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Old 12-12-2000, 03:10 PM   #74
Join Date: Aug 2000
Posts: 168
Re: What Aikido Lacks...

Torokun, I don't know where you practice your aikido or where you got the ideas you express above, but I must strongly disagree with you.
torokun wrote:
1. There is no practice of complex attacks with vigor -- for example, one might attack with their weight over the back foot, left foot forward, grabbing uke's wrist with the right hand....These are common things that happen in chinese arts, but aikidoka never practice these things.
What I have quoted above points to a focus that you have put on the techniques you are learning, rather than the budo principles you are expressing. For instance, let's say I'm one of these sheltered aikidoka you are talking about who only ever see the most basic attacks: I only ever practice against a straight, traditional step and punch; and then in the street I face someone coming with a more modern street type attack (feet reversed from what I'm used to - left forward with right hand striking, hip turn, etc.) If I get off the line of attack, turn that energy, steal balance, lead, and finish centered and safe, have I done aikido? Sure, you can't nicely categorize it in terms of attack and responding technique ("leading cross-punch kokyunage"), but the aiki principles were there, and I WAS still doing aikido.

The bottom line on this one is if you don't see enough realism or variation in your attacks, make up your mind that you will train on these things, or ask about these things. But give up the attachment and dependence on "technique."

2. Footwork. Footwork is taught for irimi and tenkan, but after the entrance, it's usually just whatever works. I know that usually footwork must be adjusted to fit the situation, but without a good _system_ for footwork, the average aikidoka can not take advantage of his full range of rotation.

There is more footwork-WORK done in aikido than in other arts that I have seen or trained in. From tae-sabaki to full technique walk throughs, the teaching is there. Again, I do not know where you train or who you watch in order to see techniques taught as "Do this tae-sabaki, get to this point, and then just do whatever works from here." Sensei that I have been fortunate to see teach techniques to completion, from start to finish. Aikido is an art that REQUIRES you to be centered at all times. There is simply no way to accomplish strong technique without being centered, and no way to stay centered without proper footwork.

The bottom line on this one is that I would suspect that you haven't been in aikido long enough to grasp the scope or genius of its footwork "system" as you call it. Regardless of your time spent training, I would recommend Ikeda Sensei's tape on Iriminage, as it breaks down footwork into manageable tools that can be put together in more complex arrangements later.


3. Breathing. Aikido books talk a lot about hara and tanden, but that's about it. There are no specific exercises for developing proper breathing or internal power. Some might say that this can be done simply through practice, but I thoroughly disagree. There are great ways to develop these things, but they are not taught in aikido...

May I submit that the reason that you haven't found the instruction on breathing that you seek is specifically because you are looking in books? The learning is in the doing, not in the reading-about-someone-else-doing. At my dojo and others that I have visited, there is a strong emphasis put on breathing and the development thereof. From drills of sounding out abdomen-focusing syllables ("yee" and "toh"), to breath control drills much like Zen meditation with wood blocks, to the ukemi we perform during our warmup (focusing on breathing out); and these are just what comes to me off the top of my head.

Again, the bottom line for this one is it doesn't sound like you're getting the instruction that you need. ALL of aikido is breath training. What other art even talks about breathing beyond, "Remember to breath." Saying that aikido doesn't work on breathing is like sitting in the very first car that came with a radio and saying, "What are you talking about?! This car doesn't have a radio! I don't hear a thing!" Which is about the time your sensei leans over and turns the radio on for you.


4. Body connection. The internal connection of the body through the fascia, etc. can begin to develop through aikido practice, but I don't believe that many of the teachers really understand what's going on internally in this regard, because aikido usually just doesn't teach it. I believe that most _high_ level aikidoka have some degree of internal connection going, but usually not a really thorough understanding of it.... On this same note, since strikes are not practiced separately, aikidoka cannot usually channel their power through their whole body very well, to produce a powerful strike. They don't know how to store energy in the spine, legs, or arms, and release it...

I guess what really gets me is that you say that "aikido doesn't teach this or that." Aikido doesn't teach; people do. Now, you started your post well enough by saying that a crappy teacher leads to crappy students (paraphrasing). A teacher that doesn't understand centeredness or connection with uke isn't a person you should be learning from, nor should you use that person as an example of the art. EVERY art is going to have good and bad teachers. I have seen and trained under/with sensei who have evident and manifest knowledge of these concepts and their physical expression.

And as for strikes being practiced separately... they are. I've been in classes of suburi where that is all we do with maybe one technique the whole night.

Bottom line: Aikido is what it is. Any particular person's aikido is going to be something short of that ideal and not be truly representative of the art as a whole. Now go back and read those two sentences and substitute your favorite scapegoat martial art for "aikido." ANY martial art at its pinnacle is the same as all others: a system for the refinement of character, a vehicle for self-improvement, and a method of self-defense.

It is ultimately up to the student to search out the best teacher for his/her path. This is as much a part of the path as the learning of technique. If you are truly not getting proper instruction, then find another dojo where you will.

Does aikido have weaknesses? Hmm, let me instead ask, "does my aikido have weaknesses?" I answer yes. And so, I train more.


It's a sad irony: In U's satori, he forgot every technique he ever knew; since then, generations of doka have spent their whole careers trying to remember.
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