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Old 09-07-2009, 10:30 AM   #1
Marc Abrams
Dojo: Aikido Arts of Shin Budo Kai/ Bedford Hills, New York
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052) Aikido Waza IS Kata: Week of September 7, 2009

I am amazed, amused, entertained,…. by the seemingly endless debate as to the “effectiveness”/”reality”…. of Aikido waza. This debate seems to be nothing other than the dreaded “red herring.” What if people looked at Aikido waza as KATA?
Kata are pre-arranged patterns of movement that can be done by one or more people (more than one person implies a choreography of patterned movements between the people). Most people know of kata through other martial arts, such as karate, or Iaido. Nobody seems to question whether or not it would be effective to use Sanchin Kata (very old Okinawan Kata) in a street fight. Instead, the mindless debate revolves around whether or not kata is an effective way of teaching the art. If kata were simply the sum of the movements, then there would never be a debate. It would be obvious that choreographed movements would not be a good way of teaching a fighting style/art, because reality rarely works out to be like what we would imagine things to be.
Kata is like the title of a book. The title is the starting point of learning. Kata is the representation of principles (some hidden, some obvious) that are critical to the effective learning of and enacting of that martial art or style. This learning process has been described as involving three stages. The first stage is the faithful replication of your teacher’s movements. The second stage is the adaptation of those movements to “fit” your uniqueness. The third stage is the discovery of the principles inside and separate from the movements, so that one can enact the principles in absence of those specific movement patterns.
Kata has a profound depth to it. If the teacher is not actively exploring and integrating the depths of a particular kata, than there will be dilution of the teaching over successive generations. This has happened in about every martial art. The truly sad aspect is that it is easy to assume that much has been lost in the world of martial arts. The exciting aspect is that one can seek to search and explore, to rediscover the “lost secrets” (with no guarantee of success!).
Aikido Waza IS Kata! It is a senseless activity to simply mimic the choreographed movements of the nage and uke, expecting that you will become a formidable martial artist. It is truly sad to see so many people stay stuck at the first stage of kata learning. All that you are left with is a beautiful “dance” between nage and uke. People need to dedicate themselves to explore the principles that are inherent in each waza. A good teacher should be actively exploring these principles of movement to develop true “Aiki” that can be expressed in “Do.” As your teacher develops, so should you. We all should be left with a state of wonderment with how deep the depth of each waza is. We should all be striving to deepen our understanding of the underlying principles of our art, so that the spontaneous expression of this art occurs in such a manner that the “uninitiated” remark that “This is not Aikido”, “that was phony” or some other statement reflecting the inability to understand what one has seen.
This week, we will return our focus to the execution of waza. The task for the students is to begin to examine waza for the principles that we have been actively discussing and probing in class for a while now. If I view my practice as kata, then it is also up to the students to explore my perspective to determine if I am simply off-base, or on to some meaningful path that we all can travel on together.
Marc Abrams Sensei


(Original blog post may be found here.)
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Old 09-07-2009, 01:59 PM   #2
Janet Rosen
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Re: 052) Aikido Waza IS Kata: Week of September 7, 2009

I've long thought that those schools that don't explicitly call it kata are doing a disservice esp to beginners - it puts the whole cooperative training thing in perspective.
Peter Boylan and I exchanged blog posts early this yr or last yr about the freedom that comes with surrendering to kata training and then exploring all the variables inherent within the form.

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 09-07-2009, 02:26 PM   #3
aikishihan
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Re: 052) Aikido Waza IS Kata: Week of September 7, 2009

Aikido training, as practiced in most Aikikai affiliated dojos, uses kata in the cohesive training of individuals with mixed levels of expertise, or lack of same. It is primarily an ongoing introduction to Aiki movements and principles, where each individual chooses separately to continue more serious training or not.

Even as "batting practice" by professional baseball players give no clue as to how they will do in a real ball game, neither should one read "kata" based practice in a dojo setting as the final product of a martial artist's behavior or technique in real time.

Everyone I know has been introduced to mathematics. Yet most cannot do complex equations, compute actuarial tables or even balance check books in an embarrassing number of instances. Yet, the teaching of math to all is a given. It is not the mathematics that is inferior, it is the lack of need, interest or commitment to make it work at higher levels.

Most people train in Aikido, as an optional supplement to their life styles. Very few know enough about the true value of Aiki Principles and of Aikido training, to envision more than what most of them do. Let's not waste time criticizing people for being people. Don't we have better things to do, like our own daily training!

Great people concern themselves with ideas and principle
Good people discuss the beauty and joy in their lives.
Little people talk about other people.

You choose.

In Oneness,.
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Old 09-07-2009, 06:27 PM   #4
Marc Abrams
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Re: 052) Aikido Waza IS Kata: Week of September 7, 2009

Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
Aikido training, as practiced in most Aikikai affiliated dojos, uses kata in the cohesive training of individuals with mixed levels of expertise, or lack of same. It is primarily an ongoing introduction to Aiki movements and principles, where each individual chooses separately to continue more serious training or not.

Even as "batting practice" by professional baseball players give no clue as to how they will do in a real ball game, neither should one read "kata" based practice in a dojo setting as the final product of a martial artist's behavior or technique in real time.

Everyone I know has been introduced to mathematics. Yet most cannot do complex equations, compute actuarial tables or even balance check books in an embarrassing number of instances. Yet, the teaching of math to all is a given. It is not the mathematics that is inferior, it is the lack of need, interest or commitment to make it work at higher levels.

Most people train in Aikido, as an optional supplement to their life styles. Very few know enough about the true value of Aiki Principles and of Aikido training, to envision more than what most of them do. Let's not waste time criticizing people for being people. Don't we have better things to do, like our own daily training!

Great people concern themselves with ideas and principle
Good people discuss the beauty and joy in their lives.
Little people talk about other people.

You choose.

In Oneness,.
Francis:

Did you interpret my blog as me criticizing other people? I think that we all do so from time to time. For example, I think that these were your words recently:
Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
We had brought all kinds of first hand proofs of Tohei Sensei;s perfidy and ill advised attacks on Hombu Dojo, the Doshu and of the Founder himself.
The purpose of this particular blog was to explore the nature of how we practice, based upon preconceived notions of how we view Aikido waza. My blog is for the purpose of getting my students to think about their training and to hopefully serve as a valuable supplement to their training. I find it most unfortunate that you interpreted it in the manner in which you did. If you would like to add to the discussion of what the blog is about, then I fully welcome your valuable input. If you misinterpret my writing, then I will simply point that out and try and steer the discussion back to the intended topic.

Marc Abrams
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Old 09-07-2009, 06:32 PM   #5
Marc Abrams
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Re: 052) Aikido Waza IS Kata: Week of September 7, 2009

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
I've long thought that those schools that don't explicitly call it kata are doing a disservice esp to beginners - it puts the whole cooperative training thing in perspective.
Peter Boylan and I exchanged blog posts early this yr or last yr about the freedom that comes with surrendering to kata training and then exploring all the variables inherent within the form.
Janet:

I am in full agreement with you and Peter on this issue. I genuinely enjoy exploring the depths of the kata training that comes when we can begin to let go of the physical form. I learn as much from my failures in this area as I do from my successes.

Marc Abrams
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Old 09-07-2009, 09:58 PM   #6
aikishihan
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Re: 052) Aikido Waza IS Kata: Week of September 7, 2009

Dear Marc,

A thousand and one apologies for my clumsy expression and reaction to what I often see as petty discussions regarding the efficacy of Aikido training and its genuine contributions to the discussion on martial arts applicability. It was a general rebuttal that I had in mind, and not in reaction to what you actually wrote.

In no way would I wish to negatively criticize your marvelous mini treatise on how "kata" may be appropriately interpreted in much of what we see as standard Aikido training today. I allowed myself to get carried away from the many years of "defending" the Aikido I am familiar with, and did not give proper credit to your fine explanations. Again, my apologies.

Thank you for reminding me of the incident whereby I brought actual proofs of what Tohei Sensei had actually written and signed. It was my choice of words to describe them as I did, but the artifacts spoke adequately for themselves.

I will attempt to be more sensitive to the impact of my descriptions in the future of what I write of what I believe and have experienced. I need to remind myself that it is better "to be kind, than to always try to be right.". My batting average needs much improvement.

Thanks again for the correction!

I do want to thank Aiki Web for providing this excellent forum for the honest and well thought out examinations of things Aiki. I am enjoying, and learning so much each time I visit the site!

In oneness,

francis y takahashi
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Old 09-07-2009, 10:23 PM   #7
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Re: 052) Aikido Waza IS Kata: Week of September 7, 2009

Marc, I completely agree with the assertion that most of aikido waza is kata practice.

I don't think that this is a negative thing except in the circumstance where it is not acknowledged and used as a teaching tool to get to a deeper understanding of the thing (aikido) itself.

Unfortunately, many of the places I've trained deliberately state that aikido contains no kata and then immediately teach a specific technique and often specific version of a technique and ask everyone to practice it and seldom spent real time in 'formless' practice. I'm not really sure where the disconnect there is; perhaps it is in my own understanding.

In any case, I currently deliberately practice kata with the ultimate goal of being able to break free of kata having gained an understanding of principles and a set of body skills that I can apply in dynamic situations, and these goals inform how I train in kata.

Take care,

Tarik Ghbeish
Jiyūshin-ryū AikiBudō - Iwae Dojo

MASAKATSU AGATSU -- "The true victory of self-mastery."
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Old 09-08-2009, 06:59 AM   #8
Marc Abrams
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Re: 052) Aikido Waza IS Kata: Week of September 7, 2009

Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
Dear Marc,

A thousand and one apologies for my clumsy expression and reaction to what I often see as petty discussions regarding the efficacy of Aikido training and its genuine contributions to the discussion on martial arts applicability. It was a general rebuttal that I had in mind, and not in reaction to what you actually wrote.

In no way would I wish to negatively criticize your marvelous mini treatise on how "kata" may be appropriately interpreted in much of what we see as standard Aikido training today. I allowed myself to get carried away from the many years of "defending" the Aikido I am familiar with, and did not give proper credit to your fine explanations. Again, my apologies.

Thank you for reminding me of the incident whereby I brought actual proofs of what Tohei Sensei had actually written and signed. It was my choice of words to describe them as I did, but the artifacts spoke adequately for themselves.

I will attempt to be more sensitive to the impact of my descriptions in the future of what I write of what I believe and have experienced. I need to remind myself that it is better "to be kind, than to always try to be right.". My batting average needs much improvement.

Thanks again for the correction!

I do want to thank Aiki Web for providing this excellent forum for the honest and well thought out examinations of things Aiki. I am enjoying, and learning so much each time I visit the site!

In oneness,

francis y takahashi
Francis:

Thank you for clearing that up. I agree with you in being tired of having to defend Aikido. I frequently use Ikeda Sensei's comment asking to people to question why THEIR Aikido does not seem to "work." I think that a large part of the problem with the perception of "Aikido" in the "community at large" stems with our own perceptions of what Aikido is and is not. I am hopeful that we can properly frame what we do and how we practice in a manner that helps us all work towards passing on and continuing the legacy of what O'Sensei left to world.

Regards,

Marc Abrams
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Old 09-08-2009, 07:09 AM   #9
Marc Abrams
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Re: 052) Aikido Waza IS Kata: Week of September 7, 2009

Quote:
Tarik Ghbeish wrote: View Post
Marc, I completely agree with the assertion that most of aikido waza is kata practice.

I don't think that this is a negative thing except in the circumstance where it is not acknowledged and used as a teaching tool to get to a deeper understanding of the thing (aikido) itself.

Unfortunately, many of the places I've trained deliberately state that aikido contains no kata and then immediately teach a specific technique and often specific version of a technique and ask everyone to practice it and seldom spent real time in 'formless' practice. I'm not really sure where the disconnect there is; perhaps it is in my own understanding.

In any case, I currently deliberately practice kata with the ultimate goal of being able to break free of kata having gained an understanding of principles and a set of body skills that I can apply in dynamic situations, and these goals inform how I train in kata.

Take care,
Tarik:

I am in 100% total agreement with you. I frankly am amazed with the people that claim that our practice is devoid of kata. I was struck my a comment that Ushiro Kenji Sensei made once when he said that getting into seiza and rising from seiza are both kata. I do not think that there is necessarily a disconnect, but a lack of deep appreciation for what people are really doing. I think that this touches a deeper, more sensitive issue of the proper transmission of an art in a format that was designed for a the passing on of knowledge in more intimate and long-term settings.

Marc Abrams
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Old 09-08-2009, 09:39 AM   #10
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Re: 052) Aikido Waza IS Kata: Week of September 7, 2009

Hi Marc,
I thought what you wrote was great. I never saw it exactly like that.
I find it very liberating to see Aikido that way.
Thank you.
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Old 09-08-2009, 02:25 PM   #11
Russ Q
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Re: 052) Aikido Waza IS Kata: Week of September 7, 2009

Hey Marc,

Thanks for the little/mini essay. I agree....clearly, aikido waza as practised in the dojos I have trained at is kata practise. Perhaps when the seniors "play" after class (and sometimes during:-) there is henka waza and this will blur the lines for some...but...it is still kata training. This fact seems so obvious that I wonder why anyone would refute it.....

Cheers,

Russ
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Old 09-08-2009, 04:40 PM   #12
Don_Modesto
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Re: 052) Aikido Waza IS Kata: Week of September 7, 2009

Quote:
Marc Abrams wrote: View Post
Janet:

I am in full agreement with you and Peter on this issue. I genuinely enjoy exploring the depths of the kata training that comes when we can begin to let go of the physical form. I learn as much from my failures in this area as I do from my successes.

Marc Abrams
Draeger's book on Judo kata is pertinent here, I think. He investigates several variations on form...of form.

Don J. Modesto
St. Petersburg, Florida
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Old 09-08-2009, 09:14 PM   #13
Janet Rosen
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Re: 052) Aikido Waza IS Kata: Week of September 7, 2009

Quote:
Don J. Modesto wrote: View Post
Draeger's book on Judo kata is pertinent here, I think. He investigates several variations on form...of form.
hmmm....something to add to the wish list.....

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 09-09-2009, 05:10 AM   #14
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Re: 052) Aikido Waza IS Kata: Week of September 7, 2009

Quote:
Marc Abrams wrote: View Post
I am amazed, amused, entertained,. by the seemingly endless debate as to the "effectiveness"/"reality". of Aikido waza. This debate seems to be nothing other than the dreaded "red herring." What if people looked at Aikido waza as KATA?
Kata are pre-arranged patterns of movement that can be done by one or more people (more than one person implies a choreography of patterned movements between the people). Most people know of kata through other martial arts, such as karate, or Iaido. Nobody seems to question whether or not it would be effective to use Sanchin Kata (very old Okinawan Kata) in a street fight. Instead, the mindless debate revolves around whether or not kata is an effective way of teaching the art. If kata were simply the sum of the movements, then there would never be a debate. It would be obvious that choreographed movements would not be a good way of teaching a fighting style/art, because reality rarely works out to be like what we would imagine things to be.
Kata is like the title of a book. The title is the starting point of learning. Kata is the representation of principles (some hidden, some obvious) that are critical to the effective learning of and enacting of that martial art or style. This learning process has been described as involving three stages. The first stage is the faithful replication of your teacher's movements. The second stage is the adaptation of those movements to "fit" your uniqueness. The third stage is the discovery of the principles inside and separate from the movements, so that one can enact the principles in absence of those specific movement patterns.
Kata has a profound depth to it. If the teacher is not actively exploring and integrating the depths of a particular kata, than there will be dilution of the teaching over successive generations. This has happened in about every martial art. The truly sad aspect is that it is easy to assume that much has been lost in the world of martial arts. The exciting aspect is that one can seek to search and explore, to rediscover the "lost secrets" (with no guarantee of success!).
Aikido Waza IS Kata! It is a senseless activity to simply mimic the choreographed movements of the nage and uke, expecting that you will become a formidable martial artist. It is truly sad to see so many people stay stuck at the first stage of kata learning. All that you are left with is a beautiful "dance" between nage and uke. People need to dedicate themselves to explore the principles that are inherent in each waza. A good teacher should be actively exploring these principles of movement to develop true "Aiki" that can be expressed in "Do." As your teacher develops, so should you. We all should be left with a state of wonderment with how deep the depth of each waza is. We should all be striving to deepen our understanding of the underlying principles of our art, so that the spontaneous expression of this art occurs in such a manner that the "uninitiated" remark that "This is not Aikido", "that was phony" or some other statement reflecting the inability to understand what one has seen.
This week, we will return our focus to the execution of waza. The task for the students is to begin to examine waza for the principles that we have been actively discussing and probing in class for a while now. If I view my practice as kata, then it is also up to the students to explore my perspective to determine if I am simply off-base, or on to some meaningful path that we all can travel on together.
Marc Abrams Sensei

(Original blog post may be found here.)
Hi Marc,

Regarding aikido waza as kata, specifically with bokken and jo, how do you view them as compared to what you recently learned at the seminar? For example, turning from the waist versus hips (as most aikido schools do)? Does it not seem that the "kata" is flawed when looked at in that light? Where would the profound depth be if turning from the hips is used instead of turning from the waist?

Regarding quite a lot of the aikido warm-ups. Where do you see them in regards to the overall training in aikido? From the seminar, do you see them as a type of "solo training" such as the shiko that was done? If these are "solo training", then how does that build into the kata of aikido? Was not sanchin kata supposedly done to build a "strong" body such that the rest of training was done with "power"? ("strong" and "power" are not of the purely muscular kind.) How do you see the warm-ups in relation to sanchin kata and then related to aikido kata?

Regarding techniques. If most of the emphasis of a technique is placed upon moving the body, timing the move to take advantage of leading uke, and using "holes" to drop uke into, then how do you see that as comparable to what you learned at the seminar? If what I described as the emphasis of the technique is the principles, how does that build aiki? Where are the principles of internal skills being shown such that one can explore the kata for depth? As a related tangent, how does the overall aikido waza work as kata to help build aiki?

IF the waza is flawed fundamentally, can one still explore the depths to find correct principles? If you look at specific people who are very martially capable, do the move the same as most other martial artists? Do they feel the same? IF not, then looking at the martial curriculum (aikido waza) and looking at all those people who have studied and trained it for many long years, what would you say is the disconnect in not creating more martially capable people? By martially capable, I believe you've experienced at least a couple. Ushiro comes to mind as one example.

Finally, in the questions above, replace the concepts of internal and aiki with the concept of spirituality. In a nutshell, does aikido kata with exploring its depths build a spirituality as Ueshiba had built? Something similar?
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Old 09-09-2009, 07:18 AM   #15
Marc Abrams
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Re: 052) Aikido Waza IS Kata: Week of September 7, 2009

Quote:
Mark Murray wrote: View Post
Hi Marc,

Regarding aikido waza as kata, specifically with bokken and jo, how do you view them as compared to what you recently learned at the seminar? For example, turning from the waist versus hips (as most aikido schools do)? Does it not seem that the "kata" is flawed when looked at in that light? Where would the profound depth be if turning from the hips is used instead of turning from the waist?
The hip does turn, but it starts with and is connected to the rotation in the waist. You are making a global assumption that is not necessarily true. Are you so certain that "Aikido Waza" is flawed and does not have profound depth? What if part of the discovery of kata is in that realization. Attending the seminar with Dan was not a "black and white" experience, but part of a path of discovery of the understanding of Aikido waza/kata. All of the stuff that I am working on is integrated into my overall budo experience. Maybe when I feel more comfortable about where I am in the journey, I can provide a more detailed answer. Knowing me, do not hold your breath.

Quote:
Mark Murray wrote: View Post
Regarding quite a lot of the aikido warm-ups. Where do you see them in regards to the overall training in aikido? From the seminar, do you see them as a type of "solo training" such as the shiko that was done? If these are "solo training", then how does that build into the kata of aikido? Was not sanchin kata supposedly done to build a "strong" body such that the rest of training was done with "power"? ("strong" and "power" are not of the purely muscular kind.) How do you see the warm-ups in relation to sanchin kata and then related to aikido kata?
I have always used my "warm-ups" that I teach my students as a critical part of training-> solo training. The solo training "stuff" I use to develop awareness and skill in executing particular principles of movement. these principles are chained together to create Aikido waza-> kata. Your understanding of sanchin kata is not the understanding that I have. I would refer you to Ushiro Kenji's books "Karate and Ki" & "Kata: The essence of Bujutsu Karate" for an excellent source of information on this subject matter. Better yet, the Ushiro Sensei seminar will be on 10/24 & 10/25. Dan is planning on attending, please join the party. Details on my website at www.aasbk.com/events.php

Quote:
Mark Murray wrote: View Post
Regarding techniques. If most of the emphasis of a technique is placed upon moving the body, timing the move to take advantage of leading uke, and using "holes" to drop uke into, then how do you see that as comparable to what you learned at the seminar? If what I described as the emphasis of the technique is the principles, how does that build aiki? Where are the principles of internal skills being shown such that one can explore the kata for depth? As a related tangent, how does the overall aikido waza work as kata to help build aiki?
The emphasis that you place your technique is not the same emphasis that I place. What I learned at Dan's seminar fills a critical gap in body structure and body movement that I have been struggling with. That is why I will continue to focus time and attention in this area (not the only area). I view waza as a chain of enacted principles (aka- kata). If I am beginning to get it (and I think that I am, subject to revisions later!) then the practice reveals profound depths. So far, they have. That is why the more that I train, the more that I realize how much there is for me to learn.

Quote:
Mark Murray wrote: View Post
IF the waza is flawed fundamentally, can one still explore the depths to find correct principles? If you look at specific people who are very martially capable, do the move the same as most other martial artists? Do they feel the same? IF not, then looking at the martial curriculum (aikido waza) and looking at all those people who have studied and trained it for many long years, what would you say is the disconnect in not creating more martially capable people? By martially capable, I believe you've experienced at least a couple. Ushiro comes to mind as one example.
I do not look at this process as an all or none process. When I owned up that MY waza was fundamentally flawed, I had specific questions to my teacher, who has been awesome at enabling me to address and fix my own inadequate waza practice. As to why some "skilled" martial artists cannot be and/or create martially capable people, stay tuned-> next weeks blog was already planned to continue this week's topic and will explore that subject matter. For now, issues of effective teaching and appropriately framing what we do are two good headings.

Quote:
Mark Murray wrote: View Post
Finally, in the questions above, replace the concepts of internal and aiki with the concept of spirituality. In a nutshell, does aikido kata with exploring its depths build a spirituality as Ueshiba had built? Something similar?
Another DEEP question that I also plan to address in several weeks in my blog section (WHAT ARE YOU, AN AIKI MIND READER!). I think that the concept of "replacing" terms misdirects the issue. I will leave a biblical teaser: GOD provided the "fruit of knowing right from wrong" to Adam and Eve. GOD did not direct them in what choices they should make.

Marc Abrams
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