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Old 03-27-2008, 04:16 PM   #151
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Ron wrote:

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The problem today is, most aikidoka don't seem to have the kind of power empty handed to hold off an attacker and make them show that same caution. If you take away the blade (weapon), can we still express the kind of power that enforces that respect?
Hey Ron,

I know where you are coming from (or heading too)

Just want to point out that you have to be careful with this logic though...you have to focus on the "endstate".

If your endstate is to simply "stop" or to "Show power" or "hold off an attacker"...that can be done possibly with realitively low or little skill..or skills that many would define as "External" power.

Why bother at all with Budo (aikido) if this is honestly the endstate? Sticks, guns, and size can be great weapons and equalizers.

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Old 03-27-2008, 05:26 PM   #152
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Quote:
Stefan Stenudd wrote: View Post
Actually, I am more interested in training the attitude that makes attackers lose their will to attack, at all. The very relaxed state of mind that makes aggression melt away.
I'm working on it

As for the power that creates enough respect from the attacker for him or her to be naturally cautious, I guess it is done by attitude and kiai - the ability to focus all one's energy in one direction, on one purpose.
Atemi, for example, can be trained to develop that effect. It needs to be trained, of course - no mere waving of a hand, but exact striking techniques with spirit and focus.
As Nishio sensei said: atemi no kokyu.
I'm totally into training that attitude. But my approach is to develop that from the position where Ron is suggesting - that my distance is respected empty-handed as if I had a knife.

Kevin, I believe that these teachers learned body skills in a "slower" way than I'm hoping my current approach. They all had the combination of being very talented, extremely hard workers who had the rare opportunity to have concentrated years in with people who they could pick up body integrity by means of kinesthetic perception. I'm not as talented. My concentrated exposure to people as integrated as their training partners is not in the same league. So I just have 1 option left. I need to find a faster/more direct approach. And as I said that is a tall order. But it's my responsibility to seek that out and try to contribute/give back to the best of my ability.

I really do not know how I will bring MMA to my aikido classes. But I'm sure like everyone else I'll bring what I have to class. I have to really clarify certain principles - which I'll be looking to my teachers for - and then I assume I'll just try to bring into my normal class more an more things that I think will help. And I'm quite sure that real fighting can be taught with aikido principles in mind - with no competition. I'm not sure what happens when BOTH uke and nage have strong internal skills and MMA experience and are protecting their aggressors. It will be interesting. But I really expect I'll find out sooner than later.

Rob
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Old 03-27-2008, 07:22 PM   #153
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Attitude, kiai, and atemi

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Joseph Connolly wrote: View Post
Can you explain/give an example in more concrete terms?
I thought that I was rather concrete. I will try to be more specific.

For the opponent to be cautious before attacking - if that is intended (and there are other ways, perhaps superior ones):

A straight and proud posture is quite intimidating and makes the attacker hesitate before charging. If you focus on the attacker, he or she becomes more wary than if you do not.
If instead you apply a defensive posture, it tends to make the attacker feel superior.
Depending on how it is done, hanmigamae is sort of defensive, whereas a straight kamae, where your center is directed right at the opponent, is not.

As for atemi, it should be done with a lot of force behind it (even if it is not intended to hit, but only to create a reaction), and aimed at a specific weak spot of the attacker. It should also be done quickly, to create a surprise - and to hinder the attacker from finding time to block it.
Of course, sometimes atemi is used to trigger a block, which is in turn used to do the aikido technique. Still, the atemi has to be convincing. Otherwise the attacker might ignore it.

So, whether you intend to actually strike the attacker or not, the atemi should be done in such a way that it would be efficient as an actual strike. Speed, power, aim, and all that. Also make sure that the kind of atemi you make is suitable for the strike in question (sometimes a fist, sometimes a spear hand, sometimes the ridge of the hand, and so on).
The atemi will create more of a reaction if it is credible. That takes training and precision.

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Old 03-27-2008, 08:47 PM   #154
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Rob, I am certainly no expert at how they got to where they got. The ones I have found to be good for the most part all seemed to start young and developed a good, sound base in more resistive arts such as judo, kendo, greco-roman wrestling...competitive arts.

I am always curious as to why people think competitive models are not good. All the best artist I know seem to begin this way. The timing, speed, distance etc get trained very well.

Is it because we assume people are too dense or ignorant to understand the difference between competition and reality? I have not found this to be the case.

For me, the fast more direct route is to produce more opportunities for failure. That is, train in environments where you are held accountable and must work very, very hard to succeed. For many, BJJ has proven to be such an environment. Not that I am advocating BJJ over anything else simply that it does represent such an environment that holds you very accountable and seems to produce competence at a much faster rate. Judo seems to do good in the area too.

Don Magee mentioned something in the last couple of days that many might have missed.."Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result". That is insane!

It is also why I don't believe you will grow simply by doing more ikkyos the same way, in the same manner over and over. Yes, you can get better at ikkyo, and you will learn somethings, but once you change the dynamics, you will fall apart again because you have to process the new conditions that were introduced.

So, if you train in a very regimented, linear fashion...you will produce exactly that a regimented, linear student! We percieve we have learned alot when in fact we have simply learned how to do the things we do in the conditions and parameters we worked under.

I think this is why our Good shihans are so good, they have failed alot. They experimented alot. Asked Why alot, and constantly broke themselves down and constantly re-wired.

When you talk about "real fighitng" I am not really sure if you and I have the same definition..it is always a tricky subject to talk about.

From my experiences in training Soldiers in Combatives, which is very based on sound principles, I have found competitive models to work very well as it presents the right amount of resistance, the right amount of restraints for safety, a set of rules and conditions that we all agree to which allows us to meet together and train very hard. I have also found that people can correctly interpret this learning to reality.

The key is though to keep things in the proper perspective. When you become totally sport oriented, there are many short cuts you take in your training to focus on efficiency in winning. There may be other things that you are weak in if you do this, but again, people are fairly smart and can typically adapt.

Sounds like you and I may have many of the same goals in mind when we look at our own training and what end states we hope to acheive. Are you coming down to DC for the Aunkai seminar by chance?

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Old 03-27-2008, 11:31 PM   #155
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Arrow Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Quote:
Rob Liberti wrote: View Post
The problem today is, most aikidoka don't seem to have the kind of power empty handed to hold off an attacker and make them show that same caution. If you take away the blade (weapon), can we still express the kind of power that enforces that respect? ... my approach is to develop that from the position where Ron is suggesting - that my distance is respected empty-handed as if I had a knife.
Whether aikido, or knives, I do not see that kind of deterrence model as really operating, at kind of a fundamental level. And that actually encapsulates my basic question with this approach. Although, perhaps I have your meaning wrong.

The rule of knives is "What knife?" Never let 'em see the knife. Aikido is much more in that mode of budo. To my mind, aikido is not interested in having distance respected by an attacker -- to the contrary, in fact. Inviting (or even prompting) attack within my sphere, and therefore placing him closer to the limits of his own. The strategy of deterrence does not seem really applicable to proper use of knives or aikido.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
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Old 03-27-2008, 11:52 PM   #156
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
..."Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result". That is insane!

It is also why I don't believe you will grow simply by doing more ikkyos the same way, in the same manner over and over.
I think I can honestly say that I have not performed ikkyo in the same way in the last ten years.

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
So, if you train in a very regimented, linear fashion...you will produce exactly that a regimented, linear student!
Who said linear and regimented? So says the Army guy? [Says the naval aviator ]

Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
I think this is why our Good shihans are so good, they have failed alot. They experimented alot. Asked Why alot, and constantly broke themselves down and constantly re-wired.
Here we agree. The question is whetehr you learn more by honestly and critically evaluating failure only you yourself can perceive, or whether you learn more when your failure is only perceptible or manifest when actively opposed.

Both ways have risks associated with self-delusion. Solipsism or narcissism is the risk of the non-competitive approach, and justly criticized where it occurs. But the competitive approach risks self-delusion too. The limits of important errors or failures are not wholly defined by those perceived or occurring in besting opponents or being bested. Being ruthlessly self-critical is the most important part of either approach.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
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Old 03-28-2008, 04:39 AM   #157
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Erick Mead wrote:

Quote:
Both ways have risks associated with self-delusion. Solipsism or narcissism is the risk of the non-competitive approach, and justly criticized where it occurs. But the competitive approach risks self-delusion too. The limits of important errors or failures are not wholly defined by those perceived or occurring in besting opponents or being bested. Being ruthlessly self-critical is the most important part of either approach
Absolutely...self criticism and accountability are what is important.

Definition of Solipsism for those that don't know. I had never seen that word before! I learn something new everyday!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solipsism

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Old 03-28-2008, 04:42 AM   #158
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Oh, forgot to comment on this:

It's not that doing ikkyo over and over that is the problem, there are valuable things to learn from doing ikkyo. The issue arises when we have expectations that doing it over and over will produce results that it was never intended to convey.

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Old 03-28-2008, 07:22 AM   #159
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Quote:
Erick Mead wrote: View Post
The rule of knives is "What knife?" Never let 'em see the knife. Aikido is much more in that mode of budo. To my mind, aikido is not interested in having distance respected by an attacker -- to the contrary, in fact. Inviting (or even prompting) attack within my sphere, and therefore placing him closer to the limits of his own. The strategy of deterrence does not seem really applicable to proper use of knives or aikido.
I agreed with Erick in this point. Why would I want my attacker be caution of me? If my attacker is caution of me, then he/she will start to think of ways to deal with me, which then makes me do more work than I want to. I want my attacker to think me as someone who he/she/it can overpower and destroy. If this is a military strategy, I want my enemy to completely underestimate my strength and capability.
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Old 03-28-2008, 07:34 AM   #160
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Those martial arts great the like of OSensei, Shioda, Tohei had been in pressure cooker and it changed them. For example, OSensei killed enough people with a blade to know that human fat will eventually slow the cutting blade (read this somewhere). The good martial arts folks give off vibe that said "don't mess with me". The great martial arts folks like Osensei gave off a vibe that said "mess with me and you die". The truly great martial arts folks give off vibe like normal and harmless so they can sell you hotdog, eggroll, or shine your shoes.
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Old 03-28-2008, 07:43 AM   #161
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Sometimes you want him to underestimate you, sometimes not. It depends on many factors and the desired outcome. You certainly don't want to goad an attacker that can beat you, no matter what you are hiding.

Philosophically, I don't think we want to goad someone into attacking in a situation where we could prevent unnecessary violence or attacks.

Certainly, you don't want to advertise all your options.

But as you state, if the attack is inevitable, deception is certainly a very viable option to use!

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Old 03-28-2008, 07:54 AM   #162
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

I am always amused when I say something in jest, forget that I say it, find it later and realize it's kinda profound.

But it is true. In a bjj context, I played my closed guard almost exclusively for a long time. I would start a match, pull guard and submit. Then one day I was in a match and my opponent sat down before I could grip him and pull guard. I tried to pass and realized that I had never tried to pass an open guard in a match before, and I truely (even though I had done a billion open guard pass drills) did not know how (I had maybe 6 or 7 months training at this point). I realized I had almost never passed the guard even in sparing. I was either on top, or they were in my guard.

So what did I do? After that match I went back and practiced passing the open guard, again without sparing, just the drills (although some a bit resistance drills). Then one day, I'm with a blue belt, he pulls open guard out and again, I'm stumped. It was a direct example of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

It was at that point that I started putting myself in these situations on purpose in sparing just to work on these areas. I realized that just drilling that area was not improving my ability to pass the guard. I looked freaking awesome in the drills, but I did not have the 'real world' experience to adapt to my opponent. Now I constantly try new approaches to training and constantly test new ideas. A lot of times I'm getting submitted or pinned, but that's the breaks when you are trying to learn.

- Don
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Old 03-28-2008, 10:26 AM   #163
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

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Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
When you talk about "real fighitng" I am not really sure if you and I have the same definition..it is always a tricky subject to talk about.
I have never been in a 'real fight' with someone who used any identifiable form of martial technique. My guess is that it's because people who learn fighting techniques for the sake of sport or art have better control over their use of force...but that's another topic. The times I've been involved in physical altercations with people (ok, there have been a few...) it was basically the same techniques every time - they either came head down and straight in with arms flailing, or attacked from behind.

Walking out of a party once (long ago, late teens or so), a guy ran up behind us and smashed my buddy's elbow with a cut-down baseball bat, after a relatively-minor verbal exchange earlier in the evening. They guy had obviously waited a couple of hours for us to leave, and planned a place to wait in the dark to surprise us. Several screws and a plate were required to fix the elbow, and the guy disappeared as quickly as he appeared. How do you train for something like that, other than mental training for martial vigilance? Another guy I know was mugged. He'd just left work and was walking (in a nicer area of LA) when someone stepped out of an alley and hit him in the back of the head with a blackjack. He was out cold immediately, and had no recollection of the entire event, other than waking up with people standing around him.

I'm just beginning my aikido training, so I take the 'scenarios' played out in our instruction with a grain of salt. The, "if I move this way, they attacker is naturally going to try to raise his hand and duck, putting himself off-balance." The truth is, in most of those scenarios, the attacker is not going to do anything but continue to try to smash you with whatever he has handy, as rapidly as he can. I've seen it in 'real life' over and over again.

So I guess my question is why would you need sparring in a non-competitive martial art? In my opinion, and this is based on participating in other competitive fighting arts (boxing and wrestling), sparring prepares you to compete in a sport that involves those skills, but does little to prepare you for 'real life' encounters.
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Old 03-28-2008, 11:14 AM   #164
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Sparing teaches you the timing, speed, and ability requires to truly use what you have been drilling. It is one of the best teaching tools to develop speed and timing. Further, it allows you to work to actively see openings in attacks, read and lead attackers, it prevents any kind of arguments about ego (he knew what I was going to do, so he just stopped me arguments). It takes away all excuses except for your own lack or strength of ability. Sparing gives you a chance to learn to deal with pressure much closer to a real life fight. The person is going to come at you and not stop unless your technique is truly effective.

Combative sports (boxing, wrestling, mma, bjj, judo, etc) are just subsets of types of encounters one might face in the real world. They are not complete encounters, but a subset. Learning to work in these subsets expands into other subsets and the whole. For example, learning judo will teach you how to throw people who are grabbing, pushing, pulling, tripping, and aggressively trying to throw, control, pin, choke, armbar, etc you. If you can get good at this, you quickly find it is very easy to employ these skills outside of a judo match. Even with my horrible striking skills I still have very little problem eating a few shots, taking my opponent down and controlling the fight from there. This is why wrestlers did so well in the early days of MMA without any striking training. They had developed skills though their sport that are easily applied to other areas of a fight.

What else can sparing give you? First, a never quit attitude. Bas Rutten tells a story about getting hit in the head with a bat with a nail in it from behind. He won the fight then removed the bat from his skull. Now Bas is not an average guy, but I find it hard to believe he was born with that ability. It was probably developed from years of VERY hard competition and sparing in the sports he has been a champion in. The second thing he probably learned from his sparing and competition is how to not crack under pressure. Even though he had probably never trained or sparred under the premise that he would be fighting with a bat stuck in his skull via a nail, he immediately was able to react and fight even under duress. Again, he's not a normal human, hit most of us with a bat from behind and I bet we are out cold. The premise however still holds.

I had a conflict once outside of a club where a guy was walking at me yelling. His hands were in his pockets. He quickly pulled his hands out and i thought he might have a weapon or might attack me. I grabed him and threw him. He defended in a way 100% unlike anything any bjj/mma/judo guy would ever try (mainly because it would never work) he started pushing away as I turned to throw. In a kata situation, he would of went with my throw, or done a set movement that I would of known the answer to, in sparing he would of enganged and attempted to throw me, but this was neither and he did neither. Because of my training however I could feel his switch in balance and without even thinking (I mean this whole encounter from my grab to the throw was probably not even a second) I switched and threw him with a throw that would work against his resistance. In fact I can't even tell you what throw I was going to do or what throw I did do to take him down, it was that fast. Knee on belly, I calmed him down and walked away.

This is something best taught though sparing. Especially though sparing beginners of all sizes. You learn how to deal with the unexpected. Though trying new things (as opposed to only trying to win) you learn how to make people react and how people respond for real when they think that if they don't respond they will get hurt (and they are right). Then, when the unexpected happens, you don't even bat an eye.

i guess if i can choke someone who is doing everything in their power to stop me, then I am prepared to choke most anyone.

Last edited by DonMagee : 03-28-2008 at 11:17 AM.

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Old 03-28-2008, 03:22 PM   #165
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Aaron wrote:

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so I guess my question is why would you need sparring in a non-competitive martial art? In my opinion, and this is based on participating in other competitive fighting arts (boxing and wrestling), sparring prepares you to compete in a sport that involves those skills, but does little to prepare you for 'real life' encounters.
Just giving Don props on the subject. Yea, what he said. Sparring is about teaching correct and appropriate responses interjecting time, speed etc into the equation. It is the way we can safely practice at a speed and conditions approximating some degree of reality.

Aaron also wrote:

Quote:
ey guy had obviously waited a couple of hours for us to leave, and planned a place to wait in the dark to surprise us. Several screws and a plate were required to fix the elbow, and the guy disappeared as quickly as he appeared. How do you train for something like that, other than mental training for martial vigilance?
Good point, one I like to make quite often. that is the catch to all of this.

I think about the best you can do is train for "point of failure". that is the mentality that BJJ starts from. Much of the practice we do in BJJ assumes failure, that you have been put in a bad position and now must mitigate things as best as possible.

Certainly there are things you can't control, and it may not be your day. I also think it is too fatalistic to simply throw your hands up in the air and simply give up and submit.

Again, not trying to promote BJJ, it simply is a frame of reference that does a good job of addressing the whole sparring issue in the context of this subject.

Last edited by Kevin Leavitt : 03-28-2008 at 03:23 PM. Reason: misspelling

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Old 03-28-2008, 03:25 PM   #166
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

In addition, who is more likely to absorb a sucker punch? Someone who gets punched regularly, or someone who never gets punched and has no idea how to react. People who spar regularly seem to be in better shape in most cases.

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Old 03-28-2008, 03:37 PM   #167
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Yes I agree Joseph. When training my soldiers, we would condition them to get punched in the face and to respond by immediately moving into the vortex of the fight....not stting there grabbing their nose going "oh my god i just got hit....it hurts".

It is not a good time to get hit for the first time when it is for keeps.

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Old 03-30-2008, 07:37 AM   #168
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

I do hope to make it down to the DC area for that event.
I had a long VERY long discussion on aikiweb a few years back about cooperative verses competitive model. It turned out that both sides were doing almost the same training - progressive resistance - and calling it one of the polar extremes.

Both sides of this orientation have a price. The competitive model has the price of going so quickly to smooth and valuable external skills that there is little chance of any internal skills getting burned in - and actually I think you are working against what I really want for myself by going that route first. The cooperative model certainly has the price of high probability of delusion along with "slightly less obvious external skills" being burned in - also more often than not working against what I really want for myself.

So there is no easy answer. I favor starting out much more cooperative. I feel that the entire point is to be level appropriate with specific goals in mind - my specific goal is to be the MOST effective for the long run - which means I have to develop internal skills more deeply even if that means I'll be initially less effective than I would if I just went to the BJJ school up the street.

In aikido, if you cannot give the people the skills to deal with much more random attacks of varying intensity and resistance when they are at ANY old age then I feel you are doing them a disservice in introducing that stuff to them too early and working against that.

About sucker punches - teach a bunch of beginners bokken and get back to me on that. I remember a funny experience with me stupidly attempting to teach where to strike by moving my sword in to the blocking position first! I moved and said - now, yoko ashi. WHAM! I shook off the crack to my head and said "okay, ashi means foot". Then I went home and thought I just took a full swing to the head with a hunk of wood and shook it off. I guess this stuff builds more touchness than I realized. (But I admit I keep my sword pointed at beginners middles now, and block whereever they stike now!)

Rob
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Old 03-30-2008, 08:08 AM   #169
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Hope to see you there Rob.

I doubt it makes much difference as long as you are hitting the three areas you mention. Competitive models or Alive models for timing speed and distance and external skills. Cooperative as a bridge to link internal and external. and Solo work as the core of developing the structure to understand internal skills.

At least that is how I see it and how I am trying to spend my training time these days.

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Old 03-30-2008, 08:13 AM   #170
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

For you, Rob. (French dub was all I could find...)

Josh Reyer

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Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 03-30-2008, 08:59 AM   #171
Erick Mead
 
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Quote:
Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
For you, Rob. (French dub was all I could find...)
If I am very much mistaken .. that is a descendant of the hallowed Terii-Sutūjesu Ryu -- the Rarimōshempu no kata.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
一隻狗可久里馬房但他也不是馬的.
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Old 03-30-2008, 11:29 AM   #172
Bill Danosky
 
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

Aikido techniques can be highly effective if repetitive training has stored them in your repertoire and you use them automatically. In a real life situation usually you have to think back afterward to even know what technique you used.

I think it doesn't work if you try to think ahead what you're going to do next. To me, mushin (no mind) means to train until it's "in you" and trust yourself to react the right way if you want to win.

I'd also humbly sugget that aikidoka get into trouble when they make a pretense of using only Aikido in a situation, and thereby eliminate all the non-Aikido technique that might work perfectly. Do you guys think so?
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Old 03-30-2008, 12:01 PM   #173
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

yes...I think so Bill.

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Old 03-30-2008, 12:30 PM   #174
rob_liberti
Dojo: Shobu Aikido of Connecticut
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

I agree. I just think you want to be careful about what you burn in.
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Old 03-31-2008, 07:14 AM   #175
DonMagee
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Re: Sparring in Aikido?

This is why I stress training methods over techniques. Training methods build fighters, techniques just supply tools. It shouldn't take years to finally use a technique. An experienced fighter should be able to easily see something new and integrate it into his toolbox easily with the right training method.

I saw this just last weekend in the aikido class I sometimes frequent. They were doing a resistance drill where uke pushes nage against the wall, and nage attempts to escape. This turned into a struggle where nage and uke were hunched over trying to make something work. I could see easy HUGE openings for judo technqiues (mostly footsweeps, and even tai otoshi). I commented on this, and it was dismissed almost immediately as a waste of time. When pressed, I was put in a unrealistic situation to demonstrate. I decided not to press the issue and rather then throw my uke, just push him off the wall and show that I could turn in for the throw without his resistance effecting me. Nobody there noticed. It was interesting. I pushed the guy off the wall, turn into a harai and stop. I'm told that is not a foot sweep. When I try to explain the situation changed with me and the openings I saw were not there (the uke felt worried to me and was just holding me at arms length keeping careful distance, hips low not pushing or pulling) the idea was again dismissed. People with sparing backgrounds would of understood my point. It was disheartening. I prefer to use what works for the situation, be it ikkyo or harai.

I've also been teaching a Saturday morning judo class for a while now. Our normal teacher is on frequent business trips for his real job and makes in about once a month, so 3 times a month I'm on my own. I take this job very serious, just as serious as the college courses I teach. I could of just stayed the course and teach as my sensei's teach. However, I decided to study the results of my students and others that I observe in competition and video. What I have started doing is basically removing uchi komi from my judo classes. We used to do hundreds of uchi komi followed by a small amount of nage komi and randori. Now, once a student has reached green belt, I do not expect more then 5-10 uchi komi per throw. Instead we do static nage komi, moving nage komi, pushing or pulling nage komi (where uke is pushing or pulling as it makes sense for the technique), then situational or full on randori as time allows). The problem I saw was too many students would fit in perfect for the throw then not throw. This is because this is how they trained every day. If you do 500 uchi komi and only 10 throws which do you think sticks more? Now we do 5-10 uchi komi and 50-75 throws. Not to mention, if you are not throwing properly, you learn quickly when you quickly wear out. Of course with beginners we still focus on the most important part of the throw, breaking balance and fitting in. Once I changed this in my classes, I've witnessed the largest leap in skill I've seen out of the students who show up. There are some now I can no longer reliably beat in randori and I consider equals. The only thing that makes me their teacher and not their training partner is that I still now some throws, setups, counters, and tricks left to teach them (and I'm much better at remembering all that silly japaneese). But when it comes to a match on the mat, they are just as likely to get that ippon as I am. So these guys have reached in a year an ability to throw that took me four.

In terms of internal skill. I can't comment on it. I no longer concern myself with it. I don't know if there is anything to gain from sparing when trying to build internal skills. I have however witnessed guys who do martial arts tricks (take punches to the throw, be heavy and unliftable etc). They have always taken a second to prepare. One thing I've learned from sparing, you don't have time to prepare, only act and react.

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