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Old 05-27-2005, 10:45 AM   #51
senshincenter
 
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

I would like to draw out a point that Larry made earlier. If I understand him accurately, I seem to have had a similar experience in the instruction of my own students. I am speaking of that moment when one's students respond "spontaneously" but do so without Aiki.

First some background: At our dojo we center every aspect of the training around the capacity to perform Aiki within spontaneous conditions. For us, if we were to define "excellence," or "achievement," that is what it would mean. I am taking Larry's usage of the word "excellence" (as a contrast to "mediocrity") to mean just that. We have several drills or exercises that are part of a "method" we use to take a deshi from form to non-form to a reconciliation of form and non-form. You can see some of our beginner drills at the following links:

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/shuofri.html

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/v...eflection.html

From one perspective, a point in these drills is to employ Aiki -- to veer away from using raw leverage, raw muscle, obstructing tactics, etc. The drills are of such a nature, in that they are aimed at the mind of the deshi, that they at first very much fetter the student in his/her response. Another relevant factor of these drills is that at first they only represent physically a small aspect of what is truly possible to experience within any kind of martial encounter. As one progresses, other, more "difficult," aspects of combative engagement are experienced and/or included.

We have all kinds of students that train in this way. We have the person who has never done a martial art or any kind of athletic/competitive endeavor in the whole of their life. We have folks of age 20 to age 52. We have male and female deshi. We have folks that have trained and are ranked in TKD, Kenpo, Krav Maga, Karate, etc., and we have an All-State wrestling champion. We have Deputy Sheriffs and we have City Police Officers. We have folks that are as hard as nails and we have folks that are as delicate as a newly formed leaf. I am noting this because I think that we are for the most part representative of any dojo. In this way then, as a dojo, we do face some of the issues that have lately been brought up in this thread: training elite students only, training the masses, training those that have trained in other martial arts, training those that have never trained in any martial art, etc.

So, we are doing these drills, and a key moment arises: the deshi becomes fettered and their response loses its capacity for employing Aiki. At such times, whether it is the Krav Maga practitioner or the single mother of two that has never trained in anything, the response is the same. Either they force a technique (utilizing the wrong range, the wrong timing, the wrong weapon, the wrong target, etc.) or they retreat into a tactically inferior position in order to prolong their defeat but also to make it equally inevitable. I say these responses are the same because they both come for a lack of Aiki that comes from a fettering of the body/mind.

For the remainder of the discussion, I would like to talk about the first likely response: forcing technique. Through the training the forcing of technique is noted as wrong and it is made clear to the deshi that this is so. This remains so even if it may appear that the deshi's response proved to be "successful." It is wrong for two reasons: first it is wrong because it does not represent the type of spontaneity that the student has committed to attaining; and second it is wrong because its "success" is often only a result of the fact that the drill has compartmentalized the combative experience. As the drills advance, the value of the former aspect is found in its capacity to address larger and larger parts of an overall combative experience.

So, granting that there are a lot of folks that do not do such drills, that do not center their training around such drills, and/or that have poor substitutes for such drills, even within our own parameters we must acknowledge that there is a likelihood for being unable to perform Aiki at spontaneous levels of combat. At such times, to be sure, some of the previously trained folks will claim "muscle memory," and some of the folks that have never trained will claim a lack of experience for their improper response. And, of course, others will come to say that they do not wish to be a "can of whoop ass" -- that that is not what Aikido is about for them, etc. From one point of view, this all appears to make sense individually (concerning why someone responded without Aiki -- in a "common sense" kind of way). However, from the point of view of unfettering the mind, these things are all the same.

For example, for the TKD guy who tells me that he is used to kicking, etc., I tell him that kicking is not the problem. The problem, for example, is not having the proper timing for the kick. I ask him, "Is it part of the TKD ideal to jam your kicks and to have your balance so vulnerable that you cannot really continue your attack and/or counter any counter-attack?" Obviously the answer is "no." I ask, "Does not TKD have a notion of the right weapon for the right job?" Obviously, the answer is "yes." "Does TKD teach you to cling to a weapon no matter what the circumstances or the environment?" The answer: "no." I explain, "The issue here is not what weapon was thrown but how poorly it was employed in terms of the various aspects of Aiki and also how attached the body/mind was to something that was obviously out of harmony with the nature of the situation." This is how the training goes, and it goes like this for the person with no experience to the person that clings to a notion of "Aikido" that does not possess such an understanding. Therefore, in relation to the previously trained person, because all of this is relating to a fettering of the mind, I do not believe that having aikidoka train in other arts prior to training in Aikido ("like in the ‘golden age'") or allowing them leeway concerning "muscle memory" is the solution and/or even relevant to the culture of mediocrity we are discussing. These issues are going to arise no matter what. More than that -- these issues are supposed to arise in the training. So too are our solutions (as teachers) supposed to arise in order to meet them.

For me, this culture is addressed precisely when one's incapacity to employ Aiki at spontaneous levels is brought to the forefront of one's awareness AND when one's likely non-Aiki responses are exposed for their inferiority. If we are going to understand excellence as the capacity to perform Aiki within spontaneous combative situations, then there is no other way to address the culture of mediocrity but by these two avenues. Having tougher people train harder or in a more committed fashion will achieve little to nothing if it means they are only training harder and being more committed to a method of acquiring forms. Being able to raise more questions concerning architectural matters will also achieve little to nothing if those questions never leave the realm of forms training. In this same way, even "cross training" will not achieve what we think it might achieve if we again restrict it to a system of form.

Still, perhaps there is one more relevant notion: the capacity for accurate self-reflection. After all, we all think we are heading down the path of spontaneity, we may even all think we do the same kind of training (allowing for variation), etc. However, we could all be wrong -- myself included. It seems the capacity to reflect upon one's own Self accurately is a much needed skill as well if this culture is to be addressed in any real kind of way.

dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 05-27-2005, 01:07 PM   #52
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

That's the kind of training I want to see. Thanks for that, it was interesting.
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Old 05-27-2005, 03:35 PM   #53
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Very very well put David. I think you opened up and clarified the point quite nicely.

The comment on self reflection is very apt imo. It is something I try to do honestly, regardless of the results I get and what it may reflect of my own training or lack thereof. In the end the idea is to see yourself through a clear glass and accept whatever level on may have acquired and then move towards consistently doing what is necessary to improve upon wherever we are at the point of reflection.

Being objective in reflection is pretty important here also imho, since many of us can easily toss around folks during kata or demos but not so easily, or almost never during a bit of resistance. In this way we are challenged to admit whether we are truly embodying the principles of Aiki unconditionally or if there is condition to our ability to employ Aiki, such as a cooperative partner who is accustomed to our way of movement or someone who gives an easily telegraphed or non-threatening attack or someone who is not seriously driven to attack with intent.

In other words if the reflection is a poor one, don't break the mirror or paint a false image over the one that is there and stick around with your dojo mates who will always tell you how great your demos and kata are (regardless of the reality), but accept what is really there in humility and work to honestly improve towards the goal of achieveing spontaneous Aiki and deeply understanding and applying the principles of Aiki.

Just some more thoughts. You folks are giving some very good insights into this concept.

Arigato Gozaimashita
LC

--Mushin Mugamae - No Mind No Posture. He who is possessed by nothing possesses everything.--
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Old 05-27-2005, 03:38 PM   #54
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Eek! Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
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.
First off, before I respond to an earlier request, WHERE or IN WHAT DOJO is that "the usual line?" (I'd like to know, so I can avoid visiting there.) In 20 years of Aikido, I've never heard it said. Countering a poor technique is the simplest way to show the nage that they are doing ineffective aikido, in my experience. Every technique has a counter -- if you're willing to pay the price (as uke). Why else learn and teach henkawaza and kaeshiwaza?

Second, anyone who assumes "good enough to pass" means "this works for me in the real world" is dangerously deluded. We all should realize that a gokyu-level test is not likely to demonstrate dan-level aikido. Passing the test means you have a certain level of understanding of the technique -- it may be real-world effective at Ikkyu; at Yonkyu it might not. (Remember what "assume" stands for?)

End rant.

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

Yamada brought the "martial" back into what are thought of as "basic" techniques, by teaching them in a dramatic but wholly aiki way. And he didn't just demonstrate them and pray that people were watching closely -- he taught, observed whether or not it was being absorbed, worked with individuals as needed, and stopped the class to demonstrate fine points that were being consistently missed.

Here's an example:

Yamada-san was teaching a variant of iriminage from gyaku-hanmi katatedori in a series of lessons... Style: he would demonstrate, then we'd break off into pairs, and he'd roam and individually correct us. (Note that this was the extra Friday night class before the Yudansha-only seminar, so the mat was full of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Dans from all over the US, but some lowly Kyu ranks like myself were present.) Each successive technique in this series built on the ones before it:

First: practice the entrance - get into a very close, deep irimi-tenkan entrance that shifted uke's weight forward, out and down

Second: practice the choke-hold available at that position (!) to control uke's head and off-balance them - make it an effective choke

Third: progress from the choke-hold to a hip-shifting, head-taking, center-destroying iriminage.

Fourth: Yokomenuchi strike, countered by the same style of iriminage (if I remember correctly).

Yamada-san was careful to emphasize the roles of both nage, and uke in the technique -- both are active, with uke actively resisting the choke, which enables and powers the iriminage. And that took most of the first hour, giving us plenty of time to practice at each point and improve.

Thats what I mean about an excellent seminar - excellent teaching of excellent martial arts, not just a "show and try - this works for me" aikido variety show. An excellent seminar is one that helps you "polish the mirror."


A little danger is a knowledge thing...

"Helping the planet make an impact on people, since 1985"
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Old 05-27-2005, 04:09 PM   #55
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
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.
David, if one examines your thesis carefully, then the only "real" measure of excellence in aikido is to look at the the randori portion at the end of a graded test -- that's one of the few places we can "employ Aiki spontaneously." And I tend to agree with you. Handling multiple attackers causes one to react spontaneously from one's core -- and you put out what you've put in, in my experience; sincere practice leads to a sincere response.

The alternative would be to set them up for a mugging and see how they respond -- not very practical, and some people would get seriously hurt.

So, I wonder if you're viewing the "cult of testing" and "teach to the test" and interpreting it as mediocrity.... Grading for "technical excellence under controlled conditions" is the only practical way to compare the proficiency of different individuals -- how well do they accomplish the same tasks to meet a set benchmark for technical ability. And without the controlled conditions, people get hurt. But, if the only aikido you see is just teaching the grading requirements, then you are seeing only a fragment of what aikido is all about. And that's not right - there is a lot more to Aikido than that.


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Old 05-27-2005, 06:36 PM   #56
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Hi Peter,

Thanks for replying. Much appreciation.

I would like to return the favor for both of your posts.

To be sure, there are those seminars out there where they are just so huge and short on time that hands-on time with the seminar leader is pressed and shallow. I think everyone has experienced something like that or has at least heard of such huge events. I do not think anyone would consider them "excellent" seminars, though they may still be informative for some. I was not really referring to those kinds of events. As I wrote in my reply to Ron, I had qualified what you yourself experienced and I also gave my reasons for saying that such events do not really directly contribute to a notion of "excellence" if we are defining excellence as the capacity to demonstrate Aiki spontaneously, etc. In other words, if it were an excellent seminar, I would say it was only that -- it was an excellent technical seminar (assuming one feels Yamada/Doshu's Irimi Nage is consistent with Aiki -- which, I'm sorry to say, I do not.). It was excellent for what it attempted to cover and for the manner in which it attempted to cover that information.

My issue is that we tend to over exaggerate the scope or such events or the material that was covered at such events. In other words, these are excellent technical matters, but if we do not have access to a viable means of generating the spontaneous application of Aiki within ourselves, these things lose much of their value (when we are defining "excellence" in the art as we have been doing here). I do not wish to speak for the whole of Aikido -- it is a very big world after all -- but in my experience I have met a hell of a lot of folks that believe seminars to be "excellent" but do not have any viable access to generating the spontaneous application of Aiki within themselves. Something is wrong with this picture and it becomes evident when you ask: "If you have no viable means of cultivating the spontaneous application of Aiki within yourself, what are seminars excellent for?"

When we do not have a viable means of generating the capacity to demonstrate Aiki spontaneously, all technical matters become a matter of "form for form's sake," and/or matters of addressing the institutional and economical needs of our various political allegiances, etc., and/or cashing in one some cultural capital via these institutions. A culture of mediocrity does not come about because people start wanting to be mediocre. It, like all cultures, is not tyrannically placed upon oneself from the outside. Rather, they are always self-adopted. Today, even though it probably started a long time ago, "excellent" has come to be defined as, for the most part, what fulfills the institutional and economic needs of our self-adopted politics. That is why today, excellence sides more with form for form's sake than it does with a reconciliation of form and non-form. This is why there are some very hardcore folks, very strong and powerful folks, very committed folks, alpha-type folks, etc., that are part of federations and that are great at forms. As part of a culture, federations are not, as some have been suggesting, lacking in hardcore "hard as nails" fully committed folks. They are there; only they are hardcore in relation to forms, committed to learning forms, and hard as nails within forms.

There is a logic to all of this -- after all no matter how artificial a culture may be, it has to present a kind of sense. One can do nothing institutionally or economically with a reconciliation of form and non-form. I mean we can see right off the bat that an emphasis upon the reconciliation of form and non-form would lead to individual dojo and/or teachers being emphasized and not the art and/or the over-riding governing body said to head that art. Ultimately, a reconciliation of the subject/object dichotomy is always going to be anti-institutional. We can also note that even if folks were involved in such training, dissemination of the art will always take place faster than such reconciliation can occur in the individual. Hence, an upholding of form for forms sake has played a vital role in the spreading of the art and thus in the growth of the art (to some degree), and thus more folks will always be exposed to that type of training and its notion of excellence than to any type of training that has to do with spontaneity. Finally, when one reconciles form and non-form, the usual boundaries of one's art (and the boundaries of other arts) become blurry, if not outright meaningless. Try rallying huge numbers of folks around that one! In other words, there is a very tight connection, culturally speaking, between federations, the dissemination of the art, the identity of the art, upholding form for form's sake while devaluing the spontaneous expression of Aiki, and our current (popular) notion of excellence falling way short of what it could or should. In the same way, there is something very anti-federation, anti-disseminating, anti-identifying, anit-form-for-form's-sake, etc., concerning a reconciliation of form and non-form.

Now, some very good people, with loads of talent, are working within these systems to be defined as excellent according to their cultural understanding of excellence. They are not setting out to be mediocre. Larry just seems to have turned things on its head -- rightly so if I may add. He did this because he bothered to see one of the current backlashes to such a system: Folks trying out their Aikido spontaneously and not being successful at it and thereby making the mistake that it is the art that is flawed and not their own talent at the art.

Today, things seem to be ripe for the raising of these kinds of issues. Certain areas of the world have had enough exposure to the art and to its means of dissemination to go on to ask questions penetrating enough to force some changes according to its own stated positions and/or assumptions. For example, during a time of wide dissemination, during a time when no one was questioning "form for form's sake" as a legitimate measure of skill, folks were still spouting the value of Aiki -- as an apex of martial strategy and tactics. All that folks like Larry are doing nowadays is saying, in a way, "Hey, you are right, Aiki is at the apex of martial strategy and tactics, so don't you think you should be able to demonstrate it spontaneously since that is really what ‘martial' implies?" Personally, I think that is what our generation should be doing now -- the post-Japanese Shihan era folks. We do not have such a huge dissemination problem to address -- at least not comparatively speaking and certainly not in the States. The art does not need one more forms specialist. It is time for us to free ourselves from the culture of breadth and dissemination and to adopt for our own times a culture of depth and of penetration. Now of course, we all think we are doing this, so more specifically let me say: It is time for us to take on seriously the task of gaining the martial spontaneity of Aiki and to develop various viable means by which to lead others to that same level of cultivation.

In that way, in answer to your question, yes, I do feel that the "cult of testing," because it is such a vital practice of the institutions that require excellence to be defined as form for form's sake, is part of the culture of mediocrity. The only true test our generation should have is the test that takes place daily -- the measuring of ourselves in terms of quality and in terms of distance from spontaneously being capable of performing Aiki within combative situations. Under such a daily measuring, techniques take on a completely new meaning. No longer are they mere answers to a type of physical quiz, they are now the real bread and butter of our practice. In a strange way, to truly come to value Aikido waza, we have to devalue them first to a secondary position in the measuring of excellence. That is to say, when the spontaneous application of Aiki from within combative situations becomes the central aspect of our practice, techniques, their proper and improper way of execution, become vital to that practice.

However, I would not count that the little randori one sees at the end of a test as really a departure from the cult of mediocrity. Such a thing is really the culture trying to stay true to its original discourse while not wholly subverting itself. One sees these kinds of things in cultures of all sorts. They, like in a test of form for form's sake, often come whenever a culture comes closest to contradicting one of its most valued discourses (i.e. Aiki is at the apex of martial strategy and tactics). Colloquially, we call them "lip service." But with all forms of lip service, if you look at them, no culture can really 100% mean what it is saying, so it is always said in a way that it more resembles the contradiction (i.e. form for form's sake) than it does its discursive or stated truth (i.e. Aiki is at the apex of martial strategy and tactics). This is why randori often has folks doing expected things (i.e. uke madly running at nage with both arms outstretched in front of them and nage performing variations on kokyu-nage and ate-ago). In other words, at such times, the culture does all it can to appear to be addressing spontaneity while it equally does it all it can to not actually be practicing spontaneity.

Again, I think Larry has said it the best, when he wrote:

"In other words if the reflection is a poor one, don't break the mirror or paint a false image over the one that is there and stick around with your dojo mates who will always tell you how great your demos and kata are (regardless of the reality), but accept what is really there in humility and work to honestly improve towards the goal of achieveing spontaneous Aiki and deeply understanding and applying the principles of Aiki."

If we do this, we are always going to see our way through things like seminars, tests, the "martial," multiple attacker situations of three or four or more folks, etc., to our generations most important task: Cultivating Aiki spontaneity within ourselves and developing viable means for others to achieve this very same cultivation.

Thank you very much,
david

David M. Valadez
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Old 05-27-2005, 10:17 PM   #57
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote:
.... 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?
Who determines what is an "objective" standard? By what criteria? If the instructors in question have met their organizations requirements for being an instructor, then what else is required?

Sounds like I'm fudging, but I think it can be a trick question: If I say "Yes" and then you set a standard almost nobody can reach, what does that prove?

Quote:
.... 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.
I don't know if you're right or wrong. The key question is if Aiki happens only at the outset of a situation, or if the opportunity can come and go at any point. My personal feeling leans towards the latter, based mainly on the experience of a pushing hands practice in Tai Chi where my partner put himself in nikkyo and I took advantage of it. If I hadn't, I would have been in trouble in the next second -- he was probably going for his own trap. I knew that hand position from Aikido -- it didn't come from anywhere else. So was it Aiki, or wasn't it?
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Old 05-28-2005, 05:06 AM   #58
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

(Warning: long rambling)

Excellent thread. Many good ideas, and it managed to really stir up some (of my) thoughts. Now that idea of more spontaneity training is kind of confusing me a bit. We do this as well (mostly evasion drills against several attackers with or without light attacks), and I think it's great. But it seems to run counter to (what I perceive of being) the traditional kata-based approach.

I recently read that great interview with Kuroda Sensei (http://www.bugei.com/kuroda.html), who essentially said that he learned everything from diligent training of the kata. And the Shu Ha Ri approach also seems to me to "suppress" all spontaneity during the "Shu" stage, which most "non-professional" martial artists rarely get out of.

Now I'm trying to resolve that "conflict" between the two approaches. "Train for spontaneity from the start" seems to bring students faster to an "applicable" level of skill, but it might actually ingrain bad habits that are hard to get rid of again in the long run. On the other hand the "perfect form first" approach certainly requires more patience.
Now I have to interrupt that train of thought because I feel it misses the point. Maybe a more useful angle is this:

From what we know of great teachers, (almost) pure kata training can produce excellent results. I think we can agree on that. But it is certainly not easy to learn from kata, and neither is teaching them properly. I guess the largest part of the perceived problem with the "forms" crowd is that most students -- and teachers -- don't really penetrate to the meaning of the practiced kata and thus only learn a fraction of the knowledge they are designed to impart. Forms for forms' sake, as was already said.

So, in theory, one can become an excellent (in the sense that word has been used in this thread so far) aikidoka by doing forms training only. If (big "If") one is highly motivated and interested and has an excellent teacher who thoroughly understands the kata. But for most people it is very helpful to mix in some freeform / spontaneity training (a) to give them some usable skills before they retire and (b) to help illustrate the martial aspects in the kata. As long as the spontaneity drills are designed and executed in a way that minimizes the building of bad habits.

Well, that got quite a bit longer than I intended and morphed from a kind of question to basically a dump of my thought process *g*. Maybe someone can make some sense of it though
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Old 05-28-2005, 05:38 AM   #59
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Michael Gallagher wrote:
Who determines what is an "objective" standard? By what criteria? If the instructors in question have met their organizations requirements for being an instructor, then what else is required?

Sounds like I'm fudging, but I think it can be a trick question: If I say "Yes" and then you set a standard almost nobody can reach, what does that prove?
I understand your point Michael and it's one that concerns many when asking themselves serious questions on excellence.

Personally I think the Aiki concept is subject to interpretation to a point. As such I don't think any monolithic hard and fast rule will apply to all people and all situations. There are a lot of different expressions of Aiki and Aikido out there and not many people (if any) are in a position to state categorically what is wrong or right (I am surely not in that list).

When it comes down to martial spontaneity I truly believe that you are your best rule setter since you will know your strengths and weaknesses the best if your are being honest with yourself. As such it's not so much about trying to achieve some amorphous, God-like powers of martial interpersonal coordination, but instead, a string of identifiable, obtainable, achievable short-term goals that goes on until you find your own highest manifestation of spontaneous Aiki. As a white belt a Shodan may appear to be a God, not so much so when you are Ikkyu about to test for Shodan.

Relating to my last post, I see it as a step by step process. Evaluate yourself and your practice with a clear, humble mind to see yourself and your training as it exists today, then imagine the end goal (in your own definition) of truly spontaneous and applied aiki (whether it be an idealised image of Ueshiba M., water flowing down a mountain or whatever you need), and then set a chain of small, achievable step by step goals to get you there. In time these goals may change as you get a better, clearer understanding of yourself and the Aiki concept as you walk the honest, humble path towards achieving a level of spontaneous Aiki. There will come a point where you may find revelations that make you feel like a beginner all over again, but it is part of the evolutionary process. In the end I think each person's manifestation of Aiki at their own highest level is, like Aiki waza, flavoured by their personality, character, mindset, spirit etc. etc. and as such is a very personal thing, being the best manifestation for you. Sort of like - why is a bubble round?

Even though the above subjectivity exists however, there is objectivity since the goal is no longer defined by a particular testing syllabus, a cooperative uke who makes you look good or any sort of assistance that exists outside yourself and your embodiment of Aiki. You no longer need the political belt systems to show your proficiency in Aiki because you now embody the concept and it becomes a way of expression for you, like speaking or walking. In fact, relying on the political grading syllabi as your only means of measuring an understanding of the art reminds me of the old Gracie saying: "The belt only covers 2 inches of your a$$, the rest you have to back up with skill." The syllabus is merely a guide, but when we begin to understand the thing properly it's value as "a guide" and not "the dogma" may be truly seen. So it depends on what you want to see as real. Regardless of what belt you wear you will know inside how much you truly understand and how far you may be from achieving true excellence. Remember a belt only shows that you have passed a test for a set requirement of movements, that is all, it does not necessarily denote skill in spontaneously applying these concepts or movements.

Quote:
Michael Gallagher wrote:
I don't know if you're right or wrong. The key question is if Aiki happens only at the outset of a situation, or if the opportunity can come and go at any point. My personal feeling leans towards the latter, based mainly on the experience of a pushing hands practice in Tai Chi where my partner put himself in nikkyo and I took advantage of it. If I hadn't, I would have been in trouble in the next second -- he was probably going for his own trap. I knew that hand position from Aikido -- it didn't come from anywhere else. So was it Aiki, or wasn't it?
Actually, I never said "Aiki happens only at the outset of a situation" I said that the opportunity to apply it effectively is lost when one loses the initiative among other things. There are at least 3 levels of Sen (initiative) in Japanese Budo - Sensen no Sen, Sen and Go no Sen.

As far as your Tai Chi push hands experience goes, if it truly felt like Aiki to you then it probably was. Didn't the "old man" say that anything that is forced is not Aikido? Sounds like your partner walked into that technique. Sounds like Aiki to me at a basic level. But it does not necessarily mean that this can be repeated had your partner been seriously attacking (not doing push hands to give you an initial comfortable touch point of reference), resisting (negating every movement you make) and counter attacking with intent. What David and I are getting at I believe is that many of us stop at the level of achieving Aiki in a very basic, cooperative setting (a mediocre level???) and think that we have reached the peak of the mountain so to speak (the level of excellence). Sometimes when at what we think is the "peak" it may be good to see if one can reach up and touch the moon itself. Just in case.

Gambatte.
LC

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Old 05-28-2005, 04:50 PM   #60
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

(This is long - please skip if uninteresting.)

When I speak of spontaneity, I am speaking of a reconciliation of form and non-form. I am not at all advocating a rejection of form or of forms training. Therefore, when I suggest that our generation's greatest agenda should be the cultivation of the capacity to perform Aiki spontaneously and the development of viable means by which we can bring others to such states of body/mind, again, I am not suggesting that we do away with forms and/or with forms training.

Shu, Ha, Ri is a traditional model of such a reconciliation. If we would like, we can of course use such a model to develop such a capacity and/or to discover various means to accomplish such desired-for ends. However, many of us will have to uncover this traditional model for ourselves because many of us have either not heard of it or have only heard of it in passing via some sort of descriptive discourse. In other words, for many of us, this traditional model is either unknown or at most only known intellectually. As a result, traditional or not, such a model is going to have to be reworked and/or reinterpreted as it is ultimately going to have to address a lot of personal discovery on the part of the practitioner that is attempting to use it. For example, one of my past teachers was one of the few Shihan that have actually bothered to write about Shu-Ha-Ri. Meaning, he is one of the few students of Osensei that actually related some of his training and his teaching to Shu-Ha-Ri in some sort of overt manner. However, was our training any different from other dojo that did not at all make mention of this traditional model? No -- not in my opinion. Were we by our system of transmission and practice any closer to reconciling form and non-form than any other dojo that never made mention of Ri? No -- not in my opinion. I am not mentioning this here to comment upon the capacity of various aikidoka to act spontaneously and thereby to comment upon whether they were excellent or not in the art. I am mentioning this to suggest that our generation is going to have to get imaginative and creative, even when we look to traditional resources (which we of course should attempt), because this kind of material is not readily available in the same what that technical issues are today.

Some of the things we are going to have to get imaginative and creative over are going to require that we suspend our hardcore beliefs in some of the issues that are needed to support a form for form's sake discourse. For example, there is the very common idea that spontaneity training is some sort of chaotic situation -- one that is not only not conducive to the acquiring of details but actually counter-productive toward such acquiring. While I imagine that if one were to mistake a reconciliation of form and non-form to mean "do whatever comes natural and/or at first impulse," then such a thing might prove to be true. However, since a reconciliation of form and non-form rests on the cultivation of non-attachment, which in itself would problematize habits and impulses in the very same way that it would incorrect form, any spontaneous training that is done in synch with forms training is going to always positively reflect back on that forms training. Under such conditions, when your techniques keep failing and/or being countered under spontaneous conditions, your first impulse is not necessarily to do whatever comes "naturally." Rather, it is to figure out what you are doing wrong technically. That is to say, under such conditions, one is actually more prompted than ever to return to the technical chalkboard of form. The drive that accompanies this type of interest in form, in my opinion, dwarfs the drive that normally accompanies our interest in forms (e.g. testing requirements, social status, etc.). This is quite contrary to our common sense understanding of how spontaneous training relates to form and detail.

In addition, this new drive in relation to forms training, because it acts as a practical outlet, comes to inspire and/or determine our capacity for understanding forms at a much deeper level. Things like contradictions or inconsistencies in our arsenal and/or tactical theory become more apparent (or even just apparent for the first time) through spontaneous training. (I mention inconsistency here because I think a shallow understanding of one's own art and/or one's own theories regarding that art is marked often marked by inconsistency. A depth of understanding is marked by a consistency of thought and action.) Actually, as a way of providing examples, I would like to speak about a few of these things that I have come to discover. (By "discover," I do not mean, "invent." I simply mean, "to realize for oneself.") Since I have been advocating the use of video in these forums, I will limit myself to addressing only those things I have accompanying video for.

Here are some things I have experienced that, because of the way I experienced them, I feel are relative to this discussion -- to the points made by Larry. These things may reflect upon your own training or practice, however that is not my intention with mentioning them here. Here, they are mentioned so as to demonstrate how spontaneous training can deepen one's understanding of forms by inspiring consistency in one's tactical assumptions and/or theories.

- Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote: We all know what Shomenuchi is. We all know what a real strike is. We all know what Aiki is -- or at least we can say, we all know Aiki is not a clashing of energies. However, throughout my own training and in a lot of training I have witnessed, these facts are often warped and twisted into a falsehood that simultaneously supports and hides an abundance of inconsistency. For example, I have been taught, practiced, and witnessed Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote as a meeting of Uke's downward energy at the elbow with Nage's upward energy. Yet, this is a clash and thus a violation of Aiki. I have been taught, practiced, and witnessed Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote as Nage making contact with Uke at his/her elbow and wrist. Yet, if Uke is actually striking with Shomenuchi, the wrist cannot be made contact with until the strike is already coming down -- making this also a clash and a violation of Aiki. Alternatively, if Uke is not striking but simply sticking their hand out, and/or up and out, then this is not a strike and/or Shomenuchi and again I am not demonstrating Aiki in relation to the downward strike prescribed by the techniques idealized architecture. And I have been taught, practiced, and witnessed Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote as Nage striking at Uke's face first, Uke then responding with the opening for Ikkyo, and then Nage completing the technique as described. Yet, in doing this, while I may have completed the ending of the technique, I certainly robbed myself of the opportunity to practice Aiki against the downward strike. In all of these variations, which I imagine we have all seen and/or even practiced, we are either inconsistent with what we know as a real strike, or we are inconsistent with what we know as Aiki, or we are inconsistent with what we claim one can do with Aiki regarding the downward strike of Shomenuchi.

If one stays within forms training, none of this is very problematic. There are ample distractions along the way to veer us off course from discovering these very easy to see inconsistencies. For example, there is the usual case that we were shown "this" way by a "great teacher" -- a "student of the founder" -- a "person who's been practicing 40 years," etc. If we are doing the "strike-first" method of this technique, we can be distracted by either a sense of aggressiveness and/or the need to get more aggressive. If we are doing the no-striking version, we can preoccupy ourselves with a sense of being smooth, gentle, fluid and of blending. If a clash gets too great, we can preoccupy ourselves with getting stronger. My point is that a culture of mediocrity that is basing itself upon a form for form's sake discourse is going to have a lot of things that an agent can use to not see the inconsistencies of his/her own position and thus its (the culture's) own right to authority (i.e. to determine reality). Spontaneous training environments aimed at reconciling form and non-form are one way out of such a quagmire of inconsistent thought and action.

When you try these variations on Shomenuchi Ikkyo inside a spontaneous environment, you start to notice something, long before you even realize these plain to see inconsistencies. You start to notice that you can never pull off Ikkyo -- the very form you have likely practiced the most. Your technique is subverted, countered, or even ignored, or worse, you cannot even access the beginning of the form spontaneously. Here is where some folks, those that bother to train under such conditions, say, "Man, Aikido sucks. I need to either train in another art or I need to bring in some other stuff that actually works." I do not want to be hard on these folks because they are really up against an entire culture. I mean, what else can one really say when you got a whole fallacy of authority, notions of aggressiveness, blending, fluidity, strength, etc., telling you these variations should work? Perhaps, at the beginning, you can tell yourself that you are just not in line enough with the given authority, or you just aren't blending enough, or you aren't fluid enough, or you are not strong enough, etc. However, if you keep up this training, and you do not fall prey to the egocentric mistake of universalizing your own subjective experience, sooner or later, you are going to stumble across the awareness necessary to see that part of the problem is how inconsistent these variations are with the art's ultimate positions (which do indeed make sense).

You are going to see that there is only one way to employ Aiki in the technique of Shomenuchi Ikkyo Omote: You must enter (yang) when the strike is going up (yin) -- making contact at the elbow region (since this is the only point of contact on the arm relative to this position and conducive to the rest of the technique). When Yang and Yin are matched, energy is harmonized, and Aiki is manifested. Once you start practicing this you start to realize how freaking difficult it is to do. Why? Because you realize it is only partly an architectural matter. You realize that a huge part of it has to do with both contact-sensitivity and non-contact-sensitivity. More than that, as for non-contact-sensitivity, you start realizing that you are dealing with human sensory skills that though perfectly natural are simply not natural to you and/or to nearly anyone else you know. You also start to see how there are 10,000 things in you and around you that get in the way of you cultivating this perception/sensitivity and thus work to having you fail at this technique. However, you keep going. You keep going, even passed your likely suspicions that all these other methods you tried to learn before were partly supported by tradition but also partly supported by the fact that this other way is so damn difficult to learn. You keep going, and next thing you know, the technique is coming out left and right under any spontaneous conditions that present themselves relative to its architecture. In this way, spontaneous training and forms relate to each other. However, they not only reflect upon each other. Spontaneous training brings clarity to forms that often cannot be brought about in any other way.

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/v...kkyovideo.html


- Tachi Waza Yokomenuchi Irimi Nage Omote/Tenkan: Again, we all know what Yokomenuchi is. We all know what a real strike is. We all know what Aiki is -- or at least we can say, we all know Aiki is not a clashing of energies. However, throughout my own training and in a lot of training I have witnessed, these facts are often warped and twisted into a falsehood that simultaneously supports and hides an abundance of inconsistency. For example, I have been taught, practiced, and witnessed Yokomenuchi Irimi Nage as a meeting of Uke's inward energy at the forearm with Nage's outward energy (whether this be at a place of zero-pressure or at a place of maximum-pressure). For a system that in many places claims not to block and/or to allow energy to continue upon its intended path of action -- boom! -- all of sudden, you got this thing. No matter how you look at this, it is a clash and thus a violation of Aiki. I have been taught, practiced, and witnessed Yokomenuchi Irimi Nage as Nage entering behind Uke and then pulling him/her into Kuzushi with the tenkan. Yet, if Uke is actually striking he or she has enough inertia on their body that such a step into tenkan by Nage is actually a clash of reverse energies. Again, this is a violation of Aiki. And I have been taught, practiced, and witnessed Yokomenuchi Irimi Nage as after generating Kuzushi, Nage should be looking in the opposite direction of Uke prior to the final throw. Again, this is another clash of opposite energies, not to mention that it clearly flies in the face of the most basic rules of tenkan-ashi (i.e. you should be looking in the same direction as Uke).

So here you go again, armed with these versions you step into some spontaneous training conditions. Again, they fail, and again you are left with the choices of faulting the art, yourself, or your understanding of the art. You opt for the third option. You start noticing that you are indeed clashing with your opponent at the initial te-sabaki -- that combatants do not leave their hand up there for you to parry it; that if you stop their hand like that they just hit you with the other one real fast or transition to some other strike from some other part of their body. If you go against bigger people, you notice that you are not strong enough to stop any of their strikes in that way. You reflect back on your experience in forms and you realize that a huge part of your "success" had to do with Uke not really trying to strike you -- but rather with having them meet your "block" in a blending-like fashion. At this point you realize not only are you being inconsistent with Aiki you are also being inconsistent in your claim to practice the technique against a strike. So you keep going, back to the spontaneous training conditions. Maybe you have figured out how to address a inward-angled strike with Aiki now, or maybe you are just trying to work Irimi Nage from any time you are actually able to get behind Uke. You try the Kuzushi from the tenkan -- geesh! -- the resistance to your maneuver is amazingly different from what you experienced in your forms training. At this point, you are likely to suspect that something artificial, like the Yokomenuchi substitute, was silently providing much of the ease you were used to feeling in this particular Angle of Disturbance. You go back to forms training and sure enough, you notice that your Uke often stops him/herself in attempt to prepare themselves for the Kuzushi. As a result, you realize you are not actually pulling them (clashing) in forms training the way you are in spontaneous training (where Uke has no idea what you are trying nor any agreement to attempt to figure out what you are trying). The pull or clash is not present in forms training not because you are blending better there but because Uke has no attacking inertia (i.e. there is really no energy here to have to blend with). Now, let us say you either figure out how to generate Kuzushi via tenkan without clashing with Uke's attacking inertia and/or without requiring them to actually have no attacking inertia, or let us say you are just strong enough to pull Uke into the Angle of Disturbance with the strength of your grip and/or your arms. Now -- Uke is staring right at you. Only they aren't there "waiting to get up so you can do the throw." Nor are they just running forward around you so that they can go flying under your arm like it is some sort of an electric fence. No, they, like any other time someone is looking right at you and is that close and is trying to gain victory over you, are striking right at you ready to keep the fight going, ready to take advantage of this latest clash. None of this changes under spontaneous conditions until you learn how to be consistent with your own theory and practice of Aiki. None of these things change in regards to this technique until you learn how to go from the inside to the outside of inward-downward-diagonal strike without stopping it (how to not clash and employ Aiki). None of these things change until you learn how to tenkan so as to push Uke into Kuzushi and not tenkan so as to pull against their attacking inertia (how to not clash and employ Aiki). None of these things change until you consistently follow the most elementary rules of tenkan-ashi and turn your hips that extra 180 degrees so that you are again facing the same direction as Uke prior to the throw (how to not clash and employ Aiki). When you get all this, low and behold, the next thing you know, the technique is coming out left and right under any spontaneous conditions that present themselves relative to its architecture. Just like in the previous example, in this way, spontaneous training and forms relate to each other. However, they not only reflect upon each other. Spontaneous training brings clarity to forms that often cannot be brought about in any other way.

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/v...iriminage.html

A call for a reconciliation of form and non-form is not advocating a rejection of form. Rather, as such a thing relates to form, it is advocating even deeper understandings of all things technical -- such that an overall consistency regarding one's own tactical theories can be generated.

David M. Valadez
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Old 05-28-2005, 05:55 PM   #61
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
We all know what Aiki is -- or at least we can say, we all know Aiki is not a clashing of energies.
No offense, but I don't think that there's really any general agreement as to what "Aiki" is. Even the Daito-ryu folks, who use the term in a much more technical sense, often disagree. The video clips were fine, but fairly standard, IMO. I will agree, however, that "Aiki" is quite difficult .

Best,

Chris

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Old 05-28-2005, 06:41 PM   #62
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Chris,

No offense taken at all. Thanks for writing in. However, do you think that we could at least say tha ta clashing of energies does not represent an expression of Aiki? (e.g. Yang to Yang or Yin to Yin)

If not, can we say, "All things being equal, it is more effective martially to not clash with your opponent's energy but to use that energy for one's own intentions."?

If one can say either of the above two statements, I think my earlier points of how spontaneous training is not a rejection of form, etc., should remain supported.

Like you said, Aiki is difficult. :-)

d

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Old 05-28-2005, 06:53 PM   #63
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
Chris,

No offense taken at all. Thanks for writing in. However, do you think that we could at least say tha ta clashing of energies does not represent an expression of Aiki? (e.g. Yang to Yang or Yin to Yin)
Personally, I would say that the either/or restriction of the question oversimplifies the principle, so a yes or no answer is not that meaningful.

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
If not, can we say, "All things being equal, it is more effective martially to not clash with your opponent's energy but to use that energy for one's own intentions."?
Sure, but I think that's only a small portion of the thing in question.

Of course, a lot of the above depends on exactly what your conception of "Aiki" is, both in a technical and a philosophical sense.

Best,

Chris

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Old 05-28-2005, 07:10 PM   #64
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote:
Of course, a lot of the above depends on exactly what your conception of "Aiki" is, both in a technical and a philosophical sense.
Naturally.

However, leaving things so abstract that they resist linear expression, and/or qualitative statements of the simplest kind (binary), doesn't really get us any closer to being able to understand Aiki technically or philosophically either.

For me, in the examples I gave, you see contrasting energies clashing. Because of that one loses Aiki - of course as I am defining it. However, also because of that clash, one loses the probability of remaining tactically viable within spontaneous conditions - that however isn't so subjective and open to interpretation. Call Aiki what you will, or don't call it anything at all, the latter remains pretty much true where ever you go. For me, if one's definition of Aiki can include examples of tactically inferior strategies that fail pretty much everywhere you go, it's not worth attempting to describe, learn, teach, or save for future generations. And, again, for me, it's definitely not worth trying to stay "more true" to it by suggesting that it can only exist beyond language and/or beyond any of our attempts to grasp it. For me, whatever you want to call Aiki, or however you don't want to say it, it should not include any understanding that would make room for such clashes of energy and/or such tactics so prone to failure at spontaneous levels.

just my opinion - as I said, that is how I have opted to understand "Aiki."

thanks again,
d

David M. Valadez
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Old 05-28-2005, 07:29 PM   #65
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Great post Dave.

Your previous post with the technical examples made perfect sense the way you explained it. I have experienced a similar thing in my own training and the approach we use is going back to the kata to research and understand what we may have done wrong in randori. Resistance randori acts as the "acid test' to see if we truly understand the principles embodied in the kata or if we are BS-ing ourselves as to our understanding and effectiveness.

In fact this approach was recommended by Tomiki who saw the practice of kata and randori as elements of training that were complementary to each other and inseparable. One studies the correct form in kata and attempts to apply it in randori of varying resistance. If the technique fails then one returns and re-evaluates one's understanding of and performance in the kata, now armed with the knowledge learnt from spontaneous randori and resistance, very much like what you said in your last post.

Most times the result is we need to work harder on our own application of the kata, utilizing and applying many of the subtleties of motion that we tend to leave out in spontaneous situations sometimes. On the odd occasion the kata itself may be influenced or improved by the dynamics appreciated in randori, causing the kata to become more effective within the theories of Aiki to deal effectively and efficiently with the dynamics discovered in spontaneous resistance practice. After this one then returns to resistance randori to see if one's application improves based on these modifications, to avoid things like clashing energy, overuse of muscle strength and other things that one may resort to in an attempt to "make the technique work" and unwittingly propagate the culture of mediocrity either by lack of ability or lack of insight gained from spontaneous practice.

Personally I think Tomiki foresaw this phenomenon and decided to utilize both kata and spontaneous, resistant freeplay training in a way that each element can act as a guard or "check system" to improve the other and give one a method to seek objective improvement in one's own Aikido.

Just a few more thoughts. Great insights and comments folks.
LC

Last edited by L. Camejo : 05-28-2005 at 07:36 PM.

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Old 05-29-2005, 01:04 AM   #66
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote:
.... As far as your Tai Chi push hands experience goes, if it truly felt like Aiki to you then it probably was. Didn't the "old man" say that anything that is forced is not Aikido? Sounds like your partner walked into that technique. Sounds like Aiki to me at a basic level.....
Yeah, at the time he was more certain than I was that it was Aikido -- it felt like nikkyo and other things shmooshed together.

Quote:
But it does not necessarily mean that this can be repeated had your partner been seriously attacking (not doing push hands to give you an initial comfortable touch point of reference), resisting (negating every movement you make) and counter attacking with intent .....
Yes, and for that reason, I am nor sure what, if anything, from Aikido will "pop up" when Guro Andy gets us sparring. But would that necessarily mean anything one way or the other? Is Aiki impossible in that situation, or is it just so complicated with the roles of uke and nage unlocked that the opportunities for it pass in a microsecond?

I don't know. Maybe down the road, I'll be able to tell you.

Quote:
What David and I are getting at I believe is that many of us stop at the level of achieving Aiki in a very basic, cooperative setting (a mediocre level???) and think that we have reached the peak of the mountain so to speak (the level of excellence). Sometimes when at what we think is the "peak" it may be good to see if one can reach up and touch the moon itself. Just in case.

Gambatte.
LC
Well, I'm barely into the foothills, so I can't tell you how my experiences jive with that or not. But I don't see how "cooperative" can be "mediocre." How can you go beyond that without risking O Sensei's prohibition against comeptions? And even then, even most sparring is also, to a certain extent, aritificial. Do you send yodanshas into dark alleys with ten dollar bills hangining from their pockets? Sounds like a good way to get people to resign!
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Old 05-29-2005, 01:33 AM   #67
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
Naturally.

However, leaving things so abstract that they resist linear expression, and/or qualitative statements of the simplest kind (binary), doesnt really get us any closer to being able to understand Aiki technically or philosophically either.
I don't think that I ever said anything about Aiki being so abstract as to resist expression, linear or otherwise. Not everything can be explained accurately in simple binary statements - that's true in law, science, and philosophy, and no less so in budo, I would say. Personally, I would say that the technical and philosophical explanations underlying and explaining Aiki are really quite complex. I'm not sure that they can, or should be, reduced to a one-sentence statement.

Best,

Chris

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Old 05-29-2005, 02:14 AM   #68
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Chris,

I guess the confusing part is that you seem to be suggesting that you cannot or that you should not state that a clashing of energies (yang to yang/yin to yin) is outside of Aiki. Your only reasoning for that is to say that Aiki is complex.

I can understand that Aiki is complex, no one would deny that. However, when you seem to be suggesting that we cannot or should not even say that a clashing of energies is outside of Aiki then you are either saying something like "Aiki resists language at all levels, even the simplest ones;" or you are going to have to say that clashes are in fact a part of Aiki; or you are going to have to acknowledge that no matter how complex Aiki may be we can in fact say that a clashing of energies is outside of Aiki. The clincher for me is why you suggest any yes or no answer to the question, "Are clashes of energies Aiki?," is meaningless. When you say something is meaningless, especially a simple answer to a simple question, you are saying something resists expression. You are not just talking about a complexity.

After all, complexity only denotes that there is more, it does not mean than negative statements cannot be deemed meaningful. In fact, in law, in science, philosophy, and even metaphysics, mysticism, and theology, negative statements are often used to tell us something about something else that is very complex by telling us about that which it is not. Saying that such clashes are not a part of Aiki may very well indeed not capture the totality of what someone might want Aiki to be, but it does very much indeed tell us something very meaningful about what is a part of that complexity by telling us what is not a part of that complexity.

In short, maybe I can understand you better if you can tell me why your resistance to saying that such clashes are not a part of Aiki can rest on a disclaimer of "meaningless" - one that is brought about by a complexity of what Aiki is or is not. Again - if you can explain that to me, I might be able to get better what you are saying. I'm afraid right now, it is very difficult for me to understand your position regarding why it is meaningless to say that such clashes are outside of Aiki.

thanks in advance,
david

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Old 05-29-2005, 02:39 AM   #69
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

I should say, I've chosen to follow this line in the discussion because like testing, and seminars, etc., I also believe that the rhetoric of complexity that surrounds the art's most elementary and/or central concepts is also something that is very much a part of the practice of form for form's sake and the culture of mediocrity. I do not wish to suggest that you Chris have such a position - I don't know. However, for me, there is no doubt that where there is no depth, only the illusion of depth can guarantee prolonged exposure without the risk of any change or a transformation that would throw the whole system for a loop. For example, as I listed above, one of the reasons that forms often do not lead to the radical insights that would promote consistency is that errors, misunderstandings, and inconsistencies, are subsumed under some sort of complexity that is to be addressed at a later date - in a future that never ever becomes "today." No doubt, there is a maturing process to our practice. However, one of the things that a culture of mediocrity does is to substitute a promise for maturity (to come at some later date that never arrives) for actual maturity. In other words, techniques like Ikkyo are supposed to promote insights through the whole of one's lifetime. However, the whole of one's lifetime should not pass with only the same ol' insights and/or the same ol' mistakes ever being experienced. The latter is not what is meant by a "life-time technique." Mistakes or errors do not become accuracies or truths simply because we have managed to make them our whole lives. We all know this. However, when a culture of mediocrity manages to substitute the promise for maturity for actual maturity, we come to use our sense of "future" as a kind of hope wherein we believe that somehow mistakes and errors will transform themselves simply because time has passed. In this way, the "now" is sacrificed for "insights" that are supposed to come later - always later. Tied to this is always the notion that things, even the most simple, central, and/or elementary things, are too complex to grasp in the "now" or "today." Because they are so complex, we are always told that we can only grasp them in the future - which means never.


I am imagining that Chris has something very insightful to say regarding why such binary/negative statements should be seen as meaningless, however, I have heard many other folks use such reasoning simply to support the status quo of never truly understanding things in the here and now - never truly taking seriously the role and responsibility of self-reflection. For me, outside of what Chris is right to mention (i.e. Aiki is a complex thing.), this line of the discussion, or, rather, this type of discussion, is very relative to the overall topic.

Last edited by senshincenter : 05-29-2005 at 02:41 AM.

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Old 05-29-2005, 08:05 AM   #70
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Michael Gallagher wrote:
Yes, and for that reason, I am nor sure what, if anything, from Aikido will "pop up" when Guro Andy gets us sparring. But would that necessarily mean anything one way or the other? Is Aiki impossible in that situation, or is it just so complicated with the roles of uke and nage unlocked that the opportunities for it pass in a microsecond?
Hi Michael,

Actually when I practice FMA I tend to feel like my Aikido is just below the surface and will spontaneously erupt and execute whatever technique is most appropriate whenever I set myself up in a position where this is possible and my mind and body are coordinated enough with what is going on to react as is necessary. So afaik it should "pop up" as you say and if it is Aiki I think you will know it, you'll feel it. Aikido is not the only MA that uses Aiki principles imho. The FMA I practice - Sadiq Kali Silat, has a Jujutsu type (grappling, throwing and locking) aspect that flows very well with typical Aikido waza. Sometimes the transition is seamless.

When the roles of Uke and Nage are unlocked it is the best time for spontaneous application of Aiki imo. Since you need to really be sensitive and correctly perceive your partner's movements and learn to adapt and counter in an instant. Often it does not pass in a microsecond, since you are a part of the interaction and can very often feel when you will have the opportunity to spontaneously apply Aiki waza, just like your push hands nikkyo experience, you get a feeling just before the opportunity shows itself. We may not be able to capitalize on all the opportunities but I am sure as you get going the opportunities will not pass as quickly as you may think. Let us know how it goes, I think your FMA sparring may do much to help your spontaneous Aikido.

Quote:
Michael Gallagher wrote:
But I don't see how "cooperative" can be "mediocre." How can you go beyond that without risking O Sensei's prohibition against comeptions? And even then, even most sparring is also, to a certain extent, aritificial. Do you send yodanshas into dark alleys with ten dollar bills hangining from their pockets? Sounds like a good way to get people to resign!
I don't mean to say that cooperative training in itself is mediocre, I mean that when we allow ourselves to get into the comfort zone of thinking that cooperative training alone will allow us to plumb the depths of applying spontaneous Aiki, it is then we are settling for a mediocre method, since it is insufficient to truly simulate the environment under which spontaneous Aiki can be developed, executed and allow the practitioner to evolve. Cooperative training is very important for learning the basics, the movements, the kata, the form and having a structural, theoretical and technical guideline to follow. But it is only one aspect of holistic training imo and is at the periphery of understanding how to apply Aiki to very dynamic situations where free will is allowed to run amok and there is no Tori or Uke, like in your FMA sparring.

As far as Ueshiba M.'s "prohibition to competitions" I am not too sure what he meant when he said that. In my understanding from also seeing Tomiki's perspective I truly believe that the 2 were talking past each other. Tomiki's idea of competition is as a method of improving one's spontaneous Aikido. It is a training tool and not an end in itself like a lot of modern competitive practices. It sets a sound foundation for the testing of tactics and strategies and the method can easily be expanded to allow for self defence type training as well.

Even if you don't agree with the above however (and most Aikido folks won't) there is the randori and jiyuwaza method as practiced by most dojos. However, instead of just running at Tori/Nage with hands outstretched expecting to fall or be pinned, start actually and seriously giving the Tori a realistic, focused, serious but controlled attack with intent (i.e. really challenge him but don't knock his block off if he slips up, maintain control of the attack). Don't throw a well telegraphed hay-maker when you can throw a focused, tight round punch or cross with your weight centered and balance under control. If using traditional aikido attacks like Shomen, Yokomen etc. keep it tight and make it a real, powerful and effective attack, not an unfocused, off target swinging of the arms. Striking as uke should be atemi practice for your own waza as Tori imho. This is a start, make the attacks honest, minimise any openings and don't give away your balance or your mind. As you improve, slowly open things up by allowing for more attacks, always keeping things honest.

The next level is to start adding resistance and counters to the techniques to the point where the line between Uke and Tori blurs. The idea in the end is to develop sensory perception to the point where one can quickly and sharply determine what attack is coming and practice applying Aiki principles in a way to effectively deal with the attack. If clashing, failure or muscling occurs, return to the practice of kata and see what nuance of your randori waza does not effectively match your kata waza. It's like checking your form against a kata template in an attempt to get better at doing it in randori.

You are correct that to a point most sparring is artificial, but it is of great assistance in one's dojo training when the attacks and mindset one deals with resembles reality as much as possible and the "most effective form of the attack" is what is being defended against. I think a lot of Aiki application works on the physical and psychological reactions of a person who is really attacking, which is why many things tend not to make sense when being practiced cooperatively, but make perfect sense when done in resistance randori.

The idea in the end is to forge oneself, one's technique and one's application and understanding of Aiki principles by challenging the self, the technique and the applications of the principles to the point of failure. It is only when this "failure" happens can we go deeper into the meaning behind the waza and understand what about our execution of the waza or the principle helped it to fail. Then we can identify the parts of the problem and work on it with the help of a good instructor and aim to improve in our spontaneous applications by serious, honest, humble self evaluation.

Hopefully if this is done properly we won't have to send Yudansha into dark alleys or Biker bars with $10 bills hanging out. But then again if it did happen they may be a lot more knowledgeable and skilled in spontaneously applying those things that they have been practicing for how many years.

Just a few thoughts.
LC

Last edited by L. Camejo : 05-29-2005 at 08:11 AM.

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Old 05-29-2005, 08:19 AM   #71
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Could it not be that we live in a mediocre society and so that inherent mediocrity is just carried into martial arts.
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Old 05-29-2005, 10:03 AM   #72
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Excellent last post Larry - if you will allow me to say. Thank you.

david

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Old 05-29-2005, 10:43 AM   #73
Chris Li
 
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
Chris,

I guess the confusing part is that you seem to be suggesting that you cannot or that you should not state that a clashing of energies (yang to yang/yin to yin) is outside of Aiki. Your only reasoning for that is to say that Aiki is complex.
Well, I'm not sure that this is the place to get into a detailed discussion of exactly what "Aiki" is, which is why I haven't gone into more detail. Not clashing is great - but my point here was, I guess, that it's too limiting to define the whole of Aiki of off a single standard. In any case, my primary point was that there is no general agreement as to what constitutes Aiki.

Minoru Mochizuki said that "artillary is Aiki" - how do you use artillary without clashing?

Best,

Chris

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Old 05-29-2005, 11:59 AM   #74
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote:
Not clashing is great - but my point here was, I guess, that it's too limiting to define the whole of Aiki of off a single standard. In any case, my primary point was that there is no general agreement as to what constitutes Aiki.

Minoru Mochizuki said that "artillery is Aiki" - how do you use artillery without clashing?

Best,

Chris
I can agree with that - it wouldn't do any good to attempt to define the whole of Aiki off of a single standard. Yet, I feel that saying what something is not, is not an attempt to define the whole of something. It is simply saying what is not a part of that whole (whatever that may be). If you look at me and you say, "Dave is not a crab fisherman by trade," you'd be right, but (as you are pointing out) you wouldn't be able to say you understand the whole of me. Nevertheless, though you would not understand the whole of me, you'd be right, I am not a crab fisherman by trade. That statement is 100% accurate - regardless of what all else I might be.

This is how negative statements work - they aren't about trying to have huge detailed discussions on what something is. They are about having very simple statements concerning what something is not. As I said, great, huge, abstract, concepts, throughout human history have been described through such negative reasoning. This is true for things such as "God" and "Nirvana," etc. If we as humans can do it for "God," etc., we can do it for Aiki.

When I hear quotes like Mochizuki's, I take this in one or two ways: either the person is wrong and has no idea that he or she is wrong; or the person is speaking figuratively and/or is making use of Upaya (tailoring the discussion to the needs of his/her audience). I am guessing the latter for Mochizuki. For example, if I look at Mochizuki's audience and I can see that they are too "soft," too "non-martial," etc., and if I sense that they are these things because a particular understanding they hold on what "Aiki" and/or "Aikido" is is supporting that softness/non-martial aspect, then for sure, I'm going to guess he's speaking with Upaya. In that way, we are not looking at a call for going out and buying a cannon and/or to start clashing with our opponent. Rather, we are looking at an attempt to get folks to understand, when you are using Aiki, you are in tune with the whole of the Universe - and the Universe isn't as light as a feather (as they appear), isn't weak (as they appear), isn't so passive (as they appear), isn't so unstable in its control (as they appear) or in its intention (as they appear), and if you come up against such power - BAM! It's like being hit with a cannon shell - it's like artillery!

That is what I think he means. If I take it that way, it makes perfect sense to me. But if I'm going to take those kind of statements by great teachers like him to mean that we should start clashing, then I might as well take him to mean we should all go and buy cannons.

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Old 05-29-2005, 12:22 PM   #75
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Very thought provoking...

There is much to agree with and much to question. To start with, I would like to say that I do agree with most of what has already been stated. I remember when I was still in Japan pondering this same line of thinking of how do I get past the form's technical stage to the next arena of "instant application" (a.k.a. AIKI)?

In an effort to continue this conversation, I feel I have to ask you to define applicable AIKI in a martial context as well as spontaneity in a martial application. I feel that there-in lays the crux of the problem in that we all will probably not agree on the exact nature and complete acceptability of the application of AIKI.

My interpretation of AIKI in these instances is - whatever is necessary to resolve…

I leave my interpretation open-ended on purpose. For me to limit my response is to limit my choice of resolve. An altercation can be returned to harmony with one bone shattering block of a strike or similarly with the slightest of touches. It depends on what is necessary for that situation. I agree, as others have eloquently written before, that there are different levels of these applications.

I am a believer in practice the forms and the AIKI will come. Keep practicing until the forms become formless. In order to forget form you must know form. In my opinion, the apex is reached when one finally realizes that the techniques in-of- themselves are useless and not the form! They are nothing more than the vehicle to carry the message of proper space/time/distance along with proper body mechanics and proper application. Not a means to an end (e.g. I am grabbed -- I apply shihonage). They can be (as I stated before in the shihonage thread) if the situation lends itself to be perfect for that technique which usually it isn't.

It is my belief that the techniques are the teacher of the correct forms (the underlying lesson that is essential to each technique). In other words, when I practice katate-mochi shihonage, it is immaterial that uke has grabbed my wrist and I want to apply a shihonage technique to counter his grab. What is material is how my body mechanics line up for me to correctly apply a shihonage technique at that very instance. Not because I want to or even because that is what I have been trained to do, but ONLY because that is what is proper for that moment in time [AIKI].

It reminds me of the following analogy (in short). A person is walking in the woods and comes to an impassable river. On the bank lays a boat. They use the boat to cross the river. When they get to the other side they then leave the boat and continue on their way. To continue to carry the boat would only be a hindrance and would take that tool outside of the original context of its intent.

With the knowledge that is gained through cooperative training, a person learns what a proper technique should feel like (in a controlled environment). In a practical application scenario it should then "feel" obvious when the technique is not proper for that application and we must move on to the next available option. The problem from my viewpoint is that many tend to hold on to the belief that the techniques themselves are the end means instead of moving on to the understanding that what they actually should be looking at is what lays underneath the technique, the underlying principles of AIKI that are taught through the mastery of the techniques.

This brings us very quickly to the non-attachment that David has already been talking about. If I cling to the notion that when my wrist is grabbed I counter with shihonage I have already failed AIKI.

So how do we resolve this situation? Good question! A beginning is very much what has been already stated. Committed attacks with testing of proper mechanics to make sure the mechanics are solid.

I was at a clinic not to long ago when I was working out with a high kyu. Every time that I would strike with a basic yokomen attack he would flinch during his block. I always attack committed (with control) in a manner that is appropriate for that student. Not to do so cheats the student and cheats the art. I finally had to stop him and tell him to trust in what he has learned so far. Trust in his ability to defend against my attack.

I stop students all the time after they have launched the attack of the wet noodle or the heat seeking fist and ask them, "What is that"? Many times I won't even move out of the way when they launch an uncommitted attack. Then I explain the difference and demonstrate to them the ‘whys' and ‘how comes'. A good portion of students just don't know the difference and it is my responsibility as an instructor to keep them real.

My instructor has said a million times to me and others, "If you attack/apply/defend like that all you're going to do is piss them off!" He keeps it real for me and that is what I try to do for my students now. Hopefully free of any attachment and/or delusion!

Charles Burmeister
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