Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Reply to Mr. G. Ledyard
RE: George Ledyard's post
Please call me Dave. Thank you for your reply. Forgive me for not replying sooner to the list, but it seems, in my opinion, that these forums are not always cut out to be what they should be. I think a lot of folks are shooting off on some wild tangents here, and truth be told, I was wondering if I should continue the discussion since it was obviously going off in a different direction - which is the right of any group anyway. Your reply however was a great exception to this, of course. So I wanted to say thank you - to show my appreciation.
If you may allow me to make one brief comment here - since I'm not sure I'll be replying to all of the wild tangents on the list: I have to say that I do agree with you entirely. I hope that isn't too surprising since I never meant to suggest that weak attacks are the way that we should train in Aikido. My only point, which was a philosophical one, is that strikes in the dojo are always ideal strikes - whether they are hard or fast, tsuki, or right cross. It is my position that if we do not understand this fact, we will be missing a great wisdom that Aikido has passed down to us, namely that it is best to train with ideal strikes that cover the three planes of motion in the face of an infinity that is the chaos of combat, RATHER THAN training with individual manifestations and/or combinations of those planes of motion IN THE ATTEMPT to have gained more of a hold on what cannot be held (i.e. the infinity of violent expression). This is why, where you would say that training against the ideal strikes of karate is "necessary", I would merely say "it can't hurt" - as long as one doesn't believe that he/she is now better prepared for what he/she may encounter in the street. In short, and for example, there is a reason why Aikido has only three strikes, it's a very good reason, and it often tends to be lost on those folks that spout a "cure-all" in the form of adopting attacks from other arts. I do not mean to suggest that this is your position, however. I am merely restating my original point on this matter.
Reifying the ideal attack is what I'm against. I'm not against strong attacks. And this is why I can totally agree with your position, since your position is a call sincere attacks. The cases you brought up were horrendous. And I have to say that I too have been in attendance at such transactions between these great teachers and their distant students - even been at one such occasion where one of these teachers had to stop a test to offer advice and admonishments over such things. Still, said teacher did go on to rank the persons (yudansha ranks) in question - so go figure.
I see what you are getting at in your comments, and I see the heart behind it all, and all of that is something I myself would very much line up behind. Where I veer however is when your comments potentially lend themselves to reifying ideal attacks. I cannot say your position does this outright, which is something I can say about some of the other posts in this thread, but to make my own point and to leave yours aside for a moment: Your sample case to me, as tragic as it is, is not a case of an unreal (as opposed to a "real") attack. It is a loss of integrity; a loss of sincerity - and this of course is only from a Budo perspective. I tried to cover this critique in my first post when I said that energy has to be provided with sincerity and with a unification of mind, body, and purpose - that this is what Aikido requires. By thinking of things in this way, one does not have to risk the danger of reifying ideal attacks, nor risk losing the wisdom that is Aikido's way of training for the infinity of the street. One is also given the more practical means of fixing this problem (discussed briefly below). After all, giving a person that lacks integrity and sincerity a left hook to deliver will only replace a tsuki that is lacking with a left hook that is lacking.
When a teacher does not move because a strike was lacking, I do not have to see a teacher asking for a 'real' strike (i.e. one he believes he is likely to face in the street). I see a teacher asking for integrity and sincerity. But the situation you describe is more than this since there is the tragedy that said person is actually donning accolades of integrity and sincerity (e.g. hakama, yudansha, etc.) That last line may be a bit of a digression, but allow me...
Integrity grows where integrity is demanded to grow. The lack of integrity is nourished where the lack of integrity is allowed to be nourished. To me this means that the solution to these kind of attacks is not found by bringing in strikes from other arts (which was my initial critique, and not necessarily your position), but by demanding integrity, by weeding out places where a lack of integrity can be nourished. Someone else on this list said that this is all the fault of the teachers - and I'd have to agree. If you want to fix this, you don't just wait till someone actually tries to hit you till you move - that seems so "band-aid-like" in its remedy. For though it makes the point to us "believers", I'm sure to others it was merely a bit humorous. Not being there, I wonder if their were chuckles in the crowd? I wonder if the uke had a smile or smirk on his face? If so, this tells me that the lesson is not enough - that more has to be done. More like not ranking folks, like demoting folks, by telling folks straight out, etc. But, truthfully, how much can one really say and do when room (we must admit) for such kind of training can be found at the very pinnacles of Aikido pedagogy. That is to say, when you say or allow folks to say, when it is said, that one can "train for all kinds of reasons;" that "Aikido is a non-violent martial art; that "some folks train for the community, for the philosophy, for the exercise;" etc., whenever one makes a distinction between what is martial and what is anything else in Aikido, be this through verb tense, narrative linearity, or word selection, etc., one has made room for attacks that are no such thing at all.
Even my own teacher, a student of the Founder, and a practitioner reputed to be quite severe in his training and teaching, will at one time leave little room for attacks that lack integrity when he says things like Aikido is a technique by which the keen edge of martial arts is used to cultivate the spirit, etc., BUT THEN go on to talk about roots, and trunks, and branches - where all things martial are the roots and something like exercise and fun are the branches, and all of them have their place, and some folks come just to do the branches, etc. This kind of thinking goes all the way up the Aikido echelon and historically can probably be attributed to Kisshomaru Ueshiba himself. For as we can all only be men of our times, and such was the popular discourse at his time, the first Doshu almost had to speak like this. And so, anyone can find a "legitimate" basis in Aikido pedagogy for what I call a lack of integrity and you would call a weak attack and others would call an unrealistic attack. The fact that said uke in your example was donning a hakama and a dan rank is testament to this fact. In that, he is both tragedy and legitimate.
How many teachers out there today don't just follow suit along with these kind of "allowances," even if it's just in terms of their discourse on what the art is and isn't? How many teachers today expect and demand that every positive form of cultivation in Aikido come through the "bu" of Budo only? I can say in my own dojo, I am quite comfortable saying, "If you want to cultivate your spirit, in Budo you do it through the martial. If you just want to cultivate your spirit - go to a temple, go to a church. If you want to learn to be intimate with friends, in Budo you do it through the martial. If you just want to make friends, join a club. If you want to get in shape, in Budo you do it through the martial. If you just want to look good in a suit, join a gym. Etc." Saying this as the law of the land in my own dojo, I know that most folks today do not train in Aikido like this, and I also know that they have clear lee-ways not to train like this - lee-ways paved in the writings and talks, and even through the promotions, of some of Aikido's giants.
Let's face it, Aikido first left the poverty of potential extinction, something other arts of the time didn't not suffer through so well, by adopting the rhetoric that was being successfully used by physical education programs in Europe at the time (around the first half of the 20th century). As a result, in a way, there became at least two kinds of Aikido that were fully given the legitimacy of the establishment - one grounded in history, and one grounded in the practicality of modern adaptation. And yet, these two types of Aikido were at odds - completely at odds. And this is why what I see as a lack of integrity, can easily be seen by others as "an evolution in the modern repulsion toward violence." I just can't see this changing on any kind of grand scale, since those of us that would like to have it change would in one way or another have to subvert some of the most potent elements and figures in Aikido history. I think this can only change at an individual level - from person to person. You attack me with integrity. I make you attack me with integrity. I attack you with integrity. You make me attack you with integrity. And we pass this along to our students. That's how this is dealt with. But even at the personal level, this may not be an easy thing to change, since there still remains all of the small-self issues that have always been a part of Budo training. In particular, I'm referring to that silent agreement that tends to happen between nage and uke: "You don't make me too vulnerable and I won't make you too vulnerable." And this is very much related to my critique of "kuzushi" where uke is allowed to post either one foot or both feet prior to any throw, pin, or strike, etc.