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#426518 - 04/19/10 01:37 PM Alternative criticism of Aikido
Prizewriter Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 10/23/05
Posts: 2573
Hello all. In an attempt to keep things going on here, I'm starting a topic about an area of Aikido I haven't seen much of on here. Maybe it isn't as interesting to people as the "other" criticism of Aikido (i.e. lack of application to real world violence). Not sure, but hey, I'll put it out there.

Will start this with a quote attributed to the main man himself:

"The primary purpose of Aikido is spiritual development. " M Ueshiba.

Now, many styles, schools, teachers and indeed students of Aikido have felt the need to train in a manner more befitting of a "martial" Aikido. For example, in Shodokan/Tomiki Aikido, fully resistant randori is used in training and competition to "test" Aikido ideas. Yoshinkan Aikido keeps closer to the DR roots of Aikido (so I've been told). Yoseikan Aikido had some Karate and Judo influence (again, as is my understanding).

However, the fundamental goal of Ueshibas Aikido seems to be the development of the spirit/person. I read a criticism from a traditional point of view that was highly damning of the position of many people who study Aikido for "martial" reasons.

So the question for the thread is do you feel that the "Do" of Aikido is more important than the "Jutsu"? In other words, is improving yourself and growing the reason you study Aikido, or is to learn a particular set of martial skills? Is it possible, in the framework of Aikido, to do both? I mean, if a person is still concerned with learning martial skill, are they following "The way of peace and harmony"?
_________________________
"Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food" Hippocrates.

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#426527 - 04/20/10 07:03 AM Re: Alternative criticism of Aikido [Re: Prizewriter]
Kathryn Offline
Member

Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 262
Loc: Washington, DC
I don't quite understand why you have it separated into 'martial' and 'spiritual', when Ueshiba himself never made the distinction. He may have said that the primary purpose of Aikido is spiritual development, but he also said that it is only through intense daily training that one can develop their spirit. And, in the Japanese arts, training is usually conducted with the maximum level of force possible. It is believed that if you do not train full-out you are wasting your time. Ueshiba's dojo developed a fearsome reputation for the length and intensity of the training sessions. It could be that his writings have led us to a particular image of him as a spiritual guide, but he was also a samurai.
_________________________
Be nice, until it's time to not be nice.

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#426530 - 04/20/10 08:01 AM Re: Alternative criticism of Aikido [Re: Kathryn]
Prizewriter Offline
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Registered: 10/23/05
Posts: 2573
I wondered about that myself re the distinction of "martial" and "spiritual". However, some things like the gradual removal/demise of atemi in traditional Aikido made me wonder if certain "martial" aspects had been phased out (by accident or design) over time to try and make traditional Aikido about something more than possessing martial skill.

Maybe I should put it another way: For a person, is the "Spritual/DO" of Aikido more important than the "martial" skill? Can the pursuit of "martial" skill be a hinderance to "the way of peace and harmony"?

I never trained in Japan, much less the Honbu, so as to what went on and what was taught, well, like most folks I hear all that 2nd, 3rd, 4th hand.... I have no doubt that the training was demanding. However, if martial skill and spiritual growth were of equal merit and non-distinct from each other, why did a lot of the martial material that Ueshiba learn in Daito Ryu get discarded? Why did some of his senior students decide to follow their own way of Aikido, and not his? Did they have different goals with their Aikido than Ueshiba did with his?
_________________________
"Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food" Hippocrates.

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#426533 - 04/20/10 09:39 AM Re: Alternative criticism of Aikido [Re: Prizewriter]
iaibear Offline
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Registered: 08/24/05
Posts: 1304
Loc: upstate New York
Originally Posted By: Prizewriter

However, if martial skill and spiritual growth were of equal merit and non-distinct from each other, why did a lot of the martial material that Ueshiba learn in Daito Ryu get discarded? Why did some of his senior students decide to follow their own way of Aikido, and not his? Did they have different goals with their Aikido than Ueshiba did with his?


Who knows? There are certainly enough theories out there.

On Tuesdays I attend two classes at different dojo with different sensei and theories of teaching. One demos and hints, the other drills and instructs. My feeling is both are useful.

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#426534 - 04/20/10 01:36 PM Re: Alternative criticism of Aikido [Re: iaibear]
JMWcorwin Offline
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Registered: 07/13/07
Posts: 731
Loc: SoCal, USA
Maybe it's just me, but I think that is the nature of the human element in martial arts, whether it's Aikido, Karate, or whatever. Every person has a unique experience depending on who they worked out with, who instructed and when, what their personal views or aspirations were/are, how old they were, etc. I've personal seen cases where there are several schools in an association, of which all head instructors learned directly from the same Master. Yet, anyone sitting on a Black Belt test where they all come together can easily spot which students came from which school. They all take on the different characteristics of their respective teachers, each instructor having his own personal view of what was/is important, what should be taught to whom and how, even different memories of how a certain technique was to be applied altogether. Then add in the factor of natural ability and the differences in that ability from person to person, the skilled instructor building on that individual's strengths, and so-on and so-on, and each generation down from the origin you HAVE TO see change. (MHO, of course)

This is a bit off topic as it's more of a reply to iaibear's comment on different schools. But, it's also a reply to Prize's question of why certain students chose to teach differently or even why Ueshiba veered from D.R. as far as he did. I think it's just the nature of things. It's extremely hard to keep something as complex as a martial arts system exactly the same from generation to generation. And I don't think it should be. Each new generation should buid on the one before it, adding their own perspectives and personal preferences; improving on what was and expanding the collective knowledge. That's progress.

Prizewriter,
Do you feel you have the exact same goals and techniques as your instructor? How could you, unless you're not human. We all have our own personal journey through life and MA, for those of us who take that path, and I believe that is how it should be. Especially if your speaking of "spiritual growth". That can be defined many ways. But all the definitions I've heard and have read about all lead back to the individual's journey, not the mimicking of the person who introduced him to the path. There are no shortcuts to enlightenment. As far as I know, the same goes for martial arts. So, why can't they both exist together as seperate components in the same journey?
_________________________
There are no PERFECT techniques, only perfect execution for the situation at hand. ~Corwin

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#426535 - 04/20/10 02:07 PM Re: Alternative criticism of Aikido [Re: JMWcorwin]
Prizewriter Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 10/23/05
Posts: 2573
That's the question, isn't it? I wasn't stating my opinion on this matter with the thread, merely asking questions I've come across to generate discussion.

You make a good point regarding the journey an individual makes.

I am going to re-define something in the thread though for the sake of clarification. For "martial skill" read "effectiveness against real life violence". Be that violence in a combat sport (Judo, BJJ, MMA etc...) or being attacked outside of class.

Now, the reason I make this distinction is that in my experience, there are many people in the Aikido community who seek to make their training more "martial", in the sense that it can be used in a fight. So people seek out "hard" Aikido (Yoshinkan) or "Aikido with resistance" (Tomiki/Shodokan Aikido).

Can the desire to fight co-exist with "the way of peace and harmony"? Is Aikido merely a physical system of body movement, or a way of finding peace in the midst of movement? What is Aikido?

Like JMW said, it's an individual answer, so feel free to share!
_________________________
"Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food" Hippocrates.

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#426537 - 04/20/10 03:59 PM Re: Alternative criticism of Aikido [Re: Prizewriter]
JMWcorwin Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 07/13/07
Posts: 731
Loc: SoCal, USA
Quote:
Can the desire to fight co-exist with "the way of peace and harmony"?

Ask the shoulin monks. In Aikido I don't think it's "desire to fight" but that the 'fighting' in Aikido IS harmony with the attacker. THe seeking of "harder" styles of Aikido I think is just looking for an instructor that better demonstrates this.

I know a guy who, when asked the difference between Aikido and Hapkido, says, "well, in Aikido, I would move in, redirect the attacker's energy here, where I could break the joint, but don't and direct them away or control them w/o doing them that kind of harm. In Hapkido, I go ahead and break it so he doesn't have that tool for his next attack."

Now, I know this is a huge over simplification. But, that's the general principle I think we're looking at. Learning to use your Aikido while under stress of a full force attack is not betraying the "peace and harmony" prinicple. It's just the process of applying the theory under stress. (which, as said above by previous poster, was said to be the norm in Ueshiba's school) But I will say, it's damn hard to control someone who intends to hurt you without harming them. But, from my limited knowledge of Aikido, I think that is the goal of the martial aspect. It's not seperate from the harmony principle; it's never more present. Be at peace in your mind, and in harmony with that huge man trying to take your head off, and help him decide to pursue other endeavors. wink

From the original monks in China to Karate and on to more recent incarnations of MA, it's knowing how to fight that gives us the presence and peace of mind not to fight. (a-la David Carridine & 'Kung-Fu'.)

And anyone who's trained internal aspects of martial arts to great extent will tell you that you are at great peace and harmony with everything while tossing that gentleman effortlessly accross the room, etc. where he finds harmony with the floor and the peace within himself to maybe call it a night. wink Some call it being in the zone and some call it 'no mind' or something along those lines.
_________________________
There are no PERFECT techniques, only perfect execution for the situation at hand. ~Corwin

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#426538 - 04/20/10 05:46 PM Re: Alternative criticism of Aikido [Re: JMWcorwin]
JMWcorwin Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 07/13/07
Posts: 731
Loc: SoCal, USA
Sorry Prize,
I didn't mean to monopolize your thread. So:
Quote:
That's the question, isn't it? I wasn't stating my opinion on this matter with the thread, merely asking questions I've come across to generate discussion.

You make a good point regarding the journey an individual makes.

I am going to re-define something in the thread though for the sake of clarification. For "martial skill" read "effectiveness against real life violence". Be that violence in a combat sport (Judo, BJJ, MMA etc...) or being attacked outside of class.

Now, the reason I make this distinction is that in my experience, there are many people in the Aikido community who seek to make their training more "martial", in the sense that it can be used in a fight. So people seek out "hard" Aikido (Yoshinkan) or "Aikido with resistance" (Tomiki/Shodokan Aikido).

Can the desire to fight co-exist with "the way of peace and harmony"? Is Aikido merely a physical system of body movement, or a way of finding peace in the midst of movement? What is Aikido?

Like JMW said, it's an individual answer, so feel free to share!
Please conitue

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#426543 - 04/21/10 12:13 PM Re: Alternative criticism of Aikido [Re: Prizewriter]
iaibear Offline
Veteran

Registered: 08/24/05
Posts: 1304
Loc: upstate New York
Originally Posted By: Prizewriter

That's the question, isn't it?

Can the desire to fight co-exist with "the way of peace and harmony"? Is Aikido merely a physical system of body movement, or a way of finding peace in the midst of movement?


Yes.

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#426551 - 04/21/10 07:01 PM Re: Alternative criticism of Aikido [Re: Prizewriter]
Ames Offline
Veteran

Registered: 05/29/05
Posts: 1117
I think this is a really interesting question Prizewriter, and it's certainly something I've thought about often.

Before going further, there are a couple of things I would like to point out or at least problematize.

1. Even though Ueshiba said that his Aikido was about spritual development, he also said he didn't expect everyone to believe what he believed.

2. What do we mean by spritual development, and what did Ueshiba mean? Are we interpreting it the same way? For example, Ellis Amdur has pointed out that Ueshiba's "spiritual practice" of Aikido was somewhat tantric and involved the "stealing" of other peoples energy in order to power his own spiritual quest. Certainly a different idea from the egalitarian way we usually interpret the meaning of "spiritual development".

3. I've come to not think of "Aikido" as one thing, but rather as a process that at times means very different things, not only to the practioner, but also to the Ueshiba himself, as such I question at this point, as eyrie opened my eyes to awhile ago, if there was any attempt to make Aikido a method suitible for physical confrontation towards the end of his life. On the other hand, Saito thought differently, and certainly his Aikido was pretty "hard".

4. As a more general note, we should be careful about entering into the polemics of Daito Ryu as a "hard," "martial," "killing system" and Aikido as a "soft", "dancing", "life-giving system". This has been the usual agrument (not that I'm saying anyone here has made that argument explicitly) and it often informs the way we look at things. Many DR teachers preach very similar things to Ueshiba, only minus the obscure Shinto termanology. Daito Ryu also allows for "control", and also talks of harmony with your opponent (Aiki).

Getting to the question you've raised, although I think it's a bit of a cop out, I don't really see the difference between the way (Do) and "martial skill". Frankly, I think most of time, it's a cop out on the part of teachers to try and seperate the two in an attempt to keep things in the safe world of the dojo. Harmony with the world does not only mean "blending" with the parts we like, but also the things we don't. What use is all the talk about harmony if we can't, for example, teach a young women to safely defend herself against a realistic rape attempt?

At the end of his life, I think Ueshiba was more interested in his own spritual needs than his needs as a "fighter", but at the same time, I don't think he ever intended Aikido to be deficient as a method for preserving life.

Quote:
some things like the gradual removal/demise of atemi in traditional Aikido made me wonder if certain "martial" aspects had been phased out (by accident or design) over time to try and make traditional Aikido about something more than possessing martial skill


Maybe. But who phased it out? Based on Saito's teachings of what Ueshiba was teaching students at Iwama, it seems like atemi was still playing a significant role in Aikido even at the end. We have to question who's idea of "spiritual development" is being preached in Aikido? What in particular is it about atemi that makes it less about self development than bending someones wrist back and dropping them to the ground (someone who might not have ukemi skills)?

Quote:
why did a lot of the martial material that Ueshiba learned in Daito Ryu get discarded?


There are different viewpoints on this, and I think they all have a part of the truth. Nonetheless, I'd like to bring up one rarely mentioned.

Ueshiba broke with his teacher is "non-tradional" way. Stories have it that he fled Osaka when Sogaku came to town wondering why Ueshiba was teaching all these students without any of that money coming his way. So one way to look at it, is that Ueshiba began teaching something different so as not to further offend his teacher.

On the other hand, the Takumakai records apparently show that from a very early point Ueshiba was already "doing his own thing". Then again, all the Daito Ryu teachers seem to have "done their own thing".

The last thing I'd like to say for now is that we should'nt be too quick to catagorize certain things as "violent", and as such exclude them from a (rightly) ethical martial way. Sometimes a Zen teacher hits a student very hard with a wooden stick!
_________________________
"Seek not to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought."
--Basho

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