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Old 09-11-2009, 07:56 AM   #23
Location: Indiana
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 1,311
Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
There is a difference between the issue of what constitutes an "effective" martial art or an "effective" practitioner of that art.

As Ikeda Sensei says, "It's not Aikido that doesn't work; it's YOUR Aikido that doesn't work.

Ellis Amdur once defined "martial arts" as one warrior training to fight another professional. In this sense of the words, clearly the term "martial art" connotes a combat training system used by warriors for combat. "Martial arts" are combat systems.

Combat systems involve weapons. Empty hand is a secondary or tertiary training used as a last resort when ones weapons system fails. This was certainly true for the samurai. It remains true for the military, law enforcement, security professionals, etc.

I would maintain that none of the styles mentioned above, no matter how rough or practically oriented they might be, is a "martial art" under this definition. Judo, no matter how wonderful an art it is, no matter how good a foundation for other practices it provides, is clearly not a combat system. Muy Thai has antecedents which were about combat and they involved swords. But I would maintain that no primarily empty hand system is truly a combat system.

Now "self defense" is an entirely different term. It is not the realm of the professional warrior but rather is the domain of the civilian or a professional whose job is something other than fighting. In law enforcement and security empty hand training is called defensive tactics. It is intended to dovetail with and / or augment the various weapons they carry. In no case is empty hand training considered the primary element of the defensive system.
I've never really cared about defining martial arts. To me it just comes down to a simple single question.

Are you getting out of your training what you think you are? If you took swimming classes and never got in a pool would you be happy with your training and confident you could swim? Or would you try to define what swimming is? Maybe swimming to you is wading in 12 inches of water, and to me it's ocean diving. But if we are not both on the same page, you teaching me to swim could quickly end my life one day. Getting in the pool clears that up for both of us.

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
In the civilian realm self defense can constitute anything from sole reliance on firearms or various weapons all the way to reliance on a few empty hand techniques and no weapons at all. Civilians who attempt to create their own "combat" systems, usually do so by training in a variety of areas and trying to create something approaching a coherent system out of these disparate elements. Seldom do they have access to the training afforded by true "combat" systems.

Clearly, "self defense" is a much broader term than "martial art". Surely no one would maintain that Aikido is a "combat system". The training is formalized, not applied. The weapons work is remedial. Yet, many people have successfully used Aikido for self defense. The forums abound with examples in which an Aikido practitioner used something he had learned on the mat, in the dojo, to defend himself or herself against a threat from some violent offender. Doesn't that make Aikido "effective" as self defense? I have personally taught Aikido techniques to law enforcement and security personnel who then used them on the street against resistant and sometimes violent offenders. In all cases the techniques produced the desired result. Doesn't that constitute "effectiveness"? Of course, in self defense or defensive tactics we are not talking about fighting a professionally trained martial artist. Self defense "systems" usually train one to deal with commonly encountered threats and generally are not geared to the sophistication level of dealing with highly trained attackers. Even in law enforcement, the only folks expected to handle high level threats are the SWAT teams, who do get vastly more training than the average officer. And that training is 95% weapons with a bit of empty hand thrown in.
I'd submit that people who go into physical professions are usually going to succeed with making almost anything work to defend themselves. They are typically more athletic, aggressive, and stronger willed then the rest of us who get desk jobs. To me the test has always been a law of averages. If you have a class of 30 random people and you train them for a year and only the two athletic people have any chance of pulling it off, then I say it's ineffective. If 20 of the 30 people have a chance then I say it's effective. There are two parts of effective

1) How quickly can the student learn the task?
Here we can say that if I can teach students to do a ogoshi faster AND with the same end result as you, then my teaching method is more effective.

2) Ability to apply the craft.
Can your students actually do what they think they have learned to do? If they take a painting class, can they paint better then the day they walked in? If they think they are Steven Segal from above the law, can they lay waste to a bar full of bikers?

In terms of self defense, is a complex lockflow that only works after 35 years of train effective when compared to a jab cross hook combo? This is a moving target, effective technique even in non-fighting related skills changes as the student gains more skill. What is effective for a 3 year bjj student might simply be impossible for a 3 month bjj student. But that is not an excuse saying the 3 month bjj students techniques should not work. You teach them the basics, but the basics should still be useful and be able to be applied.

When I taught my unix class we had a section on programing/scripting. We start off with simple syntax and control loops. You can get everything done with those you would need to do. It's not elegant, but it works. Later after they have experience, they can learn the more elegant techniques that would seem impossible the first few weeks. Even there, they are learning to be unix users, not admins. If I let them believe that class was teaching them to be admins, then I would be doing them just as much disservice as letting students believe they are learning to be a fighting force when I know I'm teaching them to be something else.

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
The emphasis in Aikido has been on making the practice more accessible to the public so that a wider range of people can benefit from doing the training and take the accrued benefits into their lives outside the dojo. This has meant that various standards have been applied to evaluate the training aside from pure "effectiveness". If effectiveness were the primary goal, there would be very few women in the art ( as in judo in which the vast majority of practitioners are men), there would have to be weight classes as there are in other sport martial arts because larger, stronger practitioners would always prevail over smaller weaker ones. And so on… Aikido is meant to be an art in which one gets better with age rather than losing ones abilities as ones strength deteriorates. I can't think of a single competitive sport martial art in which this is true.
What abilities are improving with age in aikido? We talk about these benefits that the students are learning that improve with age. I submit that any hobby could probably do this. Let's look at bjj. There is open weight divisions where smaller folk beat bigger folk. People do grow as they continue with the sport and there are reasons to continue long after your peek. To me, after a bjj class I feel happier, I'm more relaxed in general due to training, I'm more aware, I have better balance, It has effected my attitude and how I approach tasks in my life, etc. Again, if you are going to talk about benefits, they have to be detailed to be measurable. If unmeasurable then to me anyway, they are useless. Why is my friend who is 38 year's old getting into boxing? There is no future in it for him physically, he's too old. Yet the coach encouraged it. It's a good workout, it focuses the mind, etc. Everything anyone has ever touted as a benefit of aikido, I can typically find a example of in any competitive sport, even non-fighting related. What can you get from aikido, that you can't get from playing racketball with a friend? When that question is applied to a fighting sport, the answer is also difficult. Because seriously, if you take the unarmed fighting out of it, there isn't much left that is different from any other hobby a person might do.

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Those who loudly denounce the demise of martial effectiveness in the art either privately or publicly regret that the art has been made so "accessible". They would like to see absolute standards of performance maintained, regardless of sex, physical size, temperament, etc. The Aikido they would like to see would be closer to the elite practice done by an extremely small number of incredibly devoted, very tough men (only a few women trained before the war and none became a prominent teacher, at least of the martial arts). Generally, these folks don't give a rip about the philosophical / spiritual underpinnings of the Founder's Aikido. They just want a return to the "effectiveness" of pre-war Aiki Budo.
For the record, to me martial effectiveness can be summed up like this and this is what I look for in a martial art. If anyone untrained in your style comes into your school, and they spar anyone with at least a year of training, they should either be outmatched or at least challenged. In combat sports this is true. Doesn't matter if you are small or big, boy or girl. It's not about being able to beat someone in a MMA match, it's about measurable increase in fighting ability. My boxing coach is 68 years old. I'm fairly confident that he would beat my ass in a boxing match but if I could take him to the ground I could choke him out. I'm also fairly confident that with a few months of instruction, I could teach him enough about ground fighting that most 1 year bjj student's couldn't beat him on the ground and he could knock them out.

Without sparring you can't have this yardstick. You only have what you think you can do, and what reality is. You hope that those two are the same thing. Because I spar regularly, I know what I can do, and what I can't do. Sometimes it's enlightening, sometimes it impresses me, sometimes it's disheartening. Yes, it sucks to get out struck by a 16 year old kid. It sucks even more to work on a technique for months only to find out you can't pull it off against a 6 month white belt. But unlike all those drills, I learned why it was failing and could go back and figure out how to fix it. People talk about aikido vs my aikido. How can you develop your own aikido if you are never testing it? In bjj, I really have my bjj. Because I'm adapting it, solving problems with it, and learning from my experiences sparring. In aikido, I was trying to move exactly like my teacher wanted me to. Thus it was really 'his' aikido. After I started trying to use aikido in sparring, it too a year to even begin to use ikkyo. And my ikkyo now looks nothing like the kata I started with. It has developed setups, variations, etc. Things that would never exist without sparring. They also happen to be the very things that make it effective.

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Despite the appearance given by the stance I find myself taking frequently on the forums, I do actually think Aikido should be "effective", at least within certain parameters. I have had to come to terms, first with the reality that, very few people wish to train the way I was trained. I once told my teacher that my model for my own dojo was the dojo in DC at which I had trained with him in the seventies. His response was to look a bit wistful and reply "Probably can't do… not on West Coast." In other words, if I tried to duplicate my own training with my students, my doors would be closed.
So, is it really aikido you teach them? I asked my former judo instructor this same question. He kept talking about how we could never of handled the judo training he had. So I asked him, "Is it really judo you are teaching us?"

Yes, you can teach differently, but if your students are not developing the same skill set you value in your aikido, and if the cream of the crop is not building up to your own level, are you really teaching them the same art?

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
So, while I do care about whether my Aikido is effective, and my teachers absolutely maintain that Aikido should function as a practically applicable form of Budo, for most of my students, their lives would not be made one iota better if the could execute that irimi nage against some BJJ or MMA guy or a visiting karate practitioner. I get to see, on a daily basis, what Aikido training can do for people; how it can change their lives, how it can develop their confidence, deal with aggressive personalities, stay centered during crisis, and so forth.
And this is fine, as long as they understand what they are getting. If you know your students believe a false reality that they are effective fighters when you know what you are teaching is really not about hand to hand fighting, you are doing them a disservice allowing them to believe it. Again, to me martial arts are about fighting, so I look for arts that teach me to be better at fighting. But I also recognize that some martial arts are not going to teach you to be better at fighting. Rarely in fact never have I walk into a martial arts school been told that training with them will not improve my ability to win fights. Instead, I'm told that I can save my life from attackers and then usually some talk about why they are better then whatever I'm doing now. This implies fighting effectiveness. If it is implied, it should be a deliverable for what I'm paying for and it should be tested.

I'm not saying you are doing this. I am however saying every martial arts teacher I've met is. Sport or not. Every martial art instructor says "It teachers the smaller person to prevail over the larger person". I've never met a teacher that says "It will help you as a bigger guy beat up smaller guys" or "You won't get any fighting ability here, it's about spirituality, community, and growing as a person" or "what you are learning now will probably be better for you when it comes to one on one unarmed combat".

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Now if some practitioner from another style wants to come in to my dojo and see if what I do works, he is welcome to do so. My training was different than what most of my students have had. I'm happy to play if someone really wants to do that.
And if you did that, would your students expect to be able to do the same? Again, it all falls back to expectations and results. Do they get what they ordered? This is where I want martial arts to improve in, honesty in training. Once we get that out of the way, then we can look at the training method to reach those deliverables. Then we can grow in the direction we want to grow in.

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
But the justification for the art doesn't come from my ability to do that, it comes from the hundreds, and thousands of people who love the art, feel they have received so much from it that they give back on a level that would be hard to find in any other martial art, certainly one with such a wide following… I think that we as Aikido practitioners need to really step up and look at our art and how many people do it, love it, spend all their leisure time practicing it, use all their vacation time traveling for it, etc. What they are getting out of this art has little or nothing to do with the ability to defeat other martial artists. Some care whether they can, others don't seem to. But I don't think many at all stay with the art because they think that fighting is what it's about.
They might not think it's about fighting, but I bet a large majority of them think they could hold their own in a good fight. Of that majority, I wonder how many really can. I don't see this as a fault in aikido. I see this as a fault in the teachers not being in sync with their students and allowing them to develop false beliefs. Just like letting a judo student learn a kata with strikes in it, then let them go on with the belief they are competent in striking. This problem is not an aikido problem, it's a martial arts problem. It happens in sport arts too. How many bjj instructors let their students believe they could win a MMA fight if they wanted to? Even though they know these students are not learning striking, clinching, etc. The ride on the coat tails of MMA to push their pure bjj schools.

Sorry for the long post. Sorry if I misread you. I used to think it was all about combat effectiveness, I've only recently decided it's about deliverables and the student and teacher both being in sync with what is taught and what is learned. I then decided that really, I just like dueling. I don't want to be good at street fighting, self defense, budo, etc. I just want to duel. This is why I took up boxing recently and why I'm taking a hard look at moving back to MMA. Not because I think they are more effective. Simply because I think it is a tougher form of dueling then judo and bjj.

I've become complacent in my training, I'm kicking it up a notch. Will I be doing martial arts in 10 years? I'm starting to think no.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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