My thanks to Mark and Corky for bringing up this topic for discussion. I have been attempting to expand my aikido practice slowly over time to include other aikido styles and viewpoints, but have run into some difficulty when I try to incorporates these differences into my home dojo, especially when I am tasked with occasionally teaching a class. I am told to only teach our style when I teach, which, to be fair, is only right. We have a responsibility to our students to teach in our home style, preparing them for their respective tests and allowing them to properly mingle at seminars with their peers from similar dojos in our association.
My question is, at what point can such outside ideas, with sometimes radical differences in approaches, be incorporated into an existing dojo curriculum, without endangering the "purity" of that dojo's teachings? Do we need to set up an "Aiki Lab", as suggested, where advanced practitioners (who know enough not to confuse these new approaches with their currently accepted curriculum) can come together and try to incorporates these new ideas and approaches into their individual training?
Have others run into this? If so, what was the outcome?
Jim, thanks for this inquiry. You are right in calling this a radical approach, because in order for one to experience the benefits of it one must change the way one looks at attack and often, one's purpose in practicing aikido. My move into this exploration was not supported by the dojo I had practiced in for more than 10 years, but I had an experience I could not ignore that pointed out to me that even though I was a yudansha with almost 20 years of training, my aikido training was ineffective in a real attack.
For me, the choice of staying with friends and continuing what I now knew to be deceiving them and myself or leaving to search for the essence of the art which I had now discovered I had truly missed was an easy one even though the path itself would prove to be exponentially difficult early on.
I like to think, however, that that doesn't have to be the case.
If you teach your own classes you can start implementing an investigation of energetics of human interaction. It is not incongruous with any aikido practice, style or school that I know of to investigate the nature of authentic attack energy expression.
The way people grab and strike demonstrates their intention. By understanding the nature of the flow of energy between people based on intention, you can start to get an idea of what kind of flow has to be directed at nage to make the practice attack suitable for aiki to manifest spontaneously and without effort or force. For instance, ask a partner to grab you and you will find a distinct difference in feeling if you imagine putting a spear through the person grabbing you as opposed to keeping them at a distance. I term those two expressions of energy spear energy
and shield energy
and they both affect the way aiki manifests or doesn't.
If you examine the technique from the intention of the attack you can get insight into where your practice ukemi is falling short of authenticity and if as nage you are either withdrawing from the interaction (letting uke fall without your support) or getting in his way (resisting or trying to get uke to fall sooner, later, or in a different way than he is).
You can see a little about that here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsQxuonXZ6Y
and here: (sorry for the bad sound) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztB8GIWoCOE
The idea is not to destroy traditional technique but to gain insight into how and why those techniques come into being spontaneously. By directing your attention to the nature of attack and how that affects aikido you can also start to see how the implementation of your technique might actually be making it harder for uke to get to the ground.
If you are in a dojo in which ideas like this would hold no weight but still wish to investigate, again, look at the ukemi and understand what your intention must be as attacker for that path to spontaneously manifest - then you'll know where to be as nage in order to support uke as he follows the path to the mat. But be prepared for most of your ukes to hang there in space waiting to be thrown... and resist the urge. Instead, gently remind them that they are attacking someone and encourage them to continue... or put them back on their feet. It will be counter-productive to your new training to continue throwing people who are not attacking!
Thanks again for the inquiry, Jim! I am working on a training model and DVD to incorporate along side traditional practice and planning some seminars for those interested in expanding their practice to include some non-technique emulation exploration.