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Old 05-29-2004, 12:53 AM   #1
DaveO
Dojo: Great Wave Aikido
Location: Alberta, Canada
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Ai symbol Just maybe I figured something out?

Hello!
I think I've figured out something extremely important; whether it applies to aikido or just to my aikido I don't know.
I've been wanting to write this for a bit and have found it incredibly difficult to put into words; so to help me explain my point I'm going to explain the journey (as it were) I've taken so far to come to my current view. It's gonna be pretty long; but please bear with me.
Barring the MA's I took as a kid; my exploration of the fighting skills began about 18 years ago when I joined the Army right out of high school. Now; basic Infantry U/C isn't that involved; at the low level of the beginning line soldier it's little more than training in a few basic techniques; with heavy emphasis on agression and the explosive release of energy. This is vital; since like me most of us were brainless wet-nosed kids just out of school; that sort of behaviour was by and large utterly alien to us. Mind; I'm talking real aggression here, not the schoolyard bullying type most had experienced up until that point.
But I progressed fairly quickly; I found I had a knack for the Army so I constantly volunteered (and on occasion was volun-told) to take extra courses in combat skills; one of which was U/C. Loved it - I was a shy kid; quickly turning into a brash smartass tween and U/C helped that along. It wasn't until I recieved my first promotion and was posted to the Assault Pioneers (and thence up the heirarchy of combat specialists) that I started really learning the ways of close combat. What an eye-opener - training was brutally tough; efficient, cold and impersonal as a machine. I learned to do things even then I prayed I'd never have to - regrettably; eventually I did. But beyond the technical training; U/C training taught things more important for a soldier. It taught us to be able to raise our aggression to insane levels; to be able to go totally and completely berzerk when required - while still retaining the rational faculties. Technique wasn't as important as the goal - the fastest possible death of the opponent.
Now; many who read that will say 'that's terrible' or 'that's morally corrupt' or 'they turned you into a monster' - I've heard all three and more. You must understand that for all the good and noble work Infantrymen do around the world; we are first and foremost weapons - our primary role is to kill the enemy. It used to be the Infantry was the lowest common denominator - the dummies who couldn't drive tanks or sail ships. The cannon fodder sent en masse into the wire. It's a different story today; soldiers are keen, educated, efficient specialists in the art of warfare. Don't let the buzzcut and the foul mouth fool you; the average infantryman knows one hell of a lot more about his job than the average college graduate does about his.
Keep this in mind as well: if your instinct is to react in horror to the close combat training we recieve (which includes live weapons - on average between 10 and 30 per cent of a course is injured in training; though to be fair most injuries are minor); be aware that if I didn't have this training; I would now be dead. Would've been 11 years ago, the first time someone tried to kill me.
Not including a certain sniper we never saw; the first one was a man with a machete. Not a soldier; a civilian driven to suicidal desperation. Obviously; I survived - so did he. Because of my training I was able to make the decision not to shoot and took him down to be arrested.
There were others - a bayonet strike by a checkpoint guard blitzed on Slivovitz; a point-blank pistol shot during a houseclearing operation. I (as one member of the platoon) was sniped at about a dozen times, been in 9 seperate firefights; including 2 running battles of at least two hours and one defensive action which lasted 18. I've been attacked by a baseball bat, a couple of clubs, several bottles, one taser, pepper spray and found myself the target of a gang-stomp - they picked a Canadian Soldier to stomp - most definitely the wrong target.
Anyone who says peacekeeping is easy needs a major freakin' reality check.
(Not SD related; but I've also been set on fire twice, electrocuted once, had a parachute collapse - that's the one that got me - hypothermia I don't know how many times; had a rope break on a cliff, one road accident, one mine strike; been mortared a whole bitchload of times, had a tree fall on me ( a small one; but still heavy. ) and been chased by Rottweilers. Who said life isn't fun?)

So anyway; you might say I've got a certain level of familiarity with the shittier side of the human psyche; and certain experience in surviving it. All during those years; I continued to train and teach others.
I'm no expert; never that - just someone who was good at his job.
Anyway; after injury forced me back into civilian life; (actually as a reserve instructor - same thing in my book) I started looking around for schools to continue my training; this time in the easy comfort and tradition of the martial arts. Karate and striking arts were out; due to the massive injuries to my lower body. The 'Self Defence' schools were laughably pathetic - those instructors are totally clueless what real violence looks like.
It took the better part of eight years to find aikido - eight years I spent in constant pain; walking like Frankenstien; living the life of a semi-cripple.
Right from the beginning I was hooked. I recognized right off the bat that the Sensei and his sempai had no knowledge of real-life violence; but I could also see the enormous tactical advantage of aikido. It was a fun place to be too - they listened when I talked about the 'real world'. So I started with them; and immediately ran into trouble - everything I was learning went totally against my experience in self-defence. But the way I see it; if there wasn't value, it wouldn't still exisit; so I stuck with it. On the way; I formed a lot of wrong notions about the techniques and training. These wrong notions eventually bit me at my 4th kyu test. I passed it; but I never should have.
I resolved therefore to stop looking forward to the next level and start looking back - back to the basics. The basics of movement, centering, etc. I asked myself: 'Are these really the basics?" The answer, I found, was 'no'. I delved further; and began to explore the basic concepts; looking for their roots.
During this; the one overriding problem was reconciling aikido with what I knew to be the reality of violence. On the advice of my Sensei; I began exploring this problem; trying to turn ki-aikido into a viable defensive tool.
I started by altering the techniques to fit the needs of self-defence. It was a disaster - it not only didn't work; it was pitiful in its lack of effect. The reason is, of course, that these techniques were developed by practicioners of vastly more experience and wisdom than I; there are reasons for them - reasons I didn't understand.
I then tried separating the techniques into two classes - 'Conceptual' techniques (which don't work in real-life but teach the concepts of aikido) and 'realistic' techniques; which would work. Now we were getting somewhere - with the 'doesn't work' problem safely compartmented; I could research the techniques in precise detail.
Ultimately; I abandoned this as well; though to be fair I still use it to organize my study.
Why?
It's the oldest cliche out there - embarrassing really. I had a dream. A very powerful, potent one. (I put it up here - this is the URL: http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=4032 ) While thinking about the dream; I think I learned what my subconcious was trying to tell me - the importance of the spititual side of aikido. In the dream; the harder I tried to jump; the harder and quicker I came down. The softer, easier I did it; the more relaxed I was; the easier it went. I finally started looking at the spiritual side, and realized what I'd been doing wrong the whole time.
The techniques; I realized, cannot work without those things we call the 'spiritual' side - the relaxation, the centering, etc. I threw myself into that study; increasing my daily study time to a minimum of 2 hrs; up to over 6 on the weekends. Instead of altering aikido to fit defence; I began to alter defence - not the realities of course; but the actions - to fit aikido; and it worked so much better.
But still the ever-nagging problem of reconciling the techniques - aiki-driven or not - with real-life defence.
I went back to the basics again and asked "Are these really and truly the basics?"
Then I realized I hadn't answered the most basic question of all: "What is aikido?"
I don't know where the final step came from - the final step so far that is. There was no sudden flash of realization; no 'Eureka!' Just a growing awareness and understanding; and that's where I come now - finally to the point of this post.
I look at my left hand - it represents the spiritual side of aikido. I look at the right - the defensive side. How to bring them together? My answer - you can't.
Because they're the same thing.
They're not different aspects of aikido; they're not even different sides of the same coin. They are one and the same.
The defensive side is the spiritual side; and vice-versa. I was thinking of the old analogy of three blind men touching an elephant - one feeling the trunk says "it's a snake". One feeling the ear says "no, it's a fan." One feeling the side says "No, it's a wall".
But that analogy is wrong for my purpose; a better one is this: two people are arguing over a pencil. One says "It's yellow." One says "No, it's straight." One thing; viewed with two parameters - that's what aikido is.
And finally I understand what the techniques are all about. They are there to teach, yes; but also to use; because unlike training on the mat; where proper performance of technique is critical for grading; the techniques are not the goal - the safe resolution of the conflict is. The techniques are merely tools to achieve that goal. No - that's wrong; the techniques are there to just happen when you accept your attacker's energy.
Because now; aikido not only makes sense to me; it fits and indeed supports self defence and defensive theory. The two go hand in hand like old friends. Now; while I still train in ki-aikido; I also train in my own way. Literally weeks ago; I struggled with a resistant uke during ikkyo - now I send him flying just by turning my hand over. I don't try any techniques; I don't look for moves that'll bring a particular technique happening; I just accept uke's energy; let it go where it will and turn it to a place of my choosing. I try to move like a water-wave; giving uke no resistance; nor force. I just get out of the way and let him move into a position where he falls.
No; I'm not all of a sudden one of the 'instant masters' we all despise; I've just reorganized my thinking so it works for me. I still struggle with the techniques; though they're coming far, far easier now. This is because (I think) the single main drawback of any technique-based system is that in a real confrontation technnique is the first thing that goes out of your head; my REACT!! instinct is so strong it short-circuts the techniques; or tries to. But now at least I really think I know the "Why's" I've been searching for - upon which I can build the rest.
Anyway; didn't mean to write a novel; I've got to get to bed, got practice in the morning. Thanks for reading this; hope you didn't drink too much coffee getting through it.
Cheers!

Last edited by DaveO : 05-29-2004 at 01:01 AM.

Answers are only easy when they're incomplete.
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Old 05-29-2004, 07:39 AM   #2
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Just maybe I figured something out?

Quote:
Dave Organ wrote:
Because now; aikido not only makes sense to me; it fits and indeed supports self defence and defensive theory. The two go hand in hand like old friends. Now; while I still train in ki-aikido; I also train in my own way. Literally weeks ago; I struggled with a resistant uke during ikkyo - now I send him flying just by turning my hand over. I don't try any techniques; I don't look for moves that'll bring a particular technique happening; I just accept uke's energy; let it go where it will and turn it to a place of my choosing. I try to move like a water-wave; giving uke no resistance; nor force. I just get out of the way and let him move into a position where he falls.
Much of Aikido sems to me like learning to ride a bike. When you can't do it, it seems very difficult. When you are falling into the bushes or falling off and skinning your knees it seems almost impossible. Then the instant it clicks for you and you start riding, it goes deep into your body. You could not ride for years and get back on and ride without a problem.

There are times in your practice, if you stick with it long enough, that things will suddenly click and you shift to a whole different level. My own Aikido is completely different than it was three years ago. When that happens it's very much like the descriptions you read of kensho experiences in Zen. You look at it and you go "Wow; it was there all along. It was so simple, why couldn't I get it?."

It sounds like you have made one of those shifts. Congratulations! That's a big deal in your training. Not everybody trains hard enough to have a big shift like that. Often they have a series of little shifts over the years. But it sounds like you've had a big one. Have fun seeing where it takes you.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 05-29-2004, 08:55 AM   #3
Janet Rosen
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Re: Just maybe I figured something out?

Dave, our backgrounds couldn't be more different, but your posting, in it's laying out of the process you have gone through (and continue to go through) speaks to some universal things about how we come to this art and what it can hold for us. Many thanks.

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 05-29-2004, 10:34 AM   #4
SeiserL
 
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Re: Just maybe I figured something out?

From one "grunt" to another, my compliments on your insight.

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 05-29-2004, 07:03 PM   #5
kironin
 
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Ki Symbol Re: Just maybe I figured something out?

Hi Dave,

Jill said you were an interesting student to have. (and I think she meant fun too.)

I have said some things to students similar to what you have come up with, but then words are just words. Very cheap.
Nothing replaces working it out for yourself !

Keep it up. Sounds great!

best,
Craig
Houston Ki Society
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Old 05-29-2004, 07:52 PM   #6
MaryKaye
Dojo: Seattle Ki Society
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Re: Just maybe I figured something out?

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
When that happens it's very much like the descriptions you read of kensho experiences in Zen. You look at it and you go "Wow; it was there all along. It was so simple, why couldn't I get it?."
Yes! I can't claim any big insights, but even the little ones are like that.

A couple of months ago I was being held by a much senior student, challenged to move despite his grip. Something distracted me momentarily and I just moved without thinking much about it, and he suddenly wasn't able to hold me. He demanded to know what I'd just done, and all I could say was "I did what you've been telling me to do for the last six months: I didn't worry about the fact that you were holding me. That's it. Only I just realized that for six months I've been *pretending* not to worry about it, and that doesn't work."

Great article, Dave. Thanks very much for posting it.

Mary Kaye
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Old 05-29-2004, 09:24 PM   #7
DaveO
Dojo: Great Wave Aikido
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Re: Just maybe I figured something out?

Quote:
Craig Hocker wrote:
Hi Dave,

Jill said you were an interesting student to have. (and I think she meant fun too.)
Actually; I think she meant "Major big-time pain in the Arse."
If not; I'm just not working hard enough at annoying her; like any good student should.
Hee hee - thanks!

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Old 05-29-2004, 11:59 PM   #8
Bronson
 
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Re: Just maybe I figured something out?

Dave,

Just so you know, you are on my list of people to train with before I die

Bronson

p.s. Would it be alright if I copied your post privately to some people not on AikiWeb?

"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 05-30-2004, 12:26 AM   #9
DaveO
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Re: Just maybe I figured something out?

Quote:
Bronson Diffin wrote:
Would it be alright if I copied your post privately to some people not on AikiWeb?
Sure - don't know how valuable it would be; but please go ahead.

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Old 05-30-2004, 12:35 AM   #10
DaveO
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Re: Just maybe I figured something out?

Quote:
Craig Hocker wrote:
Hi Dave,

Jill said you were an interesting student to have. (and I think she meant fun too.)
Hmmm - actually; now I'm worried - how in the heck did I come up in conversation?!?

Answers are only easy when they're incomplete.
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Old 05-30-2004, 12:52 AM   #11
kironin
 
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Re: Just maybe I figured something out?

Quote:
Dave Organ wrote:
Hmmm - actually; now I'm worried - how in the heck did I come up in conversation?!?

hmmm... student who posts frequently to public bulletin boards and ki-info mailing lists wonders why he might ever come up in casual conversations between teachers at seminars.

we are watching you.






go to sleep,
sleep tight.

Craig
Houston Ki Society -- the knights who say Ki are watching you --

Last edited by kironin : 05-30-2004 at 12:54 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 05-30-2004, 05:13 PM   #12
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Re: Just maybe I figured something out?

Dave,

As someone who has also seen the uglier side of humanity in some of the most inhospitable places on earth, I found your post fantastic.

I continue to view the ugliness and will recall your post often. Thanks for putting your thoughts out for all.

Greg Makuch
Abu Ghuraib Prison, Iraq
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Old 05-30-2004, 11:23 PM   #13
Lan Powers
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Re: Just maybe I figured something out?

*snort* The knoghts Who Say Ki!!! *bwaaa haaa haaaaaa!!!!

Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time!
Lan

Play nice, practice hard, but remember, this is a MARTIAL art!
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Old 05-31-2004, 12:51 AM   #14
Abasan
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Re: Just maybe I figured something out?

Great post, I envy you.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 05-31-2004, 02:31 AM   #15
David Yap
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Re: Just maybe I figured something out?

Great post, Dave.

To Daniel Linden sensei, I beg to disagree you. Not everyone needs to reach san-dan to qualify for the MAI program. Teachers with apt communication skill can bring talented students to higher level in lesser time. The maxim "minimum effort, maximum effect" applies to both teaching and techniques. Aah!!, teaching is a technique too.

Once again, Dave, my compliment to your very good post.

Regards

David Yap

Last edited by David Yap : 05-31-2004 at 02:35 AM.
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Old 05-31-2004, 09:10 AM   #16
DaveO
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Re: Just maybe I figured something out?

Just wanted to add something else:
In the opening post, I said:
Quote:
I recognized right off the bat that the Sensei and his sempai had no knowledge of real-life violence;...
Just to make sure we're certain; that is not intended to be in any way disparaging or belittling. Not at all - the folks at the dojo are some of my closest friends in this city. Just a simple statement of fact; one which Jill - my Sensei - agrees with; indeed, she says it herself and is wise to do so. The lack of knowledge of violence is to my mind a good thing; because one never had the need to learn. I'd much rather train in a place like that than in a place where the Sensei doesn't know anything about violence but insists his black belt gives him knowledge on the subject - I hate that.

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