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Old 12-30-2010, 08:25 AM   #26
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
If one says, "Well, we don't need the keikko gi and hakama, and the bowing in and the Japanese formalism, then why the impractical attacks, which are very culture bound. [I think that if one did abandon all of that, you'd have something like Systema].
Which also has developed his own traditions, narratives and cultural trappings.

Resistence is futile...

Last edited by Demetrio Cereijo : 12-30-2010 at 08:36 AM.
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Old 12-30-2010, 09:27 AM   #27
dps
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Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

What are the traditions of Aikido?

dps
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Old 12-30-2010, 10:13 AM   #28
jimbaker
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Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

Which brings us to the subject of Whisky.

In many Scottish distilleries, when the still begins to wear out, they replace it with a still of the exact same capacity and shape. The distiller holds such a nearly holy reverence for their stills that they will go so far as making a mold of the old still and using that to make the new one. They are not sure if all the bumps and dents on the inside have something vital to do with the final taste of the Whisky.

The distilleries are modern, computerized and have introduced a number of innovations, such as bolting parts of the still rather than welding them. But the still remains the same. The Glenmorangie Distillery has traditionally used only 16 men, the Sixteen Men of Tain" to produce their single malt. They sill use 16 men, but they run the computers.

The "Do" of Aikido is a road. It was paved for us by a series of pioneers. There are still some pathfinders out there, but most of us are just plodding along. I don't know the road ahead, so I don't know what is important to bring along. What if I leave something behind only to find out it's really important later on? So I drag along a bunch of stuff. Maybe at some point I'll drop the bag of marbles I've been carrying, but I'll keep the skies.

I'm not talented enough to drop tradition.

Jim in Norfolk

Jim Baker
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Old 12-30-2010, 10:54 AM   #29
Lyle Bogin
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Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

Having no "tradition" is like having no parents.

"The martial arts progress from the complex to the simple."
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Old 12-30-2010, 10:55 AM   #30
dave9nine
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Thumbs up Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
This question has so many ramifications.
Koryu is usually considered a "living museum piece" - inviolate, unchanged. Some are maintained that way. Others, however, are not. I have participated in the renovation of old kata, and the creation of new kata in two ryu. I've seen other ryu do the same. When I practice outside, (sometimes in the rain and the ground gets wet), we usually wear shoes and street clothes (just as the bushi did back when kimono and hakama were street clothes. But what point is too much? I use weapons made of woods the Japanese never used, and construction methods the same (laminated spears of vera wood, for example). But "improving" a kusarigama by changing the chain to piano wire, for example, just seems wrong. When one asserts that one is attempting to train in "combatively sound" methods, then what is one doing with weapons that were archaic 500 years ago? At what point would my Araki-ryu no longer be Araki-ryu? Shall I replace bokken with aluminum baseball bats? If not, why not? To be quite honest, it's hard to explain why not? The maintenance of tradition (the clothes, the etiquette, the roots in Japanese culture) circumscribes the art in a way that enables one to use kan - a kind of intuitive sense - to say, "that's not x-ryu." I remember when I was detailed to revive some kusarigama kata for Toda-ha Buko-ryu, and after a year, showed them to Nitta sensei, and she said, "Buko-ryu rashiku-nai n desu ga . . ." which mean, "It somehow doesn't have the essential quality of Buko-ryu." It took me another half-year to extinguish what she correctly perceived as subtle contaminants from Araki-ryu. Paradoxically, the kata were, in some senses, stronger in the original version, but the latter version contributed to the development of technique throughout ALL the techniques of the school in a way that the former did not.
Aikido Nicholas, in his original note, outlined the critique on tradition well. But here is the problem. Yokomen-uchi, Shomen-uchi, tsuki, etc. Ushiro-dori (double wrist grab from behind), ryote-mochi (two hands on one wrist grab), etc.
If one says, "Well, we don't need the keikko gi and hakama, and the bowing in and the Japanese formalism, then why the impractical attacks, which are very culture bound. [I think that if one did abandon all of that, you'd have something like Systema].
However, if my theory of HIPS is correct, then the formalism is, in fact, necessary. Those particular attacks and techniques are for the purpose of a) softening all the joints, as Ueshiba M. stated b) developing the kind of ki/kokyu that Ueshiba M. manifested.
In a way, the cultural formalism creates, for both non-Japanese and Japanese a feeling of being "somewhere else," outside of day-to-day life, with it's considerations of street boxing and aluminum baseball bats. It becomes a kind of a laboratory, where one can possibly study "something else," that is only possible when one abandons the logic of the modern day exercise physiology, combat sport world. Terry Dobson retorted to other uchi-deshi, who criticized him for training with Wang Shu Chin, "I don't want to be Osensei's student. I want to BE Osensei." Maybe, just maybe, the tradition is necessary to make that possible. . .. to be sure, there are other ways of training in internal strength, but Morihei's particular amalgam of skills may require tradition.

Ellis Amdur
indeed--thanks for that discussion!
that helps tremendously
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Old 12-30-2010, 11:41 AM   #31
Keith Larman
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Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

Okay, I'm kinda getting lost. I *thought* Nicolas was originally referring to disposing of conversations about 'traditional' using the word in the sense of "my lineage is 'better' than yours because mine goes back to this time/event/space and yours ties back to another time/event/space that isn't what I like". To give an example (and not meaning to be judgmental), take someone who is in the Tomiki line complaining about a group in the Tohei line not doing a technique 'correctly' (i.e., not doing the way they do it). This is especially evident when you consider how each of the significant deshi seemed to have different models and means of teaching what they considered the "real deal" (or replace that phrase with the phrase "traditional aikido" to make the point).

I am beginning to feel like a language philosopher here, but it seems we've now introduced a third meaning to "traditional" to include the often very important rituals, mannerisms, "proper etiquette", and so forth. What Mr. Amdur rightly points out is that there is often a lot of deeply important meaning and rationale for why some things are done "hidden away" underneath all those traditions. I've used the example before in my training in sword restoration. There are so many things that never made sense to me when I started that only became clear years later. Often subtle things, often inextricably intertwined with a thousand other things. An example I've used is seppa on a sword. Seppa are essentially little "washers" that are placed between the tsuba (hand guard) and habaki (blade collar) and on the other side between the tsuba and the fuchi (front 'cap' of the handle). I saw a modern done piece where the maker had left out the seppa. The argument made was that seppa were used to compensate for a loosening fit hence a new sword didn't really need them. Well, that was in contradiction to what I was taught, but I'd never really thought about why I was taught differently. But after some thought I realized that the seppa weren't *just* for taking up slack. They provide a soft interface between a habaki (which is a critical part you don't want damaged) and the often hard metal tsuba (which would deform the habaki if left in direct contact). Same was true for the interface between the face of the fuchi and the harder tsuba. I also realized that the fuchi and tsuba often aren't perfectly fit to the blade itself. Which means the contact between the two was in a rather small surface area which means even more likelihood of damage of the softer, more expensive parts. Then the question became how to add a seppa to a sword that never had them to begin with if it developed some looseness. I can remove a 1mm thick seppa and replace it with a 1.1mm seppa. But on a sword without seppa to begin with that develops .1mm of slop, putting a microthin seppa at .1mm would be useless -- essentially a piece of foil that would deform instantly. I also thought of a variety of other reasons why they were used.

So the example's point is that while most consider seppa to be "washers to take up space to adjust fit", they actually function on multiple levels that most will never consider. I was never taught all the reasons why seppa are put in originally -- they just are. Maybe I'm slow on the uptake and everyone else was told exactly why, but that has not been my experience in most of these things. Things become apparent over time. The value of small "traditions" like these become evident only over time if they become evident at all. But you run a significant risk of screwing things up if you decide that the tradition is superfluous or trivial. So in the case of traditional crafts one needs to be *very* careful about making changes. The problem usually involved the fact that you simply don't know what you don't know. So you can't be sure you're not accidentally changing something that will ripple throughout the overall quality of your work.

Phew. Okay, that said... That's another usage of the word "Tradition". I *think* (and Nicolas can correct me if I'm wrong) Nicolas was focusing on the discussion of "mine is traditional, yours is not" when talking about an art that had multiple branches appear directly from the source. So a Tomiki fella discounting a Tohei fella and vice versa. Or someone inside Aikikai saying the only "traditional" aikido is Aikikai because it is the only one that stayed with the Ueshiba family -- i.e., it is the "official" version of Aikido.

If I'm reading it correctly I think Nicolas' point is well taken. But I also think we have to be very clear about what we're talking about so we don't throw away more than we should. I am very much a supporter of maintaining "traditions" (in the sense of practices, habits, etc.) within each line to ensure a proper transmission of that particular "tradition" (in the sense of lineage). But then avoiding the dismissal of any particular "tradition" (in the sense of lineage) because it isn't the same as my view of what is "traditional" (meaning they're from a different lineage assuming it is legit).

Ouch. I think I sprained a frontal lobe. Too much nitpicking... Happy New Year everybody!

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Old 12-30-2010, 12:05 PM   #32
Janet Rosen
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Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

Keith, my take on the OP topic and the thread drifts based on semantics is much as your's.
I think tradition based on solid lineage and what works is good - your example from swords is great! -- whether it is in martial arts or sewing or visual arts, I enjoy the sense of being part of a history, a lineage, and partaking in certain kata or ritual based on that, but I do object to relying on "tradition!" when it flies in the face of better, newer information (my ongoing and probably futile campaign against mindless pre-training static stretching, for instance).

Janet Rosen
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Old 12-30-2010, 12:38 PM   #33
Nicholas Eschenbruch
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Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

Keith,
maybe I am a much sloppier thinker than you are (its continental vs analytical after all )- my intention with the OP was to take a deliberately one-sided perspective (which I can, to a degree, identify with) to start a discussion - precisely in order to explore what "tradition" means to different people, especially aspects I am not yet aware of. So from my part, I must confess, some thread drift is welcome (and its not "my" thread anway...), and I have realised stuff I was not aware of.

Thanks for the great sword example and a wonderful New Year.
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Old 12-30-2010, 01:53 PM   #34
RED
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Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
What are the traditions of Aikido?

dps
Good question. I'm seeing people who have an issue with the "traditionalism" but not too many people defining which traditions the issue is with.

MM
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Old 12-30-2010, 02:29 PM   #35
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

Quote:
David Skaggs wrote: View Post
What are the traditions of Aikido?

dps
The ones you bought as them.
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Old 12-30-2010, 07:00 PM   #36
Ryan Seznee
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Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

What are you even talking about? Traditions as in what? You taking about bowing and referring to things in Japanese, not incorporating boxing into the martial system, applying Shinto spiritual principles verses Mormon ones... What are you trying to say? What "Traditions"? I feel like you are asking "how long is a piece of string?"
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Old 12-31-2010, 03:54 AM   #37
Nicholas Eschenbruch
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Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

Quote:
Ryan Szesny wrote: View Post
What are you even talking about? Traditions as in what? You taking about bowing and referring to things in Japanese, not incorporating boxing into the martial system, applying Shinto spiritual principles verses Mormon ones... What are you trying to say? What "Traditions"? I feel like you are asking "how long is a piece of string?"
When I google the string "traditional aikido" without any further specification I get 98 000 hits, the first page already has examples from the Netherlands, California, the UK and Dubai, plus Saito Sensei's famous book. I, for one, am talking about that.

So the question "which exact traditions" is an interesting additonal pespective, but it should be asked to the people who make the blanket statements about their stuff being "traditional", I feel. Its part of the discussion, really, not part of a rebuttal of its purpose.
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Old 12-31-2010, 05:50 AM   #38
danj
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Thumbs up Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

Quote:
Jim Baker wrote: View Post
The "Do" of Aikido is a road. It was paved for us by a series of pioneers. There are still some pathfinders out there, but most of us are just plodding along. I don't know the road ahead, so I don't know what is important to bring along. What if I leave something behind only to find out it's really important later on? So I drag along a bunch of stuff. Maybe at some point I'll drop the bag of marbles I've been carrying, but I'll keep the skies.

I'm not talented enough to drop tradition.

Jim in Norfolk
My first (and very cheap) lesson in tradition
I never used to let students fold my hakama after class even though it was a tradition in my school, it was embarrassing. One day a very senior instructor came to our dojo and no-one folded his hakama....

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Old 12-31-2010, 07:48 AM   #39
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Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

Quote:
Daniel James wrote: View Post
My first (and very cheap) lesson in tradition
I never used to let students fold my hakama after class even though it was a tradition in my school, it was embarrassing. One day a very senior instructor came to our dojo and no-one folded his hakama....
Where traditional training would teach understanding why some of these things are not, rather than just emulating them.

Ichi Go, Ichi Ei!
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Old 12-31-2010, 07:01 PM   #40
danj
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Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

I think tradition serves to preserve even when the understanding is not present. Understanding may come and when it does the kata and other aspects are ready to support the emerging understanding. My personal though somewhat limited experience of eastern learning methods are that the 'copy' rather than the asking 'why' or teaching the 'why' is more common.

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Old 01-01-2011, 04:37 PM   #41
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Re: Challenging notions of "tradition" in aikido

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Adam Huss wrote: View Post
Where traditional training would teach understanding why some of these things are not, rather than just emulating them.
*correction*

...why some of these things are, rather than just...

Ichi Go, Ichi Ei!
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