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Old 12-29-2003, 04:26 PM   #1
AsimHanif
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Aikido at it Highest Levels

I'm having issues...
I'll just put this out there and see what happens.
Is it possible to reach the highest levels of aikido excellence without embracing the concept of unconditional universal love? No doubt we have many excellent aikido people out there. Heads of organizations, studied under O'Sensei for years, da deda deda...
But the gap in ability between them and O'Sensei to my eyes seems wide.
I don't want to say too much at this point in terms of comparisons but it can it be that O'Sensei's brilliance was achieved by his ability to embrace the concept of universal love in a manner in which no one else quite has done?
I have issues with this concept on several levels but hopefully the good people out there will hit on many of them as they often do so I won't have to be too long winded.
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Old 12-29-2003, 05:08 PM   #2
paw
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Quote:
Is it possible to reach the highest levels of aikido excellence without embracing the concept of unconditional universal love?
You may want to clarify what you mean by "highest levels of aikido excellence".

Are you refering to technical skill alone or are there additional criteria (teaching ability, knowledge of history/tradition, etc...)? Also, how would one determine such criteria is met?

Regards,

Paul
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Old 12-29-2003, 08:20 PM   #3
Jeanne Shepard
 
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Also, how do you know when you've really embraced the concept of universal unconditional love?

Jeanne
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Old 12-29-2003, 09:16 PM   #4
Erik
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Re: Aikido at it Highest Levels

Quote:
Asim Hanif (AsimHanif) wrote:
But the gap in ability between them and O'Sensei to my eyes seems wide.
Not to mine but I'm a heretic. We've talked basketball before and I think there is no question, and it's not even open to debate in my opinion, that today's professionals are light years ahead of where they were 50 years ago. The level of ability, including shooting which is routinely criticized, is far ahead of where it was. So, if the best aikido has to offer today doesn't stand up to where it was 30+ years ago then we've got a huge problem because every other physical activity has moved, for the most part, way, forward.

I suspect it's something else.

Ask the old timers, in regards to basketball, and they all tell you how good everyone was back in the day. How they were all skilled and had good fundamentals. Amazingly they can, for the most part, say it with a straight face and it's probably true in a sense. The clips, real ones and the ones in their heads, never show missed shots and bad passes. Just like we never see Morihei Ueshiba trip on his hakama which I'm sure he did. On the other hand, we can watch a game, or the local shihan, and see plenty of less than perfect moments with less than perfect ukes.

I think you get the point. I recognize this isn't your actual question but it's something I felt like writing.
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Old 12-29-2003, 10:24 PM   #5
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Re: Aikido at it Highest Levels

Quote:
Asim Hanif (AsimHanif) wrote:
Is it possible to reach the highest levels of aikido excellence without embracing the concept of unconditional universal love?
With out a doubt. Aikido excellence comes from training hard and long under a good teacher combined with a certain amount of talent. To be sure you need to make certain mental adjustments to receive what's being offered and the idea that long training will provide us with insights into life the universe and everything is sort of dogma. Then again just living a life is supposed to give you that. If at the end of all that if you feel unconditional universal love and you haven't lost your edge - then more power to you. However budo is self developement and since we are all individuals it is expected that we will all end up in a different place.
Quote:
No doubt we have many excellent aikido people out there. Heads of organizations, studied under O'Sensei for years, da deda deda...

But the gap in ability between them and O'Sensei to my eyes seems wide.
Well how do you know. What you really need to ask are people that have felt or even seen the two people you are comparing at roughly the same age. I've read critisms of Ueshiba M.'s technique and I've seen and heard opinions of those most likely to know, of Aikido people (direct and second generation) whose ability might have surpassed Kaiso. It's all subjective but I doubt those men adopted the stance of unconditional universal love. At least with the same context of Ueshiba M.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 12-30-2003, 07:58 AM   #6
Ted Marr
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O Sensei was pretty darn impressive even before he went on his whole universal love kick. This much I know.

After he started moving away from Aikijutsu and towards Aikido, he got "better" in some ways, but it is impossible to separate out whether the cause was his aforementioned "univeral love" philosophy, or whether it was because he was still training really hard, and getting old. Somehow, in my mind, oldness promotes good Aikido. You can't make up for flaws in technique anymore...

Anyways, it is literally impossible to answer this question experimentally, so we'll never know for certain.
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Old 12-30-2003, 08:14 AM   #7
Goetz Taubert
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Very, very interesting question from Asim Hanif.

I would agree that a certain amount of excellence can‘t be reached without a spiritual developement, respectively spritual developement may be necessary for progressing.

I would also say, that the skills of M. Ueshiba are up to now unreached by following scholars of him, until I have never heard someone claiming to have overcome his abilities. I also have never seen photographs where the ease, preciseness and presence of M. Ueshiba seemed to be reached by others. Maybe Peter Rehse could give some names?)

Some explanations on this:

Concerning his own reports the techniques of aikido were developed after different and fundamental moments of insight while at the same time and later exercising a shinto-type spiritual practise (Oomotokyoo). Further there are mentionings of kami (gods), that indicate a certain non-ego experience of what was happening to him. Third there are citations that show, that the character of aiki-budoo changed into aikido with a explicit spritual dimension.

„À cet moment-la, j'avais oublié toutes les techniques que J‘avais apprises, et je devais faire de nouveau les techniques des ancêtres ; et ces techniques sont pour montrer que le monde entier est comme une famille et qu'il n'y a pas d'ètrangers." (Citation from: Aikido. Des paroles et des écrits du fondateur à la practique, p. 169.)

Translation: „In this moment I had forgotten all the techiques I had learned and I had to create the techniques of the ancestors once more ; and these techniques serve to show, that the whole world is like one familiy and that there are no foreigners."

The citation shows the strong connection of technique and the spritual dimension, also the break with the old technical approach.

So naturally one should be on this way, practising Aikido. But - as Hanif's question is showing - today this seems not to be necessarily related. This is maybe caused by the differing understanding of excellence in technical dimensions. To my opinion the excellence in Aikido shows up especially by doing nonphysical techniques (Like working with attracking force and guiding from the beginning; holding down without or minimal touching; throwing only by movement of the body with no or minimal contact.). This is because for me the spritual aspect becomes most evident in these „non-physical" techniques and it may be a differentiating criteria for more or less excellence. Until now, I have not seen many teachers being able to do this (i.e. Yamaguchi, G. Blaize). Are there others? Please tell!

Another problem of spritual dimension is, that its not directly teachable like technical aspects and that it may really be a fundamental challenge to step on this way. So there may be less guidance and help in orientation in spritual aspects.
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Old 12-30-2003, 09:01 AM   #8
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I think that the "universal peace and love" idea might have just been O Sensei's personal take on the Aikido koan.

If I understand correctly, a koan can't be answered but it's value is in it's ability to stimilute a train of thought concerning the fundamental nature of things. To frame Aikido as a koan take the physical techniques and objectives of Aikido; that is, redirecting energy, natural flowing movement and minimizing harm to your opponent. Start by trying to understand how these things inter-relate and why these objectives are in harmony with each other. Ask yourself how these ideas alter your impact on the world around you. It's easy to believe that if you spend a life time meditating on the Aikido koan that you might arrive at the belief that budo is love.

Here's something I've been thinking of. Consider how conflict is resolved using common American philosophy (Hollywood action films.) American philosophy is based on the idea that along with great power comes the responsiblity to be righteous in your actions. Furhter more, the righteous should not INSTIGATE agression. The righteous should instead respond to agression by using their superior power to pound the evil doer into submission. Examples: Steven Seagal uses Aikido to grind punks into the dirt.

But agression is nothing more than a natural reaction to fear. So what happens if you have enough confidence in your martial arts skills that you don't feel fear when confronted by a threat? In many martial arts and in American philosophy, you use your superior skill to put some hurt on the person threatening you because it is righteous to do so. In Aikido philosophy, you use your absence of fear as your basis of power to attempt a means of resolving the conflict without harm. This would, almost certainly, rarely involve violence. In the absence of fear and with the intent to resolve conflict without harm...what's left? Is it love?

These are my half-formed thoughts on the matter. Please feel free to criticize.
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Old 12-30-2003, 09:06 AM   #9
AsimHanif
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Paul - I am refering to proficiency in the performance of the art. Not teaching ability or "book knowledge". As for determining if such criteria is met, that would be up to the individual and possibly the aikido community in general. That's why I was intentially vague, with the hopes that respondents would elaborate their own insights.

Jeanne - I believe that you would know that by really taking a good look inside. I know I haven't. Not even close. But the question is - if you did - how would that effect your art?

Erick - good example but so much of basketball is physical. You can have the nastiest attitude in sports and still break records and win titles. Jordan transcended his sport because of his mental toughness not necessarily his spiritual ethics. As for todays aikido practitioners - I would say as in sports we have great athletes but I'm not sure about better martial artists. I see a lot of bold, broad, and beautiful techniques but that doesn't always translate to efficiency.

Geotz - you hit exactly what I was getting at. I am strongly leaning towards that line of thinking, which means there is another aspect of aikido rarely taught or understood.

Ted and Peter - I totally understand. After more posts I want to get into that. I am trying to stay away from what I have heard, what I have felt, and from whom. There are a lot of first hand accounts that support my theory. The question is do you believe they have merit?
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Old 12-30-2003, 09:43 AM   #10
John Longford
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Asim,

I think it depends on what you refer as the highest levels.

As far as physical Aikido goes sometimes I look at certain high level Aikidoka and wonder if they would have progressed as far if they had more regard for their Uke.There is certainly no love involved.

Personally I would never "open up" on a technique if I felt my partner could not safely accept it. Does this inhibit my progress?

Regards,

John
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Old 12-30-2003, 10:44 AM   #11
paw
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Asim,
Quote:
Paul - I am refering to proficiency in the performance of the art. Not teaching ability or "book knowledge". As for determining if such criteria is met, that would be up to the individual and possibly the aikido community in general. That's why I was intentially vague, with the hopes that respondents would elaborate their own insights.
And how will you judge performance?

Personally, I see no way to judge martial performance other than an uncooperative opponent. In an instructional situation or a demonstration, one cannot be sure that uke is being kind and tanking. This of course, raises other issues. Primarily, how good is one's opponent? In which case, show me someone who is undefeated, and I'll show you someone who never faced a worthy opponent or someone who retired too soon.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 12-30-2003, 05:57 PM   #12
Goetz Taubert
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@ Jason Breitzman

Interesting how you are reversing cause and consequence concerning the developement of the "universal love concept". Do you have any proof for reinterpreting the existing biographical data in this way?

It sounds - by your leave - a little too much like a simplifying pop-psychologic interpretation.

Next problematic statement is the "to pound the evil doer into submission".

With aikido at high level an attacker should loose his wish to attack furthermore not because he gets anxious (in your interpretation this would lead to further aggression) but he is somehow "satisfied" by what has happend and can let go his/her aggressive intention.

I wouldn't underestimate M. Ueshibas direct understanding of beeing victim of aggression and of beeing aggressive on the individual level as well as on the perspective of the japanese nation. And his proposal really overcomes with the bad-good-duality.

So I would like to say that aikido is not a koan for M. Ueshiba (he developed it), but Ueshibas Aikido is a koan for us.
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Old 12-30-2003, 09:44 PM   #13
PeterR
 
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Quote:
Goetz Taubert wrote:
Maybe Peter Rehse could give some names?
Not likely - mainly because they belong to people who would deny the designation. They may even be right - it is subjective after all.

Ohba Shihan (who is famous for attacking Ueshiba M. for real in Manchuria during a demonstration) critisizes Ueshiba M. for being stiff.

Conversly Tomiki wasn't too impressed with the direction Ueshib M.'s Aikido was heading after the war. Seems he was overdoing the overcoming stiffness.

Shioda Shihan seems to agree with Tomiki (at least roughly about the point where Ueshiba M. was at his best), although Shirata Shihan (in Aikido Master's) disagrees with both.

Point being if people like that, who knew and felt Ueshiba M. in his prime can't agree, who are we. Especially when all we have to judge by is the filter of legend.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 12-31-2003, 12:56 AM   #14
JasonB
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Quote:
Goetz Taubert wrote:
@ Jason Breitzman

Interesting how you are reversing cause and consequence concerning the developement of the "universal love concept". Do you have any proof for reinterpreting the existing biographical data in this way?
I'm not sure what this question means. I think that your point is that I have assumed more knowledge than I have. I have been informed recently that I am prone to making this error. I will go back and reconsider my statements in a more humble manner.
Quote:
Goetz Taubert wrote:
It sounds - by your leave - a little too much like a simplifying pop-psychologic interpretation.
I am a simple product of my pop-culture and it's obsession with cheap psychology. Perhaps this is my road block on the path to understanding.
Quote:
Goetz Taubert wrote:
Next problematic statement is the "to pound the evil doer into submission".
My statement was in relation to my view of the American philosophy of dealing with agressors, not Aikido philosophy. I think that many people around the world would agree that American's have an obsession with violent resolution of anything they view as unjust agression. I would agree that this is somewhat troubling. It might be preferable to allow an opponent to cease their agression at some point in the conflict. On the other hand, I am American and I enjoy a good action hero smack down. (See, I told you I'm a product of my culture.)

QUOTE="Goetz Taubert"]So I would like to say that aikido is not a koan for M. Ueshiba (he developed it), but Ueshibas Aikido is a koan for us.[/quote]
If Aikido is a koan then Ueshiba was not above pondering it. Even in Western culture there are examples of individuals who follow inspiration and end up developing transcendantly complex analogies for the universe. For the creator, the koan becomes one step in the evolution of thought. A tool for further insight. I believe that Craig Reynolds' Boids is a Western example.
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Old 12-31-2003, 09:46 PM   #15
AsimHanif
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Paul - I'm not trying to put too many handcuffs on this question. We each have an opinion on what we have seen, heard, and experienced. Based on that - what are your thoughts? I have taken ukemi from Yamada Shihan and Kashiwaya Shihan. Very different experiences. No doubt based on the different methodology employed. I have seen footage of O'Sensei but more than that, I have focused on the reactions of his uke's. I have compared those reactions to the reactions of others who have taken ukemi from some of todays top practitioners. I have also heard directly from those who have taken ukemi from O'Sensei. This is how I attempt to answer this question. You may have another method or not. I didn't expect everyone to follow the same method.
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Old 01-01-2004, 06:22 AM   #16
paw
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Asim,
Quote:
Paul - I'm not trying to put too many handcuffs on this question. We each have an opinion on what we have seen, heard, and experienced. Based on that - what are your thoughts? I have taken ukemi from Yamada Shihan and Kashiwaya Shihan.
Taking ukemi from someone isn't a worthwhile gauge of ability, in my opinion. There's still an amount of cooperation in some form or another. I'd only comment on someone's ability if there was a dynamic situation that involved no cooperation --- and I haven't had that with O Sensei, or anyone who trained directly with O Sensei. So I cannot say how "good" they are, and I've no desire to engage in speculation based on what someone may have said.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 01-01-2004, 08:16 AM   #17
Tim Griffiths
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Quote:
paul watt (paw) wrote:
Asim,



Taking ukemi from someone isn't a worthwhile gauge of ability, in my opinion....
Really? I think its an excellent way to understand someone ability.

As uke we should be sensitive to every little bump along the path of the technique. At the risk of simplifying it, fewer bumps = better aikido. What is a bump? A place where they used force, a place where you regained too much balance, a place where they lost control, an opening for atemi or kaeshi - in short, a place where you weren't exactly where they wanted you to be.

I take issue with the implication in the original question, that the best aikido is the one that looks most like O-sensei's did near the end of his life. Obviously when stated that way is not correct (or at least flawed), but that seems to be the underlying assumption in many of the replies.

So what is good aikido? I would say aikido that works is good aikido. If everything you do in aikido works, then you have good aikido. The rest is a matter of choice. Who do you want most to emulate and surpass? Whose aikido most touches you, that you want to say "Yes - that's exactly how I want to do it...and then do it better". Do you want to be like Tohei, Chiba, Tamura or Nadeau sensei?

Also, there isn't a "perfect" sensei, and there are high ranking sensei who have an awesomely beautiful ikkyo, but who's shihonage, quite franky bites big wind.

Feel free to build your perfect sensei out of spare parts - for example, Donovan Waite's ukemi, Ikeda sensei's suwariwaza and iriminage, Tamura sensei's kokyu movements, Nebi Vural's weapon focus, Gwynn Jones's nikkyo, Bob Nadeau's way of breaking down the movements, ....the list goes on.

O-sensei is nicely on the way to being a mythological figure...in a few generations of aikido he'll have reached Musashi, and in a few more somewhere around Hercules..hmm, maybe Disney would do a film about him?

And, as it happens, I think there are quite a few people who do aikido with the ease, relaxation and precision that we can see O-sensei do in recordings.

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 01-01-2004, 08:24 AM   #18
Goetz Taubert
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@ Paul

Seems like roman-like gladiator fights had to be reinvented to meet your benchmark for "objectivity". The question is, would you prefer to stand in the arena or to watch this experiment?

Please give e definition of an "uncooperative opponent"? Someone who wants to kill; someone who wants to fight by all means; someone who's running away; someone with a hestitant attack?

Taking ukemi from someone is in my opinion a very usefull method to judge about ability or technical features. In fact my exprience in taking ukemi is the central aspect where I can judge if there is a congruence between what I am told and what the practise is like.

The analysis of videotapes etc. can be compared to scientific methodology in social science. Why should this not be a proper way to gain insight? Especially when there's the possibility to do the comparison with subjektive impressions of ukemi?

Especially when there is not other way left over?
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Old 01-01-2004, 06:27 PM   #19
paw
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Tim and Goetz,

I don't feel taking ukemi is a good way to determine someone's ability per se, as it may still cooperative to some degree. This isn't difficult to understand. Why are brand new beginners hard to throw? They don't "move right". They haven't been taught how they are supposed to move so they can fall down, ie cooperate.

There's no need to get dramatic about this. By definition, uncooperative --- 1: unwilling to cooperate; 2: intentionally unaccommodating;

This doesn't have to be a fight to the death, it simply means what it says, someone is intentionally unaccommadating, and there are numerous safe, effective ways of doing this. Wrestlers call this "wrestling". Judo refers to this as "randori". BJJ calls this "rolling". Boxers say "boxing" or "sparring". Tomiki folks are quite familiar with this type of dynamic training and to the best of my knowledge also use the term "randori". I suspect you both know very well what I'm refering to and are being deliberately obtuse.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 01-02-2004, 08:20 AM   #20
Robert Rumpf
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You might want to read Herman Hesse's "Siddartha." Your question reminded me of the issues in that book, and some of the problems inherent in imitation as means of learning in general.
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Old 01-02-2004, 01:41 PM   #21
Goetz Taubert
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@ Paul,

its a bit problematic in my view to come with this argument where the thread is dealing with advanced ability. So I‘m not stubborn with my questioning.

I can admit freely, thats its not so easy to deal with beginners, but I would deny, that this would be the central challenge for an experienced practitioner or even high ranking aikidoka.

Beginners behaviour evolves out of different reasons/motivations, which do not need to stem from noncooperation only.

Stiffening (mostly open for atemi or not centered, attack stops i most cases)

Evading (loosing attacking spirit and trying to get away)

Self-sacrifice (beeing so smooth that they would allow atemi even to vital points)

Bad motoric skills (bad coordination with danger to injure themselves easily, bad attacking abilities)

Attack-camouflage (changing attack slightly to make a technique impossible; see also evading)

Hestitation (i.e. fear of falling, fear of attacking)

For me this are reasons to be quite carefull with beginners because there are many possibilites for injure. Sometimes this leads to bad technical performance on my side because I become hesitant too. About the self-sacrifice typus I get angry because their „trick" ist to rely totally von my (assumed) friendly reaction.

Aikido is to overcome with these obstacles of unexperience step by step, so to me it's quite natural that ability can‘t be tested best against these criteria. Surely there is a sort of standardization necessary to get the needed repetition, surely there are training partners too willingly following the technique but on a higher and equal techniqual niveau this will stop.

Taking your randori-example it's obvious to me, that most of them have certain regularies which could be interpreted as cooperative (No punches in judo and wrestling, no kicks in boxing).

But I don't think we will get on common ground on this question.
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Old 01-02-2004, 02:05 PM   #22
paw
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Goetz,
Quote:
Taking your randori-example it's obvious to me, that most of them have certain regularies which could be interpreted as cooperative (No punches in judo and wrestling, no kicks in boxing).
If you disagree just say so. Making statements like this is silly and I'm sure you know that. There's no cooperation the examples you list, there are constraints. Just like there are constraints in aikido training.

The issue isn't what is allowed in training (ie, what are the constraints). The issue is the environment. If by "taking ukemi" all you mean is kata practice, then that isn't an accurate indication of much of anything as far as martial effectiveness is concerned.

If you have one or more people uncooperatively interacting using aikido, that's a much more accurate indication of martial effectiveness --- whatever you call it ("randori", "sparring", "jiyu waza", heck, call it "fred" for all I care ---- the word isn't the thing and the thing is not the description). Read the Judo and Aikido thread, I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 01-04-2004, 09:53 AM   #23
AsimHanif
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Tim - your points on taking ukemi is what I was getting at. Although in fairness, not everyone is sensitive to that. Also totally agree about "building" your own personal model.

As far as your disagreement with the implication of the original question -that's fair. I shouldn't assume that all might agree with my view that O'Sensei's aikido was the best. So the question can be rephrased as -

"Do you need the whole universal love thang to reach your best aikido?"

Paul - who says brand new beginners are hard to throw? Of course we all have different experiences but the majority of the time I have trouble throwing "beginners" is when I'm forcing something that shouldn't be. An inexperienced person is normally easier to throw but you have to make more of an effort to protect them if they cannot protect themselves. Geotz stated this well.

As Geotz stated we probably won't get common ground on this. I'm fine with this because my whole point was to get a sense of various thoughts. When I first started MA I thought harder was better. Break, smash, crush! I'm now old and decrepid and I like the soft subtle approach :-)
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Old 01-04-2004, 02:45 PM   #24
paw
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Asim,
Quote:
Paul - who says brand new beginners are hard to throw? Of course we all have different experiences but the majority of the time I have trouble throwing "beginners" is when I'm forcing something that shouldn't be. An inexperienced person is normally easier to throw but you have to make more of an effort to protect them if they cannot protect themselves. Geotz stated this well.
Try keeping to the issue at hand. The point isn't protect vs not protect or beginner vs experienced. The point is the environment, specifically the degree of cooperation in the role of performance.
Quote:
When I first started MA I thought harder was better. Break, smash, crush! I'm now old and decrepid and I like the soft subtle approach :-)
Thanks for sharing. I never mentioned anything about hard vs soft or crushing vs not.

I submit, and other have mentioned this before, dynamic methods are more accurate measures of ability than kata practice (you can see this in the aikido and judo thread). As I have not engaged in dynamic training with O Sensei or anyone who engaged in dynamic training with O Sensei, I don't know how "good" he was from personal experience. Anything else would be gossip and I've no desire to engage in that either.

I suspect you knew this many posts ago and now seek only to put words into my mouth to advocate something that you feel is morally or ethically wrong, or you seek validation for your own views not discussion.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 01-04-2004, 06:31 PM   #25
shihonage
Join Date: Sep 2001
Posts: 890
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Quote:
paul watt (paw) wrote:
Why are brand new beginners hard to throw? They don't "move right". They haven't been taught how they are supposed to move so they can fall down, ie cooperate.

There's no need to get dramatic about this. By definition, uncooperative --- 1: unwilling to cooperate; 2: intentionally unaccommodating;
Eh ?

The whole point of Aikido is that it's not uke that's cooperating with nage, but nage cooperating with uke.

Usually when a beginner is "stuck" in one direction, one can "cooperate", that is, throw them in a completely different way.

There is always a way, and that is the entire point.

Another thing is that we practice slowly with beginners. They don't ATTACK per se, and everything is done slowly and it is automatically presumed that in slow-motion training both parties are going to imitate the physical laws that would take place if this was realtime.

I.e. uke would not be able to magically regain his balance or curve his punch, as he may do by "cheating" in slow-motion simulation.

Beginners often ignore these unwritten rules, and hence take a bit more trickery to work with - especially considering the fact that they may get damaged when suddenly thrown in a direction they don't expect.

Paul, do you even study Aikido ?
'cause your profile doesn't specify the dojo you go to.

Last edited by shihonage : 01-04-2004 at 06:34 PM.
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