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Old 02-24-2001, 02:23 PM   #13
Location: Bay Area
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 1,200
BC wrote:
I remember a while ago at the dojo a new student asked one of our instructors after class what one should do if you were fighting someone who practiced <insert another martial art here> and they did <insert attack here>. It was interesting because everyone who had been practicing aikido for a while just basically turned away, rolling their eyes and smirking, while all the newbies turned and waited for the answer. The instructor just looked right at the student and responded "is that why you started aikido, to learn how to fight?" I think that student lasted another month or so, and moved on to the next martial art de jour.
My problem with this is the apparent (it may have been the correct answer) lack of depth in the response. You'll blow students out the door with that type of answer, I've watched it. Sure it's a dumb question in the context it's presented because it's an artificial situation wanting an artificial response. Maybe, if you did things right the "they did" would never happen. Plus, I think we can all agree that every martial art has weaknesses and strengths. However, maybe what the student was asking is "does this stuff work?" People want to know that they are not wasting their time. It's not the same question as fighting and has many different answers and that question won't ever go away.

So, do you believe that aikido teaches you to fight?
Yes and no! Aikido practice, IMO, is not about fighting but about something else. The something else is different for everyone but largely I think it means "making myself a better human being." My practice is definitely not about fighting and I'd bet it isn't for most people. However, were I in a situation requiring me to fight, I would give a much better accounting than I would have pre-aikido. I find this to be a fairly consistent thing in most Aikidoka who have done this stuff for a significant amount of time (say 10 years with a big standard deviation). Also, the connecting, sensitive, touchy feeling stuff we do, is very condusive to good fighting skill.

Did you start practicing aikido to learn how to fight?
Again, yes and no. I got into a fight which triggered my decision to finally start a martial art. I choose Aikido not because of the fighting but because of the ukemi I saw (I wanted to fly) and I was inspired by George Leonard's book "The Ultimate Athlete". No, I don't want to fight, but I do want to have an effective art. For what it's worth, my thinking on this has evolved a bit in recent months.

Do you think aikido helps you to fight?
See above.

What do you say to someone when they ask you these questions?
I try and change the context of the question to what I think they are asking which is "does this stuff work and how does it work?" It will be very difficult to win over the 22 year old with dreams of the UFC dancing in his head. This will be almost impossible if you happen to have a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy right up the street because that is where he should go in that context.

Ultimately, I certainly don't believe we are about fighting but blowing someone off because we think they are asking about fighting doesn't do us any favors either. Oftentimes, these are the folks that can benefit the most from what we do.

[Edited by Erik on February 24, 2001 at 01:45pm]
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