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Old 10-14-2011, 12:40 AM   #1
Michael Varin
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High(er) Intensity Weapons

From Aikido vs. Kendo (Not in fight):

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote:
just recovered (somewhat) from the weapon and randori taught by Ledyard Sensei in Clemson, SC. at one point we put on protective helmet and big gloves, armed with shinai and went at each other full speed and power. i have new appreciation for those kendo guys. new enlightenment came about at full speed and power. very narrow error margin. complicate movements, ain't going to happen. no time for that, especially the other bugger tried his/her best to kill you.

now for those who are planning to attend such future seminars, don't get the lacrosse gloves. they don't have the padded protection for the top edge of your index fingers and thumbs where the tsuba supposed to be (bujin shinai has no tsuba). your truly didn't realized that fact until much afterward when i took the gloves off and got a couple nice bruises. didn't feel it at the time because i was on adrenaline high. recommend to use the hockey gloves which have that extra protection for the index fingers and thumbs. also, forearm and elbow pads would be nice too. got a couple of nice bruises there as well. maybe i should post this under the "why no tsuba" thread. sometimes, you need to go full throttle to experience interesting stuffs.
This post really had nothing to do with the thread in which it was posted, but I thought it might be interesting and worthwhile to discuss this in its own thread.

I, for one, enjoy training weapons with more intensity than the typical aikido weapons practice.

This type of training presents a number of challenges. I have used bokken, shinai, ActionFlex, and a variety of homemade weapons (most all thanks to Chris). They all have their strengths and weaknesses. In addition, setting parameters for the practice create positives and negatives.

But I have found that after you get past the nerves, you can find a great deal of time and possibility in your responses, not to mention that so many of the aikido techniques and strategy fit so well.

Does anyone else engage in this type of practice? Would anyone like to share what they find to be good and bad about this type of training?

-Michael
"Through aiki we can feel the mind of the enemy who comes to attack and are thus able to respond immediately." - M. Mochizuki
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Old 10-14-2011, 12:38 PM   #2
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

Quote:
Michael Varin wrote: View Post
But I have found that after you get past the nerves, you can find a great deal of time and possibility in your responses, not to mention that so many of the aikido techniques and strategy fit so well.

Does anyone else engage in this type of practice? Would anyone like to share what they find to be good and bad about this type of training?
I grew up playing games like that and have also incorporated it into my training inthe past, but it's been a while.
I taught a small class where we took light dowels and wrapped them in plumbing insulation. We practiced a kind of kendo trying to utilize basic ken waza, starting off with simple, specific, attacks and then expanding that to include "however you can tag'em," still trying to use standard waza as a response. We tried to think of the basic ideas of kaeshi and awase as we played around. It was great fun.
I also really liked the tanto randori of Shodokan. With that floppy "knife" removing any danger of injury or undue pain, it was interesting to see how quickly a series of just simple stabs can come at you, implying something about how dangerous a freeform series of attacks might be.

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 10-14-2011, 01:10 PM   #3
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

This kind of light sparring is a safe way to open up the real unknowns one faces in genuine physical conflict. Forms, especially when practiced without this understanding of sparring, tend to give one an inflated and fallacious idea of how one will handle someone creative attempts to "get you".

Light sparring is the first step in understanding dynamic interaction. The next step is facing violent and aggressive attacks. Then malicious attacks (not for Dojo training).

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Old 10-14-2011, 01:22 PM   #4
Cliff Judge
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

I might as well be consistent and put in that freeform training with too much intensity and not enough structure can lead you down the primrose path.
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Old 10-14-2011, 01:43 PM   #5
Fred Little
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
I might as well be consistent and put in that freeform training with too much intensity and not enough structure can lead you down the primrose path.
This observation is actually a core principle in a number of western fencing systems in which novices are not allowed to train with one another or engage in matches until a significant period of time in which they are restricted to solo exercises and paired training with their fencing master. The habits one can easily develop to (even successfully) thrash other novices, are often the very habits a well-trained swordsman has been taught to exploit to maximal effect.

FL

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Old 10-14-2011, 02:56 PM   #6
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

Hi all, it is interesting to note that much of what we train within the aikido weapons system goes completely out of the window when faced with a competant swordsman. Working against the controlled yet furious cuts of my sensei (5th dan kendo, iaido and jodo) the idea of moving inside the sphere of the bokken and attempting any techinque seems an impossible task.
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Old 10-14-2011, 04:07 PM   #7
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

Quote:
Fred Little wrote: View Post
The habits one can easily develop to (even successfully) thrash other novices, are often the very habits a well-trained (opponent) has been taught to exploit to maximal effect.
FL
The same is true of many things, such as chess. It is easy to rout weaker opponents after they've made obvious mistakes. But even if you remain undefeated, you will have learned nothing about tactics and strategy.

I thought the same thing about it being impossible to get inside a swordsman's sphere. That is until I saw a video of a man swinging nunchucks as fast as he could in front of his master. Then all of a sudden the master just reached out and grabbed the guy's hand mid-flail and then took him down. Made it look much easier than it is.
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Old 10-14-2011, 08:51 PM   #8
Cliff Judge
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

You know, that's what Aikido is missing!

Nunchucks.
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Old 10-15-2011, 02:38 AM   #9
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

A fun exercise we use in our dojo to explore some of the koryu iai kata is to attack full pace leaving the opponent option to explore any method of retaliation. Even when you know exactly what cuts are coming it is hard to do much else than defend, after a few runs through you can start to see openings and begin to try and exploit them. Although the strikes from one side are fixed you are still able to play with alteration in timings, use of seme etc. Bin off any bogu and use bokken for a genuine taste of wanting to stay away from the cuts, this definitely gives you an appreciation for those that actually did any of this for real.
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Old 10-15-2011, 03:32 AM   #10
Michael Varin
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

Quote:
Matt Kaye wrote:
it is interesting to note that much of what we train within the aikido weapons system goes completely out of the window when faced with a competant swordsman. Working against the controlled yet furious cuts of my sensei (5th dan kendo, iaido and jodo) the idea of moving inside the sphere of the bokken and attempting any techinque seems an impossible task.
Hello Matt,

Care to elaborate?

What constitutes "much of what we train within the aikido weapons system"? Why does it go completely out the window? What, if anything, do you think can be done to change that?

-Michael
"Through aiki we can feel the mind of the enemy who comes to attack and are thus able to respond immediately." - M. Mochizuki
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Old 10-15-2011, 05:51 AM   #11
graham christian
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

With regard to overall concept here I'd like to add a little something based on my observations years ago.

Believe it or not I witnessed sword work from the view of Aikiken being 'superior' to other forms of swordwork because it was based on the motions of Aikido. Now before anyone jumps on this I am saying it because I am giving my view I had at that time as given by the person in question ie: my teacher.

So what I witnessed was Aikiken verses different sword arts. (me not knowing exactly what the visitors were actually doing at the time)

But here's the point. The visitor would be asked to do whatever they wanted to ie: to attack as and when they saw fit as fast as they like.

They always 'lost' however that wasn't the fascinating point for me as an observer. It was more trying to work out why? So you see I learned just by observation first that full intensity so to speak was not a plus for those who appeared to really go for it seemed like lambs to the slaughter in effect.

Luckily I would say the teacher wasn't one for not explaining what he was doing, how to do it and why.

So I would say I learned the following by observation:

1) That knowing the way of the sword, the principles of the sword as real and part of you far exceeds any particular style.

2) That watching someone with such I could see that the unknowns of the opponent were not just openings but more like chasms to him and so to him there wasn't much threat.

3) That the skills and techniques he had learned seemed like they would take a lifetime to learn and yet by observation I noticed his mind, his whole aura became still and immovable, imperturbable and that seemed even more important.

So this in no way says that training with full intensity with swords is right or wrong only that to be aware that eventually it is to develope the calm swift quiet but deadly motion.

That's all from me.

Regards.G.
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Old 10-15-2011, 07:13 AM   #12
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

Quote:
Michael Varin wrote: View Post
Does anyone else engage in this type of practice? Would anyone like to share what they find to be good and bad about this type of training?
this sort of training isn't for beginner. it will burn in bad habits. the systema training methodology would be a good approach. you work on movement at very slow speed and power against you partner who does the same. when you are comfortable with that, your partner increase speed and power a bit more. you work at that level for awhile. then your partner increase the intensity, and so on, until you start to tense up or feel uncomfortable. your partner would back down the intensity to the last comfortable level. at some point, your partner increases intensity again. you and your partner keep doing that until you both moving at full speed and intensity. this is the approach to train you and your partner to move with calm, relax and in control of your adrenaline. also, this approach prevents you and your partner burning in bad habits.

sometimes you and your partner should go from 0 to 100 level just to see if you and your partner can ride your adrenaline and yet remain calm at the same time.

it's a good practice to find your breaking point. everyone has a breaking point. it's better to find it in the dojo and then train to deal with that.

also, the different between uke and nage here is small, almost none. uke's job is to put his/her shinai into you, i.e. dodge and weave and uke will track you. uke isn't waiting for you to get ready either. same goes with nage, at in the moment nage senses uke's intention to attack, nage moves. the parameter here is to train uke to be really good at attacking and nage to be better at defending/attacking.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
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Old 10-15-2011, 08:10 AM   #13
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

Quote:
Matt Kaye wrote: View Post
Hi all, it is interesting to note that much of what we train within the aikido weapons system goes completely out of the window when faced with a competant swordsman. Working against the controlled yet furious cuts of my sensei (5th dan kendo, iaido and jodo) the idea of moving inside the sphere of the bokken and attempting any techinque seems an impossible task.
Dear Matt,
The concept of unarmed man against a trained swordsman is exceptionally high quality aikido.Most of what you see in demos is not truly a reflection of the idea of tachidori.Having said that I have seen tachidori waza executed successfully against experienced swordsmen.
TamuraSensei for example in sword practice simply never gave you an opening to attack him.He totally dominated his partners.
Cheers, Joe. .
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Old 10-15-2011, 10:24 AM   #14
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

Hi Michael and Joe, I think the question is of commitment in attack. In day to day training we give large, well telegraphed, committed strikes which are infinitely easier to deal with than the fast strikes you see in kendo, more like the jabs of a boxer. I know it is high level stuff but surely it is the basic principle of aikido that we aren't trying to spar as such but decisively enter inside the strike. I am not for one minute saying it can't be done just that the eternal problem of the basic practitioner is bridging that seemingly insurmountable gap.
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Old 10-15-2011, 10:43 AM   #15
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

Quote:
Fred Little wrote: View Post
This observation is actually a core principle in a number of western fencing systems in which novices are not allowed to train with one another or engage in matches until a significant period of time in which they are restricted to solo exercises and paired training with their fencing master. The habits one can easily develop to (even successfully) thrash other novices, are often the very habits a well-trained swordsman has been taught to exploit to maximal effect.

FL
I remember talking to one of my BJJ teachers once about tournament fighting in Southern California in the "earlier days". He told me that for a long time the Gracie schools wouldn't let students below blue belt roll (spar). Until blue belt they would only work on technique. He said that when they got their blue belts and finally started to enter tournaments (it takes around two years to get a blue belt) they really sucked at competing, they had good technique, but couldn't apply it.

He said that by the time these guys reached purple belt (the next belt in progression, probably another 2+ years down the road) they were all much better than the other purple belts, the guys who were dominating them at the blue belt level. This was because their application of technique had finally caught up to their technical knowledge, giving them the edge.

I asked what happened at brown and black belt. He told me that by then everyone had good technique and could use it, so they evened out again. Then he smiled and said, I bet that's why the Gracie's let white belts roll now.

I think the moral of that story is: whether you start with technique (forms) or application (sparring), train long enough, practicing both (technique and application) you end up in the same place; as an excellent practitioner.

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Old 10-15-2011, 12:55 PM   #16
Cliff Judge
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote: View Post
I think the moral of that story is: whether you start with technique (forms) or application (sparring), train long enough, practicing both (technique and application) you end up in the same place; as an excellent practitioner.
Right, but imagine you were preparing for a lethal duel with live blades...
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Old 10-15-2011, 01:26 PM   #17
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

Quote:
Michael Varin wrote: View Post
From Aikido vs. Kendo (Not in fight):

Would anyone like to share what they find to be good and bad about this type of training?
Sure; I've some small experience in Balintawak, Amok and Floro Fighting systems. Have fought stick on stick (using plastic glasses as the only protection), stick vs knife, empty hand vs shock (electric) knives and even done some live blade stuff.

Personally, I found the mindset difficult to acclimatize to, especially if you consider the actuality of what you're automating Ie: When it comes down to it, you're practicing to stab or cut the other guy .

Talk of 'dimishment' (just cut the arms etc and run) or the like (carry a self defence pen instead of a blade) aside, if you even do a cursory search for 'knife wounds' (Rotten.com has numerous images) you can see how the idea of using a knife on someone might not be appetizing.

Understand I'm not vaunting any special "loving-kindness" for those attacking me and mine. Rather, I found the practice of wielding weapons / carrying them led to a pretty grim and dark view of my fellow man and frankly, I didn't want to go down that road. (For example, my understanding is that Amok- specifically trains in generating and controlling a kind of 'kill intent')

That, and some of the silly injuries (broken fingers, cut self once or twice etc - not good when you make your living working with your hands) were the down sides.

The upside: it can be a lot of fun (assuming a safe, *training* environment). Further, the systems I studied were not at all flowery (having been cut down to bare-basics) and included sparring (empty hands against Shock Knife gets the blood flowing), so it was easy to gauge some measure of progress.

Quote:
not to mention that so many of the aikido techniques and strategy fit so well. Does anyone else engage in this type of practice
Without seeing what you're doing Michael, it's hard to comment. You may be making a general comment ("moving out of the way is a good idea") or have something specific in mind ("kotegaeshi works well").

Last edited by bob_stra : 10-15-2011 at 01:37 PM.
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Old 10-17-2011, 08:31 AM   #18
jonreading
 
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

I believe a core component of competent aikido to be a competition of success. Raising the level of intensity is a constructive solution to creating a competitive situation. In another post I also mentioned increasing the severity in which we execute technique; while tangental, I believe you can also increase the level of competition by increasing the severity in which we execute technique.

Somewhere along the way, aikido lost the ability to see competition as a constructive process. For me, it is an instructional encounter if my partner attacks me more correctly than I perform technique. In such an encounter I should not be able to perform technique and my partner's obligation is to illustrate that fact. Again, I think this critical feedback from more intense training would apply pressure to under-performers to either shape-up or ship out. Also, I think somewhere along the way aikido is losing its ability to critically correct itself. Ushiro Sensei has commented that aikido unequivocally needs to improve its ukewaza, the singularly best tool of correction in training.

As to the specifics of intense (and correct) sword work in aikido... I remember an AJ article with Kuriowa Sensei. At a Hombu meeting, Kuriowa Sensei politely observed that the Aikikai should no longer perform public weapons demos because the sword work was offensive to real sword people. Instead of saying, "this is unaccessible, bring good sword people to the dojo and get our instructors trained to do proper sword work", the Aikikai no longer includes weapons work in its curriculum. There are instructors on individual levels who did exactly that - went out and found good sword people to learn how to make their aikiken better.

All this said... I enjoy more intense training when it gives me the opportunity to evaluate my skills and illustrate those areas insufficient to function on a higher level of engagement. One of the things I enjoyed at the seminar was that George Sensei made comments about improving our ukewaza. When I work our with a senior, I want to attack and train up to his level. I do not want to attack poorly so that senior has to train down to my level.

Going back and fixing your aikido after such training sucks, but that it the constant hammering that works out the impurities in training. This type of training is not for everyone. There are many people who neither want the increased physical activity nor the critical feedback. The seminar Phi was talking about is an intensive that is limited in attendance - 80 people are not going to that type of seminar. If a good kendo person can whip you, get better (realizing that sometimes our martial paradigms are in conflict). If a good karate person is punching your lights out, move better.
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Old 10-17-2011, 10:47 AM   #19
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

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Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
Right, but imagine you were preparing for a lethal duel with live blades...
I train in martial arts.

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Old 10-17-2011, 11:17 AM   #20
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

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I train in martial arts.
Perhaps that's different than training in sports?
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Old 10-17-2011, 12:42 PM   #21
Cliff Judge
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

Chris, hang on a second, let me re-phrase so that this isn't a barb-trading session.

My opinion is that focusing on form primarily is best when it comes to weapons training. Free sparring, particularly where you purposely open up the adrenaline throttle to max as a means of "pressure testing" your technique is a good experience if you are careful to prevent injury, but it is not good as a primary tool until you have advanced quite a bit.

You brought up an example of the evolution of BJJ training and stated that it kind of doesn't matter whether you focus on form entirely up front or get students into free application situations from the start, they will ultimately end up as good as they are going to be.

What I am saying is, that's not training for life and death situations you were talking about there. If you are an instructor of a competitive grappling system and you are trying to produce competitive students, then, sure, get them into the ring as soon as possible. Let them learn how to apply themselves in that situation and learn to win and lose in parallel with training proper technique.

If, however, you were a sword master and you had people sending their sons to you, you would probably not encourage them to get into a lot of duels. Because statistics would most likely show you losing lot of students.

There is an argument for contrived, rules-bound free sparring as a means of preparing for lethal combat, but you have to agree that in combat sports, you can DO what you are training for, at the dojo. In a martial art that deal with lethal situations, you cannot engage in what you are training for at the dojo.

This isn't a particularly new argument I am making here, and it is just my opinion.
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Old 10-17-2011, 02:48 PM   #22
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
Chris, hang on a second, let me re-phrase so that this isn't a barb-trading session.

My opinion is that focusing on form primarily is best when it comes to weapons training. Free sparring, particularly where you purposely open up the adrenaline throttle to max as a means of "pressure testing" your technique is a good experience if you are careful to prevent injury, but it is not good as a primary tool until you have advanced quite a bit.

You brought up an example of the evolution of BJJ training and stated that it kind of doesn't matter whether you focus on form entirely up front or get students into free application situations from the start, they will ultimately end up as good as they are going to be.

What I am saying is, that's not training for life and death situations you were talking about there. If you are an instructor of a competitive grappling system and you are trying to produce competitive students, then, sure, get them into the ring as soon as possible. Let them learn how to apply themselves in that situation and learn to win and lose in parallel with training proper technique.

If, however, you were a sword master and you had people sending their sons to you, you would probably not encourage them to get into a lot of duels. Because statistics would most likely show you losing lot of students.

There is an argument for contrived, rules-bound free sparring as a means of preparing for lethal combat, but you have to agree that in combat sports, you can DO what you are training for, at the dojo. In a martial art that deal with lethal situations, you cannot engage in what you are training for at the dojo.

This isn't a particularly new argument I am making here, and it is just my opinion.
This speaks partly to my post, so I will add some comments. First, I think we all can acknowledge that sport fighting is not within the paradigm in which aikido is contrived. Rules, forced engagement, single combat all point to a different type of fighting - not that we cannot participate but I understand the different rules of engagement. However, the notion that sport fighting is the only form of competition we have available is not accurate. I think the spirit of the thread is directed at solutions for improving our aikido. As I said in my previous post, I think a competent uke applying competent fighting skills is the primary tool we have in aikido for improvement. I present this stance for both training in empty-hand and weapons techniques.

If my partner can cut me faster than I can cut him, the solution does not lie in decreasing my partner's intensity and skill, but improving mine. The difference in participating in this type of training is that I need to differentiate when I am learning what to do and practicing doing what I know.
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Old 10-17-2011, 06:08 PM   #23
Cliff Judge
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
This speaks partly to my post, so I will add some comments. First, I think we all can acknowledge that sport fighting is not within the paradigm in which aikido is contrived. Rules, forced engagement, single combat all point to a different type of fighting - not that we cannot participate but I understand the different rules of engagement. However, the notion that sport fighting is the only form of competition we have available is not accurate. I think the spirit of the thread is directed at solutions for improving our aikido. As I said in my previous post, I think a competent uke applying competent fighting skills is the primary tool we have in aikido for improvement. I present this stance for both training in empty-hand and weapons techniques.

If my partner can cut me faster than I can cut him, the solution does not lie in decreasing my partner's intensity and skill, but improving mine. The difference in participating in this type of training is that I need to differentiate when I am learning what to do and practicing doing what I know.
Actually I agree with what you are saying.

My issue is that too much free sparring early on, particularly with weapons, can teach you all kinds of bad habits. There is a need to learn things such as physically how to cut properly and where to cut your opponent that high-intensity free sparring does not teach and can actually give you misleading information about.

I do think this kind of training is invaluable when practiced occasionally. And in general, I am all for progressive and helpful testing of your partner's technique.
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Old 10-17-2011, 11:36 PM   #24
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

FWIW, Ledyard Sensei himself has expressed some ambivalence about this kind of practice, for exactly the reasons discussed here.

In my experience, it's great training for helping people understand the kind of intensity that's involved in a "real fight." But it's somewhat counterproductive if you're trying to teach things like relaxation and sensitivity. Like most teaching tools, there's a time and a place for it, but also limitations.

Katherine
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Old 10-18-2011, 09:09 AM   #25
lbb
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Re: High(er) Intensity Weapons

The alternative to sparring, of course, is kata. Within the context of kata, when everyone is doing what they're supposed to, you can train with full speed, full intensity, and very close distances (not stopping two feet away from your opponent...think two millimeters instead).
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