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Old 03-30-2007, 12:23 AM   #17
tarik's Avatar
Dojo: Iwae Dojo
Location: Boulder Creek, CA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 567
Re: Poll: How important is working with strong-gripped, "static grabs" in your aikido

Hi Daren and others,

Rather than immediately posting replies, I've been pondering people's responses for a few days; disagreements and agreements in varying forms.

Daren Sims wrote: View Post
Before such practice is dismissed lets look a little closer. After all there is more than 1 way to skin a cat as they say....

It is only 1 of 4 levels - Kotai, jutai, kitai and ekitai.
I'm not really familiar with these particular terms. My exposure has been to different terms and approaches.

Our goal is to be able to move through these levels as we grow in skill. While I enjoy the journey I'd hope that there is more to it than just 'doing Aikido' in classes but that there is some development and growth in ability along the way.
IOW, a curriculum with an internal logic and a plan for growth. Nothing to disagree with here.

This first level, Kotai, is a largely mechanical level. We use it to teach the bases of Aikido, eg positional relationship (kamae), correct distance (maai), good posture (shisei) for starters and then moving on to look at other essential bases of Aikido.

The case for such static practice is that mistakes are easy to see and feel. If you are in a dangerous place in static practice it is easy to see. If you move incorrectly and your partner has a strong centred grip then you will fail.
It's difficult to formulate why this feels wrong to me, but I'm going to try. Let me state up front that I HAVE tried a "strong centered grab" approach to training, and I do occasionally use "strong centered grips" for demonstration purposes or to make a point, but I don't generally practice them in a regular fashion or allow them to be practiced when I am leading a class because, in my own exploration and study, I have found such practice to be counter to the development of good habits such as you describe and to in fact foster bad habits.

Let me try and explain my point of view in a different fashion.

I've tried out and studied a lot of different physical stuff in my day (as I'm sure most of us have). Karate, kenpo, iaido, fencing, archery, shooting, wresting, golf, soccer, football, baseball, scuba, weight training, tennis, and plenty more.

In not a single one of these activities did I experience a coach or instructor trying to teach me that using a strong centered grip (or any kind of equivalent) was a good tool to begin to learn the basic postures, mechanics, positional relationships, timing, and other fundamentals.

In fact, my experience has been quite the opposite; they all want the beginner to start slowly, gently, SOFTLY, and to practice good form with MINIMAL strain and resistance and to stick with that slow and easy pace until good form is driven deeply into your body and habits.

I cannot for the life of me find another pursuit that is movement based that recommends starting out by being strong and centered and then moving to a flowing practice.

I could go on but I'm just tossing this on the table for consideration and don't have time to write a book.
I have considered it, but you'll have to go on further to be more convincing to me.

Perhaps if people understood it for what it is then Aikido would not be so readily criticised.
Anything not open to criticism is a dead or dying.

If I had to be specific if my criticisms of much of the aikido practice I've witnessed, it would be to say that many people are either too quick to try and go fast and do so without good form or understanding of what makes things work OR that many people are too focused on trying to do it against powerful resistance, again, without really understanding what it is that makes things work. IMO, of course.

The entire concept of aiki is fundamentally a manipulation of the complex psychological and physical structure that exists when you are connected to your partners. In my experience and in the paraphrased words of nearly every shihan I've ever heard talk about this, one must be relaxed to feel what is going on in the conjoined physical structures.

When I or my partner indulges in resistance we are certainly training something, but it is not our ability to feel and manipulate that structure in a relaxed fashion without using unnecessary musculature and/or movements.

When I am training, I am NOT doing, I am trying to build habits that will translate into being able to DO. I think too many people are on the mats trying to DO, instead of patiently training the fundamental habits that will allow them to DO under pressure and duress.

To be fair jutai practice is fun, it looks good and feels good. Again if you've seen a figure head do this without explanation it can be convincing enough to practice for years without questioning. Perhaps until now when MMA has opened the eyes of so much of the MA world and fostered a belief that its ok to question.
I'm not sure I understand what you're saying here. That it's NOT ok to question? Or that it is?

It's a bit of an educated guess and a degree of trust we place in our seniors to decide what is a waste of time and what isn't, is it not? Hopefully, our seniors can demonstrate to us exactly the riai and also teach us how to test it so that we don't have to take things entirely on faith as we select our path and dedicate our precious moments to training.

I believe that the people I choose to train with now encourage (DEMAND!) such a questioning approach and are ready and willing to say "I don't know" when they don't instead of making something up or being enigmatic. I hope yours are the same.

I'm sure that some of this is either heresy or fluffy rubbish to many. In which case ignore it. My post is really just to say think about why static practice exists.
I wouldn't use the terms heresy or fluffy rubbish to describe your approach. It doesn't make sense to me, but I still wouldn't use such terms, nor would I ever try to force someone to train the way I want to train. I am getting a lot pickier about who I'm willing to train with, but that's more of function of feeling like I have less time to waste doing things in a way I don't want to do any more if I want to learn and improve.

I know I said to a couple of my students that I was joining the 'done with aikiweb' brigade...but its just such a good place to compose ones thoughts and then lay them on the altar for sacrifice...
Yep. Aikiweb and aikido-l and similar habitats have been an instrumental part of my training for 10 years or more.

Tarik Ghbeish
Jiyūshin-ryū AikiBudō - Iwae Dojo

MASAKATSU AGATSU -- "The true victory of self-mastery."
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