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Old 02-02-2003, 08:49 PM   #1
Matt Whyte
Dojo: Sozokan Budo Academy
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Has Aikido become too political for its own good?

I have a question for the aikidoka here.
Has aikido become too politically directed, and turned away from its roots of spirituality and hard work? For example, I train in Aikikai Aikido, and my sensei accepts all styles of aikido, and likes to have sensei from all different styles of aikido teach seminars eg Sensei Joe Thambu, Sensei Jack Saito. However, my area representative will not choose to let any one other than aikikai sensei teach seminars at our main dojo, because according to him, these other styles are "not true Aiki". what are your thoughts people?
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Old 02-02-2003, 10:23 PM   #2
PhilJ
 
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Matt, sorta takes all the fun away, doesn't it?

I tell students Aikido would be perfect if it weren't for the people. But if it weren't for the people, who would study aikido?

I certainly don't agree with the "area representative"'s point of view -- I don't like being pigeon-holed into one option. If free will was involved in enrolling, then free will should be involved in training, not being fed to me as if I were incapable of making my own decisions.

The only thing I can offer is perhaps this person has some deeper issues with other styles. Maybe he was burned by one, or perhaps dislikes a sensei in another style. Just don't let his issues become your own, and you'll benefit from the world of knowledge from all styles.

*Phil

Phillip Johnson
Enso Aikido Dojo, Burnsville, MN
An Aikido Bukou Dojo
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Old 02-03-2003, 04:24 AM   #3
Ta Kung
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I think EVERYTHING has become to political (you can't even eat meat without having to defend your self ). Aikido is no different. However, it all comes down to the individual (as Phil pointed out).

My sensei is very open minded. He feels that every martial art or style, has good points and weak points.

There is another type of attitude in the Taekwon-do club I used to go to (for about 4 years). Over there, almost everyone felt like everything that isn't Taekwon-do and ITF style, simply sucked. My instructor never said it out loud, though. But he still made it quite clear.

I have always loved martial arts, no matter what style, origin and emphasis. I was very happy to notice the difference in attitude, when I started taking Aikido lessons.

/Patrik
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Old 02-03-2003, 04:42 AM   #4
Ta Kung
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Oh, I forgott to ad this aswell: When the students in my Taekwon-do club found out I practised Aikido aswell, they made claim that it "wasn't any good" and "useless" and so forth. And when the students in my Aikido club found out I practised Taekwon-do, they were interested and asked "how long have you been practising?", "are you as flexible as those guys on tv?" and "I saw a demonstration once, and the students were very impressive!"...

A non-believer Tkd friend of mine, wanted to proove Aikido didn't work, in front of a few of our Tkd friends. He thew a dollyo chagi (or Mawashi geri, as most of you know it by). Let's just say I proved him wrong... Oh, and there were no hard feelings afterwards either. He just doesn't mention it to anyone else.

/Patrik
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Old 02-03-2003, 05:18 AM   #5
Greg Jennings
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Please be careful not to view one person's or group's failings as "Aikido's" failing.

Best Regards,

Greg Jennings
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Old 02-03-2003, 07:30 AM   #6
Matt Whyte
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I was reading an article in Bujutsu magazine today while i was at work, and found an interview with Sensei Graham Morris (could be thomas, I cant rememeber- the area reprsentative for aikikai queensland) and he said that after 3rd and 4th dan, there is no actual physical grading, but it depends on other things. is this true?
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Old 02-03-2003, 07:41 AM   #7
Dross
 
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I believe Osensei once said "When I move, that's Aikido." To me this implies that "styles" shouldn't be nearly as important as people seem to make them out to be. I personally believe that every style, be it aikido, judo, karate or whatever, has it's place and deserves respect for what it is. Everything has it's strengths and weaknesses, it's learning to use those inherent strengths and weaknesses that makes someone a "true" Aikidoka.
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Old 02-03-2003, 08:47 AM   #8
MikeE
 
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I was once affiliated with a group (where I received my shodan) that the shihan would absolutely go crazy if he heard someone was training with a different organization or (heaven forbid) cross-training. Although the shihan is no longer alive...the organization still holds to these ideals. And this close-mindedness is allowing it to go the way of the do do.

It is a horrible thing to say...but, IMHO, with the passing of some of the "old guard" we are coming closer to O'Sensei's view that Aikido should be for everyone...a one world family.

Prejudices and hard line affiliations seem to be the way of the past, I find we are much more open to each others' ideas and styles and realize it is all Aikido.

Mike Ellefson
Midwest Center
For Movement &
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Old 02-03-2003, 01:20 PM   #9
ian
 
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My thoughts are that people get tied up in politics when they have stopped learning aikido. Often it seems the instructors (or those 'loyal' to them) get tied up in it all.

For me, each instructor can hold a piece of the puzzle to what aikido is, and can aid you in your development. You train dilgently until you feel there is more to learn in another direction (even if that is another martial art) and continue your own personal quest to polish your own aikido.

I think there are very few instructors who are truly 'enlightened' in terms of aikido, however if we are to attain this we must seach for in whatever fragments of truth these people hold.

Ian

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 02-03-2003, 03:01 PM   #10
Grasshopper
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Matt Whyte wrote:
Quote:
I was reading an article in Bujutsu magazine today while i was at work, and found an interview with Sensei Graham Morris (could be thomas, I cant rememeber- the area reprsentative for aikikai queensland) and he said that after 3rd and 4th dan, there is no actual physical grading, but it depends on other things. is this true?
Yup, year before last (in Aikikai Australia, at least) after sandan there were no physical gradings... I think it was changed to after yondan some time last year, though.

Apparently it's because they have to show improvement, not only in the technique, but also in their presentation and interpretation of aikido and it's principles. Sort of like going for Honours or a PhD in uni - you need to contribute to the body of knowledge

Yoroshiku!

"Respect your elders. Take care of your juniors."
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Old 02-03-2003, 05:01 PM   #11
Aikiscott
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Re: Has Aikido become too political for its own good?

Quote:
Matt Whyte wrote:
I have a question for the aikidoka here.

Has aikido become too politically directed, and turned away from its roots of spirituality and hard work? For example, I train in Aikikai Aikido, and my sensei accepts all styles of aikido, and likes to have sensei from all different styles of aikido teach seminars eg Sensei Joe Thambu, Sensei Jack Saito. However, my area representative will not choose to let any one other than aikikai sensei teach seminars at our main dojo, because according to him, these other styles are "not true Aiki". what are your thoughts people?
Hi matt

Welcome to the Beast that is the Australian Aikikai. Like yourself I and other members of my dojo have come up against this problem with the Australian Aikikai. I have had it explained to me by various members of the Australian Aikikai that the Governing body believe that they should only have one teacher (Sugano Sensei- Shihan to Australia) and they look down on other organisations or styles of Aikido or their own members going out and training with other groups.

We have had mysterious phone calls to our Sensei by the NSW Aikikai asking him his lineage how and who he got his grades from.

One student of ours ended up in an unpleasant coversation with the National head, when he rang a Dojo In Tasmania to see if it was OK for him to train there whilst he was in town on business. The student was told that he shouldn't be training with Aikikai australia as he was not a member(he actualy had interim membership). He was also told that our grades ment nothing to Aikikai australia even though they are Aikikai grades (we are members of the United Kingdom Aikikai), though when asked if they would recognise the grade of our Principal William smith Sensei, they said that was a different matter all together.

Our Sensei tells us that we need to go out and train with different sensei's and in different styles and he even tells people comming in to ask about Aikido that they should try the other martial arts as well just to make sure that Aikdo is right for them.

So my advise to you is this, go and train with who you want where you want and don't worry about the Australian Aikikai, there are quite a few of their students who do it all the time.
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Old 02-04-2003, 12:57 AM   #12
Ta Kung
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Where I live, we have (at least once a year) a camp where every style is represented. The students are also from various Aikido styles. These camps are very popular!

Most of us see the simularities rather then the differences between styles. And after all, Aikido is Aikido regardless of what your favorite "flavour" is!

/Patrik
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Old 02-04-2003, 01:37 AM   #13
Michael Squirrell
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Hi Matt . It,s a shame but yes politics is ever present . The challenge for all Aikidoka is to keep an open mind no matter what organisation one belongs to . I have made a point to train with as many different Aiki groups as possible .I urge everybody to do the same .I,m sure O-Sensei never intended Aikido to be segregated within organisations . I feel sad for those who

blindly follow their organisation,s requirement not to train with other schools or attend seminars hosted by Sensei from other groups . This narrow minded thinking only causes more politics and damages an individuals progress .Don,t accept any Area-Rep or intructors demands not to train with this Sensei or that Group/Organisation .There are thankfully some organisations and Sensei

here in Oz that are open to visits and cross training to Aikidoka of any affiliation , infortunately mine is,nt one of them .

keep on training .
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Old 02-04-2003, 03:55 AM   #14
ian
 
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Re: Re: Has Aikido become too political for its own good?

That sounds very unfortunate Scott. This seems to me about power and control - however I think this has occured for many years in martial arts, even before aikido (vis. Ueshibas dispute with his aiki-jitsu instructor over money).

I think we owe it to ourselves just to try and get the best training we are able to - whether that is in a small unaffiliated dojo or a large organisation. I do have respect for a lot of sensei, however when they limit your ability to train with other people it suggests there is another motive other than your development.

A 6th Dan I know was told he couldn't wear his hakama when he went on a particular course because he wasn't recognised by their affiliation. For me, people's aikido ability shows immediately when you train with them - whatever their nominated grade. I could understand people being 'regraded' when they move to a new club, but to not have their ability completely ignored seems stupid. People who have trained in other clubs - just like people from other martial arts, often have a lot to offer a club, even if the 'style' of the club is different.

Ian
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Old 02-04-2003, 07:39 AM   #15
mike lee
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where are we going?

Part of the problem revolves around credibility and standards. If some organizations start cranking out 6 dans that are barely equivalent to an average nidan from Aikikai, the reputation of the entire art comes into question.

Some organizations like to quickly promote students to high rank in an effort to compete with other teachers from other organizations. New students often seek out the highest-ranking teacher, having little knowledge of what should constitute the appropriate skill level for a particular rank aikido.

The problem, as I see it, is how can Aikikai affiliates maintain high standards while also working in harmony with other organizations that produce a host of sub-standard teachers?

I've even heard of a woman in Colorado who is 4 kyu and is teaching at a high school. She wrote in to a forum complaining that her students laughed at her and didn't respect her.

I have to wonder what she expected. Did she think that by putting on a gi and a color belt, although she was clearly not a qualified teacher by any stretch, that a group of kids who probably knew more about martial arts than she did, would suddenly bow to her and treat her with great admiration and respect?

It seems to me that a number of people have lost their sense of reality in this regard.

One solution may be if Aikikai took some initiative by issuing a basic set of standards for all aikidoists. If they met these standards, these individuals could apply for Aikikai recognition of their rank. It may be complicated and difficult, but I think that ultimately it would be better for non-Aikikai-affiliated students, teachers and the art in general.
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Old 02-04-2003, 08:32 AM   #16
George S. Ledyard
 
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Not Uncommon

What is the phrase from Monty Python? "Little minded wipers of other people's behinds" I believe. This is a very common attitude in certain organizations. Here in Seattle we have a very open community with folks going back and forth to different events from the different dojos. But there are certain organizations from which you will never see anyone.

Saotome Sensei always encouraged us to train with anyone we could find. This was true even when he personally didn't like that teacher. I would tell Sensei about the seminar and we would discuss what that teacher did.

This idea that some other organization's Aikido isn't TRUE Aikido is just plain bunk. There are certainly a few styles out there which call themselves Aikido and are not mainstream Ueshiba style Aikido. But when you start saying that one uchideshi's Aikido is less authentic than another's you are well into the realm of ego and politics and out of the realm of reality.

You have to ask yourself, do you need to be training with people who have such little minds? Or if you feel you must, do you need to pay attention to their restrictyions ob your development? One of my good friends is a sixth dan whom I met on the mat at a Saotome Sensei seminar. He would sneak out to train with Sensei because he had read his book and was blown away by it.

In another instance I had a fifth Dan attend a seminar I was conducting on applied self defense technics. He was the Senior student in the entire area where he came from but was unable to get his teacher to teach him what he wanted. So he snuck over to my place to get it. To my mind he was "hungry" for knowledge and couldn't get it any other way. Why should he be limited by his teacher's desire to keep his world view small? It would be one thing if he were a beginner. Then one might understand why a tecqaher wouldn't want you to get confused. But these folks were 5th and 6th Dan, teachers in their own rights. And they still had to be careful not to let their teachers know they were training in any other styles. Ridiculous.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 02-04-2003 at 08:34 AM.

George S. Ledyard
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Aikido Eastside
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Old 02-10-2003, 08:54 AM   #17
Cyrijl
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i've always thought it ironic that a system based on a man who studied at least seven arts would have such a hard time accepting that its students wish to do the same. When i began aikido (i have subsequently stopped), i told people that i studied another art and still do. I thought it was best to be honest and forward. I never compared the worth of either art, but the people were not very accepting of this. If O sensei were alive and in the US, i'm sure he would also have interest in Brazilian Jiu-jutsu and other 'modern' arts, if for no other reason than to learn.

I was never able to bring Krav in my aikido class, but i could bring aikido to krav. The openess of Krav allowed me to expand my abilities.

I wish that more schools were open to having temporary visitors like in ages gone. I think most schools are afraid to lose their students to other teachers hence decreasing their revenues. Many Dojo run on the 'bottom line.' Losing a couple of students can equal a loss of cash. Too bad because cross training can breed harmony alot faster than $110/month.

melior est canis vivus leone mortuo
Bog svsami!!!
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Old 02-10-2003, 10:01 AM   #18
akiy
 
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Hi George,

Good to see you back. Hope things are going well with you.

As always, George has said a lot of the things I've wanted to say. I find it odd when I hear of arts/dojo that don't allow people to train in other arts or other dojo within the art. To me, at least, it really smacks of insecurity.

I started out in aikido in a dojo that encouraged its students to go out and see other teachers regardless of "lineage" or even "art." The subsequent dojo in which I've regularly trained have also maintained the same openness. Never have I been told by my teachers that I couldn't go train with so-and-so nor have I been told that I couldn't train in such-and-such an art. Perhaps this is just self-selecting as I certainly wouldn't be training with people who would say such things.

Luckily, from my experience at least, aikido does seem to harbor that kind of openness. In the over one hundred seminars I've attended and several dozen dojo I've visited, I've always been welcomed. I even spent an entire year without a "home dojo" -- I just went from dojo to dojo as a "temporary visitor"; I was always welcomed wherever I went.

Joseph, at how many aikido dojo have you trained? How many seminars have you attended? I'm just asking since I'm very surprised to hear that you encountered so many places that seem counter to my own experience...

-- Jun

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Old 02-10-2003, 10:34 AM   #19
siwilson
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Hi Matt,

Jeez!

I've trained a number of times with Sensei Joe Thambu and if his Aiki is "Not True", then I hope my Aiki can become as untrue as his. He is pretty much amazing. If you have the opportunity to train with his teacher, Master Thamby Rajah, do. He is wonderful!

I think your area representative has a closed mind and should meet and train with these others. He may discover how much there is to learn in Aikido, and other arts!

From reading the other posts, I am glad I don't train in the Australian Aikikai! I have met and trained withso many great teachers and students in various arts, both in my Aiki years and before. I could not imagine training only within my school.

My advice to all is train with as many teachers as you can and take away all you can. Though, approach everything from the Aikido veiw, then you can add it in to your Aikido and build on your training.

Good luck and good training.

Osu!
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Old 02-10-2003, 10:38 AM   #20
Cyrijl
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i am not saying that the xenophobic feeling is based in the essence of aikido. But the two main dojos near me (i don't want to say where or who---out of respect), had this kind of eliteism. To many of the people i talked to while training, the idea of an art based on crushing rather than changing one's opponent seemed horrific. It seemed as though the belief was that if you train like that, you MUST WANT to hurt people. Part of it was stereotypes and part of it was eliteism. Some aikido practitioners forget that aikido can becomes very painful for the person on the receiving end.

On that note, i spoke with several high ranking (meaning not belt but time and seriousness of training) intructors in other arts who had the samne problem. Most people i spoke with had a similar experience, they loved the art, but found many of the people elitist. THIS IS ONLY MY EXPERIENCE...i know that in every art there are bad people, but in the dojos i went to it seemed a little high.

melior est canis vivus leone mortuo
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Old 02-10-2003, 02:34 PM   #21
Bronson
 
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Joseph, please don't think that I'm saying you do this...I'm just asking

When you were at the aikido dojo and wanted to bring Krav into it did you do it during class time or playing around with students/teacher before or after class? I personally welcome people from other arts into my classes but when it comes time to train aikido that's what I want people doing. After class I'll more than likely come up to you and ask how your art would have handled the same stuff and you could throw me around or whatever and a good time could be had by all I've seen a few (not all by any means) people come into the dojo from other arts and everytime they pair off to work on technique they will be trying to show their partner how the other art would deal with it. I got no problem with the other art or style but that's not what we do and we are in that particular dojo to do what that dojo does.

Again, please don't think I'm saying you do/did this. It's just something I've noticed.

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 02-10-2003, 04:04 PM   #22
siwilson
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Quote:
Bronson Diffin (Bronson) wrote:
Joseph, please don't think that I'm saying you do this...I'm just asking

When you were at the aikido dojo and wanted to bring Krav into it did you do it during class time or playing around with students/teacher before or after class? I personally welcome people from other arts into my classes but when it comes time to train aikido that's what I want people doing. After class I'll more than likely come up to you and ask how your art would have handled the same stuff and you could throw me around or whatever and a good time could be had by all I've seen a few (not all by any means) people come into the dojo from other arts and everytime they pair off to work on technique they will be trying to show their partner how the other art would deal with it. I got no problem with the other art or style but that's not what we do and we are in that particular dojo to do what that dojo does.

Again, please don't think I'm saying you do/did this. It's just something I've noticed.

Bronson
I think that Joseph was saying was that he found he could take what he learnt from Aikido to his Krav, but not the other way. That is how I read it.

This to me is an understandable statemet, as I approach all my martial arts from the way of Aikido, whether it be Karate, Kung Fu, Iaido, Kendo, etc. I would not try to appraoch Aikido from another art!

It sounds like Joseph is grounded in Krav, so he finds practice in Aikido enhances his Krav, but it does not work the other way.

I would be interested to know if that is how Joseph sees it.

Last edited by siwilson : 02-10-2003 at 04:07 PM.

Osu!
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Old 02-17-2003, 01:34 AM   #23
E. Winters
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Yes, Aikido has become to political. I have some good advise to those who have problems with styles other than the ones they accept "Just Shut Up and Train".
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Old 02-17-2003, 01:38 AM   #24
Ta Kung
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Two classes ago, Sensei had a student of Aikikai show us how they do their techniques. It was great fun! Also, sensei is a big fan of Ki-Aikido. We sometimes to the techniques of Ki-Aikido, but sensei always tells us that "this is NOT how we do it in Iwama Ryu, so don't do it like this at seminars".

/Patrik
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Old 02-21-2003, 12:42 PM   #25
tittle
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Re: Re: Has Aikido become too political for its own good?

Quote:
Scott Gledden (kueijin) wrote:
Hi matt

Welcome to the Beast that is the Australian Aikikai. Like yourself I and other members of my dojo have come up against this problem with the Australian Aikikai. I have had it explained to me by various members of the Australian Aikikai that the Governing body believe that they should only have one teacher (Sugano Sensei- Shihan to Australia) and they look down on other organisations or styles of Aikido or their own members going out and training with other groups.
Everything that I know of Sugano Shihan suggests to me that this is not a practice he would suggest. His own students have gone to seminars put on by all kinds of other organizations and styles. Just thought that I'd clear that up.

--Cindy
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