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Old 04-02-2013, 02:35 PM   #88
Robert Cowham
Dojo: East Sheen Aikido and Kashima No Tachi
Location: London, UK
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 282
Re: how do we define martial?

A very interesting discussion!

I remember reading an account of Terry Dobson's demonstration to the UN forces in New York: he worked with a high ranking Aikido teacher to put on a demo. Terry showed things including ukemi with a babe in arms - aikido as more than just pure technique. The UN were interested but wanted more information. Terry was enthused. A followup was arranged, but the high ranking Aikido teacher cut Terry out - did the demo on his own and got carried away with his own image, breaking an uke's arm in the demo. The response from a UN general was "we know how to break people's arms" - basically they lost interest - they thought there was something more than just physical technique, but then didn't see it.

Can't remember the exact source - but hope Ellis can chime in with chapter and verse!

The question of "what is Budo?" came up in a recent workshop I have done. Answers included "knowing what you would defend with your life if necessary".

There are various aspects of martial - including the "3 swords": of the ordinary soldier, of the general and of the emperor:


What are we studying to learn? What should be included in the study of Budo? Should it include strategy and tactics? What about politics?

What is the point of studying kenjutsu - with a shinken (live blade)? It has little practical reality as I would certainly be arrested if wandering around London with a sword on my hip! And yet, in my experience, practicing with a shinken brings a depth to one's focus, perception of risk, challenge to tanden, sharpness and accuracy of movement.

Can we bring the same aspects to studying Aikido (in my case focussing on taijutsu)? I believe we can.

When are we most likely to encounter aggression and/or violence? Physical or non-physical? I encounter non-physical attacks multiple times a day! (I work and I have kids who push boundaries!)

Personally, I recall in my life a single basic instance of physical aggression - a bouncer tried to grab me, I deflected his grab in automatic mode and just controlled his hands, he moved, and nothing happened. I saw his eyes widen and from that moment on he didn't attempt anything physical - all the aggression became verbal - manager called, peaceful resolution etc.

I haven't realistically trained for an attack by a trained knife fighter - have little illusion about my ability to defend such an attack, inspite of thousands of kote gaishi's etc. And yet I have some confidence in my abilities against the most likely attacks (i.e. not from trained people). I believe the most important aspects are mental, and these are increased by some confidence in one's physical capabilities. The vast majority of attacks are non-physical anyway. Those that threaten physicality are most of the time detectable in advance and avoidable.

Sorry for any thread drift...
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