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Old 09-08-2004, 06:16 PM   #1
david evans
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"Aikido without the sword"

G'day to anyone who reads this,

I will begin by saying that I train in Iwama style, and as such approximately 50% of our training time is given to weapons.

I have just read an article by Michael Field, Headmaster of Iwama Ryu Aikido Australia, 5th Dan Iwama Ryu Aikido (http://www.martial.com.au/aikido/art...oswordnoaikido) in which he puts forward the thesis "that much of Aikido as we know it today is not what Ueshiba would have called Aikido " and that there cannot be "Aikido without the sword".

Field Sensei goes on to quote Stanley Pranin, editor of Aiki Journal, who states "Aikido, though still considered a budo by some, retains little of its historical martial effectiveness due to the soft, casual nature of practise and as such has been transformed into what could be better called a health or exercise system."

I think Aikido is a wonderful exercise system. But, I also think that it is full of wonderful martial traditions (weapons, techniques etc) that should be kept alive.

Sorry if this post seems over long. However, I feel Field Sensei raises some important points.

Any comment would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
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Old 09-08-2004, 06:57 PM   #2
Jordan Steele
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

You're completely right, weapons and the sword in particular are essential to breeding solid Aikido. Bokken encounters and Iaido add so much more power and sharpness to Aikido. Learning how to cut is the first step in learning how to throw...(powerfully). Aikido without weapons is something else...not Aikido...just a lazy or unqualified instructor that is not interested in "real aikido." Sad, but true.
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Old 09-08-2004, 08:29 PM   #3
shihonage
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

Stanley Pranin appears to be primarily a businessman and secondarily an Aikido practitioner.
He runs an Aikido website where he makes you pay to access videoclips and articles.
He sells overpriced DVD's and organizes Aiki Expo events which happen (with the exception of several participating gems such as Hiroshi Ikeda or Peter Goldsbury) to be some of the saddest showcases of the Aikido technique ever conceived - but hey, I am sure he rakes in quite a bit of money from selling the footage.

I've learned, when someone asks me what Aikido is, NOT to show them the Aiki Expo tapes, because they will make them laugh and lose any potential interest in the art.

In the light of what Mr. Pranin tends to portray as Aikido in his tapes, seeing him complain about Aikido's martial inneffectiness is pretty ironic.

On the other hand, if we assume for a moment that the tapes actually accurately reflect the current state of Aikido, then the art is dead.
It's as simple as that.
Bye-bye Aikido, you've gone the way of Tai Chi.
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Old 09-08-2004, 09:16 PM   #4
tony cameron
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

personally, i don't think a martial art has to be obvioulsy brutal to be considered martially effective. if someone thinks that Aikido is 'martially ineffective,' then they ought to look into hap ki do or kuk sool wan (MA i also happen to consider fundamentally true Budo in essence, just more unforgiving to would be attackers) or the less dignified "sport" full-contact MA. i've heard people say the same thing about the gentler MA such as tai chi and chi gong: "jeez, they're just moving in slow motion. they don't even come into contact with each other!" ha! i dare some fool to attack a chi gong master. you will find yourself dazed and on the ground so fast imho, O Sensei toned his art down on purpose so that everyone would want to learn and not to be afraid to step on the mat. after all, he is a truly enlightened sage and we are not. yet
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Old 09-08-2004, 09:36 PM   #5
Amassus
 
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

Quote:
after all, he is a truly enlightened sage and we are not. yet
I couldn't agree more.
Train how you want to train and stop worrying about what others are doing. There are many styles and ways to learn aikido, choose which you like best and train sincerely. That is all that can be asked. I think each perspective of aikido has its pros. Who are we to judge.

Sorry to sound harsh, this sort of thing seems to come up often in the forums.
I'm getting a little tired of it.

"flows like water, reflects like a mirror, and responds like an echo." Chaung-tse
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Old 09-08-2004, 09:47 PM   #6
L. Camejo
 
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

This may be a dumb question in and of itself, but was Ueshiba M. actually skilled enough in any koryu kenjutsu (i.e. menkyo level) to teach sword technique to anyone, or did he just take the basic principles of sword movement and apply it to Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu, which he was qualified to teach, to create the Aiki ken stuff? From my reading I can't remember him being trained in sword to the level of being able to teach it, but I could be wrong.

I've been told by people who have experienced koryu kenjutsu that many of the practices used in Aiki Ken (e.g. way of holding sword, basic cutting postures and methods etc.) works very well for Aikido training if things were being related back to empty handed Aikido movements, but would be dangerous and even ridiculous if used against someone trained to handle a sword from a koryu, if taken from an effectiveness standpoint.

In fact this has been one reason why I am now re-evaluating many things regarding how I approach sword work, being one who believes one should strike like a seasoned striker, grab like a seasoned grappler, use a katana like a skilled kenjutsuka etc. to get the highest quality of attack one is training with when doing empty handed Aikido work.

Having read the link that David provided it appears to me that the author has made a lot of assumptions regarding Ueshiba M.'s mind and "what he would have wanted". He is of course not the first instructor to be guilty of this and will by no means be the last. It seems everyone has a different view of "what O-Sensei wanted Aikido to be."

Personally I think Aikido can be qualified as Budo without necessitating over-emphasis on sword training. I believe the sword (and jo) is critical to gaining a deeper understanding of Aikido's empty handed movement and other training aspects. But to paraphrase an instructor in the know who has tackled these questions for many years more than me - "I have my hands and arms - tegatana, this is the only sword I need to practice Aikido."

The argument being placed by the author in linking the sword back to the samurai may as well be also applied to Aikidoka who don't wear hakama, as this is also a traditional link to the samurai that is not practiced in the same way and does not have the same meaning as it may have had to Ueshiba M. and those of his time. The question is though, does learning to handle a katana and wearing a divided skirt a Bushi (Samurai) make? From my personal experience I've found that Westerners tend to place a lot more significance (and have a lot more issues) of being seen as a "Samurai" and a "Warrior" in their training than almost all of the native Japanese (in Aikido and othe MA) I've met. The approach to training is extremely serious, but the Japanese I've met have gotten over the "wannabe Samurai" hype a long time ago. Interesting phenomenon though.

If one looks at his feet too much when walking the path, he may not realise when he has strayed from it.

Just my 2 cents.
LC

--Mushin Mugamae - No Mind No Posture. He who is possessed by nothing possesses everything.--
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Old 09-08-2004, 09:56 PM   #7
MikeE
 
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

My instructors always told me that what you teach your students must protect them and work on the street. But, they also stressed that Aikido is a benevolent art that gives the attacker every opportunity to walk away. As for martial effectiveness, I think it is alive and well in Aikido. Certain instructors tend to make sure this is part of the art, where others don't. Aikido is, exactly what it is meant to be.
A person just needs to figure out what that is for them, and then find the right instructor.

Mike Ellefson
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Old 09-08-2004, 10:29 PM   #8
Nafis Zahir
 
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

Stanley Pranin the editor of Aiki Journal and Aikido's learned historian wrote "The aikido seen commonly today differs considerably to that developed by the founder during the Iwama years in the following respects. Atemi (strikes) to vital points have been de-emphasised or eliminated. The number of techniques commonly practised has been reduced. The focus on irimi (entering) and initiation of techniques by tori [person executing the technique] has been lost, and the distinction between omote and ura blurred. Practise of Aiki ken, jo, is infrequent or non-existent. Aikido, though still considered a budo by some, retains little of its historical martial effectiveness due to the soft, casual nature of practise and as such has been transformed into what could be better called a health or exercise system."




I once trained in a dojo that claimed "Iwama Style" and emphasized all of the above. Now I am in the Aikikai, and at my dojo, all of the things listed above still apply! So, these things are not just indicative of the Iwama Ryu students, but its prevalence is based upon who the instructor may be. My Sensei works on all of the above mentioned aspects of aikido. He does weapons and relates the movements to open hand techniques. We use atemi, and he makes a distinct difference betweem omote and ura, and irimi and tenkan. Our practices are not usually soft or casual, but then again, that me often be left up to the student, as everybody practices at a different level of intensity. It should also be noted, however, that many of the Shihans, such as Yamada Sensei, who do not emphasize weapons, are still extremely effective in the Art. There are other Shihans I have seen, who do weapons differently than the late Saito Shihan, yet still have the most effective techniques as their counterparts who do not do weapons and even the late Saito Shihan himself. This debate will continue forever, but Aikido will always change and it was never meant to stay the same.

I have seen instructors do techniques with no atemi and questioned the effectiveness of such techniques. When it was shown again, the technique was done with powerful application, such, that the atemi was not even necessary or an after-thought at best. It was then explained to me that there is a time and a place for atemi. In my opinion, I think the only thing O'Sensei would be displeased with today, is the lack of foundation or basics seen in alot of schools nowadays. Without foundation or basics, in whatever form they are taught, you can never do effective Aikido. Just my opinion, for I am only a beginner.

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Old 09-09-2004, 12:32 AM   #9
Chris Li
 
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote:
This may be a dumb question in and of itself, but was Ueshiba M. actually skilled enough in any koryu kenjutsu (i.e. menkyo level) to teach sword technique to anyone, or did he just take the basic principles of sword movement and apply it to Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu, which he was qualified to teach, to create the Aiki ken stuff? From my reading I can't remember him being trained in sword to the level of being able to teach it, but I could be wrong.
1) Well, he was never clasically trained in the sword - ie, he never enrolled in a school and worked his way up through the curriculum in the normal manner.
2) He spent quite a lot of time training with the sword, but it seems to have been a combination of his own ideas and what he picked up along the way from various sources.
3) Accounts (and opinions) vary as to how skilled he was with the sword, but some famous swordsmen were known to have high opinions of his swordwork.
4) Morihei really never taught much of anything as we think of teaching it, in any case. The Aiki-ken that you see today is the result of the efforts of various students to capture and duplicate what they saw him doing.

In an aside to the main topic of the thread, Morihei originally adopted Nakayama Hakudo to succeed him because he felt that his art was closer to Kendo than unarmed arts like Judo.

Best,

Chris

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Old 09-09-2004, 01:02 AM   #10
kironin
 
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

Quote:
Aleksey Sundeyev wrote:
On the other hand, if we assume for a moment that the tapes actually accurately reflect the current state of Aikido, then the art is dead.
It's as simple as that.
Bye-bye Aikido, you've gone the way of Tai Chi.

Never having actually seen any of the videos, I wonder what edited parts are on them since the demos took up two LONG nights each time. There were a few good performances and then some non-Aikido stuff and some IMNSHO silly or questionable stuff. Since I was there, I am not really interested in paying to surplant what I remember as the highlights with what Stan chose to focus on.

While I respect the historical research Stan has done, his generalizations and editorials about Aikido as a martial art really just don't amount to much to me. He has too many assumptions about what is effective or not that I just don't agree with.

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Old 09-09-2004, 01:32 AM   #11
kironin
 
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote:
In an aside to the main topic of the thread, Morihei originally adopted Nakayama Hakudo to succeed him because he felt that his art was closer to Kendo than unarmed arts like Judo.

Best,
Chris

My understanding was that they were good friends, but I never heard this!
What is your source ?

Nakayama Hakudo was 10 years older than Morihei Ueshiba and totally immersed study of the swordmanship (16th Headmaster of Shimimura ha Jinsuke Eishin Ryu, also studied with Oe Masamichi Shikei (Tanimura ha EJR). He was a very senior kendoka who was involved in formulating the Kendo no kata, studied various kenjutsu under well known teachers such as Yamaguchi Itto Ryu, etc.)

I don't recall any mention of him of having studied aikijujutsu or aiki-budo though I imagine he must have done some weaponless training at some point in the kenjutsu schools.

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Old 09-09-2004, 02:11 AM   #12
grondahl
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

I think Cris Li is actually thinking of Kiyoshi Nakakura, student of Nakayama.

More info: http://www.aikidojournal.com/article...light=Nakakura
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Old 09-09-2004, 05:41 AM   #13
markwalsh
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

People are always going to argue about the place of weapons in Aikido, and what is or isn't effective Aikido. Personally I train in Aiki-ken, but have felt very effective Aikido from people who don't. The Aikido world is big enough for everyone and variety is a good thing, that Osensei seemed to encourage (over uniformity). I am however just another mosquito and quite frankly the debate is stale.

In regard to Stan Pranin and Aikido Journal :

- Yes AJ is run as a business (we do, perhaps unfortunately, live in a capitalist world). But it's run professionally as a result, and this approach enables AJ do things that we hobbyists can't. The standard and quantity of material available through it are second to none. Who out there has done the research that Mr Pranin has done? What great teachers are on the DVD of the event that you've arranged? On Aikiweb we chat and bitch (enjoyable enough), but at Aikido Journal a team researches and organises.

I recently contributed an interview to AJ and was proud to do so.

Good day to you sir (said in posh English accent)

Mark
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Old 09-09-2004, 06:04 AM   #14
asiawide
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

My question is.... If weapon training is required to understand aikido body techniques, which style should I learn? Morihiro Saito sensei's? Shoji Nishio sensei's? Which is right since many bokken or jo styles are very different. even in basic stance and grip are.

In body techniques, there is something called a CORE, but what's the core among many aikiken(or aikijo) styles? Simple cutting or thrusting?

Or weapon training is just a boat which should be thrown away after crossing river??

I'm very curious...
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Old 09-09-2004, 07:59 AM   #15
Dazzler
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

Quote:
Jaemin Yu wrote:
My question is.... If weapon training is required to understand aikido body techniques, which style should I learn?
Weapons training id not required to practice aikido !

It is a very useful way of examining aikido principles but you can get excellent aikido without ever picking up a bokken.

I imagine the reverse is true and great aikido can develop with just aiki-ken and aiki-jo. As long as the practice is aiki-ken and not kenjutsu.

The point is that tai jutsu and weapons practice should be complimentary - If they aren't then there is no relationship...it would be equally beneficial to practice kendo.

Quote:
Jaemin Yu wrote:
which style should I learn? Morihiro Saito sensei's? Shoji Nishio sensei's? Which is right since many bokken or jo styles are very different. even in basic stance and grip are.

In body techniques, there is something called a CORE, but what's the core among many aikiken(or aikijo) styles? Simple cutting or thrusting?
Which style doesn't matter as long as it compliments your body work. The core of aiki and aiki-ken / aiki-jo are the same.

It doesn't matter where you start, its where you end so initial basic differences mean little in the long run.

Quote:
Jaemin Yu wrote:

Or weapon training is just a boat which should be thrown away after crossing river??
aikido practice is on-going, if you incorporate weapons to increase your knowledge this is also on-going.

Aikido is a river that cannot be crossed. If you think you are on the other side and perfect then you probably would need to start all over again!

Respectfully

D
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Old 09-09-2004, 08:13 AM   #16
Don_Modesto
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

Quote:
Aleksey Sundeyev wrote:
Stanley Pranin appears to be primarily a businessman and secondarily an Aikido practitioner.
He runs an Aikido website where he makes you pay to access videoclips and articles.
He sells overpriced DVD's and organizes Aiki Expo events which happen (with the exception of several participating gems such as Hiroshi Ikeda or Peter Goldsbury) to be some of the saddest showcases of the Aikido technique ever conceived - but hey, I am sure he rakes in quite a bit of money from selling the footage.

I've learned, when someone asks me what Aikido is, NOT to show them the Aiki Expo tapes, because they will make them laugh and lose any potential interest in the art.

In the light of what Mr. Pranin tends to portray as Aikido in his tapes, seeing him complain about Aikido's martial inneffectiness is pretty ironic.

On the other hand, if we assume for a moment that the tapes actually accurately reflect the current state of Aikido, then the art is dead.
It's as simple as that.
Bye-bye Aikido, you've gone the way of Tai Chi.
Whoa, Aleksey, harsh!

I usually agree with you (and love you for your economy of words), but here I've got to disagree strongly.

I doubt very much that Stanley is getting rich; to the contrary, I imagine he sweats he bills and house payments and two kids' tuitions the same as the rest of us. I personally think that he would make more money with economies of scale (selling more of cheaper products removing incentive to pirate), but, too, he is offering a premium product. That paltry $30 subscription fee "he makes you pay" gives you access to several books' worth of material in the archives section and the videoclips are great. I keep returning to them. And the forums--hopefully one day to return to their former grandeur--are free.

As to the quality of the demos at the Expos, I don't think I'd toss out the majority so cavalierly as you do. Many were excellent. Some were off, yes. Maybe they were poor practitioners or maybe they had a bad day. Speaking of which, geez, man, did you spill hot coffee in your lap before sending that post? Whew!

Don J. Modesto
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Old 09-09-2004, 12:58 PM   #17
shihonage
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

You imagine this, I imagine differently.
At the end we can only speculate.
Given how he's been doing this business for many years and it only seems to be expanding, it wouldn't be going out on a limb to say that he's doing allright.

As to the quality of the demos, hey, maybe they've vastly improved !
I have the 2002 Aiki Expo tape set, but now I'll buy the 2003 DVD set, halfway out of unwarranted hope and halfway out of morbid curiosity.

Last edited by shihonage : 09-09-2004 at 01:02 PM.
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Old 09-09-2004, 01:23 PM   #18
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

I agree that Aikidoka should study sword. The style doesn't matter in my opinion as the basics are the basics accross the board. O'Sensei developed Aikido after studying a multitude of differents arts over more than half of his life. Aikido is an eclectic style and as such I think that it is important for its practicioners should study sword, jo, and whatever else fancies their interest to help broaden their understanding of the art.

Lyle Laizure
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Old 09-09-2004, 01:55 PM   #19
kironin
 
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

Quote:
Aleksey Sundeyev wrote:
As to the quality of the demos, hey, maybe they've vastly improved !
I have the 2002 Aiki Expo tape set, but now I'll buy the 2003 DVD set, halfway out of unwarranted hope and halfway out of morbid curiosity.

Having been there the first night which went way really long overtime for no worthwhile reason, I decided to skip out on the next night to get some rest and spend some time on the Vegas strip. Having heard what went on the the second night and it also went really late over the scheduled time, I wouldn't get your hopes up if the 2002 tapes didn't appeal to you.

at least Imaizumi Sensei should be on the tape, as he was the first demonstration on Friday night. Nothing fancy, just the good stuff.

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Old 09-09-2004, 02:04 PM   #20
Chris Li
 
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

Quote:
Peter Grdahl wrote:
I think Cris Li is actually thinking of Kiyoshi Nakakura, student of Nakayama.

More info: http://www.aikidojournal.com/article...light=Nakakura

Of course you're right, Nakayama Hakudo was instrumental in arranging the match. In any case, the reasoning is the same.

Best,

Chris

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Old 09-10-2004, 03:49 PM   #21
david evans
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

Hi,

Thanks for the comments. Some have been more helpful than others. As I am new to this, I was not aware that the issue is "stale" and that people were "tired of it". But I was under the impression that these forums were a place to discuss aikido related topics.

My apologies though, I re-read my post and it is rather open ended; no question as such.

After training in a "style" for a few years with little emphasis on weapons, I have changed in the last six months to one that places significant importance in bokken and jo, which I thoroughly enjoy.

I read Field sensei's article and was hoping that others might be able to shed some light on the subject of the bokken's place in aikido training. Is it central? Can there really be no "Aikido without the sword"?

Should we train 'open-handed, as though we were using a sword and train with a sword, as though we were using open-hand?"

Once again, thanks for those who contributed.
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Old 09-10-2004, 09:08 PM   #22
kironin
 
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

Quote:
David Evans wrote:
Should we train 'open-handed, as though we were using a sword and train with a sword, as though we were using open-hand?"
not a bad idea.

can't really answer your question because I trained with a bokken from the beginning and other students do too so have no way of making any comparisons.

perhaps it all comes down to something personal.

for me it works.
it works even better to go beyond aiki-ken and to cross-train in iaido
but that's my personal experience and feeling of enhancing training.

Last edited by kironin : 09-10-2004 at 09:11 PM.

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Old 09-10-2004, 09:27 PM   #23
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Re: "Aikido without the sword"

Quote:
Aleksey Sundeyev wrote:

I've learned, when someone asks me what Aikido is, NOT to show them the Aiki Expo tapes, because they will make them laugh and lose any potential interest in the art.

In the light of what Mr. Pranin tends to portray as Aikido in his tapes, seeing him complain about Aikido's martial inneffectiness is pretty ironic.

On the other hand, if we assume for a moment that the tapes actually accurately reflect the current state of Aikido, then the art is dead.
It's as simple as that.
Bye-bye Aikido, you've gone the way of Tai Chi.
Interesting opinion. I suspected Aiki expo is waste of time and $$$, most of those instructors from California are hard core of aiki fruitiness. I wonder why he is inviting them.

Back to topic, there is no aikido without the sword. Sword practice (I'm NOT talking here about aiki ken OF COURSE) gives you direction at any level of aikido practice. Physical direction and spiritual direction. It is particularly important if you don't have a shihan as daily instuctor at your dojo.

YES, sword is a soul of aikido practice.

Nagababa

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