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Old 02-11-2011, 12:45 PM   #35
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Really, grab my wrist!

Hi Dan,
I think I would disagree with your central premise that Aikido isn't a weapons art. In my opinion, Aikido shouldn't be considered an empty hand art. All the logic of what we do comes from weapons rather than a purely empty hand paradigm.

Let me say, first of all, that I am not equating weapons or sword in particular with some connection with the samurai or some such. Nor, as we have discussed before, do I think that our` use of weapons (to the extent that there is an "our use" since there is a huge variance within Aikido as to how weapons are used). The samurai are long gone and I take exception to the folks who do their Aikido as if they are pretend samurai. It's silly.

But so much of the way we practice in Aikido makes little or no sense without the weapons paradigm. The very first comment a martial artist from outside makes when he sees Aikido for the first time is, "nobody attacks like that..." The movements, the postures, etc don't related well to the way anyone in any other martial art fights.

I met Toby Threadgill at the first Aiki Expo and we have become fast friends. A number of years ago now, I had him come to the dojo and do a seminar for us. He did a weekend on the relationship between sword and empty hand. Everything made so much more sense when practiced that way.

I found when I used to do a lot of police and security training in the old days that once you introduced weapons in to the equation, and a police officer is a walking weapons system, so much of our Aikido directly applied to what they needed. Much of our work applies directly to weapons retention, weapons disarms, etc.

Even the movement and fluidity of good Aikido relates better to weapons than what one sees in purely empty hand martial arts. Rather like how would the UFC look if those guys had knives... certainly not the same as now.

Anyway, Saotome Sensei trained with O-Sensei for fifteen years. Sensei siad that O-Sensei was quite approachable and he frequently asked him questions. Sensei said that, more often than not, the old man grabbed a bokken to illustrate his answer.

I think that it is very revealing that, when O-Sensei was looking for a successor i the thirties, he chose a kendo guy rather than a judo guy to adopt and make his heir apparent. I think that says a lot of how he thought about things.

We were taught the same way. For Saotome Sensei, and Nishio, Chiba, and others, there was no distinction between empty hand and weapons. Certainly Saotome Sensei made none. We moved seamlessly back and forth between them, even in the same class. I do the same.

So, while I have absolutely no disagreement with your disavowal of any connection between koryu sword or staff and any historical connection between Aikido and "samurai arts" whatever those might be... and agree that attempts to create a history that goes back before Ueshiba himself are silly, I do think of this art we are doing as having an internal logic that makes far more sense when weapons are introduced into the framework than if they are ignored. I have not seen any of the greats who weren't conversant with the sword at least, some actually had some koryu background. Without that weapons related logic, I think we'd move and trai differently and the art would look very different from what we actually do.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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