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Old 06-24-2013, 11:26 AM   #1
Mark Freeman
Dojo: Dartington
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Post Modern Aikido?

Quote:
Corky Quakenbush wrote: View Post
We do a non-technique form of practice in my dojo that was instituted almost 10 years ago. Attacks from ukes are random, vary from typical aikido forms, and are carried through the entire movement while maintaining the initial intention. No one is ever thrown, nor do ukes go along with a throw. Attempts to throw are met with resistance and/or intensification of the attack.

We have found and continue to affirm that only what we call a true center-to-center ki connection will result in the manifestation of aikido, and only if uke maintains his attack through the entire resolution with the support of nage. A withdrawal of the attack ends the aikido (though not necessarily the connection), but a withdrawal from the conflict or defense from nage intensifies the attack. Our practice includes study of how authentic committed attack intention and energy can be maintained all the way through resolution at a safe level of intensity and at less than full speed. The feeling of struggling is obvious to each participant and is used as a marker to indicate that aiki has not been achieved.

We have found and continue to find in our practice that the spiritual nature of ki flow between individuals has profound material effects. Acknowledging the lack of consensus of definition of both words, spiritual and ki the definition for spiritual ki I use as a model for non-technique-based aikido practice is the form of universal energy expressed through evolving life form, relating it to ki as it expresses as magnetic and gravitational forces in the physical world, all different, yet fundamental expressions of ki.

In this model, think of spiritual ki as that force in nature that expresses through the creation of evolving, reproducing organisms out of ordinary chemical compounds, and that its principles appear in interactions between living beings the same way you might think of magnetic principles manifesting in interactions between certain metals.

Being a conduit of this life-producing energy in its optimum flow feels better than anything else on earth to a physical being, especially when one's flow connects with others whose flow equals or is greater than one's own. We typically call that love in myriad forms.

If intention precedes action, intention in harmony with the expression of this energy (effortless connection) is going to produce a better feeling than intention that creates barriers to keep the connective principle of this energy from completing its "circuit." Therefore love, compassion, forgiveness, and trust feel better than hate, heartlessness, resentment, and fear. Love feels good and we love when we feel good because there is an increase of flow of this life-producing energy.

If feeling love is an indication of maximum ki flow, then fear indicates a restriction of flow within the living being. Because the nature of this spiritual ki is magnetic in its own way, a person operating from a state of fear is like someone trying to hold two electromagnets apart as the flow of electricity increases. The more the person does not connect to others in a way that optimizes flow, the stronger the need to connect grows until the ki, revealing a fluid hydraulic-like principle (think fire hose), is expressed as attack, a connection forced on someone else.

All action arises out of intention. If you look at the intention of an attack as material manifestation of a need to connect to another source of ki flow, when we as aikidoka release the constrictions, born of fear, that reduce on our own flow, that ki combines with the ki of the attack, and if we observe basic specific movements of the art, aikido manifests spontaneously and naturally, and usually in a much simpler path than typical aikido techniques take.

Whereas magnetism increases flow of electrons the same way the flow of electrons increases magnetism, the combination of the flood of ki (optimum ki flow from beneficent intention) from nage fills the system of the attacker, thereby dismantling the fundamental reason for the attack. We see this all the time in non-physical conflict. The art of aikido demonstrates these principles in physical expression. This flood of life-giving ki not only allows the creation of an aiki path (what most might call a technique), it fulfills the basic need that drove the attack in the first place, thereby fulfilling the notion by Osensei that aikido brings the whole situation to its natural harmonious state, which certainly would be less apt to happen if an attacker is thrown into a wall or forced down with pain or leverage.

We continue to find that the more authentically nage can engage the energy of the attack with genuine beneficent intention the more effortlessly uke's intention lands him on the ground. Our success in being part of manifestation of aiki comes from transcending the lower brain reflex responses of withdrawal or defense (including counterattack) to genuinely embody higher consciousness, thereby opening the flood gates of ki which instantly transform both the attack and attacker. There is reason why ukes often laugh in the middle of the interaction. Our practice reveals to us daily that the teachings of the founder regarding the spiritual aspects of aikido making the physical aspects effective were not esoteric ramblings but literal explanations that are profoundly true.

Because the principles of ki flow between individual living beings is subtle and hardly affects anything outside of living things, it is easy to discount as simple imagination without substance. What we have found, and feel is backed up by the words of the Founder as well as our direct experience, is that the physical embodiment of sound moral qualities, produce an optimum flow of ki from one's center, and that flow, in its purest, unrestricted state, is what produces aikido, spontaneously and without technique - what I believe Osensei meant by takemusu aiki.

In my nearly 30 years of practice, I have been very fortunate to have had training and/or personal conversation with at least half a dozen direct students of the founder (or who trained in Osensei's dojo when he was alive). One of them, Kaz Tanahashi, who translated the book Aikido (Kisshomaru Ueshiba, 1958, under the direction of Morihei Ueshiba) into English, also translated the "Memoir of the Master" at the back of the book and confirmed to me personally that Osensei genuinely believed that the power of aikido, both as a martial art and as an art of self purification was based in spiritual components.

The next greatest verification I received directly was through a brief training experience and long conversation with the late Kanshu Sunadomari, Shihan who I visited in Kumomoto City. Dai Sensei had formed his own aikido dojo in Kumomoto in the early 1950's, and at that time he was challenged by the local budo practitioners who had never as yet heard of aikido. Dai Sensei quickly learned (as he wrote in his book Enlightenment Through Aikido) that technique would only get him so far. He began to study the words of Osensei, particularly the spiritual teachings, and from there his aikido became what it was before he passed on, still as he said to me, using aikido to remove animosity from his heart. I was invited to grab this frail-looking 84 year old man and hold him with everything I had. I had traveled all the way from Los Angeles, so I made it count. What I felt was being transported and taken care of, not thrown.

We continue our training with the goal of our aikido being both martially sound and fulfilling the goal of the founder for it to literally be "the loving protection of all things."
Hi All,

I've been away from the boards for some time for a number of reasons. However, I saw Corky's post in the Spiritual thread and wanted to bring what is contained within it, out to a wider discussion, as I believe what Corky has to say and what he is doing in his 'Lab' down in LA, is of as much importance to the development of Aikido moving forward, as is the awakening to the practices of IP as brought to us by the likes of Dan H, Mike S, Ark etc.

When Dan and Mike first came onto these forums many years ago, they ruffled many feathers with their assertions that 'Modern' aikido was lacking the true 'aiki' in Ueshiba's aikido. However as provocative as they were, many aikidoka (myself included) sought them out to see what all the fuss was about. Now as far as I can see, what they are teaching is entirely valid, has gained a great many practitioners, many friendships made and cross art collaborations have been formed around the globe, to the overall benefit of aikido.

On my trip to the US last year (you can read all about it on my blog if you haven't already), I was fortunate enough to meet Corky and practice with him for approximately 10 consecutive days. So I believe I am in a reasonable position to say the following with conviction.

What is written in the above post is entirely spot on. What he is achieving, is only possible because he was prepared to search beyond the standard practice, to ask difficult questions, to challenge the status quo and to find truth by testing, testing and more testing. So when he says what he is doing is a non technique based form of aikido, for those of us schooled in traditional/modern aikido this is hard to comprehend, as most of us have spent years trying to perfect our many many beloved techniques.

Personally I was satisfied that my own level of aikido practice was somewhere between good and very good (well I have to think that just over 20 years have got me somewhere?). However, working with Corky made me realise that I was 'bound' by my reliance on technique (as good as it was). I also realised that many of the 'standard' attacks we work with in aikido are not really effective attacks at all and therefore of little real use when searching for 'true' aikido. What am trying to say here is, I think Corky maybe closer to actually having a valid teaching model for the term "Budo is Love" than anyone else out there. He is genuinely searching for takemusu aiki in every encounter. This is done by the relentless questioning of the moment by moment encounter between uke and nage. The only real tool in nage's arsenal is the beneficent intention towards uke, which is encapsulated in O'Sensei's term that "aikido is the loving protection of all things". Having experienced this through hands on practice as both uke and nage, I realise the unbelievable power that is contained in this way of human expression.

So if you have read Corky's post and it piqued your curiosity, good, I suggest that if you can make it down to his dojo in LA look him up and go and feel for yourself. He is a great guy, one of the friendliest and funniest people I have ever met. I'm sure he will be happy to show you what he and his band of happy students are exploring. And an exploration is exactly what it is.

If you read his post and think that he is talking out of his west coast, aiki-bunny, spiritual, hippy dippy backside, that this has no 'martial' integrity, then even more reason to get out of your comfort zone and find out what he is doing, but be prepared to laugh your way, all the way to the mat!

Corky's methods are unconventional from an aikido point of view, which for an art that some practice like it is a static 'fly in amber' set of routines, however, they may get you closer to what the founder really meant and the awesome abilities that he displayed.

My first aikido teacher said to me that unless there is paradox there is no truth.. and for me finding and practicing with both Dan and Corky seem to bear this out. They both seem to encapsulate what Ueshiba was about from two completely different ends of the scale. Dan's unstoppable power comes from the internal control of self, through very precise practice, and the external control of uke who just can't find an opening in the 'aiki' body. Anyone who has felt him will know what I am talking about. Corky on the other hand will literally 'love' you to the ground. This doesn't mean that his methods mean you can get away with a tense or unstructured body, it's just that the focus is different, you overwhelm uke with a flood of ki/love/benificence

No art form moves forward without heretics and pioneers, I believe Corky is one if not both of these.

Anyway I have said enough for now, over to you. One word of caution though, my own meeting with these remarkable men has caused me question myself and my direction in my own aikido practice as I move forward. I am hoping that by coming back on the forum and prompting this discussion, you may help me make some sense of it all. So if you are happy with what you are doing stick with it, but if like me you are prepared to put yourself on the line in search of your own development, go for it, but it is not an easy ride.

Post Modern Aikido?..... Discuss...

Lastly, I thank Graham Christian for sending me a link to one of Corky's videos before I went on my travels saying "I think you might like this". Little did I know!

regards,

Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 06-25-2013, 10:27 AM   #2
RonRagusa
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

Quote:
Mark Freeman wrote: View Post
'Modern' aikido... Ueshiba's aikido... traditional/modern aikido...Post Modern Aikido?...
So many labels, rendered in hindsight, to which we might add Ki Aikido, Tomiki Aikido and undoubtedly a whole bunch more. Ueshiba instructed students to make Aikido their own, to not merely copy his forms since the external forms are but individual expressions of the Aikido inside us all.

Aiki is a union with Ki. It is manifest via the coordination of mind and body. The path one takes to get there is of little import; the rewired body unified with intent, spiritual awakening, brewing and pouring tea... it doesn't matter. The path, over time, reveals itself to the individual and it's up to each of us to decide whether to follow it or not.

Good to hear from you Mark. Perhaps one day in the future you'll be able to cross the pond once again and sample some of what east coast Aikido has to offer.

Ron

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Old 06-26-2013, 03:27 AM   #3
Mark Freeman
Dojo: Dartington
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

Quote:
Ron Ragusa wrote: View Post
So many labels, rendered in hindsight, to which we might add Ki Aikido, Tomiki Aikido and undoubtedly a whole bunch more. Ueshiba instructed students to make Aikido their own, to not merely copy his forms since the external forms are but individual expressions of the Aikido inside us all.

Aiki is a union with Ki. It is manifest via the coordination of mind and body. The path one takes to get there is of little import; the rewired body unified with intent, spiritual awakening, brewing and pouring tea... it doesn't matter. The path, over time, reveals itself to the individual and it's up to each of us to decide whether to follow it or not.

Good to hear from you Mark. Perhaps one day in the future you'll be able to cross the pond once again and sample some of what east coast Aikido has to offer.

Ron
Hi Ron,

thanks for responding (what has happened to Aikiweb since I've been away? over 400 views of my post and only 1 reply?), I agree with what you say and labels usually only serve to separate rather than to bring together.

After over 20 years practicing under the label 'Ki-Aikido' I went out and met with others practicing under different labels Aikikai, Iwama, etc and found that we have more similarities than differences. The main real difference being the training paradigm itself, which allows the role of uke/nage to work in a way that works for each other.

My own personal dilemma is that my exploration of the wider world of aikido have brought me to a place on the mountain where the paths forward diverge. Meeting Corky has been both a pleasure and a pain. Once someone has opened your eyes to something, it can not be unseen. I could quite easily have been happy teaching Aikido in the style that I have been accustomed for the rest of my days. Students would not complain. So now I am wrestling with how I can move forward and practice/teach something that incorporates all of the above? What banner would I march under? Maybe I open a small dojo/lab and just find some like minded folk to play with. I'm not sure, I am just thinking out loud. No-one said that the aikido journey was an easy one.

Anyway, enough rambling from me. I would love to come back to the States at some point Ron, the east coast in the fall is one of the most beautiful places on earth. If I make it, I would love to come and see both you and Mary, I know we would enjoy sharing our practice.

regards,

Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 06-26-2013, 04:11 AM   #4
JJF
 
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

If it was an easy journey then it wouldn't be much very interesting I think

Recent events (within the past decade) forced the two major styles of aikido in our small contry to join forces in a common association (Danish Aikido Federation). We now hold seminars where we train together with each other. Iwama style (in lack of a better word) inspired people as well as a group of people with aikido based on Nishio sensei. We also have a fraction that do what would probably best be described as Hombu style. Even within the one group I know best (and probably within the other as well, but I can't really tell) there is a ton of difference in how we approach training, how we move our bodies and how we interpret the uke-nage connection.

From our last seminar we have videos of the embukai that ended the day. Seven different dojo leaders each giving a 2½-5 minute presentation of what they are currently working on within their aikido. It is to say the least very diverse. Somewhere in a blend of all this I believe really great Aikido exist.

So.. not really a response - but a statement to support what I think is the message of the original post: stay true to what is important in your aikido, but remember to constantly challenge what you think you know.

Now I will go back to planning tonights training..

JJ

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Old 06-26-2013, 04:58 AM   #5
Mark Freeman
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

Quote:
Jørgen Jakob Friis wrote: View Post
If it was an easy journey then it wouldn't be much very interesting I think
True and thanks for responding Jorgen, appreciated

Quote:
From our last seminar we have videos of the embukai that ended the day. Seven different dojo leaders each giving a 2½-5 minute presentation of what they are currently working on within their aikido. It is to say the least very diverse. Somewhere in a blend of all this I believe really great Aikido exist.
Perhaps this is true too.

Quote:
So.. not really a response - but a statement to support what I think is the message of the original post: stay true to what is important in your aikido, but remember to constantly challenge what you think you know.
The bold statement is one that I think every aikidoka should practice, but I am not sure that this happens in reality. The longer folk have been following the same path the less it seems they are likely to do this. The main reason I brought attention to Corky's post in the first place, was this is exactly where he is coming from. He questioned some of the fundamental approaches of Aikido and the way that it is practiced. Do the techniques really support the spiritual philosophy of the founder?

Quote:
Now I will go back to planning tonights training..
I have never planned a lesson in all the years I have been teaching... different paths up the mountain..

regards,

Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 06-26-2013, 05:26 AM   #6
Lee Salzman
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

Quote:
Mark Freeman wrote: View Post
True and thanks for responding Jorgen, appreciated

Perhaps this is true too.

The bold statement is one that I think every aikidoka should practice, but I am not sure that this happens in reality. The longer folk have been following the same path the less it seems they are likely to do this. The main reason I brought attention to Corky's post in the first place, was this is exactly where he is coming from. He questioned some of the fundamental approaches of Aikido and the way that it is practiced. Do the techniques really support the spiritual philosophy of the founder?
I don't mean to say the subject is black or white, but it is somewhat contradictory to on the one hand say you're trying to follow what O'Sensei said more closely, and on the other hand disregard what was passed down as the method of the founder as a 'fly in amber'.

I myself am totally sympathetic to going beyond what O'Sensei said and did, but then the burden is on whatever is produced to be our own work, to stand on its own, to not need the justification that it will one day make someone like O'Sensei to follow our system to get people to want to do it. It is rather silly to call the end result aikido, even with the qualification of being "my aikido" or "your aikido", because then we're still just using O'Sensei as a marketing tool for our own system.

Quote:
I have never planned a lesson in all the years I have been teaching... different paths up the mountain..
And one must ask, can you see the path up the mountain then? Do you know what the actual challenges you must face in your training are, that once solved/surmounted will lead you to a point where you can say you have arrived at exactly what you wanted to accomplish in your training? Progress should not come on accident, it should come on purpose. If progress is not happening purposefully or not appreciably well by accident (which usually it does not, in my experience, subject to the Dunning-Kruger effect), then using euphemisms about mountains and pathways does not really justify a lack of progress or a lack of having attained all that we want to have attained in our training.

Last edited by Lee Salzman : 06-26-2013 at 05:29 AM.
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Old 06-26-2013, 05:37 AM   #7
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

How can one plan a class?....you never know who is going show up. A plan would ruin the moment presented by the circumstances.

@Lee: Somethings can not be forced. You can pretend they can be by all sorts of measuring sticks but in the end there is no measurement of becoming the best one can be.

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Old 06-26-2013, 06:14 AM   #8
lbb
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both,
And be one traveler..."

When two roads diverge, you don't know where they're going. They may come together again at some farther point - perhaps just beyond your line of sight. They may go in very different directions. If you could travel both, it might be that one is clearly better than the other...or it may be that one is just as good as the other, but different. But from where you're standing, you don't know. You can't know, unless you can speak to someone who has "traveled both" - not just read about it or theorized about it. All you can do is look down them as far as you can, and then make a choice with the full awareness that this may mean you never travel the other path. You make the choice, and if you're wise, you let go of regrets.

Does this metaphor hold for aikido? Maybe it's time to reconsider it; it's rather been done to death. And, of course, you can always bushwhack - but bushwhacking is no path at all, and definitely it's neither of the two alternatives you see from the fork in the road. Bushwhacking never, ever means walking both paths. It means walking neither.
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Old 06-26-2013, 07:34 AM   #9
Carsten Möllering
 
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

Quote:
Mary Eastland wrote: View Post
How can one plan a class?
If you see a path in front of you and you decide to follow it, planning how to do this is easy. ;-)
I indeed plan for weeks and even periods of months or half-years. Since I began to teach I always had ideas of what I wanted/want to teach and what I wanted/want to develop in the long run.

Quote:
....you never know who is going show up.
I am lucky because there are certain students who show up in every class I teach. They build a core of people who expect me to teach the specific way I do. Together we proceed. There is allmost noone showing up arbitrary.

Quote:
A plan would ruin the moment presented by the circumstances.
When I teach others, I try to mould, to form, to shape the circumstances. This to me is one of the most important points, what teaching is about.
When I have something to pass on to a student, there is also a responsibility on my side to make it possible, he can get it, take it.

On the other hand you are right: It is important in life - not only when practicing - to flow with it. And not to disturb or ruin it's moments by going against them.

But this is not a question of black or white I think: I always plan my practice. But I never stick to my plan when life gifts me with moments, circumstances I didn't foresee. Those things are enrichening when one is able to embrace them.

I love both ways.
Saying: "Wow, we finally made it!!!" When we achieve something, we aimed for. Sometimes over months.
And also saying: "Aha?!? This was completely different from what I thought we would do today. But was interesting, wasn't it?"

Last edited by Carsten Möllering : 06-26-2013 at 07:37 AM.
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Old 06-26-2013, 07:45 AM   #10
Dazzler
Dojo: Templegate Dojo, bristol & Bristol North Aikido Dojo
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

Quote:
Mary Eastland wrote: View Post
How can one plan a class?....you never know who is going show up. A plan would ruin the moment presented by the circumstances.

.
One of the joys of our art is that there are many ways to present a class.

Personally, I wouldn't dream of rocking up to a class just to do whatever I fancied. I know lots that do and some make a good go of it.

My view is that longer term it falls down a little. Lessons can be unstructured, aimless, favorite aspects get repeated, less favoured aspects can be ignored. Some teachers focus on what they want to do...not what the students need to progress.

Aikido makes you free - so its down to choice of course, for instructor and for students, but I always have a plan, a structure, in mind, if not written out. For most of my junior students this will be part of a larger longer term plan...Scheme of works if you like, which contains goals and targets beyond 'practice'.

Usually circumstances dictate some variance, part of the ability of a good instructor is the ability to adapt a lesson to meet the requirements of the students drawing upon their experience and knowledge to do so.

For me Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Far from ruining the moment it ensures that the lesson includes 'many moments' shared with all.

I guess it depends on what sort of dojo you are, and where you aspire to be, what the aim of the class is.....ultimately what sort of person the teacher is too.

My favoured learning style is via interrelated structures...others learn differently so may favour a different delivery method.

Isn't diversity a beautiful thing?

Regards

D
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Old 06-26-2013, 07:49 AM   #11
Dazzler
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
If you see a path in front of you and you decide to follow it, planning how to do this is easy. ;-)
I indeed plan for weeks and even periods of months or half-years. Since I began to teach I always had ideas of what I wanted/want to teach and what I wanted/want to develop in the long run.

I am lucky because there are certain students who show up in every class I teach. They build a core of people who expect me to teach the specific way I do. Together we proceed. There is allmost noone showing up arbitrary.

When I teach others, I try to mould, to form, to shape the circumstances. This to me is one of the most important points, what teaching is about.
When I have something to pass on to a student, there is also a responsibility on my side to make it possible, he can get it, take it.

On the other hand you are right: It is important in life - not only when practicing - to flow with it. And not to disturb or ruin it's moments by going against them.

But this is not a question of black or white I think: I always plan my practice. But I never stick to my plan when life gifts me with moments, circumstances I didn't foresee. Those things are enrichening when one is able to embrace them.

I love both ways.
Saying: "Wow, we finally made it!!!" When we achieve something, we aimed for. Sometimes over months.
And also saying: "Aha?!? This was completely different from what I thought we would do today. But was interesting, wasn't it?"
Some good points. "not a question of black or white"....absolutely. And very appropriate in a yin/yang kind of way.

Cheers

D
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Old 06-26-2013, 09:36 AM   #12
lbb
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

Well, there's more than one kind of planning. If we're sticking with the "path" metaphor, hiking will teach you the difference. When you head up the trail, you can't plan what will happen - that's beyond your control. You can plan to maximize the possibility of certain outcomes, and you can prepare for various eventualities, and that's about it. You can't plan for a mosquito-free hike, but you can wear insect repellent rather than perfume. You can't plan for no rain, but you can pack rain gear. You can't plan for a hike that's uninterrupted by washed-out bridges, but you can carry a map and compass and work around it. Most importantly, you can't plan on your hike being a glorious, soul-expanding, peak-experience romp in the woods (or wherever it is you do your hiking) - or even an ordinary good time. Not every hike is a good one.

Metaphor wearing out yet? Maybe not. We can control the physical climate inside the dojo, but there's a lot we don't control: students' preparation, their readiness to learn, etc. One idea I heard recently was to have an invitation-only class, where one restriction would be that students are expected to show up for every class: you miss two, you'll need a good reason to remain in that class. If you knew you had the same people going to show up reliably for a particular class, on a long-term basis, how would that change things? What could you plan then?
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Old 06-26-2013, 12:10 PM   #13
Fred Little
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

Quote:
Mary Eastland wrote: View Post
How can one plan a class?....you never know who is going show up. A plan would ruin the moment presented by the circumstances.
I must disagree. It has become quite clear to me over the years that a lesson plan that typically consists of "whatever sensei decides to teach tonight, depending on who shows up," is a primary contributing factor to the problem of "never know(ing) who is going [to] show up. A reasonably structured curriculum gives students a reasonable degree of assurance that they aren't wasting their genuinely valuable time on whatever sensei pulled out of the black box five minutes after class started.

One can always set a plan aside or use it as a basis for something more extemporaneous, as circumstances demand, if there is a higher goal to be achieved than the mere delivery of one block of material (be it basic, intermediate, or advanced). And yes, one will often have to adjust on the fly.

Even so, the regular need to adjust on the fly is not a valid reason not to plan, it's just a lazy excuse. That many senior shihan in multiple lines of aikido have used this lazy excuse to justify their own failure to deliver competent basic instruction for decades doesn't change that.

Regards,

FL

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Old 06-26-2013, 12:15 PM   #14
CorkyQ
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

I would like to thank you, Mark for finding your practice with me interesting enough to move what I had written in Graham Christian's thread to its own thread. Thank you for adding your independent analysis of your experience. I appreciate that you have done a thorough job of processing your experience, and I am certainly glad that your conclusion, after entering the dojo a bit skeptically, was in alignment with mine about the effectiveness of working with this model of practice when you left. Your valuable feedback, coming from your twenty years of practicing and I believe ten years of teaching had given me much to work with as I develop my hopefully continually improving methods of teaching this approach.

While you have described your practice with me the way I describe it, non-technique based, it is probably very difficult for those who have not had training outside of the traditional technique based teaching model, so if you don't object, I will link to a couple of videos we shot during one of our impromptu practice sessions:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcRghYC-I7E

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9GYN6Dmkz4

and finally, though there is a bunch of silly stuff at the beginning....:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oy_ek6ItOLc

I had started working this way in around 2004 and the first time I encountered it outside my own practice was in 2007 at summer camp in northern CA in the seminar sessions led by Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan. I had a bit of an advantage over the other students there because I had been practicing this way exclusively for more than three years.

During that seminar I was fortunate to be chosen to be uke before the assembly during at least one practice session by three of the four shihan who were the main draw. Ikeda Sensei's aikido was just as I expected, no surprises, it felt very familiar to me. Ikeda Sensei asks his ukes to not be typical ukes, but to really hold him meaningfully. I have not unfortunately been able to train with Ikeda Sensei since some seminars in CA a couple of years back, but at that point the only difference in what we were doing full time on the mat at my dojo and what Ikeda Sensei was demonstrating was the language we used to describe/teach it.

Two of the Shihan taught (in my recollection) from the physical dynamics of the movements of the technique, and as a result the aikido was very effective in destroying my attack and putting me on the ground. However, I also felt discomfort in the way they did it. At one point in the training with one of those shihan, the technique being practiced involved nikkyo. My partner had long given up his attack and was waiting for me to deliver a potentially wrist snapping nikkyo, but in my practice I had already given up forcing an aikido fall on someone not attacking. The shihan walked over and asked me what the problem was. He asked for the same ukemi as I was getting and proceeded to apply a nikkyo, which controlled me through pain compliance. It was definitely effective, as you would expect, but we aikidoka treat discomfort like that with gratitude for the learning experience. Real life uke resents being hurt even if he started it. Resentment at the end, no loving protection perceived.

Believe me, I was not about to show disrespect and argue with a master of his stature and experience, but it became clear that our purposes in practicing were not the same. I want the end result of every encounter to result in healing (as suggested by Osensei) not in one person's victory. Since then I have seen the dynamics of nikkyo manifest in many interactions in which uke didn't even recognize that "nikkyo" had occurred, and yet he or she was on the ground, without a smidgen of pain.

My giving ukemi to Mary Heiny Sensei was a different experience all together but of a much different variety. In her speaking to the assembly she gave me no directives as to how to attack her or when. Yet I could feel her drawing the attack from me energetically. Even in the middle of her connection to the crowd with her back to me, there was a non-verbal communication to bring it on. This communication existed throughout the interaction, all the way through my roll. Of course, I gave fully intentional attacks at full speed because that is what she asked for, and the experience of our interaction was invigorating and satisfying. I was thrown by my own attack even though I truly meant for it to impact her central core. Because there was not a set technique being demonstrated, what was occurring was spontaneously manifesting aiki (takemusu aiki), and I never felt thrown by her. This gave me further insight into the nature of connection, but again it was not Heiny Sensei demonstrating a technique, it was a demonstration of connection.

This insight was further embedded when she told me at some point during the week that her teacher, Hikitsuchi Sensei, 10th dan, told her that we should stop using the words nage or throw. For many years Mary Heiny has been inspirational to me whether in person or otherwise and that inspiration is born in the intention behind her quote on her website: "Through Aikido we may examine the nature of power, engage in uncompromising self-scrutiny, and realize our potential as powerful, compassionate, self-aware human beings." The key phrases for me are uncompromising self-scrutiny and realize our potential as compassionate…human beings, (the self-awareness developing in tandem).

I noticed that though you had written this thread as a revelation of what you have coined "post modern aikido," hoping to spread the word that there may be a shorter route to takemusu aiki than the ones Heiny Sensei, you and I have taken to get to these higher forms of aikido, yet the responses have been not about the concepts or dynamics of the concept you and I have written of, but advice to you on whether or not you should plan classes or how to decide which divergent path to take in your study of the art.

It is not an easy conversation to have because when we have it we may find that the shorter route to the top of the mountain starts way back where the classic route also begins and there is suddenly not only something to learn but much to unlearn. My 20 years of practicing in the traditional technique based models found in both my duo lineages (ASU/ Saotome and Koichi Tohei through Roderick Kobayashi) has embedded habits I am still working to transcend.

When I give a seminar I always begin by giving ukemi to everyone present. Even beginners can execute an aikido technique they have been drilled on, so as I attack with typical ukemi everyone does beautiful aikido. Then I go through the second round with the same attack, but this time the intention is not to allow them to practice their technique but an authentic attack intention. Understand please that this is not an intention to stop their technique; it is intention to connect and stay connected to their central core to impact it in some way. Aikido can easily be manifested with the attack I am giving them. I should be right on the mat very quickly.

Generally what happens is the instant the feeling of a real attack enters their awareness they immediately begin to try to impose a technique on me, and some of them, to prove to themselves, I guess, that the technique they've practiced for a decade or more really does work, has to work, has to work under any conditions, produces a panic. Then they either become attackers themselves using aikido movements to try to force me to the mat, or they freeze and analyze, looking for their intellect to give them another technique to try.

Sometimes a sense of wonder follows, particularly in the host who invited me. Other times it is resentment because I have demonstrated that perhaps their technique, practiced ten thousand times, is not a response that is going to be both effective martially and embodying the declaration of Osensei, "Aikido is the realization of love." Often the things I demonstrate are taken as illustration of principle but it is the rare individual who wants to awaken from the illusion that their aikido is really going to keep them safe in an attack AND truly express a realization of love (and not tough love, either, by the way -- that's an invented rationalization for throwing)

However, in our short time together, Mark, you showed me that you could transcend your training as well as the natural lower brain responses that try so hard to keep you (me and everyone else) resisting, forcing or retreating. In just a few hours you were able to grasp enough about what we were doing to deliver an unrelenting attack to my center in a safe enough way that should I screw up, though my mistake would be obvious to us both from a martial viewpoint, I would not be hurt. That was key to your success in the role of nage because in training yourself to maintain an attack intention without the intensity you also became conscious, when you were in the role of nage, of the hidden, lower brain generated intentions that lead you into struggling with my authentic attack instead of into harmony with it.

That neither you nor I are capable of this transcendence every time we are in a situation perceived as conflict is why we continue to practice. Dai Sensei Kanshu Sunadomari, Shihan, told me personally that after 70 years of practice he was still discovering deeper levels of aikido, and that his main intention was to "remove animosity" from his heart. The obvious purification in what we are practicing, in alignment with the idea of Masakatsu Agatsu, is instant and undeniable because in each attack authentically rendered in our dojo, expressing truly beneficent intention is a literal victory over lower brain impulses to defend or escape.

Every time we can transcend the lower brain defenses to offer our support to an attacker rather than seeking our own security through this type of limbic trigger response, even in the Petri dish of the dojo, I believe the better our chances are of producing a mutually beneficial resolution in any conflict.

I don't have a name for what I do, I call my practice "Aiki Lab" because it is a place of continual discovery for us all and we are always scrutinizing ourselves and our intentions. I like to think I am moving in a direction that would gain the encouragement of the founder if he still walked the earth. But ultimately it has all arisen from the desire that my practice be in alignment with my purpose, which is that every attack issued ends not only without pain and discomfort for anyone, but with a healing, thereby fulfilling the edict of the Founder that aikido "is the way to reconcile the world and make human beings one family."

Last edited by CorkyQ : 06-26-2013 at 12:25 PM.
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Old 06-26-2013, 02:23 PM   #15
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

Quote:
Fred Little wrote: View Post
I must disagree. It has become quite clear to me over the years that a lesson plan that typically consists of "whatever sensei decides to teach tonight, depending on who shows up," is a primary contributing factor to the problem of "never know(ing) who is going [to] show up. A reasonably structured curriculum gives students a reasonable degree of assurance that they aren't wasting their genuinely valuable time on whatever sensei pulled out of the black box five minutes after class started.

One can always set a plan aside or use it as a basis for something more extemporaneous, as circumstances demand, if there is a higher goal to be achieved than the mere delivery of one block of material (be it basic, intermediate, or advanced). And yes, one will often have to adjust on the fly.

Even so, the regular need to adjust on the fly is not a valid reason not to plan, it's just a lazy excuse. That many senior shihan in multiple lines of aikido have used this lazy excuse to justify their own failure to deliver competent basic instruction for decades doesn't change that.

Regards,

FL
Excuse? Lazy? Neither. Teaching extemporaneously is a different way...some can do it and some cannot. It doesn't make a person lazy.

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Old 06-26-2013, 02:46 PM   #16
Rob Watson
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

I don't know about the "reconciliation part" but my instructor (and maybe Mr. Freeman can comment based on his short time visiting) deploys a structured yet extemporaneous style or method of instruction. What I mean is there is always a monthly and quarterly set of "themes" that guide our practice and depending on exactly who is in class instruction is tailored to the needs of those present. Initially, for me, it was quite confusing as it seemed everyone was being taught different things but eventually I caught on and tried to pay more strict attention to what I was doing and the needs of my junior partners (and the specific instruction they were given).

So we get both a definite structured plan as well as "real time" adjustments suited for the needs of those present. The worst thing that happens is exposure to high level material when one is possibly not quite ready for it but that is kind of nice, too.

"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 06-26-2013, 03:13 PM   #17
Mark Freeman
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

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Mark Freeman wrote: View Post
I have never planned a lesson in all the years I have been teaching... different paths up the mountain..
Hi All,

I added this line as a bit of a slightly humorous reply to Jorgens response. Unfortunately it has become the off topic subject of the thread. It may well be worthy of discussion and perhaps warrants a thread of its own. I don't really want to enter into the debate here. I respect that others plan their lesson in detail, good for them. Personally, I have taught a very full curriculum as laid down by my federation and managed to get my students through their various gradings often with praise for their individual performance from the grading officers. My lessons are structured around ki development and aikido, I teach the students what they need. I just don't plan before hand, I works for me and those I teach and I am aware that this is not everyone's way of going about things, but back to the topic of the thread......

The reason I brought this thread to life was to highlight the pioneering work being done by a someone who is prepared to follow his own inquiry and forge a new way of practice, that supports this, but still remain true to the stated aims of the founder. I will not be to everyone's taste and some may feel challenged by these methods. I seem to remember Tohei's way of doing things didn't go down too well with everyone, when he started to teach his own particular way.

So as Corky is engaged in this thread, I'm sure he will be happy to face any challenges or questions you may wish to put to him. I know from experience that he and his methods are robust enough to cope.

My personal curiosity took me out of my comfort zone of the safe structured existence in my own federation under one of the best teachers in Europe. Very traditional and correct training. This stood me in good stead when I met many, if not most of the best Aikido teachers on the west coast. I enjoyed meeting and training with them all. None of them however, challenged what I already knew to any great extent. Of course there were variations in training methods and focus, all of which I was able to work with without difficulty. I learnt something from each, which I could add to what I already knew.

What Corky did was to show me the limitations of what I knew (or thought I knew), which is a humbling experience and one I recommend to everyone. If you watch the videos he has posted, you will see me often struggling to make things work. However, the discomfort of learning something new, was well worth it.

So I know this is all part of my own personal story, but I feel that anyone who embodies "budo is love" the way that Corky does, deserves to be listened to.

And as far as I could make out, he didn't pre plan the lessons beforehand

regards,

Mark

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Old 06-26-2013, 03:45 PM   #18
James Sawers
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

My thanks to Mark and Corky for bringing up this topic for discussion. I have been attempting to expand my aikido practice slowly over time to include other aikido styles and viewpoints, but have run into some difficulty when I try to incorporates these differences into my home dojo, especially when I am tasked with occasionally teaching a class. I am told to only teach our style when I teach, which, to be fair, is only right. We have a responsibility to our students to teach in our home style, preparing them for their respective tests and allowing them to properly mingle at seminars with their peers from similar dojos in our association.

My question is, at what point can such outside ideas, with sometimes radical differences in approaches, be incorporated into an existing dojo curriculum, without endangering the "purity" of that dojo's teachings? Do we need to set up an "Aiki Lab", as suggested, where advanced practitioners (who know enough not to confuse these new approaches with their currently accepted curriculum) can come together and try to incorporates these new ideas and approaches into their individual training?

Have others run into this? If so, what was the outcome?

Thanks.......Jim

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Old 06-26-2013, 03:58 PM   #19
Mark Freeman
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

Quote:
Robert M Watson Jr wrote: View Post
I don't know about the "reconciliation part" but my instructor (and maybe Mr. Freeman can comment based on his short time visiting) deploys a structured yet extemporaneous style or method of instruction. What I mean is there is always a monthly and quarterly set of "themes" that guide our practice and depending on exactly who is in class instruction is tailored to the needs of those present. Initially, for me, it was quite confusing as it seemed everyone was being taught different things but eventually I caught on and tried to pay more strict attention to what I was doing and the needs of my junior partners (and the specific instruction they were given).

So we get both a definite structured plan as well as "real time" adjustments suited for the needs of those present. The worst thing that happens is exposure to high level material when one is possibly not quite ready for it but that is kind of nice, too.
Hi Robert,

I remember my visit to your dojo well. One which I really enjoyed, as it was the furthest away in style from what I was used to. I had to rely on my ability to copy what I saw as quickly as possible, as so much of the instruction was called in Japanese. I thought Sensei Hendricks was very tolerant of my lack of language. I appreciated her structured method of teaching and the lightness of touch that balanced the very focussed regard to the curriculum. She was also the most formal of all of the teachers I met, inquiring with genuine interest my own lineage and teachers history. And like all of the west coast dojos I visited, I was made very welcome by both the Sensei and all of the students.

However, to try and keep the thread on track, most of us practice what we are shown for many years, and in time are called on to pass that knowledge on to others and become teachers ourselves. How many of us are challenged to rethink what we know? After all, people come to us to learn because we know more than them, that's what teachers are for, aren't they?

I'm not suggesting in my posts that everyone should drop what they are doing, I know that will not happen. But I am suggesting that what I came across in L.A in Corky's Lab, may well in the future, be a common way of practice in aikido... Of course I could be completely wrong,,, For me the value in what he is doing, is in the unconventional non technique method of dealing with a real attack on centre. It is so different from what we are used to it sort of boggles the mind. The result is the peaceful resolution of conflict, which is as far as I am aware, is what aikido is supposed to be

Please pass my regards on to Sensei Hendricks and to the rest of your dojo.

regards,

Mark

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Old 06-26-2013, 04:27 PM   #20
Mark Freeman
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

Quote:
James Sawers wrote: View Post
My thanks to Mark and Corky for bringing up this topic for discussion. I have been attempting to expand my aikido practice slowly over time to include other aikido styles and viewpoints, but have run into some difficulty when I try to incorporates these differences into my home dojo, especially when I am tasked with occasionally teaching a class. I am told to only teach our style when I teach, which, to be fair, is only right. We have a responsibility to our students to teach in our home style, preparing them for their respective tests and allowing them to properly mingle at seminars with their peers from similar dojos in our association.

My question is, at what point can such outside ideas, with sometimes radical differences in approaches, be incorporated into an existing dojo curriculum, without endangering the "purity" of that dojo's teachings? Do we need to set up an "Aiki Lab", as suggested, where advanced practitioners (who know enough not to confuse these new approaches with their currently accepted curriculum) can come together and try to incorporates these new ideas and approaches into their individual training?

Have others run into this? If so, what was the outcome?

Thanks.......Jim
Hi Jim,

finally someone has hit the nail firmly on the head, this is exactly the question I am facing in this moment.

I have moved to a new city, having left my old class behind to go and travel. I could easily set up a class here under my long term teacher. I would be expected to teach as I did before, respecting the purity of his method. This approach I respect and I know he would not sanction the radical stuff that I experienced in the LA Lab.

I think you may be right in that we may have to set up our own 'Labs' to explore any different or radical approach. I'm not sure that it should be limited to advanced practitioners though. It would depend on whether the students want the more traditional approach as well. I met a student at Corky's place who had not experienced 'normal' aikido and she seemed to be progressing really well. In fact her non exposure to technique based practice was probably working in her favour.

In the end I may well end up doing both as you suggest and see where that takes me. Until I do I will not know the answer. I guess that some dojo heads are more open to incorporating new ideas. For those of us who are curious to walk and learn from the less conventional path, perhaps we have to let go of the safety net of the familiar support and go it alone for better or worse. New lands are not discovered by those who stay at home.

Good luck to you and your training Jim,

regards,

Mark

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Old 06-26-2013, 04:39 PM   #21
phitruong
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

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Mark Freeman wrote: View Post
thanks for responding (what has happened to Aikiweb since I've been away? over 400 views of my post and only 1 reply?),

Mark
didn't want to post because still not happy about you spent all your time out west coast, picked up strange habits from west coasters, which we would have to beat it out of you if you ever set foot out here in the East. everyone knows East Coast is where you would find aiki, at the very least, good foods.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
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Old 06-26-2013, 04:59 PM   #22
Mark Freeman
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

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Phi Truong wrote: View Post
didn't want to post because still not happy about you spent all your time out west coast, picked up strange habits from west coasters, which we would have to beat it out of you if you ever set foot out here in the East. everyone knows East Coast is where you would find aiki, at the very least, good foods.
Hi Phi,

I had forgotten quite how big your country is and quite how slow old VW camper vans go! You are right I was in danger of picking up strange west coast habits - this thread is testament to the fact

I really do hope to make it out to the 'real' coast at some point, where I know I will find plenty of good food and proper aiki!

I hope you are well, apart from missing me

regards,

Mark

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Old 06-26-2013, 05:52 PM   #23
RonRagusa
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

Quote:
Mark Freeman wrote: View Post
...we may have to set up our own 'Labs' to explore any different or radical approach.
Mark -

You're at the same juncture that I was at 12 years ago. I realized that my Aikido was missing something and after 25 years with the same teacher I didn't think I was going to discover the missing component by continuing as before. I chose to pursue an independent course (a painful and scary decision) and discovered that what was missing was my ability to explore the ideas that were occurring within me that fell outside the accepted doctrine of my former organization.

That decision spurred a growth spurt in my Aikido that continues today. Good luck, there's a steep but worthwhile drop off the cliff you're standing on the edge of...

Ron

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Old 06-26-2013, 06:34 PM   #24
graham christian
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

Hi Mark, good to see you luved it with Corky.

Regarding your partial dilemma as to how you personally move forward I would say you'll no doubt find your own personal answer.

As I see it you could well carry on under the umbrella of Ki Aikido and at the same time do a separate thing elsewhere and name it as you see fit. That would be an interesting experience for you all in itself.

Otherwise like many before you you could form your own style which no doubt would draw on all your experience plus the new view. New scene too for you will be 'independent' so to speak.

For me and Bob it has been this way for many a year. So I have encountered much of what you describe and more and yet found it all, every bit of it, enjoyable and opening to more learning.

There are those who come who have never done a martial art and were always put off by the mechanical structured approach. Then those who are used to such an approach. Then those who are very experienced in a martial art or aikido. Bottom line is just to know exactly what you are teaching and forward that to the student and all is then fine in my experience.

There is always feedback and there are always folk who turn up purely out of interest just to see or feel what it is. That's all good too. Feedback comes eventually from those you teach as they travel and encounter various scenes and people from different styles. So in a way I never feel away from what others are doing for I encourage anyone who wants to to go try any style. One guy I should be seeing next month at a yearly party went to an Iwama school. It will be good to see how he is getting on. He has returned a few times with his 'new skills' and it's interesting to me watch his progress.

On the other hand there have been those who had done aikido for years and yet finally found what they were looking for here. So when in the past I have said 'it's all good' I meant it for each person has their own path to follow and those whose path will be helped by my approach will turn up. That's how I see it.

So bottom line is to know your own approach and not be afraid to present it to those who would like to learn it.

Technique-less Aikido eventually leads also to understanding technique so it itself is a fascinating thing to experience. Transcend technique and finally understand technique.....quite zen really.

So basically I am saying that after the mental dilemma comes the decision and after the decision comes for you I am sure a fascinating next part of your journey. Embrace it.

Peace.G.
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Old 06-26-2013, 07:01 PM   #25
CorkyQ
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Re: Post Modern Aikido?

Quote:
James Sawers wrote: View Post
My thanks to Mark and Corky for bringing up this topic for discussion. I have been attempting to expand my aikido practice slowly over time to include other aikido styles and viewpoints, but have run into some difficulty when I try to incorporates these differences into my home dojo, especially when I am tasked with occasionally teaching a class. I am told to only teach our style when I teach, which, to be fair, is only right. We have a responsibility to our students to teach in our home style, preparing them for their respective tests and allowing them to properly mingle at seminars with their peers from similar dojos in our association.

My question is, at what point can such outside ideas, with sometimes radical differences in approaches, be incorporated into an existing dojo curriculum, without endangering the "purity" of that dojo's teachings? Do we need to set up an "Aiki Lab", as suggested, where advanced practitioners (who know enough not to confuse these new approaches with their currently accepted curriculum) can come together and try to incorporates these new ideas and approaches into their individual training?

Have others run into this? If so, what was the outcome?

Thanks.......Jim
Jim, thanks for this inquiry. You are right in calling this a radical approach, because in order for one to experience the benefits of it one must change the way one looks at attack and often, one's purpose in practicing aikido. My move into this exploration was not supported by the dojo I had practiced in for more than 10 years, but I had an experience I could not ignore that pointed out to me that even though I was a yudansha with almost 20 years of training, my aikido training was ineffective in a real attack.

For me, the choice of staying with friends and continuing what I now knew to be deceiving them and myself or leaving to search for the essence of the art which I had now discovered I had truly missed was an easy one even though the path itself would prove to be exponentially difficult early on.

I like to think, however, that that doesn't have to be the case.

If you teach your own classes you can start implementing an investigation of energetics of human interaction. It is not incongruous with any aikido practice, style or school that I know of to investigate the nature of authentic attack energy expression.

The way people grab and strike demonstrates their intention. By understanding the nature of the flow of energy between people based on intention, you can start to get an idea of what kind of flow has to be directed at nage to make the practice attack suitable for aiki to manifest spontaneously and without effort or force. For instance, ask a partner to grab you and you will find a distinct difference in feeling if you imagine putting a spear through the person grabbing you as opposed to keeping them at a distance. I term those two expressions of energy spear energy and shield energy and they both affect the way aiki manifests or doesn't.

If you examine the technique from the intention of the attack you can get insight into where your practice ukemi is falling short of authenticity and if as nage you are either withdrawing from the interaction (letting uke fall without your support) or getting in his way (resisting or trying to get uke to fall sooner, later, or in a different way than he is).

You can see a little about that here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsQxuonXZ6Y

and here: (sorry for the bad sound) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztB8GIWoCOE

The idea is not to destroy traditional technique but to gain insight into how and why those techniques come into being spontaneously. By directing your attention to the nature of attack and how that affects aikido you can also start to see how the implementation of your technique might actually be making it harder for uke to get to the ground.

If you are in a dojo in which ideas like this would hold no weight but still wish to investigate, again, look at the ukemi and understand what your intention must be as attacker for that path to spontaneously manifest - then you'll know where to be as nage in order to support uke as he follows the path to the mat. But be prepared for most of your ukes to hang there in space waiting to be thrown... and resist the urge. Instead, gently remind them that they are attacking someone and encourage them to continue... or put them back on their feet. It will be counter-productive to your new training to continue throwing people who are not attacking!

Thanks again for the inquiry, Jim! I am working on a training model and DVD to incorporate along side traditional practice and planning some seminars for those interested in expanding their practice to include some non-technique emulation exploration.
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