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Old 02-26-2011, 10:58 AM   #1
ChrisHein
 
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Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

Let's say for a moment that I want to learn how to downhill ski. I know nothing of skiing though, and learning to downhill ski is a bit daunting.

I have a friend who is an olympic downhill skier. He's won all kind's of awards, and is known as a great competitor and expert downhill skier. I ask him to instruct me in downhill skiing, but tell him that I'm a bit worried about the dangers of downhill skiing (as well I should be, it's dangerous) and ask him to start me off REALLY slowly.

So my friend creates a learning process for me, at first we just stay on flat, snow free, ground, and go over all the movements needed to ski. We have a lot of fun, and even my friend is surprised at how much he can teach on just flat ground.

Eventually we clip into some ski's and practice with more vigor, but still on flat ground, but we train hard with our motions. I get lot's of great ideas about how downhill skiing works, and talk to my friend at length about my ideas. He often tells me that I'm quite perceptive, and that I seem to understand the theory of downhill skiing better than most high level competitors. I even start to create my own style of downhill skiing. I can think of many great improvements to make in the world of downhill skiing, and discuss them not only with my friend, but with others who are interested in downhill skiing. Many of these people like myself, are very interested in downhill skiing, but are scared of the dangers associated with it.

I take a few of these newbies on, and teach them what I know of downhill skiing, I teach them my style, and they understand the theory of downhill like I do. We talk at length about downhill, and while some scoff at our practice, I remind them that all this training came from an Olympic level downhiller, and he has no problem with our training. Sometimes we look at downhill skiers training, and try to help them correct their form, they don't understand the theory quite as well as us, some are receptive, and quite a few have joined us in our training methods (lending more credit to our methods).

10 years later, I've decided that I know way more than enough about downhill skiing, I'm going to make a run. I get up to the starting position, push off; holy crap, snow is way more slick then I thought it was, I can't even stand up! Many of my theories turned out to be wrong, I didn't understand how slick the snow was, and how fast I would move, then once the pressure was on, I couldn't keep my form, and I just fell down all day. My style of skiing turned out not to work so well. Now I've just started to try to learn how to ski, maybe some of it will work, maybe not, but I'm 10 years into something that should have taken 2.

Moral: If I don't include the actual practice of doing whatever it is I'm working towards, I don't know what will happen.

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Old 02-26-2011, 12:07 PM   #2
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

+1

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Old 02-26-2011, 02:22 PM   #3
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

OK, so how about this-- it isn't really much different from your story.
1. test movements on flat ground as you said
2. Clip in and slide around as you said. Refine what you learned in step 1 based on current feedback.
3. Go to a gentle slope. Refine waht you learned in step 2 based on current feedback.
4. Increase slope, obstacles, etc, each step testing what was understood from previous step.

It doesn't mean all the talking thinking and theory is bad, just that it should be constantly informed by updated info.

In fact-- thinking and theory can still guide this whole process, as in your story. It's just a high-time-resolution version of what you presented (little tests every few months instead of 1 test per 10 years).
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Old 02-26-2011, 02:33 PM   #4
mickeygelum
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

Mr Hein,

Very eloquent...
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Old 02-26-2011, 02:58 PM   #5
grondahl
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

Think XP or SCRUM instead of Waterfall-methods.
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Old 02-26-2011, 05:41 PM   #6
ChrisHein
 
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

Quote:
Jonathan Wong wrote: View Post
OK, so how about this-- it isn't really much different from your story.
1. test movements on flat ground as you said
2. Clip in and slide around as you said. Refine what you learned in step 1 based on current feedback.
3. Go to a gentle slope. Refine waht you learned in step 2 based on current feedback.
4. Increase slope, obstacles, etc, each step testing what was understood from previous step.

It doesn't mean all the talking thinking and theory is bad, just that it should be constantly informed by updated info.

In fact-- thinking and theory can still guide this whole process, as in your story. It's just a high-time-resolution version of what you presented (little tests every few months instead of 1 test per 10 years).
I got what you're saying, and that is what we do in martial arts. Just like downhill skiing, no one blasts a black diamond on their first day out. But the sooner you start skiing the sooner you'll know what you have to work on.

I am speaking from experience. I trained in theoretical Aikido for a long while. Then I studied BJJ, with BJJ we sparred every class. In 2 years I was good at BJJ, and could dominate almost anyone who had not trained in it. Even after a much longer time of training in Aikido (where we never sparred), when new guys broke the unspoken Aikido "rules" I'd have a hard time dealing with it. Now after several years of sparring regularly with my Aikido do I feel that I'm on the same level as my BJJ was in only 2, it took me about 10 years to get where I could have been in 2.

Long story short, I wish I had started sparring from the get go.

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Old 02-27-2011, 12:05 AM   #7
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote: View Post
Moral: If I don't include the actual practice of doing whatever it is I'm working towards, I don't know what will happen.
And even then you don't always know what will happen.
I suppose skiing has the advantage that "no one" (cynicism tells me there is in fact someone who would do this) would ever confuse sitting in skis with skiing. When the skier gets on the mountain, it never flattens to meet the skiers needs. Also, there's never an opportunity for the mountain to think it's more than it is: convincing the skiers they're hitting steep, rocky, diamond runs when it's actually just a soft little foothill with a hundred feet of vertical.
What would you say are the limitations of sparring? Having experienced the Shodokan randori system I can appreciate what you're getting at, but I'm curious what you think any draw-backs could be.
Take care, and thanks for the great analogy!
Matt

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 02-27-2011, 05:46 AM   #8
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

3 more analogies I like

1/ From Packers classic 'Knowing God' he introduces the book with a story of travellers on the road meeting some 'balconeers' (people sitting on a balcony) offering advice about the road ahead which way to go etc..but never having been any further on the road themselves.

2/ Another is the fictitious meeting of a martial arts instructor and a theme park mascot talking about the potential 'common' values of needing to provide entertainment, the appearance of danger but needing complete safety at the same time etc.. I had some fun with this http://www.aikidorepublic.com/blog2010/dreamworldaikido

3/ The cargo cult, a phenomena in the pacific after the world war where natives made runways and radio headsets out of plant fibres, and vocalised static noises hoping to call down food drops from the skies. imitation without substance is just that

Daniel James, Brisbane Aikido Republic: AikiPhysics, Aikido Brisbane news,
ph 0413 001 844, 1593 Logan Rd, Mt.Gravatt, Brisbane, AUSTRALIA
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Old 02-27-2011, 11:56 AM   #9
aikilouis
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

Let me offer another sporting metaphor :

Take a young baseball player entering the pros. He already proved his dedication by playing and winning important games in very difficult conditions at the lower echelons. However, his pro career doesn't take off as he hoped and after two years of struggling, no matter how much effort he puts in his training, he is pretty much considered a bust.

Enters a new coach who, assessing the young player's desperate situation but also his commitment, decides to apply an experimental method in order not only to improve our player's results, but to rebuild his batting mechanics from scratch.

The method is not inspired by the baseball environment but by a martial art, which the coach practises himself under one of its highest ranking instructors. It involves long periods of solo training, particularly emphasising posture and sensitivity.

The young player ends up smashing every possible home run records and enjoys a very long and successful career.

At the end of his autobiography, where he entirely credits the reversal of his career to the coach's intervention, he also reflects on his journey and admits that the method was so unorthodox that he only gave it a try because he was completely out of options and on the verge of losing his position.

He also declares that even though the result is for everyone to be seen, and he remains at the disposal of young players to receive instruction, no one ever dared follow his footsteps and rebuild their way of playing all over.

This metaphor is of course not a metaphor, but the story of Sadaharu Oh, world record of home runs in professional baseball. His coach was Arakawa Hiroshi, an aikido practitioner in Tokyo in the late 1950s-early 1960s (Oh recalls his meeting of O Sensei in his autobiography).

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Old 02-27-2011, 04:48 PM   #10
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

"If you don't know where you're going, any road will do."

- Chinese saying (supposedly)

"If you don't know where you are, a map won't help."

- Watts Humphries (a quality geek who wrote a book that I was forced to read)

The problem with all the various internet judgments about whether someone else's practice is a martial art or not, is that the speaker often knows neither where the subject is going, nor where the subject is standing.
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Old 02-27-2011, 05:22 PM   #11
ChrisHein
 
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
And even then you don't always know what will happen.
This is the real truth. We only improve our understanding and increase our odds, there are no certainties.

Quote:
What would you say are the limitations of sparring? Having experienced the Shodokan randori system I can appreciate what you're getting at, but I'm curious what you think any draw-backs could be.
First and foremost, the draw back of sparring is that it will never be fighting. This is a problem when we are dealing with a martial practice. In a safe, friendly, controlled atmosphere like a Dojo or gym we will never really approach what it is to be in a fight.

We are living a fantasy if we think that our training, is an uncontrolled situation. To me, the advantage sparring still has, even with this major disadvantage is that it allows you to deal with living physical conflict, at least on some level. This is impossible to replicate in any kind of partnered from, or solo movement practice. The spontaneous nature of physical conflict could never be accounted for in any other kind of practice. While sparring is limited in this regard, it's still the best way to look at the kinds of stress one faces in a fight.

The second major draw back, and the main reason I believe most people avoid sparring, is fear. The fear of getting hurt, the fear of being wrong, the fear of looking a fool. The ego kicks into overdrive when we start thinking of doing something in a lessor controlled situation like sparring. This especially becomes difficult as we progress in rank, becoming more invested in what we think is correct. The only way to get over this, is to simply get over it. You have to take the chance of looking like a fool, but the rewards will be large, and well worth it.

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Old 02-27-2011, 05:24 PM   #12
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post

The problem with all the various internet judgments about whether someone else's practice is a martial art or not, is that the speaker often knows neither where the subject is going, nor where the subject is standing.
Agreed!

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Old 02-27-2011, 08:11 PM   #13
JO
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

Well chris, I agree with much of what you are saying, but I think there is a danger in thinking in terms of fighting and sparring. I truly don't think that the spirit of aikido is serviced by a fighting type interaction. By this I mean two people struggling against eachother for dominance. I do think aikido should be about not fighting and struggling wtih the other.

That said, I believe everyone would benefit from doing jiyu waza at the highest level of intensity they can physically muster. I encourage the strong young newbies in my dojo to give me a hard time, and sometimes they really manage it. Some guys, even without prior training are just strong and surprisingly stable on their feet. others fall over when you blow on them. I try not to feel too embarrassed at my difficulties with the first group or too proud of my ease with the other.

I also think it is important to every once in a while to go past that line bwtween what I consider true to aikido's spirit where you are moving with the attacker without fighting and to where you start to "fight", mostly so you learn to recognize the shift in intent and "energy" of the interaction (for lack of a better word). But I don't think you want to live there too much or what you are doing will no longer qualify as aikido, by my definition anyway.

Jonathan Olson
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Old 02-27-2011, 09:50 PM   #14
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

Quote:
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Well chris, I agree with much of what you are saying, but I think there is a danger in thinking in terms of fighting and sparring. I truly don't think that the spirit of aikido is serviced by a fighting type interaction. By this I mean two people struggling against eachother for dominance. I do think aikido should be about not fighting and struggling wtih the other.
I agree with you. Perfect Aiki means that I blend with the situation before it comes to physical struggle. I also think an important part of studying martial arts is realizing the very serious nature of physical confrontation. It's too easy to live in a fantasy world, where you think you can take down 3 attackers and not get hurt, or hurt any of them. This would most likely not be the case. Your motivation for solving the conflict before it becomes physical should be paramount.

Quote:
That said, I believe everyone would benefit from doing jiyu waza at the highest level of intensity they can physically muster. I encourage the strong young newbies in my dojo to give me a hard time, and sometimes they really manage it. Some guys, even without prior training are just strong and surprisingly stable on their feet. others fall over when you blow on them. I try not to feel too embarrassed at my difficulties with the first group or too proud of my ease with the other.
I believe this is the true spirit of humbling your self! Not to let your ego stop you from practicing where you may fail, and not letting yourself become proud because you can dominate your students. Well said.

Quote:
I also think it is important to every once in a while to go past that line bwtween what I consider true to aikido's spirit where you are moving with the attacker without fighting and to where you start to "fight", mostly so you learn to recognize the shift in intent and "energy" of the interaction (for lack of a better word). But I don't think you want to live there too much or what you are doing will no longer qualify as aikido, by my definition anyway.
From a physical conflict stand point, I agree that Aikido should (must) be done at a range free of the clinch, and where the conflict is dealt with, with little physical contact. However as you said, this isn't always what happens. The student must be made aware of these situations and be able to deal with them, even though they are not ideal (to Aikido).

Thanks for the post.

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Old 02-27-2011, 10:02 PM   #15
graham christian
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

Jonathon and Chris, well said. I bow to this kind of wisdom.

Regards.G.
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Old 02-28-2011, 06:54 AM   #16
lbb
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

Quote:
Jonathan Olson wrote: View Post
I also think it is important to every once in a while to go past that line bwtween what I consider true to aikido's spirit where you are moving with the attacker without fighting and to where you start to "fight", mostly so you learn to recognize the shift in intent and "energy" of the interaction (for lack of a better word). But I don't think you want to live there too much or what you are doing will no longer qualify as aikido, by my definition anyway.
I agree. I don't think you get to this "not struggling for dominance" level without the experience of struggling for dominance, as well as being on the receiving end of someone else's efforts to dominate. As with other efforts to be harmonious, my gut says that you don't get to be "above it all" without going through it. You don't have to wallow in it or linger in it, but I doubt that we can really leave behind experiences that we haven't at least touched on.
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Old 02-28-2011, 09:28 AM   #17
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
I agree. I don't think you get to this "not struggling for dominance" level without the experience of struggling for dominance, as well as being on the receiving end of someone else's efforts to dominate. As with other efforts to be harmonious, my gut says that you don't get to be "above it all" without going through it. You don't have to wallow in it or linger in it, but I doubt that we can really leave behind experiences that we haven't at least touched on.
I think you hit the nail on the head!

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Old 03-01-2011, 08:50 AM   #18
Amir Krause
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Re: Aikido, downhill skiing, and theories

Actually, I believe that the practice of "free play" in some form, has more Aikido to it then most of the technical practice.

I may be biased, since in Korindo we practice multiple levels of "free play" from early on, and so, did not need to develop other methods to practice elements such as:
making order and harmony in chaoas and harmonizing while the attacker does not wish it. Or in lower level terms - moving, getting into position, identifying the technical opportunities in time...

Amir
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