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Old 05-29-2005, 04:33 PM   #76
CNYMike
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote:
.... 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 ....
I see. I don't have enouogh experience with Aikido to agree or disagree, so I don't know how far you can go with cooperative training. But off the top of my head, a person who sticks with that may not be so much spinning their wheels in a "comfort zone" as actively practicing and examining those aspects of the art he wants to work on. To me, a "comfort zone" means you just stop, don't prgress, don't work on things. If someone is using coopertaive training to work on areas of interest, that doesn't sound like a "comfort zone" to me.

It all depends on what you want from the art and what works for you, which seems to be a reason why there's so much variation in Aikido in the first place! There are people who are perfectly happy doing it for spiritual and philospohical reasons and not interested in hardcore training on the techniques like you descirbe. Does that mean those individuals would be pushovers on the street? I have no idea. But can their training methods be called mediocre if they are going where they want to go with it? It may be mediocre from one persepctive, perfect from another.

I think we may be talking past each other again; it's possible I've completely missed your point (again). But that's the thing to consider when tossing around "comfort zone."

Quote:
..... Even if you don't agree with the above however (and most Aikido folks won't).....
I don't have enough experience to agree or disagree. I do know I like the class I'm in. If it's what's considered "aikidance," oh well, I guess that's what it is. As I've said many times, I'm not going for what's not there -- I want to find out what is there, and see what I get out of it, which is true of anything. IOW, if you want to learn high, flashy kicks, a BJJ class may be the wrong place to go to use an extreme example.

Aikido seems to allow for people to come to it for a variety of reasons and stick with it for a variety of goals and objectives. Since I'm a newbie at Aikido, my goal is just to get the hang of it! So calling someone "medicore" because they're not purusing the same path you are may not be entirely fair. And who knows? Maybe those ultra copperative types could tie us both in knots and not even know we were there.
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Old 05-29-2005, 06:28 PM   #77
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Michael Gallagher wrote:
It all depends on what you want from the art and what works for you, which seems to be a reason why there's so much variation in Aikido in the first place! There are people who are perfectly happy doing it for spiritual and philospohical reasons and not interested in hardcore training on the techniques like you descirbe. Does that mean those individuals would be pushovers on the street? I have no idea. But can their training methods be called mediocre if they are going where they want to go with it? It may be mediocre from one persepctive, perfect from another.

Aikido seems to allow for people to come to it for a variety of reasons and stick with it for a variety of goals and objectives. Since I'm a newbie at Aikido, my goal is just to get the hang of it! So calling someone "medicore" because they're not purusing the same path you are may not be entirely fair. And who knows? Maybe those ultra copperative types could tie us both in knots and not even know we were there.
Michael,

I understand your position.

Now please understand that you are not understanding mine. Your last post proves that, and it's cool.

If you looked at the name of the thread and the general points of conversation you will hopefully see that the word "martial" and "spontaneous" are very prevalent. This means that this thread is not designed to marginalise or put down those who practice Aikido for the myriad of other reasons that exist. In fact it does not even address them. The topic of the thread is specifically targeted towards "martially effective" Aikido and understanding the depths of how the Aiki concepts operate in a truly martial context without resorting prematurely to methods outside of that contained within the Aikido and Aiki paradigm.

So just to recap, I have no problem with those who do Aikido for philosophical, spiritual, social, medical or whatever other word ending in "al" that one can find, except for the word "martial'. The culture of mediocrity (which is different to calling someone a mediocre Aikidoka who does not train martially, which I am not doing) that we are speaking about is with regard to those persons who seek to apply it in serious martial situations and who are trying to understand the depths o f applying Aiki as a sound martial paradigm.

Thus I would appreciate it if you not try to make me appear as if I am trying to label as "mediocre" those who are not training in Aikido for martially effective reasons. I have no problem with their training at all. If they feel mediocre in what they do then I don't think it is from something I have said here but maybe a reflection of the self.

I hope you understand now. This thread is not really for those who are not training Aikido with a martially effective goal in mind. I don't think it can get much simpler than that.

Gambatte.
LC

--Mushin Mugamae - No Mind No Posture. He who is possessed by nothing possesses everything.--
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Old 05-29-2005, 08:52 PM   #78
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Personally, I think we have to allow for various means to spontaneity. This seems to me to be a product or a consequence of how important a role Upaya is going to play - for any teacher. Still, there is a Zen saying that comes to mind: "Don't polish a brick and expect to get a mirror." I think there are great things to consider in what Charles is saying, and to be sure much of it overlaps with things that I myself have come to experience, but here's this saying, always in the back of my mind - "don't polish a brick and expect to get a mirror." Sometimes, when I hear the position that forms training in and of itself can lead to spontaneity - there's that saying, "don't polish a brick and expect to get a mirror."

I don't want to say that form's training is void of moments of spontaneity. However, these moments really don't come to the forefront in form's training but for the person that has already reconciled form and non-form. The rest of us are attached to too many things, are plagued by too many delusions, are being lured by too many distractions, are suffering from too much temptation to universalize our own subjectivity, etc. In short, once you are spontaneous, you can bring spontaneity back into your forms training. However, trying to go the other way, trying to go from forms to spontaneity is like trying to polish a brick and expect it to become a mirror.

For me, and for the means we are developing to cultivate spontaneity in the members of our dojo, we have rejected this position. We don't rely simply on forms to bring about a reconciliation of form and non-form. We employ many other types of practice and training that we feel are vital to such a transformation of the Self. Without these things, with just forms alone, we feel the cultivation of spontaneity is impossible or at least improbable. However, we are just one way of many - one way of an infinite amount of ways I imagine that are possible.

The ultimate proof, or the ultimate test for the validity of one's own methods of cultivating spontaneity is going to be in quality of that spontaneity (i.e. how closely it manifests the ideals of Aiki) and in the number of deshi one has managed to bring to such a level of cultivation.

David M. Valadez
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Old 05-30-2005, 08:36 AM   #79
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
The ultimate proof, or the ultimate test for the validity of one's own methods of cultivating spontaneity is going to be in quality of that spontaneity (i.e. how closely it manifests the ideals of Aiki) and in the number of deshi one has managed to bring to such a level of cultivation.
Very well said David.

From my understanding, effective spontaneity is achieved by training an area of the mind/body that is not dealt with too much in the practice of form alone, namely the reflexive, instinctive elements. The practice of form mostly engages the higher brain functions, allowing one to think about and be mentally and physically engaged with achieving correct form. As you have indicated, if the mind is "fettered" during forms practice (which is pretty much a requirement of forms practice due to its particular goal - conscious development of one's form) then it is very difficult to imagine how this sort of practice alone will allow one to evolve in an area that requires the exact opposite, an "unfettered" mind that is not fixed on the execution of form or a particular technique, but on spontaneously responding to an unrehearsed situation in the most effective means possible while keeping in line with the tenets of Aiki (whatever one may define them as).

As I quoted from David's post above, the proof of whether the method used to develop spontaneity is effective and efficient is reflected in the degree to which spontaneous Aiki responses can be consistently repeated with effective results whether the attacker decides to use free will and resist or not.

This reminds me of an encounter I had at a dojo of another school (Aikikai) once. I had a T-shirt of a Shodokan yudansha sending a tanto-wielding attacker flying with aigamae ate (irimi nage) during a tanto shiai bout with the caption "Resistance is Futile" on the bottom. Little did I know that the Instructor at the dojo saw this and took issue and proceeded to use me to demonstrate his techniques.

As a matter of expanding my own training, when I visit other dojos I try to train the way the Instructor teaches, not do what I know from my own training. I am there to learn after all. So later when we are practicing he decides to resist my technique as I am trying to execute it his way during cooperative practice. It does not work (since the concept of kuzushi apparently eludes these people sometimes), so he smirks and says "See resistance is not always futile", I remember thinking (almost voicing) my immediate response "Only when I do it your way buddy."

What this encounter helped me to see was that within the culture of martial mediocrity there are many folks, and Aikido has a fair share of em, that truly believe in their spontaneous martial ability from practicing in kata alone and try to prove this using bullying tactics since there are certain rules and norms to interaction during forms practice (i.e. Uke does not really try to defend himself). If faced with a spontaneous situation (like resistance randori for example) where the other person is allowed to use free will to counter and seriously attack and defend they may not be so quick to "show" others what is effective Aikido during one sided forms practice. It is easy to be effective when the other guy doesn't get to defend himself.

This is part of the reason I created this thread. This culture that is propagated by both Instructors and Students for different reasons can result in a severe case of delusion as to one's actual ability, and to what really works. Not to mention encouraging ego-driven, bully type responses when they feel that the false structure (illusion)given to them by the culture of mediocrity is challenged somehow in their own minds.

I mean it's interesting to see that when I do seminars on resistance tanto randori at other Aikido schools the Instructors often sit out that portion of the practice for some reason, when it is obvious to many that the reason is because all of a sudden the field is a bit more level as students and Instructors can both try to defend themselves from the other's technique with serious, but controlled intent while utilizing Aiki waza. One does not just roll over for the other's ineffective waza because that person is Sempai or Sensei but tries to resist and get off his own technique as much as possible and get his Aiki to work effectively on Sempai or Sensei.

It's an interesting phenomenon. God forbid the higher ranks actually have to show the lower ranks that they can apply this stuff in a spontaneous manner confidently in the face of resistance. No wonder folks outside of Aikido (BJJ, Judo, JJJ, JKD) have fun pulverizing a lot of Aikidoka who walk into their schools with this attitude. The result is that the image that many have of Aikido folks are that they are
1)delusional as to their actual martial ability,
2)full of ego, attitude and over confidence created by a system that encourages this behaviour since their spontaneous and effective waza is never tested and
3)are so enamored with the culture that has created this illusion that even after they have gotten their beating at the other schools try to console themselves and hide in the belief that these dojos are training for "sport" or that "in a real life situation they would do .... and that sparring is not a real life situation".

What do you folks think? It does not augur well for those who are actually doing what is necessary to maintain that standard of spontaneous martial effectiveness. In fact I believe that the folks who enter this sort of training towards understanding the depths of spontaneous and effective Aiki may be in the great minority.

Just some more thoughts.
LC

--Mushin Mugamae - No Mind No Posture. He who is possessed by nothing possesses everything.--
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Old 05-30-2005, 11:19 AM   #80
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Larry wrote:

"So later when we are practicing he decides to resist my technique as I am trying to execute it his way during cooperative practice. It does not work (since the concept of kuzushi apparently eludes these people sometimes), so he smirks and says "See resistance is not always futile", I remember thinking (almost voicing) my immediate response "Only when I do it your way buddy."

What this encounter helped me to see was that within the culture of martial mediocrity there are many folks, and Aikido has a fair share of em, that truly believe in their spontaneous martial ability from practicing in kata alone and try to prove this using bullying tactics since there are certain rules and norms to interaction during forms practice (i.e. Uke does not really try to defend himself)…"



Yes, I would agree, this too is very much connected to the how the culture of mediocrity offers its resistance to the true cultivation of Aiki spontaneity (being spontaneous with the tactic of Aiki). It does this by again over-emphasizing forms training. In other words, because there are no true outlets for the cultivation of spontaneity, in the culture of mediocrity, forms are wrongly stretched beyond their actual nature in some sort of deluded attempt to capture something, anything, of spontaneous Aiki. Rather than leading to any real kind of insight into spontaneity, this type of training often leads to a kind of Aikido that is even further from such ends. This is because this type of training often comes to be heavily influenced by the culture's sense of etiquette. As a result, you do not really get spontaneous Aikido, rather you get what could be called "Rank Aikido." In "Rank Aikido," he or she with the higher rank sets the rules for and determines the degrees of "resistance" by which spontaneity is supposedly gained. As a result, rank often determines what is successful and what is not -- nothing or little else. In Rank Aikido, one's proximity to protocol, rather than one's proximity to the spontaneous application of Aiki, determines the outcome. In a way, this type of "resistance" is much like playing poker with the cards up. There is some chance involved, but still much of the game is missing -- much of what is important. Because key things are missing, the kind of spontaneity that one often cultivates (e.g. switching from Nikyo to Rokkyo when Uke resists by straightening the arm or going into Kote-gaeshi from Ikkyo is the person stands up on you) by wrongly stretching forms training to this degree is radically different from actual Aiki spontaneity. That is to say, it is radically different from the kind of spontaneity that must take place outside of etiquette, outside of a choice of forms, and outside of a resistance meant to subvert a given form.

In short, when I talk about "resistance" or when I am referring to a spontaneous application of Aiki, I am not at all referring to someone that muscles against you (either intentionally or unintentionally, either with by agreement or without agreement) within forms training. This is right up there (i.e. down there) with using randori (i.e. having folks run madly at you so you can do Kokyu-nage and Ago-ate against four or more folks) as one's outlet for cultivating spontaneity. I think Larry too is of this position. This kind of training does not at all, in my opinion, produce the kind of spontaneity that is truly necessitated by either the goal to gain some sort of martial effectiveness with Aiki and/or to reconcile the subject/object dichotomy at the deeper levels of Self. By comparison, I would call it a cheap substitute. The cultivation of the spontaneity of which I am referring not only requires a break with form but also a break with forms training. Environments where the underlying structures of form training can be subverted are necessary to reach, as Larry calls them, the "the reflexive, instinctive elements" of our being. This means one requires environments that are by design meant to do away with notions like these: action/reaction; nage/uke; my turn/your turn; throw/pin/lock/strike; start/stop; beginning/end; my space/your space; attack/defend; technique/counter; my style/your style; my rank/your rank; my experience/your experience; etc.

The goal is not to switch techniques, nor to resist techniques, etc., the goal is "to have the doer and the done become one" -- such that techniques both exist (from an objective point of view) and do not exist (from a subjective point of view). If all you do is forms, and/or if all your training environments continue to make use of the substructures of forms training, in my experience, doer and done can only become one under conditions that for the most part remain artificial. Because of this, the "spontaneity" presented, for the most part, also remains artificial. As a generation, today, we simply must risk stepping away from forms, from forms training, and most importantly FROM THE SUBSTRUCTURES OF FORMS TRAINING if we are truly wishing to take the cultivation of becoming spontaneous with Aiki seriously. We do this along side of forms training and we do not have to stretch forms training beyond its actual capacity and/or feel compelled to simply add more forms from outside of the art. We do this along side of forms training, and we will definitely come to understand forms more fully and more accurately -- such that the addition of more forms is seen for the absurdity that it truly is. These two aspects (i.e. forms training and non-forms training) are like two wheels of a cart, two wings of a bird that together lift and support the cultivation of Aiki spontaneity. First, we need to note their differences from each other, then we need to use them both to understand each aspect better through contrast, then we reconcile them, then we transcend them. In the process, as they support our practice, our cultivation of spontaneous Aiki is also supported.

dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 05-30-2005, 01:54 PM   #81
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

There is a serious key element that I feel is being left out in this equation, that being the student. Yes, Aikido is for everyone, however, not everyone is meant to obtain the ‘higher teachings'.

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink!

Does this mean that an existing way of presenting the product is flawed? Or instead could it be that maybe the student has not delved deep enough to penetrate the surface teaching? I agree that many today are practicing the forms in a manner that is not conducive to reaching the higher levels. I don't think that the whole process is flawed though. If part of the test is going to be how many times you can reproduce the desired affect in others…you're destined to fail!

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink!

I polish my brick with the full understanding of what it is and what it is going to achieve. I know that my brick, by itself, is just that…a brick. But add that brick to my other polished bricks and what do I have? A well polished foundation to which will support anything that I add to it.

Creating and adding more exercises to your bag of teaching tools to try and reach a more spontaneous level of training is wonderful and highly encouraged. However, don't kid your self into believing that you're moving beyond a path of form training. In my eyes all you have done is added more form to your forms. [For this I am referring to the exercises on David's website…which I like by the way!] In order to reproduce the desired affect in others you have to create rules and boundaries. The whole process has to be defined and then practiced…correctly. What is so different about the exercises that you employ from that of doing jiyu waza with committed attacks? From forcing the students to practice with intent and to continually push them to the limits of what the forms provide? I personally don't see a difference it what you are presenting from what has already been presented (in my experience so far).

In my opinion, the difference is not in the presentation but in the presenter. Yes, you and you alone! You create the environment where this is possible. You are the one encouraging, pushing and defining. You are creating the pathway. Sadly, this does not mean that the student will always follow or even be able to for that matter. Because again you are the one that has done the leg work, has sweated, has pained and struggled and hopefully triumphed. It is your experience and your experience alone. And unfortunately, the only way to get a student to that same place is to concede the fact that they too must go through a similar process. They have to start at square one (e.g. this is proper kamae) and continue to move forward from there.

I don't feel that there is anyway around this process and to try to is to help sustain the current situation of today where anybody practicing Aikido thinks that they are martially viable. There are no short cuts. This is not my lesson but my teacher's lesson. So many times he has said, "If you would just listen to me you would already be there!" Yet he fully understands that he is only providing the pathway for me to walk on and that I would still have to do the leg work for myself. He provides me with the guide book to follow to show me what I should be looking for on the way. This, however, will only take me so far and then I have to eventually blossom on my own. This, to me, is the tried and true way of forms practice.

Forms are not spontaneity. It's not meant to be. However, they do provide the pathway to spontaneity if you look past them. To practice at an early stage of learning in a spontaneous manner without the knowledge that forms provide is an invitation to chaos.

I understand that no one here has suggested dumping the forms format. I guess all that I really wanted to say is that it is up to the student to take themselves to that next level of understanding. The instructor cannot take them there but only show them the way. If the instructor has done so with none attachment and the slightest of delusion then hopefully the student will continue on their way to make that reconciliation between form and none form. After all it is not an absolute that everyone will get there.

Charles Burmeister
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Old 05-30-2005, 03:21 PM   #82
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Charles Burmeister wrote:
However, don't kid your self into believing that you're moving beyond a path of form training. In my eyes all you have done is added more form to your forms. [For this I am referring to the exercises on David's website…which I like by the way!] In order to reproduce the desired affect in others you have to create rules and boundaries. The whole process has to be defined and then practiced…correctly. What is so different about the exercises that you employ from that of doing jiyu waza with committed attacks?
Using Charles' fine points to elaborate more upon my own (not really replying directly to Charles)...


As I said before, I am not advocating a rejection of form. And by no means am I suggesting that what we should do is add more forms. In short, the reconciliation of form and non-form is not an architectural matter. It will not come about either subtracting and/or accumulating things. It is at its heart an epistemological and/or an ontological matter. It is not about "things" but rather it is about "how we through our body/mind come to relate to things (but also ideas and our own sense of identity)." In other words, we cannot understand a reconciliation of form and non-form to mean that we either do not do Ikkyo and/or that we do new versions of Ikkyo. A reconciliation of form and non-form is about how we relate to Ikkyo at every level of our being. Thus, when one undertakes spontaneous training, one is not going to see an absence of things and/or of form and/or of rules and boundaries, etc. There is never going to be a construction that does not take place in space, and there is never going to be a space that is not constructed. No environment can escape this -- this is the nature of Reality as it is experienced. This is true whether it occurs inside the dojo or "on the street." Why? Because it is the subject that both experiences reality and that thereby constructs reality. Reality is always constructed. This is not a downfall of training. This is THE much needed aspect that leads to cultivating a spontaneity through training.

There are two important places where this aspect is used to gain reconciliation. I already mentioned one of them in the last post: how forms training and spontaneous training reflect back upon each other in order to deepen our understanding and/or realization of both. This is very much related to how the subject constructs reality by experiencing reality. The second place has to do with the cultivation of non-attachment. For the cultivation of non-attachment to take place, there must be some thing, some idea, or some sense of self, etc., to which we may become attached. In spontaneous training, we are attempting to cultivate non-attachment. If it were possible (and it is not) to construct a pure space free of all constructs, we would lose our chance of cultivating non-attachment because such a space would offer nothing to be non-attached toward. To attempt to build such a space (which again, I would remind you is impossible) is like cutting your head off to get rid of a headache.

At a simple level then, one is not looking to get rid of Ikkyo, or to add newer versions of Ikkyo. One is not looking to gain a form or to gain an anti-form. One is looking toward a type of being that can exist without being attached to form. What makes a technique like Ikkyo viable in a spontaneous environment is twofold: first that it is tactically sound in its architecture and its application, and second, that the practitioner is not attached to it. However this is not enough -- or what I have said is not descriptive enough. For what is Ikkyo? What all goes into Ikkyo as we are experiencing it as a practitioner of Aikido? I would say it is also all those substructures of forms training (see earlier post above) -- the means by which we are introduced to Ikkyo. As experienced by the subjective self, Ikkyo is, yes, this arm pin, etc., but it is also the means by which it is transmitted, etc. Combined, these things are our experience of Ikkyo -- our reality of Ikkyo. It is all of these things combined, because the nature of how the form is transmitted and how it must be learned, but also due to the nature of the small self and how it experiences reality, to which we must become non-attached. Toward this end, and because a spontaneous training environment both cannot and should not be a pure space with nothing to be attached to, such environments rather should be a space where attachment is both made obvious and negatively experienced. In addition, as much as possible, it should also be an environment where non-attachment alone succeeds and/or it alone is experienced positively. This is all one needs in order to construct a spontaneous training environment.

That said, I do not think it is accurate to suggest that what one can witness in our beginner drills is simply the construction of more forms. Rather, it is the beginning of cultivating non-attachment toward forms, toward things, toward ideals, and toward a sense of identity, even toward the constructs of the drill itself. In that way, while not rejecting forms training, it is very much different from it. So different, that should one return to straight forms training, once having cultivated adequate levels of non-attachment, forms training itself will become a spontaneous training environment. I mentioned this before.

Now is this different from Jiyu Waza? No. However, is it different from a "Jiyu Waza" that has been thoroughly subsumed by a culture of mediocrity? I would say, definitely, YES. How can you tell the difference? Try them both. It is not so hard to tell the difference from within -- only hard on paper. Video is also good at times. There is another thread here on how you can search for videos through Google.com. On those pages, there are many "randori" and "jiyu waza" demonstrations that are more about a continuation of being attached to form than about cultivating a non-attachment toward form. There you will see a "jiyu waza" that has been thoroughly subsumed by a culture of mediocrity and thus there you will see several forms that are not tactically viable in their architecture.

On another point: Before we all start talking about what the "masses" require and/or how we must limit our aspirations for "their own good sake," let us as a generation give it a shot. The time is ripe. These topics are on the minds of a great many practitioners even if the actual means are not yet firmly in place for most. Using a metaphor: Head up the mountain, see who follows. You cannot head up a mountain by waiting for everyone to head up with you. When you ascend first, I think you will be surprised by how many "masses" do just fine without "their own good sake" being taken as a reason to default on your own aspirations. At our dojo, as I said, our training is organized thusly, and every member, from every lifestyle, participates. Like now in other dojo where there is no such training and/or where it is just now being formulated, our deshi do this at their own level, at their own pace, and according to their own needs. That they are heading "upward," that they are oriented toward a reconciliation of form and non-form, is all that is important. We cannot ignore the significance of this orientation simply because of some false compassion where some unidentifiable Other that we call "the masses" makes it seem like it is better to do nothing than to do something.

dmv

Last edited by senshincenter : 05-30-2005 at 03:24 PM.

David M. Valadez
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Old 05-30-2005, 09:06 PM   #83
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote:
Michael,

I understand your position.

Now please understand that you are not understanding mine. Your last post proves that, and it's cool.

If you looked at the name of the thread and the general points of conversation you will hopefully see that the word "martial" and "spontaneous" are very prevalent. This means that this thread is not designed to marginalise or put down those who practice Aikido for the myriad of other reasons that exist. In fact it does not even address them. The topic of the thread is specifically targeted towards "martially effective" Aikido and understanding the depths of how the Aiki concepts operate in a truly martial context without resorting prematurely to methods outside of that contained within the Aikido and Aiki paradigm.

So just to recap, I have no problem with those who do Aikido for philosophical, spiritual, social, medical or whatever other word ending in "al" that one can find, except for the word "martial'. The culture of mediocrity (which is different to calling someone a mediocre Aikidoka who does not train martially, which I am not doing) that we are speaking about is with regard to those persons who seek to apply it in serious martial situations and who are trying to understand the depths o f applying Aiki as a sound martial paradigm.

Thus I would appreciate it if you not try to make me appear as if I am trying to label as "mediocre" those who are not training in Aikido for martially effective reasons. I have no problem with their training at all. If they feel mediocre in what they do then I don't think it is from something I have said here but maybe a reflection of the self.

I hope you understand now. This thread is not really for those who are not training Aikido with a martially effective goal in mind. I don't think it can get much simpler than that.

Gambatte.
LC
Hi Again, Larry,

I rereead your first post and some of the latter posts to try and get a better handle on things. One question pops to mind: What is the "martially effective" situation you want people to train for?

A self defense situation would be outside the dojo, and if technques learned "cooperatively" work, then that would considered effective, but you said in the first post, "I am not referring so much to self defence.... " So what is the scenario you're talking about? Is it so that if a Shoot or a Judo person swaggers in and issues a challenge, you can face them with nothing but Aikido and be victorious? That would be nice, but if you're best buds with the guys who do that in your area, what are the odds that will happen?

Maybe I'm dense, but while I can see you want people grounded in Aiki principles as much as possible, I'm unclear as to what they're supposed to be grounded in them for.
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Old 05-30-2005, 10:14 PM   #84
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Michael Gallagher wrote:
I rereead your first post and some of the latter posts to try and get a better handle on things. One question pops to mind: What is the "martially effective" situation you want people to train for?
Hi Michael,

There is no scenario that one is training for. Training for a particular scenario would help create a mind that is attached to the peculiarities of that scenario, which will by nature reduce its ability to act spontaneously in a clear, non-attached manner. It is all about conscientious training and fully understanding what can be understood within the tenets of Aikido and Aiki as far as effective technique goes and more importantly spontaneous expression of technique within the Aiki paradigm. The same thing Ueshiba M. referred to as Takemusu Aiki I believe. It is an effort to move beyond mere form and technique and understand one of the true powers of Aiki - creative adaptation and manifestation of the appropriate response to any situation.

It is about fully understanding (or trying to understand) the depths of what you are doing before going elsewhere to find what has been sitting there in your face all along basically. This understanding can be applied to all levels of training, from the physical to the spiritual. The physical however, is most easily perceived and is as such a good place to start.

When I hear of folks who feel that their Aikido training or understanding of Aiki is so underdeveloped that they will not even try to think about how Aiki would actually work in certain spontaneous situations but instinctively defer to responses found in some other style I feel a bit of pity for them.

This is not about self defence, although the lessons learnt can be applied anywhere that Aiki can be applied, which includes a vast many things. It's about truly understanding the depths of one's practice beyond mere forms and "seeing how deep the rabbit hole goes" in a sense.

The lessons learnt from this sort of pursuit (for those who are willing and even care about going that far) can cause training itself to take on a new dimension. It is no longer an exercise in movements but helps in the creation of a self that is not satisfied by answers based on delusion, denial and cursory inspection but one that looks beyond the surface to see the true dynamics of any situation and as a result see more clearly the path towards the harmonious reconciliation of any conflict, in other words the path towards spontaneous application of Aiki in everythting we do.

But as I said before, this sort of training is not for everybody. And for those who want to do Aikido for other reasons I hope they are also evolving objectively in their pursuit instead of simply mimicking the guy in the skirt at the front of the class.

Oh and btw the local BJJ Instructor and I are good friends and cross train a bit together. Great fun.

Gambatte.
LC

Last edited by L. Camejo : 05-30-2005 at 10:22 PM.

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Old 05-31-2005, 03:00 AM   #85
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Larry, would I be correct in presuming you're still advocating different levels of "spontaneous aiki" depending on the level of the practitioner in question? Sorry, getting lost in the various elements in this thread.

David, please write something I can disagree with, it's getting frustrating having to read your stuff and nod quite so much.
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Old 05-31-2005, 05:02 AM   #86
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

David...I have to thank you! The dust on my dictionary has been shown no quarter.

Charles Burmeister
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Old 06-01-2005, 01:07 AM   #87
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote:
.....It is about fully understanding (or trying to understand) the depths of what you are doing before going elsewhere to find what has been sitting there in your face all along basically .... It is no longer an exercise in movements but helps in the creation of a self that is not satisfied by answers based on delusion, denial and cursory inspection .....
I think I got it. FINALLY. Of course, I also picked up ont the interesting idea that the two possible outcomes, martially, from cooperative training are mutually exclusive: One either thinks Aikido is invincible or not capable of anything, nothing in between. Not being an extremist by nature, I'd like to hope there's a happy medium. But that's me.

Quote:

.... Oh and btw the local BJJ Instructor and I are good friends and cross train a bit together. Great fun.

Gambatte.
LC
Cool.
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Old 06-01-2005, 05:21 PM   #88
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Larry, I'm trying to reach you privately - do you think you would be so kind as to email at <senshincenter@impulse.net>.

Thank you in advance,
david

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Old 06-01-2005, 06:46 PM   #89
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

David…I feel you! I think that we are getting at the same thing but from slightly different angles.

My main point, however, is that the culmination of your thesis is yours and yours alone. Your students may agree with your conclusions and thus decide to study with you to try to get to your level of understanding and application but this does not make it their own understanding because they did not leg out the path that got YOU there.

My guess is that they are studying a set pattern from which you set the principles [from your experience]. Even in an exercise designed to foster spontaneity there are guidelines. As you stated, that will always be the case. My observation was only that I did not see an addition to what has already been devised but rather a continuation of what has already been presented [to me]. That, of course, being a viable interpretation of how to help foster ‘it' in a much less scripted training format.

The question remains as such, how one fosters correct training and correct understanding within their students to be able to reproduce a level of true spontaneous application. Some say forms training are all you need -- that it contains all the answers. You say that it does not.

I'm just saying, from my understanding, any device that I create is not going to be outside the already established realm of forms training but instead an extension of it. You have to be able to give it taste, feel and sound or how else can you transmit it? Even if you feel that the transmission itself is ‘formless' you have to have ‘form' to point this out. I understand that you are not disputing this [or I believe that you are not].

In my mind, this transmission can only be realized by understanding the correct nature and role of the student. If one is to take into account the beginnings of our art or even to look to the times before it, you will see a standard was in place to help insure that the finer details were not wasted on those that were not ready to receive them. A prospective student had to have references, invitations and prior experience as well as participate in a formal interview process or they were just not accepted. All these things lean towards an understanding that there was to be an extreme commitment by the student. In return for this "extreme commitment" the student receives the whole transmission of the art, of which its martial capabilities have probably already been proven to be effective by a fine display of spontaneous application or why else go through this process?

In the early days of Aikido there was in fact competition, challenges and such that tested the efficiency of ‘spontaneous' Aiki. If the accounts from so many early instructors are just half way factual, the level of spontaneous martial application must have been astounding! Of course, they, as students of Osensei, had to go through this formal process of commitment. This commitment, without a doubt, then trickled its way down to every aspect of their routine training.

There is not too much of that today. This day and age all are deemed entitled to the transmission without this seemingly ‘undue process' which has helped to foster this ‘age of martial mediocrity'. If all are entitled, then there is no need for extreme commitment. Without the extreme commitment how deep do you really need to penetrate to be satisfied that you have ‘it'? The cycle perpetuates itself until you get to the point where the instructors that are churned out are under the delusion that the have ‘it' no matter what and the only seemingly set standard of testing the level of spontaneous application is in the format of a demonstration scenario where the attack of the ‘madly running Frankenstein with the outstretched arms' is accepted as a truth.

But, alas, that is just my observation.

Very brave David…calling for revolution like that!

Charles Burmeister
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Old 06-01-2005, 08:48 PM   #90
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
Larry, would I be correct in presuming you're still advocating different levels of "spontaneous aiki" depending on the level of the practitioner in question? Sorry, getting lost in the various elements in this thread.
Hi Ian,

Yes precisely. Actually tonight I did an exercise that is part of the Shodokan Randori system with my students, the highest of which are at 4th kyu. It is the middle level of randori we call Hiki Tate Geiko and it can be modified to suit what one wants to focus on, but we basically had one person attack with a tanto and as the other person tried to do technique the other would resist by using relaxation, sensitivity and correct body movement (not muscular tension) to negate the technique and try a counter of his or her own.

The end result was a constantly moving and flowing process from technique to technique with spontaneous reaction and application of kaeshiwaza. The process would come to an end when contact was broken, when one of the partners would launch an immediate attack again or when someone got off a successful technique. The key to the exercise however is to spontaneously react to the movements given by one's partner and use that movement to facilitate the next most appropriate technique. In this way one cannot be "bound or fixated" upon a particular waza (as David alluded to in an earlier post) but he must first focus on avoiding the partner's attack or technique and then work with the position he is in and manifest the most appropriate technique based on that position.

When this same sort of exercise is done by Yudansha the entire process is a lot more fluid, much faster, the waza have to be a lot more technically sound to end in a throw or pin and there is a lot more use of subtle movements to set up a successful technique. So this is an example of an exercise that helps to build spontaneous reactions that works for all technical levels depending on one's goals. The application of waza can go from light to full force depending on the degree of martial intensity desired a s well.

Just a few points.
LC

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Old 06-01-2005, 08:58 PM   #91
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
Larry, I'm trying to reach you privately - do you think you would be so kind as to email at <senshincenter@impulse.net>.

Thank you in advance,
david
Hi David,

I sent a reply to your e-mail tonight. Sorry I took so long.

LC

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Old 06-01-2005, 10:12 PM   #92
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Hi Charles,

Great and insightful post above btw.

Quote:
Charles Burmeister wrote:
The question remains as such, how one fosters correct training and correct understanding within their students to be able to reproduce a level of true spontaneous application. Some say forms training are all you need -- that it contains all the answers. You say that it does not.
Actually, Tomiki K., Ueshiba M.'s first 8th Dan also had this idea when he created his format for Aiki randori training. He saw kata and randori as two complementary elements of complete Aikido training and development. If you train in kata (forms) alone you will be good at executing technique but you will not understand what it is like to operate and apply those techniques within the context of resistance and chaos (randori) where the only thing to expect is the unexpected. At the same time if one neglects kata (forms) practice and does only randori then the quality of the waza being applied in randori will probably suffer and the result will be one who can "fight" and struggle using poor technique without understanding how to apply Aiki waza with finesse and control when under pressure. In this case one may be able to develop into a good "fighter" but one may not be a good Aikidoka as ones waza will not be up to par and probably be devoid of Aiki when in a spontaneous situation.

Quote:
Charles Burmeister wrote:
There is not too much of that today. This day and age all are deemed entitled to the transmission without this seemingly ‘undue process' which has helped to foster this ‘age of martial mediocrity'. If all are entitled, then there is no need for extreme commitment. Without the extreme commitment how deep do you really need to penetrate to be satisfied that you have ‘it'? The cycle perpetuates itself until you get to the point where the instructors that are churned out are under the delusion that the have ‘it' no matter what and the only seemingly set standard of testing the level of spontaneous application is in the format of a demonstration scenario where the attack of the ‘madly running Frankenstein with the outstretched arms' is accepted as a truth.
Very well said.

The above point comes back to a concept I had earlier, regarding folks training in Aikido for a variety of reasons which may have nothing to do with being "martially effective" or understanding "martially spontaneity". I think when Ueshiba M. taught, (especially his prewar students) there was absolutely no question that what he was doing was a martial art and a martially effective art.

Today, the pool of students studying Aikido includes a great many people who have no intention of being martially effective or understanding the depths of appreciating and applying Aiki, they just want something to do with their extra time, a little exercise, friendly atmosphere, practice in easy going, non-threatening (aka harmonious), free flowing movements, or hope to gain some sort of spiritual revelation over a lifetime of practice etc. As such I truly believe those who are seeking martial effectiveness (which funny enough is another road to a lot of the spiritual and other developments the art may foster) may not be in the majority. As a result, the mere pursuit of this level of excellence may be something practiced by a periphery of the practitioners and not necessarily become part of the central core of the art's students worldwide. If this "revolution" does occur you may find a lot of folks leaving Aikido and deciding to go study Yoga or something more in tune with the "other than martial" aspects that they are seeking.

As far as "martially effective spontaneous application of Aiki" goes I don't believe that a huge sector of the current forms based training methods are even sufficient to really realize the goals of applying Aiki spontaneously in an expression of martial excellence. The reason is because forms that are not tested with some sort of resistance or opposing force to verify their martial integrity today are very apt to embrace technical holes that will become glaring and dangerous when placed under any sort of resistance (as we see regularly when a little resistance enters cooperative practice or when some folks walk into sparring dojos and try to test their ability).

Imho the form or kata, though not the most ideal way of training one to be spontaneous in one's application of Aiki by itself, is a critical technical foundation in trying to approach higher levels of spontaneity and in the move towards martial excellence. Without sound Aiki waza (learnt from forms practice) you may react spontaneously, but execute some good Judo waza or something else that does not utilize the tactical and strategic paradigms of Aiki to execute the technique. So kata does play a very important role imo, but it is only the first step on the stairway to martial excellence. Non-resistant randori (jiyuwaza) is only the second step (and is the lowest level of randori in Shodokan). Only after we can become spontaneous at these lower levels can we even hope to understand how to bring harmonious reconciliation of energy out of the chaos that is randori or the attacks one may meet out there on the pointy edge.

Imho Ueshiba M. knew that when he spoke of really understanding the depths of Aiki he was making a very tall technical and spiritual order that very many will find too difficult to even try to really achieve or understand. To be martially proficient is one thing. To be proficient enough to deal with any attacker and still be centred and controlled enough to not injure and reconcile the situation in harmony is another thing entirely. Do we merely assume it can't be done or do we prove that it can't be done by plumbing the depths of spontaneous Aiki ourselves? Maybe we'll be surprised.

Just a few thoughts. Great conversation folks.
LC

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Old 06-02-2005, 06:09 AM   #93
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Two things:

1. Yes, I concur, a very nice post with great points Charles. Thank you.

2. Larry, sorry to be still trying to reach you through the thread. I'm afraid I didn't get an email - perhaps you accidentally wrote the address incorrectly? Would you mind trying once more - please/thanks.

I have been a bit under the weather but I'm hoping to find some time and some energy to address both of the latest points raised. Again - they are all very good in my opinion.

Thanks,
dmv

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Old 06-03-2005, 08:52 PM   #94
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Ok so I've been following the comments on AJ.com in the aftermath of the Aikido Expo and it brought up another idea relating to this topic.

We've been addressing aspects of actual physical training so far that help aid the "culture of martial mediocrity" to exist and survive. But what about the non-physical, political, philosophical or other aspects of Aikido life that may propagate this sort of behaviour?

For example, many Aikido folks tend to pride themselves on keeping certain levels of "decency" and "goodwill" (some call it moral higher ground) towards one's fellow man, even when it is brutally obvious that the group or individual in question is in need of a good spanking to resolve something that is causing conflict . Aikido is about finding the ideal solution, based on the problem, but oftentimes we stick to a "peaceful and harmonious" way of dealing with certain situations (iow our mind is fixated or fettered by this approach) even when it does not serve the purpose of actually resolving the situation. In other words we may sometimes act with kid gloves (evade/tenkan???) in situations where a firmer hand (irimi/atemi???) is required on a non-physical level.

This sort of behaviour also aids in supporting a culture of mediocrity, since Instructors who may be engaging in activities that weaken the martial (or other) foundations of the art or try to "create" or teach methods of operation that basically encourage a lack of secure understanding in Aiki principles (such as prematurely resorting to other, more force-based means of conflict resolution), are often given no more than a slap on the wrist (if so much) and are allowed to continue to disseminate these concepts by their superiors within their organisations or even leaders within the general Aikido community. This helps ensure that the understanding of Aiki principles remains mediocre in certain situations by allowing the idea of "abandoning Aiki principles at the first sign of resistance" to be propagated without being checked so as not to appear "disharmonious" or "unloving to one's fellow man".

If this is truly the case, then the erosion of the martial foundations of the art may be more institutionalized and embodied in our own perception of the philosophy than those who care about it may realize. There appears to be a strong culture of denial that provides fertile ground for this sort of behaviour and teaching to propagate imho.

Is it that we have in fact set things up already so that the martial foundations of the art will be one day degraded into nothingness by indirectly encouraging those who teach the art in a manner that lacks martial lustre and moreso encourage others to abandon the martial core of the art (physical and non-physical) for the sake of "healing the world" and "uniting mankind"? Imho the healing of mankind cannot be achieved through denial.

Or am I merely being delusional?"

Comments are welcome.
LC

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Old 06-03-2005, 09:17 PM   #95
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote:
Is it that we have in fact set things up already so that the martial foundations of the art will be one day degraded into nothingness by indirectly encouraging those who teach the art in a manner that lacks martial lustre and moreso encourage others to abandon the martial core of the art (physical and non-physical) for the sake of "healing the world" and "uniting mankind"? Imho the healing of mankind cannot be achieved through denial.

Or am I merely being delusional?"

Comments are welcome.
LC

Delusional? No. Worrying too much? More likely.

IIRC, some posters way back in the thread accused Aikido of being "insular." I don't know how fair that is, given that being truly insular there wouldn't be any cross training, and I'm pretty sure people in the groups I've been with do things like Judo, Kendo, etc. But maybe if Aikido is "insular" to an extant, one symptom of that could be that Aikidoka are the art's (and their own) harshest critics, flagulating the art, each other, and maybe for all I know, themselves for inadequacies, failings, and the dire consequences of not addressing them. Because I've returned to Aikido after 16 years of doing other things, some of which I'm still doing, and I'm not the least bit worried about the issues you're raising. I'm more worried about making progress on my forward ukemi than anything else!

It's interesting that I go from Kali and Serak, where Guro Andy has emphasized his role as preserving these systems, and expressed his reluctance to change anything in Kali unless he sees Guro Dan Inosanto do it; and I come to Aikiweb where the tone seems to be, We have to change this, that, and the other thing, and we're doing this wrong and that wrong, and there are so many bad delusional people and it's all falling apart and everyone who came before us except Tomiki was wrong. Huh?

Maybe O Sensei's rule about practicing in a "vibrant, joyful" manner should be the first rule of practice instead of the third one. That, or our society as a whole drinks too much coffee. It's one thing to have legitmate concerns; it's another to freak out over nothing.

Here is what I, as a Kali person think of Aikido people:

YOU'RE FINE! Now, could you not land on my foot next time?

Just my 2p.

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Old 06-04-2005, 03:40 PM   #96
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Interesting post Michael.

It sort of verifies the initial point of this thread though.

I'm not worried actually. Just observing certain things and tendencies and working to do my utmost best in this little corner of the world to understand, plumb the depths of and pass on something of quality and not a "blind paper tiger" to my students.

Yours.

LC

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Old 06-05-2005, 12:34 AM   #97
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote:
Interesting post Michael.

It sort of verifies the initial point of this thread though.
It does?

Quote:
I'm not worried actually. Just observing certain things and tendencies and working to do my utmost best in this little corner of the world to understand, plumb the depths of and pass on something of quality and not a "blind paper tiger" to my students.

Yours.

LC
Well, whether those things and tendencies lead to a "blind paper tiger," I don't know. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. Maybe people practicing cooperatively don't plumb the depths. Or maybe it takes them a little longer to do that. C'est la vie.

Good luck anyway.
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Old 06-05-2005, 10:01 PM   #98
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

*Long. Skip if you need to.*




I think there are two interrelated issues here that have to be explored more deeply if we are going to get a better grasp on what we are all doing and/or trying to do and/or saying we are doing. These two issues are: a) Trying to gain a more accurate understanding of the "personal" in Aikido practice; and b) Looking deeper at what spontaneous training is and why it is vital, in my opinion, to our practice. With the first issue, we want to make sure that we do not dig ourselves into a hole by suggesting that while spontaneous training may be vital to our practice, it is not something that can actually be part of a teaching curriculum or part of a larger culture -- that it must remain an individual thing. We want to make sure that we do have space for such training, not just at the level of the individual but also at some level of system. This is necessary if any such culture that we are trying to describe is to be addressed, because right now, "as is," we already do have folks that address spontaneous training at an individual level. It is having little impact on the overall culture's understanding of forms training. On the second issue, we want to be quite clear on three major aspects of spontaneous training: why do it, how to do it, and what is it. We need to do this in order to determine how it may differ from forms and/or the practice of forms training and/or from what is often going by the name of "spontaneous training" today (commonly). The first issue I can address today. For the second issue, I will require more time and will have to get back to you all later. (Apologies.)

One will see that there is much overlap between these two issues. Thus, I think one will still come to see a little of what I personally mean by "spontaneous training" even though I will not be discussing that practice in detail here. In relation to some of the other things that have been said thus far, I think one will see that for me such training is ultimately a spiritual matter. I do not hold it to be an alternative for folks that do not want all that "spiritual mumbo jumbo." In fact, for me, if a person really wants to cultivate himself or herself spiritually, such training is perhaps even more vital toward that end than it is toward the end of martial effectiveness. Here, I may come to differ in my position from many of the folks that would wish to use spontaneous training as a cure to all that ails Aikido because of its "spiritual" attractions.

Personally, I would not suggest that the main and sole goal of such training is to become effective martially. Rather, spontaneous training for me is about the reconciliation of form and non-form. Thus, it is Budo's particular way of addressing the subject/object dichotomy. Reconciling this dichotomy is very much related to cultivating a non-attachment toward dualistic thought, which in turn allows us to experience the ultimate Oneness of all creation. For me, martial effectiveness is a by-product and/or at most an interrelated consequence of such training. It is not the goal of such training. Martial effectiveness merely comes about because of the particular method that one is using (i.e. martial arts). (Note: In addition, I think one should point out that "martial effectiveness" does NOT mean "martial invincibility.") In this way, martial effectiveness is very much like developing a low center, a strong back, a good digestive system, and very supple joints in the legs, from doing zazen. Such things, while not separate from the practice of Zen sitting meditation, are not the goals of such training -- so too with martial effectiveness and spontaneous Aiki. (More on this when I try to address the second issue later.)

As for the first issue of how to better understand "the personal" in Aikido training, I think it is important to not over-extend the notion of "personal journey" too much when it comes to our Aikido practice. To be sure, no one wants to say that a deshi can have all of this just handed to them by someone else. However, before we start subverting the whole notion of transmission and/or of mentorship, let us note that there is a lot of room between "having something handed to you" and something being "yours and yours alone." When it comes to Aikido, because of its universal aspects and aspirations, it is important to seek out some alternatives to these two poles and/or even (I encourage) to find a way off this entire spectrum of given options.

Paths like Aikido, like Budo, are indeed made of things like personal investment, personal experience, personal realization, etc., but these things are not necessarily akin to our modern notions of extreme relativism and/or what can be called a "constant interpersonal alienation." It is important to realize that in the end Aikido is about universals and not about individualistic agendas. Aikido is only personal in the sense that it relates to a person, but this sense of person points in the end to a great Oneness of all things, all ideas, and, yes, all people. In other words, there is a sense of person but there is no sense of persona or of an alienation that underlies all things (i.e. that no two things can be alike) when it comes to the art's worldview, philosophy, or its technologies of the Self.

This underlying Oneness is precisely why it is indeed possible to spiritually mentor another and/or to guide another person upon the path of spontaneity (i.e. the reconciliation of form and non-form). Aside from being possible, I would also add, being guided is actually the more optimal of choices for a deshi. To discover one's path to spontaneity for oneself, while possible, is extremely difficult, and thus when combined with the trials and tribulations of existence, in the end, often improbable. Let us note that other traditions that also aim at such reconciliation always place great importance upon the seat and role of a mentor. While these traditions do have a place for those that want to "go it alone," while they do agree that such a way is not impossible, they also have an abundance of cautions marking such a route. They are certainly not on the side of suggesting that mentoring is impossible or of limited value. I would suggest that such a position did not come into vogue until the New Age movement found some footing in popular culture. There, the modern trend toward self-alienation found comfort and perhaps some sense of justification in the position that social intimacy, especially of the mentor/disciple kind, was not only not necessary but also impossible.

I have taken the time to raise this issue here for two reasons. First, I think the current culture of mediocrity (or the current tendency for most aikidoka to not fully invest themselves in the process of reconciling form and non-form/the trend that most aikidoka train in either no spontaneous environments or in ones that remain suspect) is, as others have said here, supported by a lack of teachers capable of the spontaneous application of Aiki. However, the lacking of such teachers is supported by the common belief that the mentoring or the guiding of another toward such spontaneity is impossible. If one were to side with the reality of how little chance one has to "discover" such reconciliation on one's own and actually press their teachers with the expectation of being mentored toward such transfiguration, teachers would be much less likely to find personal satisfaction in remaining "a master of forms." By extension then, the cultural capital exchanged by Aikido institutions into things like rank and title would lose its "gold standard" -- giving the entire Aikido "economy" that now supports the culture of mediocrity a kind of recession. For me then, one serious way of pulling the rug out from the culture of mediocrity is to simply hold an expectation (said and/or unsaid) for one's teacher to provide mentoring in cultivating spontaneity. One way of keeping this culture going is to continue to hold the position that one cannot be guided thusly.

Second, the idea that such mentoring is not possible and/or is not (INDEED!) the ideal way of training, is part of a larger process by which forms have come to be wrongly inflated in terms of what they are and what they can do. In my opinion, this inflated understanding of forms is also a part of the culture we are attempting describe. In the absence of a strong and central interest in the reconciliation of form and non-form, a strange discourse on forms has arisen. This discourse is strange because it has in many cases adopted the terms and phrases of the discourse most commonly used to intellectually mark a reconciliation of subject and object. Without any significant practice centered on spontaneity, today, the practice of forms has often come to be spoken about via a discourse that was initially all about subverting the practice of forms. Now, in many places, forms are spoken about in a language that was first used to mark convention (i.e. form) as a hindrance to spiritual development (i.e. reconciliation of form and non-form/reconciliation of subject and object/spontaneous Aiki). In other words, when reconciliation of form and non-form was an issue, and/or where such reconciliation between subject and object is still an issue (such as in Zen or Christian mysticism, etc.), it was/is often said, as a form of Upaya, that the ultimate realization (you pick your own word) is so BEYOND that we cannot verbalize it, or conceptualize it, etc. With this ultimate realization now no longer firmly holding a place in general Aikido culture, the new "ultimate" (i.e. forms) has found no problem speaking of itself in a way that was first meant to lower its status and significance in the grand scheme of the training or practice. The wrongful adoption of this discourse, for the most part, has taken place completely unchallenged.

Today, forms are talked about as if they are loaded with the great unknown, as if they are the unknowable itself. They are no longer the pure architectural matters of ideal spaces and time. As a result, they, and their environment of practice, have come to hold all meaning by which an aikidoka tends to define him/herself. That meaning has one wrongly associating his/her skill at forms with an ultimate statement about who they are and what they can do. Everything about the current political structures of the art testifies to this fact. This is why today doctrinal formulas, juridical orders, and ritual exactitude are so much a part of forms training for many people. Much is at stake! This is also why you have folks "resisting" in forms and/or gaining a sense of accomplishment when such "resistance" is overcome in forms training. In my opinion, this is also where you get the notion that Aikido waza are inherently spiritual as well as the "confounding" hypocrisy found in folks that do the art for decades and still remain spiritually immature (i.e. defensive, overly aggressive, insecure, etc.)

(On a side note: My experience with folks that do a lot of spontaneous training holds that they can simply ask their partners in forms practice that might be doing something "weird" or "resistant" to "just do the form -- please/thanks." This is in contrast to those that have to define everything about themselves via forms training because they have no spontaneous outlet by which to rightly diminish forms training. Such aikidoka have a tendency -- even a "pressure" - to "figure out" or "force" their partner into the form. I mention this here because I think it was in this thread that the topic of rough nage and/or nage that jump in and out of types of abuse in order to accomplish the "desired" effect was raised. For me, all of this is connected to the current culture of form for form's sake.)

Through the unchallenged adopting of a discourse that was actually contrary to their nature, forms have come to mask themselves as a mystery that is beyond knowing -- beyond being guided toward. There is no real downfall to this position once accepted because the cultivation of forms, unlike the cultivation of spontaneity, does not really suffer from the absence of a guide. Nevertheless, forms are like a kind of Wizard of Oz -- in that they present themselves as this big mystery; only the mystery requires a big curtain to cover the fact that there is really no mystery present at all. In this way, the dominance of forms, but also the acceptance of low-level proficiency as the new "high skill" in Aikido, has benefited greatly from the modern notion that "one cannot be guided to the ultimate." Such a position does much to leave the curtain in place and to keep forms appearing to be mysterious -- appearing to be something capable of actually satisfying the true Ultimate. Therefore, today, it is perfectly fine for one to not learn Ikkyo, or to take a lifetime to learn Ikkyo, because the curtain of the "future" (a time that never sees) leads one to believe that his or her achievement of not learning Ikkyo is somehow a part of how "great and powerful" Ikkyo is as a form. In the end, technical incompetence is spun into statements on the depth of one's teaching of forms and one's teacher as a forms specialist. Aikido can now speak with a voice that resembles the spiritual but remains a practice that is for the most part secular and antimystical (which is a complete reversal from its Founder's position -- in my opinion). As a result, at every level of the culture, the reconciliation of subject and object, that which underlies the spontaneous application of Aiki, becomes more and more incomprehensible -- more nonviable, irrelevant, or even absurd.

In contrast, I propose the following: Ikkyo is not the great Ultimate. Ikkyo is not beyond words. Ikkyo should not take a lifetime to learn. Teacher, book, video, theory, and practice, equally aid the study of Ikkyo. Ikkyo can be talked about and should be talked about. Ikkyo is no big deal. On the other hand, doing Ikkyo under spontaneous conditions without being attached to Ikkyo -- this is the great mystery. Doing Ikkyo under spontaneous conditions without being attached to Ikkyo will fill a lifetime of study. Doing Ikkyo under spontaneous conditions without being attached to Ikkyo is an achievement that benefits greatly from a mentor. Again, if one wants to seriously challenge this culture of mediocrity, one has to challenge the wrongful borrowing of terms and phrases by the discourse on forms from a discourse that was meant to subvert our attachment to forms. In our training, we must make the top the top again. We must stop trying to make a lesser thing a greater thing by merely coming to talk about it in the same way that one used to talk about Aiki spontaneity.

Forms are provisional constructs that exist, for practical purposes, in a sphere of relativity. As such, they make use of, and thus contribute, to a like (mis)understanding of self. That is to say that they are in tune with our wrongful tendency to understand self-awareness as a process of thinking, observing, and measuring. This allows us, even inspires us, to develop consciousness as a subject over and against objects -- moving away from any notion of universal Oneness and thus from a key component of Aiki. In terms of our training, this is why when we see one "forcing techniques" in a spontaneous environment, we also see present the desire to control things -- the incapacity to become One with the attacker. That is to say, when such things are present, we are looking at the attempt to manipulate objects for one's own interest. At the same time, we are also seeing the very process by which one isolates him/herself in one's own subjective prison. In that prison, made up of walls that wrongly posit reality as a purely subjective experience, we become isolated from our experience of reality and thus only able to perceive the attacker as a thing to be controlled. We are closed off to the possibility, or the greater reality, of seeing him or her as a person with which to be in greater harmony with. The worst thing one can do here is to go on the search for more forms that will attempt to alleviate those problems (e.g. forcing techniques, etc.) that have arisen via spontaneous training. Personally, this is how I have understood Larry's initial point -- as a caveat against searching for more forms in the face of difficulties that arise from within spontaneous environments.

The solution is to "break out" of this self-feeding cycle of delusion and/or of false consciousness. To do this, a guide, a person who has already achieved such a breaking out, is most valuable. And to be sure, such a guide, and his/her capacity to guide, is far from being impossible. Here, with the assistance of guide, we come to realize that rather than more forms what is actually required by Aiki in spontaneous environments is a type of self-awareness that sees the self as something to be dissolved. Such a consciousness does not start from a thinking subject, or from construct and convention, but rather from a type of Being which is considered to be ontologically beyond and prior to the subject-object division we normally live and live in. That is to say we are not looking toward a "consciousness of" but toward a "pure consciousness," one in which the subject as such disappears.

This is how we at our dojo understand forms, non-forms training, spontaneity, the reconciliation of form and non-form, and Aiki, etc. It is only our perspective. One's own terminology is sure to be different and/or even appear to be contradictory. This is understandable -- even expected. In fact, this is the very purpose of discussion -- to put different ideas and different terms on the same table. For that, and for the participation of all of you here, I am thankful. I do not mean to say that everyone must practice like this or talk like this. Here, in this last section, I have merely tried to outline some of the major points that I will attempt to elaborate upon in the next part of this discussion and to also support my position that a guide is not only possible but very much beneficial. You can also see that I am attempting to "fuse" martial effectiveness with the cultivation of the spirit by seeing Aiki as the space/time for realizing a great Oneness.

In closing, I would like to leave you all with some relevant quotes by Osensei. I have taken them from readily accessible texts and commonly accepted translations found over at AikidoJournal.com. They are not given here to claim authority on the subject, and/or to make my position beyond refute. Rather, they are offered here as points of reflection -- points that my second post will be attempting to consider in a more contemporary voice. I have tried to choose quotes that do not require too much cultural understanding, but I have also offered some short notes of explanation when the need for such understanding could not be avoided. The notes are marked in parenthesis with my initials "dmv." Other parenthetical notes are from the translation itself. I find all of these quotes to be relative to any notion of fusing martial effectiveness with spiritual cultivation -- with the capacity to execute Aiki under spontaneous conditions and to gain a sense of Union or Oneness with one's attacker (and oneself, etc.) by moving beyond subjective consciousness and/or the small self.



From "Accord with the Totality of the Universe."


"Aikido is the budo (martial art) which opens the road to harmony; it is that which is at the root of the great spirit of reunification of all manifest creation."

"The universe and mankind are as a single body. However, while mankind has the ability to unify with the universe, the fact that he is unable to accomplish this union is his unhappy condition."

"This world and all of Mother Nature's greatness are but one. In this unity there is nothing that defines an enemy, nor does it distinguish a friend."

"Mankind's role is to fulfill his heaven-sent purpose through a sincere heart that is in harmony with all creation and loves all things."

"In the past, there have been a number of superlative masters of martial arts but we should never forget the great number of them who disappeared on the battlefield of this material world simply for lack of enough training in the true spirit of budo, in sincere love, and in the battle against the self."

"Thus, by imbibing the principle of the Universal, and receiving the ki of the Heaven and Earth, when I unified this entire human body, I realized the subtle depth of Aikido that manifests such great power, and attained the principle of oneness with the Universe."

"To put it briefly, the problem with the weak-bodied people of today is that they are unable to survive in a world of absolute accord and absolute non-desire."

"In summary, weak people are the result of not knowing the truth of the unity of mankind with the Heavens and the Earth. By realizing the principle of unification with the Universal (tenchi) and making it active in your daily life, human beings become capable of sending forth the "holy technique of the gods."




From "Takemusu Aiki"

(part one)

"Now aikido is the name given to our practice of the Way to attain oneness with the spirit and body of the Universe, and the Way of unification with the light of harmony."

"I will tell you then how I, Ueshiba, was able to understand it. I had performed spiritual practices daily in order to rid myself of attachments to anything in the world and I had the experience of seeing my light body, which was once the body of Fudo Myo Ou (a complex figure with many understandings but often associated with wisdom, integrity, and the defeating of one's own desires or passions -- dmv) carrying a great shining light of fire on its shoulders, and at another time I became the body of Kan Zeon Bosatsu (the Bodhisattva of Compassion - dmv). I asked questions to myself and then understood. I have the universe inside me. Everything is in me. I am the Universe itself so there is no me. Moreover, since I am the Universe there is only me and no other."

(part two)

"Through the union with God we produce techniques that are ever-changing into various forms."

"Everything becomes reflected in me and I begin to understand all just by being here. All attachments vanish and I abide in the breath of our Original Parent emanating light to all things in the Universe."

"In our country, originally, we do not have such sports as people have in Western countries. Some people are delighted to say that the Japanese martial arts have gained in popularity since they became sports. However, this is a gross misunderstanding that shows they do not know at all what the Japanese martial arts really are.

Sports are games and pastimes that do not involve the spirit. They are competitions only between physical bodies and not between souls. Thus, they are competitions merely for the sake of pleasure. The Japanese martial arts are a competition in how we can express and realize love that unites and protects everything in harmony and helps this world to prosper."

"In a sense, with aiki, you purify and remove evil with your own breath of faithfulness instead of using a sword. In other words, you change the physical world into a spiritual world. This is aikido's mission. The physical body is placed below and the spirit above and to the front. Thus, aikido leads the spirit to produce noble flowers and bear fruits."

(part three)

"In olden times, numerous forerunners and teachers established different martial art schools. We must study these schools as one way of training. However, in order to achieve takemusu aiki, we must assimilate all of history since the Age of the Gods into ourselves, unify ourselves, and contain both time and space within."

"Prayers are also born in the form of martial art techniques when coming into existence. Prayers themselves should without exception be martial arts. Moreover, prayers themselves must also actually purify this world. That is to say, prayers themselves are the same as the execution of martial arts. Thus, those who have faith in God like you (addressing the Byakko Shinko Kai audience) truly need to study martial arts. This is because one is not able to master takemusu aiki without having the virtue of faith, meaning that the practice and execution of aiki lies in learning from the manifestation of the Great God, the Source of True Love and True Faith, under the Great Spirit of Loving Protection of all nature; that is, it lies in working for Izunome2 with the virtue of faith. (Izunome is a deity born from the water purification -- "harae" or "harai" - of Izanagi as he washed himself after having returned from the land of the dead. Izanagi, along with his female partner, Izanami, are primary deities of creation in the Shinto tradition. In later movements, such as in the New Religions, of which Omoto-kyo is one, Izunome comes to represent a notion of perfect union - dmv)"

"In short, you should understand what the Universe is and who you are. First of all, you must understand yourself. Knowing yourself is knowing the Universe."

(part four)

"We must assimilate Eternal Life and the Universe within and become the Universe ourselves. We become one with the Universe, that is, to become one with Takaamahara ("Higher Heavenly Plain" -- dmv)."

"All things begin when "one stands on Ame No Ukihashi." (The bridge that connects the "Higher Heavenly Plain" with Earth. It is the kami of this bridge, Sarutahiko, that is enshrined at the Aiki Shrine and that at times "possessed" Osensei. dmv) This has gone unchanged in Japan since ancient times. When you pray while standing on Ame No Ukihashi, you must straddle between Heaven and Earth and your mind should not be overly focused on either Heaven or Earth. You must proceed while uniting yourself with the Heart of the Great God through your faith. Otherwise, you will not be able to perform O-Musubi ("uniting" -- dmv) between Heaven and Earth, nor between the Universe and yourself."

"How was I able to understand the true bu that had eluded all others? Where did I find the answer? I had looked for it in all kinds of martial art schools, but I was not able to find it in any school conceived by human beings. Then, where on Earth was it? Everything was within me. I found it when I became enlightened. Well then, how can one achieve enlightenment? The answer is that we must stand on Ame no Ukihashi."

"This world has thus far been the material world of the physical body (haku), but from now forward the spirit (kon) and body must become one."

"Human beings cannot work only through the spirit. We need a physical body. At the same time, if we lack spirituality, we will not be able to truly carry out our duties. We will only be able to carry out true activities when the physical body and spirit are united and assist each other."

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site for articles and videos. Senshin Center - A Place for Traditional Martial Arts in Santa Barbara.
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Old 06-08-2005, 09:39 AM   #99
L. Camejo
 
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Location: Mississauga, Ontario
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Hey Michael,

Not sure whaat happened to your last post, since its not showing up on the thread, but I did get it with the e-mail notification.

Your Guro Andy sounds like a great guy. I'd love to train with him sometime for sure.

The format you gave for the sparring training you guys did is exactly the same paradigm that we use in Shodokan, that of not "trying to win" but as a means of self development and clearing/emptying the mind and body to react spontaneously (mushin mugamae).

The levels of randori you speak of are very important, we also follow a similar format where we start with just evasion and intercepting drills,(tai sabaki), then medium speed, zero resistance freeplay (kakari geiko), then onto medium to high speed, medium resistance freeplay with counters (hiki tate geiko) and then onto full speed, full resistance freeplay with counters (randori).

As you also said, when simply training and reacting to the sparring situation you do movements which appear in different arts, as such it's hard to distinguish what is an "Aikido" technique. I think this is a major benefit of randori, freeplay or sparring. It causes one to react spontaneously to the situation, particulars of form (as in kata practice) becomes secondary in this instant. This is what I am getting at as regards Aikido training and why forms training alone may not be sufficient to develop this level of reactive or instinctive spontaneity for the application of good, sound Aiki waza (just as your Guro is trying to develop your spontaneous Kali responses to attacks in his Kali class).

Thanks for letting me know how it went. Your training sounds great. It seems like the FMA sparring class and Instructor you have will help in your development of spontaneous reactions. It may show up as an increase in spontaneous ability when you do randori in your Aikido dojo, since you would have had much more practice in "reacting correctly" to apply waza.

Thanks for sharing.
LC

--Mushin Mugamae - No Mind No Posture. He who is possessed by nothing possesses everything.--
http://www.tntaikido.org
http://www.mushinkan.ca
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Old 06-08-2005, 11:00 AM   #100
CNYMike
Dojo: Finger Lakes Aikido
Location: Cortland, NY
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Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Quote:
Larry Camejo wrote:
Hey Michael,

Not sure whaat happened to your last post, since its not showing up on the thread, but I did get it with the e-mail notification.
I deleted it.

Glad you think Andy is a great guy.

As to which art helps what, we'll see.
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