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Old 12-01-2004, 05:43 PM   #1
akiy
 
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Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Written, it seems, by Henry Ellis. Starts out, "At first sight of the above title I am sure that a lot of Aikidoist's will be angry; they will assume that this is yet another attack on the credibility of Aikido by other martial artists. On this occasion they are totally wrong. I have been a student of Aikido since 1956. In those early days I first started Judo in 1955 at the Kenshiro Abbe School of Budo, and I studied Karate with Harada Sensei and Kendo with Tomio O'Tani Sensei, so with my background I feel that I have something to offer to this debate."

http://martialarts.about.com/od/styles/a/IsAikido1.htm

-- Jun

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Old 12-01-2004, 05:55 PM   #2
mj
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Henry Ellis only surfaces to cause trouble it seems, sadly.

He never seems to recount the story of when Abbe sensei left England. Or why. And what was said by him.

Perhaps 'he would have something more to offer this debate' if he actually took part in any of it, apart from the regular though infrequent insults.

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Old 12-01-2004, 06:28 PM   #3
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Perhaps Mark you can recount the story.

I didn't find the aerticle particularily insulting.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 12-01-2004, 08:56 PM   #4
Bronson
 
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Quote:
Peter Rehse wrote:
I didn't find the aerticle particularily insulting.
Neither did I, and I suppose I'd be considered one of the "dancers" by his standards.

He is entitled to think and train as he wishes. His training has no bearing on mine.

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 12-01-2004, 09:27 PM   #5
maikerus
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Interesting arcticle.

It doesn't really seem to have any bearing on whether Aikido is or is not a martial art, but is a story of how one man started Aikido. I enjoyed it. I especially liked the thing with the knife on page 2

--Michael

Hiriki no yosei 3 - The kihon that makes your head ache instead of your legs
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Old 12-01-2004, 09:31 PM   #6
CNYMike
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Quote:
Mark Johnston wrote:
....He never seems to recount the story of when Abbe sensei left England. Or why. And what was said by him....
What happened? I don't know that one either.

As to the article, well, the first thought that popped into my mind was that I've done seminars under Sifu Dan Inosnato and and Maha Guru Victor de Thouars. Both of them are in their 60s; I don't think anyone in their right mind would say either of them has lost their spirit. I've also heard stories of how spry Shotokan's Kanazawa Sensei is in his 70s; the Shotokan teacher I once had keeps saying, "I'd execpt a man of 20 or 30 to move like that, but not one of 73!" By the time he was an old man, O Sensei had studied, practiced, and taught martial arts since (I think) his late teens; he contunued training right up to his death AFAIK. The idea that he slowed down and lost his spirit is laughable. One of the instructors interviewed for a New York Aikikai DVD recounted how fast O Sensei was only a few years before his death. I've also read acounts about how his joint locks never lost their effectiveness -- to say the least -- as he got older.

A second falacy is that O Sensei was interested in fighting until he got older and then became more spiritual; from what I have read, O Sensei had always viewed martial arts training as part of a spiritual development. He was only in his 40s -- not much older than I am now -- when he had the revelation that would lead him to founding Aikido.

So on both major points, that O Sensei "got religion" as he got older; and that his abilities faded with age, it looks to me that Mr. Ellis is doing a convincing imitation of part of a horse's anatomy.

WRT "the dance," in the year since my Kali instructor was granted permission to teach Pentjak Silat Serak, I have had the virtues of training safely drilled into me. When doing throws in Kali and Serak, although the techniques may be more "combative" than Aikido, we aren't going much faster than in Aikido class -- sometimes slower! Doing the "the dance" relatively slowly and safely is a good way to learn the mechancis. In fact, I've been speculating that a case can be made that the post-WW2 changes to Aikido were designed to make it safer for the general public to investigate the art without accidentally killing each other.

As to the irony of an Aikido person starting a fight (and succeeding), I leave that for other minds to ponder.

My 2p.

Hormat ....

Mas Mike
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Old 12-01-2004, 09:35 PM   #7
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Interesting article, but why would you pepper it with personal opinions, many of which could be considered antagonizing? Would it not just be easier to write an opinion peace?

"I think we can safely assume that as these teachers were so hard and positive then this must have been the style of Aikido that was being taught at the Hombu dojo in Japan." Maybe they were so out-of-line with what O-Sensei was trying to teach them, or maybe Hombu just got fed up with the megalomaniacs cracking heads left and right and banished them
Whatever....

And why/how did Abbe sensei leave?

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Old 12-01-2004, 09:37 PM   #8
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

The implication of the article is that since there early Aikidoists were hard, then Aikido back then was hard.

This is somewhat like listening to certain classics of rock and roll and comparing it to the vast amount of drivel that exist today. Forgetting of course that the vast amount of drivel from back then was - well forgotten.

I personally am not too impressed by some of the directions Aikido has gone but I think it is incorrect to assume that all members of the early post-war Aikikai were as intense as say Chiba. There are interviews of members of the pre-war dojo where the person points out how important safety was by way of example. I think Hell dojo had more to do with the lack of mats.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 12-01-2004, 09:45 PM   #9
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

I too would like to know the story of why he left, if there is such a story. I heard he had a car accident at some point. One story I do know is that an art I used to practise in the UK, Kyushindo, was founded by him. One story I heard was that he used to be a Judo teacher but caused a problem when he promoted a brown belt to black belt because he easily bounced several 1st and 2nd Dans. Abe said that he was ready and so graded him - but such an approach side-tracked the British Judo Association grading rules etc etc. I think Abe left and formed the British Judo Council, and then came Kyushindo. Not sure exactly ... any clarification appreciated.
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Old 12-01-2004, 09:47 PM   #10
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Quote:
Mark Johnston wrote:
Henry Ellis only surfaces to cause trouble it seems, sadly.

He never seems to recount the story of when Abbe sensei left England. Or why. And what was said by him.

Perhaps 'he would have something more to offer this debate' if he actually took part in any of it, apart from the regular though infrequent insults.
Hi Mark,

As per Peter, I found no offending insults/trouble in Henry Ellis' article. IMO, he merely compared the aikido that was practiced in 50's-60's with the present state; in the same way as one would compare karate or judo then and present.

I can relate his feelings to the other recent posts here: "Dropping of teaching standards", "Instructors' qualities and characteristics", "Students' qualities and characteristics" and the lastest video clip in the humor section "You are attacking me wrongly".

The only area that I do not agree with Henry is his definition of the word - Art. He could mean:

Aikido - The art of self defense
Aikido - The art of peace
Aikido - The art of dancing
Aikido - The art of choreography
Aikido - The art of sociology
and the list goes on...

O sensei said, "My aikido means different things to different people" - my take is that he meant his students would read different principles being applied in his technique. But some instructors take his quote differently. The best BS that I come across is still this:

"Different people practice aikido for different reasons, some just to sweat, some treat it like a game of badminton, some train for self-defense and some treat it like aerobics". This statement implies that he teaching aikido to the needs of the students which can be anything but a martial art. On the other side of the coin, I have people practicing to hurt others and the teacher just don't bother.

O sensei did not create a fake martial art. Commercialism did.

Regards

David Y

PS Nobody gets dislocated joints or broken bones playing badminton or doing aerobics - very very rare.

Last edited by David Yap : 12-01-2004 at 09:51 PM.
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Old 12-01-2004, 10:03 PM   #11
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Quote:
David Yap wrote:
PS Nobody gets dislocated joints or broken bones playing badminton or doing aerobics - very very rare.
It's a bit of a running joke at the moment. One of my students dropped out of the Kansai Taikai held last week-end because he broke a bone playing table tennis. Now we warned him about playing those dangerous games but would he listen? Noooooo.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 12-02-2004, 04:22 AM   #12
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Quote:
Mark Johnston wrote:
Henry Ellis only surfaces to cause trouble it seems, sadly.

He never seems to recount the story of when Abbe sensei left England. Or why. And what was said by him.

Perhaps 'he would have something more to offer this debate' if he actually took part in any of it, apart from the regular though infrequent insults.
As a student of Henry's I would disagree that he only causes trouble and I would actually like to hear the insults he has made as I don't believe he would do that off-hand. If you mean he says that other aikido styles are crap and that bothers you or you think he implies your style is crap then get on the mat and prove it isn't but don't stand back and say "oo he's saying we're rubbish what an insulting man he is". Come on down and try his style then comment on it.

But lets hear the story of why Abbe sensie left and what he said I'm interested to hear what you know about it. There seems to be very little on the web regarding sensei Abbe and it seems a shame considering all the work he put into the MA in the UK.

peace.
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Old 12-02-2004, 04:45 AM   #13
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

I have read, as far as I know, all of Sensei Ellis's writings and sayings on the net, his very strong opinions on what is and what is not aikido, his travels around the country and so on.

He is entitled to his opinions and I am entitled to disagree with his opinions.

I stand by remark that it is another side-swipe at other forms of aikido. which he does not like, to the point that he actually insults both the styles and the practitioners. Perhaps someone can point me to a link where he says something nice about them I may be compelled to change my opinion. (which I do regularly )

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Old 12-02-2004, 05:09 AM   #14
Michael Cardwell
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

So whats up with this article? Why does Henry Ellis say that a lot of the Aikido taught today is like old man Aikido( if thats not an insult, what is it? ). And why in this story does he keep calling O-sensei an old man when Abbe sensei first met him, then after training with O-sensei for ten years and leaving, suddenly O-sensei gets old and frail and only teaches weak techniques.

I had always heard that O-sensei taught less and less physical classes as he got older, but never anything about him loosing his intensity. This article sounds kind of like a "My style is better" argument.
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Old 12-02-2004, 05:54 AM   #15
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Here's the full article for those who want to read everything (about.com only published part 1).

http://www.ellisaikido.org/isaikmart.html

As for Ellis being insulting - well, he's entitled to his True-Aikido-Boy, Tougher-Than-Thou attitude, just as I am entitled to ignore him <shrug>. And the world goes on....
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Old 12-02-2004, 07:12 AM   #16
deepsoup
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote:
One story I do know is that an art I used to practise in the UK, Kyushindo, was founded by him.
Hi Rupert,

I'm curious, what was Kyushindo as a martial art? Was it a blend of Abbe's background arts, kind of what Yoseikan aiki-budo became to Mochizuki?
I've really only heard of Kyushindo as a system of philosophy - I spent some time as a lad training in a BJC dojo with an extraordinary judo instructor who was a student of Abbe's for a while. I still have my old BJC grading syllabus kicking around somewhere, there's a short blurb about Kyushindo in there. I can't really make head nor tail of it myself.

It certainly seems to be true that Abbe was rather eccentric, and he did have a reputation for grading people more or less on a whim, or at least for reasons of his own that weren't necessarily clear to anyone else. (Does that remind anyone of another eccentric martial artist with his own complex system of philosophy?) Another story I was told involved Abbe falling out with the dojo powers that be over an incident where he released birds into the dojo - again for reasons that weren't necessarily clear to anyone else.

I don't really have a problem with Mr Ellis' article, I think if you accept his somewhat abrasive writing style for what it is, he makes some good points as well as some less good ones. In a way it makes a refreshing change to read an essay by someone of Mr Ellis' seniority who isn't afraid to insult people.

Quote:
Peter R wrote:
This is somewhat like listening to certain classics of rock and roll and comparing it to the vast amount of drivel that exist today. Forgetting of course that the vast amount of drivel from back then was - well forgotten.

I personally am not too impressed by some of the directions Aikido has gone but I think it is incorrect to assume that all members of the early post-war Aikikai were as intense as say Chiba.
I think Peter is bang on here. Mr Ellis seems to assume that Chiba and Abbe were representative of the average standard at honbu at the time, but it hardly seems likely to me that either man could be described as "average", whichever dojo they happened to be training in.

Sean
x
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Old 12-02-2004, 07:54 AM   #17
ian
 
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

I did train under Sensei Ellis for a very brief period - he seemed an OK chap to me. I also think he raises some well considered points that have also been raised by others. I have little doubt myself that many of the top uchideschi and Ueshiba himself were physically very tough (inc. e.g. shioda) and that many people in aikido now do not realise the importance of physical prowess and a determined mental attitude.

However I also believe that as he got older Ueshiba got better at 'blending'. You can't help getting older and weaker, and then you can't get away with the simple use of force and fitness. In my mind blending is much harder to achieve than strength or fitness. Will someone (esp. young people) who can't be bothered to keep themselves fit be likely to have the commitment to develop a good ability at blending? I would differentiate between those who are tough and those who are aggressive, though (which may have be the case for one of the uchideschi mentioned by Ellis).

In some respects I agree with Sensei Ellis (and I felt, even if there was a degree of opinion, it was informed opinion); however I'm pretty convinced that Ueshiba's blending abilties improved to compensate somewhat for his reduction in physical ability (compare video footage in his mid 40's to that when he is 60).

For this reason I believe aikido training should not omit any of these 3 aspects:
1. stationary training (mechanical advantage)
2. hard and fast attack (for timing and attitude)
3. slow attack with light contact (for blending)

There are those who teach aikido that believe it is not a self-defence; however for me self-defence is the absolute focus of aikido and without it the rest cannot be obtained.

Last edited by ian : 12-02-2004 at 08:02 AM.

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 12-02-2004, 08:13 AM   #18
Dazzler
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

When Tadashi Abe Sensei came to the UK in 1950s he brought with him a young french 3rd Dan - Pierre Chassang.

Harry Ellis makes a reference to Pierre on his website.

These days Pierre Chassang is the longest practicing aikidoka in Europe and for the past 25 years of so has been the technical inspiration of the National Aikido Federation.

As a result of the publicity Harry Ellis received over his 'Controversy' argument with the BAB, He ended up in contact with our organisation and some 14 months ago came and met Pierre at our summer school.

He gave a short presentation and then we practiced.

For me he was very correct in his insistence that the history of Aikido in UK should be preserved and not rewritten by those with more neck that a tall giraffe. The stories he gave us were excellent and fascinating.

Interestingly enough it seems that the BAB have finally accepted that they were mistaken in an award they made...but that is another story.

I agreed with this stance on this preservation of true history. Fair play to him for taking the BAB to task over this whole unfortunate incident.

In his demonstration he showed how his group has stuck rigidly to the aikido they first encountered when it entered the UK and insisted they would not change.

I did not agree with this.

I found it dangerous and only thanks to instinct and experience avoided lengthy injury through a nikkyo from the dark ages which worked fine when the partner gave you their body but which no-one would ever land on me for real. One of my friends was not so lucky.

My opinion is that aikido and the individual are linked. Both should mature with time. While Mr Ellis recognises that his body does this he fights time by attempting to practice as he did in his 20s.

While I believe that by definition Aikido is fixed. (Using the principles of the tao to merge the man and ki) I believe that methods of practice are constantly developing as is understanding.

To rigidly adhere to standards set by individual when aikido was in its infancy seems short sighted. No matter how high ones opinions of those individuals were.

But that is Mr Ellis choice.

I see an opinion in the articles and a strong one too. Martial arts training breeds strong character and hence strong opinions.

I just don't agree with it...but I'm not insulted.

Respectfully

D
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Old 12-02-2004, 12:33 PM   #19
Beau
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

IMHO,
To me it seems as if Aikido is broken into many different levels, much like sports are. Take top NFL players for instance. They have trained and developed their bodies for years, studied the game, played it at every level, and have the genetic ability to do so. Much like the NFL, I believe Aikido has its top tier players...Saito, Saotome, Shirata, Yamada, Chiba...the list goes on and on.....
However, football is fun. Many people enjoy playing it without all of the stuff that goes into becoming an NFL star. Many do not have the time, drive, or ability to ever make it. I think Aikido should have room for people that wish to play "back yard Aikido" whether it be for fitness, fun, or to simply gain confidence.
I do however agree that if I ever hope to even become one of Aikido's better than average martially skilled practitioners, I will have to continue to train and forge myself much in the same way as the top guys did. I don't believe that you can gain such a high level of ability by simply mimicing O'sensei in his older years. Its kinda like playing the guitar...If you learn one song by watching a virtuoso and play it over and over you can then play a difficult piece of music without ever developing the core techniques and understanding of the guitar...(even though its fun to show your friends) =0)
I think Ellis Sensei's frustation may come from the idea that it seems like many people want the end result without the work and time that is involved in getting there. Ahhh...I can't wait till they make Aikido Mastery in a bottle...just take two a day...=0)

Just my 1/50$
Beau Biller
FSU Aikido
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Old 12-02-2004, 01:24 PM   #20
philipsmith
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Everyone has their own personal take on Aikido and its history. It sometimes seems to me that (to misquote) we all "look through a glass darkly" i.e. we all have a selective take on everything.
Aikido is now different than it was when Mr. Ellis began, than it was when I began and my perspective and view of Aikido are different to Mr. Ellis'. Despite that we will be on the same mat next year.

Perhaps we need an impartial observer; that is a non-Aikidoka; to give us an answer.

BUT is it that important? As long as we practice sincerely and with an open mind Aikido should be a broad church allowing everyone in and not having a problem with individuals who do not share the "orthodox" view. If you like what Mr. Ellis does train with him, if you like what I do train with me and so on. However if you only train with me and never see Mr Ellis' Aikido how can you judge him?

AS a student of T. K. Chiba Shihan I know people who would not train with my teacher because of his reputation. I have also met Aikidoka who will not train with for example at a Shodokan dojo because "Its not real Aikido"

Basically you pay your money and make your choice (literally)


Philip Smith
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Old 12-02-2004, 02:03 PM   #21
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

I quite enjoyed the article but can certainly see why it has gotten some people's backs up. It is true that in some quarters Aikido has become less martial and more artsy. No problem with that as long as people realise what the go is and aren't getting delusions of grandeur.
The old man/young man aikido discussion is interesting. Here's my take, I doubt that O'sensei lost spirit as he got older. I'm sure though that his technique had advanced to a point where he could get away with alot of flowing and blending an non martial looking movements that most people can't. And this is perhaps something to be concerned about. Similarly most (maybe all?) of O'sensei's senior and stand out students had advanced backgrounds in other arts. Oftentimes today that is not the case.
So my point is this. In trying to emulate O'sensei's later Aikido, often withtout a strong combat art in our own background, are we trying to reach the end point of his evolution without going through the same evolutionary process he did? Is it possible to do that, or should we be starting with harder more combat like training and look to advance to the level of aiki he acheived through that training? Or is it indeed possible to say Ueshiba did that development work for us and we can pick up more or less where he got to?

"When your only tool is a hammer every problem starts to look like a nail"
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Old 12-02-2004, 06:04 PM   #22
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Quote:
Michael Cardwell wrote:
So whats up with this article? Why does Henry Ellis say that a lot of the Aikido taught today is like old man Aikido( if thats not an insult, what is it? ).
As a counter point I returned to Japan after a couple of years training in Canada some of which was in Aikikai dojos. At one point I did a tenkan and my Shihan yelled out "Old man Aikido". I gues Henry baby is not alone.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 12-02-2004, 07:20 PM   #23
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

I just wish everybody who scoffs at "aikido-as-dance", as they call it, would take one hour and a half ballet class.

Q
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Old 12-02-2004, 07:40 PM   #24
PeterR
 
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Actually Jo I use the dance analogy quite often to get my students to understand Budo spirit.

When a top-level ballet dancer does Giselle she must become a 16 year bundle of naivety.
When she dances Carmen she must become a 26 year old pack of trouble.
Same with Budo - you must mentally become what you are trying to achieve.

That little aside most ballet teachers (I'm married to one) at local clubs face the same problem as Aikido . Students just going through the motions. She has commented a number of times about the level of discipline shown by students of my teacher and how a greater proportion seem to get it.

Now the physical requirement of top-flight dancers is pretty high and that coupled with the almost anorexic nature of the women make the potential for injury horrible. I don't wish that life on anyone.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 12-02-2004, 08:34 PM   #25
CNYMike
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Re: Article: "Is Aikido a Martial Art?"

Quote:
Jo Adell wrote:
I just wish everybody who scoffs at "aikido-as-dance", as they call it, would take one hour and a half ballet class.
When we lived in Larchmont, my mother was in a dancersize class. She loved to tell the story about how one weekend, all the husbands came. They went in big tough men, ready to show their wives how to workout. They left stiff and achey all over!

On the martial arts front, back in March I got back into Aikido after a 16 year "break," during which I took up things like Kali and Pentjak Silat Serak ("Serak") which are considered more combat oriented than Aikido.

Guess which class leaves me with the most aches and pains?

You guessed it, Aikido. Can't tell whether it's the "old man" or "young man" version; Sensei seems to be drawing on a bunch of sources. But there you are.
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