Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. If you will allow me to be direct, I think the crux of your post is contained within the fourth paragraph, specifically in your assertion that my statement about aikido being an art of self-expression rather than imitation is incompatible with the shu-ha-ri model because the model holds within it that the dichotomy between form and non-form is a false one that must eventually be reconciled by the practitioner. I do not disagree with your definition of that model, nor do I think it is incompatible with my statement.
When I said that aikido is an art of self-expression rather than imitation, I meant this in reference to its way of defining form. In other words, aikido allows for self-expression through the definition of the forms of the techniques, which is a fundamentally different approach from that of koryu. In koryu, the forms of the techniques are, for most purposes, absolutely fixed according to tradition. That is not to say that koryu does not allow for self-expression or even for the reconciliation of form and non-form according to the shu-ha-ri model, but it is to say that neither of these involve changing the forms that are practiced in the way that aikido does. Rather, they could be said to manifest themselves in other ways, although a full discussion of how koryu employs these mechanisms in the shu-ha-ri model is beyond the scope of this post. It suffices to establish that they do not result in changing the forms themselves as a means of individual self-expression as they do in aikido.
In my opinion, the fact that aikido$B!G(Bs approach to form is fundamentally different from that of koryu is closely linked to the fact that aikido employs the triadic model of uke-nage-sensei instruction rather than the traditional dyad of uke-nage in which the uke is also the sensei or a senior acting in that role by proxy. As I said in my initial post, I mostly agree with your definition of the roles of uke and nage in kata practice and also of those of the forms of freestyle practice that you quoted in your last post. My main criticism of your guidelines was that they did not specifically take into account the external role of the instructor with regard to form, or to the extent that they did, it was through a number of assumptions that were not addressed directly and which seemed to me to reflect an approach to form that is inconsistent with aikido philosophy. While an instructor must take some role in defining the forms to be practiced, my reading of your guidelines suggested that this should be construed to be akin to the absolute role of a koryu instructor, which I feel is an inappropriate and detrimental, albeit common, model in aikido. Perhaps this was not your intent, but it is difficult to tell whether this is the case based on your discussion of the shu-ha-ri model in your last post.
In dojos where teachers take an absolute approach to form but yet do not practice with their students in the traditional dyadic manner, it is too easy for them to teach forms that do not work without even realizing that this is what they are doing, leaving their students no alternative but to cooperate with each other in fake practice if they wish to do the given form. This is precisely what happens in most aikido dojos. That is not to say that it happens in yours, and these guidelines may be sufficient given the example set by the instructor in your dojo, but as I indicated in my last post, this is where the impetus to correct aikido must start. My implication, thus, was not that these guidelines, as written, will not work for your dojo, but that they may not work for other dojos where the teacher does not set the correct example with respect to form; again, in my experience, this is most aikido dojos.
I will say again, and I think we agree on this point, that true spontaneous practice is essential for verifying correct forms in aikido, and I will also say that I use the dyadic method of instruction a great deal myself and find it to be very useful, particularly in kata practice but also in freestyle practice. In my experience, the dyadic model is the best one for teaching form, however as the size of a dojo grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to use this as the primary method of kata instruction, and this is why modern arts have largely done away with it. One of the difficult and still unanswered questions for aikido is how to use the practice of form in the triadic model to build effective habits of movement. I believe that any viable answer to this question will involve a fundamental rethinking of the role of the instructor with respect to form as well as a rethinking of the role of form as it relates to the art. As I indicated in my last post, my intent is not to answer these kinds of questions conclusively in this thread, only to suggest that you might consider some of the issues I addressed for future thought on the subject.
Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts in this thread.