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Old 03-23-2007, 01:58 PM   #1
Jim Sorrentino
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George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Greetings All,

George Ledyard-sensei has written a very thought-provoking blog on Aikido Journal on the future of aikido. It's worth your time. The piece is at http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=3077.

Sincerely,

Jim Sorrentino
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Old 03-23-2007, 02:22 PM   #2
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Yes very interesting article.

One thought that came to my mind, was that why do we really need all this infrastructure, and why does aikido seem to depend so much on it?

I think it has all to do with the whole aliveness issue. Much of what we learn or have transmitted in aikido is done in a manner that is difficult to measure, and is very subjective in nature.

Because of this, you have to depend largely on the qualifications of those that have been judged to be "superior" or "experienced" in such things.

I think this might be a huge weak point with aikido.

With the advent of MMA and the paradigms and methodologies that it brings to the table, measuring, at least physical success or skill is much more objective in nature, and therefore people or held accountable at a lower level, and you do not need hierachial leadership and it allows for cross polination or an "open source"mentality.

However, the mental/spiritual cultivation in MMA might be hard to measure or non-exsistent as a integral part of it. (not that you cannot obtain growth in these areas through studying in a MMA method, it is just not explicit).

Thank you George for writing this article, I am curious to see the discussions that are inevitiably going to take place around this!

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Old 03-23-2007, 02:58 PM   #3
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Very good article even tho a little pessimistic. But if it is true that the Doshu will decide the new "head" of organizations not letting decide the Uchi Deshi decide (that's what I understood, if wrong sorry), I doubt Aikikai will be that big again.
I know ASU already left Aikikai once, to rejoin it later on. So I suppose many groups under the umbrella will just take their own path. But hopefully Saotome Sensei will live for 100 more years so I will never know what happens

As per passing the art and losing skills in the way I don't think it has to do much with the size of organization. Uchi Deshi were in 24/7 training enviroment. Even tho not throwing or with a Jo in their hands all the time, they were constantly with O Sensei. This kind of training is, in my opinion, impossible to transfer to your students...even the best of your students that might be very talented. Some skills, I think, are destined to be lost and very hardly reintroduced into the Art. Ledyard Sensei mentioned in his article great people like Ueshiba and Takeda. True they were able to add an edge to an Art and make it their own, something that branded their names...but there is a difference. They had to fight for their lives many and many times. Even the best of teachers today doubtfully will be able to give back that lost edge to Aikido.
But I do think Aikido is still an alive Martial Art, so probably lost skills won't come back, but new ones can come. I wouldn't worry too much about the political issues about Aikido, because an Art that survived centuries (ok, not Aikido, but its roots) will always find a way to continue its existance in a "very good shape".

Just my 2 cents...
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Old 03-23-2007, 03:20 PM   #4
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Very interesting and thought provoking article.
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Old 03-23-2007, 03:21 PM   #5
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

It would be interesting to see Aikikai Hombu Dojo send young leaders" to preside over all of the dojo outside Japan, only to have those young Hombu-trained "leaders" have their behinds handed back to them on a sushi dish by their lower-ranked Western aikidoka who have Ueshiba's internal skills -- which they learned from men like Sigman, Harden, Akuzawa, Ushiro...
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Old 03-23-2007, 03:25 PM   #6
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

The problem is, in a non-competitive environment it is difficult to hand anyone their behind on a suchi dish. This point was raised in the article I believe.
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Old 03-23-2007, 03:31 PM   #7
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

I meant that figuratively, Paul. Imagine a young teacher sent to preside over a band of American instructors whose skills so far outshone his that he knew he was outclassed. And that he wanted the skills his "students" had? Could get a little messy.

It will be interesting to see what turns out, 10 years down the 'pike.
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Old 03-23-2007, 03:54 PM   #8
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
It will be interesting to see what turns out, 10 years down the 'pike.
I suspect we will still have a few large Japanese based organizations, and a bunch of weirdos working out in t-shirts in basements, garages and barns all over the country in relative obscurity. I'm cool with that.

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Old 03-23-2007, 04:19 PM   #9
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Perhaps those of us ronins who are willing to venture outside the box need to openly share with those inside our own organizational box in a language and manner that makes it not only acceptable but welcomed.

Compliments and appreciation on your thoughts.

Lynn Seiser PhD
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Old 03-23-2007, 04:21 PM   #10
Jim Sorrentino
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Greetings All,

Here are a few opinions for your consideration:

Organizations do not teach aikido, teachers do.

Organizations matter most to people who care about rank and other external trappings of legitimacy, as distinguished from proficiency.

Organizations provide a means to financially support teachers. I note that the following people do not teach martial arts for a living, despite their proficiency: Akuzawa (salesman); Amdur (therapist); Harden (architect); Sigman (military retiree); Ushiro (inventor, engineer).

Organizations offer a way to organize "teaching events" such as seminars, but they need not do anything else. For example, there is a French organization which exists for the sole purpose of bringing Saotome-sensei to France every summer. Stan Pranin was able to put together three Aiki Expos with no organization other than Aikido Journal. Jun Akiyama was able to put together several friendship trainings with only the resources of AikiWeb.

An organization's increase in size may give rise to an "administrative" class of students. This is usually accompanied by a decline in the intensity and quality of training.

When an organization grows to a size sufficient to support a teacher financially, completely apart from the income that teacher receives from the dojo (and his or her other work), it becomes financially possible for the teacher to step back from teaching and training. As a teacher withdraws from the daily grind of teaching and training in his or her dojo, the quality of teaching and training in that dojo usually declines --- unless the teacher has placed his or her confidence explicitly and publicly in a reasonably charismatic successor who is technically competent.

Jim Sorrentino

Last edited by Jim Sorrentino : 03-23-2007 at 04:29 PM.
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Old 03-23-2007, 04:42 PM   #11
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

I am reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance right now. One thing that comes to mind that I think appropriate is the concept of Quality, that the book centers it's discussion on.

I think what organizations really offer (Or what we want them to offer us), is a definition of Quality.

That is, we want recognition that what we do and have obtained is defined as quality.

I highly recommend reading this book if you have not, because the whole essence of it I believe centers around this whole concept of hierachial organizations that are defined by the status quo in an attempt to define quality.

However, in reality, the actual mechanics of an organization really end up being what Jimmy outlines.

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Old 03-23-2007, 04:44 PM   #12
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Quote:
Jim Sorrentino wrote: View Post
Jun Akiyama was able to put together several friendship trainings with only the resources of AikiWeb.
Just to clarify, I've helped organize only two AikiWeb Workshops, but I've also helped organize six Aikido-L Seminars and various other camps and seminars. In order to do so, I received a good amount of support from various folks including instructors and friends from various places and organizations (for which I am very, very grateful).

-- Jun

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Old 03-23-2007, 04:58 PM   #13
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Interesting article. I can't help but think that back in the day Tomiki Sensei may have foreseen this sort of situation developing, hence his work in trying to bring instruction at the Kobukan/Aikikai moreso towards the randori/shiai paradigm to have some method of objective measurement. But that is a "what if" that never happened and never will.

I'd have to differ somewhat on the author's point that this loss in quality is as a result of organizational expansion. I think if one plans expansion properly with good solid, structured training mechanisms to get new instructors to achieve all requirements of the art (in breadth and depth) then quality loss will be minimized. The issue the author is speaking about is not experienced in certain organizations outside of the Aikikai and is also not endemic to all Aikikai sub groups. The skills are there among those who have instructors who are either very capable teachers (i.e. the ability to impart knowledeg and information) or have a highly developed teaching method that is designed to develop proficiency in all the important areas of the art.

Regarding depth and numbers I wonder though how many people would actually continue to practice Aikido if the bar was raised so to speak to really teach the depth of the art. I think the numbers of those training (especially for recereation) would dramatically decrease. This does not only apply to Aikido, Tai Chi Chuan is a great example of an art that is also having a crisis like what we see on Aikiweb regarding Aikido. I've met quite a few practitioners of that art who say the same things I hear on Aikiweb among those who doubt their training methods or skills. They also believe that much of it is watered down and is more of an exercise than a martial art. I also know there is a very small group of Tai Chi Chaun practitioners who are plumbing the depth of the training, but they have put in the time, mind and effort to do so. Most people won't. I'm wondering if mass popularity and depth of knowledge are realistically congruent goals on a global scale in this regard. Imho those who get into the depth of the training have to put in the hard hours, thoughtful practice and honest self evaluation to get there. Most people are not willing to do this.

On another point, I am wondering however if the few screaming voices we hear in online forums regarding a general lack of knowledge in Aikido is truly representative of the feeling towards training in the real world at large. From people I have met and trained with, it seems like the online "reality" may be illusory. It would be good to know what percent of training Aikidoka actually engage in online forums and from what countries. The issue may not be as endemic as some may tend to believe. Or alternatively I may just be lucky to be around Aikidoka who have less issues with their martial skills.

Regarding whether the "'internal" skills of Ueshiba M. and Takeda S. are being transmitted by a few outside of the art remains to be seen imho. There is no doubt that the CMA have some very good methods of training internal skills and power but it is yet to be seen that the "inability to be pushed over" or other similar elements are able to make one manifest the martial genius of Takeda or Ueshiba in modern, recreational Aikidoka.

I've found that all the Aikidoka I know (and MA-ists in general) who doubt their "fighting" abilities are constantly seeking a new magic pill to fix the ills of their lack of training. A few years ago on online forums Aikidoka thought that without atemi you could not have "fight worthy" Aikido, then more recently you had to train in Daito Ryu to truly understand Aikido's martial applications, now I am hearingf that it is the internal skills that Ueshiba M. had that are lacking. Sadly some Aiki fools run after each and every "magic elixir" salesman to get a quick fix to what Ueshiba and his counterparts learnt through hard, dedicated, conscientious study (not just showing up at the dojo to "work out") with people who were capable of exhibiting the skills that they wanted to learn. It remains quite interesting to me that people who do not have issue with their technical repertoire have nothing to do with the recent discussions on "internal skills" that have taken the centre of so many Aikidoka online. When folks have gotten the "internal skills" and still have poor waza they will look for another magic pill.

The bottom line is that the majority of Aikidoka have no objective idea what they are doing because they have no objective means of verifying and judging what they are doing. This is why it is so easy to move them with alternative ideas. Until this is addressed there will always be questions, even if we are overflowing with ki/chi or are totally independent of any organization in our attempt to find the "true" path. We are responsible for what we achieve or don't achieve.

Gambatte.
LC

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Old 03-23-2007, 05:02 PM   #14
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Perhaps those of us ronins who are willing to venture outside the box need to openly share with those inside our own organizational box in a language and manner that makes it not only acceptable but welcomed.

Compliments and appreciation on your thoughts.
Best idea I heard so far Lynn.

Very very good idea.
LC

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Old 03-23-2007, 06:00 PM   #15
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

There doesn't seem to be any crisis brewining in Aikido dojos or organization(s) in Japan. People train, learn, pass it on as they have done for a very long time and with a lot less debate...

GB
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Old 03-23-2007, 06:36 PM   #16
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Ah, the politics of Aikido. Politics exists in every art, but where there are no objective standards of ability, it really runs rampant.

There is no universal solution because people have different reasons for training. Some just *want* the politics to advance in rank. Others don't know much about the wider world of martial arts, and will just muddle along for some time. I think the more pointed question is, what does Aikido offer to the discerning martial artist? Is that not the target audience, or do you want to focus your attention on the politicos and the clueless? The latter two groups will always exist, so in my view it's the sensible people who want to see some results that you have to address; the others will follow.

"Show me" is in line with the American spirit of invention to begin with, we don't have the traditionalist don't-ask-questions mindset. That has always been the case, but now with the exploding popularity of MMA, all arts are under scrutiny for any claims of effectiveness, even the implicit claim of simply being a martial art. IMO the internal skills are what really make Aikido interesting and worthy of attention (as well as backing up the martial art claim), and to the comment made earlier, no it is not a "magic pill" - if you master that, the waza is practically secondary. That's the last "magic pill" you'll ever need.

Just invite Akuzawa or someone like Chen Xiao Wang, who is a living, breathing person able to demostrate Ueshiba-esque feats to one of these Expos. Some people will freak out, but at least there will be no more denial that these things are real, and the cat will really be out of the bag. Then it's on and let the chips fall where they may. It may also motivate any reticent Japanese instructors who have any of these skills to show them more openly and stop holding back. Take the mystery out of it and encourage people to share what they know. It's not the American way to pay with your time and money to get a lot of nothing in return. We have a word for that: "sucker". Getting a practical training program in place is another non-trivial matter, though Akuzawa's program clearly gets results. But proving that ki skills are something real gives the serious martial artist something to shoot for, and a real reason to believe that Aikido really was something.
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Old 03-23-2007, 11:40 PM   #17
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

The future cannot be predicted with any certainty. However, it can be somewhat anticipated and in some cases designed. One of my concerns about the art is the lack of planning. What happens when a shihan suddenly dies as did the case of AAA with no heir apparent?

Futurists use the concept of scenarios to identify some of the possibilities given certain events occcur. I will attempt to lay out one possibility in this one and maybe others later.

A Scenario:
As Japanese instructor who have studied directly die off and fail to transmit what they had learned, especially the internal aspects, the skills and knowledge of the next generation are watered down. The decreasing importance of martial arts in Japanese society makes all arts and aikido as well of little importance. With decreasing enrollmen, it becomes impossible to make a living teaching martial arts for pretty much everything. Foreign schools still fascinated with other cultures provide a source of income. However, with the skill levels being relatively comparable to Japanese instructors who are able to eke out a living, foreign aikidoka start looking for more say in the "organization". A lack of willingness of the Japanese to share power and the lack of an heir apparent by the yondai doshu split the aikikai into factions with most leaving. Power struggles abound and many small organizations tired of "big organizations" develop. Ranks become inflated and start to have little value other than in the small group or dojo as has happened with Taekwondo and other arts. Aikido is now pretty confusing to the public since it differs so greatly from dojo to dojo. Globalization results in greater societal mobility with the desire to be able to have rank comparability or interchangeability. Once this reality sinks in that rank has little meaning other than in the individual dojo, enrollments decline and people look for arts with more consistency, fewer power struggles, and rank interchangability across regions. Ultimately, the art loses its identify and dies-looking nothing like the original art

Pessimistic. Yes. Are there trends out there suggesting this could happen? Yep.

Organizations are the glue to hold groups together. They inherently have problems, however, they do serve a purpose or several purposes: standards, recognition, succession opportunities, functioning systems, etc. Problems within organizations are generally caused by people with agendas more self-serving than group serving. Such political rifts destroy the group dynamics and trust.

Many other scenarios can be developed or one can design a future. I will attempt to design a better one tomorrow and throw it out as well.

Last edited by aikidoc : 03-23-2007 at 11:45 PM.
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Old 03-23-2007, 11:52 PM   #18
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Quote:
Gordon Biddy wrote: View Post
There doesn't seem to be any crisis brewining in Aikido dojos or organization(s) in Japan. People train, learn, pass it on as they have done for a very long time and with a lot less debate...
Making a public stink isn't really the Japanese thing to do...

Michael Hacker
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Old 03-24-2007, 01:51 AM   #19
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Is it likely that Hombu will send some of their young instructors, people like Ito or Suzuki, to the US to run organizations and in effect replace the generation of Yamada, Saotome, and Chiba? Is anyone aware of such a plan? I thought the point of promoting people like Waite and Bernath and the others to seventh dan is to signify that the US can take care of itself as far as the technical side of aikido is concerned. As Ledyard Sensei points out, a young shidoin would have a rough time imposing his authority on shihan who are more senior and may have been training longer than the shidoin has been alive. Eg, Ito is 32, Waite has been training since the late 1960s. Surely Hombu is aware of the potential problem.
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Old 03-24-2007, 01:53 AM   #20
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Is anyone able to elaborate upon this line from the article:

"Note that Hombu Dojo is training them at this moment. They have a younger generation of teachers ready to go when the time is right."

Which American Tokyo affiliated organizations are open to this? USAF? Every region in the USAF? United Schools of Ueshiba? Which ones? If you know of one, what is the sign (or signs) that leads or could lead to this statement?

curious,
dmv

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Old 03-24-2007, 02:18 AM   #21
Charles Hill
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Hi,

Although I am a bit out of the loop, I sincerely doubt that Honbu is planning on having the young shidoin travel to established dojo/organizations overseas to take over. They do have the shihan/shidoin travel to countries that do not have established organization to teach. I believe the Mr. Ito mentioned above spent a couldle of years in some southeast Asian country working to established Aikido there.

Also the shihan all have university clubs that they run and or help out at and I am sure that that work will be turned over to the younger teachers as this is a big source of income for the Aikikai.

In my understanding there is only one group that has looked to Honbu for some degree of help and that is the Midwest Aikido group. And surely this is due to the problems that occured upon Tohei Sensei's death, things that is obviously the other US based shihan are working to avoid.

Charles
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Old 03-24-2007, 03:50 AM   #22
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

It is a good post and it was more thought out than the post below that I tried to start. Although I must admit that my intention was to fish out the 'future' senseis so I could check them out

http://aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=11706

Besides the ideas in George Sensei's post on how organization's need to revamp transmission, it is also up to us students to comb through the fluff and seek out talented teachers.

Continued discussions such as what occurs here will also help shape ideas on the future of aikido. The technology is here so why not take advantage of it. I also hope more and more seasoned aikidoka share their thoughts and experiences here so the influx of newer aikidoka can have a better picture than they did when they started.

Respectfully,

Rod
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Old 03-24-2007, 04:13 AM   #23
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
I meant that figuratively, Paul. Imagine a young teacher sent to preside over a band of American instructors whose skills so far outshone his that he knew he was outclassed. And that he wanted the skills his "students" had? Could get a little messy.

It will be interesting to see what turns out, 10 years down the 'pike.
That's assuming that these sent instructors are all naive newbies. They're already training in such an environment in Japan right now, there's nothing to indicate that anyone sent is going to turn up and make things messy.

There's a lot of assumptions in this thread. I'm under the impression that most of the associations in the US, here in the UK, and other western countries are individual associations that have been set up external to the Aikikai, but have at some point joined the aikikai umbrella. As it stands right now the Aikikai doesn't have the authority to impose any instructors into these organisations - please correct me if I'm wrong.

However, the Aikikai could, if it felt it warranted, send new instructors to set up new organisations. Students would then be at liberty to choose which organisation they want to join/ stay with.

There may be some associations that would be all too willing to have the Aikikai send in an instructor to take over the helm. Again it's an assumption.

What I'm trying to say, very badly, is that I don't think this is a problem any where near as bad as people are making it out to be. Old instructors retire/ pass on, new instructors take their place. Associations change, old links are cut, new links are formed. It's been going on for many years, and will continue.

I'm free to choose who and where I want to practice Aikido with, as long as I continue to practice.

A difficult problem is easily solved by asking yourself the question, "Just how would the Lone Ranger handle this?"
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Old 03-24-2007, 05:22 AM   #24
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

I wanted to follow on from the comments made in the final couple of paragraphs in GL sensei's article.

The concept of developing modern aikido from outside sources is of course something that has always been happening. I would assume that there are more instructors that have trained and influenced their aikido from outside sources than there are aikido instructors who have wholly and solely stuck with pure aikido.

It is interesting to look at Karate, there are a group of international karate practitioners that follow a principle of discovering okinawan karate through the same process that it was originally developed, exploration, application and refinement. When I visited this group there classes looked like something that was a cross between, karate, judo and aikido. There breakfalling was better than many aikido dojo's I had seen.

They feel that there is a spirit that needs to be kept alive that is not contained in any technique but in continual refinement of their art and they will look anywhere to find it and make it grow.

Perhaps if our focus is on keeping the aiki spirit alive it will take care of itself.

Aran Bright

http://brisbaneaikido.com

Brisbane Aikido Republic
Brisbane
Australia
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Old 03-24-2007, 06:47 AM   #25
Jorge Garcia
Dojo: Shudokan School of Aikido
Location: Houston
Join Date: Jun 2001
Posts: 608
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote: View Post
On another point, I am wondering however if the few screaming voices we hear in online forums regarding a general lack of knowledge in Aikido is truly representative of the feeling towards training in the real world at large. From people I have met and trained with, it seems like the online "reality" may be illusory. It would be good to know what percent of training Aikidoka actually engage in online forums and from what countries. The issue may not be as endemic as some may tend to believe. Or alternatively I may just be lucky to be around Aikidoka who have less issues with their martial skills.
Also, Gordon Biddy wrote,
"There doesn't seem to be any crisis brewing in Aikido dojos or organization(s) in Japan. People train, learn, pass it on as they have done for a very long time and with a lot less debate..."
GB

I think this is the point everyone is missing. Of my 80 students, I have not been able to find anyone else reading Aikiweb, even among my black belts and senior students (and to be frank, with the kind of talk we have had here, I won't recommend it to them because I am in favor of Aikido, not against it). I have also never heard any of these online forums or any issue mentioned here in any dojo I have ever been a part of. Our practitioners are like those in Japan. They come to class, they train, they have a good time, they are soaked from head to toe with sweat, they talk about the techniques after and continue to try and get more info, and they go home and bring their friends the next time.
Interestingly enough, I have a couple of former (I hope?) gang kids. The high school they are from is so bad, that the city of Houston almost shut it down recently. When I asked them, they are aware of MMA and they like to watch it but they laugh at it because of the rules and they don't seem to think it's realistic (go figure?). One of my guys was in so much trouble, that he spent two years in a detention center next to the Huntsville State pen. He says the way they (TV MMA) fight is contrary to the hundreds of fights he has seen in the streets. He is from a really bad neighborhood too. We once had a man from our dojo take him home and he feared getting out of there alive. When I took this kid home, I saw houses the gangs had burned down in revenge attacks. This kid has used Aikido in the streets and in his last fight, he knocked out the kid that was attacking him with iriminage. He is a senior in high school and has been in Aikido for 3 years.
I mention this to say that everything that is posited as real online doesn't correspond to our reality here. I am not saying what is posted is wrong. I am saying I haven't seen the same concerns or experiences here and no one I have here seems to care about the online disputes. They don't even read them.

Best wishes,
Jorge

Last edited by Jorge Garcia : 03-24-2007 at 06:53 AM.

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