Hello all; sorry it's taken so long to get back to this - real life intruded.
Please let me respond to some individual points.
"But most of the people I know who live peacefully are not experts at winning fights, and most experts at winning fights are (pretty much by definition) not living very peacefully.
My understanding of the human condition is that being free from fear has little to do with actually being safe. It just means being free from fear. In other words, it has nothing to do with whether you can be killed in a fight, but rather whether you are *afraid of* being killed in a fight. I imagine fighting experts are probably people for whom fear of losing a fight has shaped their whole lives."
That depends on your interpretation of 'peaceful'; 'free from fear' and 'defense'. Let me state outright: In matters of defense; I'm not in the least interested in winning fights. Fighting is stupid, wasteful, useless. If you want to survive a fight; it's easy - don't fight. Defense is not
about fighting; it's about defense
- defending against an attacker; and getting the Hell out of there - nothing more. In the simplest form; a guy throws a punch. You avoid/evade/block/redirect - whatever - and place yourself in a position of breakaway; i.e. gain enough distance and/or position in order to turn around and avoid any further conflict. That's defense. Same guy throws same punch; you block and nail the dude with some sort of headsplitting technique or a flurry of punches - that's fighting
; a conflict agreed upon by both sides. So I don't talk about winning fights - I don't talk about winning at all
; because you can't
win a genuine defensive situation - you can only escape it. Therefore; that should be the focus of effective training - escape. Next; the terms 'peaceful' and 'free from fear'. There are paragraphs that could - and have - been written; but I think it was best put by Eowyn (Miranda Otto) in LoTR: the Two Towers: "The women of this country learned long ago that those without swords can still die upon them." People seem to think that peacefulness means to be nice to the guy coming at you with a baseball bat - don't laugh; I've head that said - repeatedly. Being at peace to me means being peaceful - easy enough in one's mind and heart that one doesn't need agression. I'll use myself as a (poor) example: My military experience as a soldier and U/C instructor have given me certain skills in the fighting arts - skills I maintain and practice regularly. Hopefully without sounding too egotistical; there are relatively few people - particularly in a town like Kitchener - that could face me in a straight-out fight and get out unscathed. They might win; but they'd pay for it in lumps. These skills have little to do with my ability to defend myself - those are a completely different set of skills. Thing is; does my fighting ability give me the balls to walk down the street with me chest puffed out; daring someone to attack? No - I've no need for such childish posturing. I smile; be friendly, step aside for strangers. I'm generally at peace with my surroundings because I don't need
to be hostile - I've nothing to prove. I have the abilities - and no need to demonstrate them. Frankly; I don't mean to offend but when you say "I imagine fighting experts are probably people for whom fear of losing a fight has shaped their whole lives"; I must say you're off-base. For many; that is a reason to learn to fight. But these people will never
become experts so long as fear drives them. That said; anyone who says he isn't afraid of losing is just plain foolish; considering the consequences of losing - but as long as that fear drives you; as long as you make it the focus of your training; you'll never develop the calm and rational mind required to become expert at defense or
Next; please let me address the last poster's excellent comments. Boon Soh is absolutely right in his analysis IMO; in that it takes around 15 years to develop Aikido as a defensive tool. However; I must make these points on it:
As a U/C instructor; I can train someone to effectively defend themselves in 8 weeks. Now keep in mind; this is due to some pretty specific conditions: The people I trained are already trained (to a certain extent) in the skills of war - they're soldiers. Young; tough, fit and aggressive as Hell. Also; I (along with more senior instructors) had them for hours a day; day after day in intense training no civilian could willingly withstand; using practices no civilian school could legally use.
However; taking the differences between military and civilian training into consideration; there is a vast amount of time difference between 2 months and 15 years.
What is the cause of that difference? Besides the above-mentioned conditions; that is.
For this; we must return to the telescope analogy. Learning to use a telescope alone; the amateur astronomer may over time learn things he never knew before. Through careful obsevation; he can chart the course of the planets and if he's real good eventually be able to predict - let's say - when the next solar eclipse will be.
It'd be a lot quicker if someone - oooh; like an astronomer; for instance - came along and told him what to look for; wouldn't it?
See; when people say 'it takes 15 years to learn to defend onesself using aikido'; they're falling into two traps: First; while the statement is correct; it is correct only if the person learns aikido alone
. In other words; training year in and year out in aikido - which I maintain is an excellent goal in and of itself
- one may learn the movements, concepts and bases of Self Defense. If, however, one learns SD [independant
of aikido; whether that be in a separate school or by a Sensei experienced at SD - he can view aikido through the light of SD and understand its structure within the framework of self-defense. When he does this; he doesn't need
to learn these concepts by trial-and-error; he'll already know them - and train accordingly.
These concepts and habits are remarkably easy to learn; if one is willing to learn them.
The second trap people fall into is exemplified by this statement:
Let's take kotegaeshi for example, any students, know that it is a inward wrist twist. However to be always effective, one must also adapt the technique to the various opponents. What if your opponent has very strong wrist, does one know what to do then, at that moment? Without such length of time in practice, the new students would most probably give up, or apply strength, which then is not aikido.
There is a big different in knowing the form and the essence/principle. Any newbie can copy the outer form (the kata). It takes the aforementioned number of years of constant practice to grasp the fundamentals (to have feeling of the technique).Then it takes probably up to sandan grade to know the technical repertoire to utilise aikido effectively in combat.
An excellent phrase; and right on - but the trap is this: Defense isn't about technique. Nor, when you get right down to it, is aikido - the techniques are the tools by which one learns
aikido. I'm going to say this flat-out: Trying to use technique in a violent encounter is going to get you killed. It isn't that the techniques don't work; they do. And it isn't that years of practice won't develop those techniques to a high level - of course they will. What it is
is what I said above: SD is about escaping a violent encounter; and about avoiding it in the first place. It takes years, as the poster stated so well, to develop kote-gaeshi to a high level of proficiency. But will you use
kote-gaeshi in an encounter? Unlikely. You're far more likely to need to know how to get out of the way (getting off-line); keep your feet (Tai-sabaki); redirect and run like hell. You need to know how to get and keep the attacker to your strong side; the tactics and manoeuver of redirection and destabilization and how to achieve breakaway. In other words; it's not only how
to do a technique you need to know; but why
. The "How's" come with time; as Boon Soh said. The "Why's" and "When's" must be taught specifically; and if taught right do not
take as much time.
In other words; in order to learn good SD; one must learn to stop thinking in terms of techniques. One must learn to think in terms of position, movement, lines of entry and routes of escape. One must learn awareness of their surroundings and the indicators of violent crime.
Now - all this being said; do not for one moment think I'm suggesting it's easy - it's not. To effectively defend onesself; one must put effort into learning; and one's teacher must put effort into teaching. It can't be done quickly; but it can be done much faster than people might think. Nor do they need to train intensively under 'real-life' conditions - I'm of the firm belief that training must always
be a positive experience for a student; otherwise he doesn't learn effectively. Based on my own experience; I say that by teaching SD concurrently with aikido; a person can teach a willing student to defend him/herself in around 3 years of regular study - perhaps 4 or 5; depending on cases. At which point they've hardly started along the path of aikido; but that's another path entirely, isn't it?