Re: Competition in Aikido
I have read this thread with much interest as Yoseikan has gone through much of this discussion in recent years. There is much confusion about competition and its role in martial arts.
In about 1930 or so, a fine judo player and martial arts genius left Ueshiba's dojo for two reasons, one being health and the other because he disagreed with O Sensei about the direction he saw aikijutsu (at the time) going. This fellow was Minoru Mochizuki. Master Mochizuki, until his death in May of 2003, was the last living student of Kano, Ueshiba, and Funikoshi, just to name a few. He believed that aiki was losing its martial focus and he began the Yoseikan. And, Mochizuki was a fierce competitor. If you read Pranin's book about the Aikido Masters you will find his story about Mochizuki winning twice in one day in judo and missing his meeting with Kano. So, Mochizuki was a competitor all his life and he was very focused on effective aiki techniques. He is the only student who ever openly disagreed with Ueshiba and the only student Ueshiba never had to demonstrate a technique with. Mochizuki could simply watch it and then do it and, unlike Ueshiba, he could also explain it. Ueshiba often took Mochizuki with him because Master Minoru could instantly explain what O Sensei was demonstrating.
Because of the above, I take a bit of issue with Rob. Mochizuki was a great competitor and a master of aiki. The testimony to the latter claim is many fold, but let me give just a couple. In the 1950's Mochizuki went to Europe to teach and added aiki with O Sensei's permission. When he returned, he pointed out that there were many situations where aiki alone was not enough to defeat an opponent. Yes, that is correct, Mochizuki demonstrated all over Europe and it was an "all comers" situation. Western boxers, French kickboxing, etc. He took them all on and he became the father of Judo in Europe and is much honored, because of his fierce competitive spirit. So, I take issue with Rob, a competitor can "break through" to higher levels based on skill, experience,and learning what works. The other claim for Mochizuki as Master is this, when the International Martial Arts Federation wanted to award Minoru Sensei a 10th Dan in aikido, he only accepted it with the permission of the Ueshiba family. I think that qualifies him as master.
If you study Mochizuki's teachers you will find that they believed that competition was the only way to test skills in relatively realistic fashion. I say relative because killing or injuring uke tends to reduce the number of students available to work out with, so you have to have some rules, for safety. But, competition is key to developing the martial spirit. Oh yes, those teachers: Kano Sensei and Mifune Sensei. See especially the re-release of Mifune's Canon of Judo for a good explanation of the role of competition.
This is why Hiroo Mochizuki, Minoru's son, has developed Yoseikan Budo with a competitive section. He was also uchi deshi with Ueshiba and honors O Sensei's work. But, he had these same disagreement with O Sensei as his father, you must have an aiki that is effective in self-defense while at the same time providing a "do" to follow for a lifetime. Yoseikan requires no one to compete but makes safe competition available to all ages. In Yoseikan, competition does not affect your rank in any way (I think this has hurt Judo). Sorry for the diatribe but I have seen these arguments (oh sorry, discussions) so often fall into who is best and what is real.
I agree with the folks here who post and say, "follow the path that is right for you". I don't like tae kwon do (don't start on me, I am making a point) but I have studied it a little, hold a few minor belts in it, and see the value of a system of competition that can teach values to students and skills. Guess what? I don't do tae kwon do, but I have good friends and excellent students who hold significant rank in it and, as a Teacher of martial arts I have learned that every person is my teacher. I think competition just steepens the learning curve. Anyway, I am sure of one thing, O Sensei and his master teachers through the years would be upset with all of us who put down other styles and experiences. For all of us who practice aiki, we share a path and it is wide enough for all.