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Old 12-03-2011, 10:48 AM   #28
Ken McGrew
Dojo: Aikido at UAB
Location: Birmingham, Alabama
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 202
Re: O Sensei observation

Once again we have someone in ASU using his association with ASU to suggest that I am a bad example of an ASU student and fail to understand what is taught in ASU. This cannot be removed from the previous attacks by Hugh against me and the constant efforts of some people in Harden's circles to claim that what they do is somehow sanctioned by ASU because certain people in ASU train with him.

My definition of Aiki is Saotome Sensei's definition of Aiki. Know anyone who went to the Chicago seminar? Ask what Sensei said about issues like blending. Josh was there. Everything I have ever posted is what I learned from Saotome Sensei, Ikeda Sensei, and their students. As an ASU student it is my opinion that you have an obligation to read Saotome Sensei's books. Everything I have said is in there. If you think what I've said is not consistent with ASU Aikido then I think you need to get out more.

You are stereotyping everything I have said, repeating the often repeated claim that I must not know much about Aikido and must only train with over committed attackers, and so forth. I have explored all these issues about attacks over the years with a great many senior instructors inside and outside of ASU. I know what works and doesn't work against what sorts of attacks.

I have 20 years in Aikido and tested for Sandan under Saotome Sensei. One year before my last test Sensei pulled me aside in Chicago and told me that my Aikido was much improved because I was no longer being overly forceful and that I should continue to work on leading the attackers energy. I know who my teachers are, Hugh.

The fact of the matter is that quick small unbalancing type throws, which I have always said are good, have strengths and weaknesses. The tendency is to stay in place while they are performed. The benefit is that they are very quick ways to put down Uke. They are miniaturized versions of larger movements. They work in much the same way. The problem is that they leave Nage vulnerable if Uke has a knife hidden in the other hand and in multiple attack situations. The small stuff is not superior. It's just another way. The principle of Take Musu Aiki means that we should have as many possible responses in our skill set as possible. It's rather simple to understand. If you favor this one side of things you will be vulnerable. Don't let the cacoon of your dojo fool you into thinking it necessarily reflects the diversity of attacks you may experience in the real world.

More importantly, the blending notion of Aiki is what makes Aikido an ethical martial art with benefits for personal and social development. If O Sensei left anything out of Aikido that he learned in Daito Ryu he did so intentionally in order to move towards this ethical position. The will to dominate, what you call control, is against the love in Aikido. Don't take my word for it. Take O Sensei's word:

Hugh Beyer wrote: View Post
Your other points have been ably answered already, so I thought I'd pick up on this one.

What is the principle of aiki? That, for me is the heart of the question, and that's what I've spent >20 years trying to understand. I suggest to you that it is a legitimate inquiry--that reasonable people can have different views, and it's not an insult to anyone's teacher to explore different ideas.

Your definition of aiki is widely shared and up to 10 years ago I would have agreed with it. Timing, body positioning, blending: over-simplifying a bit, all adding up to getting out of the way--and then using uke's over-committed attack to lead them in a direction they are already weak.

Which is all very well, but what if uke doesn't over-commit? What if uke has actual training and delivers a fast follow-up attack?

When I joined Gleason Sensei's dojo I found that he and just about all the other ASU teachers I met had a very different idea of aiki. The aikido I've found in the ASU focused much more on immediate connection and immediate kuzushi, and I was taught to look for those principles in every technique. So even in a movement like tsuki irimi-nage, where the initial irimi movement doesn't require touching uke at all, as soon as the touch happens there should be connection and uke should be off-balanced.

Frankly, the things you keep emphasizing in your posts don't seem to me to reflect the aikido I've found in the ASU. Yeah, body positioning matters--because it puts you in a place where you can connect and take kuzushi. Same with timing and blending. But what knocked my socks off 10 years ago wasn't the elements you list but how they're used to create connection.

These days, most of the people I work with are involved in the IP/IS work, and that introduces a new idea of aiki--that you create aiki in yourself and then use that to control uke. I've found these ideas to be continuous with the approach that already existed in the ASU and that teachers like Ikeda are still pursuing. The IP/IS idea of aiki adds stability and centeredness before the attack and provides a vocabulary and set of concepts for what it means to "take center", "connect", or "take balance"--concepts which are embodied as physical skills and which can be trained with specific exercises.

Note that Endo Sensei seems to be talking along these same lines in the video linked to in the "stance of heaven and earth" thread. I talks about not bracing yourself or being "on your guard", but standing centered in a stance that "connects heaven and earth."

You've picked up the idea that IP/IS stuff is static, but that's nonsense--the whole point is to move dynamically while maintaining your center and controlling uke's. There is practice that starts from a static position, but that's practice--no more "realistic" than kokyu-ho.

Finally, on the subject of the big cooperative throws, which seems to be a hot button with you-- People I respect highly don't believe in them, but I'm not there yet. I see a lot of value in them, especially as a training tool early on. You've seen it: people arrive at the dojo falling over their own feet, moving like stick men--and within 6 months their whole movement and posture is transformed. A lot of that is from ukemi. The flexible tension you need to deal with the mat is the same as you need to have connection with your partner.

Large, fast attacks are useful for learning timing and body positioning (which are important--just not the whole story). What's more, they're wonderful for learning to apply the IS/IP principles under pressure. But they're also a training tool, and they're only going to take you so far. You should expect that as you get better and as the attacks get more realistic, nage's movements are going to become smaller and more direct. If you remain wedded to big movement for the sake of big movement you'll always be limited, and you'll never be able to deal with a real, skilled attack.

Last edited by Ken McGrew : 12-03-2011 at 11:01 AM.
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