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Old 11-15-2015, 05:41 PM   #9
Ellis Amdur
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Location: Seattle
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 906
Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

I respect Nishio sensei as much as any martial artist I've ever met. I disagree with him in this regard. O-sensei taught his different students different interpretations of weaponry. I do not think, for example, that the bojutsu he taught at Shingu was any less "Ueshiba-ryu" than what he taught at Iwama - to only give two of myriad examples. Please see HIPS for an extensive discussion on the history of the development of various aiki-weaponry. I believe Ueshiba used (and that's a term I mean deliberately) his students as 'crash-test dummies,' and he emphasized different principles with each one so he could experiment with the effect of them (consider that one of Saito sensei's contemporaries, elsewhere and at Iwama, was Kobayashi Hirokazu - two more different interpretations of aikido could not be found - and Kobayashi's, by the way, is probably the closest of any aikido to that of Daito-ryu aiki, at least in outward appearance. Sometimes, his arms (and the connection with his center) almost looks like Okamoto sensei

As to the question of "learning to lose," the passage was:
Nonetheless, I found some of the same flaws, at least from my perspective, that I've always observed in aikijō: one person in the kata, I felt, was learning how to ‘lose' to the other. In other words, he was ‘taking' ukemi for the other, and in the case of films I've seen, that other was always the teacher. There were also many assumptions of how one would act when in a particular body/weapon configuration that did not conform to my experience when training with highly skilled practitioners. It seemed to me that this teacher, like most, came up with his creative ideas not through a collaborative process, but through presenting things to his students who were expected, if not required, to template themselves to his latest ideas. Although his practice could be brutal, even dangerous, there was no mutual reality testing.
I need to adjust one word - "almost always" - that particular shihan truly emphasized the winner-loser paradigm, (but he was far from alone in this) to speak quickly about what I mean. Saito-sensei, at least in his two person forms, exemplifies another trend, in which awase - fitting together moves are emphasized, and in my opinion, people are taught to move to accomplish awase, in ways that I do not believe are congruent with combative principles (compare the Kashima Shinto-ryu from which Iwama Aikiken is derived). There are two possible caveats: One assertion is that awase is a higher level training in which if you have the skill to accomplish it, you have the skill to "break it" and rather than harmonize and fit together, you cleave and destroy. There is a truth to this, and we see it in many koryu as well, but one runs the same risk as sundome in karate: if you always stop one inch away, what will you reflexively do in a fight. One of my current teachers, Don Gulla, speaks of "training scars," referring to methods of training on the firing range, for example, that show up in combat, because they've been engrained. (One horrible - thankfully not fatal - example occured in a gunfight where an officer dropped his firearm, and in the adrenalin fog, did exactly what he'd been trained to do on the range: raised a hand, got his body in sight so people knew where the risk was, and yelled, "dropped gun." Thankfully,the bad guy missed.) NOW, one could reply that awase is EXACTLY what Osensei and Saito sensei intended and they do it perfectly. I don't argue that - in fact, I'd be happy to agree and happy to say that this is exactly my point in my essay. In short, I have the temerity to find fault with the training methodology that was bequeathed by these great teachers. FINALLY, I've gotten a note from a long-standing Iwama practitioner who informs me that all the films and embu I've ever seen of Saito-sensei and his followers are of the 1st level training, and that there are higher levels which focus on combative effectiveness. If so, I stand corrected.
Actually, NOT finally - I would urge those interested to read my chapter on weaponry in HIPS - it's about 50 pages long. This essay, in fact, comes from the first edition of Dueling with O-sensei, and I actually intended to splice it into a revised chapter in the 2nd edition of HIPS. It just didn't fit. HIPS is technical history - this is technical and psychological opinion. So it stands as it is (with new revisions of its own). But a complete discussion of aikido weaponry is elsewhere.

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