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Old 05-25-2005, 09:59 PM   #1
L. Camejo
 
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Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Hi folks,

The following is part rant, part serious soul searching question on the general practice and instruction of Aikido as done worldwide.

Have we as Aikidoka begun to accept a culture of martial mediocrity within our art? In other words, has objective martial effectiveness and its related elements within Aikido training become something so abstract, so diametrically opposed to the concept of "peace and harmony with the universe", so much not a major goal of modern training that often folks move through the ranks into the higher levels of Yudansha without understanding simple elements of body control that are addressed by training with the goal of objectively effective technique?

My reason for asking these questions is because recently I see a trend where many Aikidoka appear to be clueless about how to achieve simple tasks like maintaining one's footing and vertical posture in the face of a shoot or tackle, or questionable ability to comfortably evade certain types of unarmed attacks (i.e. tai sabaki) or have a very rudimentary understanding of how Aikido uses the balancing structures of the body to operate effectively. It's as if the fundamentals of Aikido only exist as sound principles in the protective environment of cooperative practice. As soon as an actual challenge or serious attack occurs the principles don't work anymore (at least this is the impression I get from many).

When I think of Ueshiba M. and some of his Uchideshi's raw martial abilities and what I often see today passing for effective technique by upper level Yudansha I tend to wonder. When one asks the typical Aikidoka "who is a great Instructor" you will often find the answer to be someone who is very good when his Uke cooperates (iow a good demonstrator) but suddenly questionable when faced with a serious attack. Why is this?

Has Aikido gone the path of modern Wushu, with practitioners learning movements that only work as shown in a choreographed environment? Are there practitioners and moreseo, Instructors who plumb the depths of Aikido as an effective martial art (along with the other development benefits as well) and embody the fullness of Aikido and teach these methods to their students?

Imho an Aikidoka who understands certain principles (not even having to do with offensive techniques) should be capable of not having his balance easily taken by a shoot or tackle, not allowing a situation of resistance allow him to resort to Jujutsu and Judo techniques or muscular and mental overtension, or not have to resort to ground grappling in the majority of serious attack situations because he does not easily allow himself to be taken to the ground (this does not mean not cross training, since there are special situations where grappling knowledge serves well). Basically, he does not allow the attacker or the attack to easily draw him out of the tactical range that keeps him in control and keeps his Aikido as usually practiced effective, without resorting to other tactics from other arts too easily and quickly. Is it that folks simply don't train anymore to the levels where the martial principles of Aiki are so ingrained that they quickly abandon Aiki principles when faced with serious attack?

This is my rant and my question. When folks see "flaws" and "lacking" areas in Aikido and try to "improve" it by simply adding things like boxing, Jujutsu, Judo or wrestling tactics is this a reflection of the general level of martial tuition available out there in Aikido, where the student rushes to every other style out there to act as a crutch towards effectiveness instead of taking the time to plumb the depths and learn what truly makes Aikido an extremely effective martial art within its own paradigm?

Have we grown to accept that in the face of other arts we cannot stand on the same level in the area of martial applicability? I am not referring so much to self defence, but more to the mastery of the Aiki basics that makes an effective Aikidoka and Budoka.

I thank for for allowing me the opportunity to get this out there. Apologies for the length of the post. Comments are very welcome.

LC

Last edited by L. Camejo : 05-25-2005 at 10:08 PM.

--Mushin Mugamae - No Mind No Posture. He who is possessed by nothing possesses everything.--
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Old 05-25-2005, 10:36 PM   #2
Aristeia
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Great question Larry. There's some stuff I agree with here and some stuff I have a different take on (your characterisation of cross training - "resorting" to other techniques). A couple of points, ideas.

1. It's important to remember the raw material Ueshiba had to work with. Many of his students were highly ranked in other *fighting* arts. IOW they had already develeoped the sorts of attributes you see in seasoned fighters, Aikido was a refinement of existing martial skill. Today you see alot of Aikido lifers, who entered budo and never went anywhere else. Many of these people develop some odd ideas about how combat works. I've seen a relatively senior yudansha tell one of my guys who dabbles BJJ with me that when he hits the ground as uke, he should be trying to turn onto his stomach rahter than his back because otherwise he's too vulnerable to strikes. Insanity. But a symptom of the condition mentioned above.
2. I have seen elements in Aikido that are...well...cultlike. Particularly in terms of not being open to students looking at other things.
3. In addition, there are many people who are attracted to Aikido due to it's "gentle" reputation, and I think the art has been somewhat transformed as a result. These people would not be inclined to look at other arts, and are not inclined to reality test their own one. They will tell you they are pacifists. But you know that they beleive the way they are training Aikido will make them effective fighters, when it just will not.

I've given this alot of thought, and here's what I think. Alot of these problems occure when the art becomes too insular and inward looking without reference to what's going on in the real world and in other arts. This doesn't preserve the art so much as make the changes that *are* happening less visible, and allow for sometimes strange and unvalidated thinking to spread.
Here's a possible (and no doubt controversial) idea.

Aikido Sabbatical. What if we were to say that before you can attain a certain grade (and I'm thinking Nidan for reasons later explained), you have to have attained a certain amount of training in another art. Any other art.

Why Nidan? Well I think it's fair that up until Shodan people concentrate on Aikido. Plus as we know Aikido takes time to learn, by Shodan the student should have, if not the ability to apply it to all comers, an appreciation of how that may be possible. In other words sending them off to another art is less likely to undermine their confidence in Aikido. And by Nidan it is fair to expect people have a wider view of fighting, and of budo than just what they've experienced in Aikido.
Now I'm not suggesting we legislate to make everyone MMA fighters. Any other art is fine. In fact the more diverse the better. Some people will come back with views on striking they learned from Muay Thai, others with views on grappling from judo/bjj, others with centering from tai chi. And I'm not suggesting we tell them to go off and get black belts. I'd set the level at whatever would be reasonable for that art after a couple of years of moderate training. Moderate because it is desireable and likely that they will keep training Aikido as well.

The benefits would be threefold
1. Techniques - they'd come back with knowledge that while not being formally taught, would be interesting to all. I mean a guy that's trained for a year or two in Muay Thai isn't going to come back and start thowing low thigh kicks willy nilly, but his focus and power may well have improved. And with a variety of cross trainers, it gives us the opportunity to practice against a variety of *competant* attacks (as opposed to trying to practice kick defences against someone that struggles not to fall over when kicking even when you do nothing).

2. Outlook. Beyond the specifics of the techniques, students would begin to udnerstand that there are other viewpoints and ways of training, and that even though they are different to Aikido they are still valid. Both in person and online at various forums it seems clear to me that Aikidoka can be particularly prone to the "that's not how we do it and we do it the best way so that's inferior and wrong" syndrome. There's good reasons we train the way we do, but there's good reasons why BJJ'ers and Tai Chi players train the way they do as well. That way when we come across something new our initial instinct won't be to tell people why it's wrong but to consider it's merits and see if it fits into our paradigm before discarding or accepting it.

3. Reputation. This is a little more trivial, but Aikido takes it's share of heat in the MA community. I think it would earn us huge credibility if we said - not only do we encourage cross training - we damn well require it at a certain level. And there's good reasons why that should give us credibility - it's those reasons rather than the rep itself that are important (if that makes sense).

Some people may not want to cross train. May dig their toes in. That's fine, welcome to Shodan, make yourself comfortable you'll be there a while. Aikido is at heart about learning to fight. Part of that at higher levels is exposing yourself to other types of fighters. And in a spectrum that runs from tai chi to Muay Thai, there's gotta be something to appeal to most people. Hell we could set up exchange programmes and use it to expose people from other arts to Aikido.

Thoughts?

"When your only tool is a hammer every problem starts to look like a nail"
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Old 05-25-2005, 11:19 PM   #3
PeterR
 
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Great post. I would only add that a beginner should play around with various arts before deciding on where they want to go with their training. When they discover that then they should get serious before entering a second round of cross-training.

Too many people are governed by their preconceptions and with only one example it is very hard to break out of it.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 05-26-2005, 12:41 AM   #4
CNYMike
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote:
Hi folks,

The following is part rant, part serious soul searching question on the general practice and instruction of Aikido as done worldwide.

Have we as Aikidoka begun to accept a culture of martial mediocrity within our art? In other words, has objective martial effectiveness and its related elements within Aikido training become something so abstract, so diametrically opposed to the concept of "peace and harmony with the universe", so much not a major goal of modern training that often folks move through the ranks into the higher levels of Yudansha without understanding simple elements of body control that are addressed by training with the goal of objectively effective technique?
Good question.

I have no idea.

Compounding the issue is that Aikido techniques are automatically tricky -- the devil is in the details. Which is why after plugging away once or twice a week for a year, there are still plenty of things I have trouble with. Yes, I've done martial arts for 20 years, and yes, I am doing a ton of other things besides Aikido. But it is still slow going, in no part because by my own choice, I only go once or twice a week. If someone trained several times a day every day, it might be different.

Quote:
My reason for asking these questions is because recently I see a trend where many Aikidoka appear to be clueless about how to achieve simple tasks like maintaining one's footing and vertical posture in the face of a shoot or tackle, or questionable ability to comfortably evade certain types of unarmed attacks (i.e. tai sabaki) or have a very rudimentary understanding of how Aikido uses the balancing structures of the body to operate effectively. It's as if the fundamentals of Aikido only exist as sound principles in the protective environment of cooperative practice. As soon as an actual challenge or serious attack occurs the principles don't work anymore (at least this is the impression I get from many).
They probably could work, but for most people, it will could take a long time to ingrane them.

Quote:
.... When folks see "flaws" and "lacking" areas in Aikido and try to "improve" it by simply adding things like boxing, Jujutsu, Judo or wrestling tactics is this a reflection of the general level of martial tuition available out there in Aikido, where the student rushes to every other style out there to act as a crutch towards effectiveness instead of taking the time to plumb the depths and learn what truly makes Aikido an extremely effective martial art within its own paradigm?
I'm the wrong person to ask, because I've come the other way -- from more "combative" arts like karate, Kali, and Serak, and I've added Aikido to the mix.

One thing I've noted from all my crosstraining -- and Pembantu Andy Astle feels the same way --- is that when you come to something new (or, in the case of Aikido, return to something old), you are content with it as you find it. At least I am. I would never call Aikido "inadequate," preferring to say that it specializes. Yes, I'm aware of what Aikido training doesn't include, but (a) Guro Andy has those things covered; and (b) I'm taking Aikido to find out what's there, not what isn't!


Quote:
Have we grown to accept that in the face of other arts we cannot stand on the same level in the area of martial applicability? I am not referring so much to self defence, but more to the mastery of the Aiki basics that makes an effective Aikidoka and Budoka.
How long is a peice of string? If a 75 year old Aikido teacher can say with a straight face, "Oh, now I think I'm finally getting the hang of shiho-nage," and O Sensei himself said, IIRC, "I'm still a beginner," at what point can you say you've mastered anything about anything? I've been doing MA for 20 years and I think I'm lousy at it! Who's to judge?

Here's an interesting aside: Because Kali includes Filipino Boxing, some weeks ago, Guro Andy spent the entire class -- 90 minutes -- on the basics: Stance, guard, and jab, cross and hook.

That was it. For 90 minutes. I thought I knew that stuff after seven years, but I didn't! His rationale was, "There are many ways to do them wrong, but only one way to do them correctly."

90 minutes on punches I thought I'd learned years ago.

So, how long will it take to 'master' the Aiki principles if you go to a 90 minute class once a week? How many people will stick with it that long?

Just my 2p.
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Old 05-26-2005, 02:55 AM   #5
Stefan Stenudd
 
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Trust aikido

Interesting question from Larry.
I also have the feeling that many aikido practicioners lack a trust in aikido, its principles, techniques, and strategy. It takes time to learn, of course, but it is quite a complete and solid budo.

And there is so much in it! Aikido contains enough for a lifetime to explore. Although it is generally good to get some experience also of other Martial arts, I believe that it should not be done at the cost of focusing insufficiently on aikido. A superficial knowledge of aikido gives an incorrect impression of its qualities.

Stefan Stenudd
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Old 05-26-2005, 04:11 AM   #6
maikerus
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
This is my rant and my question. When folks see "flaws" and "lacking" areas in Aikido and try to "improve" it by simply adding things like boxing, Jujutsu, Judo or wrestling tactics is this a reflection of the general level of martial tuition available out there in Aikido, where the student rushes to every other style out there to act as a crutch towards effectiveness instead of taking the time to plumb the depths and learn what truly makes Aikido an extremely effective martial art within its own paradigm?
Larry...excellent thoughts. Thanks for sharing them.

One of the frustrating things that I find when people talk about "needing" to crosstrain (as opposed to wanting to) is that I always understood that one of the precipes of fighting was not to be drawn into the other guys style/system/way of fighting, but to maintain your own and use what you know. To me the idea of "needing" to study something else so that you can approach another person on their home turf/style with some of the knowledge they have seems contrary to that idea and in fact undermines getting better at what your core competency might be.

I posted a note in a thread about a week ago that relates to what you I hear you saying, but it went ignored in the thread it was in. I bring it up again because I was really hoping someone would comment on it and because it mirrors the frustration I see in your post.

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showth...038#post105038

I am not against cross-training at all and find it interesting to train with and to compare notes and ideas with people who study other martial arts and, of course, other styles of Aikido. Michael makes some excellent points as to why cross-training should be encouraged. In fact, I was told that one of my seniors at the Yoshinkan hombu was sent there from a ju-jitsu dojo specifically to bring back what knowledge he could.

However, for *me* I don't have the time to dedicate myself to another martial art in the way that I think it should be done. Any extra time I find I prefer to put into something I have already invested 20+ years in...namely Yoshinkan Aikido...in the hope that I will keep improving.

A friend of mine asked me the other day if I had good days and bad days in my training. I thought about it and realized that in the last few years I haven't had any bad days. I have had better days, but no bad days. This guy has been doing martial arts of various flavours for 25 years and nodded and said "consistancy...that's what's important" or words to that affect. It struck me as somehow profound.

FWIW...

--Michael

Hiriki no yosei 3 - The kihon that makes your head ache instead of your legs
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Old 05-26-2005, 04:15 AM   #7
happysod
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Have we as Aikidoka begun to accept a culture of martial mediocrity within our art?
No, I think we acknowledge it exists rather than passively accepting it, which does leave aikido open to heavy soul-searching on it's martial applicability, but on the plus side at least lets us re-evaluate things .

For me, there are several areas in aikido which lead to it's bashing as a martial art. Aikido has a very broad "church congregation" with a huge spectrum of reasons for training in the art, many of which are not directly connected to it's defensive value. The emphasis in some dojos on tradition, etiquette and a nicely turned out pleat in the hakama can lead to the "cult" tag being applied. Then there's the old bugaboo of cooperative training.

However, all these aside, I believe the main reason aikido comes under quite heavy criticism is that increasingly competition in a sport environment is seen as the true test of a technique, rightly or wrongly depending on your viewpoint. I think you'll find your own style of shodokan is increasingly viewed as the "best" form of aikido on many non-aikido sites for the very reason it used to be slated by more "traditional" styles.

As regards your point concerning losing the aikido in order to use brand x martial art, much more difficult to gage. While I think I know what you mean (and am guilty of it myself), as we can't get two dojos to normally agree on what is an isn't aikido I don't see how you'd address this. Where I think aikido should borrow and happily steal from any and all other arts is in the attacks, which, as has been alluded to before, I feel is the area of cross training that would benefit aikido the most.

Nice question, now bugger off and train.
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Old 05-26-2005, 04:44 AM   #8
Matt Molloy
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
Where I think aikido should borrow and happily steal from any and all other arts is in the attacks, which, as has been alluded to before, I feel is the area of cross training that would benefit aikido the most.

Nice question, now bugger off and train.
Firstly thanks to Larry for opening this.

I'd have to agree with Ian as above. I've been at seminars where the attacks from fellow Aikidoka are pathetic. Shomenuchis that veer off from the head following the invisible forcefield around my body (hey if I don't move, hit me!) and Yokomens that remind me of being slapped with a wet lettuce (least said, soonest mended), and these from black belt toting hakama wearing exponents of the art.

At that level in a martial art you should be able to at least hit someone!

Technique number one in Wing Chun, the straight punch. Most people can do a halfway decent version by the end of the first lesson.

Half drunk people in bars usually manage a committed version of shomenuchi with a beer bottle in their hands!

*rant off*

The other side of the equation is the cry of, "You attacked me wrong." as people come stuttering to the end of what they were expecting to do.

Perhaps a culture of deal with the attack, whatever it is, and then say something like, "Now could you do the attack that we're training please." might go some way to sorting this.

I'm very lucky, I train in a dojo where we don't seem to have these problems but when you come across them in other places it can lead to asking a variant of Larry's question and it doesn't do anything for the rep of Aikido as a martial art.

Just my thoughts.

Cheers,

Matt.
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Old 05-26-2005, 04:52 AM   #9
PeterR
 
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

On the other side of the coin I find the inclusive nature of Aikido training quite satisfying. I can quite easily satisfy my urgings for a good hard marshal training session alongside people who just don't want to go there. A proper training environment should deliver clean solid technique in a kata context by everyone no matter what their temperment.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 05-26-2005, 05:04 AM   #10
Matt Molloy
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Peter Rehse wrote:
On the other side of the coin I find the inclusive nature of Aikido training quite satisfying. I can quite easily satisfy my urgings for a good hard marshal training session alongside people who just don't want to go there. A proper training environment should deliver clean solid technique in a kata context by everyone no matter what their temperment.
Absolutely. I believe that Judo manages the middle way on this one quite well without sacrificing martial integrity with light randori, kata, competition et al.

But a decent straight attack from yudansha shouldn't be too much to ask should it?

Cheers,

Matt.
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Old 05-26-2005, 05:20 AM   #11
PeterR
 
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Now I feel guilty - skipping Judo while I watch someone fix my computer. My role is that of dojo bully a role I relish . I take the young bloods (14 to 15 year olds) that are serious about their judo and exhaust the little devils, wind them, bruise them and worry what happens when they put on a bit more poundage.

Anyhow that little digression aside.

One of the major training problems that can be identified in Aikido is the concept of spontaneous generation of technique. A great idea as an end goal but the result of applying this to early is a belief that there is no kata training in Aikido. In reality the bulk of training is just poor kata training not an absence of it. In proper kata training attack is practiced as much as defense with the principles often intermingling. Larry you know what I mean vis a vis hontai no tsukuri, the attacks in tanto dori. By way of further example last night one of the yondans decided that my yari thrusts weren't up to scratch. I spent a good chunk of training time on that alone and opened up my blisters this morning with some more. There just is no excuse for poor attacks - in fact I would say it is the hight of rudeness.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 05-26-2005, 05:31 AM   #12
Dazzler
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Great thread.

I think in a way we do accept some shortfalls in our martial arts.

There are exceptions...shaolin monks or the guys that maybe go off to training camps for professional muay thai fighters and such like.

Perhaps some that make the committment as uchi deschis also train to the absolute maximum and leave no room for anything else in their lives...maybe professional combat athletes too?

I stress 'Some' since some of the deschis I've met could train a lot harder.

But for 99% of MA out there ...not just aikido ...it is not the only thing in their lives.

Consequently there is a degree of compromise required...lifestyle , career , family, health all impact our training.

How many of us genuinely want to make the sort of sacrifices these folks make?

I'd love to train maybe twice as much as I currently do...I have done in the past.

Its just not possible at the moment so I have to accept that I could do better but have to deal with the restrictions.

all you can do is train as intelligently when you have a window of opportunity.

I'm not sure if this is accepting mediocrity...but its certainly accepting a capping on performance.

I'd also suggest that one has to take a long term view...I've seen other threads where people have talked about dropping out of uni etc to train harder and more often. The danger is that this impacts your future to the extent that you dont get to train so much further down the line.

I guess its a question of balance.

Theres still no excuse for lettuce leaf yokomen..! I think its a poor instructor that doesn't try to address this when they see it...I hope there aren't too many that actually teach it though.

Cheers.
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Old 05-26-2005, 07:00 AM   #13
eyrie
 
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Havng come from a striking art before doing aikido, and having also done other striking arts (both armed and unarmed) in between, there is certainly a good case for cross-training, if at least to learn how to attack properly.

I teach my students to really punch or cut thru, like they intend to really hit. None of this limp lettuce atemi waza stuff, I assure you! Besides, it's so much easier to apply waza when someone is really trying to knock your block off.

I think people are short-changing themselves if they're not putting an equal amount of effort into the atemi waza (when attacking), because from my point of view, it's the other side of the same coin.

Ignatius
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Old 05-26-2005, 07:33 AM   #14
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Hi Larry,

Good topic. I'm sure it will ruffle some feathers, but good topic, and timely as well.

Michael Fooks,

That is an excellent idea. Absolutely fantastic. I may speak to my instructor about it when he returns from japan.

Quote:
Aikido is at heart about learning to fight
I'm not conviced of that at this point. The discussion to explain why I say that would be way too long. I'll see if I can find a short way to explain why I say that.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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Old 05-26-2005, 07:43 AM   #15
Lyle Bogin
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

I was discussing a similar topic with some athlete friends the other day. In almost all other physical endeavors, it is generally recognized that time has brought major improvements. Training methods and nutrition are better, and performance levels are rapidly approaching the limits of human capacity.

The martial arts is the only area of physical practice where the majority of opinions seems to be that we are headed down hill.

Why is that? Or to be more specific, is it even true? With sports we have clear win/loss records, or other measures of acheivement, but not so in martial arts. When we attempt to apply these measures, it's often implied that this in and of itself represents some sort of confusion or misunderstanding about what the martial arts are.

I find the whole thing very odd. Perhaps it is an unsolvable problem in general terms.
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Old 05-26-2005, 08:01 AM   #16
SeiserL
 
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

IMHO, since mediocrity comes from moderate, meaning average between extremes, then yes, all cultures tend towards martial mediocrity. Especially since only a small portion of the culture practice martial arts to begin with.There are many soldiers, only a few great warriors. But generalizations stop there.

The question isn't are we tending towards or accepting a culture of martial mediocrity in Aikido, but are you personally going for excellence in your training.

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 05-26-2005, 08:26 AM   #17
L. Camejo
 
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Great posts folks. At least I see now that I'm not the only one feeling this way.

I think Maikerus and Stefan to a point are getting exactly what I am talking about.

As I may have indicated in the first post, the issue here is not with the benefits of cross training. There are so many and Aikido is a very good art to append things that have been taken or understood from other arts. I myself train regularly in Aikido, Jujutsu and Judo and to a lesser extent Wing Chun and Kali. I have found the interchange and inter-applicability of information to be very enlightening in different ways.

My issue though is not with cross training . The problem I see with how many Aikidoka approach things is that instead of properly trying to learn and really apply the principles of Aiki (which does not get down to the level of technique yet, just principle) many will simply resort to using what they know from other systems to get off a particular result without realising that the answer to these tactical and strategic problems exist within the paradigm of Aikido itself.

Here is an example: I have students who come from a variety of MA backgrounds, mostly the Judo and TKD/Karate types. The randori that we practice is designed to make your defenses shut down and make you really dig down deep to find the way to apply Aiki to get out of the situation without injuring your partner while being very effective. However, as I have seen many times, as soon as the going gets tough the folks who cross train will want to switch to Judo or some other method to put their partner down instead of sticking to the Aiki principles so that they can enhance their Aikido training, understanding and skill level. It is a challenge for them not to resort to old habits and other systems, but that is the point of Aikido training, to find ways of applying and understanding Aiki in different situations.

The above situation tends to expand into other areas of training where folks start thinking that Aiki principles simply don't work under resistance (when in fact you have not taken the time or gotten the training to really understand and use them effectively). The result of this sort of thing may be seen on AJ right now with one of the seminar instructors who believes that Aikido needs to be modified to meet certain combative requirements, but which in fact the art already addresses.

Many folks from grappling type schools always bring up the subject about the shoot and Aikido's defenses (or lack thereof) or that "most fights end up on the ground". To me an Aikidoka is firstly supposed to understand certain fundamentals of posture and movement that would make breaking his balance with a shoot or other pushing attack a very difficult thing to accomplish (not impossible, but not a given either).

I'll give a simple example of this aspect from my experience: I was attacked a while ago by a gang of muggers who were unarmed but whose MO was to tackle or push their victim to the ground where the group would move in and kick the victim's brains in. Others that day were not as lucky as I and ended up in the Hospital for falling down. When I was attacked, even though Aikido technique did play a part, a major factor in my successful defence was not allowing myself to be taken to the ground by maintaining proper posture and staying upright. This way I kept myself in a place where I could still use my Aikido, i.e. standing up.

However, often I get the feeling that these simple things like training in maintaining balance while applying effective technique or receiving a serious attack designed to disrupt balance is not utilised, taught or stressed upon enough as a vital element in having one's Aikido work in a resistant situation. Some folks refer to it as "weight underside" the name is not so important as the lesson imho. My issue though is that posture is one of the cornerstones of good Aikido, yet many will easily abandon it like other elements of Aiki strategy in favour of a sacrifice tech or something that is "easier" (I am talking about the dojo now, since in the street anything goes and the KISS principle is good). Imho the idea of training in AIKIDO is to enhance one's understanding of Aiki at all levels. If we can easily abandon what we know of Aiki tactics to something more "muscle oriented" or utilising non-Aiki principles to get off a technique then what are we in fact teaching to our students or trying to achieve in training? This phenomenon is even seen when some Yudansha Instructors are surprised by a bit of resistance to their usually flowing technique and instead of moving with the energy flow and adapting, suddenly stiffen up and say you are being a poor Uke (or something of the sort). Often the "resistance" is really just because the person does not give away his balance but must have it taken from him, which is part of effective waza.

Of course I know many don't engage in resistance type practice (which is not only physical), but for those who do, what are your thoughts? Should we not try to maintain our tactical advantage and Aiki initiative and work with it until it can no longer be maintained or until the conflict is resolved? If we don't then how do we improve in our understanding of Aiki and reconciliation of a seriously aggressive force? Again, this does not have to mean self defence, it has to do with sticking to our tactical methodology (or our game) and exhausting our options until the conflcit is reconciled, it is no longer available or we move into another tactical zone.

Just some thoughts. I hope I am making sense.

Thanks for the great replies.
LC

Last edited by L. Camejo : 05-26-2005 at 08:34 AM.

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Old 05-26-2005, 08:45 AM   #18
Stefan Stenudd
 
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Sticking to aiki principles

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote:
Of course I know many don't engage in resistance type practice (which is not only physical), but for those who do, what are your thoughts?
Larry, you are yourself answering the question so well that I regard it as purely rhetorical

Training should include resistance - not always, but regularly. An example of this, within aikido basics, is gotai - allowing uke to complete the grip and hold on to it. Most Japanese shihan I have studied for, have a lot of gotai in their classes. And they manage it well, indeed.

The aiki principles should work, and if they don't, we simply need to train more and/or correct our technique.

In a higher tempo, let's call it jutai, resistance and randori style training increases the risk of injury - for both tori and uke. So it has to be done with care, and in different ways for beginners and advanced aikido students. Still, it can be done, and I would say that it is part of the aikido curriculum.

Already when I started doing aikido I was immensely impressed by the brilliance of aikido strategy and principles: Moving completely out of the way instead of blocking, joining instead of resisting, leading instead of pulling, relating to uke's center instead of his/her hands, arms, whatever, and so on and so forth.

Of course, the aiki principles can be applied also to other Martial arts. The thing is to recognize the potency of those principles, and train enough to be able to apply them.

Stefan Stenudd
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Old 05-26-2005, 09:04 AM   #19
L. Camejo
 
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote:
The question isn't are we tending towards or accepting a culture of martial mediocrity in Aikido, but are you personally going for excellence in your training.
Hi Lynn,

Good post. As far as I'm concerned one should at least be striving for excellence from the time they step on the mat until they step off. This is part of the personal development aspects of the training, the overcoming of challenges and limitations on the self.

What I am referring to however, is the lack of pursuit of excellence when it comes to applying and truly understanding the range of applicability of Aiki principles to more than just simple situations of cooperative interaction, but allowing Aiki to truly show its power as a group of principles that can bring reconciliation of conflict whether physical or otherwise while under the pressures of something that does not want to reconcile easily.

Just my thoughts.
LC

--Mushin Mugamae - No Mind No Posture. He who is possessed by nothing possesses everything.--
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Old 05-26-2005, 09:12 AM   #20
L. Camejo
 
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Re: Sticking to aiki principles

Quote:
Stefan Stenudd wrote:
Of course, the aiki principles can be applied also to other Martial arts. The thing is to recognize the potency of those principles, and train enough to be able to apply them.
Exactly.

But is it being done in enough places though? I get the feeling that many don't ever get to experience or even see this level of potency sometimes. I am not talking so much about the demos of exemplary Instructors, but in how they use their own training regimens to inculcate these traits into their students. To me the applicable range of Aiki no ri is so vast if we really try to understand it and get our minds and bodies to a level where we can execute it. The question is though, is this being done in a way that is sound enough that things operate in a same or similar manner even when resistant forces come into the mix? Or is it only explored at the cooperative level in the majority of cases?

LC

Last edited by L. Camejo : 05-26-2005 at 09:17 AM.

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Old 05-26-2005, 09:27 AM   #21
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

An idea based on this thread:
perhaps UFC/NHB/... show that it is easier to become a competent fighter by learning some striking and some grappling and combining that with a thouroughly trained physique than by mastering one art; that it is easier (for lack of a better word) to combine basic skills with a well-trained body than to master one skill in all its depth.
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Old 05-26-2005, 09:34 AM   #22
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Joep Schuurkes wrote:
An idea based on this thread:
perhaps UFC/NHB/... show that it is easier to become a competent fighter by learning some striking and some grappling and combining that with a thouroughly trained physique than by mastering one art; that it is easier (for lack of a better word) to combine basic skills with a well-trained body than to master one skill in all its depth.
UFC/NHB/etc. show that you can become a better UFC/NHB/etc. competitor by cross training. But make no mistake, whatever hyperbole they may throw at you, they're sports. Any resemblance to a real fight is purely coincidental.
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Old 05-26-2005, 09:39 AM   #23
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Joep Schuurkes wrote:
An idea based on this thread:
perhaps UFC/NHB/... show that it is easier to become a competent fighter by learning some striking and some grappling and combining that with a thouroughly trained physique than by mastering one art; that it is easier (for lack of a better word) to combine basic skills with a well-trained body than to master one skill in all its depth.
A couple of thoughts in response.

O'Sensei never seemed to shirk the idea of maintaining a thoroughly trained physique so I think that this should be a part of Aikido training, not ignored as if it weren't part of what we do.

Secondly, the UFC/NHB type fighters generally know quite a bit more than "some striking and some grappling" and it may be prudent, before commenting, to see what some of them come up with as they reach more advanced years. I've read plenty of people, for example, that say that BJJ for example is plenty Aiki when you study it.

I always think of Aikido in terms of training the body as well as possible and then using that trained body as efficiently as possible.

It's a bit different than the usual no strength approach.

Perhaps you need a thoroughly trained body in order to master the skill in all its depth.

Aikido. You don't have to be tubby to practice.

Cheers,

Matt.
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Old 05-26-2005, 09:52 AM   #24
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote:
However, as I have seen many times, as soon as the going gets tough the folks who cross train will want to switch to Judo or some other method to put their partner down instead of sticking to the Aiki principles so that they can enhance their Aikido training, understanding and skill level. It is a challenge for them not to resort to old habits and other systems, but that is the point of Aikido training, to find ways of applying and understanding Aiki in different situations.
I'm not sure about most peoples intentions, but I learn martial arts to be able to fight if need be. I try to see what techniques will work for my body size and strength, and don't focus to much on things I don't think will work.

After about 6 years of study in aikido, I felt there were situations that I didn't know how to deal with. For instance, what if your pulled backwards off balance with a rear choke, and the attacker isn't in motion and you are caught completely by surprise? What if your sitting in a chair and grabbed from behind?

I didn't train for those type of situations in aikido. A friend of mine opened his own school, so I decided to try something new for a while. I took up Miyama Ryu Jiu-jitsu, and that filled in all of the questions that I couldn't answer with aikido. It focused on a lot of grabs and holds that were static and ended with some really combative locks and controls. The founder of that style (Antonio Perera) studied with O'sensei, and studies Judo at the Kodokan, so his approach was very Aiki and it changed the way I looked at my aikido training. It also opened me up to blending judo aikido karate together into one art.

If this means doing a judo throw, or a jiu-jitsu arm lock, or an elbow strike, because that's what I'm given, then that's what I'll use.

I was blessed with having some great instructors. Karl Geis is a high level Judoka as well as an Aikidoka. Nelson Andujar not only does Jiu-Jitsu, but also holds a 6th dan in the USAF. Both of these men had a larger martial art experience to draw from which In my opinion is what makes them so good.

In my opinion, I think that the Miyama Ryu Jiu-jitsu I learned has more in common with the Tomiki Aikido I learned than it does with the Aikikai style of Aikido. The Aikikai style I was exposed to seemed very alien to me and unnatural. This isn't putting it down in any way, but it didn't have the similar linear approach or focus.

After a few years, I found the time to go back and study aikido again, and I saw things that I didn't see or realize before. The Koryu Katas were easier, and my focus was different.

I can only say that I cherish my martial arts experiences and was lucky enough to find the perfect instructors at the perfect time. The principles of Aiki were present in both arts, and I don't feel like there's anything missing anymore.

So Larry, I think it comes down to the way it's presented, and the instructor presenting it, and not a shortcoming with the art itself.
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Old 05-26-2005, 10:14 AM   #25
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Odd attacks

Quote:
Tim Jester wrote:
For instance, what if your pulled backwards off balance with a rear choke, and the attacker isn't in motion and you are caught completely by surprise? What if your sitting in a chair and grabbed from behind?
I agree with Tim's conclusion, about aikido being practiced in so many different ways.
For example, in my dojo we frequently do the rear choke in gotai, which means applied by uke before tori begins the technique. I would not say that we are familiar with all kinds of chokes, but we are working on such things, doing our best to solve them the aiki way

As for being attacked when sitting in a chair, I have tried it a bit, but I must confess that it's not part of our dojo's curriculum - not only because it is disaster to the tatami
I have seen very accomplished aikidoka do it, with impressive results. One who enjoyed showing it was Nakazono sensei.

And we have all seen films of Osensei, when he applied his principles to all kinds of tricky situations, with obvious amusement.

Stefan Stenudd
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