A hodgepodge system, in an information age.
I recently overheard a conversation between an Aikido student of a few years, and a very experienced martial arts teacher who had never studied or learned much about Aikido. The conversation was quite amusing. It was filled with contradictory statements that were also true, depending on the style of Aikido you studied and what your view of martial arts is. This conversation really got me thinking about Aikido, and how it is a very hodgepodge system.
Hodgepodge means a mishmash of different strange often contradictory things, mushed together. As much as we may not what to admit it, Aikido is a hodgepodge. It is based on many elements of Koryu martial arts, but is so absolutly not a Koryu martial art. It was was really coming into it's own in the 50's, 60's and 70's, when the martial arts world was obsessed with "Karate", and the idea of unarmed martial artists squaring up and duking it out. Yet it's founder, and his predecessor where very interested in multiple attackers, armed conflict and surprise situations. We say that our movements come from the sword, but no two Aikido styles have the same kind of sword work. Our system has many allusions to being very old and "traditional" yet, we are VERY young and unorganized. These are just a few quick examples of the mishmash of ideas and strangeness that surrounds our art. Yet we like to believe our system epitomizes refined martial arts systems.
So my real question is, how can our system continue to survive? Considering how easy it is to find very confusing and contradictory information about our system, it seems to me that we could go the way of the "dodo" quite easily. Most Aikido teachers, while well meaning, good hearted individuals, are just as confused as the general public. Who wouldn't be, our martial art is a confusing subject. In a very short time Aikido has had quite a rich life, which even a true scholar would have a difficult time tracking down.
What do I think we need to do? I've spent the last few years groping my way through this mess, and I've come up with no solid answers for Aikido as a whole. It seems to me, more and more, that it is the responsibility of each Aikido student to be clear with themselves first, they can intern find schools with Dojo heads who have similar goals, and slowly we can work our way back together. Looking only to "tradition" in a system that hasn't had enough time to develop tradition is not going to fix our problems.
Aikido- How can we make it clear.
1. Create a clear context as to what it is we are training for. What kind of martial engagement are we preparing for? When training is complete will we know how to sword fight, or wrestle, of drive a fighter jet? We need clear areas that we are going to be working within. Simply saying you are learning to "fight" or "not fight" is not a suitable answer.
2. Clear definitions of what students should expect to get from our training. Saying things like, " you will gain the power of Aiki" and then only be able to give an intangible answer as to what Aiki is, isn't cutting it. Or saying that Aikido will keep you "fit" when a good number of Aikido teachers are very out of shape, at an early age isn't being honest about what we are doing.
3. Accountability. Can we do what we say we can do, or at the very least, show the methods we are using that will ideally achieve what it is we are attempting to do. We must hold our selves highly accountable. Without this we are all just wearing old style clothes and dancing about (which actually might be perfectly acceptable, but if it is that should be made clear in 1. and 2.)
Just some thoughts.