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Old 05-26-2005, 10:28 AM   #26
L. Camejo
 
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Tim Jester wrote:
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?
Good example of what I am referring to - this is something that we train a lot in our Aikido school and afaik is not outside of the Aikido paradigm. But then again I focus on principles and application of principles to situations, not 1 to 1 relationships between attack and technique. So in a sense, to answer the next quote, it may have something to do with what is being presented and the focus of the training by the instructor.

Quote:
Tim Jester wrote:
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.
I never said it was a shortcoming of the art itself. In fact I have found many ways that the art works very well when many other folks say "we don't do that in Aikido" or "Aikido has no defence for ... attack" hence some of the frustration. To me if one truly appreciates and understands what Aiki means and how it is applied (not saying that I do all the time), responses to these static situations and other non typical attaks become evident because we understand how to really apply the principles to a myriad of situations, not resort to Jujutsu or Judo or whatever.

It is interesting however to see that many find what they need to understand about Aiki better by going to other styles or systems that have an Aiki component. So the question becomes, if these other arts are executing waza utilising Aiki principles and they are working then why is it not seen in the typcial Aikido curriculum, which is also an Aiki-based method that should have a sound martial aspect as a part of the training system?

Tim gives the typical response I get from many - they learn to deal with things from going to other arts and sometimes think they are doing some sort of Jujutsu technique (which Aikido is pretty much) when in fact all they have found is a previously hidden way (to them) of using the same Aiki principles they have been practicing all along in Aikido.

I honestly don't think the limitation is in the art, is it in the level of practical instruction then? Is it because some Instructors simply automatically relegate Aikido to the realm of a "non-martial art" (I have personally experienced this) and therefore don't even bother about making martial application part of their instruction? Why is it that the core of effective techs in some Aikido schools (which are basically variations of techs and principles common to all Aikido) more far reaching in application than the range found in other schools?

Iow why do we have to go outside of Aikido to understand some of the deeper or applied aspects of Aiki? Should this not be covered in our own curriculum a nd should we not aim to have a deep understanding of it? After all we are doing "The Wayof Aiki" or aren't we?

Just some more thoughts. Thanks for the insights.
LC

--Mushin Mugamae - No Mind No Posture. He who is possessed by nothing possesses everything.--
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Old 05-26-2005, 10:48 AM   #27
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Matt Molloy wrote:
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.
You are right that I know far too little about UFC, etc. and the skills involved to comment on it. However your statement above might support the idea I had, since you wrote "as they reach more advanced years". I'd interpret that as they first become more or less succesfull fighters and after a number of years of practice, they come up with more interesting stuff. So they become 'succesfull' with a basic skill set and develop that skill set into something more profound later on.
(For clarity: this idea is just an idea, not a strong opinion of mine, so feel free to correct me.)

Quote:
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.
But isn't the ideal to aspire to the 'no strenght'-idea, since it implies a thorough understanding of other factors that make technique work, such as technique, timing, distance, adaptibility, ... ?
Which of course begs the question as to why mastery of those other factors is worth more than having a thoroughly trained body. (Standard respone: you grow old, you loose physical capabilities. But are well trained old(er) people really that much weaker physically?)

Quote:
Perhaps you need a thoroughly trained body in order to master the skill in all its depth.
Interesting thought. Would you care to elaborate?
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Old 05-26-2005, 10:57 AM   #28
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Echoing some ideas already mentioned…

I think the crux of the issue is not necessarily between Aikido and some other martial art(s), but more specifically between the capacity to employ Aiki as a tactic and the comparative ease with which one can employ things like raw leverage, raw muscle, and/or direct resistance, etc., inside of dojo training environments. By "raw," I mean, "these things in relative isolation from other tactical elements."

Allow me to say this:

Aiki, when employed inside of spontaneous situations involving notions of victory or defeat (some sense of combat), requires everything that one might come to experience at the level of forms training. That is to say, one expects to see issues of timing, sensitivity, body/mind control, awareness, etc. However, in regards to spontaneous training, the develop of these things, or the rate at which they must be cultivated, is often beyond even the imagination of someone that only does forms training (or has their training dominated by forms training and not by spontaneous training). Because of ego attachment, like a frog at the bottom of the well, the subjective experience is mistakenly objectified by the person who experiences this discrepancy in skill level requirements. In the end, the tactic of Aiki is faulted rather than the self and its incapacity to cultivate the components of Aiki to a sufficient degree. Yet, this can only happen when one is confronted with such a need for high degrees of skill in the components of Aiki -- within spontaneous training environments. If one's training stays centered around forms training, and/or if one's notion of "spontaneous" training is centered around three or four people all madly running at you with their arms outstretched, and/or if one's notion of resistance is some higher-ranked stronger-than-you Uke screwing with your part of the two-man set during forms training, then one isn't even going to realize that one is in a greenhouse (i.e. that one's capacity at Aiki is problematic). And this is where I come in my own mind to the fine points raised by Larry. You got two human tendencies here -- both related to ego attachment: One the one hand, you have the person that universalizes their own subjective experience ("Aiki doesn't work"), and on the other hand you have the person that is deluded from truly seeing one's own limiting subjectivity ("Aiki works perfectly" [in forms]).

Why is this here? To be sure, the human tendency to be attached to one's ego and to the delusions of one's ego is relative. However, there seems to be more involved here. Let us ask, "How does one get out of this cycle or this dichotomy?" Well, the easiest way is to be led out by another person that is already on the outside. Inversely, this also tells us why the dichotomy is so prominent in our art: There aren't that many people that have achieved this level of Aiki or that are in possession of a means to assist others with a way out of the dichotomy of delusion. Moreover, nearly every aspect of institutional Aikido lends itself to not needing or even wanting these kinds of people, and thus to having ourselves never become one of these people -- people we would say are truly skilled with Aiki and/or are excellent in their application of Aiki. The results: If you are clear-sighted, you see mediocrity all around you. If you are less clear-sighted, you start to redefine things like spontaneity, resistance, Aiki, etc., such that a forms specialist can be seen as miraculous, capable, and even excellent.

My own rant -- since this seems to be a thread for ranting.

dmv

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Old 05-26-2005, 11:36 AM   #29
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Wink Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

RE: Mediocrity
"Familiarity breeds contempt" is a maxim thats been around for years. If you travel to other dojos, or attend the larger seminars, you'll see that the level of mediocrity is a local or transient phenomenon that comes and goes -- it's simply the fact that there are people who aren't trying their utmost to do their best at the time (or who are, but just haven't got it yet). "Mediocrity" is often in the eye of the beholder.

Aikido IS a martial art; how 'martial' is a matter of instruction, intention, and receptivity. Different instructors at different times have different things to impart; if you hang around and travel around long enough, you should begin to see the martial depths to the art. If you only show up on Monday nights to the beginner's class, you get what you pay for.

RE: Cross-Training
Here's my belief, after spending over 20 years in the martial arts world: While a few years of training in another martial art might teach you some different fighting fundamentals, unless it is related to Budo, it going to give you new things to think about (and maybe improve your physical fitness) but not otherwise improve your Aikido. If you truly want to "cross train" to improve your Aikido, you'd best pick an art like Karate, Jujitsu, Judo, Iaido -- since they are related arts, applicable things might transfer. (If all else fails, it'll give you a greater appreciation for pain as an instructional tool.)

In my experience, training under different Aikido instructors has been more illuminating to my Aikido development than "cross training" under a different art. Especially training under different Shihans -- Yamada's recent visit to Chicago's MAC was an incredible experience, for example.


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Old 05-26-2005, 12:53 PM   #30
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Peter,

Could you elaborate upon what was incredible with Yamada's visit and also how it is related to a notion of "excellence." - please/thanks.

I'm asking, because while I agree that "mediocrity" is a transient phenomenon relative to the individual, I would say that we are also dealing with a culture of mediocrity - which is not so transient, even if it if fluctuates between a will to exist and an actual manifestation.

In my opinion, seminars are a huge part of that culture. Why? Because they are by design only capable of providing superficial elements that are central to the cultivation of Aiki as a martial tactic that one can employ spontaneously. Moreover, for federations (especially the larger ones), seminars are part of a cultural capital that "exchanges" the superficiality of what is gained for a sense of broadening one's understanding. In other words, there's this whole "switch" that takes place regarding seminars - where depth is impossible but where breadth is upheld and valued over depth. As a result, today, when we hear of folks that have trained at lots of seminars we tend to see someone that is training "seriously" and not someone that is failing to penetrate the depth of his/her art. This switch, because it is so supported by a lot of other aspects relative to things like federations, to me, represents a culture - not just an individual tendency.

To be sure, there are things that one can learn from a seminar, but because these things are taking place in a larger cultural trend, they are often wrongly held up as being much more than they are. For example, one often learns what have to be considered small little intellectual insights pertaining to various architectural aspects of a given waza. However, while these things may very much allow one to perform a given waza more efficiently (even more correctly) inside of forms training, such "tricks" of the trade do very little in terms of cultivating Aiki at a spontaneous level. In the given culture, we tend to forget this, and/or we are distracted from this truth, and as a result we stop thinking about Aiki at spontaneous levels and become more preoccupied with the small tricks that make forms more easily to reproduce within our controlled environments. As I said above, the cultural part is that we come to think of these small, mediocre, achievements as something grand and excellent.

dmv

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Old 05-26-2005, 01:21 PM   #31
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Hi David,

Thanks for those clips on the other thread...I'm still going through them.

Perhaps I've been going to different seminars for different reasons. When I go to Daito ryu seminars, they tend to be three days in length, and VERY in depth on each kata/waza taught. Not tips or tricks, but in depth study with Kondo Sensei, limited access, really great stuff. When I go to seminars like the one in Boulder, I hear things from my teacher that he doesn't always say in regular class...and I was told that Ikeda Sensei teaches and focuses on material he doesn't cover as much in regular class as well. I have seen some of what you talked about...but I don't tend to go to seminars where I think that is what I'll find. Even in the John Stevens seminars I've helped to arrange in the past, he took 4 or 5 days to cover some very good details...over the years I've gained some good exposure to his interpretation of misogi no ken and jo, and what he refers to as the 'pillars' of aikido. Again, long term, in depth. Not a casual or 'aikido light' approach at all.

So, I'm not sure I understand what you're saying about seminars...but then, maybe I'm just picky about where I spend my time. Actually, I think seminars like the aiki expo have a tough sell sometimes *because* there is soo much variety, it can be really hard to focus for the in depth opportunities, as opposed to the quick overview.

Best,
Ron

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Old 05-26-2005, 02:31 PM   #32
Matt Molloy
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Joep Schuurkes wrote:
You are right that I know far too little about UFC, etc. and the skills involved to comment on it. However your statement above might support the idea I had, since you wrote "as they reach more advanced years". I'd interpret that as they first become more or less succesfull fighters and after a number of years of practice, they come up with more interesting stuff. So they become 'succesfull' with a basic skill set and develop that skill set into something more profound later on.
(For clarity: this idea is just an idea, not a strong opinion of mine, so feel free to correct me.)
Thanks for the response.

Firstly, I'm not sure that I would classify the skills that such fighters/athletes have as necessarily basic. From what I can gather, the skills that they have developed to compete at such a level are quite sophisticated but then so are their opponents so it can sometimes be like watching top level Judo, it may look a little messy but only because they are quite evenly matched. Against someone of lesser skill we would probably see them setting up and using quite sophisticated takedowns that would look very smooth.

As to developing it into something more "profound" I personally think that just about all chat referring to "ki," "spiritual strength" or the like should be restricted to those of sandan or above. Most real enlightenment comes from first working your backside off but unfortunately too many people seem to leap to that instead of just shutting up and training.

If I can put it another way it would be that one should climb the mountain before dribbling on about the view.

Back on topic, who knows, perhaps there is a Kano or an Ueshiba in waiting going round the UFC/NHB cracking heads and quietly (or not so quietly) working on an educational or spiritual (respectively) idea of their art.

So as I said, perhaps it would be prudent to wait and see.

Quote:
Joep Schuurkes wrote:
But isn't the ideal to aspire to the 'no strenght'-idea, since it implies a thorough understanding of other factors that make technique work, such as technique, timing, distance, adaptibility, ... ?
Which of course begs the question as to why mastery of those other factors is worth more than having a thoroughly trained body. (Standard respone: you grow old, you loose physical capabilities. But are well trained old(er) people really that much weaker physically?)
Whilst the ideal is to aspire to the "no strength" idea, we cannot get away from the basic fact that to move ourselves, arms, legs, whatever does indeed take muscular strength no matter how little.

Therefore, if we build our muscular strength and endurance, we have the capacity to carry on for longer, both in terms of a day's training and in terms of lifelong training.

If I may use the image of a bushi training himself to be as strong as possible then using the aiki arts to make his use of that strength as efficient as possible so that he is unlikely to run out of strength halfway through the battle, whether that battle be a day against the enemy outside or a lifetime against the enemy within.

Of course the challenge then is to resist the temptation to muscle techniques (hey, nobody said it was easy) but I seem to remember that Michael Stuempel mentioned on another thread recently something about doing 100, 200 or 300 breakfalls before the occaisional practice to exhaust yourself so that you wouldn't be able to muscle the technique so it would appear that the Yoshinkan at least are working in this area.

So I would say that you need the technical ability in conjunction with the strength (however efficiently used) to use it.

I don't think that there is any doubt that as you grow older you lose some physical ability (technical on the other hand is an entirely different matter) but the more you have when you're younger, hopefully the more will be left when the ravages of time have done their work.

Quote:
Joep Schuurkes wrote:
Interesting thought. Would you care to elaborate?
It was just a thought that many people rush to try to emulate O'Sensei's gentle Aikido and spiritual path without ever doing half of the sheer physical work that he did.

Let's face it. The man was built like one of the tree stumps that he apparently used to work so hard to uproot on the farm. Doing hard farm work built him up quite considerably. Looking at photo's of him as a younger man you get a sense that this was someone you wouldn't want to tangle with just on a physical level.

Put another way, I showed my wife a video of him as an old man throwing around young fellows as if they weighed nothing and her first reaction, even with him at this age, was, "My god. He's built like the proverbial brick outhouse."

What would our modern equivalent be? Working on a farm? Doing the gardening? Working on a building site? Hitting the weights?

It just seems that from a very fit old man who turned out some incredibly fit and hard students to take Aikido to the world we seem to have got to a stage where we have people turning up totally out of condition and expecting to aquire the skill to fling people around without raising a sweat, even in training.

I believe that Peter Rehse has mentioned stuff like this before.

It's not the fault of the art. The art is fine.

Just some thoughts.

Cheers,

Matt.

Last edited by Matt Molloy : 05-26-2005 at 02:38 PM.
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Old 05-26-2005, 02:40 PM   #33
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Hi Ron,

Thanks for replying and thanks for forcing me to be more specific here. Also -- if you got some spare time, etc., please let me hear your view on the clips in the other thread on Shiho-nage. I am always very interested in your take on things. I find it always insightful and thus worth hearing.

As for this topic, certainly, I do not want to say that what is learned or taught at seminars is of no value. My usage of the word "trick" was polemical. My point regarding such things as they relate to a culture of mediocrity is that they are part of a larger system that attaches greater value to them than they deserve. This is particularly true, in my opinion, as it pertains to a capacity to employ Aiki under spontaneous situations that are combative in nature. It is this latter place where Larry's reflections are the most relative -- hence why I bothered to make the connection. After all, it is because we attach such wrongly placed value upon such matters that some of us tend to negate the art as a whole whenever these things fail -- which is very likely to occur under spontaneous conditions. This is one way that we can connect what is going on with seminars to what I was trying to state in my first post.

Here is how I see it:

The capacity to employ Aiki under spontaneous conditions requires things like timing, spatial awareness, sensitivity, etc. These things in turn require a body/mind that is cultivated to be able to produce such things and/or to maintain such things under any condition. This means that we are looking at a body/mind that is physically fit, well coordinated, can manifest relatively high degrees of non-attachment, and has reconciled to an equally high degree the subject/object dichotomy, etc. All of these things require at least two aspects: Wisdom and the Passing of Time. In other words, you need to know how to cultivate these things, and you must allow the time required to pass so that you can actually harvest these things.

If we look at the person that has made the mistake of faulting the tactic of Aiki and thus opted to train in other things that appear to be "easier" or "more practical," what is it we are looking at? We are looking at a person that is plagued by Ignorance and Impatience. These things are the very opposite of what is required to achieve a level of excellence and/or to be able to employ Aiki under spontaneous conditions. Now, let us ask, which side do seminars belong to?

Obviously, Wisdom is contained at seminars -- it is present there. However, there is no capacity for a maturing process to take place. I would say that this is true even when we have seminars that are weeks in length. Why? Because the kind of time we are looking at for harvesting has in my experience been something more akin to ten years in length. However, everything about the seminar is about making the most of the little time you have. This is particularly true if it is a good seminar. As a result, however, those things that are most in need of a maturing process and thus most relative to the spontaneous application of Aiki are seldom addressed. Rather, what is addressed tends to be more related to things you can pick up right on the spot and/or things that you can take home with you and continue working with on your own in order to grasp fuller understandings. In short, if you will allow me an analogy, there is a kind of "fast food" and/or "take out" orientation to seminars, and as a result, ingredients and cooking processes that are more relative to fine gourmet dining are being left out and eventually devalued.

To the point: Seminars today tend to focus upon technical and/or architectural matters. I would say this is accurate whether we are talking about how to do Ikkyo, how to do Tai-no-Henko, how to blend with this given partner, how to generate Kuzushi, or what have you. To be sure, as we are becoming a more educated public, at least here in the States, we are also starting to see seminars deal with other things of the intellect (e.g. history, philosophy, interpersonal communication, etc.). However, seminars do not focus upon, for example, reconciling the subject/object dichotomy or non-attachment because these things cannot be addressed by their format at any level. Yet, it is these things and other things like them (that I mentioned above) that are the most relevant to the spontaneous application of Aiki and thus to achieving excellence in the art and not following prey to the "easy" route of looking outside of the art for ways of justifying one's lack of depth. A over-valuing of technical matters is supporting all of this, in my opinion. Consequently, there is a devaluing of having one truly be spontaneous with Aiki under combative conditions. This is so much the case that today most deshi assume that their seminar leaders can rightly perform Aiki at spontaneous/combative levels simply because they have appeared to be wise technically. (This is a point Larry also brought up.) By extension, most of us today feel that our lack of spontaneity with the art is due to our lack of finer and finer technical detail. In this way, the cycle feeds itself. We have misunderstood and overvalued technical matters; we go to seminars; we assume technical proficiency (under controlled conditions) equates to or leads to spontaneity, ad infinitum. In the middle of all that, depending upon our character, Aikido sucks and/or Aikido "kicks ass" (or Aikido is not about martial effectiveness).

No one is teaching mediocre technical details at seminars (at least not in my experience). Things become prone to mediocrity because the excellence that is being taught there is being over-estimated in its capacity to cultivate the spontaneous application of Aiki. A culture of mediocrity is generated when we stop defining excellence in the art overall as the capacity to employ Aiki spontaneously and instead settle for technical excellence under controlled conditions as the apex of Aikido.

Here sort of an example from my life:

Once I was at a camp that had one of the highest ranking U.S. teachers instructing. In his first class we were doing Ikkyo. I got to be Uke for him. It was amazing. The weight of his technique was truly incredible -- truly crippling. The power was awe-inspiring. Later, he did some multiple attacker classes -- more free-style. Oh man! What a difference. Though successful in most folks' eyes, he was the prime example of a fettered mind. He was plagued by hesitation, attachment, indecisiveness, etc. This kind of disparity can only exist because there is a culture supporting it -- in my opinion.

Hope that makes more sense, if not, please feel free to grill me. :-)

dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 05-26-2005, 03:00 PM   #34
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Hesitation

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
Once I was at a camp that had one of the highest ranking U.S. teachers instructing. In his first class we were doing Ikkyo. I got to be Uke for him. It was amazing. The weight of his technique was truly incredible -- truly crippling. The power was awe-inspiring. Later, he did some multiple attacker classes -- more free-style. Oh man! What a difference. Though successful in most folks' eyes, he was the prime example of a fettered mind. He was plagued by hesitation, attachment, indecisiveness, etc.
So, the teacher was weaker in taninzugake than he was in duo training? Could it be that his hesitation came from wanting to avoid any accidents and injuries? Usually, the first problem with taninzugake is to avoid people getting hurt.

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Old 05-26-2005, 03:02 PM   #35
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Definately made more sense!

Quote:
However, there is no capacity for a maturing process to take place. I would say that this is true even when we have seminars that are weeks in length.
Well, I never expected that from a seminar...I think the maturing takes place in the day to day sweat...not the seminar. That's just the seed...if you don't water the soil, all you get is bird feed! But I do think in terms of Larry's post and the general thread you have a good point here...your example highlights that very well.
Best,

Ron

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Old 05-26-2005, 03:04 PM   #36
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

I understand what you are saying Stefan, but that leads to another problem...the instructor whose skill is there one on one or even in group attacks, but if you push too hard, someone always gets hurt. I think David's point is that if the skill was really there, that wouldn't be as much of a concern.

Ron

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Old 05-26-2005, 03:27 PM   #37
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Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
the instructor whose skill is there one on one or even in group attacks, but if you push too hard, someone always gets hurt. I think David's point is that if the skill was really there, that wouldn't be as much of a concern.
Ron, I have to agree with you - hoping never to need to prove it with my own example
Well, what I demand of myself in taninzugake, is firstly to avoid injury, but still to be able to control the situation with authority. There are so many solutions, so one should always be able to adapt to the situation, without losing control of it.
Anyway, that's what I try to accomplish

Stefan Stenudd
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Old 05-26-2005, 05:28 PM   #38
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

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Michael Fooks wrote:
...Aikido is at heart about learning to fight...
Thoughts?
Aikido is at heart about learning not to fight.

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Old 05-26-2005, 06:13 PM   #39
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

I've always found Aikido to be very ridgid in it's teaching too, each student basically ends up trying to be a carbon copy of the instructor which breeds a mentality that doesn't really experiment or test but that is quite happy to accept that what's been shown works and leave it at that. Combined with, certainly where I train, a lack of time and space within training to experiment and explore the technique this leads to a state where every student is performing a technique in a way which may very well work perfectly for the person that taught it but not for the actual student.
Since the usual line is that "There are no counters to Aikido" nobody ever really feels the need to work on their technique, as long as it's good enough to pass the grading they assume it's going to work out in the real world.

It's a training system that breeds complacency and complacent people don't produce good technique.

I can also vouch for the insular nature of Aikido too, Aikido is the only MA I've done where there isn't banter about other martial arts. Before whatever I've done there's always been at least a casual interest in how other martial arts do things. Certainly in my kickboxing classes there was a mix of people from different back grounds and sparring and talking martial arts always went hand in hand and in a dojo you don't have talking for long before the demonstations start. It was brilliant because it ended up that there wasn't just the the official line of the martial art being taught, there were other view points there too.

I suppose the teaching methods (at least where I train) are too formal to allow that kind of free flow of knowlege and experience, everythings purely Sensei to student.
If there's any banter in Aikido, it's usually about such and such Shihan's irimi-nage and it's off the mat unless it's being taught. This means that only the Aikido viewpoint gets taught and the official line on other martial arts around here is somewhere between "There are other martial arts!?" and "Don't worry about other martial arts, Aikido can beat them all". I mean they're just dismissed out of hand on the odd occasion when they're mentioned which for me is a radical thing, everywhere else I've been it's "Wing Chung's bloody good" and such like. Other martial arts were treated with a great deal of respect.
There's also a culture of being as Japanese as possible, senior figures are treated like Daimyo and you're very careful about what questions you ask.

It all builds up to break down communication and produce an air of complacency. Why worry about how good your technique is when you pass gradings and you "know" that you're practicing a martial art that can take on all comers?

Just my thoughts, might only apply where I'm training.
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Old 05-26-2005, 06:27 PM   #40
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

I did Judo for a fair while and one important thing I noticed was that, while I could play with a beginner like a baby, after just a few months, the average fit guy gets himself centred and becomes noticably more difficult to deal with. They wise up very quickly indeed. I am not saying they are experts by any means, just that they improve a lot in a short space of time. I don't see this in Aikido - it takes a lot longer before you notice that first jump in ability (not related to gradings at all, by the way).

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Old 05-26-2005, 07:28 PM   #41
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Just one point to make.

David - you have hit the nail squarely on the head regarding what this thread is about. Your thoughts were formulated so well that my own thoughts started taking on a more coherent and structured fashion.

Your concept on seminars is very interesting and makes great sense. Often when I travel and visit Aikido dojos the measure I get of an Instructor's skill level is gauged pretty much entirely on his technical skill in cooperative practice or demonstration, which is a good thing, but often the Instructor's real knowledge and application of sound technique and spontaneous Aiki is a different thing entirely, as you indicated previously with your experience. I often wonder if many of these Instructors can execute the same quality of technique on someone from the crowd who is not a member of his dojo or not his official Uke during seminars. In other words, does the Instructor embody his technical knowledge to the point where it really does not matter who the attacker is, how tense, spontaneous or resistant he is, so the result is still the same every time the technique is done. I know there are a few Daito Ryu teachers (Takeda's direct students) who could do this to pretty much anyone.

In Aikido however I get this feeling that people assume that if the Instructor does not have his official Uke that his performance will be somewhat compromised (this does not refer to a demo which is something else, but during Instruction) and often any mishap or mistake is seen as the Uke's fault. Though this may be true for folks with poor ukemi skills, for those who can take the ukemi, what is the reason for this discrepancy in execution between someone familiar with the Instructor's movements and someone who will simply only take ukemi when actually thrown?

To me it reflects well on an Instructor when he has a degree of faith in his abilities to do seminars or visit dojos without necessarily needing a personal Uke, but being fully capable of executing technique and manifesting Aiki on pretty much anyone who takes part in the Instruction, regardless of how much that person may not respond in a "typical" manner.

Just some more thoughts.
LC

--Mushin Mugamae - No Mind No Posture. He who is possessed by nothing possesses everything.--
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Old 05-26-2005, 10:41 PM   #42
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Here is a link that was being discussed on a Yoshinkan e-group. I feel that it is quite relevant to this conversation.

http://www.nippon-kan.org/senseis_ar...raditions.html

Charles Burmeister
Aikido Yoshinkan Yoseikai

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Old 05-26-2005, 11:02 PM   #43
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote:
I know there are a few Daito Ryu teachers (Takeda's direct students) who could do this to pretty much anyone.
Of course these people use uke just like in Aikido - same problems apply and also the inherent difficulty of evaluating just how good they really are.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 05-27-2005, 12:12 AM   #44
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

When my sensei did his aikido full time at the Yoshinkan Hombu dojo back in the 60's what he saw horrified him, he told us. White belters who'd just begun their first lessons was given similar treatment when receiving technique as though they are Dan Ranked practitioner. He was covertly told to not to give quarters even though they are white belters. The rationale being it is to separate the wheat from the chaff. If they don't like it or can't take it... then leave. Those who stayed, received the full transmission, nothing was held back. If you can take the fall, you will learn how to give the fall as well. Simple as that. You are too afraid to take the fall, you'll be sidelined and nothing much will be taught to you.

Fast forward to now...I wonder how many people who comes into my dojo are going to stay on if we start pounding them hard into the mat on the first day?

Maybe aikido is a funny art... you just can't do it correctly by looking at it. A student has to feel the technique, the pain and agony included to fully understand the fundamentals of the technique. Maybe it is me (dumb, pain loving sucker) who must feel the technique done on me repeatedly for my dumb mind to register it successfully.

Larry, maybe now, there are more people who are afraid to take the hard route that are joining the dojo environment as oppose to genuine martial art enthusiast. You know, new age fruitie kind of crowd equating aikido with some kind of new age yoga? I can only guess.

I am saying this because, it is damn difficult to retain genuine students. We have lots of enquiry and newbie try outs. Somehow, when they go home after the first lessons with bruises and bumps here and there, we seldom see them again at the dojo. <Sigh...>

Maybe the Yoshinkan Hombu have a good methodology to cater to all flavours... they separate the class to three levels. Ippan, kenshu and Senshusei. Ippan for beginners or hobbyist; Kenshu for more serious hobbyist or budo enthusiast and the Senshusei course for the dumb sadomasochist individuals (apologies to all the senshusei trained friends on this forum ).

Another point that I want to address is that when those people who have done some prior MA before, then come and do aikido for 2 months, able to 'defeat' (whatever that means) the black belters of the said dojo and then bitch about how ineffective aikido is on the street; well I said, go and try be a dojo yaburi. Defeat the sensei there; if you are successful, then take down his dojo signboard, Break apart his signboard as in the traditional "Breaking of signboard ritual of olden days". Don't bitch about how ineffective aikido is when the only person who have defeated are some regular black belters (who could only be there as hobby). <--rant mode off-->

Boon.

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Old 05-27-2005, 12:58 AM   #45
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote:
.... 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.
Well, part of that has to do with what is in their muscle memory. To use an extreme hypothetical example, if someone who'd done karate-do for 25 years joined your dojo and at the end of his very first class, some weisenheimer fired a roundhouse kick to his head when he doesn't exepct it? What would he respond with? With karate-do, of course! Yes, Aikido should contain an answer, but he'll refelxively fall back on what's dominant in his muscle memory.

It's an issue we all bump into. A couple of my training partners in Kali have tripped over their muscle memory, doing something one way even though Guro Andy wanted it done differently. It's why his Kali instructor, Guro Kevin Seaman, had a policy of not letting Kali and Jun Fan students spar right away, especially if they come from other systems, because he wants his students to apply what they learn from him, not what they learned elsewhere. But even so, old habits never go away, as Michael Neal discovered in his "Aikido Works" thread.

I don't see this as a sign of Aikido being bad or inadequate, just a "cost of doing business." The only way to absolutely gurantee a "pure Aikido" response in most people is to have someone who has never done anything else. Neither you nor I nor a lot of people here can say that.

Quote:
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.
Well, apart from holding off on randori until they have better grounding in Aikido, following Guro Kevin's example, why not teach them how to do randori and practice randori before they do it?

It sounds redundant until you understand the approach Guro Andy is taking in readying us for kickboxing sparring in Kali. Neither ne nor Guro Kevin is a beleiver in just putting the equipment on people and letting them wail on each other; they want to teach you how to spar, and more importantly, to be aware of what you're doing while you're doing it, because that's how you use it as part of your training (I guess). So we've done a bunch of classes looking at kickboxing basics, and also been doing some drills. And when the sparring starts it won't be full tilt -- you start at maybe one quarter speed, partly for safety and partly to think about what you're doing.

So maybe you could step back and build up to randori, and then start it at a slow pace so they have time to think and apply Aikido, and that after being grounded in Aikido. Not everyone may agree with that, but it seems worth considering if you want to address this issue.

Quote:
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).
Another topic to cover then -- how to apply Aiki principles against resistance. And more drills to come up with.

Quote:
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.
Again, it may be a good idea to look at those areas and come up with drills to address them. It may be one thing to say, "Aikido works on the ground," but that doesn't mean you know how to translate to that scenario.

Quote:
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" ....
I'm turning into a broken record -- how to adapt the principles to that? More drills and exercises! Whether you have much of a private life when not coming up with all these things is your problem.

Quote:
.... 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 ....
The techniques can be tricky enough; just getting them to work can be the hallenge, enver mind making them effective! It isn't easy; the devil is in the details. Someone has to have all the details ingraned before you naturally apply them to something unexpected, and that's going to take a while.
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Old 05-27-2005, 01:19 AM   #46
Chris Li
 
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote:
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.
This is more or less what I was going to say. It's not a new problem - Miyamoto Musashi complained about exactly the same kind of thing 400 years ago. The fact is, if you look at any large group of people they're probably going to follow your standard bell curve in terms of skill. There's nothing wrong with that, that's just pretty much the way that it is. Most people are just never going to be Morihei Ueshiba, Kenji Tomiki, or Gozo Shioda. That's not really a problem, IMO, not being Tiger Woods doesn't stop me from enjoyinga good game of golf.

Best,

Chris

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Old 05-27-2005, 02:38 AM   #47
Ketsan
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Michael Gallagher wrote:
But even so, old habits never go away
So very true.
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Old 05-27-2005, 05:01 AM   #48
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

I think this thread raises two important points when reevaluating (our) aikido.

The first is perception, often I read posts which tend towards the "back in my day we..." normally coupled with a bewailing of failing standards and lazy practitioners. However, what many people forget to factor in is their own increase in skill and thus the standards they are holding everyone else to. A persons assessment of skill is not an immutable bar, but develops over time. I've seen gradings changed to reflect this in such a way that they eventually become ridiculously extreme at the lower kyu levels and have to be re-done to reflect what each grade is actually meant to describe.

The second, and I believe more fundamental change, is the accessibility of aikido to the general populace. My understanding of the martial arts world (please correct me if I'm off base here) is that initially it was almost a glorious secret in the west, open only to those with the perseverance to find a dojo, be accepted and fully commit to train. With an initial "entrance test" such as this, yes I wouldn't be surprised that the average practitioner was of a higher standard, but I'd be surprised if the quality of those at the high end of the arts have declined.

I'm all in favour of pushing the boundaries within training, making every effort to retain the fundamentals of aikido and generally train and teach with purity of focus and respect. However, some recent posts (not just in this thread) have made me uneasy as I read them almost as a plea for aikido to be more exclusive, to only take the best and devil take the slacker.

Now I'm fully aware that I'm an aiki-fruitie hobbyist so may not be able to join the august club of aikido-excellence some may prefer, but for me if I can get any of my students to train to be the best they can be, I'll sit sweating and uncomfortable in my b*****d hakama, but at least I'll be happy.

On the flip side, there has been some very nice posts in this thread, much appreciated.

[you're right, this thread does lead to rants]

Last edited by happysod : 05-27-2005 at 05:04 AM.
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Old 05-27-2005, 08:20 AM   #49
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Carbon copy of teacher

Quote:
Alex Lawrence wrote:
I've always found Aikido to be very ridgid in it's teaching too, each student basically ends up trying to be a carbon copy of the instructor which breeds a mentality that doesn't really experiment or test but that is quite happy to accept that what's been shown works and leave it at that.
I would say that's very much up to the individual teacher. Students start their aikido by copying, but then they are supposed to develop their own "style", according to their own body, mind and all.

A brilliant example of this teaching is Osensei, whose direct students became more different than one could imagine: Yamaguchi sensei, Nishio sensei, Saito sensei, Tamura sensei - the list goes on. What seems to be significant for Osensei's students is that they became very different, their aikido exploring all kinds of directions.
In my mind, that's one of the many signs of just how outstanding Osensei was as a teacher. A great teacher, Osensei, indeed.

I feel that a teacher should encourage that - with the advanced students. The beginners do best to copy their teacher, during their initial learning period.

Stefan Stenudd
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Old 05-27-2005, 08:21 AM   #50
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Peter Rehse wrote:
Of course these people use uke just like in Aikido - same problems apply and also the inherent difficulty of evaluating just how good they really are.
True Peter. The reference I was referring to though had to do with folks who actually tried to resist and counter the technique of the head student of a particular DR instructor in his office. The accounts were given by these guys who indicated that they were definitely trying to fully resist the techniques in different ways.

Of course I could also have read things incorrectly.

***********************************
Quote:
Well, part of that has to do with what is in their muscle memory. To use an extreme hypothetical example, if someone who'd done karate-do for 25 years joined your dojo and at the end of his very first class, some weisenheimer fired a roundhouse kick to his head when he doesn't exepct it? What would he respond with? With karate-do, of course! Yes, Aikido should contain an answer, but he'll refelxively fall back on what's dominant in his muscle memory.
Michael, I am well aware of the effects of muscle memory and preprogrammed instinctive responses, we all have them. It is interesting to note though that these responses even show up in Instructors who have over ten years in consistently practicing and teaching Aikido when placed in situations where the Uke intends to attack, resist and counter wirth serious intent. It's like their mind crashes or something.

Quote:
I don't see this as a sign of Aikido being bad or inadequate, just a "cost of doing business."
Just to keep things on target I repeat that I in no way believe that it is the art itself that is inadequate, merely the goals, methods and measure of "skill" that is used by many instructors and how it affects the overall transmission of the art and the understanding and application of the Aiki concept to unccoperative or pressing situations effectively.

Quote:
So maybe you could step back and build up to randori, and then start it at a slow pace so they have time to think and apply Aikido, and that after being grounded in Aikido.
This is a regular part of our practice method, but as I indicated before, the issue here is not so much with the students as it is with the Instructors who are supposed to be indicating the way towards a deeper understanding of the art for those who wish to explore it. Instructors should be the measure of the quality of training at any dojo, yes or no? If yes, then that quality should have an objective measure that is independent of who is taking the ukemi, yes or no?

Quote:
Again, it may be a good idea to look at those areas and come up with drills to address them. It may be one thing to say, "Aikido works on the ground," but that doesn't mean you know how to translate to that scenario.
This is an example of what I am talking about all along. If you have allowed yourself to be taken to the ground then you have already lost initiative, balance and posture which are integral parts of Aiki waza (at least as done in Aikido). It's not about getting Aikido to work on the ground (i.e. ne waza) but having Aikido that is sound enough that does not allow you to have to get taken to the ground and still works effectively from the vertical posture against a serious grappling attack. Imho (and I can be wrong) ne waza is the realm and combative range of Wrestling, Judo and a part of Jujutsu etc. So if you are on the ground as an Aikidoka you need to be effective in Ju waza and Ne waza as the opportunity for applying Aiki may have already been lost imho. Of course I can be wrong.

**********

Boon:
Quote:
Larry, maybe now, there are more people who are afraid to take the hard route that are joining the dojo environment as oppose to genuine martial art enthusiast. You know, new age fruitie kind of crowd equating aikido with some kind of new age yoga? I can only guess.
Good point. From how I see it there will always be those who seek something other than martial effectiveness out of Aikido and that is fine. There are many ways for them to train in Aikido without going into sound martial tactics (which we see more often than not nowadays).

The topic I am referring to is really for those who are Instructors and students of Aikido who are honestly trying to understand the depths of Aiki and how to apply it in a myriad of situations without resorting to external systems or primitive responses before it is obvious that the Aiki state can no longer be maintained and by extension, the tactics and strategy contained therein are compromised. For example, it may not be the wisest thing to use a bow and arrow against someone who is holding onto you and pounding away. At this point it's time to dump the bow and pull the knife (or use the arrow as a close combat weapon or the bow as a strangulation device etc.) But once the enemy is within the effective tactical range of the bow and arrow as typically used, one should be able to maximise the bow's use imo and not pull the blade prematurely.

This is the point I am getting at. If we really start to understand, utilise and maximise the Aiki concepts and principles, then the place for using effective Aiki waza becomes obvious vis a vis other methods of combat. In this way we would not be trying to force Aiki into a mold it may not be designed for, but learn to maximise its strengths, and in the event things go awry still be able to fall back on things like Ju waza etc., hence the reason for cross training. It's about knowing the limitations of the principle by pressing, exploring and understanding its boudaries, not because we lack the ability to apply it effectively and therefore assume that the boundary between Aiki no ri and Ju no ri is a lot closer than it really is.

Am I making sense?

Thanks for all the great insights and replies.
LC

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