Dojo: golden center aikido-highgate
Join Date: Oct 2010
Re: YouTube: Golden Center Sword
George S. Ledyard
What makes Aiki Sword just that and not Ken Jutsu is that the sword work should reflect the very same principles operating in the empty hand. One doesn't necessarily use kenjutsu as the standard for evaluating aiki ken. As far as I can see, this sword work reflects quite nicely the same principles operating in the empty hand being done. However, what one thinks of that is another matter entirely...
I realize that there are a million reasons why people choose to do Aikido. I know many folks who are quite good at what they do who have simply crossed the line into territory where you can't maintain that a martial art is being done... it has become something else. Perhaps that something else is valuable, fulfilling and worth doing... I can't really say. It simply wasn't the way I was taught.
I was taught that Aikido was Budo. A new new Budo to be sure, a very different way of thinking about Budo, but Budo nonetheless. There is no Budo going on here. Everything I have seen is completely and absolutely collusive. I have been working with people like Saotome Sensei, Ikeda Sensei, Howard Popkin Sensei, William Gleason Sensei, Endo Sensei, Don Angier Sensei and others. These are people who can drop you effortlessly, sometimes without seeming to move, at least visibly. I actually understand what they are doing and can do it myself, not as well as I'd like yet, but I get it, and can see when those principles are operating and when they are not.
There is nothing going on here, either in the empty hand or the sword work that is anything other than relaxation work coupled with collusive ukemi. I like the level of relaxation, actually. But the technique shows no understanding of how that relaxation could be expressed martially. For it to be a martial art, one needs to be able to express that relaxation in an encounter with someone operating on an entirely different paradigm and still have the technique work. If you took some 200 pound footballer off the street and told him to grab one of the folks in these videos, he'd have torn their arms off before they ever moved him, much less threw him. That's my take on it, It's pretty much entirely wishful thinking from the martial perspective. Now take that away and I don't have an issue with it. If folks think that Aikido isn't really a martial art, which many folks seem to believe, then fine, this is nice relaxation, movement work. But it is "faux" martial arts, and therefore not Budo in any way I understand the term.
Now, I could be wrong... I have seen people like Ushiro Sensei or Vladimir Vasiliev do things that I have no idea how they did what they did. It might as well be "magic" for all that I understand it. So, maybe I am merely not advanced enough to understand what is happening here and the teacher and the students are functioning at such a high level that I am missing it. Like I said, I have trained with folks who operate at this, at least to me, incomprehensible level. I think two or three hundred years ago, anyone doing stuff like what they can do would have been burned at the stake with a bunch of folks standing around chanting "witch, witch, witch..."
The problem is that I have been around Aikido for 35 years. I have trained, at one time or another, with many of the greats, or with folks who had trained directly with them. I have never seen that level of incomprehensible technique coming from any Aikido teacher. Some, like my own teacher, seemed magical for many years, until I had some help understanding what was really happening. Now I understand it. He's better at it by magnitudes than I am, but I get it and can explain it and do it. I just need a few decades more practice to be as good as he is (if he would only stop getting better, that is). Anyway, to the extent that I understand what is happening in Aikido, and I have not, at this point, seen any Aikido teacher that I don't at least understand what is being done. So I am either forced to concede that this Aikido group has taken its work to a level beyond the very best people I have ever trained with, taken their technique to that level of incomprehensible skills that only two or there people I have met or even heard about have attained, or I am forced to conclude that its just "faux" Aikido, an "Aikido-like" substance, with only an exterior resemblance in outer form to real Aikido.
While I am a consistent critic of Aikido with no "aiki", that physical, muscly, art that is simply application of strength against weak lines of the opponent, at least there is something there going on that's real. It won't work against someone stronger or better trained than you are and it lacks any real depth but it is "real" in what it is. I know, I trained that way for years myself.
I am on record as saying that I do not believe that the Founder intended for Aikido to be about fighting and that the from of the practice needs to be changed if that is what you wish to do with it. But I do not in any way mean that this is what happens to Aikido when you take away the idea that it is about fighting. If one really entertains the idea that Aikido can be about "conflict resolution" and contains some lessons in how to stand at the center of conflict and stay balanced and centered oneself, I absolutely fail to see how one does this when there is no "conflict" to begin with. When everything is sweetness and light, everyone is holding hands and singing "Kumbaya" together, there is no conflict and there is no practice of conflict resolution.
Getting to the point at which one really understands the idea that "there is no attacker", that we are all fundamentally connected, even when the other guy intends to take your head off, will NEVER happen the way these folks are working. Never. And if that isn't the focus of the training, it isn't Aikido in any way I understand it, and it isn't Budo.
I am sorry to be so critical... but Aikido is in trouble. The demographics have shifted and around the world numbers are down. There is too much Aikido that simply doesn't deliver the goods... Mediocre Aikido will not last another couple generations. In order for the art to survive in the face of all of the various elements in peoples' lives that pull them away from training, in the face of other martial arts that seem to offer more effectiveness for folks who want to "fight", the art will have to get back the depth and sophistication it had in the day of the Founder. It will have to reproduce the kind of art that lead skilled, experienced martial artists to turn to Aikido as a step beyond what they had been doing.
When anyone with the least experience in a martial art looks at these videos, he is going to be so turned off that he'll potentially never look at Aikido as a serious martial art again. Really great Aikido looks fake, and that's a problem for growing the art. Until you have someone dump you effortlessly on your ass and you never felt anything, you will think it's all BS. That cannot be helped I am afraid. But when its real, someone from another art can walk into your dojo and leave with a new understanding, perhaps even wish to start training.
What is going on here tarnishes the art. It's not even bad martial arts, its not martial arts at all. A junior practitioner from some local Macdojo would eat these folks alive. Any Aikido practitioner with a bokken coming from a style that does sword work, like the ASU, the Birankai, or the Iwama folks, would simply destroy these folks doing what they seem to be doing.
Because these are public forums and so many people of different levels read these and even folks who know nothing about Aikido come here to find out about the art, it is important that folks be willing to say the "Emperor has no clothes" when that is the case. I recently posted some video clips that I knew would generate some discussion along those lines. It didn't matter to me since I know I can do what was in them. I didn't mind that there were folks who thought it was fake, I was simply trying to reach those folks who would understand and appreciate what was being done and perhaps generate the kind of discussion that would open up some minds. I was happy with the result. We had some good discussion, I got to explain a bit more deeply what I was doing, to the extent that I could use words to explain it all, and perhaps the result was positive in the end. I thought so any way. The fact that there are some folks out there who still think it was "fake" is of no concern to me.
So, you've posted these clips and sent folks to your website and it's up there for all to see. Once you do that, it's basically open season. Don't expect folks to be positive and respectful of things they see as really bad. I do not think it should be personal. It should stay oriented towards a discussion of the Aikido being shown (other than the pretty correct "lose the hats" comment). These are not bad people doing this Aikido. I am sure that they are very good people doing bad Aikido. And the discussion will probably not change that view much.
May I congratulate you on an excellent response.Why do I say this? Because I see it is heartfelt, considered and sincere.
I have never been on a forum before and thus am learning many things here so it's all good to me. I find many of the responses interesting as I didn't expect it and so I learn I have been quite naive.
Now, as to going in to a big defence of my Aikido I have refrained from doing so for I have nothing to prove, my purpose is not to say look at me and how good I am, rightly or wrongly I did it as an experiment. Only recently, this year, someone pointed out to me that the Aikido I do was taped on camera and proceeded to show me how to make it into little vids. On doing this I was amazed because in all the 30 years of practice I had never seen myself do it. On looking at the vids my friends and students past and present got me to put them on youtube. It was all good fun for me yet I could see that not many people would understand what I was doing and that if I ever made any teaching videos they would have to be different to these, step by step, with commentary.So here in this forum I wondered what people in the Aikido fraternity would summise and boy did I find out!
I was trained in a private dojo, by invite only, so let me tell you just a little about my teacher. After being there for five years I remember asking him why he wasn't in a federation like Aikikai, or Yoshinkan etc. He told me that in the early days in this country he came to a dilemma in himself, he said many of those he trained with seemed to be going down the macho force route and refusing to develope on the Ki side of things, ie: have the Ki tests as he showed us as a major part of their training. He also said , rightly or wrongly that he thought if he made a stance politically at the time it would possibly cause a big split with some following him and others not. So he decided to go independant and was no longer interested in big organizations.
As for me, after 15 years it was time to go my own way, and to me from now on the world, the streets, work, would be my dojo so I ended up teaching privately whoever happened across me and liked what I had to offer. I never wanted to be an organization and so have never done Aikido as a business or club and only recently gave my style a name. I did hope that showing it with a different name ie:Golden Center, would show it is not the Aikido you are used to seeing and thus not cause offence.Once again naive.
On the point of collusive training believe it or not I wholeheartedly agree with you and see the conclusions drawn from my videos gives this view 100%. I now know if I want others to actually see through film the effect of what I do on a 200lb wrestler IT would take a different type of video. So, as with showing people flying at me and me taking them and projecting them into a nice dramatic breakfall it all gives me a dilemma. I am not promoting my Aikido, or Aikido as yet for that matter, yet if I put anything on a public forum then I should do it in an expected manner which would then enter the field of promotion. So once again I have a decision to make and a lesson to learn.
As far as the situation worldwide to do with Aikido being on the decline goes then not being involved in organizations and the politics of it all then this comes as an unwelcome surprise to me and explains some of the touchyness I have encountered here. But here I must state my view clearly and give a message to all those who have had their confidence knocked or their hopes for the future of Aikido shaken. IT IS EASY TO BLAME OTHERS WHEN THINGS ARE NOT GOING WELL. The answer is ALWAYS in your own scene.
I have had a couple of people insist I watch a video called samurai spirit and say how it inspired them and it promotes Aikido. Well I have watched it and can see how it could do that for some or even many, all be it very contrived, but what I say to them is this: If it is good promotion you want then make some good ones yourself, or get your organization to do it and stop crying like little babies. There is no honour in destructive criticism and blame and thus no center, no samurai spirit, apart from no manners or self discipline.
So I will finish off here with something you may find interesting as it is from someone not immersed in your organizational world of Aikido. The people I know, the ones I work with, friends and associates of mine get to know me and thus know I do this 'thing' called Aikido. Many have tested me, many have questioned things I do like Ki-atsu for example, but none disrespect me. I am never rude or belittling or critical, be they a doctor, a shop owner or a drug dealer. Yet when they are in trouble they know I can help. This I find applies in life and the reason I am saying it here is because in my experience everyone who has experienced my Aikido hasn't got a bad word to say about it. I have advised many people on Aikido and sent many people to Aikido clubs over the years for I have no opinion as to that ones better than that one I only tell them to find the one they like.I have people who come to me from various martial arts now and again for advice on what they do which may be an art of which I have no experience or knowledge but I get them to show me what they are getting stuck on and almost always help them to a solution for I can see the principles of what they are doing and thus where they are failing. This doesn't make them want to do Aikido but they go away and overcome that which they were getting stuck on in their own art and in this way I maintain a respect for Aikido from them. So in my zone of influence the people see what I do as disciplined, helpful and when they need it -useful. If I was a brash, arrogant, 'superior' kind of person then I am as sure as the sun shines that it would give Aikido a bad name. So from my viewpoint and experience I suggest All Aikidoka should look at their own behaviour as a major factor of peoples perception of Aikido and even in this forum for people are not stupid and by and large they do believe that Aikido is a more harmoniouse form of martial art and so expect the adherents to be very well mannered, polite, reasonable, helpful and strong in mind and spirit. Samurai if you like.(The good ones anyway)
Well if you have read this then thank you for listening.