido isn't that extreme, but like any martial technique you will ever learn, it is also situational, and it's harder to pull off than a lot of other styles. If I ever were attacked, it's unlikely I'd use pure aikido to defend myself, but that isn't because the aikido techniques won't do the job: it's because the aikido techniques are designed for situations where the attacker doesn't give an easy opening. Someone who's skilled in aikido is unlikely to leave me the opening for an elbow strike to the temple; a rowdy drunk who wants to beat me up because I'm wearing the wrong baseball cap is going to leave me all kinds of openings (and, quite likely, is also going to leave me many opportunities to walk away from the situation without a blow being struck).

So -- pardon the long-windedness -- I think I'll decline to participate in any movement to "reform" aikido. My expectations are more modest than yours, and it lives up to them just fine. Having practiced in three other styles, I didn't come to aikido expecting it to be some pure mountaintop retreat far away from organizational politics: where there are people, there are quests for power, there are attempts to assert authority, there are efforts to create followings and fiefdoms. The only way to avoid them is to become a hermit. I didn't expect aikido to make me Undefeated In All Asia (hey rec-ma people, remember this?). I didn't expect it to teach me magical-seeming tricks or give me shortcuts to physical prowess. I expected it to involve a lot of sweat and a lot of frustration and much rarer moments of satisfaction and a few moments of pure bliss, and it has done that. And, honestly? I doubt you'll find a higher satisfaction-to-sweat ratio among anything worth doing.
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