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Old 06-29-2012, 11:12 AM   #1
D-Ring
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Vetting Our Skills

How does a budoka test their skill in the context of a training system that strongly emphasizes cooperative practice? In light of recent discussions on this site I've been examining this question again for myself. I am a big believer in the cooperative method; the benefits are undeniable. I also wonder sometimes if we take it too far. As aikidoka we are presumably drawn to a martial art for the implied goal of defending ourselves. We want to be effective in a practical situation; at least to some degree. So, are we doing that goal any service by never testing out our skills with a partner who really resists?

This year I did some cross training with a judo group and I made some interesting discoveries about my skills. As nervous as I was about taking ukemei from guys who purport to like to throw hard I found my break fall skills were more than up to it. More than that I found that the guys in this class had a very difficult time throwing me. In randori even the sensei had to gas me out before he could start tossing me around. My aikido training had been pretty effective in this respect.

The thing that really surprised me was that I found myself unable to throw any of them very well. Yup, after the better part of a decade on the aikido mat I found I couldn't effectively throw judo green belts. When I analyzed my performance a little the reason was actually very simple. I had never prepared to throw someone who doesn't want to fall. Sure, I'd practiced unbalancing my aikido practice partner (and my aikido partner had been very cooperative about it) but I hadn't trained to throw on anyone else. Sounds pretty silly when I spell it out.

So, do you think your training methodology is effective and, if so, how do you know?

Respect,

Dave
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Old 06-29-2012, 12:16 PM   #2
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

Cooperative training doesn't necessarily mean you fall because you're "supposed to". You fall because you have to. I believe it's uke's job to make nage do their job ant show them when they aren't, not fall down for them. Uke teaches nage what works and what doesn't, that requires an honest attack and an honest response. If you're attacking and nage doesn't achieve kuzushi, continue the attack. If nage doesn't compromise your structure, stand there. Don't resist, just don't help. The better nage is, the more resistance you can provide, and the better they have to get in order to overcome it.

"Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men" - Thomas Henry Huxley
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Old 06-29-2012, 01:12 PM   #3
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

Tom, I think your description of the cooperative training model is spot on and I'm a strong advocate. I think its head and shoulders better than constant competition. What I'm suggesting is that cooperation by itself is incomplete and I offer my own cross training experience as an example.

I believe the classic way we train technique in aikido has a major drawback. Waza becomes a dance where everyone knows the step. Partners become used to the way each other moves and routines set in. The unpredictability of actual conflict (the thing we are ostensibly training for) gets lost and the value of the training diminishes.

I also found that the deficits pointed out by my judo friends were easily fixed once I knew I had them. I would not have known had I never stepped outside of my training methodology. I'm not suggesting anyone ditch the reciprocal approach. Rather I'm suggesting that cooperative training ONLY is shortsighted.

I'm interested to hear if other aikidoka test their skills with methods where failure a built in option.
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Old 06-29-2012, 01:42 PM   #4
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

David, When I was training in Nihon Goshin Aikido we use to have what we called a self defense line. Basically, nage was attacked by everyone in line, one attacker at a time or multiple, with weapons or without, in any manner they chose, punches, kicks, grips, tackles, etc. until they either subdued the attacker or were themselves subdued. The speed and intensity of the attacks were determined by the experience of the defender. It was an eye opening experience for everyone concerned.

"Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men" - Thomas Henry Huxley
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Old 06-29-2012, 02:46 PM   #5
James Sawers
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

I came across a concept called "Constructive Resistance" whereby if nage's technique is not being sufficiently/effectively applied, uke "resists" till his/her balance is taken and the technique "works". Personally, I get very irritated if I see nages and uke basically wrestling on the mat. For training purposes, I believe that for the lower ranks there should be no resistance offered till the techniques are sufficently learned and uke's can take a fall or pin safely. Also, it doesn't do new nages any good either. If uke resists too soon in their learning curve, the nages and ukes, as mentioned, just end up wrestling each other, with usually the strongest winning. As people progress in the art, constructive resistance not only becomes more doable but necessary to progress. I do not see resistance, if applied too soon in the learning curve, as being very helpful.
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Old 06-29-2012, 02:50 PM   #6
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

These are difficult things to answer because what is effective to one person can be useless to another. My aikido has been effective for me when I needed it, but I am under no delusions that it would serve me that well in every situation, but to be honest, I never trained for it to be.

IMO, if you train with some level of resistance, with people who take what their doing seriously and aren't just there to feel good about going through the motions then you will be more capable and should be able to defend yourself to some degree. That is, people who don't throw their centers at you like it was a beach ball, people who will counter you, resist you, hit you if you don't move and not fall if they don't have to fall. There's no real vetting of skills there, but you should certainly be more capable.

If you want to go further, IMO, you need discard the notion that the techniques of aikido have any sort of real world, 1-to-1 relationship with fighting or engaging someone with skill and start training in the core body skills that Aikido (Ueshiba's aikido) was supposed to build in us. Once you have some level of those skills then get out and test those skills against people who don't want to fall and are intent on making you fall. How far down that rabbit hole you choose to go is a matter of just how much you want to vet those skills.

Last edited by chillzATL : 06-29-2012 at 02:57 PM.
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Old 06-29-2012, 04:53 PM   #7
graham christian
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

Hi David.
This is an interesting question and one that gets to most some time or other especially those who do Ki type training or what you describe as co-operative.

Personally I of course had similar experiences and each time I would review and learn more about why I couldn't or what I should try or what I wasn't doing that I should have been etc. Overall this is normal training really.

My first what I would call breakthrough came when challenged by an advanced Judoka who was dating my sister in law. He felt he would have to show her , well, whatever was in his head. He even said those famous words "I promise I won't hurt you" Of course he knew what I did and thought the usual that most do when it comes to co-operative training. (by the way I never call it that for it isn't) Anyway, what I did led to my breakthrough.

Basically I took and threw what he was doing.

This was a great thing for me at the time. Not the fact that he really wanted to show me, to make a statement, to challenge head on. No, the fact that I stuck to the principles I knew and didn't enter his game. I knew there was more to it and over the next few weeks got more and more recognitions.

This is what I learned:

1) There is no attack in Aikido. This now made sense to me and I needed now to understand why precisely. You see, trying to throw him, to attack, was suddenly irrelevent. Why attack? He isn't doing anything. Only when he attacks do I now have something worth doing. So the attacker had already lost for that is what I wanted.

This lined up with what I had been told and yet needed to understand.

2) It led on to how I was doing to what the opponent was doing to me therefor I never needed to attack . Thus learning from a new view all the different things to do with an attack, to an attack, and on from there.

So when someone says you must do to another when they are not doing anything equalled "no I don't need to"

Sport is a game where you have to, it's in the rules of the sport. Aikido isn't a sport.

Peace. G.
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Old 06-29-2012, 08:53 PM   #8
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

Cooperative vs Competitive do we really understand the difference.

A typical Judo training session will involves drills, throwing practice AND randori. The level of resistance in randori will vary depending on the circumstance. Randori is not necessarily competitive either - it really depends on what is being sought at the moment.

So an Aikidoist goes in and says - they could not throw me. Well the judo guy either has to be want to be thrown (drills) or is trying to throw you - which opens him up. Any watcher of Judo will groan at the hugely defensive bouts where nothing happens. In competition there are rules against that. I personally groan when anybody says they can't be moved or thrown - since there are always conditins.

There are by the way two Aikido techniques which I used to great effect in Judo randori - variations of shomenate and aigemate. I say variations because I did have to adapt but that was more on timing then anything else. It took me awhile to begin to understand that (about a month) but there were many more techniques and skills learnt in an Aikido dojo that turned out to be useful.

Finally Tomiki said that 10% randori is correct - with the rest being kata and drills. He actually said Judo put too much emphasis on randori although what percentage he had in mind I have no idea.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 06-30-2012, 09:24 PM   #9
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

Re playing with the judo guys: somebody I respect a lot said to me recently, "You always suck at the other guy's stuff."

A friend at the dojo and I went after each other recently on the mat after practice just to see what we could get on each other. Sensei basically ripped us a new one. "There's no reality to what you're doing at all! You're standing there rabbit punching each other and thinking you have something! If you're going to do that, you'd better just hit each other for real, because you don't know when you're open and when you're not!"

Words to ponder.
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Old 07-02-2012, 06:59 AM   #10
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

A lot of people seem to take pride in the fact that it took a judo guy a bit to throw them. I always then ask "Were you actively trying to throw the judoka?"

This simple question will explain why the judoka had to tire you out, or why it took so long. It is the same question I would ask someone who goes to a aikido dojo and stands there staring at the teacher only to say "All his stuff didn't work on me".

Both martial arts are about committed attacks. If you are not engaging, there is no energy for the throws. Being hard to throw is easy, being hard to throw while throwing someone else is very hard.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 07-02-2012, 09:19 AM   #11
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

Nicely put, Don. Not to say that everyone should be training to win a judo match, but there's a reason why judo competitions give penalties to competitors for stalling and not actively trying to attack. It would be like a Mixed Martial Arts match where one person stays out of striking and grappling ranges and refuses to engage.

Having said that, in an actual altercation with room to plan and move, those are actually decent strategies (maybe not optimal, but certainly viable). It's just that training to "vet your skills" is sometimes about putting yourself on a path of inevitable failure such that you learn where your limits are and can then develop a plan to exceed your now-limits. Over time you then have a sustaining loop of continuous improvement, which will eventually yield diminishing returns (based on *some* degree of limitations), but the beauty of training is that there are always other areas to improve beyond just how effective you are in a sparring session.

I've been working on other things of late, but for reality checks and humility in a martial context, few things are better than dropping by a bjj school, mma/boxing/kickboxing gym or wrestling/judo club and just see how well you hang in a more freestyle setting under a different set of "rules".

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Don Magee wrote: View Post
A lot of people seem to take pride in the fact that it took a judo guy a bit to throw them. I always then ask "Were you actively trying to throw the judoka?"

This simple question will explain why the judoka had to tire you out, or why it took so long. It is the same question I would ask someone who goes to a aikido dojo and stands there staring at the teacher only to say "All his stuff didn't work on me".

Both martial arts are about committed attacks. If you are not engaging, there is no energy for the throws. Being hard to throw is easy, being hard to throw while throwing someone else is very hard.
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Old 07-02-2012, 02:30 PM   #12
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

Quote:
Peter Rehse wrote: View Post
Cooperative vs Competitive do we really understand the difference.
I think most of us understand the difference between cooperative and competitive. In cooperative practice (traditional kihon waza) both partners are there for the express purpose of nage executing a technique. Both parties have implicitly consented to this technique. Nage knows he's throwing, uke knows he's falling. I realize there are variations on the theme (resistance, counters, multiple attackers, etc) but the basic formula is the same. Everybody knows what to expect. Everybody knows who is supposed to be taking the fall. In this practice everyone is successful when nage applies their technique.

In competitive practice each partner is pursuing their own goal exclusive of the other guy. One person wins, one person loses. You know for a fact your technique worked because the other person was trying to get you instead instead of falling.

If you've never tried to put your technique on someone without their consent how do you know how good you really are? In my experience the cooperative training model doesn't always give students a realistic sense of their own skill level. Even when uke isn't being an aiki-bunny there's a level of intent that is missing when there is no possibility of failure.

Dave
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Old 07-02-2012, 02:35 PM   #13
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

Quote:
Tom Quinn wrote: View Post
David, When I was training in Nihon Goshin Aikido we use to have what we called a self defense line. Basically, nage was attacked by everyone in line, one attacker at a time or multiple, with weapons or without, in any manner they chose, punches, kicks, grips, tackles, etc. until they either subdued the attacker or were themselves subdued. The speed and intensity of the attacks were determined by the experience of the defender. It was an eye opening experience for everyone concerned.
That sounds like good training. Would you say it helped the development of your aikido? It seems to me that training like this in conjunction with more traditional kihon waza practice would produce an aikidoka that is more effective in practical application. More importantly students would have a more realistic picture of where their practical skill levels actually are.

Dave
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Old 07-02-2012, 02:49 PM   #14
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

Quote:
Jason Casteel wrote: View Post
If you want to go further, IMO, you need discard the notion that the techniques of aikido have any sort of real world, 1-to-1 relationship with fighting or engaging someone with skill and start training in the core body skills that Aikido (Ueshiba's aikido) was supposed to build in us. Once you have some level of those skills then get out and test those skills against people who don't want to fall and are intent on making you fall. How far down that rabbit hole you choose to go is a matter of just how much you want to vet those skills.
Jason, are you suggesting that practicing basic technique with complicit ukes for a couple of decades won't produce practical fighing skill?

I agree and lately I've come to believe that not much actual training happens on the mat. Dojo time is probably more properly used to test out what you've been working on at home.
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Old 07-02-2012, 06:55 PM   #15
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

My point is that even within Competitive Arts like Judo for instance there is a place for cooperative training even at the level of randori. When you enter a Judo training environment you are not entering a competition. Statements like "I could not be thrown" indicate a misunderstanding on that level.

As an aside - I have never done a within club Shiai. It was considered essentially useless since the training pattern among dojo mates was already established. Too incestuous I guess.

Quote:
David Ringle wrote: View Post
I think most of us understand the difference between cooperative and competitive. In cooperative practice (traditional kihon waza) both partners are there for the express purpose of nage executing a technique. Both parties have implicitly consented to this technique. Nage knows he's throwing, uke knows he's falling. I realize there are variations on the theme (resistance, counters, multiple attackers, etc) but the basic formula is the same. Everybody knows what to expect. Everybody knows who is supposed to be taking the fall. In this practice everyone is successful when nage applies their technique.

In competitive practice each partner is pursuing their own goal exclusive of the other guy. One person wins, one person loses. You know for a fact your technique worked because the other person was trying to get you instead instead of falling.

Dave

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 07-03-2012, 02:33 AM   #16
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

I've heard it said that up to 95% of all training is only body conditioning. I totally agree - so we are not IMHO learning to compete but how to apply body movement in lots of different ways.
some of these may be "practical" some may not and that will depend on the situation.
For example I was demonatrating a taisebaki exercise last week and when I said that it had no real combat application, one of my students took me to task saying that it had served him in well in at least one situation.
I honestly believe if we can master body movement competition on or off the mat takes care of itself (but that is the tricky bit)!
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Old 07-03-2012, 08:25 AM   #17
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

Quote:
David Ringle wrote: View Post
That sounds like good training. Would you say it helped the development of your aikido? It seems to me that training like this in conjunction with more traditional kihon waza practice would produce an aikidoka that is more effective in practical application. More importantly students would have a more realistic picture of where their practical skill levels actually are.

Dave
I think that's a fairly accurate assessment of the drill, it also has the benefit of making you deal with the pressure of attacks not normally seen or addressed in most aikido dojo, and it teaches the value of atemi. The downside is that unless it's carefully monitored, it can deteriorate into a wrestling match. Like any other drill if used properly it can teach you a lot, if not, it can do more harm than good.

"Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men" - Thomas Henry Huxley
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Old 07-03-2012, 10:54 AM   #18
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

Quote:
David Ringle wrote: View Post
How does a budoka test their skill in the context of a training system that strongly emphasizes cooperative practice?
Try not cooperating and see how it goes.

"In my opinion, the time of spreading aikido to the world is finished; now we have to focus on quality." Yamada Yoshimitsu

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Old 07-06-2012, 06:11 AM   #19
Michael Douglas
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Skills for WHAT?

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David Ringle wrote: View Post
... after the better part of a decade on the aikido mat I found I couldn't effectively throw judo green belts. When I analyzed my performance a little the reason was actually very simple. I had never prepared to throw someone who doesn't want to fall...

... Sounds pretty silly when I spell it out.
Dave, it sounds suicidally stupid, unbelievably dense ... that is, IF you assumed your were training those ten years in trying to learn how to throw unwilling people.
So either you were mistaken about what you were training, or you were hideously dense for ten years.
I'm betting on the former.

So I'm betting that you (and some others) simply have a wrong assumption about what your Aikido training IS.

Although ... going ten years without an event to snap you out of delusion is a heck of a long time!
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Old 07-06-2012, 06:36 AM   #20
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

Quote:
David Ringle wrote: View Post
This year I did some cross training with a judo group and I made some interesting discoveries about my skills. As nervous as I was about taking ukemei from guys who purport to like to throw hard I found my break fall skills were more than up to it. More than that I found that the guys in this class had a very difficult time throwing me. In randori even the sensei had to gas me out before he could start tossing me around. My aikido training had been pretty effective in this respect.
I haven't noticed a lot of difference between people with and without aikido backgrounds in their ability to avoid being thrown, pinned or submitted in judo randori/bjj rolling.

Quote:
The thing that really surprised me was that I found myself unable to throw any of them very well. Yup, after the better part of a decade on the aikido mat I found I couldn't effectively throw judo green belts. When I analyzed my performance a little the reason was actually very simple. I had never prepared to throw someone who doesn't want to fall.
What are you going to do to solve this?

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Old 07-06-2012, 07:16 AM   #21
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

There is a lot to be said for going after a Judo Shodan after you have achieved the same in Aikido or vice versa. They are after all two sides of the same coin.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 07-06-2012, 09:02 AM   #22
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Re: Skills for WHAT?

Quote:
Michael Douglas wrote: View Post
Dave, it sounds suicidally stupid, unbelievably dense ... that is, IF you assumed your were training those ten years in trying to learn how to throw unwilling people.
So either you were mistaken about what you were training, or you were hideously dense for ten years.
I'm betting on the former.

So I'm betting that you (and some others) simply have a wrong assumption about what your Aikido training IS.
Michael, would you like to elaborate on what you think aikido training is? You seem to have a strong opinion. If we're not training to throw under practical conditions (i.e. when "uke" doesn't want to be thrown) then what are we training to achieve?

If you could also keep your comments focused on the topic rather than any personal assessments of my intelligence I'd appreciate that, too.
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Old 07-06-2012, 11:18 AM   #23
D-Ring
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

Quote:
Peter Rehse wrote: View Post
There is a lot to be said for going after a Judo Shodan after you have achieved the same in Aikido or vice versa. They are after all two sides of the same coin.
That's an interesting idea, Peter. I assume you are refereeing to competitive vs. cooperative training. By saying the arts are two sides of the same thing are each incomplete on their own? I think a case could be made that no system really covers everything. How does that fit into practical skills testing?

Last edited by D-Ring : 07-06-2012 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 07-06-2012, 12:05 PM   #24
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

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Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
What are you going to do to solve this?
I try to touch hands with people from different backgrounds whenever possible. The drawback to training all the time with the same small group of people is that you don't get surprised very often. I think I'd rather be a little fish in a big pond even if it takes me out of my comfortable training routine and pokes my ego sometimes.

This thread has sort of become a discussion of aikido vs. judo which is an interesting topic but not really the intent of my OP. A number of people who train in different ways have been helpful to me. I've played with a wing chun guy who showed me very quickly what an asset a little hand work can be. Recently some tai chi folks have shown me some interesting things about internal power. As cool as those arts are though I don't really want to train in them. The point of this is if I never stepped outside my box I wouldn't have as realistic an assessment of my own skills. I want to become a better aikidoka.
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Old 07-06-2012, 12:47 PM   #25
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Re: Vetting Our Skills

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I've heard it said that up to 95% of all training is only body conditioning.)
Philip, I also agree with this but I don't think it's the pedagogy in most aikido dojos. I think most students are under the impression they are training in waza that applies to self defense either directly through repetition of the technique or indirectly by teaching them to harmonize with their partner's ki. Though I've used pieces of aikido kihon waza in practical application I think you could find better ways to learn to fight. I'm also not a big proponent of the ki harmonization theory.

So, if most of our training is body conditioning what is the purpose of that conditioning and how do we test our progress?

Quote:
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I honestly believe if we can master body movement competition on or off the mat takes care of itself (but that is the tricky bit)!
I have to disagree with this. If we never move with someone who is opposing us how do we prepare for any situation where someone else doesn't just let us have the throw?
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