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Old 03-03-2009, 09:16 PM   #27
Kevin Leavitt
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Dojo: Team Combat USA
Location: Olympia, Washington
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 4,376
Re: Aikido IS a practical contemporary martial art


Thanks for the response. I am not questioning your personal experience. It sounds like you have found good value and insights from your training. If it is working for you fine.

Certainly, each of us has our own experiences and we draw from them and find meaning in many ways and I am sure Aikido has served that purpose for you and for many.

Maybe it is semantics, but I do tend to be a little be very precise in my definition of martial art and like to make people think hard about and answer the question when the say "well, our martial art actually teaches people how not to fight."

Does it really do this, or and should it, or should we simply not reframe it into a politically correct phrase and say what it really is?

I prefer to call it what it really is, and let folks figure out how it might help them and what insights they might get out of it. It may be that it does help them not fight...but that is not what I am teaching them.

I think words must be chosen very carefully, especially when we are talking about something as serious as a martial art. We are teaching people how to do very bad things to other people. With that comes a tremendous responsibility that you accept. I think it is important that we are clear about it to ourselves and our students.

If we are doing anything other than that, then I really believe we are either not qualified to be teaching what we are teaching, (because we don't know better), or we are intentionally reframing it for some philosophical reason to get an agenda or dogma across that we are trying to carry on.

I think aikido in particular has suffered from this in many ways.

Budo is serious business and needs to be approached that way.

That is not to say that we cannot also teach ethics and moral responsibility and help people grow and discover the lessons that surround the marital art or budo, it is just that I think we need to be very honest about what it is that we are doing.

We are teaching people how to fight. It is that simple at the base level.

We are not teaching them how to avoid fights. We are not teaching them how to passively resolve conflict by moving off the line we are teaching them how to skillfully engage other people and render them unable to cause us harm through various applications and levels of force.

It is secondary that we actually probably end up avoiding fights because we develop these skills. Certainly a worthwile goal in my opinion.

We should not pretend that the various ki test and exercises like kokyu tanden ho are doing anything to help us avoid fights, they are exercises to help us learn how to use our selves in more skillful ways.

As far as conflict resolution goes...sure, all martial arts by their nature contain elements of how to resolve conflict. However, I think we do it in some very generic ways that deal with physical force or the application (or not thereof).

Conflict Resolution is something I am very, very interested in for both professional and philosophical reasons. (I am comtemplating gong to George Mason University to obtain my PhD in CR right now actually).

However, CR is a very broad subject area and much of it must be approach situationally. For example, a police officer, a social worker, and a soldier may all have different "rules of engagement" and a spectrum of escalation of force criteria that they must deal with.

I think martial arts can be very helpful in this area as it develops good skills (mental, physically, and spiritually) that can assist us with being properly prepared to deal with stressful situations that may potentially involve physical action. I think MA also provide us a wonderful framework mentally and emotionally to deal with stress at the work place whatever that may be too.

However, I don't believe it is our responsibility in martial arts to define for people what conflict resolution should be and how we should react. We don't need to be establishing dogma for folks in this will get them killed possibly (Cognitive Dissonance, another discussion).

We simply need to present martial methodologies for what they are and allow them to discover their own meaning.

We are teaching them how to hurt and kill people. Okay, I will also be a little more "PC" and say "we are teaching them how to resolve conflict". I'd buy that too I suppose as long as we don't define or constrain it to a particular paradigm of application. (I hope this makes sense???)

If we give them enough skill, then they/we should develop more and more choices about how much force and when we use it (hopefully), but we should not define or limit what we teach to them out of deference to some philosophical/dogmatic belief!

On one end of the spectrum you have the "combat effective" model that says, "break the wrist and walk away". On the other end of the spectrum you have "move off the line, harmonize and lay them down gently".

Which one is right? I think it depends on the situation. I think we have a responsibility to learn and teach both extremes and everything in between.

That is why I have issue with the statement "We teach people how not to fight".

It assumes a dogma and at least in my mind, psychologically limits us to what we practice or consider appropriate. It is a dangerous mindset IMO.

I understand what Terry Dobson is saying, and I think that is a noble goal. It is mine at least!

However, I have also heard people that have studied with Terry say he also said alot of other colorful things!

O Sensei as well, also said things that would appear to contradict that. You have to be careful with the context in which these things were said.

Budo presents us an interesting paradox, and I really think it is important that we choose our words and thoughts carefully.

I hope this explains why I posed the question to generate discussion.

I have no issue with your goals, as they are mine as well!

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