Aikiweb as a "Big Tent"
I am putting this in Open Forums because I'm just not sure where to fit it....
The increasing polarization of Aikiweb over the past year or two with a predictable pattern of mutual ad hominem attacks and the breakdown of many threads has been bothering me a lot. The latest devolving thread, "Re: Ki Testing..." got me upset enough to sit down and focus and write.
I make no special claims here...I am very much a "hobbyist" aikido person in the sense that, having come to it late in life in an attempt to get some kind of exercise, with very little kinesthetic or athletic skill or practice, and with the family and financial obligations of middle age that make it rate a distinct third level priority in the juggling of daily life. If I have any "cred" here or in the dojo it is because I took to the art on a purely emotional level the moment I bowed in - however frustrating a given class might be, I LOVE training - and because I think about aikido a lot and seem to be able to articulate some things about that folks can relate to. So yeah, take what I say with as many grains or kilos of salt as you like. Know this for sure though: my "motives" are straightforward.
I valued the old aikido-l, and came to value aikiweb, for the "Big Tent" approach. I may not completely understand what all the exercises and ideas behind a particular style of aikido are, but starting with our 1998 aikido-l list seminar I've made an effort to get on the mat with as many types as aikido folks as I can get to. First because I'm really curious and second to try and better myself. I've always been made welcome and always came away withe something positive, something of value.This includes having gotten off my butt and gone to meet and train, once each, with both Mike Sigman and with Dan Harden.
What I'm about to say had NOTHING to do with the relative merits of any individual or any school, style or system. It has to do with Aikiweb as a place for folks to meet and talk respectfully.
I always enjoy reading a thread in which somebody either asks a question about a particular aspect of training (say, competition in Shodokan Aikido) or compares and contrasts (say, what "randori" comprises in different styles), or posts some thoughts about a particular aspect of training (say, ki testing in a dojo with that lineage).
In my opinion, respecting the actual training that many of our members enjoy for whatever their reasons should be a hallmark of Aikiweb. Let me be very clear: I am NOT talking about allowing absurd claims from no-kyu charlatans or those who invent schoolrs or rank to go unchallenged. I will be really pissed off if anybody hijacks this thread to claim that is what I'm saying. I am talking about mainstream aikido within lineages we are familiar with. I'm talking about understanding that for whatever reasons, people are training in aikido and enjoying training in aikido and it is meeting their goals or expectations.
The moment I read what follows, I knew it was going to be the derailment of what was to me, until then, a very interesting beginning of a thread Mary started on the subject of ki testing:
"It is important to realize that cooperative ki testing within the martial arts has sever limitiations and is all but utter nonsense when it comes to practical use of aiki outside of the "martial arts."
Most teachers and students I have met (well...all really) cannot use ki under high stress; they simply fall apart. I have a very strong belief that under severe pressure the Japanese Shihan (including those who teach ki and internals) would simply be taken apart by those who themselves develop ki in high stress/high pressure environments. And yes I mean the famous ones."
Dan, this may well all be TRUE. You've got the years, experience, and training to back up your assertions and I don't doubt the veracity of what you are writing. But it ended up being a thread-killer for those on Aikiweb who do train in dojos where ki testing is done, who find it has a place in their regular training, and for any of us who are interested in reading about or writing about it. All of a sudden instead of talking about ki testing, it is a battle about the way people train.
I understand you think that ki testing hasn't done a damn thing to enhance martial practice. But if Aikiweb is to be an online forum for the broad spectrum of people who enjoy training in aikido, there needs to be a baseline respect for the disparity and breadth of all aikido and frankly sometimes that just means choosing not to post so that people who DO a certain mainstream practice can discuss among themselves the things that interest them. On that level, while I have theutmost respect for your work, your training and your teaching, I sympathize with Mary's frustration when she replied, "Perhaps we should just call this site DanWeb."
One thing I have learned, not in the dojo, but as a nurse and a family member, is that "being right" isn't always the most important thing. How we comport ourselves among others is.