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Old 03-05-2009, 10:18 AM   #1
Stephen Kotev
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Aikido is not about fighting

So what does "Aikido is not about fighting really mean?" I know some of you may groan at reading this but please indulge me.

The definition of 'fighting' taken from: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fighting

1 a: to contend in battle or physical combat; especially: to strive to overcome a person by blows or weapons.

Recently George Ledyard wrote in this thread:
http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15833&page=2

Quote:
Aikido is definitely about not fighting but I don't mean that the way most folks mean it. Even when it is used for self defense, it is still about not fighting.
What exactly do you mean George? How can we define Aikido as 'not fighting' and still claim it is effective as a martial art? (I know, I know, not this topic again…) Forgive me if I am being pedantic but if we take this statement literally it contradicts defining Aikido as a martial art. (And yes, Budo is still considered 'a martial way' for those of you who were chomping at the bit to respond with "But Aikido is Budo!")

Earlier you in the same post you state:

Quote:
So many people have no idea how they might go about applying their technique in a martial situation. If you point that out to them, they respond that Aikido isn't about fighting. Well, it isn't but that shouldn't be an excuse for not understanding your technique
.

Which leads me to the same conclusion you presented:

Quote:
The fact is that most folks cannot actually do their waza within the Aikido context if they get real committed attacks from ukes who aren't colluding. Forget about applying the techniques against other martial artists... they can't do their techniques against a proper katatetori, they can't actually do an irimi with a partner who is REALLY trying to hit them. This applies to many of the folks teaching as well as the average practitioner. This is particularly prevalent on the West Coast where people are trying so hard to do "spiritual Aikido".
So what does "Aikido is not about fighting really mean?"

Is it not resisting the incoming energy/attack? Something else? Even if we 'don't resist; or 'harmonize' with them isn't the expectation that they'll still end up on the ground or immobilized? How is that not "striving to overcome a person by blows or weapons"?

Why is MMA considered 'fighting' while Aikido is not?* What goes on within MMA that does not occur in Aikido? Atemi? What percentage of Aikido is Atemi again????

Is avoiding a punch in boxing or karate somehow intrinsically different from an evasion in Aikido?

Regards,
Stephen Kotev

*Please let's not bring out the 'super deadly' argument again. Do you really think you could have handled this guy?: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article5851343.ece
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Old 03-05-2009, 11:18 AM   #2
sorokod
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Maybe people who say that, would also say that tea ceremony is not about making tea, nor is it the most efficient way of making tea, but tea is still being made by the end of the day.

Just a guess though.

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Old 03-05-2009, 11:26 AM   #3
John Matsushima
 
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

I think that Aikido is more akin to dancing, expect that my partner is trying to kill me.

-John Matsushima

My blog on Japanese culture
http://onecorneroftheplanetinjapan.blogspot.jp/
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Old 03-05-2009, 11:34 AM   #4
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Quote:
Stephen Kotev wrote: View Post
Why is MMA considered 'fighting' while Aikido is not?
What do you mean by "MMA"? Training in different martial arts, or (as I suspect) the competition known as "MMA"? If the latter, I don't consider MMA "fighting" -- it's a sporting contest with rules, not a fight -- but MMA fans would blow a gasket over that.
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Old 03-05-2009, 11:50 AM   #5
Budd
 
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

It depends. What are you training to be able to do and can you reliably do it? Honest internal and external benchmarks can be critical in assessing your training.
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Old 03-05-2009, 11:55 AM   #6
Stephen Kotev
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Quote:
John Matsushima wrote: View Post
I think that Aikido is more akin to dancing, expect that my partner is trying to kill me.
John,

I think you are joking but If I look you literally you would be "moving or seem to move up and down or about in a quick or lively manner." (taken from: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dance)

Yet someone is trying to still do you physical harm.

Are you just splitting hairs? How this this different from the definition of fighting?

Stephen
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Old 03-05-2009, 12:06 PM   #7
Stephen Kotev
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
What do you mean by "MMA"? Training in different martial arts, or (as I suspect) the competition known as "MMA"? If the latter, I don't consider MMA "fighting" -- it's a sporting contest with rules, not a fight -- but MMA fans would blow a gasket over that.
Hi Mary,

I took this from George's original quote:
Quote:
My teacher, Saotome Sensei once said "Aikido people are most angry people in martial arts..." While I am not a fan of the way mixed martial arts has gone, we need to be realistic about our Aikido. Aikido really has a hugely passive - aggressive culture. We have an art that is fundamentally about the study of connection but the art attracts folks who do not want to really connect.
Which could be interpreted either way.

I think we sometimes delude ourselves; if we think that since we don't have rules or sparrning in Aikido we are 'uber deadly.' I agree that MMA sanctioned fights are entertainment yet they are also testable examples of skill. I so often read on this board "Aikido is not about fighting' in response to an effectiveness question. I really don't understand how that is an answer to that question. I can understand your line of thinking but I feel at times it is used as an excuse to coverup the shortcomings of Aikido.

Best,
Stephen
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Old 03-05-2009, 12:07 PM   #8
Cyrijl
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

So mary, kids don't fight? Usually little boys when they fight have rules they abide by. This means it is not a fight?

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Old 03-05-2009, 12:07 PM   #9
Stephen Kotev
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Quote:
Budd Yuhasz wrote: View Post
It depends. What are you training to be able to do and can you reliably do it? Honest internal and external benchmarks can be critical in assessing your training.
Hi Budd,

Could you clarify your statement? Do you believe that Aikido is not about fighting?

Best,
Stephen
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Old 03-05-2009, 12:43 PM   #10
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

I go into a MMA ring with the goal of defeating an opponent, to beat him to a pulp, make him bleed, cause his brain to shutdown from lack of oxygen, whatever I have to do within the rules to get him to submit. and I train in a MMA gym with this competitive purpose in mind. I am learning to fight the other till either he submits or I lose the ability to fight anymore and must submit to him. If he doesn't choose to fight, he is still going down and submitting. I won't stop fighting until he submits. Submitting is losing is death. In the game, submitting is the way of dying in the fight and coming back for another day. (and just like in chess which is a game of war, I can surrender when the battle is lost in the hope of mercy).

in Aikido, I train with the purpose in mind of improving myself so violent conflict with another human being will become less likely with time. If I fail in my awareness and verbal skills, and must use the physical skills, then it's still with the intention to de-escalate the conflict. To suck the air out of the confrontation. In all cases, I am not fighting them, I don't want to appear to be fighting, and I want them to be confused about what happened. I would prefer they be able to rationalize that it was just a slip, loss of balance somehow. I have no desire to be the focus, mano a mano. I would prefer that he not see me as someone that bested him or dissed him or anything that would lead to a desire for later revenge, etc. I am looking to open up a path for myself and others for escape and evasion to further reduce the possibility of lethal escalation, as I am not in a game, or a competition nor am I training to be in one. I am not fighting if I am not in the military in a war zone. If you say hi and walk on by, I smile back and say hi too and walk on.

Some of the physical and mental skill sets may overlap between the two, but the actual goals are quite different IMO.

Usually in self-defense, there is a low-expectation of mercy.

Last edited by kironin : 03-05-2009 at 12:49 PM. Reason: additional thought

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Old 03-05-2009, 12:49 PM   #11
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Is this your personal experience from training in a mma gym Craig?

Quote:
Craig Hocker wrote: View Post
I go into a MMA ring with the goal of defeating an opponent, to beat him to a pulp, make him bleed, cause his brain to shutdown from lack of oxygen, whatever I have to do within the rules to get him to submit. and I train in a MMA gym with this competitive purpose in mind. I am learning to fight the other till either he submits or I lose the ability to fight anymore and must submit to him. If he doesn't choose to fight, he is still going down and submitting. I won't stop fighting until he submits. Submitting is losing is death. In the game, submitting is the way of dying in the fight and coming back for another day.
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Old 03-05-2009, 01:07 PM   #12
Stephen Kotev
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Quote:
Craig Hocker wrote: View Post
in Aikido, I train with the purpose in mind of improving myself so violent conflict with another human being will become less likely with time. If I fail in my awareness and verbal skills, and must use the physical skills, then it's still with the intention to de-escalate the conflict. To suck the air out of the confrontation. In all cases, I am not fighting them, I don't want to appear to be fighting, and I want them to be confused about what happened. I would prefer they be able to rationalize that it was just a slip, loss of balance somehow. I have no desire to be the focus, mano a mano. I would prefer that he not see me as someone that bested him or dissed him or anything that would lead to a desire for later revenge, etc. I am looking to open up a path for myself and others for escape and evasion to further reduce the possibility of lethal escalation, as I am not in a game, or a competition nor am I training to be in one. I am not fighting if I am not in the military in a war zone. If you say hi and walk on by, I smile back and say hi too and walk on.
Craig,

If you don't mind I am going to play devils advocate.

So when you train in MMA you do not feel that you are: "improving myself so violent conflict with another human being will become less likely with time"? Are you sure?

So what specific physical skills do you practice in your Aikido Dojo? Just tenkan and escapes? No throws or joint locks? The way this is written one could assume that you are primarily focused on practicing non-verbal de-escalation skills and evasions. Is that correct? If so why call it Aikido?

Best,
Stephen
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Old 03-05-2009, 01:53 PM   #13
Randy Sexton
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Of course Aikido is about fighting!

It is learning how to fight by blending with and utilizing your opponents energy in a manner not allowing him to hurt you and in ideal situations keeping him from hurting himself. Aikido training allows this to be done by controlling the energy and allowing him to cool down; and if he is not able to calm down and not be a threat to restrain him till the police take him away.

IMHO O'Sensei meant this to be a very effective martial art but one that allows us to learn to view ourselves and our enemy with love and compassion. It is a means to teach us to master ourselves, not to become masters over others. We learn the greatest enemy is that which is in our own hearts and that our pride/ego can be brought under control. We fight, when we choose to fight, out of necessity to protect those we love from harm. We choose not to fight out of pride or ego and avoid feeding the competitive tiger within us. We fight in a style that allows us the greatest control to minimize harm to our beloved enemy.

To do Aikido without awareness of it as a martial art is fine if that it is what one wishes to do; but I do not want to delude myself if I am not able to use my Aikido to defend myself. I wish to correct all my training errors so that I can use my Aikido for both personal development and as a martial art for self and family defense.

Doc

"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will"
Gandhi
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Old 03-05-2009, 02:13 PM   #14
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Quote:
Stephen Kotev wrote: View Post
I so often read on this board "Aikido is not about fighting' in response to an effectiveness question. I really don't understand how that is an answer to that question.
I think it displays where a person's priorities are. I know I've offered that as an explanation for why I might not be as worried with finding the absolute best fight-ability. Why is it this explanation is so often taken to mean a person is dodging the "question"?
In the fullest sense I think Aikido is both about fighting and about not-fighting since understanding of one implies information about the other.

Last edited by mathewjgano : 03-05-2009 at 02:17 PM.

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Old 03-05-2009, 02:43 PM   #15
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Here is how I view the difference between 'fighting' and 'not fighting', written to the best of my admittedly limited ability.

To me, if someone tries to punch me and I escalate to bring a conclusion to the conflict, that's fighting. However, if someone tries to punch me and I neutralize that attack -pull the power on it, so to speak- then the conclusion is that there is no conflict. I am not striving to overcome the other person - I am striving to help them see that they don't want to attack me anymore. That's what not fighting means to me.

So when I train, the goal is to be able to 'not fight' in any circumstance. I'll be the first one to point out that I can't do that against a full speed attack right now - but that's part of what I'm training for. I'm not training to be able to beat someone in a fight.

Just my humble opinion.

-Tro
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Old 03-05-2009, 03:06 PM   #16
kironin
 
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Quote:
Stephen Kotev wrote: View Post
Craig,

If you don't mind I am going to play devils advocate.
well, yes. I do mind.

Quote:
So when you train in MMA you do not feel that you are: "improving myself so violent conflict with another human being will become less likely with time"? Are you sure?
I don't train in MMA, while I do know some people who are seriously involved in MMA it's not where I wish to spend my time. I have had discussions with them but I don't speak for them. I was stating how I see it and it really is meant just for contrast. The focus of my answer is on aikido which is the focus of your post not on MMA or any other competitive fighting art (eg. boxing) and what an individual may or may not think they are doing in that art.

Quote:
So what specific physical skills do you practice in your Aikido Dojo? Just tenkan and escapes? No throws or joint locks? The way this is written one could assume that you are primarily focused on practicing non-verbal de-escalation skills and evasions. Is that correct? If so why call it Aikido?
maybe you are just playing devil's advocate, but if not this just indicates to me you really aren't even in the right ballpark about what aikido is. So you think Aikido is the jujutsu waza you are learning ? There are already plenty of essays on this site and elsewhere that spell it out. If you are just a beginner, I apologize if I appear to lack the patience to engage in an endless back and forth but the point you are attempting to make is neither new nor interesting.

Last edited by kironin : 03-05-2009 at 03:07 PM. Reason: typo

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Old 03-05-2009, 03:13 PM   #17
Stephen Kotev
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
I think it displays where a person's priorities are. I know I've offered that as an explanation for why I might not be as worried with finding the absolute best fight-ability. Why is it this explanation is so often taken to mean a person is dodging the "question"?
In the fullest sense I think Aikido is both about fighting and about not-fighting since understanding of one implies information about the other.
I don't want to confuse this with conversations about 'the best' we all know what a path to hell that is. What bothers me is that these responses are not answers to the question posed. Why is something labeled as 'non-fighting' when what we are really talking about is the level of aggressive response and or force escalation we choose to take when attacked?

It seems so ironic that there is such an embrace of 'non-fighting' by the Aikido community but when someone comes to this forum and asks us to 'prove it' we tell them it's 'too deadly.' I think this also speaks directly to and wonderfully illustrates George's earlier comment about Aikido being very passive-aggressive.

So I say again, and I mean this in the most earnest sense, why do we call ourselves a martial art if what we are really about is non-verbal de-escalation skills and evasions?

I think this is a totally honorable and worthwhile goal. If that is what we are really about then let's publically embrace it.
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Old 03-05-2009, 03:17 PM   #18
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Hey Greg, good post. I'm just a little confused,

Quote:
Craig Hocker wrote: View Post
I go into a MMA ring with the goal of defeating an opponent, to beat him to a pulp, make him bleed, cause his brain to shutdown from lack of oxygen, whatever I have to do within the rules to get him to submit. and I train in a MMA gym with this competitive purpose in mind. I am learning to fight the other.....//
Quote:
Craig Hocker wrote: View Post
I don't train in MMA.
You're an MMA fighter who doesn't train in MMA?

Last edited by Guilty Spark : 03-05-2009 at 03:30 PM.

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If you're tired, keep moving.
If you value you're life, keep moving.

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Old 03-05-2009, 03:30 PM   #19
Stephen Kotev
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Quote:
Craig Hocker wrote: View Post
well, yes. I do mind.

I don't train in MMA, while I do know some people who are seriously involved in MMA it's not where I wish to spend my time. I have had discussions with them but I don't speak for them. I was stating how I see it and it really is meant just for contrast. The focus of my answer is on aikido which is the focus of your post not on MMA or any other competitive fighting art (eg. boxing) and what an individual may or may not think they are doing in that art.

maybe you are just playing devil's advocate, but if not this just indicates to me you really aren't even in the right ballpark about what aikido is. So you think Aikido is the jujutsu waza you are learning ? There are already plenty of essays on this site and elsewhere that spell it out. If you are just a beginner, I apologize if I appear to lack the patience to engage in an endless back and forth but the point you are attempting to make is neither new nor interesting.
Craig,

I see you too are playing devil's advocate.

Thanks for the clarification on your perspective of MMA. As you mention in our response I could also refer you to many other posts on Aikiweb that would demonstrate that most in MMA would not hold your characterization of them as accurate.

I do not want to turn this into an MMA vs. Aikido thread. I agree we have had too many of those. It is being referred to in this thread in response to George's orginal posting in another thread. I could easily exchange the term for another martial art such as Judo or Karate if you wish.

I don't understand the tone in your reply.

Quote:
So you think Aikido is the jujutsu waza you are learning? There are already plenty of essays on this site and elsewhere that spell it out.
I clearly stated that I was playing devil's advocate yet you seem willing to call me a beginner and state that this topic is neither new nor interesting. Do I need to reiterate again that I was playing devil's advocate?

FWIW I would be interested in you spelling it out for me.

Regards,
Stephen
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Old 03-05-2009, 03:58 PM   #20
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Quote:
So what does "Aikido is not about fighting really mean?"
It is really simple. There is no battle or physical combat during aikido class. The attacker works together with defender. He is doing prearranged attack, and his behavior right after the end of the attack is also a prearranged form. You can't call it a battle, rather some kind of theatre play.
Also, the intent of attacker is not to harm defender. Rather, attacker allows defender to learn.

Quote:
What goes on within MMA that does not occur in Aikido?
Well, there is no cooperation in MMA and the intent of attacker is to harm defender in the limit of the appropriate rules.

That situation is a result of Founder realization that martial techniques can be used to change/improve ourselves (i.e. misogi) and not only for fighting.

Nagababa

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Old 03-05-2009, 04:56 PM   #21
Erick Mead
 
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Quote:
Stephen Kotev wrote: View Post
So what does "Aikido is not about fighting really mean?" I know some of you may groan at reading this but please indulge me.

The definition of 'fighting' taken from: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fighting

1 a: to contend in battle or physical combat; especially: to strive to overcome a person by blows or weapons.

Recently George Ledyard wrote in this thread: '
Quote:
Aikido is definitely about not fighting but I don't mean that the way most folks mean it. Even when it is used for self defense, it is still about not fighting.
Sun Tzu wrote this about 30 centuries ago:

Quote:
Generally in warfare, keeping a nation intact is best, destroying a nation second best;
keeping an army intact is best, destroying an army second best;
keeping a battalion intact is best, destroying a battalion second best;
keeping a company intact is best, destroying a company second best;
keeping a squad intact is best, destroying a squad second best.
Therefore, to gain a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest excellence;
to subjugate the enemy's army without doing battle is the highest excellence.
Therefore, the best warfare strategy is to attack the enemy's plans, ... [all other strategies = second best]
Aikido is about attacking the enemy's plan. What is the enemy's plan? --Simply speaking -- to pick a fight. What is the strategy against that plan? To funnel aggression into not letting him have one -- divide him against himself -- because he won't give up wanting the fight.

Example: kiriotoshi. He wants to cut me. He is fighting with me. He wants to hurt me without getting hurt. I am just cutting. Not him -- not anything, particularly. I cut same way I cut when he is not there as when he is there -- I am not fighting him -- I am just cutting. If he means to continue his fight he'd best look to his position, because I am just cutting. If he does that, of course, he is divided between attacking and evading and his attack is destroyed, and -- I don't end up cutting him -- but of course in making him choose to divide his intent he was cut, without fighting. That's just fine, I don't care, I wasn't cutting him -- I just love cutting.

Last edited by Erick Mead : 03-05-2009 at 05:00 PM.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
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Old 03-05-2009, 05:38 PM   #22
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Quote:
Stephen Kotev wrote: View Post
I don't want to confuse this with conversations about 'the best' we all know what a path to hell that is.
I completely agree.
Quote:
What bothers me is that these responses are not answers to the question posed...It seems so ironic that there is such an embrace of 'non-fighting' by the Aikido community but when someone comes to this forum and asks us to 'prove it' we tell them it's 'too deadly.' I think this also speaks directly to and wonderfully illustrates George's earlier comment about Aikido being very passive-aggressive
I see what you mean, and yes I would agree indirect responses can be frustrating...and Aikido folks, being apparently prone toward passive-aggressive behavior, must almost certainly respond this way more often.
Quote:
Why is something labeled as 'non-fighting'?
I think because "Aikido" can also include times when we're preventing fights, not just ending them. Basically, not-fighting equals not-conflicting, I think.

Quote:
So I say again, and I mean this in the most earnest sense, why do we call ourselves a martial art if what we are really about is non-verbal de-escalation skills and evasions?
I'm confused...a fist to the face can fit this description in my opinion. Aikido is called a martial art because it's a collection of martial training. Apart from the simple physical meaning, the "not-fighting" rhetoric denotes a mindset more than anything else. It's a wide-open concept, which maybe makes it meaningless for some, but I've found some use for it.

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 03-05-2009, 08:49 PM   #23
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Part of the confusion in this thread is that many people are equalling "fighting" with "physical conflict". However this confuses concepts as you can have a physical conflict that is not a fight and you can have a fight that is not physical. For example, there is a big difference between defending yourself from an attacker and fighting that attacker. The difference is largely in mental state and strategy. In self defense you do everything you can to survive, which can include physically disabling or subduing your attacker, but you never escalate and you take any opportunity to simply get away. This distinction is important as "fighting" someone can get you in jail, even if "he started it".

As to what aikido is, I'd start with what it isn't. It isn't an applied self defense system, it isn't sport fighting (which the UFC is) and it isn't a military combat system (though it is a distant decendant of old military combat systems). Of the above types I find aikido is closest to a self defense system in that the techniques, tactics and mind set of aikido would require much less modification to become part of a self defense system than to become a fighting system.

By the way, none of this really has anything to do about the effectiveness of aikido techniques or aikido being a martial art. Akido is about not fighting. It is because of that that we must strive to really connect with our partners, to really control their balance and to really throw them and to not have our cooperation turn into a ridiculous empty dance.

So Szczepan, don't get too cooperative on me. I've learned more in a few minutes of being frustrated with you than I have in hours of smooth flowing technique with dancing partner ukes. Not that I think you should actually be fighting with me or trying to kill me, just to be clear

Jonathan Olson
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Old 03-05-2009, 08:53 PM   #24
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

Quote:
Szczepan Janczuk wrote: View Post
It is really simple. There is no battle or physical combat during aikido class. The attacker works together with defender. He is doing prearranged attack, and his behavior right after the end of the attack is also a prearranged form. You can't call it a battle, rather some kind of theatre play.
Also, the intent of attacker is not to harm defender. Rather, attacker allows defender to learn.

Well, there is no cooperation in MMA and the intent of attacker is to harm defender in the limit of the appropriate rules.

That situation is a result of Founder realization that martial techniques can be used to change/improve ourselves (i.e. misogi) and not only for fighting.
Hi Szczepan,
Very nicely said. I am in awe of how concisely you summed it up. Very impressive.
- George

George S. Ledyard
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Old 03-05-2009, 09:10 PM   #25
Buck
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Re: Aikido is not about fighting

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Szczepan Janczuk wrote: View Post
...theatre play.
FWIW. To be consistent in a very well "summing it up" way. I would use the word practice. When using "theatre play" that is a bit narrow. I don't disagree. I am sure there are some dojos out that where "theatre play" fits, but not all. You got to give credit to those Aikidoka that do seriously train. Not all dojos are stages.

*By practice I mean within the context of learning a skill.

Last edited by Buck : 03-05-2009 at 09:15 PM.
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