Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines
Thank you very much for your reply and also for understanding the brevity of my reply in light of the great consideration you have shown my original post with your own post.
Perhaps you mean to make a distinction between "koryu" and "gendai"? Not necessarily the English "traditional" and "modern"?
Working with your distinction as used: I would like to say, while one may wish to make a distinction between the "traditional" and the "modern", as you have done in your post, when it comes to Aikido (disregarding for now that many aikidoka around the world would take position against that), Aikido as a martial art falls firmly within those arts that still make use of several traditional pedagogy models and/or training tools. The most specific, relevant to the elements you raise, is the Shu-Ha-Ri model. Now if you would like to say openly and upfront that Aikido is a martial art that makes NO USE of the Shu-Ha-Ri model then what you say about kihon waza (i.e. the teacher is not the determining factor for correct and incorrect form) can be reasonably considered as an alternative way of viewing the art in comparison to my own view. But if you say that Aikido does include within its underlying structures the Shu-Ha-Ri model then you will have to allow for the position that training in forms (as determined by the subjectivity of a teacher, as grounded in lineage, as rule-governed behavior, as the experience of various but specific tactics and strategies, etc.) does not inevitably lead to a lack of self-expression.
In short, if you hold that the Shu-Ha-Ri model is still relative to Aikido training then you cannot say, "I personally believe that aikido is clearly designed to be an art of self-expression, not an art of imitation." This is a false dichotomy according to the Shu-Ha-Ri model. Both imitation and self-expression are accounted for within the Shu-Ha-Ri model. In accepting that model, one cannot posit the two as antithetical within Aikido training because the Shu-Ha-Ri model makes room for both --imitation early on, imitation for the sake of transmitting the art, imitation in terms of learning form, etc.; and self-expression at the negation of form and at the reconciliation of the false dichotomy of form and non-form.
My view of Aikido, and the guidelines themselves, assumes that the Shu-Ha-Ri model is still a part of training in Aikido -- which is why I can agree with you when you say, "The fundamental relationship in modern aikido is not actually the pairing of uke and nage, but the triad of uke, nage, and the instructor. " Where you stand on the importance of the Shu-Ha-Ri model in Aikido is not always clear to me, because what you say in the preceding paragraph is elsewhere countered by things such as the following (emphasis added):
"Kata practice, in my view, should be A REHEARSAL OF A SPECIFIC FORM that has been proven to be effective in freestyle practice. THIS REHEARSAL INVOLVES SPECIFIED ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES FOR BOTH UKE AND NAGE THAT ARE DETERMINED BY WHAT WOULD BE NECESSARY FOR THE TECHNIQUE TO WORK with an opponent who realistically intended to continually attack the best opening rather than merely simulate some minor aspect of an attack and then cooperate with whatever nage wishes to do. This includes, as I discussed in a post on AJ a while back, that NAGE MUST BEGIN IN A CORRECT KAMAE and that UKE MUST ATTACK THAT KAMAE IN A VERY SPECIFIC, YET STILL REALISTIC, WAY and also respond to nage' defense or counterattack in A CERTAIN WAY. DEVIATIONS FROM THESE HIGHLY SPECIFIED ROLES make the entire situation (GIVEN A SPECIFIC FORM) implausible and unrealistic and therefore unsuccessful at teaching martially effective habits of movement. "
But for a few qualifications you make this sounds very similar to the position the guidelines hold on kihon waza -- and thus this sounds very contrary to your first suggestion that somehow imitation and self-expression are antithetical to each other. As for those qualifications you do make in the above paragraph, please note what was said in the guideline sections dealing with particular types of training:
- In other forms of training that have a an element of spontaneity contained therein, such as in Kaeshi Waza, Henka Waza, Jiyu Waza, etc., Nage must seek to reconcile the ultimately false Nage/Uke dialectic. Nage primarily does this by exposing "suki" (trans. "openings") in Uke's training, by amplifying weaknesses in Uke's body, and by reflecting the maturity (or immaturity) level of Uke's spirit. Nage can do any of these things by capitalizing upon any and all openings Uke may have in any and all manner of ways, and/or by showing greater spirit than Uke during the prescribed training at hand.
- In other forms of training that have a an element of spontaneity contained therein, such as in Kaeshi Waza, Henka Waza, Jiyu Waza, etc., Uke must seek to reconcile the ultimately false Nage/Uke dialectic. Uke primarily does this by exposing "suki" (trans. "openings") in Nage's technique, by amplifying weaknesses in Nage's body, and by reflecting the maturity (or immaturity) level of Nage's spirit. Uke can do any of these things by countering Nage, by resisting Nage, by intimidating Nage, etc., as prescribed by the nature of the training at hand.
Can you explain why these passages do not account for self-expression and/or the solution of discovering the eternally immediate and always subjective present in one's training? Are these passages NOT saying that one's own subjective experience is the primary teaching element here -- not the subjective experience of the instructor? I think so -- but as you can see we have left the realm of Kihon Waza and Shu training in my understanding. Are these passages not addressing the issue of martial effectiveness -- both in terms of tactical architecture and in terms of personal skill acquisition within a spontaneous training environment? I would say, "Yes, of course, obviously." Do not these passages include, REQUIRE, the presence of (as you say) "true spontaneity training" in their understanding of Nage, of Uke, and of the art as a whole? Again, I would say, "Yes, of course, obviously." Do not these passages allow for (as you say) the experience of testing technique in an arena where the opponent does not always cooperate? Again, I would say, "Yes, of course, obviously." Are these passages not suggesting that (as you say) the criteria for martial effectiveness have to be established through realistic freestyle practice? Again, I would say, "Yes, of course, obviously." In summary then, I would have to say that your post in many places is misapplied. Or perhaps I am hugely missing something in what you say. Perhaps you can clarify more.
In closing, I think you should note that the guidelines assume that the instructor is a regular participant in class and/or training sessions. He/she is not the person that only enters a class to stop it so as to show a technique or make a correction or to discuss a fine point, etc. Thus, said teacher must balance their own subjective experience against the subjective experience of every other person ON THE MAT and not just in forms training but also within spontaneity training. In this way the teacher's own subjective experience truly remains as such and as such in front of everyone. In this way it does not have the opportunity to become the false objective "truth" you are rightly warning us all of, while it nevertheless can be used as a determining factor in distinguishing the "correct" from the "incorrect" in kihon waza and Shu level training.
Sincerely, thank you for your post and for your understanding regarding mine,