Thread: Sagawa's Aiki
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Old 09-01-2009, 02:53 PM   #10
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Sagawa's Aiki

Dan Harden wrote: View Post
Hello David
I have no intention of shaking things down or out or debating with anyone. I hope -while you were reading Sagawa's book- you recognized so many familiar debate points from over the years, so we can move forward in our own discussions.

*Aiki as a body skill
*Sagawa denying the stress on kokyu power as aiki -thought it's not that simple a statement --kokyu is valuable as an add-on to the the more complex aspects of IP skills. Training is not always the same as practical application at speed.
*His continued mentioning of being unthrowable -with 5th dan judoka not being able to throw his white belts yaada yaada
*Training under full force pressures as the only way to truly learn (no matter what some recent posters think)
*Aiki against MMA -as a skill that must -by its nature- work in fighting. (now think of the nonsense on E-budo with certain well known members talking about aiki as "fine motor skills" failing under stress It's just a reflection of their own level of understanding ten years ago.
*Now that you see page after page after page of reference to body aiki, training the body, taking on judoka and wrestlers, him stating flatly that focusing on techniques is stupid, and stating over and over that people in DR "just don't get it"
Also worthy of note is Sagawa also stating that you can watch someone move, in video or see pictures etc., and you know..."they don't have a clue."
In light of his own comments and his own work not being taken seriously on occasions maybe you can see why the mere mention of training this way with certain popular people on that other forum and others like them about what aiki really is had led to some interesting threads there - some of which I hear were "dissapeared" and/ or heavily edited. BTW did you catch Sagawa referencing the dilemma of people who were "deeply initiated" or invested in their aiki arts and what happened time and again when they felt his aiki? How's this for real life matching the book; one of those well known guys from that other board who has said similar things on-line and was arguing this stuff with me? His own teacher went to Sagawa and shed tears after meeting Sagawa's "body aiki"-face to face. In many ways some of the "debates" you see on-line are truly hilarious and prove as empty as an old coat.
Not everyone is like you. You stepped-up, (several times) spent hard earned money, traveled and put your body where your mouth and brain was. I knew it when we first starting talking on ebudo that you would be one of the people who would. It's in your nature.

I stated in another thread about M.A.B.S.
The next phase is going to be I.M.A.B.S.
The subject of internal training and aiki is not a simple one. I suggest that folks keep their eyes and ears open to information-that's always a good thing- but in the end, were one to be considering appropriate information that is practical and applicable for the Japanese aiki arts-I'd follow George Ledyard and Bill Gleason's advice -and recently to include more teachers who are out there testing's advice as well.
To stick with the people who can deliver internals/aiki; with weapons and without, under pressure and stress in many environments (think of what you personally know and have seen) and who can present others that they have taught with similar skills.. There may be some well known and well meaning guys out there; some of whom posses good information but just so-so skills, and others who have good fighting skills but in the end are really just external fighters. It might prove to be difficult to find someone with internal skills/aiki who has honed them in fighting in pressured environments that can relate to the aiki arts. It just isn't that common. It's no wonder it is recently being downplayed here to be of questionable worth. We need to be smart about these things. Many feel that they have already been misled to one degree or another; why take another false step that can costs many more years. It's wise to be careful about assessments of skills that are new to us in light of our pursuits and interests. "In the land of the blind..." and all that
I have some more observations on the book itself and the lessons and cautions it should be imparting to us.…later
Hi Dan,
I think that the so-called "debate" about this needs to be shifted out of that paradigm... Like everything else in this country the ideas that have been presented end up in some sort of point - counter point format, which gives the appearance of having to choose sides or ignore the debate entirely.

This isn't about sides. Nor does doing this kind of training threaten anyone's approach to Aikido or their chosen "style". This kind of training can only improve your skills whatever style you do.

The thing that struck me reading Sagawa'a book was how completely alone he perceived himself to be. I think the type of person who is comfortable being in that place of complete autonomy, not seeing oneself in relation to anyone else, not relying on other people for ones frame of reference, is an extremely rare person. I've noticed over time that a number of the folks who who reached this kind of high level don't have many friends amongst their peers. I don't think that most folks are that way nor would they like to end up that way.

Sagawa clearly stood alone. He routinely dismisses people's skills who most of us would die to have anything close to their level of ability. He talks about Yoshida Kotaro as having a little bit. He says that Takeda, his own teacher, would probably attained the same level of understanding (as Sagawa's) but hadn't had the time to devote to it because he traveled too much.

It's quite clear that Sagawa dismissed most of his own students and only taught the very small number he thought measured up. He didn't even start showing what he knew and how he had attained the skills he had until very late in life, despite teaching widely in his earlier years.

So I guess my point is that making a guy like this ones benchmark is problematical in that, if, as Sagawa clearly believed, no one was even close to his level in aiki, one gets back to that problem of having an unobtainable model before one. It's an issue of why start if you know you'll never get there? Over and over in the book Sagawa talks about how few people will train hard enough to get it, how difficult it was to develop the skills, etc. It's on almost every page.

Most of the discussions we have about these skills center on "what you are currently doing sucks", "you need to totally change what you are doing to get anywhere", etc. That kind of presentation never gets anywhere, even when it's true. I've repeatedly seen Defensive Tactics instructors come into agencies and present what they do in those terms and they inevitably lose their audience before they even get started.

One of the things I have liked about how you, Mike, and Akuzawa have presented the training they are doing is that you are training body skills that will make any martial art, or any style of martial art better. I can still do whatever version of Aikido I choose to do, I don't have to give up anything, I am merely adding to my skills. There's no opposition in that, no debate. It's a no-brainer. Like so many thing in our country these days, we can't seem to make positive change because everything is so oppositional. This type of training isn't opposed to anything, unless it's simply bad Aikido...

I found Sagawa's book interesting but not inspirational in the sense that I didn't come away feeling like this was a guy I wanted to be like, not on a personal level. I'm happy and eager to learn some of what he knew from people who have received that knowledge from various sources, but I didn't find him to be a compelling guy. Single minded, a genius, disciplined, skillful, even creative about his approach to learning, but not someone I found very attractive in many ways.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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