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Old 07-20-2012, 10:27 AM   #1
Dave Gallagher
Dojo: Shobukan Dojo, St.Louis
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Why do we do it?

I was talking to a friend from my old Karate dojo about returning to Aikido. He has seen a number of public demos from a few dojos and had talked to some aikidoka. He is an excellent karate man with more that 20 years of training. He asked me a question that he says he has asked others in aikido and never gotten an answer that he thought made sense. He asked me:

"If you guys know that aikido does not work in a fight and in training do not really give your partner a convincing attack and then just roll or fall down, why do you do it?"

I gave him a standard answer that included the idea that each person may give a different reason for doing it. I said that some aiki techniques do work very well in a self defence situation and other techniques are practiced to teach a concept such as blending or avoiding etc. and that ukemi itself was an excellent defence.

He replied "that's not good enough, why bother with it?'

I had no further answer except to tell him "you just have to do it to understand". I never spent time asking myself why, I just did it. Perhaps I should have a better answer.

If you were asked this question how would you answer it?

It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak.
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Old 07-20-2012, 10:49 AM   #2
NathanMishler
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Re: Why do we do it?

An instructor of mine once told me - Aikido is the 1st line of defense, karate is the 2nd.

Saitome Sensei, not two weeks ago, told the summer camp attendees that Aikido is not just technique ( punctuating that with a dismissive wiggle of his wrist as if to dismiss the concept of 'technique' entirely - I got a kick out of that) but it is for the development of the person and how they live.

So that's what my teachers say.

What I say is a mixture of the two. A not-even-comprehensive list of what Aikido has given me:

1. The ability to do harm, and the possibility to *not* do harm. It is super, super, super easy to damage another person's body.
2. Body communication. I have a much heightened sense of how bodies work, and I have the ability to talk that through (both verbally and 'talking' it through physically) with other martial artists.
3. It has taught me to communicate ideas to rank beginners - body mechanics, this elusive concept of ki, the danger of knives, etc. It has made me a vastly better teacher and communicator in my day to day life.
4. It's brought me into contact with some truly amazing people.
5. It lowers my personal stress levels immensely

As far as the concepts of "convincing attack" and "not working" in a fight, I have one simple answer for both of those.

"I'm working on it."

If that's not a good enough answer for the asker ... that's not really my problem. I'm not developing them, I am developing me.
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Old 07-20-2012, 10:59 AM   #3
chillzATL
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Re: Why do we do it?

Everyone does things for different reasons. Thousands of people paint and have no desire to be Rembrandt. Many own and like to shoot guns, but will never have the skill or composure of a soldier.

Aikido, IMO, was never about fighting. A martial art at it's core, budo? Sure, but not fighting. The day Ueshiba said aikido was an art for everyone, it was no longer simply about fighting.

An MMA fighter could likely raise similar questions about what he does.

There are degrees to everything.

or you can always use the out of "what exactly do you mean by a fight?". It's a tired out, but it's also a valid one. I've used my aikido in fights, but to some, those instances don't qualify as a fight. It has to be some more realistic version of MMA, but you could easily respond to that by comparing it to what a soldier has to contend with and if you aren't going that far, you're still wasting your time.

As I said, there are degrees to everything and society affords us that luxury.
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Old 07-20-2012, 11:34 AM   #4
lbb
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Re: Why do we do it?

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
"If you guys know that aikido does not work in a fight and in training do not really give your partner a convincing attack and then just roll or fall down, why do you do it?"
"If your mother has wheels instead of legs, why don't you call her a bicycle?"

Or, as Bryce Harper put it, "That's a clown question, bro."
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Old 07-20-2012, 11:47 AM   #5
grondahl
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Re: Why do we do it?

It´s a hobby. A pastime for people that have spare time in their life. We do it because we enjoy it.
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Old 07-20-2012, 11:47 AM   #6
Menisong
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Re: Why do we do it?

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post

"If you guys know that aikido does not work in a fight and in training do not really give your partner a convincing attack and then just roll or fall down, why do you do it?"
Does the overall Aikido community feel that this is accurate of Aikido? I personally would find this statement ludicrous and silly. I would respond that I simply do not agree with or believe this statement. This statement would apply to Karate as much or possibly more than Aikido.
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Old 07-20-2012, 11:59 AM   #7
Cliff Judge
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Re: Why do we do it?

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
"If you guys know that aikido does not work in a fight and in training do not really give your partner a convincing attack and then just roll or fall down, why do you do it?"
Why would you do it, if you knew that it doesn't work in a fight, and nobody gave convincing attacks and just rolled or fell down in training? I sure wouldn't.
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Old 07-20-2012, 12:07 PM   #8
Dave Gallagher
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Re: Why do we do it?

I consider his question valid and it is only the answers that could be "clown answers". The guy asking me the question is a long term karate man who seeks the practical use of an art. I did not take his question lightly and did the best I could to answer it. I just felt that my answer was not enough.

It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak.
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Old 07-20-2012, 12:18 PM   #9
Belt_Up
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Re: Why do we do it?

Quote:
"If you guys know that aikido does not work in a fight and in training do not really give your partner a convincing attack and then just roll or fall down, why do you do it?"
Contains several straw men.
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Old 07-20-2012, 12:19 PM   #10
jonreading
 
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Re: Why do we do it?

Let me preface my comment by saying that I am pursuing aikido that has martial validity. That said, it is rather difficult to piece together what was deliberately removed from the art many years ago and also find those components that, while not removed, were lost. I think that as a general observation, I understand the [outside] perspective that mainstream aikido is not martially valid.

A teacher I respect remarked, "why practice a hobby that consumes your life, your time, and your money, if in the end not to excel at that hobby?" Jason spoke about aspirations in his post. Hobbyists seek enjoyment in what they do, that they gain proficiency in that hobby is a benefit. Professionals require excellence as a component of their career. It is a rare thing that our profession and enjoyment are the same (let that be a lesson to any baseball player out there who bemoans his million-dollar contract to play a game). In this sense, I think it is fair to admit that aikido carries with it less "professionalism" than other arts. Even fishing and bowling are considered "professional" sports. We have no banners, sponsors, patches upon our uniforms, trophies to display. We are, in most respects, hobbyists plodding along doing something we enjoy. This is often a alien concept for a professional fighter, or even an amateur fighter or hobbyist who trained under an expectation to perform

The aikido in which I train instills a sense of martial competency and awareness. It is our study to create deliberate scenarios which catalyze the expression of aiki. The observation of non-aiki related interaction (such as sport competition) is german, but tangental to, the study of aiki. In this study, we learn to respect and understand the dynamics of fighting, and in some sense apply those dynamics to a fighting situation.

When I hold these conversations, I typically do not:
1. Let someone clip me with a "it doesn't work" slight. Aikido works - if you wish to critic my aikido, I will accept that comment.
2. Let someone clip me with a "unconvincing attack" slight. Good grabs work - again, if you wish to point out specific instances of poor attacks, fine.
3. Belittle the question. Many people ask because they truly want to know what motivates us, providing an elitist answer is often as bad as an unconvincing one.

In truth, I think many other martial artists see mainstream aikido in a poor light. However, much to the same argument, I can point out entire park districts full of BS karate or take yo' do. As it would be in poor taste for me to point out these under-performers as demonstrative of their art, I often point out that looking at bad aikido is not qualitative vetting either.

When other martial artists approach me with this question (or similar), I often take that as a positive dialogue that the individual wants to learn more about aikido and they believe that I may have a better answer than what they have previously found. I think many of these individuals are confused by the contradictory claim that aikido is a martial art, while professing the opposite most of the time. Fighting falls within their realm and they are curious as to: 1. why people who detest fighting participate in a fighting art and 2. claim that aikido is equally valid as other fighting arts. I think these are fair curiosities and we have an obligation to address them.

Or we can always call them neanderthals or some other derogatory name and dismiss their brute intellect...
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Old 07-20-2012, 12:24 PM   #11
Dave Gallagher
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Re: Why do we do it?

By coincidence, I found this after my last post. I think it contains some good answer material:
Thanks to Stanley Pranin for posting this.

http://blog.aikidojournal.com/2012/0...tanley-pranin/

It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak.
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Old 07-20-2012, 12:51 PM   #12
Rob Watson
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Re: Why do we do it?

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
I was talking to a friend from my old Karate dojo about returning to Aikido. He has seen a number of public demos from a few dojos and had talked to some aikidoka. He is an excellent karate man with more that 20 years of training. He asked me a question that he says he has asked others in aikido and never gotten an answer that he thought made sense. He asked me:

"If you guys know that aikido does not work in a fight and in training do not really give your partner a convincing attack and then just roll or fall down, why do you do it?"

I gave him a standard answer that included the idea that each person may give a different reason for doing it. I said that some aiki techniques do work very well in a self defence situation and other techniques are practiced to teach a concept such as blending or avoiding etc. and that ukemi itself was an excellent defence.

He replied "that's not good enough, why bother with it?'

I had no further answer except to tell him "you just have to do it to understand". I never spent time asking myself why, I just did it. Perhaps I should have a better answer.

If you were asked this question how would you answer it?
Perhaps you could have asked to "please attack me" and then you both could find out if yours is working.

Everytime some guy (ladies have never posed that particular Q) asks me that same Q I ask to be attacked and they always decline. I then suggest perhaps they should be more serious in their study.

I know for a fact that several of them would have totally flattened me but they seemed not quite up for it at the time.

To answer directly the OP: I'm too stupid to stop.

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

Ultracrepidarianism ... don't.
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Old 07-20-2012, 01:02 PM   #13
Menisong
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Re: Why do we do it?

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
By coincidence, I found this after my last post. I think it contains some good answer material:
Thanks to Stanley Pranin for posting this.

http://blog.aikidojournal.com/2012/0...tanley-pranin/
I could not agree more with the author's point of view regarding instructors participating in training. I honestly do not think most instructors understand just how important it is to their students that they are seen participating in the martial art they teach.

When I was choosing a martial art school for my daughter, this was one of the deciding factors in where she would attend. The two lead instructors still trained with their instructor on weekends, participated in the warm ups, and fully engaged in the activities with the students.

In all honesty it was instructor participation(not just in their class but in the art itself) and their ability to actually "teach" which lead to the choosing of the martial art style and school. On a side note, I find it sad that most martial arts instructors are very very poor teachers, IMO.

Great, great article, thank you for linking.
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Old 07-20-2012, 05:02 PM   #14
sakumeikan
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Re: Why do we do it?

Quote:
Peter Gröndahl wrote: View Post
It´s a hobby. A pastime for people that have spare time in their life. We do it because we enjoy it.
Dear Peter,
Funny sort of hobby as far as I am concerned.As far as enjoying it is concerned I do not go to the dojo to enjoy myself.If I want enjoyment I have a few beers, watch Laurel and Hardy, watch TV.Aikido is seious business, not a pastime imo. Cheers, Joe..
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Old 07-20-2012, 05:14 PM   #15
Menisong
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Re: Why do we do it?

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Dear Peter,
Funny sort of hobby as far as I am concerned.As far as enjoying it is concerned I do not go to the dojo to enjoy myself.If I want enjoyment I have a few beers, watch Laurel and Hardy, watch TV.Aikido is seious business, not a pastime imo. Cheers, Joe..
You do not enjoy learning and training Aikido? I assume you are in some form of law enforcement? Otherwise why on earth would you do it?
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Old 07-20-2012, 05:35 PM   #16
sakumeikan
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Re: Why do we do it?

Quote:
Marc Carlstrom wrote: View Post
You do not enjoy learning and training Aikido? I assume you are in some form of law enforcement? Otherwise why on earth would you do it?
Dear Marc,
Let me explain.I have done martial arts for over 57 years.These included judo , kendo, aikido.[over 40 years]Aikido gives me an outlet to try and keep myself in shape.It also stimulates my mind. I guess I consider it a bit like a job in the sense that I go out for a few nights etc and get on with the work.I like meeting people and their company and outlook keeps me alive.The actual training of Aikido can be at times boring, doing the same actions is a bit like eating the same meal every day.The trick is of course to find something of value in the art.I prefer to try and practice Big Aikido ie life skills.This is where the real challenge lies, not within the confines of a dojo.As far as being in Law Enforcement is cocerned the answer is No.I would like to think I have an arresting personality , but again the answer may be negative here? Hope you are well.Cheers, Joe.
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Old 07-20-2012, 10:04 PM   #17
lbb
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Re: Why do we do it?

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
I consider his question valid and it is only the answers that could be "clown answers". The guy asking me the question is a long term karate man who seeks the practical use of an art. I did not take his question lightly and did the best I could to answer it. I just felt that my answer was not enough.
Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by "valid". If you mean that he meant the question sincerely and really believed that his stated premise was true, OK, I accept that -- he's your friend and not mine, you know his character and I don't. But a more sensible definition of "valid" would surely depend on whether the question's premise had any truth to it. Hence, my parallel question which takes as its premise that your mother has wheels instead of legs. If she did, it might indeed be valid to call her a bicycle. But the premise needs to stand the test; otherwise, you end up in all sorts of silly places. Validate the premise, then question away; otherwise, it's a waste of time. As Watts Humphries said, "If you don't know where you are, a map won't help."
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Old 07-20-2012, 10:29 PM   #18
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Why do we do it?

His view of Aikido doesn't fit with mine. In the two dojos I've trained in there wasn't any real tanking...there was dialing it back so newbies like me could work on applying pressure in particular ways, but never "just falling," unless it was a newer person over-anticipating, but that's quickly corrected in my experience.
I train in Aikido because of the workout I get: improved physical fitness (strength, coordination, and flexibility); mental fitness (focus, relaxation, sense of well-being, and responsiveness); and improved vitality. I generally go home with my chronic injuries feeling better and, despite being tired, feeling sharper and more energetic than when I arrived.

Last edited by mathewjgano : 07-20-2012 at 10:32 PM.

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 07-20-2012, 11:18 PM   #19
Adam Huss
 
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Re: Why do we do it?

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
I was talking to a friend from my old Karate dojo about returning to Aikido. He has seen a number of public demos from a few dojos and had talked to some aikidoka. He is an excellent karate man with more that 20 years of training. He asked me a question that he says he has asked others in aikido and never gotten an answer that he thought made sense. He asked me:

"If you guys know that aikido does not work in a fight and in training do not really give your partner a convincing attack and then just roll or fall down, why do you do it?"

I gave him a standard answer that included the idea that each person may give a different reason for doing it. I said that some aiki techniques do work very well in a self defence situation and other techniques are practiced to teach a concept such as blending or avoiding etc. and that ukemi itself was an excellent defence.

He replied "that's not good enough, why bother with it?'

I had no further answer except to tell him "you just have to do it to understand". I never spent time asking myself why, I just did it. Perhaps I should have a better answer.

If you were asked this question how would you answer it?
Thats too bad. During the oral examination of our tests we are almost always grilled about reasons for training in aikido. Particularly for dan ranks, simple once-sentence answers are not acceptable as Sensei tends to try and really make us think this through.

Ichi Go, Ichi Ei!
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:15 AM   #20
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Why do we do it?

I would tell him because I need to. It is part of what keeps my life on track. I would also strongly disagree with his idea that Aikido is not an effective form of self defense. I would not try to convince him however.

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Old 07-21-2012, 08:50 AM   #21
Mario Tobias
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Re: Why do we do it?

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
He is an excellent karate man with more that 20 years of training. He asked me a question that he says he has asked others in aikido and never gotten an answer that he thought made sense. He asked me:

"If you guys know that aikido does not work in a fight and in training do not really give your partner a convincing attack and then just roll or fall down, why do you do it?"

If you were asked this question how would you answer it?
Saying that aikido does not work in a fight is just the same as saying physics or the natural laws do not exist or are incorrect. I do aikido because understanding the underlying principles of the art is one of the most difficult all the arts I have encountered and I am challenged by it.

IMHO, Aikido is not just about learning aikido techniques. I do aikido primarily to understand and learn the principles of aiki. Techniques are only a very small portion of aikido and learning these is only secondary. What is aiki and how does it manifest itself? Nobody really has the correct answer. Only you will know the answer in your search for it in your decades of practice....or you may not even know the answer no matter how long you search.

Aikido techniques without aiki is not aikido. It is another art.

Aikido techniques only offer a glimpse into what aiki is and how it works. You start practicing techniques to start understanding what aiki is. I also believe aiki is not only unique to aikido. It is also present in other martial arts (even karate) although some are more pronounced than the others (eg daito ryu, judo). Practicing other arts (eg judo) may also offer a glimpse into aiki but the focus is more on perfecting technique.

You start by learning techniques and slowly and surely through repetition, one by one you build your theories around aiki principles. These are the commonalities in all techniques imo. From theories, you then validate these through actual practice and trial and error.

You collect more and more principles and realize later that a technique is just an amalgamation of different principles. A set or combination of principles would lead to different techniques. More and more, all techniques look the same, but are different. So from understanding disjointed techniques, you then jump to move to understanding aikido principles but then you go back to understanding techniques to apply aiki.

Aikido techniques without aiki is ineffective maybe an accurate statement since this is not aikido. This is probably where the majority of us are.

However, it may not be accurate for aikido techniques with aiki. Osensei, Shioda sensei, takeda (daito ryu), kyuzo mifune(judo). These are all small men but they are legends, never beaten in fights. What do they have that all of us don't? IMHO, It is the understanding of aiki or something similar in their own form of art.

Last edited by Mario Tobias : 07-21-2012 at 08:59 AM.
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Old 07-21-2012, 10:31 AM   #22
Benjamin Green
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Re: Why do we do it?

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
"If you guys know that aikido does not work in a fight and in training do not really give your partner a convincing attack and then just roll or fall down, why do you do it?"
All uses of violence aren't the same, they run the range from brushing aside some drunk teenager, who's just a little exuberant and decides to take a swing at you, through to someone lying in ambush and blowing you away with a trap of some sort. I want something to disable people who are very little threat to me when I can't, or would feel guilty about, smashing their face in. I already know how to win fights at far more extreme levels of violence - should the situation go that far. If aikido fails, so be it, no biggy. But I've used it to wrap up and drop people who I'd certainly have felt guilty about hitting and my conscience is somewhat easier because of it.
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Old 07-21-2012, 12:59 PM   #23
Gorgeous George
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Re: Why do we do it?

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
He is an excellent karate man with more that 20 years of training. He asked me a question that he says he has asked others in aikido and never gotten an answer that he thought made sense. He asked me:

"If you guys know that aikido does not work in a fight and in training do not really give your partner a convincing attack and then just roll or fall down, why do you do it?"
A karateka said that...?
Did he make this face?:

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Old 07-21-2012, 04:14 PM   #24
Mark Uttech
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Re: Why do we do it?

Onegaishimasu, my favorite reply to a couple of martial artists (tae kwondo, karate) who were discussing bar fights one night in a bar was this: "How long have you known me down in this bar?"
"Oh, 20, 25 years."
"Have you ever seen me get in a bar fight?"
"No, not once."
"Well, that's aikido..."

In gassho,
Mark

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Old 07-21-2012, 04:57 PM   #25
Mark Harrington
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Re: Why do we do it?

My current skills might not prevail in a fight. Or they might. But just because they did not would not be a blanket reason to condemn Aikido as ineffective.

Let's make a baseball analogy.

The pitcher throws, the batter swings. If the batter misses, was the batter's baseball ineffective? If he gets a hit, was the pitcher's baseball ineffective? If the fielders don't catch the hit ball, is their baseball ineffective?

You can say that all the practice a pitcher has put into baseball since he was a child, and his current skills and fitness, were not enough to prevail that time against that batter. Is that a reason not to practice?
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