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Old 02-10-2010, 12:20 AM   #126
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

Quote:
Toby Threadgill wrote: View Post
Sometimes I think people jump into a discussion without gettiing a sense for the flow of the whole thread..........
Well, let me offer my take as someone who's been part of the flow of the whole thread.

Quote:
Do you believe Ueshiba intended aikido to include authentic kenjutsu training?
I do not believe that it was Ueshiba's intention that aikido incorporate anything that had the distinct character of an authentic ryuha. I do believe, however, that it was his intention to incorporate effective swordwork into his aikido, swordwork that followed the principles of combat as he saw them. I took the liberty of being critical of Ueshiba's performance in the Asashi Shimbun film earlier, let me now state for the record that I don't think any kenjutsu practitioner in the world would look at Ueshiba's later films and find any fault with his swordwork. For Ueshiba, at least, "aiki-ken" represented a perfect expression of his view of budo, in body, mind, and deed, with a sword.

Quote:
Are you suggesting all aikido instructors should be teaching aiki-ken that is the same as authentic kenjutsu?
In my experience with teachers teaching aiki-ken (essentially students of Saito, and what I have read of Nishio), not one of them ever said anything to the effect that "In real kenjutsu, this would be ridiculous, but this is aiki-ken, so it has such-and-such purpose." Everyone of them believed, or at least maintained, that they were using the sword soundly, in accordance with the principles of swordsmanship, and the combat paradigm of aikido. I believe such aiki-ken is an attainable goal.

Quote:
As far as I know Ueshiba never represented aikido as including actual kenjutsu training.
He represented it as containing the "riai" of the ken, jo, and empty hand. If it has the riai of the sword, aiki-ken should not be "bad swordsmanship". It may be incomplete, as Mr. Ledyard alluded to earlier, but not "bad".

Quote:
Ueshiba himself was not a competent kenjutsuka and never formally studied kenjutsu in any depth. Did Ueshiba draw or employ a shinken regularly?
Ueshiba did not plumb the depths of a particular ryuha, no. But we know that swordsmanship was considered an integral part of his study. We know that he used some dabbling in Kashima Shinto-ryu and Yagyu Shinkage-ryu to further his own personal research. We can probably assume that he picked up similar smatterings of Jikishinkage-ryu and/or Ono-ha Itto-ryu from Takeda, since he attested to picking up smatterings of Hozoin-ryu from the same. Hell, that's if we don't believe that the (unlikely) theory that Takeda was licensed in the Edo line of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu and explicitly taught that to Ueshiba, to the point of giving him an official license in it.

We know that Ueshiba shared his distilled knowledge of swordsmanship with his pre-war and immediate post-war students, and that he encouraged his later post-war students, such as Nishio and Chiba, to take up the study of iai, ostensibly to aid in their understanding of their taijutsu. According to Shioda, his last "test" with Ueshiba included a taijutsu and a ken portion, the latter being something at least similar to a sparring match. In light of all that, I don't think we can assume that swordsmanship to Ueshiba was simply employing a bokken as a teaching tool.

The distinction between aiki-ken and "kenjutsu" should not be that aiki-ken doesn't have to be real or practical because it's simply an aid to the taijutsu, and "kenjutsu" is purely concerned with whatever that particular ryuha is concerned with. The distinction should be that aiki-ken is swordsmanship (kenjutsu, if you will) grounded in the combat paradigm of aikido, including such things as aiki (however one wants to define it) as well as such principles as irimi-denkan and/or irimi-issoku, and so on, while other kenjutsu is concerned with whatever that particular ryuha is concerned with.

Speaking now only of Saito-style aiki-ken, by Saito's own words and claims, there must be a proper "riai" -- a joining of inherent principles -- between ken, jo, and tai. Jo and tai inform and augment the ken, ken and tai inform and augment the jo, and ken and jo inform and augment the tai. In order to have the "riai", you have to have the "ri" -- the essential reasoning and principles. If your ken doesn't have the "ri" of the ken, then you don't have any "riai".

That said, in my opinion, in Saito Morihiro, at least, there was this "riai". Some of the work of his students may not have always fulfilled the "ri" of the sword, but from what I've seen his own aiki-ken always seemed good, and integrated with his jo and tai. Nor in any of his writings on aiki-ken have I seen anything that struck me as wrong or weird. The only thing I think is odd is the tachi-dori stuff, but of course that's endemic throughout aikido.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 02-10-2010, 12:46 AM   #127
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

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Allen Beebe wrote: View Post
". . . And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if "Aiki", he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if "Aiki", perhaps, means a little bit more." (Thanks Dr. Seuss!)
They seek it here, they seek it there, they seek it bloody everywhere. Is it in Ten, is it in Chi, that damned elusive "Real Aiki".

-Doug Walker
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Old 02-10-2010, 02:47 AM   #128
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

Excellent posts from Toby Threadgill and Josh Reyer
Quote:
Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
The distinction between aiki-ken and "kenjutsu" should not be that aiki-ken doesn't have to be real or practical because it's simply an aid to the taijutsu, and "kenjutsu" is purely concerned with whatever that particular ryuha is concerned with. The distinction should be that aiki-ken is swordsmanship (kenjutsu, if you will) grounded in the combat paradigm of aikido, including such things as aiki (however one wants to define it) as well as such principles as irimi-denkan and/or irimi-issoku, and so on, while other kenjutsu is concerned with whatever that particular ryuha is concerned with.
Just some thoughts...

In a purely sword-based art, if you lose your sword, you can no longer practice your art. Aiki-ken uses the sword but if you take the sword away, the dynamic principles remain the same. Also, when you practice without the sword, the sword is "still there".
Quote:
Toby Threadgill wrote: View Post
If you want to be a aikidoka who is also a competent swordsman, thats fine and dandy...... Train in kenjutsu in addition to aikido.
Josh mentioned aikido principles such as "Aiki" (however defined).

One problem I have with any "Aikido VS whatever" discussion is this: It seems to me that aikido isn't VS anything. The whole point is to avoid a VS situation. It's not your power with the sword/jo/body VS the other guy's. If you do well, you are able to create the non-VS situation and sort things out. If you don't, you don't. More likely you'll get a mixed bag. The training as I see it (with or without weapons), is a study of how to get into that non-VS situation. How testing comes into that (resistance, sparring, competition etc) is another debate, but can we call it kenjutsu when it's done with a sword...?
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Old 02-10-2010, 02:52 AM   #129
Charles Hill
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

Just to throw a little gas on the fire...

The story goes that Ueshiba actually used his sword to kill people whilst on that Omoto-kyo fiasco in Mongolia. And this was before the 1936 film. How many kenjutsu teachers can say that?
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Old 02-10-2010, 05:49 AM   #130
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote: View Post
Just to throw a little gas on the fire...

The story goes that Ueshiba actually used his sword to kill people whilst on that Omoto-kyo fiasco in Mongolia. And this was before the 1936 film. How many kenjutsu teachers can say that?
Do you have a source for that? The only thing I've heard, from horse's mouth, was that he was involved in a fire fight, during which he used a Mauser.

Quote:
Carl Thompson wrote:
In a purely sword-based art, if you lose your sword, you can no longer practice your art.
I disagree with that.

Last edited by Josh Reyer : 02-10-2010 at 05:57 AM.

Josh Reyer

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Old 02-10-2010, 06:49 AM   #131
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

From Josh's link:
Quote:
Osensei wrote:
As I remember. . . Deguchi Sensei went to Mongolia in 1924 in order to accomplish his goal of a greater Asian community in line with the national policy. I accompanied him on his request even though I was asked to enter the Army. We traveled in Mongolia and Manchuria. While in the latter country, we encountered a group of mounted bandits and heavy shooting broke out. I returned their fire with a Mauser and then proceeded to run into the midst of the bandits, attacking them fiercely, and they dispersed. I succeeded in escaping danger.
From an old thread I remembered:
Quote:
Allen Beebe wrote: View Post
In 1924 as body guard for Deguchi Onisaburo, Ueshiba traveled to the Mongolia to set up a "utopian society." He and the others of his party are held prisoner by the Chinese military for plotting the overthrow of the existing government. By one account (according to Shioda Gozo as related to him by Ueshiba Morihei) during this "adventure" Ueshiba engaged in lethal combat using a sword from horse-top and learned that a sharp blade doesn't slice well after repeated use due to an accumulation of body fat and therefore thrusting is a more expedient means of dispatch.
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Old 02-10-2010, 07:05 AM   #132
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

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Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
I disagree with that.
I think we could be splitting hairs, but assuming an art is 100 percent based on having a sword, at least on a technical level, how are you going to use that art? I accept that certain skills (coping with the stresses of combat, concentration, strategic thinking etc.) that you gain from most martial arts will always translate into others, but if most of your repertoire revolves around having a sharp extension to your body, surely there are severe limitations to performing it when that extension is gone?
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Old 02-10-2010, 08:34 AM   #133
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

Quote:
Doug Walker wrote: View Post
They seek it here, they seek it there, they seek it bloody everywhere. Is it in Ten, is it in Chi, that damned elusive "Real Aiki".
Aiki is the art of rendering your opponent helpless with laughter so you can control him... You and Allen cracked me up.

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Old 02-10-2010, 09:03 AM   #134
Allen Beebe
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

Quote:
Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
Well, let me offer my take as someone who's been part of the flow of the whole thread.

I do not believe that it was Ueshiba's intention that aikido incorporate anything that had the distinct character of an authentic ryuha. I do believe, however, that it was his intention to incorporate effective swordwork into his aikido, swordwork that followed the principles of combat as he saw them. I took the liberty of being critical of Ueshiba's performance in the Asashi Shimbun film earlier, let me now state for the record that I don't think any kenjutsu practitioner in the world would look at Ueshiba's later films and find any fault with his swordwork. For Ueshiba, at least, "aiki-ken" represented a perfect expression of his view of budo, in body, mind, and deed, with a sword.

In my experience with teachers teaching aiki-ken (essentially students of Saito, and what I have read of Nishio), not one of them ever said anything to the effect that "In real kenjutsu, this would be ridiculous, but this is aiki-ken, so it has such-and-such purpose." Everyone of them believed, or at least maintained, that they were using the sword soundly, in accordance with the principles of swordsmanship, and the combat paradigm of aikido. I believe such aiki-ken is an attainable goal.

He represented it as containing the "riai" of the ken, jo, and empty hand. If it has the riai of the sword, aiki-ken should not be "bad swordsmanship". It may be incomplete, as Mr. Ledyard alluded to earlier, but not "bad".

Ueshiba did not plumb the depths of a particular ryuha, no. But we know that swordsmanship was considered an integral part of his study. We know that he used some dabbling in Kashima Shinto-ryu and Yagyu Shinkage-ryu to further his own personal research. We can probably assume that he picked up similar smatterings of Jikishinkage-ryu and/or Ono-ha Itto-ryu from Takeda, since he attested to picking up smatterings of Hozoin-ryu from the same. Hell, that's if we don't believe that the (unlikely) theory that Takeda was licensed in the Edo line of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu and explicitly taught that to Ueshiba, to the point of giving him an official license in it.

We know that Ueshiba shared his distilled knowledge of swordsmanship with his pre-war and immediate post-war students, and that he encouraged his later post-war students, such as Nishio and Chiba, to take up the study of iai, ostensibly to aid in their understanding of their taijutsu. According to Shioda, his last "test" with Ueshiba included a taijutsu and a ken portion, the latter being something at least similar to a sparring match. In light of all that, I don't think we can assume that swordsmanship to Ueshiba was simply employing a bokken as a teaching tool.

The distinction between aiki-ken and "kenjutsu" should not be that aiki-ken doesn't have to be real or practical because it's simply an aid to the taijutsu, and "kenjutsu" is purely concerned with whatever that particular ryuha is concerned with. The distinction should be that aiki-ken is swordsmanship (kenjutsu, if you will) grounded in the combat paradigm of aikido, including such things as aiki (however one wants to define it) as well as such principles as irimi-denkan and/or irimi-issoku, and so on, while other kenjutsu is concerned with whatever that particular ryuha is concerned with.
Well stated and in complete alignment with my experience of the presentation and understanding of the purpose and practice of ken (and other weaponry) taught by my sensei, one receptor of Ueshiba's "distilled knowledge of swordsmanship" from the pre-war period. Certainly when Ueshiba sensei taught military personnel during this period it was for a particular purpose and those lessons did include the practice of weaponry.

Quote:
Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
Speaking now only of Saito-style aiki-ken, by Saito's own words and claims, there must be a proper "riai" -- a joining of inherent principles -- between ken, jo, and tai. Jo and tai inform and augment the ken, ken and tai inform and augment the jo, and ken and jo inform and augment the tai. In order to have the "riai", you have to have the "ri" -- the essential reasoning and principles. If your ken doesn't have the "ri" of the ken, then you don't have any "riai".

That said, in my opinion, in Saito Morihiro, at least, there was this "riai". Some of the work of his students may not have always fulfilled the "ri" of the sword, but from what I've seen his own aiki-ken always seemed good, and integrated with his jo and tai. Nor in any of his writings on aiki-ken have I seen anything that struck me as wrong or weird. The only thing I think is odd is the tachi-dori stuff, but of course that's endemic throughout aikido.
While Shirata sensei's weapons practice was different in many ways from Saito Morihiro sensei's, the idea of "riai" was certainly present and emphasized and I think there certainly was an appreciation of the continuity from Ueshiba to Saito sensei by Shirata sensei seeing as his dojo was one of the few he frequented for training. This is made even more significant when one considers that Saito sensei was most definitely a chronological kohai to Shirata sensei.

Considering Toby's "quarter comment," perhaps my posts may have come off as "overly exuberant." However, with several decades of Aikido under my belt, I know what I experienced and what I was taught by my teacher. I know he had far more than a passing familiarity with the actuall usage of the Ken (Yes, the shinken as well as a bokken, both inside and outside of the dojo.) I know he attributed what he taught to his teacher. I understand that that knowledge may not be adequately represented by his students (me included) but that doesn't discount the original understanding. I understand that other teacher's understanding of Aiki-ken probably is different or even non-existant (Many teachers don't teach weapons. Many for good reason, they weren't adequately taught weapons!) That is why I stated in my first post that to even have this discussion is probably close to impossible, and doomed from the beginning because of this disparity of experience and understanding.

I suppose what gets me cranked up (why I re-posted) is when definitive statements are made that stand in direct contradiction to my experience and what I was taught. Specifically that was, if you are going to do something, do it for real whether it be martial or spiritual. (Real being defined as: It functions in the assumed context.) I have found this to be a high standard, but a worthy one that continues to take my lifetime to pursue.

Please notice that, while George and I may not agree on everything (He likes caffeinated coffee A LOT, and I like decaffeinated), I don't have a problem with George's post at all. He said, "To my mind . . ." "I think I understand . . ." "I think it should be . . . " He can make statements about his experience with his teacher and Aikido definitively. That is HIS experience. He can state his opinion definitively. That is HIS opinion. (One which I certainly listen to BTW. George is a thoughtful person with a wide breadth of experience.) What he didn't do here, or at least I never noticed it, is categorically define Aiki-ken or its purpose.

As I stated in my first post. I think that defining what Aiki-ken is should reasonably be left to O-sensei. Beyond that, it seems to me that, everybody else can only simply offer their interpretations of what O-sensei meant.

But I repeat myself. Taking a chill pill . . . or at least a cup of decaffeinated coffee . . .



Allen

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Old 02-10-2010, 10:28 AM   #135
JW
 
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

Quote:
Toby Threadgill wrote: View Post
Sometimes I think people jump into a discussion without gettiing a sense for the flow of the whole thread..........
OK, touché. I guess I lost track of the thread, and I am still learning when to keep my mouth (keyboard) shut. I will start a new thread to pursue what I am thinking, something about the importance of the sword to aikido or aiki or something like that. But your points here are well taken, and I agree with what you said, apparently more than it sounds like. Apologies for hijacking the thread.

Also-- NOT for the sake of continued discussion in this thread-- just because my above posts apparently make me look like a jackass, I want to say briefly where I was coming from so that I retain some semblance of coherent value to aikiweb forums:

1. I know blades and bokkens are different. I don't want aikidoka to be concerned with for instance the inside/outside asymmetry of a sword (example of sword arts and aikiken having legitimate hardware difference), but when a swordsman looks at one of our kata and says, "a real swordsman would have easily cut the knee and ended it," or "that's not even close to how a sword is swung," that's just embarassing.
2. I understood O-sensei to be an EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD swordsman. This is what teachers have told me, it is what I have seen lots of the aikido community to believe, and it seems to be supported in history (Mark Murray is fond of mentioning that real swordsmen came to him to study).
3. Many believe (as did my teachers in the Saito line where I started aikido training) that aikido taijutsu is "based on sword work." This doesn't have to mean one swordsman invented the taijutsu kata based on his sword skills. But we have been taught that somehow, the body and ki movements in real Japanese sword arts have sustained or given rise to the essence of what we study in aikido. Thus if we are in fact doing "fake" sword work, one kind of feels cheated.
4. O-sensei did have a role (Ellis Amdur called it "almost vampiric" IIRC in his usaikido podcast) for his followers-- but it apparently didn't focus on accurate preservation of his own technical skills. Case in point, where is aiki in modern aikido.. where is even basic kokyu? My point is that if his understanding came from accurate, legitimate sword usage, and his students (our teachers) didn't learn it accurately, should we fill in the gap or be doomed to whacking whacky sticks?
5. To me, "shaky ground" is our teachers in legitimate aikido lineages telling us that our founder was a great swordsman, and sword work is somehow at the root of what we do, all the while our "sword work" is not grounded in actual sword work. We don't need to be top-notch swordsmen, but what we do technically should be a reflection of what real swordsmanship is about. So yes, sword arts or sogo bujutsu arts should be the source of sword mastery, but if swords really are important in aikido, aikido should at least show the basics (if not the intricacies) of real technique.

Again though, this is just what I was thinking before, but your points are well taken, thanks!
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Old 02-10-2010, 10:43 AM   #136
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

Quote:
Jonathan Wong wrote: View Post
2. I understood O-sensei to be an EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD swordsman. This is what teachers have told me, it is what I have seen lots of the aikido community to believe, and it seems to be supported in history (Mark Murray is fond of mentioning that real swordsmen came to him to study).
--Jonathan Wong
Er, well, not quite what I meant.

What I state is that top kendo people came to Ueshiba to learn taisabaki. There is quite a difference between that and stating that Ueshiba was an exceptionally good swordsman.

For the former (tai sabaki), I would have to guess that aiki played a significant part.

As to the latter (exceptional swordsman), I'll defer to my seniors to judge Ueshiba's ability. For me, I think I'm a bit like Antonio Banderas as Alejandro Murrieta in this scene from The Mask of Zorro:

Don Diego de la Vega: Do you know how to use that thing?
Alejandro Murrieta: Yes. The pointy end goes into the other man.
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Old 02-10-2010, 10:48 AM   #137
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

Josh, Allen,

I think I agree with everything you guys have put forth. I've had a lot of exposure to aiki-ken since a great many competent aikidoka are students in TSYR and I teach so many seminars to aikidoka. As George can attest to, the integration of sword and taijutsu is almost always the subject of the seminars I am asked to teach to akikidoka.

FWIW I have aikido students in TSYR with longtime experience in the aikiken of Saito, Saotome, Tomiki and Shirata (hi Allen). When properly understood I find very little difference between the application of principle in aiki-ken and kenjutsu. Its in the nitty gritty that most of these aikido students start to comment on the differences. Aiki-ken is only a snippet of the greater skills and knowledge demanded in an actual kenjutsu curriculum but that has nothing to do with quality or depth of the snippet. It should be the same.

Lots of good stuff here, including Doug Walkers poetry...

Regards,

Toby
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Old 02-10-2010, 12:24 PM   #138
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

Hi Toby,

I'm happy to hear that we seem to be coming to some sort of understanding. Still, I curious when you state:

Quote:
Toby Threadgill wrote: View Post
When properly understood I find very little difference between the application of principle in aiki-ken and kenjutsu. Its in the nitty gritty that most of these aikido students start to comment on the differences. Aiki-ken is only a snippet of the greater skills and knowledge demanded in an actual kenjutsu curriculum but that has nothing to do with quality or depth of the snippet. It should be the same.
Are you stating this from the perspective of an individual with a Menkyokaiden in particular school of Jujutsu which contains elements and teachings from various Koryu Kenjutsu? Or, is it understood that the Buki makimono awarded at the Menkyokaiden level of Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu is equivalent to, or the same as, a Menkyokaiden in one or more of the Kenjutsu schools that influences Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu? Or, is Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu considered a Kenjutsu school unto itself, a unique amalgam of its predecessors like some other Koryu Kenjutsu Ryu? (It seems like that should be important for me to understand. I thought I did at least.)

My confusion is this: If the former is the case, how is TSYR so very different from Daito Ryu or Aikido that reportedly did the same? (Takeda Sokaku was certainly licensed and was a Ken guy before "bringing home the bacon" with Jujutsu which was far more marketable at the time and probably still is. Ueshiba Morihei's Ken credentials are far less clear but the influence is there nevertheless. Both of these individuals passed on some Ken practice (to certain students at least) presumedly for some reason. I learned that it was because I was supposed to both think and in most ways physically operate in the manner of a swordsman because it is the basis of how one operates with a sword and is one's only hope (little that there may be) of operating effectively without one in an armed confrontation (perennial assumption), especially when more than one individual is involved (also always assumed).

Certainly there will be differences between the two in what was valued and taught and the degree of transference over generations. Wado comes to mind as perhaps a parallel to some lineages of Aikido that faithfully reproduce what their teachers taught while what their teachers taught may not necessarily be the cleanest (or most legitimate lineage wise) conduit of formerly legitimate input.

I hope I'm expressing my question clearly. And, for those Dan Brown fans trying to read between the lines of my writing, I think there is plenty that many can learn from Toby and TSYR. I am a student after all. I didn't join TSYR to learn Ken though, that's just cream. In fact, I don't think I observed or began learning any of TSYR Ken work until after I joined TSYR. Unlike those that joined because they were "Wowed" by Toby's jujutsu, I was most interested in the promise of TSYR's methodology for bridging kata/waza practice to free practice. I only found out later what other fun stuff was inside and am still discovering!

[For the sake of clarity, Toby has never, to my knowledge, observed my Aikido or Aiki-ken work. And that is fine with me. My time with Toby is best spent learning from him what he is undeniably most qualified to teach, Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu! Although, I have to say breakfasts aren't anything to complain about and the occasional Yugoslovian (or was it Hungarian?) Rot Gut isn't too bad either at 3am . . . ]

Quote:
Toby Threadgill wrote: View Post
Lots of good stuff here, including Doug Walkers poetry...
Please don't encourage him!

Bye,
Allen

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Old 02-10-2010, 12:25 PM   #139
Allen Beebe
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

Should I have written Menkyo Kaiden instead of Menkyokaiden? Romaji stinks!

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Old 02-10-2010, 02:22 PM   #140
Toby Threadgill
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

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Allen Beebe wrote: View Post
an individual with a Menkyokaiden in particular school of Jujutsu which contains elements and teachings from various Koryu Kenjutsu? Or, is it understood that the Buki makimono awarded at the Menkyokaiden level of Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu is equivalent to, or the same as, a Menkyokaiden in one or more of the Kenjutsu schools that influences Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu? Or, is Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu considered a Kenjutsu school unto itself, a unique amalgam of its predecessors like some other Koryu Kenjutsu Ryu? (It seems like that should be important for me to understand. I thought I did at least.)
Hi Allen,

To clarify....

Matsuoka Katsunosuke, the founder of Shindo Yoshin ryu was a fully licensed instructor of Jikishinkage ryu, a student of Hokushin Itto ryu and Hozoin ryu. In fact he was so strong and respected for his swordsmanship that he taught kenjutsu as a member of the Bakafu Kobusho and engaged in armed combat as a member of the famed Seieitai. Matsuoka also temporarily functioned as the Jikishinkage ryu hombu cho when Kinkichi Sakakibara was ordered to personally act as bodyguard to Tokugawa Iemochi. So, unlike a guy like Ueshiba, Matsuoka was a formally trained and highly regarded kenjutsu instructor and samurai.

Matsuoka intended SYR represent a complete sogo bujutsu and be militarily applicable. To characterize SYR as a taijutsu school with weapons study an addendum would be to misinterpret what it is and how it came to be created. The complete TSYR / Buki no Mokuroku comprises 132 kata. This is quite comprehensive and dwarfs the curriculum in many koryu kenjutsu schools. Just last month I was talking to Meik Skoss about TSYR in New Jersey. He was shocked at the number of kata we practice. According to him very few sogo bujutsu or kenjutsu schools comprised the size of curriculum TSYR does.

So....I guess the answer would be yes to your second question. A TSYR menkyo kaiden representing the buki no mokuroku would in fact be equivalent to that of many stand alone kenjutsu schools. Consequently, TSYR is very different from Aikido or Daito ryu. The classical weapons syllabus interwoven with the taijutsu curriculum can stand alone as a complete and comprehensive weapons system.

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[For the sake of clarity, Toby has never, to my knowledge, observed my Aikido or Aiki-ken work. And that is fine with me. My time with Toby is best spent learning from him what he is undeniably most qualified to teach, Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu! Although, I have to say breakfasts aren't anything to complain about and the occasional Yugoslovian (or was it Hungarian?) Rot Gut isn't too bad either at 3am . . . ]
LOL.... Ahh, those Hungarians and their libations.....

Actually you demonstrated a bit of your aiki-ken to me once when you were surprised at some of the parallels you were seeing in the TSYR shoden kumitachi. It was by no means a comprehensive demo but it did illustrate some of the body dynamics apparently employed by Shirata. The snippet I saw did not disappoint as I've always held Shirata in high esteem. The questions is, did Shirata ever study swordsmanship outside aikido? Watching Ueshiba and Shirata I see fundamental differences in their sabaki. Shirata was a good friend of Kiyoshi Nakakura if I remember correctly....

Toby
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Old 02-10-2010, 03:02 PM   #141
Allen Beebe
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

Toby,

Thanks for the clarification. I'm glad I asked.

(In my best Keanu Reeves voice, "I'm learning Kenjutsu!" )

Yes, my understanding is that Shirata sensei studied with Nakakura Kiyoshi at the Kobukan. (That would have been Kendo I suppose.) It is also my understanding that he had engaged in the study of some form Ken prior to his tutelage under Ueshiba sensei. Unfortunately, I'm still piecing together what came from where . . . it isn't easy.

Tracing the lines of my TSYR training is much easier. My TSYR teacher is still alive and he likes to do research.

All the best,
Allen

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Old 02-10-2010, 11:19 PM   #142
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Yeah, um Keanu...



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Old 02-11-2010, 08:45 AM   #143
David Board
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

First I apologize for cross posting but wasn't sure how to insure a comments from both lines of discussion without posting in both threads. If this steps on toes, my apologizes...

Anyway, in this thread some folks seem to be arguing that aikido is not a complete (weapons systems (forgive the short-hand, I do understand that this is not completely correct).

In the Ikkyo PIn thread:
http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=17676
There are those that seem to be arguing that aikido is not a complete open hand system.

As a beginner I was hoping that someone would mind relating these two lines of thoughts. I was going to ask if you could resolve the conflict between these two thoughts but I don't see a conflict. It is more that as a beginner I find the two lines of thought to not completely meet. I'm hoping that those with more experience can help me make the connection better (I can do it but it involves Duct Tape, bailing wire and piece of chewing gum).

Last edited by David Board : 02-11-2010 at 08:47 AM.
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Old 02-11-2010, 05:14 PM   #144
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

David,

I'm not going to pose as an expert but I think you are observing a problem of semantics that isn't likely to be solved any time soon.

For example, what defines a complete weapons school or a complete non-weapons school? I don't think that has been clearly defined or agreed upon.

If it were a simple matter of numbers of waza or kata that would simplify things . . . but I don't know of any definitive, universally accepted number. I can imagine the early Okinawan martial artists who practiced single katas for years being surprised to hear from the local strip mall black belt that their system is not complete because they only know and have trained a handful of kata whereas, "I practice dozens of kata every weekend!" It was brought to my attention just last night that the Aikido lineage I'm from has around a hundred or more ken kata and a large number of other weapons kata as well. (I never bothered to count them all.) I've never considered my Aikido lineage to be a complete weapons system. I never did because my teacher never dwelled on it. It was Aikido, it was what it was. On the other hand, I was recently informed that there are Koryu that I've always respected as complete weapons schools that have far less kata than I was taught. I suppose it is a matter of perspective and opinion. My perspective of my Aikido lineage won't change because my Aikido teacher hasn't changed. As of yesterday, my understanding of my teacher's perspective, and therefore my perspective, of the koryu that I practice has changed. Does any of that change how or what I practice? No!

If it were a matter of age it might be easier. For example if a school was know primarily for it's Jujutsu, and it was old enough, it might be thought of as a complete jujutsu school. However, my understanding is that there is no universally accepted hard and clear date defining "old." Nor is it my understanding that being "old" makes something complete. And, of course, there is the fact that there was in-fighting among the "old established" schools for legitimacy when they weren't "old and established."

If being militarily applicable defined a school a a complete weapons school or non-weapons school that might help although one would have to define "militarily applicable." Our modern military seems to be constantly redefining what is "militarily applicable."

One could look back in history and try to rely upon the laurels of one's "great" predecessors to provide proof of "completeness," and in fact many (if not most) martial arts do, but that seems a bit feeble and disingenuous in the end and, if history is any indication, possibly even dangerous.

Rather than looking for some form of outside approval, I suggest trying to find a "path" that speaks to you and that you enjoy. Then do it to the best of your ability. If you change your mind later, that probably won't be a problem.

Looking for "the complete or true martial art" is a bit like looking for "complete or true American Football." Some folks might seek to join the New Orleans Saints because they obviously teach and train the complete and true American football they proved it on the "grid iron." Others might seek to join the Pittsburgh Steelers because they have the most Super Bowl wins, so they must have "it." (Accept, like most teams, they've probably lost more games than they've won Superbowls.) Of course, one can pretty much easily see that just joining a team (like they would even have most of us ) isn't going to necessarily make us All Star material. Even if it did, in combat, I'm told, one often finds one's self metaphorically all dressed up in lineman's gear standing at the edge of the high dive platform.

Cheers,
Allen

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Old 02-11-2010, 06:14 PM   #145
David Board
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

Quote:
Allen Beebe wrote: View Post
David,

I'm not going to pose as an expert but I think you are observing a problem of semantics that isn't likely to be solved any time soon.

For example, what defines a complete weapons school or a complete non-weapons school? I don't think that has been clearly defined or agreed upon.

If it were a simple matter of numbers of waza or kata that would simplify things . . . but I don't know of any definitive, universally accepted number. I can imagine the early Okinawan martial artists who practiced single katas for years being surprised to hear from the local strip mall black belt that their system is not complete because they only know and have trained a handful of kata whereas, "I practice dozens of kata every weekend!" It was brought to my attention just last night that the Aikido lineage I'm from has around a hundred or more ken kata and a large number of other weapons kata as well. (I never bothered to count them all.) I've never considered my Aikido lineage to be a complete weapons system. I never did because my teacher never dwelled on it. It was Aikido, it was what it was. On the other hand, I was recently informed that there are Koryu that I've always respected as complete weapons schools that have far less kata than I was taught. I suppose it is a matter of perspective and opinion. My perspective of my Aikido lineage won't change because my Aikido teacher hasn't changed. As of yesterday, my understanding of my teacher's perspective, and therefore my perspective, of the koryu that I practice has changed. Does any of that change how or what I practice? No!

If it were a matter of age it might be easier. For example if a school was know primarily for it's Jujutsu, and it was old enough, it might be thought of as a complete jujutsu school. However, my understanding is that there is no universally accepted hard and clear date defining "old." Nor is it my understanding that being "old" makes something complete. And, of course, there is the fact that there was in-fighting among the "old established" schools for legitimacy when they weren't "old and established."

If being militarily applicable defined a school a a complete weapons school or non-weapons school that might help although one would have to define "militarily applicable." Our modern military seems to be constantly redefining what is "militarily applicable."

One could look back in history and try to rely upon the laurels of one's "great" predecessors to provide proof of "completeness," and in fact many (if not most) martial arts do, but that seems a bit feeble and disingenuous in the end and, if history is any indication, possibly even dangerous.

Rather than looking for some form of outside approval, I suggest trying to find a "path" that speaks to you and that you enjoy. Then do it to the best of your ability. If you change your mind later, that probably won't be a problem.

Looking for "the complete or true martial art" is a bit like looking for "complete or true American Football." Some folks might seek to join the New Orleans Saints because they obviously teach and train the complete and true American football they proved it on the "grid iron." Others might seek to join the Pittsburgh Steelers because they have the most Super Bowl wins, so they must have "it." (Accept, like most teams, they've probably lost more games than they've won Superbowls.) Of course, one can pretty much easily see that just joining a team (like they would even have most of us ) isn't going to necessarily make us All Star material. Even if it did, in combat, I'm told, one often finds one's self metaphorically all dressed up in lineman's gear standing at the edge of the high dive platform.

Cheers,
Allen
Thank you for your answer. I debated about using the word complete and I think in the end I shouldn't have. Although I think your answer helped me define what Aikido is a bit better. I didn't think folks would interpret the question as looking for a complete martial system. I guess because I didn't think one existed. However let me try again to explain where I'm having to use the duct tape to get these two threads to join.

In this thread about weapons, folks are saying that the purpose of the weapon work is primarily to improve the open hand work (I don't think that quite captures what is being said by everyone).

In contrast, in the Ikkyo thread people are suggesting that the open hand techniques (or at least Ikkyo) are designed for you get to a point you can your weapon.

That suggests to me that you are trying to perfect techniques to use techniques that are designed to perfect the techniques to allow you to use the techniques designed to perfect the techniques that (I'm starting to chase my tail here).

I understand this is a caricature of what is being said but I am still having difficulty getting the two lines of thoughts to meet. To be honest it feels like I'm missing a third piece. Perhaps as I continue on I'll find that third piece.
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Old 02-11-2010, 11:13 PM   #146
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

Quote:
David Board wrote: View Post
In this thread about weapons, folks are saying that the purpose of the weapon work is primarily to improve the open hand work (I don't think that quite captures what is being said by everyone).

In contrast, in the Ikkyo thread people are suggesting that the open hand techniques (or at least Ikkyo) are designed for you get to a point you can your weapon.

That suggests to me that you are trying to perfect techniques to use techniques that are designed to perfect the techniques to allow you to use the techniques designed to perfect the techniques that (I'm starting to chase my tail here).
Sounds like synergy to me!

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 02-12-2010, 09:27 AM   #147
Mark Raugas
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

I have enjoyed reading this thread a great deal.

Allen writes:

Quote:
On the other hand, I was recently informed that there are Koryu that I've always respected as complete weapons schools that have far less kata than I was taught.
I started my budo weapons practice [alas...] doing a lose derivative of Aikido sword practice which went far off the reservation and had bits and pieces of waza from different koryu thrown into it. We had, literally, hundreds and hundreds of kata, exploring every different combination of weapon in almost every conceivable scenario, and as a group of people actually doing a mix of Aikido, Judo, Jujutsu, and Karate [notice: no parent weapons arts], were quite proud of our sword practice. I wound up giving it all up when I realized it was all invented in the 20th century and mis-represented to me as being something older. After a bit of a break to decompress, I started training in koryu kenjutsu, and have noticed several things that contrast both with the sword practice I first learned [I won't call it aiki-ken in deference to people preserving actual Aikido teachings as taught to them] and with some of the aiki-ken I have later observed. Now, I want to say up front that I think the sword-work I learned was probably terrible in comparison to what Saito or Shirata taught, but I think some general observations may apply to a discussion of Aikido-derived weapons practice in general. I will keep the discussion below as general as I am able.

Despite the sheer number of kata I had previously learned, despite the common themes and principles which were attempted to be woven through them, and the fact they we practiced them quite seriously and with a great deal of intent, they did not provide the very high level of development required at generic qualities needed for proficiency in swordsmanship. Specifically: timing, distance and perception of the center line, to the degree at which they are required to actually function well with a sword against someone who actually knows what they are doing. I had been blissfully unaware of the level of precision required to actually function well against a trained swordsman. This likely can be summarized by the fact that we were modern jujutsu people attempting to do sword work, and practicing waza which seemed to work well with bokken, without an underlying appreciation for many of the physical qualities of the actual blade the bokken is supposed to represent. Whereas, members of sword traditions are acutely aware of these requirements, and have preserved that kind of institutional knowledge. The koryu I now practice have a much smaller (condensed, crystallized) number of kata which in my opinion do a much better job of teaching those ideas. Conversely, these fewer number of kata take longer to explore, because there is more encoded in each movement than in the practice I had originally been exposed to. However, they teach many more lessons to the student, more efficiently. The bar is simply held higher for each skill a person needs to manifest.

So, to the discussion at hand, a question about aiki-ken practice versus kenjutsu can also be about pedagogy, putting matters of completeness aside. This I think applies even to "good" aiki-ken, versus people going off the reservation and just making up stuff that feels good to them, or people who are well-intentioned and feel they need to add some bokken practice to their Aikido teaching since "Aikido comes from the sword" but don't have a lot of training under their belt. On a higher level, it also applies (maybe less so, admittedly) to people who are skilled Aikidoka and are attempting to preserve their teacher's teachings.

Once you master an art, as I assume Matsuoka did, my guess is that you likely can start with a small number of kata, understand the essence of what you practice, and then come up with ways to handle a wide variety of situations, inventing/channeling more examples of the art which are in line with the art you have inherited. That is the purpose of the art. At that level of skill, the master basically is the art -- as Ueshiba is Aikido, or Takeda is Daito-ryu, etc -- whatever he is chosing to do in a given moment. The level of expression might change from day to day (e.g., guy has a bad day), the name for what they are doing may be different, but the practitioner is using the tools he has developed in his practice and they have framed his understanding of combatives to the point where he operates as an expression of the principles of the art he has mastered. However, in one case, the teacher may come up with what he feels is a pedagogy for his students [maybe Matsuoka, as an example, teaching many kata], and in another, the teacher may just be exploring what is going on in his own body/mind/spirit without much regard for whether what he is doing can be communicated or is the best path to get to where he is now [maybe Ueshiba, as an example]. The latter case may be a masterwork to listen to, but does not teach you how to compose or perform. If it is an improvisation, it may not even be repeatable -- witness different uchi-deshi having different sword practices, depending on what was available to them at the time [Ueshiba Kisshomaru learning Kashima Shinto-ryu, another deshi learning a version of sangakuen from Ueshiba, etc]. Ueshiba seemed to have evolved beyond kata, but if the institutional knowledge preserved by kenjutsu tradtitions about just how important ma ai and center line and [whatever else] is not communicated, people practicing aiki-ken may never develop those qualities to the level required to beat someone like Matsuoka (or one of his student's student's students. . .). So, maybe Aikido needs more kata, with their inherent riddles (riddles with answers, though).

I agree, in that the purpose of aiki-ken may not be to beat a Matsuoka, that one can invalidate some of the above. However, I think that one would have to be clear then about aiki-ken not providing a good vehicle to teach ideas such as ma-ai, timing, hasuji, etc very efficiently. I want to reiterate that it is possible to be dedicated to one's training, and still just not know how refined those skills can be, and what is an efficient manner to develop them. But, then one would still need to explain how the sword practice benefits ones Aikido. [I do think Aikido discussion sometimes lends itself too easily to abstraction. If a person's aiki-ken lets them connect better to uke or nage, how? If the sword becomes connected with your body, how, and to what end? How is this related to 'aiki'?]

It may be the case, while the aiki-ken practiced by Aikidoka who are "twelve miles of bad road" are worth learning, as an expression of what those teachers feel aiki to be in the context of weapons work, they may not be the best vehicles for education, as they may not give the right emphasis to certain foundational aspects of weapons practice and instead try to connect too directly to jujutsu waza (e.g., doing shiho-nage or irimi-nage with a sword in your hand) or are practices which can become too abstract (e.g., an copy or echo of a koryu kata which has lost some of its precision or intensity or essence). It may be the case that when Ueshiba looks at someone doing kenjutsu, and pulls his uchi-deshi aside and says, "With aiki, we would do it like this", what he is doing is actually worse from the perspective of kenjutsu, but as someone who has developed his own quintessential level of skill, it is all he can possibly due, because he is so identified with the underlying principle or modality (aiki) he is trying to express. That is not to say that a person who is descendant from his practice can't be imbued with or taught with those qualities. For example, if the late Kanai did iaido, and thus understands hasuji and seme and other things, my guess would be that whatever aiki-ken he did would not be lacking in those regards. But, the question remains how you teach those points when a person only does jujutsu or aikido, without doing another art. Also, when even fundamental practices such as how you cut differ from tradition to tradition, how gently one must tread when trying to gain an understanding of fundamental ideas from another practice and transitioning it into one's aiki-ken.

Maybe there are specific questions one can still ask, in light of the above:
  1. Is there a commonality across pre-war/post-war shihan who teach aiki-ken and the basic way in which they teach core movements such as kesa giri and kiri otoshi?
  2. Although Ueshiba likely did not receive any licenses in kenjutsu, from reading about Aikido, it seems that he did practice a lot of suburi. What kind? Did he cut more like Itto-ryu, more like Shinkage-ryu, more like Kashima Shinto-ryu, more like kendo or (seitei gata) iaido?
  3. Which kenjutsu ryuha have similar body movements (tai-sabaki) as Aikido? Do any? Or is aiki-ken entirely sword-work grafted onto an underlying jujutsu pattern of movement that is not optimized for long weapons?
  4. What does Daito-ryu sword work look like? Not the Ono-ha Itto-ryu his son taught or the fact that Takeda had a license in Ono-ha Itto-ryu and visited many dojo, but the waza Takeda taught as part of Daito-ryu and Ueshiba may have learned from him in that context? Does any aiki-ken look like that, and if so, is that any more compatible with developing skill at Aikido, than, say, doing a copy of sangakuen?
  5. Do Ueshiba's writings about "aiki" have any commonality with the way "aiki" is taught in kenjutsu traditions that have an idea going by the same name?

Just some thoughts and questions. Thank you all for the previous discussion as I have found it quite interesting.

Best Wishes,
Mark Raugas
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Old 02-12-2010, 10:51 AM   #148
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

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Carl Thompson wrote: View Post
I think we could be splitting hairs, but assuming an art is 100 percent based on having a sword, at least on a technical level, how are you going to use that art? I accept that certain skills (coping with the stresses of combat, concentration, strategic thinking etc.) that you gain from most martial arts will always translate into others, but if most of your repertoire revolves around having a sharp extension to your body, surely there are severe limitations to performing it when that extension is gone?
Limitations, indeed. I've always liked Yagyu Sekishusai's poem to the effect that even when you mastered muto-dori, it'll probably work 5 or 6 times out of 10. But I look at it this way. Let's say you have a fellow who does only a style of kenjutsu, no other arts. And you take away his sword and send him up against an opponent, any kind of opponent, armed with any kind of weapon, or even unarmed. In that fight he utilizes his understanding of maai, he generates striking power in the same way he's learned to with his sword, he moves his body the way he's been trained, he deals with angles of attack the way he's been trained, he uses what he has at hand, say, a flashlight, in the manner in which he's been trained to use, say, a kodachi. What is he doing, if not the art he has taken all this from? Keep in mind that in addition to the example of kodachi, a kenjutsu curriculum can include methods of disarming, joint-locks or holds, and/or even bare handed strikes.

One major reason why sword schools became so popular, even in the days when battlefields were largely fought over with guns, arrows, and spears, (indeed probably why Ueshiba sought to incorporate it anachronistically into his own art) is because the sword is a versatile tool for teaching general skills that can be applied to anything. The sword can thrust, and it can cut from just about any angle. It is long enough to be used at a far distance, but short enough to be effective at close-quarters as well. One learns to cut, but part of that is learning how to strike. Give our above kenjutsuka a jo, and he'll be able to use it effectively in the manner of his art. No, he won't necessarily be able to exploit the full potential of the jo, but he'll be able to use it. And as all he knows is his ryuha of kenjutsu, I don't think you could say he was suddenly doing jojutsu.

The sword is a medium; it's not the message.

Josh Reyer

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Old 02-12-2010, 02:26 PM   #149
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Re: Aiki-Ken vs reality

Quote:
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The sword is a medium; it's not the message.
Yeah, what Josh said. Two times.

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