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Old 04-06-2008, 04:19 PM   #201
G DiPierro
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Quote:
Aaron Finney wrote: View Post
Is your definition of uke and nage based on linguistics, historic usage, or from your own observations about the roles of partners as currently practiced in Aikido?

I only ask because, since I started training, it has been constantly reinforced that there is no competition in the Aikido I'm studying. And it's difficult for me to understand how the terms "winner" and "loser" could possibly have any relational value outside of a competitive environment.
If you look at the way aikido is practiced, it is clear that is a winner and loser in every technique. The winner is the guy who remains standing, unharmed, while the loser is the guy who ends up on the ground. Aikido simulates a physical confrontation, and in such a confrontation, if you end up on the ground being pinned face down by the other guy, then you have lost, while if you are the one holding the other person down, then you have won. This is quite obvious.

Just because the person who wins in aikido is usually predetermined prior to the execution of the technique rather than during the execution of the technique it does mean that the distinction between winner and loser somehow goes away. Overall, I think this distinction is about as clear in aikido as it is any martial art. Certainly there are many other martial arts where it is much less clear, even to the point of being virtually meaningless.

I would even say that there are several competitive arts where the distinction is not nearly as clear as it in aikido. Kendo would be one example. In many kendo matches, especially between experienced, relatively equally matched opponents, it can be impossible for someone without significant training in kendo to tell who has won. The determination of what is a valid point can be so subtle that a layman would have no idea who the winner was if it were not for the referee. In aikido, even someone with no martial arts training at all can easily tell which person has won.

Last edited by G DiPierro : 04-06-2008 at 04:23 PM.
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Old 04-06-2008, 05:34 PM   #202
Cephallus
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

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Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
If you look at the way aikido is practiced, it is clear that is a winner and loser in every technique. The winner is the guy who remains standing, unharmed, while the loser is the guy who ends up on the ground. Aikido simulates a physical confrontation, and in such a confrontation, if you end up on the ground being pinned face down by the other guy, then you have lost, while if you are the one holding the other person down, then you have won. This is quite obvious.
You may think I'm dense, but this is not quite obvious to me...

The word "win" as used in this context is defined as a person who is successful in a contest. In non-competative Aikido training, uke and nage are partners, not competitors. There *is* no contest, so there can be no winner. Or loser.

I think the fact that the words "winner" and "loser" are specific to competition, and that they imply superiority (i.e. someone who has used greater skill/effort to succeed over another), are why people are so quick to react to them when they're applied to an activity that has been clearly defined as being non-competitive.

Coming from an exclusively-competitive sports background, this was an important distinction that I had to make for myself when I started Aikido.

But this may be an area where we just have to agree to disagree.

Last edited by Cephallus : 04-06-2008 at 05:37 PM.
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Old 04-06-2008, 05:49 PM   #203
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

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Aaron Finney wrote: View Post
And it's difficult for me to understand how the terms "winner" and "loser" could possibly have any relational value outside of a competitive environment.
Hope you don't mind my butting in here, but I think the terms "winning" and "losing" are simply shorthand for denoting who has successfully done a technique and who has had one done on them...semantics, I think. For example, certain pins have been just what the doctor ordered when I've had back and shoulder aches. In the sense of remaining standing, sure I "lost," but in the sense of physical health I "won." They're mindsets most Aikidoka seek to avoid, but I think as long as "winning" doesn't become some fixed goal like "always remain standing" (e.g. sometime you may want to go to the ground after all) then it can be useful.
This is one of the main criticisms I've heard regarding sparring in Aikido, but after having practiced a bit in Shodokan I can see it's all about attitude, not terminology. It's just that some folks use (or don't use) certain terminology to illustrate subtle concepts.
Take care,
Matt

Last edited by mathewjgano : 04-06-2008 at 05:51 PM.

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Old 04-06-2008, 07:53 PM   #204
matsusakasteve
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

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Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
Hope you don't mind my butting in here, but I think the terms "winning" and "losing" are simply shorthand for denoting who has successfully done a technique and who has had one done on them...semantics, I think.
The problem I find with terms like winning and losing as defined above is that both uke and tori should focus on their forms and specifically the tori needs to perform the waza effectively. If we think about points and winning, then we may lose that focus.
My sensei said that in a truly competitive setting, aikidoka wouldn't move, they would wait for the other guy to do something. Stand-off style. Some of the competitive forms of aikido I have read about (never seen firsthand) designate an attacker and defender. Other martial arts don't necessarily have such designations and both people have the same offensive/defensive goals.
Again, my sensei said that one of the strengths of aikido is that it is not a sport and doesn't have the narrow rules of such. Judoka desparately avoid landing on their back, we roll on our backs to get away from someone. No worrying about points and such.
To end on a less critical note, great topic folks! Look forward to reading more!
Mata ne! Matsusakasteve
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Old 04-06-2008, 08:28 PM   #205
Cephallus
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
Hope you don't mind my butting in here, but I think the terms "winning" and "losing" are simply shorthand for denoting who has successfully done a technique and who has had one done on them...semantics, I think. For example, certain pins have been just what the doctor ordered when I've had back and shoulder aches. In the sense of remaining standing, sure I "lost," but in the sense of physical health I "won." They're mindsets most Aikidoka seek to avoid, but I think as long as "winning" doesn't become some fixed goal like "always remain standing" (e.g. sometime you may want to go to the ground after all) then it can be useful.
This is one of the main criticisms I've heard regarding sparring in Aikido, but after having practiced a bit in Shodokan I can see it's all about attitude, not terminology. It's just that some folks use (or don't use) certain terminology to illustrate subtle concepts.
Take care,
Matt
If we can agree on the definitions, it becomes less about semantics. According to the dictionary, the English language word "win", in this context, means to be successful or victorious in (a contest or conflict). And the English language word "lose", in this context, is defined as to fail to win.

That was really my only objection to Giancarlo's use of those terms to define the roles of uke and nage; because there is no contest, I simply don't believe they are appropriate English words to describe uke and nage. And because the definitions of "win" and "lose" involve contest, using them to describe the roles of Aikido training partners can easily give the false impression that there is some kind of competition/conflict involved.
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Old 04-06-2008, 10:16 PM   #206
G DiPierro
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

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Aaron Finney wrote: View Post
If we can agree on the definitions, it becomes less about semantics. According to the dictionary, the English language word "win", in this context, means to be successful or victorious in (a contest or conflict). And the English language word "lose", in this context, is defined as to fail to win.

That was really my only objection to Giancarlo's use of those terms to define the roles of uke and nage; because there is no contest, I simply don't believe they are appropriate English words to describe uke and nage. And because the definitions of "win" and "lose" involve contest, using them to describe the roles of Aikido training partners can easily give the false impression that there is some kind of competition/conflict involved.
There is no contest, but there quite clearly a conflict (albeit a simulated one). And in aikido, the nage wins this conflict, and the uke loses.

The same thing applies to other non-competitive arts as well. In koryu, they often use a term like shidachi (doing sword) for the person who wins and uchidachi (attacking sword) for the person who loses. Pretty much anyone who does a paired weapons koryu would acknowledge that there is a person who wins the kata and a person who loses. In fact, in jodo they have a saying "the jo always wins" because all of their kata end with the jo defeating the sword.

In koryu, the person who plays the role of the winner is usually the (junior) student while the person who plays the role of the loser is the teacher or senior. In aikido, people take turns winning and losing, regardless of rank, although the person who is teaching will typically only take the role of winner when working with a student.

You can object to these terms all you want but they are quite obviously accurately descriptive. At this point I think the real question is why you object to them so strongly.

Last edited by G DiPierro : 04-06-2008 at 10:31 PM.
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Old 04-06-2008, 10:57 PM   #207
DonMagee
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

I have never lost a sparing match in my life. I never intend to either.

- Don
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Old 04-06-2008, 11:41 PM   #208
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

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Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
There is no contest, but there quite clearly a conflict (albeit a simulated one).
The same applies to sparring.
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Old 04-07-2008, 06:21 AM   #209
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

In martial arts or budo, in general there are two levels, I think...microscopic and macroscopic. On the lower level (micro) we explore the relationship between win/lose. On the higher level, the goal is that we create a win/win for all parties involved.

I think same applies to competitive areas in life too, especially martial arts...everyone goes home at the end of the day. If the right dynamic is present we might fail or show another where their failure lay,and then we ponder it, and come back another day ready to try again.

There are only a couple of combinations that can be present really.

win/lose
lose/win
lose/lose
win/win

It is our goal to explore all of these in martial arts (budo) in order to better understand ourselves and the world around us.

To me it is as simple as that.

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Old 04-07-2008, 01:35 PM   #210
Cephallus
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

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Don Magee wrote: View Post
I have never lost a sparing match in my life. I never intend to either.
Ha, Don, I love it.

Giancarlo, I can see why you use the terms winner and loser, I just don't agree.

As for why I so strongly disagree, it has little to do with you and everything to do with me...in my years of playing competitive sports, "winning" has a connotation that is a mixed bag that involves the best and worst aspects of human beings. It implies agression, cunning, skill, meanness, total effort, and the need to dominate. It's about proving you're bigger, faster, stronger, that you've worked harder, and that you want to win more. It's about entitlement. About proving to the other guy that you *deserve* victory more than him. And then about enjoying that moment of dominance, of superiority.

One of the primary reasons I chose to study Aikido was to distill down what I've learned through my years of playing competitive sports, to remove the ugliest parts and retain the best. Competition is a great motivator - I'm not disparaging it at all. It's just that my competitive nature sometimes makes me behave toward other people in ways that are not how I believe we should treat each other in life, and I see Aikido as a way to work to change myself for the better as a human being.

Hope that makes sense.
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Old 04-07-2008, 03:06 PM   #211
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

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Giancarlo DiPierro wrote: View Post
There is no contest, but there quite clearly a conflict (albeit a simulated one). And in aikido, the nage wins this conflict, and the uke loses.
Would you describe winning as necessarily being good and losing as necessarily being bad? I wonder if these connotations are what most people object to.
As for the conflict...maybe it would help if you described what is in conflict. Physically we're trying to avoid moving against the force of our attacker. Ideally, we're not conflicting with this movement...unless you would describe moving perpendicular to their force as being a conflict. The only conflict I can see (in an idealized situation) might be in wills: uke wants to hit me and I don't let him or her do that. Is that the kind of thing you're referring to?
Take care,
Matt

Last edited by mathewjgano : 04-07-2008 at 03:08 PM.

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Old 04-07-2008, 03:12 PM   #212
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

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Aaron Finney wrote: View Post
Ha, Don, I love it.

Giancarlo, I can see why you use the terms winner and loser, I just don't agree.

As for why I so strongly disagree, it has little to do with you and everything to do with me...in my years of playing competitive sports, "winning" has a connotation that is a mixed bag that involves the best and worst aspects of human beings. It implies agression, cunning, skill, meanness, total effort, and the need to dominate. It's about proving you're bigger, faster, stronger, that you've worked harder, and that you want to win more. It's about entitlement. About proving to the other guy that you *deserve* victory more than him. And then about enjoying that moment of dominance, of superiority.

One of the primary reasons I chose to study Aikido was to distill down what I've learned through my years of playing competitive sports, to remove the ugliest parts and retain the best. Competition is a great motivator - I'm not disparaging it at all. It's just that my competitive nature sometimes makes me behave toward other people in ways that are not how I believe we should treat each other in life, and I see Aikido as a way to work to change myself for the better as a human being.

Hope that makes sense.
That fits a bit with my own experiences, so i dig where you're coming from. Just out of curiosity, how would you apply the principles you're learning from Aikido to sports?
Take care,
Matt

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Old 04-07-2008, 05:06 PM   #213
G DiPierro
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

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Don Magee wrote: View Post
I have never lost a sparing match in my life. I never intend to either.
Yes, but that's only because you were spared! Seriously, the attitude you "never lose" in competition, even when you have lost by the rules, is similar to the idea that there is no winning and losing in aikido because partners should work together to help each other. They are both great training attitudes to have, but they are not accurate descriptions of what is actually taking place. The bottom line is that all martial arts are concerned with winning and losing. Every one. This is because all martial arts simulate a conflict, and obviously in a conflict you want to win rather than lose.

That said, it is true that some arts are more concerned with winning and losing than others. However, as I mentioned earlier, in aikido the distinction between winning and losing is as clear as it is in any art. Anyone can easily tell which person is the winner and which is the loser. Even in other fixed-role arts, like weapons koryu, where there is a clear winner and loser in each kata, the roles can look so similar that an untrained observer might not be able to distinguish them. And, as I pointed out, there are competative arts where it can be difficult, if not impossible, for an initiated person to tell who has won, especially in a close match.

There are also arts where the distinction between winning and losing can almost disappear entirely. Taiji's push-hands, when practiced cooperatively, is one example, as there is no clear winner or loser. However, push-hands can also be done less cooperatively, even competitively, so like all other martial practices, it is still firmly grounded in the idea of winning and losing. If you want to get away from the notions of winning and losing entirely, then you are moving outside the realm of martial arts at that point.

Given how strong the distinction between winning and losing is in aikido, especially relative to other arts, I find the constant rhetoric about how aikido is not about winning and losing to be confused at best and deceptive at worst. The rhetoric simply does not match the practice.
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Old 04-07-2008, 06:30 PM   #214
Aikibu
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

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Don Magee wrote: View Post
I have never lost a sparing match in my life. I never intend to either.
LOL Good One Don and Amen.

William Hazen
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Old 04-09-2008, 01:28 AM   #215
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

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Roman Kremianski wrote: View Post
Joseph, thanks for atleast being honest and revealing your lack of training.
I recall Saito Morihiro sensei telling me stories of when he was younger man. When Ueshiba sensei was taking a nap or otherwise occupied, Saito sensei would sometimes sneak out and pick fights with yakuza who were spending time "cooling off" in Iwama. Afterwards, he'd buy them drinks.

His mouth to my ears.

Michael Hacker
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