Thread: Ueshiba's Aiki
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Old 11-12-2011, 07:12 PM   #232
Ken McGrew
Dojo: Aikido at UAB
Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 202
Re: Ueshiba's Aiki

Hugh, it would be very helpful if you would explain how what I'm describing as Dan's approach is incorrect. in fact, why not just describe what you are doing?

From the photos I found it looks like what Dan is working on are grounding and breaking balance internally exercises. Looks like this is being done in slow movement or soft static training. Grounding and breaking balance internally are obviously good skills. It's hard to do a technique like Sanyo for example without being grounded. It's much better to down an Uke from shiho Nage by unbalancing him than by cranking the wrists or elbow. I also recognize the ability demonstrated on the Daito-ryu video of neutralizing the attacker so they cannot continue the attack. These are all things I train.

I take issue with the idea that these are the only significant sides to Aiki or Aikido. I also take issue with an approach to ukemi that breaks the system of training that O Sensei developed. The way this get's translated to waza is to stop Uke and then do something TO Uke. This is not ideal. If someone grabs you in a strong static manner it may be very difficult to move them. If they give even a little energy (and real attacks always have energy) then it is very easy to move them. If you connect with Uke as if to do irimi Nage or Ikyo and move around him to the back in ura far enough this movement alone will be enough to break his balance. It's an extreme example but it makes the point. Not everything in Aikido is or should be about grounding and breaking internal balance.

Your description of blending and connecting with the center is not what Dan has claimed at times. In general what you describe sounds correct. But it should not sound correct to Dan. In no touch aikido and sword work If ther is no physical connection then the connection to the center is either a trick to lead the mind or else is a Ki connection. Dan doesn't believe, apparently, in Ki. Sowhatistheconnection? In sword the idea often is to get the strike to come then move to a safe place before countering. Aiki has to do with a certain presense and sensing when and how to respond.

The claims that have been made are not just that most Aikido needs more grounding and internal balance taking. The argument that has been made is that O Sensei was doing this body development and inner connection unbalancing, that everyone in aikido missed this and are doing fake fall down for no reason or else overcome resistance with strength Aikido, that what O Sensei was doing was Daito-ryu, and that he was not and would not be happy with modern Aikido. Dan has made his agenda very clear in his posts.

These claims contradict what O'Sensei said, what he wrote, what his students said, and what the videos show. Dan's supporters know this. So to overcome this they argue that the translations are so bad they are completely unreliable, that O Sensei did not teach after the war, and that its obvious from the videos that we was doing Diato-ryu. Finally they argue that everything I've stated has been disproven in earlier settled debates.

They just don't prove their claims. Most Aikido practices do not concede the things they claim. In fact, many teachers who train with Adan continue to argue for Ki and a spiritual basis in Aikido. It's not surprising that people don't respond to their claims given their responses to my questioning them. The translations of O Sensei have not been proven to show what they are unreliable or change the trajectory of his teachings. Finally, there is the problem of the direct students of O Sensei telling a different story. We know from people who were there that O Sensei was instructing and supervising. We know that he approved of the Aikido of several students including Saotome Sensei. We also know much of how O Sensei describe the source and practice of Aikido from teachers like Saotome Sensei who have conveyed their experiences to us. We know, for example, that Saotome Sensei isn't doing a trick that is different than what O Sensei did and wanted done because O Sensei told him that he was pleased with his Aikido.

People can do what they want with Dan. It doesn't concern me. The claims to Aikido that they, and you, are making should be challenged. I do so out of respect for O Sensei and various teachers after him.

Hugh Beyer wrote: View Post
Ken writes: "Generally there is a tendency to stop Uke's movement and then do the technique. Dan views attempts to use Uke's energy to power the throw as ineffective and superficial. He has got it backwards. The Using of Uke's energy to such a high level was the breakthrough in Aikido. Breaking internal balance, Atemi, posture, these are all necessary at times but they are secondary to how Aikido works."

This is the point where online debate breaks down. I completely disagree with all of this, but the questions you're raising are the core and central questions of what makes Aikido. So it's a debate worth having, but a debate that's very hard to have without working with each other in person.

There are various "tricks" we can use to make our Aikido work. I regard joint locks, using momentum, using timing to lead uke off balance, as tricks. They may be effective in certain circumstances, and even worth practicing, but they aren't what I regard as the core of Aikido. (I heard one guy, who is very much into the aiki stuff--and whose name is not Dan--say that Saotome Shihan gets by with 'the trick of perfect technique.' Some trick. I wish I could pull that one off.)

I regard the core of Aikido as the center-to-center connection--making that connection instantly and using it to master the situation. I view the aiki skills as a set of concepts for understanding, a language for talking about, and exercises for practicing, that connection. I view blending as a "trick" which works only against an unskilled attack, because blending against a skilled attack leaves you being controlled by the attacker.

If your blending works--or Mary's, upthread--I'll claim that you're not purely blending but in fact have figured out how to make a connection and take balance within the movement you call blending. This is more than just semantics--I'm distinguishing two concepts and giving them labels so that we can talk about how they operate independently in practice. But until I've felt your technique I dont' know if that's what's going on or not.

Ken writes: "It [aiki] seems to be defined as grounding and breaking internal balance. Where then is the aiki in sword?"

Absolutely the same place as in taijitsu. Gleason Sensei has been teaching for a while how the same aiki principles that power taijitsu apply to sword and, in fact, have always been there. When I go back and look at his old sword videos I can absolutely see how they are manifest.

Ken, I think you're raising all the right questions. If you're seeing an attack on Aikido in the IP/aiki posts, I wish you would blend with it and irimi to engage with it. Right now, you're fighting it so hard you're making the opposition stronger and more absolute than it really is. Keep in mind most of the posts you dislike have been written by committed and sincere Aikidoka. Dan, though not an Aikidoka, works with us in sincerity and friendship at our request.

Skeptics who call bullshit when we fall into groupthink are always valuable. But it's more valuable if you know what we're actually saying and doing.