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Old 01-25-2010, 08:39 AM   #1
Keith R Lee
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Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

http://www.straightblastgym.com/blog...at-joints.html

The blog itself is more of his usual thing, Aliveness v. dead patterns and science v. religion, but he uses his an encounter with a friend who had been training in Aikido for ten years an an example for his arguments.

Keith Lee
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Old 01-25-2010, 09:41 AM   #2
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

Yawn. Mr. Thornton is a salesman and as used (what he's selling isn't new) car salesmen often do he has no problems telling you how the car lot down the street is total shit and will rip you off, but buy his car and you will never want to drive anything else.

I don't disagree with his "aliveness" pitch at all, if that's what you feel you need to train for, but his constant assertion that TMA's and Aikido are worthless in a fight are comical.
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Old 01-25-2010, 10:07 AM   #3
dps
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

I didn't read the blog, I just looked at the pictures.
I like this one. I put it on my computer's desktop wallpaper.

Last edited by dps : 01-25-2010 at 10:10 AM.
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Old 01-25-2010, 02:20 PM   #4
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

Very interesting. Thanks Keith.

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Old 01-25-2010, 06:01 PM   #5
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

Thanks for the post Keith. I'd love to find a hole in his logic, and I don't like that he is so blunt about his experiences with aikido, but to be honest, I could have been the aikidoka friend that he encountered. I had almost that exact experience of dissonance that aikidoka had when Matt was a purple belt, and I had pretty darn much the same conversation with the purple belt that burst my aiki bubble as well.

I get what he is saying and understand it and frankly as hard as it is to listen to what Matt is saying I think he is right.

Now, it does not mean that he is right in dismissing aikido as a training methodolgy, but the fact of the matter that aikidoka could not articulate or communicate aikido outside of the aikido paradigm!

I had the same thing happen to me...why should the aikidoka not be able to "roll" with Matt?

Why should he NOT be able to clearly articulate the value of aikido as a martial practice?

Why feel bad about your practice? Why let Matt be a threat to you and bother you?

Matt is correct in his concepts and I think they are fairly well thought out.

It is obvious that he may place a slightly different value or weight on training than others do in martial arts, specifically Aikido..but frankly...his assessments and opinions are pretty darn correct for the most part.

So what are you doing about it? Ignoring it? Meeting his challenge head on? Sending him an email to get with him to show him why he is wrong? Whining about it? dismissing it or what?

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Old 01-26-2010, 10:20 AM   #6
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

Excellent post by Thornton.
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Old 01-26-2010, 12:38 PM   #7
David Orange
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

Quote:
Keith Lee wrote: View Post
The blog itself is more of his usual thing, Aliveness v. dead patterns and science v. religion, but he uses his an encounter with a friend who had been training in Aikido for ten years an an example for his arguments.
Geez. I finally managed to find the aikido part after skimming over that long-winded diatribe.

Interestingly, he first states that the aikido guy was a "lifelong" practitioner of aikido, then says he actually had ten years' experience. And then he used this one guy as "the" aikido that he could bash, putting all aikidoka in the world to shame.

The biggest fallacy I see in that article is the "alive" versus "traditional" martial arts. I know I never saw him at the old yoseikan hombu, where the training was very much "alive," though not to the point of cage matches. We didn't really try to hammer the uke, but the training was definitely very hard, strenuous, wiley and always overpowering with numerous highly qualified black belts to follow any one you had just fought. Aikido was used against karate attacks, judo attacks, weapons attacks, wrestling attacks and if the aikido man didn't make a clean final throw in the first instant, then the encounter virtually always went to the ground for a few minutes of newaza leading to a submission or choke from either one who could get it. And when you struggled back to your feet, here came another fourth or fifth dan to get you and you had to do it again--maybe with six or seven attackers in a row, each one taking you to the ground if you didn't throw him at first contact.

Would I be able to beat or wear down Matt Thorton today?

Well, he is professional martial artist and, despite my history in martial arts, including some long stints where that was my only source of income, I'm a researcher in public health now. So he could probably beat me. But I guarantee you I know some aikido men that can flat kick his ass.

So, while the yoseikan of that day was not entirely "traditional" because Mochizuki was such a maverick, the big difference was not in the techniques but in the wide diversity of techniques he taught--aikido, judo, jujutsu, karate, sword, bo, tanbo, tanto and anything else anyone could bring. He loved it when a prison guard who trained with us started bringing in sambo. That training was all traditional--in the original sense of traditional: learning everything possible for the sake of survival. Our training in those days was very much alive. But it still stopped far short of real, all-out combat (most of the time). What I'm getting at is that Thorton didn't look too far and wide for the best of "traditional" martial arts. I know multi-degree aikido black belts that are sheer embarrassments when the subject turns to serious physical results. But why use them as examples of 'real' aikido? They are, at best, examples of what happens when an art spreads too far and too wide too fast. The standards drop. If you want to bash an art, you should find the best man in that art and try him out before you speak.

Another big weak point in that article is the hard-headed belief that standardized patterns of kata are necessarily "dead".

Mochizuki Sensei created several very interesting kata of his own and he taught many, many others. We spent a lot of hard work refining those kata, but the core of all our training was randori with heavy resistance. We tried to apply the principles from the kata to improve our performance in randori, but we had to know both with considerable depth.

The kata are like the "encyclopedia" of the arts. A scientist doesn't say "All those old formulas and axioms don't apply to me because I only work in the 'real' world of test tubes and chemical reactions." He knows that there is tremendous value in all the documentation of all the scientific research that has gone before. Traditional MA katas are just like that. They contain the documentation of what other people learned the hard way long before us. They didn't survive because the guy who created them was a weakling. They survived because he was very good and the people who followed him accepted them as his gift from history.

Surely, Thorton's group has some kind of patterned basics. They undoubtedly use lop sau and pak sau and some of the other wing chun basics. Those are very old patterns of movement but I think they have a lot of very good content.

Another way of looking at kata is to compare them to the works of Shakespeare. Should we dismiss Shakespeare because "no one talks like that anymore"? Despite the archaic language that you can't use in the modern world, Shakespeare's plays are full of the depth of human nature and intrigue--things that will remain as long as humans live. So to reject all kata and patterned teachings is extremely dumb or arrogant and probably also hypocritical (if he does use at least some patterned basics).

It seems that all his knowledge of TMA comes from the soke-dokies who made up half their katas and teach them as "what to do" instead of as examples of approaches. Even the most avant garde jazz musician is an expert in scales. And just so, a martial artist should really understand kata as a historical starting point. Thorton wants to convince us that TMA "forces" us to limit ourselves strictly to what is in kata and to do it exactly as it is done in kata. That's either simply ingnorant or it's willfully ignorant. In either case, it's wrong.

No doubt the Gracies have great stuff. They came out with their challenge to all comers with a $50,000 purse while I was still living at the yoseikan, well before they started UFC. Everyone at the yoseikan was very impressed but it wasn't so much their techniques that made the difference as it was their emphasis on real fighting, and that's just not something you can apply to everyone who is interested in learning some self-defense. You can't go totally abstract (as some aikido schools do) but you can't put boxing gloves on a twenty-year-old secretary and "teach" her by knocking her out. Geez. Get real. You have to teach to the person's level and cultivate their abilities.

I used to spar from time to time with a jkd guy. He only agreed to spar with me if I promised not to do any throws on him. Should I use him as "the" example of JKD and as proof that JKD is weak? That was over 30 years ago, before JKD included throws or extensive ground fighting. I sparred that guy many times while leaving out all my best techniques. And I was able to use the aikido movement with karate hands and feet to do quite well against him, especially since I was using my weakest stuff against his strongest.

About a year ago, I met one of that guy's top students while comparing notes with a mutual friend. He wanted to see what I did so I stood in an open, natural stance in front of him, arms down, and said, "Attack me."

He couldn't believe it. He said "Do you fight with the strong side forward or the weak side forward?" (which right there is a "pattern" of thinking and acting.)

I said, "I don't fight with any side forward. This is "zero stance". Attack any way you want to."

He attacked with a front kick. I sidestepped and scooped his leg from below and had him dancing around on one foot while I controlled his kicking leg. I made no other technique, though I could have put him on his head in that same move. He didn't seem to realize that I had just handed him his butt without doing anything. He said he didn't want lessons or didn't want me to show him techniques. He wanted to fight.

I woudn't do it because of fear.

I was afraid that if he got a little frustrated he would do what his teacher did, which was get mad and really go after you to hit you at all costs. And if that happened, I would instinctively go into sutemi waza and put him on his head. I was afraid that I would break his neck and put him in a wheelchair and that people who go around saying what a violent guy David Orange is would have more things to say about me. So I let him go away telling people I was afraid to fight him.

Of course, I was also considering the potential for the opposite, that I could get seriously hurt while trying not to hurt him, and that I could lose my ability to work and support my family. It simply wasn't worth either outcome for me to impress someone who didn't get the message when I absorbed his first attack without warning or preparation.

Last, I just can't forget that the root of all that kind of superior talk is Bruce Lee, who died at age 32 after doing a lot of that kind of talking, himself. Speaking of dead, that ought to be a warning to anyone but it doesn't seem to get through to some people.

Best to all.

David

"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

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Old 01-26-2010, 01:06 PM   #8
Pete Rihaczek
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

Quote:
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So what are you doing about it? Ignoring it? Meeting his challenge head on? Sending him an email to get with him to show him why he is wrong? Whining about it? dismissing it or what?
I suspect most Aikidoka will dismiss it, for reasons he addresses very well in his article.

It would be fun to debate him on some minor points he may not have addressed already, but on balance he's correct enough that it wouldn't refute his central theme of the importance of aliveness if gaining real ability is your goal, although there is a bit of throwing the baby out with the bathwater and painting "traditional martial arts" with a broad negative brush.

He leaves himself an out by stating that anything shown to work will be incorporated in accordance with what is essentially the scientific method approach of JKD. One of the small problems with that position though is that *somebody* has to be doing the research a la the scientific method to see what else in the traditional arts can function "alive" in modern contexts. If he automatically paints everyone pursuing anything traditional as a de facto wanker then that can't happen and everyone has to assume that the current MMA blend can't be improved upon. There are certainly capable groups such as the Dog Brothers who are actively experimenting with incorporating kali/silat into the MMA context, and perhaps such efforts are more deserving of respect than what Thornton's position would seem to imply. It's not like kali/silat has never been used against live opponents, it's just that the live context was different than the MMA context.

Interestingly it appears that Ueshiba actively focused on creating counters to the judo syllabus back in the day, so it's not a stretch that he would continue to adapt if he were alive today. Without such active work to update Aikido, I think Thornton's criticism of it is particularly apt and biting (especially when it comes to the negative correlation of real ability and "dojo attitude" in Aikido vs what he refers to as "true" arts).

Then there is also the issue of "too deadly for the ring" techniques, which IMO has been addressed too broadly. While it can be, and often is, used as an excuse for low-percentage techniques, it *is* legitimate to observe that the fighting context shapes the optimal mix. If for example strikes to the back of the head were legal in MMA, it would change the safety equation of going for leg takedowns and the risk of being sprawled on to expose the back of the head and spine to strikes, and it would otherwise alter the optimal strategy and syllabus.

Related to this, and a finer point on the "too deadly or not" issue, is that one can look at the "percentage" of a technique (how likely it is to a) have an opportunity to use it come up, and b) how likely is that the attempt to use it will be successful) as a function of context as well. Let's take the straight blast itself as an example. Despite being in the name of SBGi, I don't know if they even train the straight blast or the boxing blast anymore, but clearly it's not something you see in MMA events. Presumably the reason for this is that it's vulnerable to a level change/leg attack or otherwise not considered to have a good risk/reward profile compared to other things. But how many people on "the street" would be expecting a straight blast? In other words Vunak's approach of intercept-straight blast-headbutt/knees/elbows could have a significantly higher percentage at the local bar than the MMA ring. You could think of it in terms of a financial investment where it doesn't risk much but might have a good reward if it's successful. In other words despite the fact that everyone would be on to you if you pulled it off in a single MMA match you would be investing in a certain probability of being able to end a fight very quickly instead of immediately resorting to a strategy with a "high percentage but potentially slow" profile. In MMA you can afford to grind out a win against a similarly-skilled opponent, whereas in a "real" situation a mixed strategy where you take a chance to win quickly by surprise and have a fallback strategy may be optimal. That doesn't take away from the need for alive training, but again there's a finer point to be put on these things than what he argues.

Another issue is that he seems to entirely deride the value of building a particular foundation in any art prior to applying real pressure. This is particularly pertinent to topics such as IS, where there is a considerable investment needed to learn a counterintuitive body coordination prior to going "live" and applying pressure. Obviously in modern times it's a fair criticism that a method that requires umpteen years of such training before you can do anything meaningful against increasing degrees of resistance isn't practical if you're looking to realize a reasonable level of usable skill let alone maximize your learning curve, but in any case there are reasons that the traditional arts evolved the way they did, and I think there is more to be mined there (for those interested of course). As he says, at the end of the day fighting skill isn't all that useful a thing, so frankly I think an approach of mining traditional arts for practical modern use a la the Dog Brothers is just a more interesting hobby than bashing it out at the local MMA gym with the currently approved decaffeinated sport blend.
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Old 01-26-2010, 01:24 PM   #9
David Orange
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

Quote:
Pete Rihaczek wrote: View Post
...
Nicely put.

David

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Old 01-26-2010, 01:51 PM   #10
grondahl
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

OTOH, I would wery much doubt that Thornton sees the Dog Brothers as good example of kata-based MA since they infact use "alive" training (very alive from the videos Ive come across).

Quote:
Pete Rihaczek wrote: View Post
There are certainly capable groups such as the Dog Brothers who are actively experimenting with incorporating kali/silat into the MMA context, and perhaps such efforts are more deserving of respect than what Thornton's position would seem to imply. It's not like kali/silat has never been used against live opponents, it's just that the live context was different than the MMA context.
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Old 01-26-2010, 02:50 PM   #11
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

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David Orange wrote: View Post
The biggest fallacy I see in that article is the "alive" versus "traditional" martial arts. I know I never saw him at the old yoseikan hombu, where the training was very much "alive," though not to the point of cage matches. We didn't really try to hammer the uke, but the training was definitely very hard, strenuous, wiley and always overpowering with numerous highly qualified black belts to follow any one you had just fought. Aikido was used against karate attacks, judo attacks, weapons attacks, wrestling attacks and if the aikido man didn't make a clean final throw in the first instant, then the encounter virtually always went to the ground for a few minutes of newaza leading to a submission or choke from either one who could get it. And when you struggled back to your feet, here came another fourth or fifth dan to get you and you had to do it again--maybe with six or seven attackers in a row, each one taking you to the ground if you didn't throw him at first contact.
I think that choosing the Yoseikan as representative sample of Aikido you are being as unfair as Thornton. .

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Old 01-26-2010, 03:00 PM   #12
David Orange
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

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Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
I think that choosing the Yoseikan as representative sample of Aikido you are being as unfair as Thornton. .
Coulda gone with Tomiki. I've seen some Tomiki that was very soft, people that were flacid....but I've seen some that was pretty rough. Or we could go with some of the Yoshinkan people. Mainly, it's all the prewar teachers and their descendants that stayed pretty rugged. That's what I think of when I think of aikido.

I will admit that most people don't think of those things when they think of aikido, but they have an image of a guy who's 50% overweight with a roomful of students who are either 50% over or 50% underweight, smiling insipidly as one pretends to throw and the other pretends to be thrown....

But as I say. I don't consider that to be good aikido and you can't go mess with someone like that and think now you know what all aikido is everywhere in the world.

David

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Old 01-26-2010, 06:49 PM   #13
eyrie
 
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

Thornton's "aliveness" argument is in contrast to TMA's "fixed" kata-based training method - IOW "dead" - since anything that does not evolve/adapt to change is dead - or ends up dead.

Since we all know kata is merely a teaching/learning framework, and is not a true representation of actual combat, the "aliveness" argument is essentially a strawman.

Everyone knows (or should know) that kata is for all intents and purposes "ritualized" movement/combat - for reasons already outlined. One obviously doesn't "fight" using rigid kata movements, or in the rigid sequence imposed by embusen. Obviously, adaptation and change is implicit in everything we do.... unless one is such a noob as not to see that.

I've had this very vocal debate with some ppl on FA.com years ago. To suggest that there is no such thing remotely resembling kata in what Thornton does is ridiculous. How else would a noob otherwise learn basic technique? And to which I never got a straight answer from the "aliveness" proponents.

Ignatius
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Old 01-26-2010, 06:53 PM   #14
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

David wrote:

Quote:
I will admit that most people don't think of those things when they think of aikido, but they have an image of a guy who's 50% overweight with a roomful of students who are either 50% over or 50% underweight, smiling insipidly as one pretends to throw and the other pretends to be throw
For me though, it was not even that...as I am "not that guy" but pretty competent at Martial Arts even before I took BJJ. That was not the issue at all.

The issue was I simply did not understand the aspect of fighting from that paradigm or in that spectrum that BJJ or grappling deals with.

It became very apparent when I threw on a Blauer suit in a CQB environment and then proceeded to go "No Holds Barred" with weapons, a taser, and knees, elbows etc....

Bottom line, all my years of training had not prepared me for managing a fight or even training in the way.

I understand that now. I have a better understanding of the place aikido serves as a martial methodology, and I can (I hope) articulate aikido's relevance in the spectrum of training.

To me that is the issue. Not looking at a "typical dojo" and passing judgement. Matt seems like a straight shooter with good evaluation criteria.

Frankly given what he trains for and his criteria...it really probably is a very poor mechanism for delivering the skills that he is looking for and the clientele that he serves.

So, based on that...I have no bone really to pick with Matt as he is simply making what I think is an honest judgement call and if someone came along and could show him different...he'd say cool, lets go!

The questions we have to ask ourselves is "are we really as open minded to do the same as well?" AND "do we understand our own criteria for evaluating our training objectives?"

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Old 01-26-2010, 10:35 PM   #15
David Orange
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

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The questions we have to ask ourselves is "are we really as open minded to do the same as well?" AND "do we understand our own criteria for evaluating our training objectives?"
I agree with him on many levels. We probably agree more than we disagree, but I think he still has a deep level of conviction that aikido (and all TMA) is just repetition of patterns that conditions one to be unable to move or respond outside those patterns, and that is simply ignorant. I've seen that attitude so much in JKD circles and of course all that is a form of worship of a guy whose training methods killed him at an early age. And who, by the way, did not ever do very much real fighting with highly experienced martial artist--mostly street fights among punks, the notable exception being Man Jack Wong, who was expert in several "traditional" martial arts and who is still alive and doing tai chi and bagua today, all these decades after Bruce supposedly "destroyed" him.

But again, I do agree that liveness is an absolute necessity in training for survival.

I just disagree with Thorton's assessments of aikido and of kata.

That whole crowd really also fails to realize that kata were created by and for people who seldom had anything but severe and deadly experience that was always "life or death" rather than "alive training."
There's only so much of that all-out bloody "research" you can do before you simply die from an accumulation of serious injuries.

And how do two seriously-blooded fighters share information on deadly techniques without killing one another in the process? Kata were made by seriously deadly men to let them share information with other seriously deadly men. It's not the fault of kata that modern people generally lack that whole level of experience. It's we who need more "alive" experience before we can really understand the meaning contained in the kata.

I don't consider kata to be "ritualized combat," as Ignatius suggests, but as a way for a deadly person to show you what he considers the most important techniques and, more important, the principles behind those techniques.

I suppose if the most advanced kata you ever saw was from some homemade 10th dan who makes up a new "dance of death" every weekend, you would think there's not much content to it. But like aikido, you have to judge it by the best available instead of whatever scattered trash you find blowing against your shoes on the street.

It just never fails to impress me with irony when people supposedly dedicated to open-minded exploration for the truth can reject so much that has been proven through centuries without really giving it much of a look.

Geez.

David

"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

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Old 01-26-2010, 10:48 PM   #16
David Orange
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
AND "do we understand our own criteria for evaluating our training objectives?"
When the topic is actual war combat (as opposed to "combat" where someone is pointing a finger at you), I know you're talking a whole nother level.

For me, it's just the real world of a rather dangerous hometown filled with some crazy sobs who are liable to do literally anything on a sudden impulse--baseball bats, knives, pistols, sticks, medieval swords. You meet some pretty crazy people around my part of the world, who act friendly when they find out you have some kind of black belt, but they're always really sizing you up and wondering how you would react to this or that sudden attack. And if they think they have a chance, they might just swing a bottle at your head or slash at you with a knife. And there are criminals who actually plot out robbery methods like football plays, to get a victim between two guys in a tight space before he knows it, and then bring out weapons.

I have found myself in a number of suddenly very dicey situations over the years and have so far come out of each one with all my money and dignity intact without having to fight it out. I credit that more to God's taking care of me than to my taking care of myself, but I've always thought that one thing God did to protect me was to give me a good background in very good aikido.

I make my living with science, but when I go out on the streets around here, I'd rather have God with me than statistics.

David

"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

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www.davidorangejr.com
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Old 01-26-2010, 11:26 PM   #17
Shane Goodrich
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

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I make my living with science, but when I go out on the streets around here, I'd rather have God with me than statistics.

David
I'd rather have a gun.
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Old 01-27-2010, 08:27 AM   #18
David Orange
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

Quote:
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I'd rather have a gun.
To each his own.

I had a student once who was fascinated with guns and knives. He wanted me to teach him the stuff out of one of Mike Echanis' books. It looked just like yoseikan, except with a double-edged knife in each hand. With every move, he was slicing and dicing. My student wanted to be like Echanis and go down to Central America and kill folks.

I declined to help him work that stuff up and even stopped teaching for some time because of that.

He did go into the military, but I don't know what he did there. When he got out, he carried pistols with him all the time.

One night, at an ATM, a guy with a pistol came up and demanded his money. The guy pulled his own gun and shot the fellow in the leg. The guy went to the ground, but he fired up and shot my former student through the heart.

The former student ran some several steps and fell dead.

Well, who knows how we each will meet our fates? One thing for sure, we will meet it.

I'd rather have God's hand in mine at that time than to have a gun in my hand.

But that's just me.

David

"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

"Eternity forever!"

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Old 01-27-2010, 11:31 AM   #19
Shane Goodrich
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

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David Orange wrote: View Post
Well, who knows how we each will meet our fates? One thing for sure, we will meet it.

I'd rather have God's hand in mine at that time than to have a gun in my hand.

But that's just me.

David
I rather have a close friend(s) hand in mine at that time.

But thats just me, like you said to each there own.
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Old 01-27-2010, 11:39 AM   #20
David Orange
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

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Shane Goodrich wrote: View Post
I rather have a close friend(s) hand in mine at that time.
God is my close friend. None closer. And I guess that's another point where I disagree with Thorton. I make my living in science. My life is in God.

David

"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

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Old 01-27-2010, 01:09 PM   #21
John Connolly
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

Thorton makes a (generally) good argument for stress testing and randori, but fails to mention that ALL MMA, BJJ, and JKD use drills to develop motor skill responses. Drills ARE kata!

Duh.

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Old 01-27-2010, 03:02 PM   #22
David Orange
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

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John Connolly wrote: View Post
Thorton makes a (generally) good argument for stress testing and randori, but fails to mention that ALL MMA, BJJ, and JKD use drills to develop motor skill responses. Drills ARE kata!

Duh.
Another thing I noticed was the emphasis on getting the person trained the fastest, comparing groups trained in the "traditional" way, the "alive" way and those not trained. He theorized that the alive group would become "effective" faster and that the untrained group would probably be better off than those trained for a short time in aikido. Again, that's assuming that the aikido training was as he defines it, dead.

My teacher told me to "teach as much as possible as fast as possible," and to "teach something at every lesson that they can go out and use that very day."

From those instructions and my experience in aikido and the broad yoseikan curriculum, I developed my Zero Degree teaching method, which I think is extremely good for quick development of self-defense skills without the student's feeling like he's doing a lot of self-defense training.

Anyway, all that aside, there is still the question of what happens "long term"? It seems to me that BJJ has shown long-term effectiveness and relative safety and that it can be practiced by people of a wide range of sizes and weights, so that should not be a problem, depending on several other concerns. The JKD, in my mind, is far less valuable.

On the other hand, when I think of some of the long-term American teachers of aikido I've known, it seems they are far more likely to get progressively less well conditioned as they age. American aikido teachers I've seen tend to get fatter and less active as they age. I remember one 6th dan I saw who drove in from another city and did a demonstration. He did a very brief and terribly unrealistic looking randori with a skinny man and a small woman and at one point, the teacher almost blacked out. He had to stop the randori and bend over and put his hands on his knees to recover, right there in front of everyone. And he was considered a major instructor by most of the group in attendance.

This is especially bad when you're a "major instructor".

FWIW.

David

"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

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Old 01-27-2010, 06:14 PM   #23
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

David Orange wrote:

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I agree with him on many levels. We probably agree more than we disagree, but I think he still has a deep level of conviction that aikido (and all TMA) is just repetition of patterns that conditions one to be unable to move or respond outside those patterns, and that is simply ignorant.
I think he has probably had alot of experience with alot of guys that simply do not understand what they are doing martially. There are plenty of them out there for sure to serve as bad examples! I'd say the majority. I live in DC and there are probably only a handful of schools that I believe are worth the money or the time, not that I have been to every single school mind you, but ...well...my experiences with TMA pretty much is Matt's.

Quote:
I just disagree with Thorton's assessments of aikido and of kata.
Categorically, I'd agree with you, however, his experiences are his experiences and I think that is what he is going on, so again...I can understand how he could reach this conclusion.

Keep in mind also that his criteria and value weights are focused on a particular area of budo, so based on that...sure, it is completely useless in that area.

I also teach Army Combatives, while certainly Aikido has RELATED skill sets and structure...it is a very poor delivery mechanism as practiced by the majority of aikidoka...so on that criteria and value weight (Army Combatives) I'd say the same thing!

Practicing Basketball won't help him much either in this area and is a waste of time! THe thing is you don't go to a "basketball dojo" and see them professing to teach self defense or skills to help you in a fight.

99.9% or Aikido and TMA dojos have "Self Defense" on their websites..pick one...anyone and they list it. Go there and I bet they are doing the same fricking kata and stuff that the next one is doing and VERY little in terms of REAL skill sets that are needed in a fight or self defense.

So, I'd say based on that criteria...the shoe fits and it is easy for Matt to categorically pass this judgement cause categorically it is the case 99.9% of the time.

Why, because the illusion of Self Defense and lure of Mastering esoteric stuff like Steven Seagal and Bruce Lee brings folks in the dojo!

If we stopped all the nonsense, maybe we'd all understand what we were doing a little and folks wouldn't get the wrong ideas and we could agree that we are simply entertaining ourselves and having a good time for the majority of the time.

I think the saying is..."if the shoe fits...." if not, then no issue and Matt's brashness probably wouldn't bother us too much! I think though deep down, many of us know that there is something not quite exactly right about what is going on out there in the martial arts world...and THAT is why we get a little anxious and miffed when guys like Matt bring up the subject...we simply have alot of time and emotion invested in what we do and we can't figure out how to fix it.

Quote:
That whole crowd really also fails to realize that kata were created by and for people who seldom had anything but severe and deadly experience that was always "life or death" rather than "alive training."
There's only so much of that all-out bloody "research" you can do before you simply die from an accumulation of serious injuries.
I've seen alot of stupid stuff passed off as kata. I have also seen alot of good kata become dead and pointless because over time the folks doing it have no basis or criteria to evaluate it or to really understand what they are doing. Hence alot of our discussions over the years on Aikiweb...AND the whole topic of "the lost internal skills of Aikido".

Ellis Amdur even wrote a book that is the best on I have ever read on this whole subject. "Hidden in Plain Sight".

I dunno, you can train pretty hard and seriously and still do it in a very smart way that allows you to capture "lessons learned" and interpret it and codify it into appropriate patterns to be replicated over and over (kata).

Heck I am going on 45 and still manage to get my licks in and sustain a robust practice that is alive. I don't go out and do "dog brothers" stuff on a daily basis, but you don't need to do that daily either....but once you understand the dynamics of what the dog brothers are doing, you can develop a practice (kata) that allows you to train "alive" without having to beat the crap out of each other. Matt has some very good examples on Youtube about this subject actually.

Quote:
And how do two seriously-blooded fighters share information on deadly techniques without killing one another in the process? Kata were made by seriously deadly men to let them share information with other seriously deadly men. It's not the fault of kata that modern people generally lack that whole level of experience. It's we who need more "alive" experience before we can really understand the meaning contained in the kata.
Why not go out and find guys that are legitimate and have the depth and experience? I agree that most modern people lack this whole level of experience, however, there are alot of good accessible folks out there that have that experience AND they understand the spectrum of training methodologies and what each of them are designed to do.

Student composition and base has alot to do with what we can train on as well. I have wanted to teach more advanced stuff in classes I have run, but frankly the level of conditioning of the average "civilian" student is not up to par to handle alive training.

If you do the necessary stuff to get them in shape, they will complain and say "hey" I came here to learn "self defense" and Aikido...not get punished, abused, and do a workout! Yet that is probably the best thing they could do martially!

Quote:
I don't consider kata to be "ritualized combat," as Ignatius suggests, but as a way for a deadly person to show you what he considers the most important techniques and, more important, the principles behind those techniques
Agree with this for the most part. Kata are simply drills. Drills to create appropriate patterns of muscle memory and habits in response to stimulus..whatever that may be.

They may also be used to implement Techniques, Tactics, and Procedures to do certain things in a fight or self defense situation.

Agree, all martial arts do them. Some do a better job at understanding why they are doing what they are doing than others. Some understand the pedagogy very well...most do not.

Quote:
I suppose if the most advanced kata you ever saw was from some homemade 10th dan who makes up a new "dance of death" every weekend, you would think there's not much content to it. But like aikido, you have to judge it by the best available instead of whatever scattered trash you find blowing against your shoes on the street.
Personally, when someone says "advanced kata" my Bullshit flag goes up right away. I have studied arts with Advanced Kata (tm). It is bullshit IMO. There is no such thing as advanced kata IMO.

When someone does advanced kata, the "advanced" part is them stringing a ever increasing bunch of moves and "special" thing together designed to be increasingly intricate and complex.

What this tells me is they either one, believe that there is advanced kata and they don't have no clue about Aliveness or fundamentals. Or they know this and they are a snake oil salesman selling belts along with "advanced" levels of training.

There are enough things to do with learning fundamental patterns of movements and principles at the basic levels...everything else IMO is simply a variation on the same them...sure, there are a zillion combinations and patterns to be devleoped.

that is why we have things like Jiyu Waza, Randori..and all the other forms of methodology that guys like Ueshiba, Funakoshi, and Kano codified into pedogogical practices.

Quote:
It just never fails to impress me with irony when people supposedly dedicated to open-minded exploration for the truth can reject so much that has been proven through centuries without really giving it much of a look
David, I personally don't think it is a issue with being open or closed minded, just simply getting tired of all the bullshit and crap that is thrown around in the name of martial arts. After a while you kinda develop a fairly good BS detector and know the patterns, language, and what not in order to see it, and Matt, I believe is a guy that has spent a great deal of time doing this.

Do some innocent folks and arts get taken out as "collateral damage" when he preaches his mantra...sure...I agree with that...but again...if the shoe fits.....

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Old 01-27-2010, 06:19 PM   #24
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

Quote:
John Connolly wrote: View Post
Thorton makes a (generally) good argument for stress testing and randori, but fails to mention that ALL MMA, BJJ, and JKD use drills to develop motor skill responses. Drills ARE kata!

Duh.
agree with this.

Also he DOES own a big gym and is using this to stir up emotion and motivate folks in his favor. Of course he is doing this. So he beneifts greatly by framing the discussion in this manner..even if I do agree with his assessment! lol!

I think we also have to laugh at the fact that THIS is a primary thing driving the whole reason he even cares and discusses things in this manner. Otherwise, he'd simply go on and train and not worry about what the rest of the world is doing!

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Old 01-27-2010, 08:49 PM   #25
David Orange
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Re: Matt Thorton recounts an experience with Aikido

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Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
I think he has probably had alot of experience with alot of guys that simply do not understand what they are doing martially. There are plenty of them out there for sure to serve as bad examples! I'd say the majority.
Agreed.

David Orange wrote:
"I just disagree with Thorton's assessments of aikido and of kata.
"
Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
Categorically, I'd agree with you, however, his experiences are his experiences and I think that is what he is going on...
But don't forget that his "experience" includes long steeping in the JKD traditional dogma that "kata is dead pattern." So I think he's also letting his beliefs and patterns get in the way of seeing the truth. How much experience has he had in kata? I know the old JKD guy I used to spar with once said, "I only ever learned one form in my life and I have tried hard to forget it." Not much of a basis for judging all kata, is it?

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Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
Keep in mind also that his criteria and value weights are focused on a particular area of budo, so based on that...sure, it is completely useless in that area.
Again, I'd say he has only seen the lower end of the scale. If he'd said, "TMA as practiced in the United States," I'd give him more credibility. I'm sure he's a good fighter, but so are a lot of street thugs. They have techniques that they share among themselves. Ever heard of "kicking the can"?

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Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
I also teach Army Combatives, while certainly Aikido has RELATED skill sets and structure...it is a very poor delivery mechanism as practiced by the majority of aikidoka...so on that criteria and value weight (Army Combatives) I'd say the same thing!
Yes, as practiced by the majority...you just don't see much of the old sword-based sharp-edged stuff anymore.

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Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
Practicing Basketball won't help him much either in this area and is a waste of time! THe thing is you don't go to a "basketball dojo" and see them professing to teach self defense or skills to help you in a fight.
I think they may share more of that among themselves than most people will ever know. There's a whole art to fouling and getting away with it that would prove very useful on the street. Lots of sports have that element. Maybe not good for warfare, but very effective for a bar or streetcorner.

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
99.9% or Aikido and TMA dojos have "Self Defense" on their websites..pick one...anyone and they list it. Go there and I bet they are doing the same fricking kata and stuff that the next one is doing and VERY little in terms of REAL skill sets that are needed in a fight or self defense.
Since most such schools are more or less homemade or breakaway "styles" from other breakaway "styles," probably true. But then many of them are formed by experienced fighters who know more about "alive" fighting than they do about traditional karate or jujutsu...and the TMA side is what's lacking. In other words, what you often see advertised as Karate has no real connection to the real art of karate.

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Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
Why, because the illusion of Self Defense and lure of Mastering esoteric stuff like Steven Seagal and Bruce Lee brings folks in the dojo!
Agreed.

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Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
If we stopped all the nonsense, maybe we'd all understand what we were doing a little and folks wouldn't get the wrong ideas and we could agree that we are simply entertaining ourselves and having a good time for the majority of the time.
Well, the folks that are doing the real thing are doing it and the ones faking it and stealing the glory are never going to change.

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Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
I think the saying is..."if the shoe fits...." if not, then no issue and Matt's brashness probably wouldn't bother us too much!
As I say, I agree with him in many points. But true aikido is apparently something he's never seen. And he is woefully uneducated (or deeply mis-educated) on the nature and purpose of kata.

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
I think though deep down, many of us know that there is something not quite exactly right about what is going on out there in the martial arts world...and THAT is why we get a little anxious and miffed when guys like Matt bring up the subject...we simply have alot of time and emotion invested in what we do and we can't figure out how to fix it.
Well, from my point of view, JKD is exactly that kind of thing. Bruce Lee had his last formal training from a master by the age of 18. And following his own way, he was dead at 32. If you read his Major Purpose In Life statement, it was not to be the greatest martial artist in the world: it was to be the greatest film action star. His words. Not mine. And all of his "research" into the martial arts of the world was mainly looking at books and watching films and cherry-picking what he liked and rejecting as useless anything he didn't understand. And that kind of narrow, uneducated thinking is very much a part of the problem. It's just another kind of "kroddy" to appeal to the masses who don't know better.

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Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
I've seen alot of stupid stuff passed off as kata. I have also seen alot of good kata become dead and pointless because over time the folks doing it have no basis or criteria to evaluate it or to really understand what they are doing. Hence alot of our discussions over the years on Aikiweb...AND the whole topic of "the lost internal skills of Aikido".
Yes, but that does not indict the kata method. It only indicts those who teach without deep understanding.

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
I dunno, you can train pretty hard and seriously and still do it in a very smart way that allows you to capture "lessons learned" and interpret it and codify it into appropriate patterns to be replicated over and over (kata).
The problem is his direct quote: "If it is in a pattern, or a repeated series of sets (kata, form, or djuru), then it is not Alive. In these cases it would contain no timing."

You know, this includes a Marine going through firing drills shooting at targets. It includes all step-by-step training methods that are not done with unpredictable sequence and live-action timing. And the only guaranteed result from that is a high rate of injury and a mass of people too bunged up to deploy.

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
Why not go out and find guys that are legitimate and have the depth and experience?
My point exactly. Matt Thorton didn't do that. He bases his opinion on dense dogma and experience of some low-level people who clearly don't understand their own arts.

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Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
I agree that most modern people lack this whole level of experience, however, there are alot of good accessible folks out there that have that experience AND they understand the spectrum of training methodologies and what each of them are designed to do.
Absolutely. Why didn't Matt look them up and base his opinions of TMA on what those people do?

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
Student composition and base has alot to do with what we can train on as well. I have wanted to teach more advanced stuff in classes I have run, but frankly the level of conditioning of the average "civilian" student is not up to par to handle alive training.
But traditional training, properly done, can bring them up to a very high level of conditioning and capacity, relatively safely, without ruining their bodies in the process.

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
If you do the necessary stuff to get them in shape, they will complain and say "hey" I came here to learn "self defense" and Aikido...not get punished, abused, and do a workout! Yet that is probably the best thing they could do martially!
Absolutely. It's why I don't teach on any large scale.

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Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
Agree with this for the most part. Kata are simply drills. Drills to create appropriate patterns of muscle memory and habits in response to stimulus..whatever that may be.
I have to say that's a misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of kata. Drills are quite separate from kata. Kata are more like mind/body puzzles to challenge dexterity and coordination as well as the intellectual understanding of the principles of the art. Most really traditional Japanese kata are done with really screwy timing if the purpose is to fight that way. See this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iYlo5TUfbM

This is not a drill and it definitely is not to create muscle memory or habits in response to stimulus. It's like an encyclopedia or text book of counter techniques. It's done like it is to show the techniques--from teacher to student to pass along the important principles to be intellectually used to improve actual fighting practice; and from student to teacher to very clearly show in big, slow movements, that the student has absorbed the principles and is working to incorporate them into his live training.

and this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSQ13Zby0DY

It would be impossible to fight this way. And all the elaborate movement between techniques would be waste if it were intended to ingrain response to stimulus. That's why you see so many Americans move sloppily in the spaces between "the techniques" of a kata. They don't realize that there is meaning there, as well as in the techniques. The kata are reference works to be mined for the content--not direct examples of how to fight or drills on how to move. They're all about the mind.

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Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
...all martial arts do them. Some do a better job at understanding why they are doing what they are doing than others. Some understand the pedagogy very well...most do not.
And to dismiss them as "dead" simply betrays a deep ignorance that really should not be advertised as a benefit of "live" training.

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Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
Personally, when someone says "advanced kata" my Bullshit flag goes up right away. I have studied arts with Advanced Kata (tm). It is bullshit IMO. There is no such thing as advanced kata IMO.
Advanced kata is 'real' kata that has come down from masters and has been maintained by masters along the way. Most of what we see was picked up by Master Joe Jimmy from Master Bob Billy, from Grandmaster Red Belt 11th Degree Jimmy Carl Jackson.

To say that "advanced kata" are bullshit or that they don't exist is like saying Newton's Principia is no more advanced than "Chariots of the Gods" or "Secrets of the Hollow Earth." Or that "The Bush Doctrine" is the equal of Sun Tzu's The Art of War.

Advanced kata training requires a really sound kata passed down by masters, maintained by masters along the way and experienced in a room full of men who have mastered it. Advanced kata cannot be learned from a book but has to be learned from men (or women) with an advanced undersanding of its meaning. It's definitely real and not BS.

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
When someone does advanced kata, the "advanced" part is them stringing a ever increasing bunch of moves and "special" thing together designed to be increasingly intricate and complex.
Absolutely not. Look at the first link above. That's fairly complex at first glance, but after a few run-throughs, you realize that it's really short and all the techniques are kihon waza. But that's a very advanced kata. It is not old, but it was created by a man who was a direct student of both Kano and Ueshiba, a master of katori shinto ryu and recognized throughout Japan as one of the leading authorities on ancient jujutsu. And the second kata is likewise very simple, illustrating not the techniques but the five most fundamental methods of tai sabaki done to the inside and to the outside, with a technique for each one. The important thing is the tai sabaki--not the techniques. In fact, Mochizuki Sensei once asked me to come up with a different technique to open the kata instead of the forward pulling drop shown. He wanted to put in something that better illustrated the potential of that nagashi tai sabaki. Since he created the kata, it was his prerogative to change it. I never did make any suggestions on that line, though.

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Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
What this tells me is they either one, believe that there is advanced kata and they don't have no clue about Aliveness or fundamentals. Or they know this and they are a snake oil salesman selling belts along with "advanced" levels of training.
And for the people you've observed, that was probably true. But, again, you're targeting the people and mistaking their weaknesses for a weakness with the kata system.

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
There are enough things to do with learning fundamental patterns of movements and principles at the basic levels...everything else IMO is simply a variation on the same them...sure, there are a zillion combinations and patterns to be devleoped.
And the point is to cling to those basics--not to complicate them for the sake of making them appear more advanced. "Advanced" just means that it reveals deeper levels of the simple basics.

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
David, I personally don't think it is a issue with being open or closed minded, just simply getting tired of all the bullshit and crap that is thrown around in the name of martial arts. After a while you kinda develop a fairly good BS detector and know the patterns, language, and what not in order to see it, and Matt, I believe is a guy that has spent a great deal of time doing this.
Yeah, but he has concluded that because he has never seen an actual diamond, cubic zirconia is the best there is.

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
Do some innocent folks and arts get taken out as "collateral damage" when he preaches his mantra...sure...I agree with that...but again...if the shoe fits.....
It does fit a lot of what is called "aikido" in the modern scene. It does not fit the real, root aikido that will always exist whether anyone is aware of it or not.

I appreciate your efforts to find the truth and I encourage you not to give up on it. There is great wealth of knowledge and value in the traditonal arts but you really have to get it from the source. The further you go downstream, the less you're going to find. The big boulders are at the top of the flow. At the beach, you just get pebbles and sand. And if you look out the wrong way, you just see driftwood and washed up trash.

Best to you.

David

Last edited by David Orange : 01-27-2010 at 08:57 PM.

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