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Old 11-30-2003, 11:16 PM   #1
pbaehr
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How important?

I'm curious what people think about the importance of weapon training in aikido.

I've been training for two and a half years and attended one bokken class which I enjoyed a great deal. I've been told that among other things, weapon training helps develop form. How do you all feel about it? Essential? Useful? Unnecessary?
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Old 11-30-2003, 11:21 PM   #2
aikidoc
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Essential. It helps develop posture, balance and footwork while helping understand angles.
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Old 11-30-2003, 11:52 PM   #3
PeterR
 
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You should get all of that from toshu (empty hand). And more to the point - if your training is failing you there - weapons training is not going to help.

Still it is interesting learning the relationship between good Aikido movement and good weapons movement. I do think that weapons are the inspiration for a lot of the techniques which we use and an understanding, or at least an introduction to, would improve our understanding of our Aikido.

Most of my advanced training at the moment involves weapons techniques. Really enjoying it. Did not do much until I went to a small seminar taught by Chiba sensei on the East coast of the US. The night before I had told him I had not really done any so he had me front and center the next morning. I ended up doing a weapons class with the local Aikikai boys, then switched to TSKR kata, and now its Shodokan kumi-tachi, yari dori, yari nage waza and tachi-dori. All in all - fun stuff.
Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
Essential. It helps develop posture, balance and footwork while helping understand angles.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 12-01-2003, 03:14 AM   #4
Tim Griffiths
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Aikido is weapons training. Taijitsu is just something to do when you forgot to bring your weapons bag with you.

Overgeneralised inflammatory comments aside, it does really help. I'll disagree a little with Peter's comment: "...if your [toshu] training is failing you [in basic posture etc] - weapons training is not going to help". Due to their size, weapons act as an amplifier for your hand position and movement, particularly the sword. For instance, you may not notice a tendancy to not keep your hands in front of your center, or to lift your elbows too high, but put a bokken in your hands and it'll be immediately obvious. The extension of the sword, the direction and alignment with your body, are all things which translate directly into the taijitsu.

One important point, though. If your weapons training consists only of kata and kumitachi/kumijo, you'll miss out on the 'meat' of weapons practice. As far as trying to improve the empty-handed techniques goes (which, despite my comment above, is what we want to do, mostly), the best thing is to do the same technique with a weapon in your hands. Tai no henko (or tenkan undo) for example, when done with a sword can show you many details that are difficult to see and feel when empty-handed.

Of course, there are plenty of people (many of them high-ranking sensei in aikikai hombu, for example) who seem to disagree with me (and presumably think that O-sensei did so much weapons work because he liked the feel of the wood).

Tim

If one makes a distinction between the dojo and the battlefield, or being in your bedroom or in public, then when the time comes there will be no opportunity to make amends. (Hagakure)
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Old 12-01-2003, 03:21 AM   #5
Taliesin
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Weapon training as far as I am concerned would best be described as extremely valuable. Not necessarily essential. It's fun and it really forces you to concentrate on timing distance and balance, a great deal more than you do already.

However, my own personal view is that to make the most of it you need to really build a solid base of empty hand form before moving onto weapons.

Training with weapons will help you develp your form only if there is a solid core to develop. (If this makes sense).

Just the opinion of a lowly Kyu grade.
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Old 12-01-2003, 06:25 AM   #6
ian
 
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Quote:
Peter Rehse (PeterR) wrote:
You should get all of that from toshu (empty hand). And more to the point - if your training is failing you there - weapons training is not going to help.
With the greatest respect Peter, I beleive this is absolutely wrong.

Cutting with the sword has a different feeling to cutting with a hand; A strong yokomen and shomen uchi is far more effectively developed through sword training - not just due to arm strength, but due to the necessity to push your centre forward when cutting with a weapon (which is not necessary when just using the arm). In my mind bokken work is essential for students to understand the link between their centre and their hands, and to be able to move them together. A student is forced to keep his hands in front of his centre with a weapon, making it easier to get into the habit.

For similar reasons, errors in cutting action can more easily be detected with bokken work than in toshu. (e.g. person bends forward, hands stay raised at chest, cutting action not coordinated with body movement).

However, I would concede that it is only the simplest of bokken work which is necessary (just cutting off centre line). I tend to do more bokken work for the beginners, for this reason, and then focus on it less. I have noticed a MUCH slower development in beginning students who missed initial bokken sessions.

At advanced levels bokken work can bring an urgency and directness that sometimes lacks in tai-jitsu, especially if the ukes are not very aggressive.

Ian
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Old 12-01-2003, 07:18 AM   #7
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Quote:
Ian Dodkins (ian) wrote:
With the greatest respect Peter, I beleive this is absolutely wrong.
Good debate is never disrespectful.

Let me just restate a couple of points.

I do think an understanding of weapons is important to understanding Aikido and in that context (ie. reaching a developement of ones Aikido) they are essential.

I do however think that good toshu training can be gained independently of weapons and moreover, if the toshu training is weak, weapons will not help.
Quote:
Cutting with the sword has a different feeling to cutting with a hand; A strong yokomen and shomen uchi is far more effectively developed through sword training - not just due to arm strength, but due to the necessity to push your centre forward when cutting with a weapon (which is not necessary when just using the arm).
If it is so different and not necessary when using the arm - why do it? Terrible question I know but as with the old cross training debates I think that to become really good at something you must do more of it - not dilute it with something different.
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In my mind bokken work is essential for students to understand the link between their centre and their hands, and to be able to move them together. A student is forced to keep his hands in front of his centre with a weapon, making it easier to get into the habit.
A reasonable point which really is just teaching methodology. We use other methods, the primary one being tegatana dousa. Of course that could make your or my argument - take your pick.
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For similar reasons, errors in cutting action can more easily be detected with bokken work than in toshu. (e.g. person bends forward, hands stay raised at chest, cutting action not coordinated with body movement).
If by cutting action you mean movements intrinsic to sword work I agree - but see above. If Aikido is basically unarmed combat - how does improved cutting action help its developement.
Quote:
However, I would concede that it is only the simplest of bokken work which is necessary (just cutting off centre line). I tend to do more bokken work for the beginners, for this reason, and then focus on it less. I have noticed a MUCH slower development in beginning students who missed initial bokken sessions.
Tomiki developed a whole series of drills none of which use weapons but serve the same purpose you describe. Again teaching methodology.
Quote:
At advanced levels bokken work can bring an urgency and directness that sometimes lacks in tai-jitsu, especially if the ukes are not very aggressive.
Doesn't it though. However in both cases I think if the student is mild mannered the behaviour must still be learnt.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 12-01-2003, 07:22 AM   #8
Chuck Clark
 
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Quote:
Peter Rehse (PeterR) wrote:
You should get all of that from toshu (empty hand). And more to the point - if your training is failing you there - weapons training is not going to help.
Peter,

I also disagree. I said the same thing many years ago but found out I was wrong. (it's happened a couple of times...) I thought that if you put a lever onto posture that has problems it'll just get worse. I wouldn't let anyone do buki until they were shodan.

As I said, I was wrong, but thankfully I'm open to new info. If you add a lever to the posture it most defintely emphasizes the problems, but it doesn't get worse... it gets better. I haven't seen one person that doesn't get better when they get into a serious practice with jo or bokken. It has to be sotai renshu though. Tandoku practice isn't enough.

I must add that my students that also practice Shinto Muso Ryu and Katori Shinto Ryu very seriously are solving lots of posture and movement problems quickly.

Best regards and Safe and Happy Holidays,

Chuck Clark
Jiyushinkai Aikibudo
www.jiyushinkai.org
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Old 12-01-2003, 07:38 AM   #9
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Argghh!! Timing is off.

Hi Chuck;

Please see my reasons above.

The question was is weapons training essential and my contention is that if your toshu training is weak - weapons is not going to help you.

I do understand Ian's and your points but feel that making a connection between toshu and weapons when teaching beginners is an added difficulty.

Always open to different ideas.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 12-01-2003, 08:14 AM   #10
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IMHO, any system without weapons training is incomplete.

In FMA, the weapons (sticks and knives) are taught first. The hands follow the weapons.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 12-01-2003, 08:52 AM   #11
happysod
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Just for the hell of it I'm going to agree in part with all of you. Yes, training with weapons will accentuate problems with posture etc. and enable you to correct your form. However, excessive training with weapons will also teach you bad habits for unarmed practice as your "perfect" posture with a weapon is slightly different to that when you're unarmed. This is, of course, less evident if your normal weapons practice is a knife, but even here, good knife practice is not always applicable to unarmed practice. A knife enables strikes to work which would be ineffective as an unarmed attack and also gives you a defense no-one in their right mind would attempt to power through.

Essential? No. Desirable? For me, again not really - knife yes, longer weapons no. Again, I only ever really like boken and jo as a teaching aids, which of course means learning some basic competency.

Lynn, isn't that the FMA way mainly because armed is so much better at self defence than unarmed so they teach the more practical first? Also, don't they move on to a lot of grappling unarmed? Happy to be wrong, only know what I've read... If you just mean, never dealing with weapons is a mistake, I'd agree with you entirely.
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Old 12-01-2003, 01:09 PM   #12
SeiserL
 
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Quote:
Ian Hurst (happysod) wrote:
If you just mean, never dealing with weapons is a mistake, I'd agree with you entirely.
Then I will consider us in agreement.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 12-01-2003, 01:36 PM   #13
ajbarron
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When I began practicing with my current sensei we did some weapons training and there was a weapons only night once a week. Over the past fours years we have evolved to using weapons in "normal" classes to help explain techniques as well as part of the session.

At our dojo we have a minimum of two weapons seminars of three days, during a year, and depending on who the visiting Shihan is for the summer camp, we might have weapons for our major summer session ( a four day intensive)

Our sensei explains techniques/mechanics from a weapons base as well as emphasizing that weapons also train "maai", timing and movement.

Weapons are also part of our grading from 5th Kyu.

Personally I find weapons very difficult but have a lot of fun...especially making those "Star Wars" sound effects as I attack or defend.

We must remember that " There are many roads to Rome" and some of us chose to carry a weapon and some not.

"May the force be with you……..vvvvuuuuuuuuuuuuuutttttt"

.
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Old 12-01-2003, 05:04 PM   #14
Erik
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Quote:
Peter Rehse (PeterR) wrote:
If by cutting action you mean movements intrinsic to sword work I agree - but see above. If Aikido is basically unarmed combat - how does improved cutting action help its developement.
Peter, this is the crux of the question. Aikido is an unarmed combat system, for the most part, but it's methodology and design is based upon Japanese weapons, specifically swords.

You see this in the strikes. Most of them look like a sword (yokomen and shomen). Even munetski is closer to a thrust (sword or knife) than anything you'd see as a strike although some MA styles do practice lunge punches. The grabs also focus on the wrist and logically are often there to prevent someone from getting their sword out and slicing you up. Then when you look at the responses you also see the sword in many of those. The sword is very much a part of the art.

I think the bigger question is why you would base an unarmed combat system around the sword, assuming it's an unarmed combat system, of course. The best answer I've heard, and probably because I thought that way myself, is that it's all the Japanese knew. They didn't have a culture of wrestling or boxing the way we or other cultures did. Judo, for instance, if my history is correct did not start out with a strong ground game. Karate, I suspect, was also much rarer than those of us in the West think. These things that we take for granted just weren't there, hence, you get an unarmed combat system based around a weapon.

It's kind of strange in today's context but logical in a historical one. So, if the attacks and responses are based around a sword then better cutting action might well, and does, benefit the application of our technique.

Now, whether or not, this is an optimal way to practice unarmed combat, well, that's a different question.
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Old 12-01-2003, 05:35 PM   #15
akiy
 
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Quote:
Erik Haselhofer (Erik) wrote:
You see this in the strikes. Most of them look like a sword (yokomen and shomen). Even munetski is closer to a thrust (sword or knife) than anything you'd see as a strike although some MA styles do practice lunge punches. The grabs also focus on the wrist and logically are often there to prevent someone from getting their sword out and slicing you up.
True. But, there'll also be others who will say that attacks like yokomenuchi and shomenuchi are like the trajectory of a person holding a beer bottle, that "we also train with reverse punches, jabs, and hooks at our dojo," and that grabs in and of themselves can be a pretty darned effective attack...
Quote:
Then when you look at the responses you also see the sword in many of those. The sword is very much a part of the art.
I'd go so far as to say that the sword is very much a part of Japanese culture, period. The sword is one of the three most sacred objects in Shinto after all (the sword, the mirror, and the jewel). I think it makes sense, therefore, that many of the analogies, symbolism, and examples involve the sword.

In any case, I wonder -- how many ways can someone move in a way to conserve effort yet preserve efficiency? I'd have to think that any sword art with any depth will hopefully teach such a manner of movement. Therefore, it makes sense, to me at least, that there'd be overlap in the manner of moving efficiently and effortlessly in an empty-handed art and a weapons art...
Quote:
I think the bigger question is why you would base an unarmed combat system around the sword, assuming it's an unarmed combat system, of course. The best answer I've heard, and probably because I thought that way myself, is that it's all the Japanese knew. They didn't have a culture of wrestling or boxing the way we or other cultures did.
Sumo has been around supposedly for 2,000 years. It's not just a spectator sport for really big guys, either; Ellis Amdur relates in his book, "Old School," that almost every class session of any koryu arts that he'd studied also included some sort of sumo.
Quote:
These things that we take for granted just weren't there, hence, you get an unarmed combat system based around a weapon.
As Tim Griffith writes above, there are many people who say that jujutsu and other empty-handed arts developed when one's weapon wasn't available (eg inaccessible, broken, etc).

Interestingly, Kuroda sensei at the Aiki Expo was mentioning how their jujutsu system existed in order to help them with their abilities with the sword. From what I experienced from him, it seems as though they sometimes go to jujutsu to explore and develop the principles that they'll use in their sword art.
Quote:
Now, whether or not, this is an optimal way to practice unarmed combat, well, that's a different question.
Would training in just a weapons art help your unarmed abilities if you never trained unarmed-ly? I somehow doubt it. I usually agree with people who say, "If you want to get good at doing X, you should go do X."

However, would doing something related to taijutsu (like jo/bokuto training) provide a different angle from which to look at the principles underlying taijutsu? I think Paul Watt mentioned in another thread that his thoughts regarding cross-training wasn't to do two disparate activities but to have one main activity and do an auxiliary one to help the main activity. As I doubt that any of us are really thinking that we're becoming expert weapons masters through the study of aikido weapons (without actually studying weapons systems in-depth), I'd say that studying weapons serves the purpose of helping one develop one's taijutsu.

I don't think it's necessary, but I've personally sure found training in weapons to be very educational and interesting for my progress and development in aikido.

-- Jun

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Old 12-01-2003, 08:32 PM   #16
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My responses will be a bit scattered as I'm replying to the replies.
Quote:
Jun Akiyama (akiy) wrote:
True. But, there'll also be others who will say that attacks like yokomenuchi and shomenuchi are like the trajectory of a person holding a beer bottle, that "we also train with reverse punches, jabs, and hooks at our dojo," and that grabs in and of themselves can be a pretty darned effective attack...
If they train those things then they train those things. No problem there but it's not part of the Aikikai testing curriculum is it. The core attacks are what they are. As to being like something, well, for the most part I've never liked those answers. They almost always come when better answers are lacking.
Quote:
Sumo has been around supposedly for 2,000 years. It's not just a spectator sport for really big guys, either; Ellis Amdur relates in his book, "Old School," that almost every class session of any koryu arts that he'd studied also included some sort of sumo.
Sumo, however, is not a grappling art in the context of wrestling, BJJ, or even Judo. It's something else although I've probably just pissed a couple of people off by saying that. My understanding is that grappling does go way back in Japanese culture but it has a long history of not really being there either. It was Fusen Ryu which brought it back into play, or so say the BJJ guys. Realistically, I don't think you can make a good case for it anywhere near the level of most forms of wrestling. Aikido technique, while different, seems to have come from Takeda who got it from wherever he got it. I don't think any case can be made that he ran into many pure grapplers in his formative years. He did raise havoc with some Judo guys but I don't know if they were ground types or not.

I'd welcome any corrections from history types. Failing that I think I'll go open a thread on another board.
Quote:
As Tim Griffith writes above, there are many people who say that jujutsu and other empty-handed arts developed when one's weapon wasn't available (eg inaccessible, broken, etc).
No problem with this and it then makes perfect sense that many of the techniques would be practiced against attacks simulating swords.
Quote:
Would training in just a weapons art help your unarmed abilities if you never trained unarmed-ly? I somehow doubt it. I usually agree with people who say, "If you want to get good at doing X, you should go do X."
I agree.
Quote:
However, would doing something related to taijutsu (like jo/bokuto training) provide a different angle from which to look at the principles underlying taijutsu?
I'd say it can and in aikido's case it does for the most part. Whether it's an optimal method probably depends on your goals in the art.

Last edited by Erik : 12-01-2003 at 08:35 PM.
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Old 12-24-2003, 09:20 PM   #17
Richard Elliott
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Re: How important?

[quote="Pete Baehr (pbaehr)"]I'm curious what people think about the importance of weapon training in aikido.

After leaving Aikido for awhile to pursue other responsibilities I am considering pursuing a weapons-art as a prelude to reintering Aikido (hopefully) at a later date.

I am considering Kenjutsu and maybe some knife-fighting. I am not planning on doing these with an idea of improving the Aikido, but simply because when I was exposed to weapons work in Aikido I really enjoyed it for itself and for all the favorable reasons that have been posted so far. I also value how using the weapons in doing an Aikido technique, sometimes, had the effect of getting me "unstuck" with a technique problem, which usually resulted from thinking too much about the technique--while I was doing it. I am completely ignorant about weapons, but have decided to pursue this because I REALLY WANT TO.

Are there any other comments,pro or con,in addition to the more practicle ones mentioned so far?

Respectfully, Richard
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