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Old 02-14-2005, 11:45 AM   #47
jonreading's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido South (formerly Emory Aikikai)
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 1,135
Re: Competition in Aikido

My take on competition is:

Competition is a game with rules. It is a great way to physically test your skills and technical knowledge of fighting. The rules ensure fairness and safety. I love competition: I played baseball, football and golf, and I love greco-roman wrestling (sans spandex of course). I enjoy boxing and judo matches where you can see the technical aspects of the sport. But I believe that real aikido does not have a place in competition. Does that mean Aikido can't have competition? No. But it does mean that what you train on the mat cannot appear in competition without risking serious injury. Which leaves us with versions of Aikido that can be applied in competition. Here's why:

1. Rules establish victory definitively within a competition; you cannot define victory in competition subjectively because there will always be defiance from one of the parties. I was watching a UFC match highlights DVD and watched a competition where an arm-bar was applied and locked, but the competitor refused to yield. The arm was subsequently broken just below the elbow (great footage, by the way) and the ref called the match. The losing competitor actually protested the match and wanted to continue fighting - he even denied that his arm was broken.

2. Competition relies on parties to compete against each other. Most everyone will concede that Aikido happens when two forces cooperate to realize the fullfillment of technique; when cooperation is coerced, you still do aikido, but the results are not as pretty. Competition is not cooperation, so the result is brutal technique that invites injury. My instructor used to say, "it doesn't matter what you do, my fist will go here; the question is do you want to do aikido or not?"

Competition is a great way to learn technical apsects of Aikido and to understand what a fight is. There are some aikido systems out there that apply competition, and they have rules to govern them. I do not think there's anything wrong with those systems, as long as they understand competition is simulated combat. There are some systems that do not have competition. There is nothing wrong with that either, as long as they understand that mat training is not combat.

In Aikido, I believe you compete with yourself spiritually to understand dominance and prowess. You learn to recognize superior skill and give it proper consideration without defiance, and you rely on others to do the same. I think that is why many senior aikido people don't think twice about a challenge to their skill; if you aren't good enough to know they are superior, proving it to you isn't to resolve your problem. We learn Aikido by observation, and hopefully you will learn to recognize superiority by observation as well.

To be sure, their are some frauds that exist because it is difficult to prove their inability without competition, but there are also frauds that exist because they have inflated their image with competition. Either way, as long as you know they are frauds, and take steps to protect yourself and your students from those frauds, does it matter where their fraud lies?
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