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Old 10-28-2006, 07:01 PM   #1
markwalsh
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Western Aikido

In a few years the top aikidoka in Europe and America will have been training as long as the best in Japan - to me this is an interesting new situation.

How do you think aikido will change as a result of this, if at all?

I've noticed culturally specific movement patterns on my travels, and of course the average Euro/ US Sensei has a different body type to the Sensei that we all grew up with.

Thoughts?
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Old 10-29-2006, 01:57 AM   #2
batemanb
 
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Re: Western Aikido

I don't think wearing stetson's and doing taisabaki in the guise of John Wayne is going to help it much...................

Sorry Mark, couldn't resist

A difficult problem is easily solved by asking yourself the question, "Just how would the Lone Ranger handle this?"
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Old 10-29-2006, 04:13 AM   #3
Gernot Hassenpflug
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Re: Western Aikido

Considering the difference in physique between Japanese and Westerners there may well be a different emphasis on how to perform techniques, since Westerners need to bend their legs more to get into a lower position versus a Japanese of similar size. On the other hand, Japanese are changing in body type rapidly form generation to generation as a result of the Western diet, so perhaps the truth is closer to modern techniques differing from ones of 50 years or more ago. And at the end of the day, the external isn ot the part that makes the technique work. The breath and body work remains the same, and is just as difficult to get access to now as it was 50 or more years ago.
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Old 10-29-2006, 09:25 AM   #4
DonMagee
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Re: Western Aikido

As long as people keep testing their technique then their goal should be finding solid principles that work on all body types. Everyone is built slightly different so their technqiue should look different. But the principles on what the technique works should be the same.

Unless of course by change in physique you are refering to a growing trend of people being overweight and out of shape.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 10-29-2006, 11:47 AM   #5
markwalsh
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Re: Western Aikido

Accept point of changing Japanese bodytype - have several young friends there over 6 foot.

I've heard there was a study comparing the minor differences in anatomy that exist between races (hard to explore this scientifically as can get on dangerous racist ground quickly). Anyone have details of this paper?

The way cultures are educated (mainly unconsciously) to move is interesting to me. Here in Brazil for example people are generally more alive in the hips than in my native England (think samba). Koshi nage seems easier for people here for example.
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Old 10-29-2006, 08:49 PM   #6
Gernot Hassenpflug
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Re: Western Aikido

Hi Mark, I agree, lifestyle differences probably lead to different training of the body. One of my favourite instructors, Matthew Holland, used to chastise us for having "lazy hips". We at that time had no idea what the non-lazy ones were like, until I ended up in Japan and saw at up close one culture that is radically different. I see lots of things that they are doing that I would say they should improve on, but hip movement it seems is more practiced in young people. Nowadays I keep a personal slogan that goes "sitting is the root of all evil".
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Old 10-30-2006, 04:20 AM   #7
ian
 
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Re: Western Aikido

I'd heard orientals tend to have stronger ligaments in their knees due to it being a traditional seating method for many years (not sure if its genetic).

Many of the people who trained under Ueshiba left Japan as well, and live in the US/Canada or Europe. Also, I have seen some quite large orientals (Saito was pretty heavily built) so I'm not sure that the differences within a country are aren't bigger than between countries (even though mean body form may be different).

I think the main change in aikido is different perspectives on martial arts and greater mixing between people doing different arts. I think it may be difficult to seperate the cultural aspect from that. I get the impression that many Japanese instructors in Japan do a 'tradtional' way, in that they would think there is a certain way to do a technique and thats it (no evolution). Never trained there, but have trained with Japanese instructors who teach in Japan and Japanese instructors who teach elsewhere and I would say there may be a difference in approach.

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 10-30-2006, 04:43 AM   #8
Dazzler
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Re: Western Aikido

Aikido cannot change.

It is what it is.

Westerners have already been training as long or longer than the longest training japanese.

Training methods will differ, Professional Modern teaching theory may influence practice. Great Shihan may be measured on how good they are at teaching Aikido rather than how good they are at displaying it.

Some of the "japanese" culture may be lost.

But Aikido will not change.

Regards

D
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Old 10-30-2006, 05:30 AM   #9
Gernot Hassenpflug
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Re: Western Aikido

Ian, thanks for the input, the variation in one country is huge too. At the risk of being shown up as totally wrong, let me state that Japanese have different leg/hip/upper body proportions to Westerners. This manifest in that their legs appear shorter. I love it when gorgeous girls I barely know say to me "wow, you really are a Westerner. Your legs just keep on going on and on" LOL (it's true, I should have recorded it! Reply censored). This is obvious if you sit down in seiza in a confined space such as a tea ceremony room. Immediately it is clear that no-one can pass behind you without stepping on you unless you shift your knees about 20.3cm (8 inches) in front of everyone else, breaking the line. Not good. And then bowing without knocking over the tea, oh man. So, probably there are several underlying differences in the way Westerners look when they do techniques, even though the inner-body connections maybe functioning the way they ought to.
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Old 10-30-2006, 07:01 AM   #10
deepsoup
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Re: Western Aikido

Quote:
Daren Sims wrote:
Westerners have already been training as long or longer than the longest training japanese.
I don't think that is very often the case.

For example, I know of one individual in the UK who regards himself a peer to a certain Japanese shihan because he's been training 'as long as he has'.

What he neglects to mention is that his training consists of a couple of hours 2 or 3 times a week, whereas the shihan in question trained for the best part of a decade as uchideshi to a couple of shihans before settling down to life as a full time professional aikido instructor, researching, practicing and teaching aikido on a full time basis ever since.

Obviously there are a few exceptions, but they are few indeed.

Last edited by deepsoup : 10-30-2006 at 07:03 AM.
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Old 10-30-2006, 07:26 AM   #11
Dazzler
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Re: Western Aikido

Quote:
Sean Orchard wrote:
I don't think that is very often the case.

For example, I know of one individual in the UK who regards himself a peer to a certain Japanese shihan because he's been training 'as long as he has'.

What he neglects to mention is that his training consists of a couple of hours 2 or 3 times a week, whereas the shihan in question trained for the best part of a decade as uchideshi to a couple of shihans before settling down to life as a full time professional aikido instructor, researching, practicing and teaching aikido on a full time basis ever since.

Obviously there are a few exceptions, but they are few indeed.
Well Sean, I think that it will always be the case that it comes down to the individual.

Nevertheless there are now throughout Europe and the States a band of 50 year plus aikidoka.

Some will have walked the walk, some will have talked the talk.

I have met and trained with some who have lived and breathed Aikido throughout these years, and personally do not have any issue accepting the status of some of them as equal to similarly ranked japanese Aikidoka.

In fact I do not even consider japaneseness in the equation - I either like what they do or teach or I don't.

I do find the converse situation interesting where high ranking 'new kids on the block' japanese instructors are in terms of mat longevity, outranked by western counterparts and wonder how they feel about accepting the westerners as seniors.

anyone ever seen this cause problems?

Regards

D
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Old 10-30-2006, 09:58 AM   #12
odudog
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Re: Western Aikido

The Japanese body is not changing because of the diet in my opinion. My wife is tall, she is just slightly shorter than me {6 ft.} yet her brother is taller than me. Looking at her elementary school pictures, you can always find her easily when she is standing so most of the time she is kneeling to make the picture look more even. Her mom and dad were/are also pretty tall for Japanese. I met some of her extended family {aunts, uncles, etc..} and all of them are not short. It's just a family trait.

Concidering on how Aikido will change, I find a lot of differneces when looking at Westerners on youtube. A lot of them start each technique sideways. I used to do this as well until I was literally yelled at by a Sensei who I think was a Shihan when I practiced at Aikikai Honbu during vacation several years back. Ever since then, I've change my kamae and I notice all of my books and videos which are Japanese Senseis start in my improved kamae as well.
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Old 10-30-2006, 10:28 AM   #13
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Western Aikido

Quote:
Mike Braxton wrote:
The Japanese body is not changing because of the diet in my opinion. My wife is tall, she is just slightly shorter than me {6 ft.} yet her brother is taller than me. Looking at her elementary school pictures, you can always find her easily when she is standing so most of the time she is kneeling to make the picture look more even. Her mom and dad were/are also pretty tall for Japanese. I met some of her extended family {aunts, uncles, etc..} and all of them are not short. It's just a family trait.
"Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology compiles a yearly report on the health of schoolchildren, based on data collected from health checks conducted regularly at all Japanese schools. The first report was issued in 1900, and so although the war created a gap in data collection, the reports now represent a 100-year record of the physical development of school-age Japanese children.
According to the latest report, the average height of 17 year-olds for the year 2000 was 170.8 centimeters for males, and 158.1 centimeters for females. The same figures for 1900 were 157.9 and 147 centimeters, which means that in the space of 100 years, the height of Japanese teenage boys has risen by 12.9 centimeters, and of Japanese girls, by 11.1 centimeters. This is a remarkable increase when one considers that the height of Japanese of the Jomon and Yayoi periods increased by only five to eight centimeters over the space of some 10,000 years."

- Sumitomo Group Public Affairs Committee

http://www.sumitomo.gr.jp/english/di...ial/84_03.html
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Old 10-30-2006, 11:02 AM   #14
odudog
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Re: Western Aikido

Kevin, interesting post. However, that doesn't mean that the body was changed due to diet. If the right people get together then the outcome will be better hopefully. Both my wife and I look much younger that our age, long legs, and I have a small but high and tight butt {don't have to work on it all do the distain of my wife - jealousy will get her nowhere}. Our kids look like they are going to be long legged as well, they got my butt which she is happy about, look Japanese which the Asian in-laws are happy about, and we'll have to wait and see about looking their age.
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Old 10-30-2006, 12:35 PM   #15
markwalsh
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Re: Western Aikido

"Aikido cannot change." - Aikido IS change IMO - flow, adaption, evolution. These principles do not change perhaps...

"Westerners have already been training as long or longer than the longest training Japanese."
Very few, and fewer still at the same intensity, - but this is changing. Aikikai Shihans now be sent abroad do indeed sometimes have less years now than their hosts - and I've seen at least two be very respectful of this...but again, may have had greater intensity and quality of tuition if Hombu deshi, so see continued value here.

Re. the physical stuff - appreciate the stats and request info on further scientific studies - anecdotal evidence isn't so useful and can deteriorate into racism in either direction really easily in my experience.

Cheers to East and West,
Mark
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Old 10-30-2006, 03:18 PM   #16
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Western Aikido

I'm not going to do everyone's research for them, google and libraries are freely available. Basically, it's relatively non-controversial that average height changes in populations over time are largely due to nutrition, and perhaps secondarily to factors like sleep patterns and exposure to microbes. In Europe, average heights decreased during the middle ages during periods of disease and famine, and increased afterwards. Average heights increase anywhere when industrialization makes greater amounts of calcium and protein cheaply available for the average person's diet. In the case of Japan, it isn't difficult to correlate height increase to the increased availability of milk and dairy products during their rapid process of industrialization.

As a competing theory, Mike's appears to be a non-starter. To start with, it appears to have been developed based on observing a few personal acquaintances rather than looking at any demographic or statistical information whatsoever. Furthermore, he seems to be hypothesizing an evolutionary mechanism, rather than the simple, observable mechanism of developmental nutrition and health conditions. To say it has to do with 'the right people getting together' sounds like a suggestion that there is a process of breeding selection going on whereby tall people are having way more babies than short people... If this were the case, the situation of discrimination against short people in Japan would be as world-famous as apartheid.
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Old 10-31-2006, 03:18 AM   #17
Dazzler
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Re: Western Aikido

Quote:
Mark Walsh wrote:
"Aikido cannot change." - Aikido IS change IMO - flow, adaption, evolution. These principles do not change perhaps...
Exactly Mark.

The term Ai Ki Do effectively defines the component parts.

Man , Ki and the harmony of the Tao.

If you accept this definition of Aikido then how have men, ki and the principles of the Tao changed in the last 50 years.

How can they change?

Positive and negative, light and dark are facts.

They cannot change.

Every person produces their own Aikido whether they like it or not. This was true 50 years ago and is still true today.

But each version will adhere to the underlying principles if it is Aikido.

Whether people are fatter, thinner and have bigger feet matters not a jot.

Regards

D

Last edited by Dazzler : 10-31-2006 at 03:25 AM.
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Old 10-31-2006, 09:51 AM   #18
odudog
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Re: Western Aikido

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
....To say it has to do with 'the right people getting together' sounds like a suggestion that there is a process of breeding selection going on whereby tall people are having way more babies than short people... If this were the case, the situation of discrimination against short people in Japan would be as world-famous as apartheid.
You are putting something into my arguement that I said nothing about. I said nothing about breeding selection such that only tall people are having more kids than short people. It is all in the genes and we are unable to determine what will happen. I'm just saying that by chance, the "right" people got together and a positive outcame came about. That's it. A hall of fame NBA player who was a 7 footer, mom was less than 5 feet tall and his dad was only about 5' 5". Yet he came out extremely tall. I don't think it was because of the diet.
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Old 11-05-2006, 07:12 AM   #19
ViciousCycle
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Re: Western Aikido

During the 16th century when guns were first introduced into Japan, the Japanese who worked with the guns did not dress in European-style clothing or use lots of European language phrases when they worked with the guns. Yet there are many Americans/Europeans who dress in period-piece Japanese clothing and use lots of Japanese phrases when they practice martial arts. So long as one does not allow the clothing and the language to become a distraction from putting one's self fully into one's training, this is harmless. But because aspects of Japanese culture can seem exotic, the clothing and language can sometimes be a distraction. i.e. Time spent adjusting and re-adjusting one's gi and belt might be better spent practicing ukemi. Time spent trying to remember Japanese-language courtesies might be better spent expressing etiquette in one's own language. I sometimes wonder if American aikido will recognize that practicing the principles of aikido does not depend on looking and sounding Japanese.

When Japanese gun makers made their own version of the European matchlock gun, they improved on the design. European matchlocks could not be used in the rain, whereas the Japanese developed a waterproof cover for the fuse. This spirit of practical adaptation is one that an American martial artist can learn from.
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Old 11-05-2006, 08:14 AM   #20
Gernot Hassenpflug
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Re: Western Aikido

Um, Tim, I'm not following if you're trying to be ironic in your description, since you seem to be advocating that Japanese have some spirit that is to be aspired to. I'm sure the pinoeer spirit in the US is somewhat equivalent, but since I've never been there I couldn't say. One of my favourite stories concerns the ruling in WW2 by the Japanese government to outlaw the use of English (so effective was the indoctrination that into the 1950s there were incidents of stabbings of people who uttered English phrases in public). This ruling affected the de facto national soprt - baseball - and all technical enterprises, including the critical war effort industries such as the aero industry. Engineers and pilots got fed up with having to give up the perfectly useful foreign terminology and invent Japanese terms for them. By that stage Japanese had ceased to be viewed as a code language which should never be taught to foreigners, something that might have influenced the decisions in your story. How does that apply to aikido? 1) we don't need to use Japanese words where English suffices; 2) we can stick to Japanese for the terminology that exists in Aikido and has no direct Western counterpart in common use among practitioners of aikido. Related to point 2 is that these words are often not unique to aikido, but relate to other kobudo/koryu, a relationship (and clue to the meaning) that would be lost if someone decided to simply replace the word with one of their own consideration. I believe that the martial tradition we see in aikido is not something so simple that it can be translated. I applaud those who seek to make the art more accessible, and of course language barriers are enormous, but the risk of misinterpreting the art through incorrect translation is something already borne out by 50 years or experience.
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Old 11-26-2006, 08:51 PM   #21
tedehara
 
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Re: Western Aikido

Quote:
Mark Walsh wrote:
In a few years the top aikidoka in Europe and America will have been training as long as the best in Japan - to me this is an interesting new situation.

How do you think aikido will change as a result of this, if at all?...

Thoughts?
Perhaps western aikido practitioners will stop using superstition and mysticism to base their behavior on and begin using rational thought. They might even use it to investigate aikido.

See .pdf document below:
Problems in Romanticism in Transpersonal Psychology: A Case Study of Aikido

It is not practice that makes perfect, it is correct practice that makes perfect.
About Ki
About You
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Old 11-26-2006, 10:29 PM   #22
Nick Pagnucco
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Re: Western Aikido

Quote:
Ted Ehara wrote:
Ooo...
Sorry, its rare that I get to read an academic article on aikido. Its got me all tingly inside

I see a lot of essentializing going on. "Aikido" is not a thing with objective characteristics, but a label used to describe & make sense of various social practices. "Whose aikido do you mean?" Is an important question to ask here. So is, "What do you think of that aikido?"

We need to recognize how it has already changed. O-Sensei's understanding changed substantially while he was alive. His students seem to have varied opinions and versions of aikido, both in terms of philosophy, technique, and principal. We have already seen things change based on who practices and why, how are concepts like ki, harmony, & martial arts interpreted, and how are they taught. This change and fragmentation will continue (and probably accelerate), especially as the 'original' sources of aikido decrease in relative power to other organizations in other locations.

There are schools of aikido that aspire to be a kind of moving yoga, while others want something that works 'in the street.' Others wish to do both, with varying degrees of success & delusion. How "Japanese" the art must remain (and whether that will be romanticized) will also be an issue (as this thread has already displayed).

Biological, dietary, and philosophical issues will all be important. However, the driving force behind any change will be social in nature. I will now stop before I go in a bizarre rant that will go into the bowels of social theory, and probably end up linking aikido to globalization. ...Yeah, I'm tired.

Last edited by Nick Pagnucco : 11-26-2006 at 10:32 PM. Reason: better wording
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Old 11-27-2006, 04:13 AM   #23
markwalsh
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Re: Western Aikido

Core question for me and others at the moment, is does aikido continuously change and evolve - or should we be trying to preserve or replicate the founder?

Great article Ted thanks - have passed on to Aiki Extensions who keep a record of all the academic research on aikido see - aiki-extensions.org Nicjolas for more tingles :-)
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Old 11-27-2006, 05:12 AM   #24
raul rodrigo
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Re: Western Aikido

Quote:
Mark Walsh wrote:
Core question for me and others at the moment, is does aikido continuously change and evolve - or should we be trying to preserve or replicate the founder?
How are we supposed to replicate the founder when his teaching methodology was so unstructured, intuitive and incomplete? Ellis Amdur makes a good case that Morihei kept the most important things hidden (sometimes "hidden in plain sight"), and so his top deshi such as Tohei, Tada and Yamaguchi had to go outside (to the Tempukai, to kenjutsu schools, etc) to replicate (or create some facsimile of) their teacher's waza. It may be that only Hoken Inoue and perhaps Morihiro Saito had waza that was like the founder's. Everyone else seems to have gone off in a different direction, taking the founder's teaching as the starting point, but in the end creating their own versions of aikido. IMO
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Old 11-27-2006, 05:59 AM   #25
DonMagee
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Re: Western Aikido

Quote:
Gernot Hassenpflug wrote:
Um, Tim, I'm not following if you're trying to be ironic in your description, since you seem to be advocating that Japanese have some spirit that is to be aspired to. I'm sure the pinoeer spirit in the US is somewhat equivalent, but since I've never been there I couldn't say. One of my favourite stories concerns the ruling in WW2 by the Japanese government to outlaw the use of English (so effective was the indoctrination that into the 1950s there were incidents of stabbings of people who uttered English phrases in public). This ruling affected the de facto national soprt - baseball - and all technical enterprises, including the critical war effort industries such as the aero industry. Engineers and pilots got fed up with having to give up the perfectly useful foreign terminology and invent Japanese terms for them. By that stage Japanese had ceased to be viewed as a code language which should never be taught to foreigners, something that might have influenced the decisions in your story. How does that apply to aikido? 1) we don't need to use Japanese words where English suffices; 2) we can stick to Japanese for the terminology that exists in Aikido and has no direct Western counterpart in common use among practitioners of aikido. Related to point 2 is that these words are often not unique to aikido, but relate to other kobudo/koryu, a relationship (and clue to the meaning) that would be lost if someone decided to simply replace the word with one of their own consideration. I believe that the martial tradition we see in aikido is not something so simple that it can be translated. I applaud those who seek to make the art more accessible, and of course language barriers are enormous, but the risk of misinterpreting the art through incorrect translation is something already borne out by 50 years or experience.
I was of the same mind that the language was useless to learn. Until I had to train with this kid from spain who spoke almost no English. My judo Japaneses names allowed me to communicate to him what we were doing in bjj. It actually rekindled my desire to learn the language. I would say keep the language, but codify the techniques so the names are consitant.

As for dressing up, I still don't understand the hakama and it's purpose. However I have still not found a more rugged piece of clothing then a good gi. My fight shorts, and grappling shirts that cost 40-50 each wear out very quickly. My gi however lasts and lasts. I have the option of not wearing a gi where I train. I choose to simply because it holds up.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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