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Old 09-11-2009, 12:07 PM   #28
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
What is ironic about this whole conversation for me is I just returned from a Special Operations course on Irregular Warfare where we learned about history, application, and about winning the hearts and minds and the importance "winning by through not fighting".

What struck me about this course is how much it was in line with much of what we all strive to do here, and it was very clear after listening to lectures from some of the leading minds and some of the legends in the Special Operations community about how this all works and should work.

There is alot to "walking softly and carrying a big stick". Alot to that.

So, I do agree with much of what you say George. It really is splitting hairs for me to say that I don't, so I just want to make that very clear.

I agree to a point about what you say about Military Combatives, hand to hand is way down the list. It is not self defense, and it is different. At the base that certainly is one way of looking at it. From a battlefield perspective.

However, much of the change in both Army Combatives and Marine Corps Combatives stemmed from lessons learned from why it did not work to continue to study the Old Applegate/Fairbairn/Sykes methodology, which is very good stuff.

I won't go into it, but Rules of Engagement, Escalation Criteria, Spectrum of force, Developing the Warrior mind, sustainable training methods, safety..all that stuff played a big part in why we adopted the systems that we did. Much of which has alot to do with anything other than the actual art of the violent act of killing quickly and efficiently. It is really in line with Budo.

So, there are alot of guys out there that are very critical that what we are teaching in the military today is ineffective and wrong. I understand and agree with their logic based on the old battlefield model, and I do believe that it is important to train this way too to reinforce good habits that can be called upon in the heat of battle.

Self Defense, well that really is a completely different animal all together, I agree.

What I don't agree is that it is a primary focus of aikido, and aikido is a very ineffective modality for training self defense. So inefficient that it is a by product and we should not pretend or ellude to the fact that it is a benefit at all.

If an instructor wants to teach self defense as a separate and distinct class or seminar that uses aikido principles that is fine and a wonderful thing I think. The focus should be on self defense, dealing with the risk mitigation, scenarios, and focus on neural and emotional override, legal considerations etc.

There are some very good programs that are very efficient in training self defense.

I don't think aikido directly trains self defense anymore than it will help you learn to remain calm when giving a large public speech or playing the piano. Why not list this as primary benefits on the front of our websites?

I think the reason is that we all know that the words "Self Defense" draw folks into the dojo as does the phrase:

"Ueshiba's goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury." (Wikipedia)

Another website:

"Aikido is considered to be a non-aggressive style, as the Aikido student does not instigate the attack. The basic principle of Aikido is "Do not fight force with force". Aikido uses very few punches and kicks. Instead, the attackers force is redirected into throws, locks and restraining techniques. Size, weight, age and physical strength differences of the opponents play only a small role, as the skilled Aikido practitioner is able to redirect the attackers energy, keeping his attacker in a constant of unbalance."

I have no doubt that there are many people out there that can tell stories of how aikido has helped them in "self defense"

I have my own stories. In Mozambique in 2006, the awareness that I gained from TMA and Aikido probably kept me out of several bad situations just understanding body language, positioning, and how to avoid being circled by a bunch of guys on the street.

So, I will not completely dismiss the benefits that come from studying the art. Not at all.

My only argument is really splitting hairs over the issue of effectiveness and efficiency of training modalities.

While understanding how to read a situation in Mozambique did work for me. What would have happened if I would have been jumped, knocked over, etc. Did I have the proper training to deal with it? Where did that training come from?

What does a woman do when her kamae, awareness, and relaxed breathing don't stop a guy from pushing her in between two parked cars in a garage?

To me, these are very important and key aspects of self defense and I think it is right for folks to judge the aikido paradigm against these type of scenarios as being ineffective if we are going to list self defense on our websites, yet we don't provide them any real solutions for dealing with this.

They should be able to have there MMA buddy shove them to the ground, mount them, and feel comfortable that they can reverse the situation and put up a decent fight.

The guy that comes up and Muay Thai clinches them, and kicks them...well they should know how to get that off them, how to deal with the stress overload, and how bad it sucks to fight when you have charlie horses in your legs.

If we put out that shingle, then we need to answer the tough questions. Not whine about how folks have it all wrong on Bullshido.

We open that pandoras box for ourselves when we allow that aurora to exist in our dojo.

I study Aikido because I value alot of what it does for me in the Combatives arena. So, I am not saying that it is ineffective as a methodology. There are many good reasons, that Ledyard Sensei has discussed. Very good reasons.

From reputation, I understand that he teaches a mean shinai seminar that works with neural override and fight or flight instinct.

I understand that he does teach Self Defense classes and is certified in Defensive Tactics.

And he is a very skilled and experienced aikdoka with the same organization I am with, ASU.

So, my issue is not with Ledyard Sensei as he gets it.

However, I think we have a tendency to lament about traditional Aikido and how folks "don't understand" or "give it a bad rap". I think it is a well deserved reputation in alot of cases based on the way we market it, and I think we should work hard at changing that if we think this is an issue.
Hi Kevin,
I think that in your posts you consistently touch on issues which folks need to be thinking about in their Aikido. One of my friends was the former training sergeant for the Special Forces at Ft Lewis. He was tasked with developing a training program which dealt with the fact that the mission has changed for the military.

Increasingly the military finds itself to be engaged in police actions rather than total war. The use of the military for projecting our political will abroad means that we frequently, as now, find our troops in the position in which their actions in winning hearts and minds are as important or even more important than their ability to kill the enemy.

One of the greatest enemies of success in an endeavor like this is the "us and them" thinking that comes with operating in other people's countries with different cultures, languages and customs. War propaganda designed to get the populace behind these military ventures tends to dehumanize the enemy, making them seem "other" so we can get behind the idea that we need to go in and kill them. Then, of course, once we are there, that attitude runs entirely counter to what we are trying to do.

We end up with troops who look at the entire population of the country in which they are operating as "the enemy". It happened it Viet Nam and it made winning the hearts and minds of the people impossible. Chinks, slopes, gooks, etc end up giving you My Lai in the end. Hajis, rag heads,etc give us that same thing today.

To win hearts and minds we need to engage on a personal level with the populace. The goal of keeping our troops safe as a first priority means the use of air power, artillery, and armor whenever possible. This is incompatible with winning over the populace because collateral damage is directly proportionate to the amount of power used and the distance from which it is delivered.

So Aikido training and the values it contains is of great relevance for people in your job. You need to be right in the center of a populace that contains enemies but whom you need to treat as friends. You need to use great restraint when previous militaries simply needed to destroy efficiently. Non-lethal force is important today in ways that it never was before.

As a professional, you need to take what you learn from Aikido and adapt it. There is no way wearing 60 plus pounds of body armor and weapons will allow you to move as we do in the dojo. Things we do like jo tori get adapted to weapons retention, etc. But you have to do the adaptation. The form of Aikido is about developing an understanding of principle in your body and your mind. But if you want to apply those principles they need to be adapted to the particular form of your specific circumstance.

When I was first asked to teach defensive tactics to some Seattle cops who worked in one of our rougher neighborhoods, I asked them the question, "what do you need to know how to do?" and then I showed them what I knew that would accomplish that. Over the course of a couple years we worked out a program which I still think is the equal of any DT program I have seen. I found I had no trouble taking what I had been taught by Saotome Sensei and adapting it to the requirements of their circumstance. But I did have to adapt it. It had to be trained that way for some time. I could not ask my senior Aikido students to walk out right off the dojo mat onto the street and do the job these cops were doing. They know the principles, far better than the cops, but they do not have training in the form of application that these cops need to do in their environment.

So the same thing is true for folks like you... Most of the professionals I encounter say that the most valuable thing about their Aikido training is the non-adversarial mindset it provides. Heckler talks a lot about what he sees as the value of our training for military folks in his book In Search of the Warrior Spirit. It's not primarily technical. Certainly, in the age of winning hearts and minds being central to the success of the mission it is crucial to find a way that allows a paradigm shift from the easier and, at least these days, counter productive "see the enemy and kill him" approach. Especially when you are not really sure who the enemy is, this mindset doesn't allow for the kind of surgical application of force that peace keeping and nation building (didn't we say we weren't going to do that?) require.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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