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Old 10-28-2015, 06:42 PM   #1
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Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

Posted 2015-10-28 17:41:35 by Jun Akiyama
News URL: http://kogenbudo.org/the-use-of-weap...kido-training/

Here's an Aikido article entitled "The Use of Weapons in Aikidō Training" by Ellis Amdur.

From the article: "How does weapon practice contribute to or inhibit the aims of aikidō? The essential nature of a weapon is as an object created to do harm to others—to cut and slash flesh, crush bone, give pain, even take life. Any other purposes, such as using the weapon as emblem of power or as means of spiritual advancement, are secondary developments. Therefore, the first question: Is aikidō weapon technique effective as a combative martial art?"

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Old 10-28-2015, 07:49 PM   #2
odudog
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

The easy answer Ellis is no. It was not made for that. Osensei took bits and pieces from real sword work and modified some or most of them to fit his goals in teaching aikido. I have read that some of our kata is done exactly the same as the ryu from which it came from. I have done seminars with an instructor that teaches a koryu and I see bits and pieces of it in aikido. I don't think anything that Osensei stole came from there, but there is a resemblance. Aikijo and aikiken teaches principles and helps emphasize our foot, hand, and body movements. Just as it was designed for.

See ya when you come to the DC area next year for the seminar.
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Old 10-29-2015, 11:26 AM   #3
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

The same could be said regarding empty hands aikido techniques.
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Old 11-05-2015, 02:46 PM   #4
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

Quote:
...I found some of the same flaws, at least from my perspective, that I've always observed in aikijō: one person in the kata, I felt, was learning how to ‘lose' to the other. In other words, he was ‘taking' ukemi for the other, and in the case of films I've seen, that other was always the teacher. There were also many assumptions of how one would act when in a particular body/weapon configuration that did not conform to my experience when training with highly skilled practitioners. It seemed to me that this teacher, like most, came up with his creative ideas not through a collaborative process, but through presenting things to his students who were expected, if not required, to template themselves to his latest ideas
I am interested in how these comments apply to the Iwama weapons system, a system that is the closest to the one practised by the founder.

Here is something concrete to look at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHZnOcn5MO0

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Old 11-15-2015, 03:38 AM   #5
Bernd Lehnen
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

Quote:
David Soroko wrote: View Post
I am interested in how these comments apply to the Iwama weapons system, a system that is the closest to the one practised by the founder.

Here is something concrete to look at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHZnOcn5MO0
Of course they apply. From what I have seen so far, practice may be time consuming, even entertaining, and there are no "weapons" but teaching tools.

You alleged that the Iwama weapons system were closest to the one practiced by the founder.
Do you really know what the "founder" actually practised?

Best,
Bernd

Last edited by Bernd Lehnen : 11-15-2015 at 03:45 AM.
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Old 11-15-2015, 12:33 PM   #6
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

Hello Bernd

Quote:
Bernd Lehnen wrote: View Post
Of course they apply. From what I have seen so far, practice may be time consuming, even entertaining, and there are no "weapons" but teaching tools.
This doesn't really answer my question to Elis Amdur of how his criticism applies. If you agree with his criticism (e.g. one person in the kata was learning how to ‘lose' to the other), it would be useful to see a more detailed argument. Please also say something about your own weapons experience so that I can understand better the context of your argument.

In Aikido, the Jo is considered to be a weapon - not sure why you put double quotes around weapons.

Quote:
You alleged that the Iwama weapons system were closest to the one practiced by the founder.
Do you really know what the "founder" actually practised?
I didn't think this would be controversial, instead of making the argument, I'll direct you to this interview with Shoji Nishio. Some relevant quotes:

Saito Sensei is the only person who can hand down O-Sensei's Aikido exactly as it was

and

It is the role of Saito Sensei to hand down O-Sensei's art exactly as it was.

Finally, for some reason, you put double quotes around founder. This is just Ueshiba Morihe's title ( Kaiso ).

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Old 11-15-2015, 02:14 PM   #7
Bernd Lehnen
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

Hello David,
Nearly everything at hand can be used as a weapon.
But isn't the jo (e.g.) or any other thing you call a "weapon" in aikido rather meant to be used as a tool to foster the ideals of aikido?
Ueshiba Morihei is said to never have made the same movement twice. So, who created the kata, the kumijo?
Better you argue with Ellis.
Sorry for butting in.

Best,
Bernd
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Old 11-15-2015, 03:31 PM   #8
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

Quote:
Bernd Lehnen wrote: View Post
Hello David,
Nearly everything at hand can be used as a weapon.
The founder did practice extensively with certain weapons such as jo and bokken.

Quote:
But isn't the jo (e.g.) or any other thing you call a "weapon" in aikido rather meant to be used as a tool to foster the ideals of aikido?
Perhaps, but you need to learn how to crawl before you can run.

Quote:
Ueshiba Morihei is said to never have made the same movement twice.
Iwama tradition is extremely precise, technical and rational. The instructional material authored by the founder; "Budo" and "Budo Renshu" is as prescriptive as any martial arts manual ("...execute irimi tenkan to the right and strike his head").

Quote:
So, who created the kata, the kumijo?
Saito sensei formalized those based on his training under the founder.

Quote:
Better you argue with Ellis.
Sorry for butting in.
If you wish to argue Ellis's points with any authority, then by all means do.

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Old 11-15-2015, 06:41 PM   #9
Ellis Amdur
 
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

I respect Nishio sensei as much as any martial artist I've ever met. I disagree with him in this regard. O-sensei taught his different students different interpretations of weaponry. I do not think, for example, that the bojutsu he taught at Shingu was any less "Ueshiba-ryu" than what he taught at Iwama - to only give two of myriad examples. Please see HIPS for an extensive discussion on the history of the development of various aiki-weaponry. I believe Ueshiba used (and that's a term I mean deliberately) his students as 'crash-test dummies,' and he emphasized different principles with each one so he could experiment with the effect of them (consider that one of Saito sensei's contemporaries, elsewhere and at Iwama, was Kobayashi Hirokazu - two more different interpretations of aikido could not be found - and Kobayashi's, by the way, is probably the closest of any aikido to that of Daito-ryu aiki, at least in outward appearance. Sometimes, his arms (and the connection with his center) almost looks like Okamoto sensei

As to the question of "learning to lose," the passage was:
Quote:
Nonetheless, I found some of the same flaws, at least from my perspective, that I've always observed in aikijō: one person in the kata, I felt, was learning how to ‘lose' to the other. In other words, he was ‘taking' ukemi for the other, and in the case of films I've seen, that other was always the teacher. There were also many assumptions of how one would act when in a particular body/weapon configuration that did not conform to my experience when training with highly skilled practitioners. It seemed to me that this teacher, like most, came up with his creative ideas not through a collaborative process, but through presenting things to his students who were expected, if not required, to template themselves to his latest ideas. Although his practice could be brutal, even dangerous, there was no mutual reality testing.
I need to adjust one word - "almost always" - that particular shihan truly emphasized the winner-loser paradigm, (but he was far from alone in this) to speak quickly about what I mean. Saito-sensei, at least in his two person forms, exemplifies another trend, in which awase - fitting together moves are emphasized, and in my opinion, people are taught to move to accomplish awase, in ways that I do not believe are congruent with combative principles (compare the Kashima Shinto-ryu from which Iwama Aikiken is derived). There are two possible caveats: One assertion is that awase is a higher level training in which if you have the skill to accomplish it, you have the skill to "break it" and rather than harmonize and fit together, you cleave and destroy. There is a truth to this, and we see it in many koryu as well, but one runs the same risk as sundome in karate: if you always stop one inch away, what will you reflexively do in a fight. One of my current teachers, Don Gulla, speaks of "training scars," referring to methods of training on the firing range, for example, that show up in combat, because they've been engrained. (One horrible - thankfully not fatal - example occured in a gunfight where an officer dropped his firearm, and in the adrenalin fog, did exactly what he'd been trained to do on the range: raised a hand, got his body in sight so people knew where the risk was, and yelled, "dropped gun." Thankfully,the bad guy missed.) NOW, one could reply that awase is EXACTLY what Osensei and Saito sensei intended and they do it perfectly. I don't argue that - in fact, I'd be happy to agree and happy to say that this is exactly my point in my essay. In short, I have the temerity to find fault with the training methodology that was bequeathed by these great teachers. FINALLY, I've gotten a note from a long-standing Iwama practitioner who informs me that all the films and embu I've ever seen of Saito-sensei and his followers are of the 1st level training, and that there are higher levels which focus on combative effectiveness. If so, I stand corrected.
Actually, NOT finally - I would urge those interested to read my chapter on weaponry in HIPS - it's about 50 pages long. This essay, in fact, comes from the first edition of Dueling with O-sensei, and I actually intended to splice it into a revised chapter in the 2nd edition of HIPS. It just didn't fit. HIPS is technical history - this is technical and psychological opinion. So it stands as it is (with new revisions of its own). But a complete discussion of aikido weaponry is elsewhere.

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Old 11-16-2015, 07:12 AM   #10
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
I respect Nishio sensei as much as any martial artist I've ever met. I disagree with him in this regard. O-sensei taught his different students different interpretations of weaponry. I do not think, for example, that the bojutsu he taught at Shingu was any less "Ueshiba-ryu" than what he taught at Iwama - to only give two of myriad examples. Please see HIPS for an extensive discussion on the history of the development of various aiki-weaponry. I believe Ueshiba used (and that's a term I mean deliberately) his students as 'crash-test dummies,' and he emphasized different principles with each one so he could experiment with the effect of them (consider that one of Saito sensei's contemporaries, elsewhere and at Iwama, was Kobayashi Hirokazu - two more different interpretations of aikido could not be found - and Kobayashi's, by the way, is probably the closest of any aikido to that of Daito-ryu aiki, at least in outward appearance. Sometimes, his arms (and the connection with his center) almost looks like Okamoto sensei
Your disagreement with Nishio is really between you and him (or his spirit). For this discussion, a weapons "monotheism" i.e. there is only one correct way to practice weapons in the tradition of the founder, is not required. All we need is a specific way to practice weapons that is agreed to be Aikido.

Quote:
As to the question of "learning to lose," the passage was: I need to adjust one word - "almost always" - that particular shihan truly emphasized the winner-loser paradigm, (but he was far from alone in this) to speak quickly about what I mean. Saito-sensei, at least in his two person forms, exemplifies another trend, in which awase - fitting together moves are emphasized, and in my opinion, people are taught to move to accomplish awase, in ways that I do not believe are congruent with combative principles (compare the Kashima Shinto-ryu from which Iwama Aikiken is derived). There are two possible caveats: One assertion is that awase is a higher level training in which if you have the skill to accomplish it, you have the skill to "break it" and rather than harmonize and fit together, you cleave and destroy. There is a truth to this, and we see it in many koryu as well, but one runs the same risk as sundome in karate: if you always stop one inch away, what will you reflexively do in a fight. One of my current teachers, Don Gulla, speaks of "training scars," referring to methods of training on the firing range, for example, that show up in combat, because they've been engrained. (One horrible - thankfully not fatal - example occured in a gunfight where an officer dropped his firearm, and in the adrenalin fog, did exactly what he'd been trained to do on the range: raised a hand, got his body in sight so people knew where the risk was, and yelled, "dropped gun." Thankfully,the bad guy missed.) NOW, one could reply that awase is EXACTLY what Osensei and Saito sensei intended and they do it perfectly. I don't argue that - in fact, I'd be happy to agree and happy to say that this is exactly my point in my essay. In short, I have the temerity to find fault with the training methodology that was bequeathed by these great teachers. FINALLY, I've gotten a note from a long-standing Iwama practitioner who informs me that all the films and embu I've ever seen of Saito-sensei and his followers are of the 1st level training, and that there are higher levels which focus on combative effectiveness. If so, I stand corrected.
Actually, NOT finally - I would urge those interested to read my chapter on weaponry in HIPS - it's about 50 pages long. This essay, in fact, comes from the first edition of Dueling with O-sensei, and I actually intended to splice it into a revised chapter in the 2nd edition of HIPS. It just didn't fit. HIPS is technical history - this is technical and psychological opinion. So it stands as it is (with new revisions of its own). But a complete discussion of aikido weaponry is elsewhere.
My reading of your reply is that while the specific criticism of "learning to loose" doesn't apply to the Iwama system, it has different weakness: the desire to achieve awase in practice which takes away from it's martial validity and brigs us back to your fundamental criticism.
If this is the case - I'd be interested to see examples of kata forms (perhaps from Kashima shinto ryu) that do not suffer from this problem. Or perhaps you are thinking of some other sort of training - a weapon jyuwaza perhaps? Anyway an example would be appreciated.

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Old 11-16-2015, 09:47 AM   #11
Ellis Amdur
 
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

No, learning to lose is part of Iwama weapons as well. There is a continuum, with the "learning to lose" on one end and "awase" on the other - different versions of aikiken and aikijo fall differently on this line, with Saito-sensei more on the awase and Chiba Kazuo, for example, more on the "learning to lose."

As for Kashima Shinto-ryu, there are a lot of videos on YouTube. But the best comparison was the seminar that Stan Prainin organized which had Kashima Shinto-ryu and Saito-sensei on the same stage. I think that video is still available through Aikido Journal. (I will note, however, that it is somewhat difficult to get a real sense of Kashima Shinto-ryu, as the lineage, though not broken, was "wounded" - when the headmaster in, I believe, about 1940, died without fully passing on the school to his successor).

But let me go into a little detail with some things I see in aikiken. First is the micro-detail. Did you know that swords were not to be too sharp before battle. A beautifully sharpened sword tended to slip instead of cut the armor cords, which were made out of silk. So, before a battle, many ryu taught that one cut several times into a "trough" of sand, to make a serrated edge. There are myriads of teachings in each ryu that are certainly not part of aikiken. Without these small details, of course, one doesn't have a combative art, any more that a soldier given a rifle that he doesn't know how to clean and maintain has learned gunnery.

But let's look at the macro-level. First of all, that's not cutting with a sword - they are snapping out their arms. Beautifully, crisply, but it's not kenjutsu. But a larger problem (from the classical perspective) is this - for 600+ years, uketachi in classical ryu was the teacher. The teacher creates the conditions, with his/her body for shitachi (tori) to learn. As shitachi improves, uketachi raises the bar. Ueshiba flipped this over (as did Takeda) - when the teacher is the winner, it is significant. The teacher may be demonstrating a principle (and I believe that's so), but the student will not learn the subtlties of combative engagement (and the result is, as far as I can see, that Ueshiba was better than Saito Morihiro who was better than Saito Hitohiro who is better than his students). You have essence of a teaching model throughout Japanese combative history, geared to enable students to surpass the teacher --abandoned by aikido. (I don't like repeating myself - I wrote an entire book on the essence of koryu in Old School and fifty plus pages on this history and substance of aikiken in HIPS). So that's enough detail on that - those interested enough in more of my thoughts on the subject are welcome to read them there.

But I would like to take on one more topic as illustration.
Yakumaru-ha Jigen-ryu Yokogiuchi Many people think this looks and sounds utterly bizarre (interestingly the kiai is almost exactly the same as the infamous 'rebel yell' of the American Civil war). Aside from the incredible body organization, note that the exponent hits exactly the same point on the bundle of sticks, an embodiment of the principle of tombo no kurai (dragonfly on a post - NOTE: I wrote a lot on this on e-budo years ago. If it's archived, I'll put it on my blog).
Here is Ueshiba and Saito Because they've made a two-person form out of the practice, it's not strictly the same, but Ueshiba and even more Saito are shoulder dominant in their strikes. As Ueshiba always said when "stealing" another ryu's techniques, "in aiki, we do it this way." There are a number of essential principles of Jigen-ryu that he is ignoring, does not know, or finds irrelevant to his training. And Jigen-ryu was the essence of aggressive sword. But more than that - and in other films I've seen of Ueshiba, he doesn't hit the same point on the bundle of sticks. That's the essential teaching of this training! - He makes it a physical exercise rather than a very particular kenjutsu exercise (again, tombo no kurai - "a dragonfly always lands on the post, no matter how he flies" - this being the epitome of ma-ai training).

I couldn't quickly find Saito sensei's tire tanren-uchi, but this example will suffice. It is my understanding that the tire replaced the stick bundles, because they don't wear out. But they are really different (I've trained this way myself). The tire bounces back, whereas the sticks absorb. The latter encourages cutting power. With the tire, the shock is reflected back into the body, even to the degree of creating damage - distortions in posture, particularly the hips. To absorb it, one tends to stiffen. Furthermore, most kenjutsu grips in such a way that the web of the thumb/finger is at the top of the tsuka. This is not a problem because one cuts - one draws the sword along it's length. But tanren-uchi, (which will build a really strong body!) strikes the tire, and therefore, one is taught to "cap" the tsuka with the fore-finger knuckle. This protects the hand and thumb from repetitive stress injuries, but also tends to raise the right shoulder and lock the shoulders forward (Note Saito Hitohiro for a more extreme example of this).

I could continue, but this is just a little of what I see. The result is not an assertion that aikiken is inferior. I'm saying it is essentially different. Note that in my essay I recommend a study of a koryu - this is one reason why...so one can actually know the differences from the inside.
Ellis Amdur

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Old 11-16-2015, 10:48 AM   #12
Cliff Judge
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

Quote:
David Soroko wrote: View Post
My reading of your reply is that while the specific criticism of "learning to loose" doesn't apply to the Iwama system, it has different weakness: the desire to achieve awase in practice which takes away from it's martial validity and brigs us back to your fundamental criticism.
If this is the case - I'd be interested to see examples of kata forms (perhaps from Kashima shinto ryu) that do not suffer from this problem. Or perhaps you are thinking of some other sort of training - a weapon jyuwaza perhaps? Anyway an example would be appreciated.
David, I still haven't caught up on all of the Aikiken links you posted in the other thread, but FWIW I don't think it should be received as heavy criticism of the system if someone points out something that may be "martially invalid" about it. There have been many different sword traditions in Japan and they all think they are better than the others!

I have always been a fan of Kashima Shinto ryu but I have not had the opportunity to train in it, and since they are even further into the hinterlands of the Kanto region than Iwama, I am not sure I would be able to even if I were to move to Tokyo. But I know a little bit about Yagyu Shinkage ryu and it might be interesting to take a look at their beginner level training kata and their primary, original kata just to see how training can be conducted.

Here are some bits of the beginner kata set, called Airaito Hassei Ho, which is something like "Eight tactics done from jodan."

This set lays some groundwork for basic body mechanics and offensive attitude in the junior trainee. The senior initiates attacks and the junior responds. The use of the shinai allows attacks to be performed exactly as they would with a live blade. The junior learns quite about about management of the space between him and his opponent.

Things get interesting when the student learns the senior side of these kata. The student learns how to control the pacing of the engagement. It is really intense to have the trainee on the senior side press you at double or half time. There are also (I am told) hidden moves that both sides can insert into the kata which would alter the outcome.

Here is the focal kata of the ryu, a series called Empi.

This set of kata has a particular embu flavor to it, with a prescribed pacing (starts slow, speeds up), but in training, each side can basically try their hardest to connect with each attack - if one trainee slips up or is not executing at the same level as the other, they'll get tagged! The "fitting together" in this kata set can be more of a desperate race for survival than a mutual endeavor.

Here's a Kashima Shinto ryu demo from the same Tokyo Budokan embukai.

Kashima traditions (including Jikishinkage ryu, Kashima shinryu, and maybe Yagyu Shingan ryu) seem to have quite a bit of ceremonial import, so at times it can look like a mutual exercise. But if you watch for them, you can see moments when the kata suddenly becomes execution of a particular technique against resistance. My belief based on what I know of Shinkage ryu is that this indicates that the senior student - who generally loses the kata - is actually practicing a hidden technique, in some cases the hidden technique may be the superior one, but the senior "tanks" for the sake of the younger student's sense of success.

Having said all that - it is certainly possible that Saito Sensei's Aikiken system has similar features. What do you think? I think it would have to, if it were a good combative system, but I am not sure you need or even want that feature if your goal is to develop body mechanics and awareness for Aikido.

Last edited by Cliff Judge : 11-16-2015 at 10:54 AM.
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Old 11-16-2015, 11:30 AM   #13
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote:
But I would like to take on one more topic as illustration.
Yakumaru-ha Jigen-ryu Yokogiuchi Many people think this looks and sounds utterly bizarre (interestingly the kiai is almost exactly the same as the infamous 'rebel yell' of the American Civil war).
Just as an aside, this is my favorite period description of the effect of that form of kiai, from Catherine Hopley's Life in the South, who was an English eyewitness to First Manassas ...

Quote:
More than one person described that shout as something more overpowering than the cannon's roar. It was taken up, and carried along the line for several miles, and they heard the uproar rolling along in its approach like an avalanche of thunder. The enemy were not aware of the cause, and were in their turn overpowered by terror. One frightened company infected the rest, and the result is known.
Voice IS a weapon. Ask any drill instructor ... He'll happily show you....

FWIW, the rebel yell is a BIT different from the kiai shown above: 1:25-1:47

Cordially,

Erick Mead
一隻狗可久里馬房但他也不是馬的.
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Old 11-16-2015, 12:14 PM   #14
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

In some sense, I feel that the ethos that was granted to some of the earlier practitioners is being challenged in the newer generations. When pressed, I think we have a difficult time differentiating our weapons work from weapons-based arts. When further pressed, I think we have a difficult time proving our weapons work holds up against "non-aikido" attacks. So we're all about combat unless we fight someone that knows something, then it's a teaching tool.

We have dropped our weapons component for while after researching the role of weapons in aikido and how our weapons work translates into other systems. Mostly, I concluded that we [aikido] don't know what we are; there is a schizophrenia to our collective opinion on weapons in aikido that lead me to abstain from taking on any one perspective. There are individuals and dojos which break this assumption and I don't take issue with those exceptions. Nor do I think this is necessarily a bad thing to have to revisit what we do and why.

I think that generally, we are caught between putting up and shutting up. I think most of what we do with weapons is not "aiki", nor is it functional weapons work. We know it's not aiki, but we kinda hope to bluff our way through functional... until someone shows up and says, "Really? I play swords, too." Because of this perspective, I keep pretty close to a few people I think are doing good work and I shut up.

I think there are people who practice using weapons. I am not sure why we need to say that we do that also. In as much as someone doing weapons should be able to work out with us and say, "well, you got something going on that I can't figure out."

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Old 11-17-2015, 04:08 AM   #15
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

Thanks to everyone for taking the time to participate in this thread.

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Old 11-17-2015, 04:13 AM   #16
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

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Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
No, learning to lose is part of Iwama weapons as well. There is a continuum, with the "learning to lose" on one end and "awase" on the other - different versions of aikiken and aikijo fall differently on this line, with Saito-sensei more on the awase and Chiba Kazuo, for example, more on the "learning to lose."
This is quite circular and does not help me understand what "learning to lose" with awase means

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As for Kashima Shinto-ryu, there are a lot of videos on YouTube. But the best comparison was the seminar that Stan Prainin organized which had Kashima Shinto-ryu and Saito-sensei on the same stage. I think that video is still available through Aikido Journal. (I will note, however, that it is somewhat difficult to get a real sense of Kashima Shinto-ryu, as the lineage, though not broken, was "wounded" - when the headmaster in, I believe, about 1940, died without fully passing on the school to his successor).
Is this the video you were thinking about https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PvEegZ1XAE? If so could you comment in what way it demonstrates "learning to win"?

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But let me go into a little detail with some things I see in aikiken. First is the micro-detail. Did you know that swords were not to be too sharp before battle. A beautifully sharpened sword tended to slip instead of cut the armor cords, which were made out of silk. So, before a battle, many ryu taught that one cut several times into a "trough" of sand, to make a serrated edge. There are myriads of teachings in each ryu that are certainly not part of aikiken. Without these small details, of course, one doesn't have a combative art, any more that a soldier given a rifle that he doesn't know how to clean and maintain has learned gunnery.

But let's look at the macro-level. First of all, that's not cutting with a sword - they are snapping out their arms. Beautifully, crisply, but it's not kenjutsu. But a larger problem (from the classical perspective) is this - for 600+ years, uketachi in classical ryu was the teacher. The teacher creates the conditions, with his/her body for shitachi (tori) to learn. As shitachi improves, uketachi raises the bar. Ueshiba flipped this over (as did Takeda) - when the teacher is the winner, it is significant. The teacher may be demonstrating a principle (and I believe that's so), but the student will not learn the subtlties of combative engagement (and the result is, as far as I can see, that Ueshiba was better than Saito Morihiro who was better than Saito Hitohiro who is better than his students). You have essence of a teaching model throughout Japanese combative history, geared to enable students to surpass the teacher --abandoned by aikido. (I don't like repeating myself - I wrote an entire book on the essence of koryu in Old School and fifty plus pages on this history and substance of aikiken in HIPS). So that's enough detail on that - those interested enough in more of my thoughts on the subject are welcome to read them there.

But I would like to take on one more topic as illustration.
Yakumaru-ha Jigen-ryu Yokogiuchi Many people think this looks and sounds utterly bizarre (interestingly the kiai is almost exactly the same as the infamous 'rebel yell' of the American Civil war). Aside from the incredible body organization, note that the exponent hits exactly the same point on the bundle of sticks, an embodiment of the principle of tombo no kurai (dragonfly on a post - NOTE: I wrote a lot on this on e-budo years ago. If it's archived, I'll put it on my blog).
Here is Ueshiba and Saito Because they've made a two-person form out of the practice, it's not strictly the same, but Ueshiba and even more Saito are shoulder dominant in their strikes. As Ueshiba always said when "stealing" another ryu's techniques, "in aiki, we do it this way." There are a number of essential principles of Jigen-ryu that he is ignoring, does not know, or finds irrelevant to his training. And Jigen-ryu was the essence of aggressive sword. But more than that - and in other films I've seen of Ueshiba, he doesn't hit the same point on the bundle of sticks. That's the essential teaching of this training! - He makes it a physical exercise rather than a very particular kenjutsu exercise (again, tombo no kurai - "a dragonfly always lands on the post, no matter how he flies" - this being the epitome of ma-ai training).
Let me step back for a second. The tail of your essay describes how you work to improve\rescue a pair jo practice, I posted a link to a video hoping to see your criticism applied to an actual example. I

Coming back to you post, in the above, you venture into the aikiken and what fundamentally is an argument that the founder's practice was not koryu and that it does not properly teach the use of the shinken. I think that both statements are obviously (trivially?) correct (there is a brief discussion on the subject here: http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=24580) and by expecting otherwise you are setting yourself up for a disappointment.

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I could continue, but this is just a little of what I see. The result is not an assertion that aikiken is inferior. I'm saying it is essentially different.
I would say that this statement is incompatible with adjectives you use in your essay such as "flaws" "loose" "unrealistic" and "ineffective"

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Old 11-17-2015, 04:30 AM   #17
sorokod
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

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Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
David, I still haven't caught up on all of the Aikiken links you posted in the other thread, but FWIW I don't think it should be received as heavy criticism of the system if someone points out something that may be "martially invalid" about it. There have been many different sword traditions in Japan and they all think they are better than the others!

I have always been a fan of Kashima Shinto ryu but I have not had the opportunity to train in it, and since they are even further into the hinterlands of the Kanto region than Iwama, I am not sure I would be able to even if I were to move to Tokyo. But I know a little bit about Yagyu Shinkage ryu and it might be interesting to take a look at their beginner level training kata and their primary, original kata just to see how training can be conducted.

Here are some bits of the beginner kata set, called Airaito Hassei Ho, which is something like "Eight tactics done from jodan."

This set lays some groundwork for basic body mechanics and offensive attitude in the junior trainee. The senior initiates attacks and the junior responds. The use of the shinai allows attacks to be performed exactly as they would with a live blade. The junior learns quite about about management of the space between him and his opponent.

Things get interesting when the student learns the senior side of these kata. The student learns how to control the pacing of the engagement. It is really intense to have the trainee on the senior side press you at double or half time. There are also (I am told) hidden moves that both sides can insert into the kata which would alter the outcome.

Here is the focal kata of the ryu, a series called Empi.

This set of kata has a particular embu flavor to it, with a prescribed pacing (starts slow, speeds up), but in training, each side can basically try their hardest to connect with each attack - if one trainee slips up or is not executing at the same level as the other, they'll get tagged! The "fitting together" in this kata set can be more of a desperate race for survival than a mutual endeavor.

Here's a Kashima Shinto ryu demo from the same Tokyo Budokan embukai.

Kashima traditions (including Jikishinkage ryu, Kashima shinryu, and maybe Yagyu Shingan ryu) seem to have quite a bit of ceremonial import, so at times it can look like a mutual exercise. But if you watch for them, you can see moments when the kata suddenly becomes execution of a particular technique against resistance. My belief based on what I know of Shinkage ryu is that this indicates that the senior student - who generally loses the kata - is actually practicing a hidden technique, in some cases the hidden technique may be the superior one, but the senior "tanks" for the sake of the younger student's sense of success.

Having said all that - it is certainly possible that Saito Sensei's Aikiken system has similar features. What do you think? I think it would have to, if it were a good combative system, but I am not sure you need or even want that feature if your goal is to develop body mechanics and awareness for Aikido.
The videos are fantastically interesting and I will need more time to digest them. Regarding the change of roles between the senior and junior practitioner, in our partner practice the roles are frequently swapped (so you do the form three times as an uke and then three times as uchi). It is true that often (but not always) the most senior teacher demonstrates the "winning" side which is something you tend to see in the videos.

I am nor sure what counts as a hidden technique but most kumitachi do have variations so that starting from certain points in the flow different scenarios are explored.

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Old 11-17-2015, 09:38 AM   #18
grondahl
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

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David Soroko wrote: View Post
The videos are fantastically interesting and I will need more time to digest them. Regarding the change of roles between the senior and junior practitioner, in our partner practice the roles are frequently swapped (so you do the form three times as an uke and then three times as uchi). It is true that often (but not always) the most senior teacher demonstrates the "winning" side which is something you tend to see in the videos.

I am nor sure what counts as a hidden technique but most kumitachi do have variations so that starting from certain points in the flow different scenarios are explored.
To get a perspective on Iwama bukiwaza from somebody who was there and then studied something different, I would recommend attending a seminar with Tetsutaka Sugawara. The difference in speed and intention is pretty remarkable.
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Old 11-17-2015, 09:38 AM   #19
Cliff Judge
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

One big difference between the koryu I have knowledge of and Aikido weapons is that there is a huge difference in the division of roles between uke and nage.

Yes, in AIkido weapons the shihan will demo the kata, and will be the winner often, and that's different than the way the senior role in koryu kata generally appears to be the loser. In Iwama Aikiken, there is the appearance that the kata resolves to awase, so neither student is learning to "win."

But there is the simple fact that there isn't a senior side and a junior side to the kata. It is common to only do junior-side of a kata for years before being taught the senior side in koryu systems. In every Aikido weapons system I have seen, students learn both sides at once and alternate as they are practicing them to burn the moves in.

This tends to make the kata more of a mutual exercise or dance. Both partners will unconsciously move to compensate for the other to keep the kata moving smoothly. They are too partnered, in a way, like they are two interlinked components in the same whirling, rotating machine.

I am not really saying there is anything wrong with this. It's just that there isn't a lot of space between what uke and nage are trying to accomplish, both in training the kata, and in the "story" of the kata they are performing.

I am also not saying that there isn't unconscious cooperation and collusion sometimes in koryu kata. It's just that there is a little mental distance. The junior student's angle is off, after a couple of years she KNOWS the angle was bad and she screwed that up, but she moves right on. The senior sees it too, in the back of his head he notes that there was an opening that could have been exploited, while adjusting his counter-move to keep the kata moving. But this is totally not the same thing as an AIkido sword kata where the goal is to do the kata.

One final thought about this is that if you get two people together to practice a sequence of Aikido kata, while their overall goal is to get the kata done, together, there is often this ego battle going on. One side is more powerful and coordinated than the other and, though they tell themselves they are helping their partner, they press the partner further than she wants to go, perhaps there is a bruised finger, perhaps form goes to hell. And then its the slower student whose fault it is, and the stronger partner feels proud about themselves. But this is false pride derived from a fake situation.

You'd not do this in a koryu art - it is important to manage the junior student's success, and they'll give you plenty to be proud of if you bring them up correctly. There are fewer opportunities to punk your juniors, also, because the senior has moves which are secretly winning moves.
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Old 11-17-2015, 09:41 AM   #20
phitruong
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

Cliff, thanks for posting the video. watching those videos, i can see the engagement distance and control of center line would make most aikido folks uncomfortable. not to mention the change level and the intensity. i also like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZfdJQBzmcE the older man is quick and intense; weapon lead the body.

one comment, starting at a distance then closing for engagement is very different from regular aikido weapon line up.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
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Old 11-17-2015, 10:24 AM   #21
PeterR
 
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

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Phi Truong wrote: View Post
Cliff, thanks for posting the video. watching those videos, i can see the engagement distance and control of center line would make most aikido folks uncomfortable. not to mention the change level and the intensity. i also like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZfdJQBzmcE the older man is quick and intense; weapon lead the body.

one comment, starting at a distance then closing for engagement is very different from regular aikido weapon line up.
Interesting statements - how would it make aikido students uncomfortable?

The sword on sword weapons kata of Shodokan usually start at a distance and really that is my only experience with Aikido in this regard. Similar to other things I have done. I always assumed this was true for all AIkido weapons kata.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 11-17-2015, 10:35 AM   #22
Cliff Judge
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

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Phi Truong wrote: View Post
Cliff, thanks for posting the video. watching those videos, i can see the engagement distance and control of center line would make most aikido folks uncomfortable. not to mention the change level and the intensity. i also like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZfdJQBzmcE the older man is quick and intense; weapon lead the body.
That's Bokuden ryu, very interesting stuff.

one comment, starting at a distance then closing for engagement is very different from regular aikido weapon line up.[/quote]

There is a lot to be studied when closing the distance.

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Peter Rehse wrote: View Post
Interesting statements - how would it make aikido students uncomfortable?

The sword on sword weapons kata of Shodokan usually start at a distance and really that is my only experience with Aikido in this regard. Similar to other things I have done. I always assumed this was true for all AIkido weapons kata.
Peter, do you have any video links? I'd like to see this. Did Tomiki create these forms or did they come in from somewhere else?
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Old 11-17-2015, 10:59 AM   #23
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

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Peter Rehse wrote: View Post
Interesting statements - how would it make aikido students uncomfortable?

The sword on sword weapons kata of Shodokan usually start at a distance and really that is my only experience with Aikido in this regard. Similar to other things I have done. I always assumed this was true for all AIkido weapons kata.
Peter, i am not familiar with Shodokan weapon works. would this video representing that https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fm-sTNO0zOs

if it is, then the approach is very different from the aikido weapon works that i have encountered. most of the aikido weapon works, including the ones from my organization, tends to keep the distance and vacate the center line. and also starting from a one-step striking distance, just like the last kata in the above video. i liked the closing distance, making for an interesting encounter. Saotome sensei has a series of kata that he added a stutter in the closing which makes thing very interesting.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
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Old 11-17-2015, 11:46 AM   #24
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

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Peter Rehse wrote: View Post
The sword on sword weapons kata of Shodokan usually start at a distance ...
We have this also in some of our ken awase exercises and in some of our kata.
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Old 11-17-2015, 11:48 AM   #25
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Re: Article: Ellis Amdur, "The Use of Weapons in Aikido Training"

Both those guys are very good friends of mine and in about 10 minutes I will leave to train with uke (the guy on the left). To answer your question yes that is exactly the kata I was talking about.

This may explain my feelings about weapons work which in my experience was not that different from kata I learned in kendo (Shodokan is faster) or the one koryu I briefly trained in. A lot of the aikiken and aikijo discussion goes over my head.

Last edited by PeterR : 11-17-2015 at 11:52 AM.

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