Join Date: Jan 2005
Form does not equal function aka The Shape of Aikido
Has anyone ever wondered what the interaction was like between Ueshiba and Shioda when Ueshiba tested him? Does anyone think that if Shioda were to take any kind of falls, they would look like Modern Aikido ukemi?
Which brings up another interesting item. Why were all those students of Ueshiba taking large rolls and falls? We know that they spoke often about the crushing grip of Ueshiba. We know that some said they would rather not let him get a grip so they rolled out early. We know that Ueshiba had power (not physical strength power). We also know that he changed Daito ryu's training paradigm of bring opponent in and down at one's feet for break/kill to projecting the opponent outward.
I think that the skill differential between Ueshiba and his post war students was so great that the students created and learned a version of rolling and falling. Some had judo backgrounds so it wasn't such a stretch to use judo's teachings to help roll and fall.
It appears that we had two major issues which drove the changes into Modern Aikido.
The first was the physical. Ueshiba wasn't teaching his aiki. By, aiki, understand that I mean the Daito ryu aiki. This isn't the "love" aiki. This is a training methodology to change the body into a martially strong body. By post war, Ueshiba demonstrated and used people to further his progress (in both martial and spiritual which for him was really all one thing). Not having an actual teaching methodology to follow to learn Daito ryu aiki, those post war students did the very best they could. They listened, learned, trained, sometimes asked questions, worked things out, etc. When the son, Kisshomaru, finally stepped into the aikido world, what did he do? He spent a good amount of time learning techniques. And in a few years, what did he say? It should only take a few years to learn techniques. What did he do? He kept a central body of aikido teachers around him to advance aikido into the whole world. How? By two things: techniques and spiritual ideology. The world of Modern Aikido was born and thrived. The focus was shifted from the actual secret of aiki to one of techniques. Who in post war aikido did Ueshiba actually teach his full knowledge of aiki to? Instead, those post war students had to really "steal" whatever they could. Some went to other places to learn. Some asked more questions. Some were able to steal bits and pieces. But overall, Ueshiba didn't really teach. It is not hard to see why Modern Aikido took the turn it did.
Now you have Modern Aikido focusing on techniques when you can read where at least one prewar student mentions that the wrist "techniques" weren't techniques at all but body development exercises. Why is it that most of the giants of aikido came from the pre war era? Why was their training different? Why did they get promotion scrolls for Daito ryu? I think Ueshiba was still working out and training his own aiki. That training was more centered around him building aiki in his body and those pre war students were around that kind of development training. I don't think Ueshiba taught them much either, but the training environment was different. It was easier for them to "steal" bits and pieces of aiki because Ueshiba was still working things out himself.
Finally, at that point, Ueshiba was still very much taking challenges and finding uncooperative people who wanted to beat him. He tested himself against a lot of other budo men. By post war, all that was done.
The second is the spiritual. It's documented that both the prewar and the post war students had no clue to what Ueshiba said when he lectured or talked. It's also documented that Ueshiba's views of a spiritual ideology started with his prewar students. Looking at how Ueshiba trained, it wouldn't be hard to take a "leap of faith" to say that he kept building his spiritual ideology throughout his life. By post war, the world had changed so much that it would be near impossible for those students to understand Ueshiba. Kisshomaru helped change that spiritual ideology into something that would appeal to a world wide audience. As Ueshiba stated, his aikido was for the world, so Kisshomaru (and others), after the war, did exactly that. Oomoto kyo was removed. Kami were removed. I doubt Kisshomaru understood just how much aikido would change into Modern Aikido with its myriad approaches from "Aiki Bunny" to "Shodo Thug", from a dance to a martial jujutsu system. But, we also have Ueshiba telling people that they didn't have to follow in his footsteps and that they could choose their own path. His aiki would make their religion better, their spirituality better.
We have Ueshiba, who could not be moved or pushed, who could make people do what he wanted whether they were willing or not, who could stop someone in his tracks, who could become an avatar of the kami, who could be the Universe, and who understood that all this was the result of his training to be the best that *he* could be. That the training was done inside himself and not from the result of learning thousands of techniques or attending Oomoto kyo lectures. Anyone could look at all the various branches of Daito ryu and their thosuands of techniques and then listen to Ueshiba, Kodo, and Sagawa state their art was formless. It was formless because their entire body was changed by Daito ryu aiki and when non-aiki men contacted that kind of changed body, either by touch or through weapons, they knew it was entirely different. The effect of aiki created vast openings and controls that non-aiki men could not counter. It isn't a far stretch to understand Ueshiba when he came into the dojo and yelled that the students weren't doing his aikido. Or when he yelled about the "soft" stuff when he spent 20 years doing the hard. Physically, they did not have his aiki. Spiritually, they did not understand his lectures. By then, though, Ueshiba only had himself to blame. He had not taught them the complete aiki and he had told them that they could follow their own spiritual path.
Modern Aikido took hold and the world focused on techniques and their own spiritual path. The form or "look" of aikido became the techniques rather than focus on the aiki driven person creating a technique. The techniques became primary and a sort of building block for martial applications rather than the techniques being the building blocks of changing the body through aiki. Spiritual harmony, in places, became the focus over martial ability. This spiritual harmony was called aiki because Ueshiba (like other Japanese who love multiple meanings) said his aiki was ai(love)ki. They conveniently ignored the fact that Ueshiba's aiki was the base and he was comparing what he was/had with ai(love)ki.
And now, we have an ukemi based martial system called Modern Aikido. While some have trained and gotten very good jujutsu out of Modern Aikido, for the most part, there is a lack of aiki. Without aiki (not the love aiki either), how can one train in a martial system that is the "way of aiki"? One of the main detriments to training aiki in a Modern Aikido setting is the ukemi model. It is a great hindrance to becoming martially strong. There was a reason why Takeda, Ueshiba, Sagawa all fought within their training. They came against men who truly wanted to beat them and would not roll or fall out of something but rather these men would change up the fight dynamically. These men strove to stay standing in a dynamic encounter and to undo all efforts of Takeda, Sagawa, Ueshiba. And Sagawa, Takeda, ueshiba needed to learn to use aiki to that kind of environnment. That isn't to say the cure is to introduce fighting. It is to say that the solution is to introduce more efforts of uke to not fall or roll but change things more in line with how a really good jujutsu/fighter/judo person would react. Modern Aikido relies too heavily upon its ukemi model. Why? Did not some students say they did so because of the power of Ueshiba, not because they learned it from him? Did not some students say they taught themselves them to roll and fall or that the senior students taught them?
Everywhere you look at Modern Aikido, it is known by what? Look at that kotegaeshi? No, it is rather, look at the breakfall the uke took from a kotegaeshi. The uke being flattened out in midair from an irimi nage. And by what method are these ukes doing this? They are *taught* the ukemi. If you don't believe that, why is it that brand new people training in aikido rarely fall like people who have been training for years? Why is it that a boxer or a BJJ or a judo person rarely react/fall/roll the same as someone training in Modern Aikido for years?
The ukemi training model of Modern Aikido is holding back the development of aiki. That form, or shape, of Aikido does not equal the function of aiki. Training aiki would change the form, or shape, of Modern Aikido significantly.