I would like to thank you, Mark for finding your practice with me interesting enough to move what I had written in Graham Christian's thread to its own thread. Thank you for adding your independent analysis of your experience. I appreciate that you have done a thorough job of processing your experience, and I am certainly glad that your conclusion, after entering the dojo a bit skeptically, was in alignment with mine about the effectiveness of working with this model of practice when you left. Your valuable feedback, coming from your twenty years of practicing and I believe ten years of teaching had given me much to work with as I develop my hopefully continually improving methods of teaching this approach.
While you have described your practice with me the way I describe it, non-technique based, it is probably very difficult for those who have not had training outside of the traditional technique based teaching model, so if you don't object, I will link to a couple of videos we shot during one of our impromptu practice sessions:
and finally, though there is a bunch of silly stuff at the beginning....:
I had started working this way in around 2004 and the first time I encountered it outside my own practice was in 2007 at summer camp in northern CA in the seminar sessions led by Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan. I had a bit of an advantage over the other students there because I had been practicing this way exclusively for more than three years.
During that seminar I was fortunate to be chosen to be uke before the assembly during at least one practice session by three of the four shihan who were the main draw. Ikeda Sensei's aikido was just as I expected, no surprises, it felt very familiar to me. Ikeda Sensei asks his ukes to not be typical ukes, but to really hold him meaningfully. I have not unfortunately been able to train with Ikeda Sensei since some seminars in CA a couple of years back, but at that point the only difference in what we were doing full time on the mat at my dojo and what Ikeda Sensei was demonstrating was the language we used to describe/teach it.
Two of the Shihan taught (in my recollection) from the physical dynamics of the movements of the technique, and as a result the aikido was very effective in destroying my attack and putting me on the ground. However, I also felt discomfort in the way they did it. At one point in the training with one of those shihan, the technique being practiced involved nikkyo. My partner had long given up his attack and was waiting for me to deliver a potentially wrist snapping nikkyo, but in my practice I had already given up forcing an aikido fall on someone not attacking. The shihan walked over and asked me what the problem was. He asked for the same ukemi as I was getting and proceeded to apply a nikkyo, which controlled me through pain compliance. It was definitely effective, as you would expect, but we aikidoka treat discomfort like that with gratitude for the learning experience. Real life uke resents being hurt even if he started it. Resentment at the end, no loving protection perceived.
Believe me, I was not about to show disrespect and argue with a master of his stature and experience, but it became clear that our purposes
in practicing were not the same. I want the end result of every encounter to result in healing (as suggested by Osensei) not in one person's victory. Since then I have seen the dynamics of nikkyo manifest in many interactions in which uke didn't even recognize that "nikkyo" had occurred, and yet he or she was on the ground, without a smidgen of pain.
My giving ukemi to Mary Heiny Sensei was a different experience all together but of a much different variety. In her speaking to the assembly she gave me no directives as to how to attack her or when. Yet I could feel her drawing the attack from me energetically. Even in the middle of her connection to the crowd with her back to me, there was a non-verbal communication to bring it on. This communication existed throughout the interaction, all the way through my roll. Of course, I gave fully intentional attacks at full speed because that is what she asked for, and the experience of our interaction was invigorating and satisfying. I was thrown by my own attack even though I truly meant for it to impact her central core. Because there was not a set technique being demonstrated, what was occurring was spontaneously manifesting aiki (takemusu aiki), and I never felt thrown by her. This gave me further insight into the nature of connection, but again it was not Heiny Sensei demonstrating a technique, it was a demonstration of connection.
This insight was further embedded when she told me at some point during the week that her teacher, Hikitsuchi Sensei, 10th dan, told her that we should stop using the words nage or throw. For many years Mary Heiny has been inspirational to me whether in person or otherwise and that inspiration is born in the intention behind her quote on her website: "Through Aikido we may examine the nature of power, engage in uncompromising self-scrutiny, and realize our potential as powerful, compassionate, self-aware human beings." The key phrases for me are uncompromising self-scrutiny
and realize our potential as compassionate…human beings
, (the self-awareness developing in tandem).
I noticed that though you had written this thread as a revelation of what you have coined "post modern aikido," hoping to spread the word that there may be a shorter route to takemusu aiki than the ones Heiny Sensei, you and I have taken to get to these higher forms of aikido, yet the responses have been not about the concepts or dynamics of the concept you and I have written of, but advice to you on whether or not you should plan classes or how to decide which divergent path to take in your study of the art.
It is not an easy conversation to have because when we have it we may find that the shorter route to the top of the mountain starts way back where the classic route also begins and there is suddenly not only something to learn but much to unlearn. My 20 years of practicing in the traditional technique based models found in both my duo lineages (ASU/ Saotome and Koichi Tohei through Roderick Kobayashi) has embedded habits I am still working to transcend.
When I give a seminar I always begin by giving ukemi to everyone present. Even beginners can execute an aikido technique they have been drilled on, so as I attack with typical ukemi everyone does beautiful aikido. Then I go through the second round with the same attack, but this time the intention is not to allow them to practice their technique but an authentic attack intention. Understand please that this is not an intention to stop their technique; it is intention to connect and stay connected to their central core to impact it in some way. Aikido can easily be manifested with the attack I am giving them. I should be right on the mat very quickly.
Generally what happens is the instant the feeling of a real attack enters their awareness they immediately begin to try to impose a technique on me, and some of them, to prove to themselves, I guess, that the technique they've practiced for a decade or more really does work, has to work, has to work under any conditions, produces a panic. Then they either become attackers themselves using aikido movements to try to force me to the mat, or they freeze and analyze, looking for their intellect to give them another technique to try.
Sometimes a sense of wonder follows, particularly in the host who invited me. Other times it is resentment because I have demonstrated that perhaps their technique, practiced ten thousand times, is not a response that is going to be both effective martially and embodying the declaration of Osensei, "Aikido is the realization of love." Often the things I demonstrate are taken as illustration of principle but it is the rare individual who wants to awaken from the illusion that their aikido is really going to keep them safe in an attack AND truly express a realization of love (and not tough love
, either, by the way -- that's an invented rationalization for throwing)
However, in our short time together, Mark, you showed me that you could transcend your training as well as the natural lower brain responses that try so hard to keep you (me and everyone else) resisting, forcing or retreating. In just a few hours you were able to grasp enough about what we were doing to deliver an unrelenting attack to my center in a safe enough way that should I screw up, though my mistake would be obvious to us both from a martial viewpoint, I would not be hurt. That was key to your success in the role of nage because in training yourself to maintain an attack intention without the intensity you also became conscious, when you were in the role of nage, of the hidden, lower brain generated intentions that lead you into struggling with my authentic attack instead of into harmony with it.
That neither you nor I are capable of this transcendence every time we are in a situation perceived as conflict is why we continue to practice. Dai Sensei Kanshu Sunadomari, Shihan, told me personally that after 70 years of practice he was still discovering deeper levels of aikido, and that his main intention was to "remove animosity" from his heart. The obvious purification in what we are practicing, in alignment with the idea of Masakatsu Agatsu, is instant and undeniable because in each attack authentically rendered in our dojo, expressing truly beneficent intention is a literal victory over lower brain impulses to defend or escape.
Every time we can transcend the lower brain defenses to offer our support to an attacker rather than seeking our own security through this type of limbic trigger response, even in the Petri dish of the dojo, I believe the better our chances are of producing a mutually beneficial resolution in any conflict.
I don't have a name for what I do, I call my practice "Aiki Lab" because it is a place of continual discovery for us all and we are always scrutinizing ourselves and our intentions. I like to think I am moving in a direction that would gain the encouragement of the founder if he still walked the earth. But ultimately it has all arisen from the desire that my practice be in alignment with my purpose, which is that every attack issued ends not only without pain and discomfort for anyone, but with a healing, thereby fulfilling the edict of the Founder that aikido "is the way to reconcile the world and make human beings one family."