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Old 11-17-2015, 03:30 AM   #17
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 822
United Kingdom
Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
David, I still haven't caught up on all of the Aikiken links you posted in the other thread, but FWIW I don't think it should be received as heavy criticism of the system if someone points out something that may be "martially invalid" about it. There have been many different sword traditions in Japan and they all think they are better than the others!

I have always been a fan of Kashima Shinto ryu but I have not had the opportunity to train in it, and since they are even further into the hinterlands of the Kanto region than Iwama, I am not sure I would be able to even if I were to move to Tokyo. But I know a little bit about Yagyu Shinkage ryu and it might be interesting to take a look at their beginner level training kata and their primary, original kata just to see how training can be conducted.

Here are some bits of the beginner kata set, called Airaito Hassei Ho, which is something like "Eight tactics done from jodan."

This set lays some groundwork for basic body mechanics and offensive attitude in the junior trainee. The senior initiates attacks and the junior responds. The use of the shinai allows attacks to be performed exactly as they would with a live blade. The junior learns quite about about management of the space between him and his opponent.

Things get interesting when the student learns the senior side of these kata. The student learns how to control the pacing of the engagement. It is really intense to have the trainee on the senior side press you at double or half time. There are also (I am told) hidden moves that both sides can insert into the kata which would alter the outcome.

Here is the focal kata of the ryu, a series called Empi.

This set of kata has a particular embu flavor to it, with a prescribed pacing (starts slow, speeds up), but in training, each side can basically try their hardest to connect with each attack - if one trainee slips up or is not executing at the same level as the other, they'll get tagged! The "fitting together" in this kata set can be more of a desperate race for survival than a mutual endeavor.

Here's a Kashima Shinto ryu demo from the same Tokyo Budokan embukai.

Kashima traditions (including Jikishinkage ryu, Kashima shinryu, and maybe Yagyu Shingan ryu) seem to have quite a bit of ceremonial import, so at times it can look like a mutual exercise. But if you watch for them, you can see moments when the kata suddenly becomes execution of a particular technique against resistance. My belief based on what I know of Shinkage ryu is that this indicates that the senior student - who generally loses the kata - is actually practicing a hidden technique, in some cases the hidden technique may be the superior one, but the senior "tanks" for the sake of the younger student's sense of success.

Having said all that - it is certainly possible that Saito Sensei's Aikiken system has similar features. What do you think? I think it would have to, if it were a good combative system, but I am not sure you need or even want that feature if your goal is to develop body mechanics and awareness for Aikido.
The videos are fantastically interesting and I will need more time to digest them. Regarding the change of roles between the senior and junior practitioner, in our partner practice the roles are frequently swapped (so you do the form three times as an uke and then three times as uchi). It is true that often (but not always) the most senior teacher demonstrates the "winning" side which is something you tend to see in the videos.

I am nor sure what counts as a hidden technique but most kumitachi do have variations so that starting from certain points in the flow different scenarios are explored.

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