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Old 05-17-2005, 11:26 AM   #1
ChrisHein
 
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Staying soft.

I often hear Aikidoka talking about "being" or "staying" soft. Meaning that they stay in a place where they are not resisting, and not forcing technique. I would agree that this is a very important part of Aikido. The ability to be responsive, and move with your attacker is essential in developing "Aiki".

The problem I see is not in the Idea of being "soft", it's in the idea of training this concept. While it's true that most beginners need to focus on being sensitive, and relaxing, and should be kept at a very slow pace. Advanced Aikidoka seldom leave this generally relaxed environment with their practice of their Aikido. They may speed up the practice, ask for harder attacks, and even practice regular jiyuwaza, but they are still leaving themselves completely untrained with respects to real resistance. By never practicing your technique against resistive opponents, you are short sideing yourself. When you actually meet a resistive attack in real confrontation, you are likely to freeze up, and not respond, you will lose the "softness", you've been training!
So my question Is why don't more Aikidoka practice against resistive attacks. Why is there not really any sparring* in Aikido.

-Chris Hein

*Sparring: (I know lots of people will have confusion about my usage of this word.) I mean sparring in the since that you would see in in a competitive sport martial art school.

Last edited by ChrisHein : 05-17-2005 at 11:32 AM.
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Old 05-17-2005, 11:28 AM   #2
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Re: Staying soft.

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote:
.... Why is there not really any sparring in Aikido.

-Chris Hein
oi!

You mean why is there no sparring in your Aikido.

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Old 05-17-2005, 12:11 PM   #3
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Re: Staying soft.

I agree with Mark. Chris, you need to get outside of your own style/groups and experience what many other people are doing and have been doing for many, many years.

Chuck Clark
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Old 05-17-2005, 02:08 PM   #4
AsimHanif
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Re: Staying soft.

I thought the idea was for nage to stay "soft" or calm under all circumstances- not (necessarily) uke.
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Old 05-17-2005, 02:16 PM   #5
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Re: Staying soft.

lol. if you want unpredictable resistance then just train with the newbie for a while. just kidding. Chris you have a point about not training for or against resistance, but we train that way so that we can become proficient with the movements. After you know the movement well enough to be able to do it correctly fairly often we DO add resistance. As for sparring, we call that "mulitple attackers" at my dojo. Anything is legal. If you want the best training possible, start training your aikido at a MMA/Cagefighting/Muai Thai/BJJ school. You will get beat up for a while, but if you reallly understand what you are doing soon you will be throwing everyone there. Sparring is an idea I dont like because it uses pads, rules, etc. If you want some really good training then get a job as a bouncer for a while.

Like Chuck said, train outside your normal place, go find other places. Think outside the box.
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Old 05-17-2005, 02:52 PM   #6
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Re: Staying soft.

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote:
*Sparring: (I know lots of people will have confusion about my usage of this word.) I mean sparring in the since that you would see in in a competitive sport martial art school.

I don't see why sparring is competitive. No-one wins or looses and the aim isn't to see who's best, it's there to practice techniques in a more free form format than kata allows. As someone said about Karate "punching into thin air can only teach so much". In the same way chucking a co-operative uke can only teach so much. I mean kata work, which is what Aikido largely is, can teach you perfect technique in a perfect envoironment. Reality, however, isn't perfect but we can prepare ourselves better for it by sparring. In that setting uke may not be co-operating with my technique but he is co-operating with my training. I need my partner to fight back to help improve my technique, to help me translate kata work into real world and for that I require his co-operation.
I honestly don't think that there is such thing as unco-operative training because as soon as it ceases to be co-operative it also ceases to be training.
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Old 05-17-2005, 03:56 PM   #7
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Re: Staying soft.

I do train regularly in MMA. Thats why I'm asking Aikidoka why they don't spar more. I don't believe I've ever seen an Aikido school do what I would call sparring. The most intense I've ever seen Aikido schools get would be under Seagal sensei, but that is still defiantly not sparring.

Alex,
That is a great post! And my sentiments exactly. I do believe in non competitive, yet resistive training, I think we should all do it!

Quote:
Alex Lawrence wrote:
I mean kata work, which is what Aikido largely is, can teach you perfect technique in a perfect environment. Reality
Thats the point I was getting at, you seldom get perfect environment, so you should diversify your training.

-Chris Hein
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Old 05-17-2005, 07:48 PM   #8
Charles Hill
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Re: Staying soft.

It has been my experience that in Aikido dojo (without formal randori) practice against resistance does happen. It is after a certain period of time when a practitioner gets to a certain level and develops good relationships with his/her dojo mates. I never resist partners whom I cannot trust and I often do resist those whom I do trust and whom I like. This is the only way, in my opinion, to do freer practice without formally setting up resistance practice. If someone says in a critical way that there is no resistance training in Aikido, I wonder if that person may not have dojo mates that like and trust him.

Charles
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Old 05-17-2005, 08:19 PM   #9
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Re: Staying soft.

Fair enuff,
I would say that Aikido never prepaired me for people actually resisting me in real time, with real intention. Maybe it's because people don't trust me, and here I thought I was well liked

-Chris Hein
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Old 05-17-2005, 08:46 PM   #10
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Re: Staying soft.

I think you need to define "sparring". To me "sparring" means trading kicks and punches to score points. i.e. a game of tag. What do you mean by "sparring"?

Last edited by eyrie : 05-17-2005 at 08:56 PM.

Ignatius
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Old 05-17-2005, 09:34 PM   #11
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Re: Staying soft.

What if they resist softly, as in an "escape" or passive counter?
Move so that they keep balance or move the dead spot you're looking for?
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Old 05-17-2005, 09:51 PM   #12
eyrie
 
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Re: Staying soft.

Stuart has hit the nail on the head (love your avatar BTW)... there are varying degrees of resistance. I think what Chris means (correct me if I'm wrong), and what most people mean when they say "fully resistant", is when uke stops in the middle of the attack and does nothing (i.e. stops giving).

In which case, the answer is to "soften" them up... pun intended.

Ignatius
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Old 05-18-2005, 02:07 AM   #13
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Re: Staying soft.

Well, Actually where I was going was to get rid of the roles of uke and nage all together. Not always, but in some occasional sparring. Sparring dose not in any way refer only to trading kicks and Punch's (a game of tag is a great way to put it by the way!!). Google defined sparring as: "A form of martial arts training in which two opponents face one another and simulate actual combat." I mean that you get rid of the basic roles we always play, and you attempt to gain martial advantage over your partner. You resists and do what ever you like to attempt to control the other. This dose not have to be competitive, it's a mutual exercise to help each other gain in ability! Ego tends to get in the way, but ego is something we should be working on anyways, so it's yet another exercise in development. Instead of hiding behind our ideals, we should be trying to grow by what ever means possible!

-Chris Hein
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Old 05-18-2005, 02:43 AM   #14
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Re: Staying soft.

Chris
The way you describe what kind of sparring that you want in Aikido sounds to me very much as the same thing as PeterR always writes about Shodokan randori (not Shiai).
So maybe it already exists in aikido, even though itīs not in your aikido.

Itīs not in mine either, at least not in class.
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Old 05-18-2005, 02:50 AM   #15
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Re: Staying soft.

Chris, I'm still a bit unsure on how vigorous the sparring you advocate is. We often train from 50-50 situations where the attacker starts as just a dead weight then ramp it up to the point where if the attacker can see an opportunity to "win" they take it, is this what you mean?

Otherwise, all I can think of is our one-on-one randori where the only difference between attacker and defender is the defender should be at least trying to use something vaguely recognizable out of our aikido arsenal whereas the attacker is only limited by what they're willing to take a fall from (if they fail)
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Old 05-18-2005, 06:37 AM   #16
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Re: Staying soft.

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote:
So my question Is why don't more Aikidoka practice against resistive attacks. Why is there not really any sparring* in Aikido.

-Chris Hein

*Sparring: (I know lots of people will have confusion about my usage of this word.) I mean sparring in the since that you would see in in a competitive sport martial art school.
Hi Chris

My feeling is that such practice is not widely used since it is not considered useful for development of ki.

MMA training is top rate stuff and promotes some fine athletes who are excellent at the physical side of martial arts.

Most of the ones I've met or seen (but not all) show some top qualities as human beings too so arguably there is some spiritual development too.

I'm a bit of a fan of MMA I confess.

However, I dont think this style of practice is necessarily the best for street self defence for instance..it is simply the best for MMA.

My point is that training is specifically targeted at the goal or aim that you have in mind.

If your aim is to use aikido in MMA then sure, it needs to tested with more resisting opponents.

If it isn't then maybe this isnt necessary.

I don't see the primary aim of aikido as developing the skills for this type of competition.

Of course with a bit of adaptation...it could be adjusted to do so.

FWIW

Cheers

D
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Old 05-18-2005, 08:10 AM   #17
eyrie
 
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Re: Staying soft.

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote:
Well, Actually where I was going was to get rid of the roles of uke and nage all together. Not always, but in some occasional sparring. Sparring dose not in any way refer only to trading kicks and Punch's (a game of tag is a great way to put it by the way!!). Google defined sparring as: "A form of martial arts training in which two opponents face one another and simulate actual combat." I mean that you get rid of the basic roles we always play, and you attempt to gain martial advantage over your partner. You resists and do what ever you like to attempt to control the other. This dose not have to be competitive, it's a mutual exercise to help each other gain in ability! Ego tends to get in the way, but ego is something we should be working on anyways, so it's yet another exercise in development. Instead of hiding behind our ideals, we should be trying to grow by what ever means possible!

-Chris Hein
Ah... what you are alluding to is kaeshi-waza, where roles of uke and nage are reversed and interchangeable, and henka-waza, chaining techniques.

Well, since attack and defense are 2 sides of the same coin, all moves can be countered and reversed - if you know how. But what you are suggesting by "resisting" and "attempting to control" is an incorrect analogy - certainly not in the ideal sense of "aiki".

In [the] jujitsu [I do], there is no such thing as "resistance". If nage botches the technique (or attempts to use force), uke can reverse the technique by "flowing" into a reversal technique. Likewise, if uke "resists" by standing there or attempting to prevent nage from applying the technique, we let them do so, and flow into the next technique.

Why should aiki be any different? One can get the same quality of practice by working on [the true meaning of] ukemi rather than actively "resisting" nage's technique.

Ignatius
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Old 05-18-2005, 08:57 AM   #18
mj
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Re: Staying soft.

Toshu randori is the Shodokan version, 2 people trying to apply waza on each other full force and full resistance. (full force may mean different things to different people, no weapons are used in toshu)

We also have 3 versions where we have a 'designated' attacker using a (safe) tanto:-

kakari-geiko (very light, no resistance)
hikitate-geiko (uke will only allow himself to be thrown if he feels the waza is fairly good)
randori (no-one is going down for anything, uke may avoid, counter and attack at will - as may nage)

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Old 05-18-2005, 10:25 AM   #19
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Re: Staying soft.

An interesting question for people who practice at schools that do not delinate these levels of resistance is: what happens when you make a mistake?

I have trained people who, when I make a mistake as tori, (a) will just stand there and look at me, (b) will actively initiate a counter, (c) will continue the original attack or follow with a second strike, and (d) will back away and stop. Oh yes, and then there is (e) just fall down anyway.

I think how one defines and understands resistance in a dynamic situation has to do with which of these responses one considers most appropriate in a martial training situation.

Chris
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Old 05-18-2005, 10:46 AM   #20
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Re: Staying soft.

I've never seen Shodokan Aikido, and would like to see a video of it's randori.
What I'm talking about is not revolutionary, and maybe some schools do practice it, but it seems to me that the Aikido community at large doesn't really get the concept of practicing against what you may likely face. You will likely never gain the real world ability to relax and adapt to an attack, by only practicing Kata and jiyuwaza.

The Kaishi waza that Ignatius Teo is talking about, is in general the way I take ukemi now. Never resisting, but flowing into spots that nage is not aware are open. Never directly fighting anything, but takeing advantage of any uncontrolled spot. This to me would be the ideal of how an Aikidoka would deal with real confrintation. However this ability will likely never be developed by only practiceing in a calm and non resistive enviroment. If you are uncomfortable with resistance, it will make you freeze up, an you're ability to relax will come to a close. You must make yourself comfortable with people attacking you for real. I believe that this is the advantage of sports martial arts. Because everyone wants to win, they are always trying their techniques against full resistance, even better the resistance of trained people who are very difficult to deal with. The down side to sport competitive martial arts is often their is a lack of self development, and a large amount of ego feeding, and macho bullshit that has no place in a Dojo. It also has a tendency to break the skills of a martial artist down to a game, which will slowly but surely degrade the effectiveness of the techniques in real wold application. I would like to see more non-cooperative, noncompetitive sparring in Aikido, at least in the yudansha.


I would really like to see some Tomiki also. I read a book about it once but I can't find a school here on the west coast. I don't think the Shiai is what I'm talking about but I'd like to see it, anyone know where I can get a video of that?

-Chris Hein

Last edited by ChrisHein : 05-18-2005 at 10:57 AM.
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Old 05-18-2005, 11:41 AM   #21
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Re: Staying soft.

I was going to write a description of the knife randori that I've seen, but I couldn't. Every time it got lewd. That black rubber "knife" is too much .

Regardless, I honestly think it's excellent! Mostly I base this off the low average success rate of the unarmed participant.
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Old 05-18-2005, 11:46 AM   #22
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Re: Staying soft.

Quote:
Chris Guzik wrote:
I have trained people who, when I make a mistake as tori,
Correction:

That should have said "I have trained with people".
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Old 05-18-2005, 11:57 AM   #23
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Re: Staying soft.

I'd love to have a class that focused on nothing but kaeshi-waza and henka-waza! All techniques have a counter move - - the "cost" of that counter may result in the uke taking damage (i.e., actual injuries); if the cost of a counter move is low or null, I'd consider that to be a good point for a kaeshi-waza response....

We should strive to practice "active resistance"as uke: there is not just one attack per encounter - uke is striving to take any advantage s/he can (reasonably) get during a technique, to show Nage where the "holes" are in their technique. That's a standard operating procedure at our dojo.

Akira Tohei Shihan often said, "Touch - same as hit; Hit - same as kill." That is to say, if uke can touch or hit the nage during a technique (with their free hand/foot/head/etc.), it's an indication that the technique has some flaws in it's execution.

We also practice kaeshi-waza and henka-waza in our advanced Aikido classes, and "on our own" during free-practice periods. It's this principal of "active resistance" taken to a higher level. In this kind of activity, there is no uke or nage -- just like-minded aikidoka at play. (The "touch/hit" rule applies throughout the encounter.)
It's a great way of training for good technique, but requires both partners to be highly aware of when they are in a position of "significant disadvantage" that means that they cannot reverse the technique without self-induced injuries; at this point, they tap-out. They must both recognize the damage-danger-point, and disengage. "Staying soft" allows them to communicate through their bodies as to what the current status of the encounter may be.

Think of kittens at play -- the claws are out, but they shouldn't be penetrating too deeply (or someone isn't playing fair).

Note: you cannot train a beginner to do this -- they don't have the vocabulary yet. Advanced students seem to pick up on the "touch/hit" form of communications, and at some point, add kaeshi-waza and henka-waza into the mix when the spirit is right.

So, Chris, if you're not there yet, you're obviously getting closer to that point... you just need to find a like-minded "sparring" partner.


A little danger is a knowledge thing...

"Helping the planet make an impact on people, since 1985"
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Old 05-18-2005, 01:45 PM   #24
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Re: Staying soft.

Quote:
Peter Zalinski wrote:
Note: you cannot train a beginner to do this -- they don't have the vocabulary yet.
Beginners can begin to learn this in the way they're taught posture, movement, ukemi, recovery of posture, etc.from day one of their experience in the dojo. These are the tools that need to be in place to begin to understand and cultivate the ability to do kaeshi waza, henka waza, renraku waza, etc. These all add up to the ideal of takemusu aiki waza.

Chuck Clark
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Old 05-18-2005, 04:38 PM   #25
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Re: Staying soft.

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote:
The problem I see is not in the Idea of being "soft", it's in the idea of training this concept. While it's true that most beginners need to focus on being sensitive, and relaxing, and should be kept at a very slow pace. Advanced Aikidoka seldom leave this generally relaxed environment with their practice of their Aikido. They may speed up the practice, ask for harder attacks, and even practice regular jiyuwaza, but they are still leaving themselves completely untrained with respects to real resistance. By never practicing your technique against resistive opponents, you are short siding yourself. When you actually meet a resistive attack in real confrontation, you are likely to freeze up, and not respond, you will lose the "softness", you've been training!
So my question Is why don't more Aikidoka practice against resistive attacks. Why is there not really any sparring* in Aikido.

-Chris Hein
I agree with Chuck.

Chris, the way I learned techniques is that uke always does a particular thing after he is off balanced. Tomiki Aikido has 17 basic techniques. In each technique, uke reacts from his off balance in a different way. When learning these techniques, uke always does the same reaction for that particular technique. That way your subconscious knows what it should feel like, and when something changes, you can go into the appropriate reaction.

You never want to MAKE a technique work. If uke is uncooperative when practicing the basics, that particular technique will probably never work. You just do something else. There is no what if, only what is. Adjust to what IS happening, and you will not use more strength.

I would think that if you try a technique and don't realize when it is a failure, you will end up using more power to make it work.

Karl Geis always says "Nothing ever works". You always adapt to the scenario and don't try to make something happen because there are to many things that can go wrong.

Uke plays an important role in this, and he has to know what reaction is appropriate for the technique your working on.

Knowing when a technique is a failure, is very very very important.
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