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Old 09-09-2009, 11:40 PM   #1
George S. Ledyard
 
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Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

Maybe its because Aikido has positioned itself as a martial arts with a different values system... maybe its because many of its practitioners are arrogant when they talk about the art, maybe its because so many of its practitioners are woefully ignorant about other martial arts (although any more so than the practitioners of those arts are of Aikido)... whatever the reason, Aikido seems to come into more criticism for not being an effective fighting style than any other art.

First of all, I question the assumption that the only measure for a martial art is fighting effectiveness. Who would maintain that Kendo and Judo aren't martial arts? Who would maintain that either is an "effective" fighting style? Are Iaido and Kyudo not considered martial arts? They are done solo and have no emphasis whatever on winning over anyone other than oneself. Are they not worthy practices for their own sake without considerations of whether they would defeat another art?

It has been stated many times, by many people, that non-violence without the ability to defend oneself is just wishful thinking. I think that history would indicate that something else entirely is required for non-violence, or pacifism. The practitioners of Gandhi's satyagraha had no martial skills. They were ordinary people from various walks of life yet few would deny that they were peaceful warriors of the first order. The Freedom Riders of the 1960's had no fighting skills nor would they have used them if they had had them.

What is required to be non-violent is depth of character. What is required to be a pacifist is the ability to over come the fear of death. The followers of Gandhi and King walked unhesitatingly into situations in which they KNEW they would be beaten, perhaps killed, and they marched anyway; without the back-up of great destructive martial skill or weaponry of any kind other than their moral force.

Why does everyone hark back to the 1930's when talking about what Aikido lacks? Why do so few people look at how O-Sensei changed the techniques he had learned and taught as Daito Ryu and then, later, as Aiki Budo into what became Aikido after the war? The Founder taught actively until his death in 1969. He frequently resided in Tokyo and taught at Headquarters, in addition he lived and taught in Iwama as well as traveling to the dojos of his various soto-deshi like Hikitsuchi Michio in Kumomoto and Tanaka Bansen in Osaka. Whatever happened to Aikido after the war, O-Sensei was an integral part of it.

There seem to be two ideas which come up frequently in discussions of Aikido's so-called "failure" as a martial art. First, is the idea that somehow O-Sensei's son and the other post war teachers of the art took the art in a direction that the Founder either wasn't really aware of or didn't approve of. O-Sensei's statement towards the end of his life that "no one is doing my Aikido" is taken to mean that he felt that the art had gone wrong somehow in losing its martial character.

Actually, I personally take an opposite approach to that statement... I happen to believe that what he meant by that statement was that the various people he saw doing Aikido were too focused on technique and not enough on the spiritual side if the art. I think that, human nature being what it is, it was easier for many practitioners to focus on hard physical training and mastery of technique than it was for them to really try to understand statements like "Budo is Love" or the Founder's assertions that the art was not about fighting and that fighting destroyed the spirit of Aikido.

The second idea that seems to form the foundation of the critique of Aikido is the belief that post war Aikido represents a degenerate form of the art that existed in the pre-war period. I would maintain that it was intentionally different, not a degeneration, but an evolution. Japan's defeat in the war was a traumatic event for old school Japanese like the Founder. So much of the Founder's thinking placed Japan at the center of the spiritual universe. Additionally, he was a man who had spent his entire life as a martial artist. It stretches ones credulity, really to the point of absurdity, to think that the defeat of Japan, the abdication of the Emperor, and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, would not have shaken this man's assumptions to the core.

In an age in which real fighting involves high technology, in which a city can disappear in the blink of an eye, how could one not reassess ones vision of what training was all about, what it purpose really was, or even did it still have a purpose? It is clear from reading the Founder's post war statements that he saw Aikido as the perfect martial art for the post war world. I see absolutely no evidence that this was because he felt it was a superior fighting system. It was precisely because what he believed was the transformational nature of the practice and its philosophical and spiritual underpinning that Aikido was an art that fit the new, modern, post war world. It is also clear that he believed that the art had the power to change the world for the better in a way that would prevent a repetition of the nuclear nightmare which Japan had just endured.

Unquestionably, the post war teachers who inherited the responsibility for making all this happen knew that they would need to translate the Founder's extremely esoteric expression of this vision to something that was comprehensible to a modern Japanese audience and even an international community of practitioners. Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Osawa Kisaburo, Yamaguchi Seigo, and others developed the training of the young deshi who would eventually go forth and spread the art around the world. Teachers like Hikitsuchi Sensei, Abe Sensei and Sunadomari Sensei in particular tried to pass on an Aikido that contained the essence of the Founder's spiritual perspective. I can't think of one of these teachers who seemed to think that martial application against another trained fighter was the central purpose of training in the art.

Now I am not what anyone would call a pacifist... I am non-violent up to a point. I actually do believe that ones Aikido should "work" at least within the stated context of the practice. But the practice has a form. If that form is absent, it becomes something else. The Founder quite consciously did not have a ground fighting component in his art. It wasn't that he forgot... it was purposeful. The techniques of Aikido got larger than their Daito Ryu antecedents. This also wasn't just some random occurrence, the move away from martially applicable small technique to a larger type of execution focusing on internalizing certain principles both in the body and in the mind was done, I think, specifically to take the practitioner away from the fighting mind. Aikido was meant to be less practical for fighting.

The alternative is to believe that the post war transmitters of Aikido, many of whom had some background in koryu or competitive styles like judo or kendo, accidentally created a less practical art that lacked many of the components required by a system that was geared for fighting. As if they didn't know any better.

Aikido is a practice that stands on its own. It has its reson d'etre. There are a million people world wide practicing Aikido, more in countries like the US and France than in Japan by all accounts. It would certainly benefit from an infusion of influence from outside the art,not to make it a better fighting art, but simply to make it better at what it purports to be, a transformative practice which focuses on balancing forces, external and internal, emotional, social, political, whatever. It is a practice that, should, help to make us less fearful. While the practitioners of the various martial arts out there can all do certain things that I cannot do, I can do all sorts of things which they cannot. The fact that they do not care to do the things that I can do is of little concern to me. Aikido folks do not need to let the folks from other martial arts set the criteria for how we value our art. It is quite possible that I could defeat every mixed martial artist in the neighborhood and still have Aikido that isn't very good and isn't fulfilling on any level the mission set for the art by its Founder.

(Original blog post may be found here.)
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Old 09-10-2009, 02:09 AM   #2
jss
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Who would maintain that Kendo and Judo aren't martial arts?
In Dutch we call those 'vechtsport' (fighting sport). Aikido is called 'krijgskunst' (martial art) and sometimes 'vechtkunst' (fighting art). Basically 'vechtsporten' have competition and are more sport-like than the 'krijgskunsten', but it's not always simple: Japanese karate is a 'vechtsport', but Okinawan karate would be a 'krijgskunst'.

Quote:
Are Iaido and Kyudo not considered martial arts? They are done solo and have no emphasis whatever on winning over anyone other than oneself.
And by being practiced solo they do not pretend to be effective. To the untrained eye aikido looks effective, there are aikido teachers that teach self-defense based on aikido, website present aikido is effective, etc. Plenty of aikido practitioners and teachers talk as if aikido is an effective fighting art, so it makes sense that people expect aikido to be effective.

Quote:
It has been stated many times, by many people, that non-violence without the ability to defend oneself is just wishful thinking. I think that history would indicate that something else entirely is required for non-violence, or pacifism.
<snip>
What is required to be non-violent is depth of character. What is required to be a pacifist is the ability to over come the fear of death. The followers of Gandhi and King walked unhesitatingly into situations in which they KNEW they would be beaten, perhaps killed, and they marched anyway; without the back-up of great destructive martial skill or weaponry of any kind other than their moral force.
You're confusing the choice for non-violence with the taking of non-violent action. For the latter you need great depth of character, no argument there. And choosing non-violence because it's the only option you have with a non-zero chance of success (with the alternative of accepting the injustice being done to you) also requires great depth of character.
Yet, that's a different choice than the choice between violence and non-violence, when both can be successful means to achieve your goals. Put crudely, the former is a choice of character, the latter is a choice of morality. (Of course, in the real world both need character and morality.)

Quote:
I think that, human nature being what it is, it was easier for many practitioners to focus on hard physical training and mastery of technique than it was for them to really try to understand statements like "Budo is Love" or the Founder's assertions that the art was not about fighting and that fighting destroyed the spirit of Aikido.
Ellis Amdur has some interesting things to say about that in HIPS, in the chapter "Aikido is three peaches". A lot depends on one's definition of 'Love' and 'fighting'.

Quote:
Aikido was meant to be less practical for fighting.
Yet most aikido websites state that aikido is suited for self-defense. Apparently because aikido needs to be sold as such. And when presented like this it's a magnificent package: it's spiritual, it's non-violent, nobody gets hurt during practice, no sparring and yet it's effective in self-defense!
I won't deny you can pick up some valuable skills for self-defense by training aikido, but that's as much by accident as it is by design.
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Old 09-10-2009, 02:51 AM   #3
gdandscompserv
 
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

Inside the dojo, I want my aikido to be "effective." Outside the dojo?
Well, I'd rather rely on something a little more effective.



Nice post George!
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Old 09-10-2009, 03:38 AM   #4
Mark Freeman
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

Excellent and timely post George, thanks.

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 09-10-2009, 05:59 AM   #5
L. Camejo
 
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

I think some incorrectly juxtapose the two extremes of "fighting" and "pacifism" when speaking of Aikido. The concept of Takemusu Aiki belies the concept of fighting if we take the word to also mean "struggle". Iow in Aikido (when done right) there is no fighting - there is no direct conflict of force vs force. I have also not seen any examples of Ueshiba M. advocating that the Aikido approach to dealing with conflict is to submit to it for the sake of being "non-violent". There is a middle-point, which is where I think Ueshiba's concept of Aikido exists.

For many people it is impossible to resolve conflict without using force vs force, but the technical and philosophical underpinnings of Aikido allow for just that - conflict resolution (ending of the fight) without "fighting" (i.e. without going force on force in direct opposition to the other person, without struggling).

Ueshiba M. said that the true purpose of Budo is the loving protection of all living things, he also said that Aikido is Budo. Well how do we protect all living things without a deep understanding of what exists in the universe to threaten living things?

Imho Ueshiba's Aikido is not something developed to be used in duels such as cage fighting, but at the same time it is not a passive approach to life where one walks "eyes wide shut" into danger and death for the sake of "peace".

Imho Aikido is balance - it is that physical/emotional/spiritual balance where one is quite capable to physically or otherwise engage conflict for the purpose of resolution (i.e. ending of the conflict or threat to "all living things") while not being drawn into the survival mindset that says "destroy all threats to ensure protection of self". It allows one to recognize and preserve the humanity and right to life of all living things engaged in a particular conflict.

The very nature of this balance requires one to strive for a deep and excellent understanding of not only the philosophy but the technical and applied principles of the art. As elements of conflict grow in strength so too must the elements of conflict resolution, else the Aikidoka is merely one more source of conflict in the universe as he gets drawn into a fear-driven survival mindset that will not respect the humanity and right to life of the other.

Just my thoughts. They are worth only the time taken to read them.

Best
LC

--Mushin Mugamae - No Mind No Posture. He who is possessed by nothing possesses everything.--
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Old 09-10-2009, 07:19 AM   #6
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

Quote:
Aikido seems to come into more criticism for not being an effective fighting style than any other art
I agree with much of what you say in your post George, of course.

I think though, that as soon as we put the words "self defense" on our website, syllabus, or handout....we have signed ourselves up for something and there is an expectation of effectiveness as a martial art.

I think that expectation over rides any philosophical or spiritual goal or concern at all. Intentional or not. That is a fact.

As long as one holds out that shingle, nothing else will really matter, mainly because in the hierachry of human needs, self protection in the physical sense will come before spiritual fulfillment.

I think there are two ways to resolve this problem.

1. Teach the full spectrum of conflict resolution effectively.

2. Take off the reference or inference to self defense or martial art all together and start referring to the practice as an allegory or model for conflict resolution or spiritual development.

I think it is dishonest to both ourselves and others to hang that out there, then not deal with the issue head on..effectively!

Certainly not inferring that you are doing this! Just that I see this as a consistent problem within Aikido and almost every website I go to in aikido has the words Self Defense on the very first page! Almost none have the words "Weight Loss" or "Spiritual Fullfillment" or any other "Macro-emotional measure" success that would be just as reasonable.

I had a mentor in sales along time ago that told me "Son, there is a little larceny in every deal. As soon as you learn this, you will be on your way to being a great salesman!".

I am beginning to grasp the totality of what he meant these days!

I agree that there is much more to martial practices and budo than self defense of course, and I agree that it is a secondary benefit for most really. I beleive I have always held that position.

However, I do believe that we owe it to ourselves and our students to be honest.

I think a good start to that end for most would be to eliminate the words 'self defense" from the venacular. That alone would go along way to transcending the whole "fighting effectiveness" thing.

By getting rid of the inference or expectation it would free those that embrace this important side of the methodology to fully explore what it has to offer in a manner that is devoid of any pretension of effectiveness.

However, I think as in most human endeavors, that a little larceny and controversy keeps things interesting and exciting and definitely keeps them coming into the dojo and paying the bills.

Co-dependency at it's finest! base human nature seems to thrive on it!

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Old 09-10-2009, 07:53 AM   #7
DonMagee
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post

First of all, I question the assumption that the only measure for a martial art is fighting effectiveness. Who would maintain that Kendo and Judo aren't martial arts? Who would maintain that either is an "effective" fighting style? Are Iaido and Kyudo not considered martial arts? They are done solo and have no emphasis whatever on winning over anyone other than oneself. Are they not worthy practices for their own sake without considerations of whether they would defeat another art?
Honestly, I didn't read the whole thing, I skimmed. But this bothers me.

Judo not fighting effective? Seriously? A good judoka or wrestler is a man I wouldn't want to meet in a back alley. That said, my aikido instructor doesn't think anything with a sport element is a martial art. That means (at least this is the vibe I get from him) that muay thai, boxing, bjj, judo, etc are not martial arts.

The question of if a art is worthy of practice to me isn't the issue. You can practice for sport, for history, for live action role playing, for self defense, etc. The big difference is in what you think you are getting and what you are getting. Do Iadio students claim to have a street lethal style that will stop all attackers? Or do they claim that MMA fighters are brutes with no skill that their instructor could easily overtake?

I wrote a really long post, but then decided not to go off on a torrent of speech. I think it's great that people train in any sport, martial art, etc. I take issue with people making open claims that are easily testable, but coming up with excuses when put to task. I think this is what puts off the competitive artists from the non-competitive, claim making with excuses as to why they can't show you in person.

In the end to me, it's just good old fashioned cognitive dissonance.

Last edited by DonMagee : 09-10-2009 at 07:57 AM.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 09-10-2009, 07:56 AM   #8
dps
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
What is required to be non-violent is depth of character. What is required to be a pacifist is the ability to over come the fear of death. The followers of Gandhi and King walked unhesitatingly into situations in which they KNEW they would be beaten, perhaps killed, and they marched anyway; without the back-up of great destructive martial skill or weaponry of any kind other than their moral force.
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyagraha

"Gandhi's writings on Nazi persecution of the Jews in Germany were controversial. He offered Satyagraha non-violence as a method of combating oppression and genocide, stating:

If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest Gentile German might, and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this I should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance, but would have confidence that in the end the rest were bound to follow my example. If one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy [...] the calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the God-fearing, death has no terror.[17]

In a similar vein, anticipating a possible attack on India by Japan during World War II, Gandhi recommended satyagraha as a defense:

" …there should be unadulterated non-violent non-cooperation, and if the whole of India responded and unanimously offered it, I should show that, without shedding a single drop of blood, Japanese arms -- or any combination of arms -- can be sterilized. That involves the determination of India not to give quarter on any point whatsoever and to be ready to risk loss of several million lives. But I would consider that cost very cheap and victory won at that cost glorious. That India may not be ready to pay that price may be true. I hope it is not true, but some such price must be paid by any country that wants to retain its independence. After all, the sacrifice made by the Russians and the Chinese is enormous, and they are ready to risk all. The same could be said of the other countries also, whether aggressors or defenders. The cost is enormous. Therefore, in the non-violent technique I am asking India to risk no more than other countries are risking and which India would have to risk even if she offered armed resistance."

What would O'Sensei think of Gandhi's above statements?

O'Sensei's decision to steer Aikido in the direction he did was for the survival of Aikido. He was angry at Japan's leaders for the direction the country was going, Two atomic bombs were dropped on his country, Japan was forced to surrender and be occupied by a foreign army (the first time in its history ) and martial arts were banned because they were encouraged by the Japanese government preWWII as part of Japan's militarization. He wanted his martial art, his baby, to survive.

David

Last edited by dps : 09-10-2009 at 08:05 AM.
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Old 09-10-2009, 08:19 AM   #9
MM
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Maybe its because Aikido has positioned itself as a martial arts with a different values system... maybe its because many of its practitioners are arrogant when they talk about the art, maybe its because so many of its practitioners are woefully ignorant about other martial arts (although any more so than the practitioners of those arts are of Aikido)... whatever the reason, Aikido seems to come into more criticism for not being an effective fighting style than any other art.
I think at some point, we, as people training in aikido, have to take a good hard look at our art. And if we compare people who have the same amount of training time, say 1 to 5 years, in aikido, judo, and bjj, we find aikido lacking in that comparison. How many in aikido, even at 10 years, are going to fare well in comparison?

For those apples and oranges crowd, look at Ueshiba, Shioda, Tomiki, etc and how long it took them to get good and how they fared with other martial artists.
http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=14753

Perhaps, rather than lament on receiving those criticisms, we should, maybe, look at addressing them within our art? Especially since, historically, there are valid training regimens to create good aikido people in a much shorter amount of time.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
First of all, I question the assumption that the only measure for a martial art is fighting effectiveness. Who would maintain that Kendo and Judo aren't martial arts? Who would maintain that either is an "effective" fighting style? Are Iaido and Kyudo not considered martial arts? They are done solo and have no emphasis whatever on winning over anyone other than oneself. Are they not worthy practices for their own sake without considerations of whether they would defeat another art?
Well, considering Iaido and Kyudo are typically one-person martial arts, they sort of are bypassed by "sports" minded people. I think Kendo and Judo are valid points, though. As for judo, why is it that there aren't as many criticisms leveled against it? Could it be that if you compared a 1 year student of Judo and bjj, they can be considered equivalent -- just in different venues? One is more standup and one is more ground? Although, that's a generalization because both schools, from what I'm told, have components for both standup and ground.

Yet aikido remains criticized. As someone I know would say, Huh. Why is that? How can we change that ... yet remain true to the spiritual ideals?

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
It has been stated many times, by many people, that non-violence without the ability to defend oneself is just wishful thinking. I think that history would indicate that something else entirely is required for non-violence, or pacifism. The practitioners of Gandhi's satyagraha had no martial skills. They were ordinary people from various walks of life yet few would deny that they were peaceful warriors of the first order. The Freedom Riders of the 1960's had no fighting skills nor would they have used them if they had had them.

What is required to be non-violent is depth of character. What is required to be a pacifist is the ability to over come the fear of death. The followers of Gandhi and King walked unhesitatingly into situations in which they KNEW they would be beaten, perhaps killed, and they marched anyway; without the back-up of great destructive martial skill or weaponry of any kind other than their moral force.
History would also indicate that Ueshiba Morihei was no pacifist.

History would also indicate that while Ueshiba did not see sport competition as something in his ideals of aikido, he did view certain competitive actions as valid.

History would also indicate that Ueshiba took on martial challenges.

History would also indicate a lot of Ueshiba's students took on martial challenges.

I think history indicates that Ueshiba was not a pacifist, his spiritual ideals weren't new-age love and peace, and that he gained his spirituality alongside his martial abilities. None of the famous pacifists (ex. Ghandi) did that. And while I certainly admire some of those people, they do not have the same spirituality that Ueshiba had. Would Ghandi have ever used a strike to someone's face as a means to spirituality (Ueshiba is seen doing this in his later years -- see vid references below)? Then, perhaps, the spirituality of Ghandi is vastly different than the spirituality of Ueshiba.

Trying to mold aikido into that kind (Ghandi, etc) of spirituality is not something I think should be done.

Let me try a physically, martial comparison here. For techniques, we can see kote gaeshi, shiho nage, irimi nage, etc in aikido. Now, if we wanted to be more martial, how about if we added some muay thai kicks to aikido? Many people talk positively about muay thai kicks and how powerful they can be.

But, looking at it, muay thai kicks are just not part of aikido. In many ways. Same with the spirituality of Ghandi, etc. While not degrading anything about these men or their outlooks, they are not aikido.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Why does everyone hark back to the 1930's when talking about what Aikido lacks? Why do so few people look at how O-Sensei changed the techniques he had learned and taught as Daito Ryu and then, later, as Aiki Budo into what became Aikido after the war? The Founder taught actively until his death in 1969. He frequently resided in Tokyo and taught at Headquarters, in addition he lived and taught in Iwama as well as traveling to the dojos of his various soto-deshi like Hikitsuchi Michio in Kumomoto and Tanaka Bansen in Osaka. Whatever happened to Aikido after the war, O-Sensei was an integral part of it.
It's a very good point. So, let me ask you some questions to see if we can't come up with some answers.

Why is it that one can view Ueshiba in his later years and he is doing stock Daito ryu techniques?

Why is it that one can veiw Ueshiba in his later years and he is doing atemi throughout his techniques?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XTlWDOQBno
Wakayama 1952, Ueshiba age 69.
2:10 - 1:12 Ueshiba uses atemi on elbow.
2:13-2:17 Ueshiba uses atemi on elbow.
2:18-2:22 Ueshiba uses atemi to face.

Why is it that Ueshiba taught Saito in his later years and Saito is looked at as being a very martially capable person? Did not Saito keep faithful to Ueshiba's vision of aikido?

Should we also be striving to become avatars for the kami?

There are a lot of questions like these that are valid and should be addressed if we're looking at Ueshiba's version of aikido. What then, can we do to fulfill the spiritual side and yet be within the parameters of Ueshiba's aikido? How about within his students' visions of aikido?

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
There seem to be two ideas which come up frequently in discussions of Aikido's so-called "failure" as a martial art. First, is the idea that somehow O-Sensei's son and the other post war teachers of the art took the art in a direction that the Founder either wasn't really aware of or didn't approve of. O-Sensei's statement towards the end of his life that "no one is doing my Aikido" is taken to mean that he felt that the art had gone wrong somehow in losing its martial character.

Actually, I personally take an opposite approach to that statement... I happen to believe that what he meant by that statement was that the various people he saw doing Aikido were too focused on technique and not enough on the spiritual side if the art. I think that, human nature being what it is, it was easier for many practitioners to focus on hard physical training and mastery of technique than it was for them to really try to understand statements like "Budo is Love" or the Founder's assertions that the art was not about fighting and that fighting destroyed the spirit of Aikido.
How do you explain Ueshiba yelling at his students for being too soft and that it took him 20 years of doing things hard before he could do them softly? (Sorry can't find reference right now. It's from Aikido Journal somewhere, I think.) Between that and the reference you cite, I, personally, think that many students were on the wrong track. Daito ryu aiki certainly makes both of those references understandable. It doesn't have to be the answer, but it definitely is a very logical choice.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
The second idea that seems to form the foundation of the critique of Aikido is the belief that post war Aikido represents a degenerate form of the art that existed in the pre-war period. I would maintain that it was intentionally different, not a degeneration, but an evolution.

(snip)

Now I am not what anyone would call a pacifist... I am non-violent up to a point. I actually do believe that ones Aikido should "work" at least within the stated context of the practice. But the practice has a form. If that form is absent, it becomes something else. The Founder quite consciously did not have a ground fighting component in his art. It wasn't that he forgot... it was purposeful. The techniques of Aikido got larger than their Daito Ryu antecedents. This also wasn't just some random occurrence, the move away from martially applicable small technique to a larger type of execution focusing on internalizing certain principles both in the body and in the mind was done, I think, specifically to take the practitioner away from the fighting mind. Aikido was meant to be less practical for fighting.
Have you pondered that maybe Ueshiba's evolution of aikido from his pre-war to later in his life actually made aikido more practical for fighting (Which boosts Ueshiba's fortitude as a person because he chose a more spiritual outlook and application)? What would it mean to you if this was true?

Historically, Ueshiba was a high level martial artist. IMO, just because he got older and just because he had a more spiritual outlook doesn't mean that his aikido lacked in the fighting or martial areas.

As a final addition, what if that evolution from Daito ryu to his aikido was something he did to make his aikido even more martially effective while retaining his spiritual ideals? Or perhaps his spiritual experiences showed him how to make his aikido more martial while retaining a better way of living?

As a whole, aikido has already taken the route of being more spiritual than martial. And as a whole, people have taken scores of passages to build their whole spiritual practice upon. And as a whole, we have gotten further and further away from the abilities of Ueshiba while being criticized by our peers more and more. Even with his complete spiritual outlook, no one criticized Ueshiba's martial abilities.

Isn't it time we stopped being status quo and took a good, hard look at our aikido training?
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Old 09-10-2009, 09:55 AM   #10
Erick Mead
 
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

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I think history indicates that Ueshiba was not a pacifist, his spiritual ideals weren't new-age love and peace, and that he gained his spirituality alongside his martial abilities.
I find that as I continue on, the more and more restrained I have to become -- because I am more and more capable of doing untintended damage by merely moving in connected flow. Strikes just appear and have to be constrained from what would occur if action were more fully uninhibited. It is dare I say, deeply enticing and yet forbidding at the same time. Only the care, dare I say, love, that the spirit of the art has fostered toward my training partners compels the restraint from giving in to the sense of abandon in destruction that the nature of the actual mechanics employed in this art make possible (whether any particular person is making use of them is another matter, but believe me, they are absolutely there).

The best recent dramatic meditation on this aspect of what I see as "True Budo is Love." was in the BBC's "Jekyll" series, played by the masterful James Nesbitt. I highly recommend the whole series. Suffice it to say the series works to show Hyde, Jekyll's alter ego as a superhumanly powerful, deeply lustful, profligately dissolute and exceedinlgy capable of great violence at the drop of a hat -- if provoked, or merely bored -- and capable of withstanding an incredible amount of physical damage without either caring much about it -- or slowing down, much less stopping from getting to his desired objective.

In this clip, which the series has built up in terms of Mr. Hyde's willingness to kill with ease and lack of concern and then his intricate dance of predatory stalking of Jekyll's wife Mrs. Jackman, and their children, you get the penultimate climax of the series, and confrontation with the supposed "social protectors" who want to duplicate his power -- only for good, you understand, carefully controlled, and managed, of course. Yet it turns out that his immense power of destruction has only ever had but one single and consuming source -- which is also its purpose. It is a very deep lesson in the nature of love, manipulation, protection and violence.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjU-P-m-IKk


[For those with a good Catholic education -- note the hour on the clock.]

Last edited by Erick Mead : 09-10-2009 at 10:02 AM.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
一隻狗可久里馬房但他也不是馬的.
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Old 09-10-2009, 10:47 AM   #11
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

I disagree with the general idea of the "spiritual / fighting" interplay and what it means -starting with George's contentions about Ueshiba meaning he wanted the art to be more spiritual-as in- away from fighting. I think that entirely misses the mark.
On a physical level I think Ellis expressed my own opinion rather well; that Ueshiba made a moral choice in his combatives beyond their koryu counter part.
On page 182: He discusses Ueshiba's model of two people training as being a moving misogi exercise where the spirit of the practitioners creates an energy that could affect the cosmos. A rather neat idea. I liken this to Christ's model where he stated where two or more are gathered in my name I will be among them.

But where Christs model was focused on grace and works of charity and spiritualism beyond man to affect the spiritual order of the universe- Ueshiba's model remained focused on martial movement and joining in conflict resolution in all aspects. Spiritually I think his students would have been better served had they learned to how to go out and serve mankind to improve the world order, but that's neither here nor there.
The fact remains it was Ueshiba's choice to remain focused -martially.
Percentage wise, there are too many of Ueshiba's comments, to and about martially oriented activities, to ignore in favor of the spiritual side. I think this spiritual side is exactly what is being way overplayed in light of the Ueshiba's well informed and greatly demonstrated CHOICE to be involved in martial activities his entire adult life; including his last breath- "Grab my wrist!"
What he meant he demonstrated: with spears and staves and swords, all while stating his art was about atemi of all things!!
The spiritual aspects he was talking about involved fighting. The spiritual training (some claim) was used to add to his martial power none-the-less was used for power building. I still disagree he demonstrated anything other than DR-even after Ellis's work. But the fact remains that he chose- CHOSE- to demonstrate his spiritual progress with displays of power. Displayed as a means to martially win without causing too much damage.

I am a great fan of his choice to win by not fighting (for many reasons). But he clearly spoke of winning and defeating and avoiding defeat at every turn. Those are choices of dialogue; talking points, where he could have just as easliy used his time here, and his breath, as Christ did- were spiritualism his real goal.
Instead he chose physical dominance in a neutral manner to be his vehicle. Mercy through victory. I just think most people simply do not have a practical or demonstrable clue as to what that really means or how to do it and get there. They can't even begin to approach it with their mind and bodies. At what point can we be polite and supportive, but be utterly frank and call it for what it is.

Aiki always was, and still is, and forever will -be- about power building of a type and on a level that is alien to modern aikido practice. That is how you make aiki happen and that's that. Once you can do it and use it to manage people who actually know how to fight back; the debate ends and all is made clear. The rest is just equivocating and the opinions of those still searching for a deeper understanding.
IME, what aikido people call aiki, simply is not aiki, and it is the main reason the majoirty of Aikido people are criticized for not being able to fight with aiki. This debate has been going on since Ueshiba's deshi went out and came back openly stating they could not use their aiki to handle the tough men they encountered back in the 60's.
Dan

Last edited by DH : 09-10-2009 at 11:00 AM.
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Old 09-10-2009, 11:57 AM   #12
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

This is a great post. I think many comments in the post cut to the quick... I am a big supporter of martial effectiveness as evidenced by physical skill, and I am a firm believer in maintaining the integrity of aikido through martial viability.
1. I believe aikido does not fall within the context of "martial arts" as the term originally was utilized; I believe many arts no longer carry the militaristic connotation implied from the "martial" pretext. This is largely due to the change in modern English to categorically classify a fighting system as "martial," regardless of its actual ancestry. At some point in time, chess would have been considered a martial art in which commanders learned how to deploy their fighting resources on a field of battle...
2. Aikido students desparately cling to its fighting roots with one hand while excusing their lack of functionality for higher purpose with the other. I take greater issue with this single dichotomy than any other argument for (or against) aikido as a fighting art. If it doesn't work, don't call it a fighting system; the problem is we have all seen aikidoka who are extremely good fighters and we can't explain why they succeeded where we failed. To this point I think I have heard many posts questioning why in the years since the death of O'Sensei has not one aikido student excelled to the skill of O'Sensei...

Quote:
The Founder quite consciously did not have a ground fighting component in his art. It wasn't that he forgot... it was purposeful. The techniques of Aikido got larger than their Daito Ryu antecedents. This also wasn't just some random occurrence, the move away from martially applicable small technique to a larger type of execution focusing on internalizing certain principles both in the body and in the mind was done, I think, specifically to take the practitioner away from the fighting mind. Aikido was meant to be less practical for fighting.
I think this statement is very accurate. From my education in aikido, it appears that O'Sensei did temper his instruction to purposefully omit technique or restructure how he wanted students to emulate technique. I believe on a large scale O'Sensei, through his living students, was able to expand physical technique into a greater training. I believe the cost of that accomplishment was a less effective formal fighting style.

However, I also think he left intact those pieces he omitted or altered for a discerning student to find and incorporate into his personal aikido. I read consistently about aikido instructors (and students) who draw upon other fighting styles to re-energize their aikido. I know instructors use practice weapons to extract simple principles of fighting to evaluate proper stance, distance, or timing. I believe it is the challenge of aikido students to sleuth these answers as we train and discover how they fit into our aikido to make us a better student. I believe the most effective aikido is the patchwork of incorporating other traditional fighting styles to fill the gaps in formal aikido training. To some extent, it is a brilliant way to protect aikido - only the discerning students will persevere to the advanced levels of aikido...

With all that... A man climbs a staircase to a monastary atop a high mountain. He sees a monk sweeping the stairs as he approaches the entrance. "These stairs are immaculate. Do you sweep these steps every day?" the man asks the monk. The monk nods yes. The man continues, "It must take you a long time to sweep all of the steps; can you sweep them in one day?" The monk again nods yes. "You must sweep very quickly," the man concedes to the monk. Looking incredulous, the monk says to the man, "I've been sweeping this staircase for 20 years, I better be pretty %#$&ing good at it."

Last edited by jonreading : 09-10-2009 at 12:05 PM.
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Old 09-10-2009, 03:45 PM   #13
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

When practicing techniques with a partner, nage and uke must each give 100% effort. It is not 50% nage and 50% uke. So, I tend to think about this issue the same way. It is up to each individual to give 100% to both sides of their training, martial and spiritual. It is not 50% martial and 50% spiritual. One aspect of the art does not suffer at the hands of the other. They should both be given full measure. This idea also reminds me of something that the 2nd Doshu said, "O-Sensei was both more martial and more spiritual than people realize."
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Old 09-10-2009, 04:20 PM   #14
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

The martial aspects are clear enough.
Clearly define Ueshiba's specific spiritual goals for those in the art and how he addressed people should achieve them and then express them- in words and practices that the vast majority of those in the art will agree with and will state unequivocally that those same goals are their current beliefs and practices.
Cheers
Dan
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Old 09-10-2009, 05:13 PM   #15
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

From the unintentional random sampling of Florida's population from which over the past decade I have roughly made a standard normal distribution, most people have not heard of Aikido. Karate? Of course. Judo? Of course. Jiu-jutsu? Most. I saw my friend in the FSU gym and athletic center, and told him I had just started Aikido, and I was really excited about it. He hesitated for just a second then said, "Oh, fighting?" I hesitantly said, "Yes." At least he knew about it somewhat, and I didn't feel a five minute lecture was appropriate as I spotted him on decline: a lecture about harmony and peace attained by inflicting pain on others and throwing them to the ground.

When really thought all the way through, especially by an Aikidoka, the contradiction/paradox/oxymoron of Aikido fades away. A problem is that many do not put forth the effort required to ponder this art's complexities and arrive at its simplicities. Many would rather not think deeply in general, and I understand why. It is work, hard work.

Drew
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Old 09-10-2009, 05:19 PM   #16
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

These are spiritual practices. Why does one have to be concerned that:

"...the vast majority of those in the art will agree with and will state unequivocally that those same goals are their current beliefs and practices." ?

Everybody's goals are different in this respect, which is fine, because it is a spiritual journey and therefore very personal in nature.

However, Japanese Budo is pretty much intrinsically bound to Zen. One can start there if they wish. O-Sensei, on the other hand, was involved with a Neo-Shinto sect. One can start there if they wish...

The physical manifestation/expression of both the martial and spiritual practices would be Takemusu Aiki.

Good Luck!
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Old 09-10-2009, 06:43 PM   #17
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
. I actually do believe that ones Aikido should "work" at least within the stated context of the practice..... Aikido was meant to be less practical for fighting......
Aikido is a practice that stands on its own. It has its reson d'etre.......... Aikido folks do not need to let the folks from other martial arts set the criteria for how we value our art.... the mission set for the art by its Founder.

(Original blog post may be found here.)
Great post George and in general I agree with what you have to say (judo comment aside). I think the points above cut to the heart to the matter. As Kevin said i think the issue is that the aikido community doesn't have a cohesive idea of what Aikido is and what it's for. I've always said Aikido is fantastic - for certain things. But even then i'm a litte vauge on it myself. I think if there was a *stated* context alot of the debate goes away.

But it's only once someone has been in the art for many years they typically move away from the "aikido is awesome and would kick anyones ass" mentality to "aikido is awesome it's given me a new approach to conflict movement and my own self development". Certainly that was my experience

"When your only tool is a hammer every problem starts to look like a nail"
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Old 09-10-2009, 08:46 PM   #18
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

There is a difference between the issue of what constitutes an "effective" martial art or an "effective" practitioner of that art.

As Ikeda Sensei says, "It's not Aikido that doesn't work; it's YOUR Aikido that doesn't work.

Ellis Amdur once defined "martial arts" as one warrior training to fight another professional. In this sense of the words, clearly the term "martial art" connotes a combat training system used by warriors for combat. "Martial arts" are combat systems.

Combat systems involve weapons. Empty hand is a secondary or tertiary training used as a last resort when ones weapons system fails. This was certainly true for the samurai. It remains true for the military, law enforcement, security professionals, etc.

I would maintain that none of the styles mentioned above, no matter how rough or practically oriented they might be, is a "martial art" under this definition. Judo, no matter how wonderful an art it is, no matter how good a foundation for other practices it provides, is clearly not a combat system. Muy Thai has antecedents which were about combat and they involved swords. But I would maintain that no primarily empty hand system is truly a combat system.

Now "self defense" is an entirely different term. It is not the realm of the professional warrior but rather is the domain of the civilian or a professional whose job is something other than fighting. In law enforcement and security empty hand training is called defensive tactics. It is intended to dovetail with and / or augment the various weapons they carry. In no case is empty hand training considered the primary element of the defensive system.

In the civilian realm self defense can constitute anything from sole reliance on firearms or various weapons all the way to reliance on a few empty hand techniques and no weapons at all. Civilians who attempt to create their own "combat" systems, usually do so by training in a variety of areas and trying to create something approaching a coherent system out of these disparate elements. Seldom do they have access to the training afforded by true "combat" systems.

Clearly, "self defense" is a much broader term than "martial art". Surely no one would maintain that Aikido is a "combat system". The training is formalized, not applied. The weapons work is remedial. Yet, many people have successfully used Aikido for self defense. The forums abound with examples in which an Aikido practitioner used something he had learned on the mat, in the dojo, to defend himself or herself against a threat from some violent offender. Doesn't that make Aikido "effective" as self defense? I have personally taught Aikido techniques to law enforcement and security personnel who then used them on the street against resistant and sometimes violent offenders. In all cases the techniques produced the desired result. Doesn't that constitute "effectiveness"? Of course, in self defense or defensive tactics we are not talking about fighting a professionally trained martial artist. Self defense "systems" usually train one to deal with commonly encountered threats and generally are not geared to the sophistication level of dealing with highly trained attackers. Even in law enforcement, the only folks expected to handle high level threats are the SWAT teams, who do get vastly more training than the average officer. And that training is 95% weapons with a bit of empty hand thrown in.

So, while I would say that the roots of Aikido lie in a combat system practiced by professional warriors for use against other professional warriors it certainly is not such a system itself. On the other hand it is equally clear that back in the twenties and thirties the expectation was that one could handle himself against practitioners of other arts. Effectiveness was measured by the ability to successfully apply the techniques of the art. The students of the art, which was Aiki Budo in those days, were almost entirely members of the law enforcement and military communities. In other words, the art was being taught as a tool for professionals to use on the job and the main concern was that the training work.

This wasn't strictly speaking "martial arts" as it had been when samurai fought other samurai but so much of the ethos of the thirties was getting the nation ready for war, I think the expectation on the part of the practitioners was that the training prepare them on some level for combat against trained soldiers. Early Aikido made its reputation by the ability of its main proponents to defeat even highly ranked practitioners from other styles. Since these matches were not life and death encounters, I think they should be placed in the category of sport competition. The stakes were high, certainly. Not only was ones own reputation on the line, but the reputation of ones teacher's art was on the line. Practical ability was first and foremost because the establishment of Ueshiba Aiki Budo as a recognized and respected style was at stake.

Then comes the war...With the defeat of Japan the whole nation underwent a national identity crisis. Initially, the martial arts were banned by the occupation authorities and lost favor in the imagination of the public. But, just as they had done during the Meiji period, the martial arts had a resurgence. Why, because people realized that training in the martial arts had tremendous benefits for the individual that had nothing to do with prevailing over another warrior for survival. Aikido in particular had only been taught privately to small groups of individuals before the war. Now it was opened up to the public,

Once the art went public world wide after the war, the focus on effectiveness was not in the forefront of concerns for the training. Safety came high on the list of priorities. Also, at least in terms of marketing the art, philosophical and spiritual concerns seemed more important than the ability to defeat the practitioners of other martial arts. The fact is that the vast majority of people studying Aikido will not use it professionally, will not ever fight someone from another martial art, nor will they ever, in their entire lives, use an Aikido technique for self defense. This is the reality of martial arts training in a modern society at peace.

The emphasis in Aikido has been on making the practice more accessible to the public so that a wider range of people can benefit from doing the training and take the accrued benefits into their lives outside the dojo. This has meant that various standards have been applied to evaluate the training aside from pure "effectiveness". If effectiveness were the primary goal, there would be very few women in the art ( as in judo in which the vast majority of practitioners are men), there would have to be weight classes as there are in other sport martial arts because larger, stronger practitioners would always prevail over smaller weaker ones. And so on… Aikido is meant to be an art in which one gets better with age rather than losing ones abilities as ones strength deteriorates. I can't think of a single competitive sport martial art in which this is true.

Those who loudly denounce the demise of martial effectiveness in the art either privately or publicly regret that the art has been made so "accessible". They would like to see absolute standards of performance maintained, regardless of sex, physical size, temperament, etc. The Aikido they would like to see would be closer to the elite practice done by an extremely small number of incredibly devoted, very tough men (only a few women trained before the war and none became a prominent teacher, at least of the martial arts). Generally, these folks don't give a rip about the philosophical / spiritual underpinnings of the Founder's Aikido. They just want a return to the "effectiveness" of pre-war Aiki Budo.

Despite the appearance given by the stance I find myself taking frequently on the forums, I do actually think Aikido should be "effective", at least within certain parameters. I have had to come to terms, first with the reality that, very few people wish to train the way I was trained. I once told my teacher that my model for my own dojo was the dojo in DC at which I had trained with him in the seventies. His response was to look a bit wistful and reply "Probably can't do… not on West Coast." In other words, if I tried to duplicate my own training with my students, my doors would be closed.

Now that reality, and the need to develop a practice that has enough broad appeal that it delivers a perceived benefit to the students and has enough integrity that I can live with what I am teaching and the progress my students make, has allowed me to observe the benefits that folks derive from a style of practice that is different from the way I trained, and vastly different from how the pre-war generation trained.

I've seen students take ten years to get to Shodan. These people are never going to be heavy duty martial artists in this lifetime. Yet they used the training to make jumps in their lives that have made their lives better, in very major ways. The average age of folks training is older than what it would have been had we been training far more physically. These folks are professionals with families… their concerns are completely different from fighters, professional law enforcement folks, people living in bad neighborhoods who fear for their lives every day. Conflict for these people comes with raising a teen, dealing with an irascible boss, coping with being laid off, getting divorced, etc. They train to help them handle their lives better. They love the complexity of the art because they are all extremely smart, well educated people, and they find it really interesting. They love the practice because the focus on mental and physical relaxation and maintaining a calm but strong focus in the midst of chaotic is exactly what they need to perform in their demanding careers every day.

So, while I do care about whether my Aikido is effective, and my teachers absolutely maintain that Aikido should function as a practically applicable form of Budo, for most of my students, their lives would not be made one iota better if the could execute that irimi nage against some BJJ or MMA guy or a visiting karate practitioner. I get to see, on a daily basis, what Aikido training can do for people; how it can change their lives, how it can develop their confidence, deal with aggressive personalities, stay centered during crisis, and so forth.

Now if some practitioner from another style wants to come in to my dojo and see if what I do works, he is welcome to do so. My training was different than what most of my students have had. I'm happy to play if someone really wants to do that. But the justification for the art doesn't come from my ability to do that, it comes from the hundreds, and thousands of people who love the art, feel they have received so much from it that they give back on a level that would be hard to find in any other martial art, certainly one with such a wide following… I think that we as Aikido practitioners need to really step up and look at our art and how many people do it, love it, spend all their leisure time practicing it, use all their vacation time traveling for it, etc. What they are getting out of this art has little or nothing to do with the ability to defeat other martial artists. Some care whether they can, others don't seem to. But I don't think many at all stay with the art because they think that fighting is what it's about.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 09-10-2009, 09:46 PM   #19
eyrie
 
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

The whole Aikido IS a martial art BUT it's not about fighting because of the spiritual/martial interplay, is I think, entirely misleading.

Lest we forget, one of the world's oldest military treatises written over 2500 years ago, states quite clearly - "the highest form of victory is to subdue the enemy without fighting". There is nothing spiritual about that statement. It clearly points to the acme of human skills development, rather than the spiritual loftiness that it is so often interpreted to mean, because, the highest form of victory IS self-victory. Through conquering one's self, are others conquered. Again, the practical rationale of victory over self, and the conduct of war without fighting, is quite clearly a recurring theme throughout the writings:
Quote:
When one has a thorough knowledge of the enemy and oneself, victory can be assured.

He who knows when to fight and when not to fight will win.

The generals are the guardians of the State..... It is the duty of the general to remain clam and inscrutable; to be upright and strict....always acting for the welfare of his people...

To conquer the enemy without resorting to war is the most desirable.

The adepts in warfare are those who can conquer the enemy without fighting battles.
The issue it seems, is one of perception, and the all-too-human tendency to perceive things by contrast and polarized opposites - hard/soft, light/dark, black/white, good/evil, war/peace, violence/non-violence. It isn't two different things, or even two aspects of one thing - it is one and the the same thing, in as much as a military treatise speaks not to the conduct of warfare as it does to the adept of warfare.

Quote:
Only the sagacious and wise can successfully use espionage... Only the benevolent and righteous can find the right men to do espionage.. Therefore, only the enlightened sovereigns and wise generals know how to employ men of the highest intelligence to work as spies.
On the surface, that may seem contradictory - that one who exhibits such lofty character traits would engage in covert operations designed to subvert and thwart the enemy.

It is no more contradictory than the oxymoronic cries to struggle for freedom or to fight for peace, by banner waving pacifist activists. The prevention of war, by necessary means, is as legitimate as the overriding desire to maintain peace.

In that sense, martial arts is a transformative practice, on various levels - it is never about fighting... AND all about fighting...

And as someone once said... "[My karate] is never about fighting. Killing, maiming, destroying - yes. But fighting... never."

Ignatius
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Old 09-10-2009, 10:41 PM   #20
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

What is ironic about this whole conversation for me is I just returned from a Special Operations course on Irregular Warfare where we learned about history, application, and about winning the hearts and minds and the importance "winning by through not fighting".

What struck me about this course is how much it was in line with much of what we all strive to do here, and it was very clear after listening to lectures from some of the leading minds and some of the legends in the Special Operations community about how this all works and should work.

There is alot to "walking softly and carrying a big stick". Alot to that.

So, I do agree with much of what you say George. It really is splitting hairs for me to say that I don't, so I just want to make that very clear.

I agree to a point about what you say about Military Combatives, hand to hand is way down the list. It is not self defense, and it is different. At the base that certainly is one way of looking at it. From a battlefield perspective.

However, much of the change in both Army Combatives and Marine Corps Combatives stemmed from lessons learned from why it did not work to continue to study the Old Applegate/Fairbairn/Sykes methodology, which is very good stuff.

I won't go into it, but Rules of Engagement, Escalation Criteria, Spectrum of force, Developing the Warrior mind, sustainable training methods, safety..all that stuff played a big part in why we adopted the systems that we did. Much of which has alot to do with anything other than the actual art of the violent act of killing quickly and efficiently. It is really in line with Budo.

So, there are alot of guys out there that are very critical that what we are teaching in the military today is ineffective and wrong. I understand and agree with their logic based on the old battlefield model, and I do believe that it is important to train this way too to reinforce good habits that can be called upon in the heat of battle.

Self Defense, well that really is a completely different animal all together, I agree.

What I don't agree is that it is a primary focus of aikido, and aikido is a very ineffective modality for training self defense. So inefficient that it is a by product and we should not pretend or ellude to the fact that it is a benefit at all.

If an instructor wants to teach self defense as a separate and distinct class or seminar that uses aikido principles that is fine and a wonderful thing I think. The focus should be on self defense, dealing with the risk mitigation, scenarios, and focus on neural and emotional override, legal considerations etc.

There are some very good programs that are very efficient in training self defense.

I don't think aikido directly trains self defense anymore than it will help you learn to remain calm when giving a large public speech or playing the piano. Why not list this as primary benefits on the front of our websites?

I think the reason is that we all know that the words "Self Defense" draw folks into the dojo as does the phrase:

"Ueshiba's goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury." (Wikipedia)

Another website:

"Aikido is considered to be a non-aggressive style, as the Aikido student does not instigate the attack. The basic principle of Aikido is “Do not fight force with force”. Aikido uses very few punches and kicks. Instead, the attackers force is redirected into throws, locks and restraining techniques. Size, weight, age and physical strength differences of the opponents play only a small role, as the skilled Aikido practitioner is able to redirect the attackers energy, keeping his attacker in a constant of unbalance."

http://www.martial-arts-info.com/100/aikido/

I have no doubt that there are many people out there that can tell stories of how aikido has helped them in "self defense"

I have my own stories. In Mozambique in 2006, the awareness that I gained from TMA and Aikido probably kept me out of several bad situations just understanding body language, positioning, and how to avoid being circled by a bunch of guys on the street.

So, I will not completely dismiss the benefits that come from studying the art. Not at all.

My only argument is really splitting hairs over the issue of effectiveness and efficiency of training modalities.

While understanding how to read a situation in Mozambique did work for me. What would have happened if I would have been jumped, knocked over, etc. Did I have the proper training to deal with it? Where did that training come from?

What does a woman do when her kamae, awareness, and relaxed breathing don't stop a guy from pushing her in between two parked cars in a garage?

To me, these are very important and key aspects of self defense and I think it is right for folks to judge the aikido paradigm against these type of scenarios as being ineffective if we are going to list self defense on our websites, yet we don't provide them any real solutions for dealing with this.

They should be able to have there MMA buddy shove them to the ground, mount them, and feel comfortable that they can reverse the situation and put up a decent fight.

The guy that comes up and Muay Thai clinches them, and kicks them...well they should know how to get that off them, how to deal with the stress overload, and how bad it sucks to fight when you have charlie horses in your legs.

If we put out that shingle, then we need to answer the tough questions. Not whine about how folks have it all wrong on Bullshido.

We open that pandoras box for ourselves when we allow that aurora to exist in our dojo.

I study Aikido because I value alot of what it does for me in the Combatives arena. So, I am not saying that it is ineffective as a methodology. There are many good reasons, that Ledyard Sensei has discussed. Very good reasons.

From reputation, I understand that he teaches a mean shinai seminar that works with neural override and fight or flight instinct.

I understand that he does teach Self Defense classes and is certified in Defensive Tactics.

And he is a very skilled and experienced aikdoka with the same organization I am with, ASU.

So, my issue is not with Ledyard Sensei as he gets it.

However, I think we have a tendency to lament about traditional Aikido and how folks "don't understand" or "give it a bad rap". I think it is a well deserved reputation in alot of cases based on the way we market it, and I think we should work hard at changing that if we think this is an issue.

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Old 09-10-2009, 11:09 PM   #21
Janet Rosen
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

George, I want to thank you for post #18 in this thread. A real keeper.

Janet Rosen
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Old 09-11-2009, 04:47 AM   #22
jss
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
These folks are professionals with families… their concerns are completely different from fighters, professional law enforcement folks, people living in bad neighborhoods who fear for their lives every day. Conflict for these people comes with raising a teen, dealing with an irascible boss, coping with being laid off, getting divorced, etc. They train to help them handle their lives better. They love the complexity of the art because they are all extremely smart, well educated people, and they find it really interesting. They love the practice because the focus on mental and physical relaxation and maintaining a calm but strong focus in the midst of chaotic is exactly what they need to perform in their demanding careers every day.
There are several points in your post I disagree with, but when I read the above I just think: you have a point. An that point is more important than me criticizing some of things you said to make that point. So next time someone asks me to describe aikido, I just might say "It's like kyudo, but with people instead of bow and arrow." (Not that most people know what kyudo is. )
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Old 09-11-2009, 07:56 AM   #23
DonMagee
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
There is a difference between the issue of what constitutes an "effective" martial art or an "effective" practitioner of that art.

As Ikeda Sensei says, "It's not Aikido that doesn't work; it's YOUR Aikido that doesn't work.

Ellis Amdur once defined "martial arts" as one warrior training to fight another professional. In this sense of the words, clearly the term "martial art" connotes a combat training system used by warriors for combat. "Martial arts" are combat systems.

Combat systems involve weapons. Empty hand is a secondary or tertiary training used as a last resort when ones weapons system fails. This was certainly true for the samurai. It remains true for the military, law enforcement, security professionals, etc.

I would maintain that none of the styles mentioned above, no matter how rough or practically oriented they might be, is a "martial art" under this definition. Judo, no matter how wonderful an art it is, no matter how good a foundation for other practices it provides, is clearly not a combat system. Muy Thai has antecedents which were about combat and they involved swords. But I would maintain that no primarily empty hand system is truly a combat system.

Now "self defense" is an entirely different term. It is not the realm of the professional warrior but rather is the domain of the civilian or a professional whose job is something other than fighting. In law enforcement and security empty hand training is called defensive tactics. It is intended to dovetail with and / or augment the various weapons they carry. In no case is empty hand training considered the primary element of the defensive system.
I've never really cared about defining martial arts. To me it just comes down to a simple single question.

Are you getting out of your training what you think you are? If you took swimming classes and never got in a pool would you be happy with your training and confident you could swim? Or would you try to define what swimming is? Maybe swimming to you is wading in 12 inches of water, and to me it's ocean diving. But if we are not both on the same page, you teaching me to swim could quickly end my life one day. Getting in the pool clears that up for both of us.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
In the civilian realm self defense can constitute anything from sole reliance on firearms or various weapons all the way to reliance on a few empty hand techniques and no weapons at all. Civilians who attempt to create their own "combat" systems, usually do so by training in a variety of areas and trying to create something approaching a coherent system out of these disparate elements. Seldom do they have access to the training afforded by true "combat" systems.

Clearly, "self defense" is a much broader term than "martial art". Surely no one would maintain that Aikido is a "combat system". The training is formalized, not applied. The weapons work is remedial. Yet, many people have successfully used Aikido for self defense. The forums abound with examples in which an Aikido practitioner used something he had learned on the mat, in the dojo, to defend himself or herself against a threat from some violent offender. Doesn't that make Aikido "effective" as self defense? I have personally taught Aikido techniques to law enforcement and security personnel who then used them on the street against resistant and sometimes violent offenders. In all cases the techniques produced the desired result. Doesn't that constitute "effectiveness"? Of course, in self defense or defensive tactics we are not talking about fighting a professionally trained martial artist. Self defense "systems" usually train one to deal with commonly encountered threats and generally are not geared to the sophistication level of dealing with highly trained attackers. Even in law enforcement, the only folks expected to handle high level threats are the SWAT teams, who do get vastly more training than the average officer. And that training is 95% weapons with a bit of empty hand thrown in.
I'd submit that people who go into physical professions are usually going to succeed with making almost anything work to defend themselves. They are typically more athletic, aggressive, and stronger willed then the rest of us who get desk jobs. To me the test has always been a law of averages. If you have a class of 30 random people and you train them for a year and only the two athletic people have any chance of pulling it off, then I say it's ineffective. If 20 of the 30 people have a chance then I say it's effective. There are two parts of effective

1) How quickly can the student learn the task?
Here we can say that if I can teach students to do a ogoshi faster AND with the same end result as you, then my teaching method is more effective.

2) Ability to apply the craft.
Can your students actually do what they think they have learned to do? If they take a painting class, can they paint better then the day they walked in? If they think they are Steven Segal from above the law, can they lay waste to a bar full of bikers?

In terms of self defense, is a complex lockflow that only works after 35 years of train effective when compared to a jab cross hook combo? This is a moving target, effective technique even in non-fighting related skills changes as the student gains more skill. What is effective for a 3 year bjj student might simply be impossible for a 3 month bjj student. But that is not an excuse saying the 3 month bjj students techniques should not work. You teach them the basics, but the basics should still be useful and be able to be applied.

When I taught my unix class we had a section on programing/scripting. We start off with simple syntax and control loops. You can get everything done with those you would need to do. It's not elegant, but it works. Later after they have experience, they can learn the more elegant techniques that would seem impossible the first few weeks. Even there, they are learning to be unix users, not admins. If I let them believe that class was teaching them to be admins, then I would be doing them just as much disservice as letting students believe they are learning to be a fighting force when I know I'm teaching them to be something else.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
The emphasis in Aikido has been on making the practice more accessible to the public so that a wider range of people can benefit from doing the training and take the accrued benefits into their lives outside the dojo. This has meant that various standards have been applied to evaluate the training aside from pure "effectiveness". If effectiveness were the primary goal, there would be very few women in the art ( as in judo in which the vast majority of practitioners are men), there would have to be weight classes as there are in other sport martial arts because larger, stronger practitioners would always prevail over smaller weaker ones. And so on… Aikido is meant to be an art in which one gets better with age rather than losing ones abilities as ones strength deteriorates. I can't think of a single competitive sport martial art in which this is true.
What abilities are improving with age in aikido? We talk about these benefits that the students are learning that improve with age. I submit that any hobby could probably do this. Let's look at bjj. There is open weight divisions where smaller folk beat bigger folk. People do grow as they continue with the sport and there are reasons to continue long after your peek. To me, after a bjj class I feel happier, I'm more relaxed in general due to training, I'm more aware, I have better balance, It has effected my attitude and how I approach tasks in my life, etc. Again, if you are going to talk about benefits, they have to be detailed to be measurable. If unmeasurable then to me anyway, they are useless. Why is my friend who is 38 year's old getting into boxing? There is no future in it for him physically, he's too old. Yet the coach encouraged it. It's a good workout, it focuses the mind, etc. Everything anyone has ever touted as a benefit of aikido, I can typically find a example of in any competitive sport, even non-fighting related. What can you get from aikido, that you can't get from playing racketball with a friend? When that question is applied to a fighting sport, the answer is also difficult. Because seriously, if you take the unarmed fighting out of it, there isn't much left that is different from any other hobby a person might do.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Those who loudly denounce the demise of martial effectiveness in the art either privately or publicly regret that the art has been made so "accessible". They would like to see absolute standards of performance maintained, regardless of sex, physical size, temperament, etc. The Aikido they would like to see would be closer to the elite practice done by an extremely small number of incredibly devoted, very tough men (only a few women trained before the war and none became a prominent teacher, at least of the martial arts). Generally, these folks don't give a rip about the philosophical / spiritual underpinnings of the Founder's Aikido. They just want a return to the "effectiveness" of pre-war Aiki Budo.
For the record, to me martial effectiveness can be summed up like this and this is what I look for in a martial art. If anyone untrained in your style comes into your school, and they spar anyone with at least a year of training, they should either be outmatched or at least challenged. In combat sports this is true. Doesn't matter if you are small or big, boy or girl. It's not about being able to beat someone in a MMA match, it's about measurable increase in fighting ability. My boxing coach is 68 years old. I'm fairly confident that he would beat my ass in a boxing match but if I could take him to the ground I could choke him out. I'm also fairly confident that with a few months of instruction, I could teach him enough about ground fighting that most 1 year bjj student's couldn't beat him on the ground and he could knock them out.

Without sparring you can't have this yardstick. You only have what you think you can do, and what reality is. You hope that those two are the same thing. Because I spar regularly, I know what I can do, and what I can't do. Sometimes it's enlightening, sometimes it impresses me, sometimes it's disheartening. Yes, it sucks to get out struck by a 16 year old kid. It sucks even more to work on a technique for months only to find out you can't pull it off against a 6 month white belt. But unlike all those drills, I learned why it was failing and could go back and figure out how to fix it. People talk about aikido vs my aikido. How can you develop your own aikido if you are never testing it? In bjj, I really have my bjj. Because I'm adapting it, solving problems with it, and learning from my experiences sparring. In aikido, I was trying to move exactly like my teacher wanted me to. Thus it was really 'his' aikido. After I started trying to use aikido in sparring, it too a year to even begin to use ikkyo. And my ikkyo now looks nothing like the kata I started with. It has developed setups, variations, etc. Things that would never exist without sparring. They also happen to be the very things that make it effective.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Despite the appearance given by the stance I find myself taking frequently on the forums, I do actually think Aikido should be "effective", at least within certain parameters. I have had to come to terms, first with the reality that, very few people wish to train the way I was trained. I once told my teacher that my model for my own dojo was the dojo in DC at which I had trained with him in the seventies. His response was to look a bit wistful and reply "Probably can't do… not on West Coast." In other words, if I tried to duplicate my own training with my students, my doors would be closed.
So, is it really aikido you teach them? I asked my former judo instructor this same question. He kept talking about how we could never of handled the judo training he had. So I asked him, "Is it really judo you are teaching us?"

Yes, you can teach differently, but if your students are not developing the same skill set you value in your aikido, and if the cream of the crop is not building up to your own level, are you really teaching them the same art?

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
So, while I do care about whether my Aikido is effective, and my teachers absolutely maintain that Aikido should function as a practically applicable form of Budo, for most of my students, their lives would not be made one iota better if the could execute that irimi nage against some BJJ or MMA guy or a visiting karate practitioner. I get to see, on a daily basis, what Aikido training can do for people; how it can change their lives, how it can develop their confidence, deal with aggressive personalities, stay centered during crisis, and so forth.
And this is fine, as long as they understand what they are getting. If you know your students believe a false reality that they are effective fighters when you know what you are teaching is really not about hand to hand fighting, you are doing them a disservice allowing them to believe it. Again, to me martial arts are about fighting, so I look for arts that teach me to be better at fighting. But I also recognize that some martial arts are not going to teach you to be better at fighting. Rarely in fact never have I walk into a martial arts school been told that training with them will not improve my ability to win fights. Instead, I'm told that I can save my life from attackers and then usually some talk about why they are better then whatever I'm doing now. This implies fighting effectiveness. If it is implied, it should be a deliverable for what I'm paying for and it should be tested.

I'm not saying you are doing this. I am however saying every martial arts teacher I've met is. Sport or not. Every martial art instructor says "It teachers the smaller person to prevail over the larger person". I've never met a teacher that says "It will help you as a bigger guy beat up smaller guys" or "You won't get any fighting ability here, it's about spirituality, community, and growing as a person" or "what you are learning now will probably be better for you when it comes to one on one unarmed combat".

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Now if some practitioner from another style wants to come in to my dojo and see if what I do works, he is welcome to do so. My training was different than what most of my students have had. I'm happy to play if someone really wants to do that.
And if you did that, would your students expect to be able to do the same? Again, it all falls back to expectations and results. Do they get what they ordered? This is where I want martial arts to improve in, honesty in training. Once we get that out of the way, then we can look at the training method to reach those deliverables. Then we can grow in the direction we want to grow in.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
But the justification for the art doesn't come from my ability to do that, it comes from the hundreds, and thousands of people who love the art, feel they have received so much from it that they give back on a level that would be hard to find in any other martial art, certainly one with such a wide following… I think that we as Aikido practitioners need to really step up and look at our art and how many people do it, love it, spend all their leisure time practicing it, use all their vacation time traveling for it, etc. What they are getting out of this art has little or nothing to do with the ability to defeat other martial artists. Some care whether they can, others don't seem to. But I don't think many at all stay with the art because they think that fighting is what it's about.
They might not think it's about fighting, but I bet a large majority of them think they could hold their own in a good fight. Of that majority, I wonder how many really can. I don't see this as a fault in aikido. I see this as a fault in the teachers not being in sync with their students and allowing them to develop false beliefs. Just like letting a judo student learn a kata with strikes in it, then let them go on with the belief they are competent in striking. This problem is not an aikido problem, it's a martial arts problem. It happens in sport arts too. How many bjj instructors let their students believe they could win a MMA fight if they wanted to? Even though they know these students are not learning striking, clinching, etc. The ride on the coat tails of MMA to push their pure bjj schools.

Sorry for the long post. Sorry if I misread you. I used to think it was all about combat effectiveness, I've only recently decided it's about deliverables and the student and teacher both being in sync with what is taught and what is learned. I then decided that really, I just like dueling. I don't want to be good at street fighting, self defense, budo, etc. I just want to duel. This is why I took up boxing recently and why I'm taking a hard look at moving back to MMA. Not because I think they are more effective. Simply because I think it is a tougher form of dueling then judo and bjj.

I've become complacent in my training, I'm kicking it up a notch. Will I be doing martial arts in 10 years? I'm starting to think no.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 09-11-2009, 07:56 AM   #24
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

I agree Joep. Minor in the big scheme of things! Thanks George for your time and insights.

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Old 09-11-2009, 09:39 AM   #25
Pauliina Lievonen
 
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Re: Aikido - Martial Arts - Fighting

George S. Ledyard wrote:
Quote:
Conflict for these people comes with raising a teen, dealing with an irascible boss, coping with being laid off, getting divorced, etc. They train to help them handle their lives better. They love the complexity of the art because they are all extremely smart, well educated people, and they find it really interesting. They love the practice because the focus on mental and physical relaxation and maintaining a calm but strong focus in the midst of chaotic is exactly what they need to perform in their demanding careers every day.
That sounded familiar... Our dojo website says: (freely, and quickly, translated from Dutch, any Dutch people can read the original at www. jikishinkan.org): "Aikido offers men and women a chance to develop physically and mentally in their way of dealing with conflict. You learn to react in a calm and relaxed way to an attack. You learn to stay physically and mentally in balance and open to what is coming at you, without freezing or becoming fearful. You don't need muscular power for this, but the development of inner strenght and courage to meet someone who wants to attack you. Aikido means something like "the way of harmony". It's aim is stopping or neutralizing aggression."

Now if I read this quickly I can see how someone might read "self defense" into the description, but judging by the people we tend to get I don't think most people do. Our dojo crowd is very similar to what Ledyard sensei describes. Plus we tend to always have quite a lot of women.

Quote:
Don Magee wrote: View Post
What can you get from aikido, that you can't get from playing racketball with a friend?
I'd hate to have to play racketball to get the benefits I get from aikido. If you see my point?

kvaak
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