Thursday, August 6, 2009

Embarrassed by Aikido

In Karl Geis shihan's "the book of twelve winds" he describes aikido as a physical culture. I think this is an excellent evaluation on what it is that we do. We have a shared set of expectations of ethics, training philosophy, and effective motion. Because of the 'shared culture' that we have in the dojo, sometimes our training gets a little off from reality. In my dojo we recognize this and just use this as part of specific drill to get get a specific response. Recognition of this aspect of our training is critical!

I experienced another side of this when 10 years ago I trained with a Ki Society dojo. They were excellent people, kind warm and generous. That being said, their training culture lead them to a place where they were creating their own set of cause and effect relationships that exists outside the real world. One day the teacher waved her hand in front of my face. She looked annoyed and said "you are supposed to fall." I smiled and fell at the appropriate time, but never did I return. To each his own, I just wish Aikido people did not train like that...why can't it be just the 'no touch knockout' George Dillman guys?

I heard at a party a few years ago a few Aikidoka from another dojo here in town talk about aikido as a 'meta martial art' Something about the connotation of that I have to disagree with. Yes we are shooting for a higher level of the game, technically, ethically and spiritually - but we are still a martial art.

Charles Clark sensei made his stance clearly in a seminar many years ago. Sensei said "Some people say aikido is a spiritual art and the fighting element should be de-emphasized. Well I love to shoot. I find shooting to be be a very spiritual art form. But even though it is spiritual...I use real fucking bullets"

I chose to keep the swear word as a part of the statement, because I think it really drives that point home. Sure, be in a martial movement culture. Sure, have it be a spiritual art form. But at the end of the day, train in a martially valid way.

Which brings me to the inspiration of my rant. Honestly I am disappointed by this next display. But rather than leaving a lengthy comment (which I wrote twice and erased) I will let my readers decide for themselves.

Yoshinobu Takeda sensei teaches at Shonan Aikido Renmai in Yokohama, Japan and currently holds a 8th dan through Aikikai Hombu Dojo.

I often saw this kind of aikido in Japan, and I am nervous about saying I even practice this art.

I am an opened minded fellow. If someone wants to knock me over from across the room with ki powers - please come on down...I am begging you. I will erect a giant bronze statue of you and shave my head and follow your teachings. While I am open, I am sure not holding my breath.


  1. HAHA! I was trying to be somewhat political about it. Don't be shy to speak your mind Parker Sensei!

  2. They do have nice looking hakama, though ;-)

  3. The problem, if I may so, is at least in part that so many people come to Aikido looking for a mystical experience rather than for anything practical. And it appears that some people choose, for whatever reason, to cater to them.

  4. Something I remember from my aikido days is the phenomenon I refer to as "The Dojo Nerd." This is the person who puts every other aspect of their life on hold to spend every spare femtosecond in the dojo, merrily chanting "harmony, harmony, harmony." In the meantime, the harmony they are making in the dojo is offset by the relationships they are destroying at home, and with others outside of the dojo. How many divorces I've seen; how many chronically underemployed so they could arrange to make it to the dojo more often, but would life like squirells outside of the dojo.

    I found the phenomenon disturbing, particularly since I became close to becoming a Dojo Nerd myself.

  5. uke shapes practice -- the kind of uke you build determines the style and pragmantic integrity of your aikido

  6. The Ki Society in Portland had the same reputation with practical Aiki folks I trained with. Must be universal.

    Femtosecond? That's a new one to me!

  7. LOL !!!

    It's this sort of rubbish that turned me off the study of Aikido. You will see similar examples of master/slave performances by Morihei Ueshiba - the founder of this style of martial arts!

    I present to you for your viewing leisure -

    Yes, in some instances good ol' Ueshiba doesn't even touch his Uke. Were the students just humoring the old man ? Were they submitting out of respect for the old man ? Or were they simply victims of behavioural conditioning ? In any event, I think it is wrong and uneuthical to promote these pseudo-mystical powers as an eventual outcome of Aikido training.

    I personally think that this behaviour is a fair representation of what happens when a culture demands total submission and blind acceptance of the status-quo and/or sensei's world-view.

    This is what needs to happen to people who continue to spread the tyranny of superstition. Regardless of their age and/or self-delusions, the truth must be demonstrated !

    I present to you a "demonstration" for your viewing leisure -

    P.S. Thanks for the article, it was a good read. Aikido is most definately a martial art. In saying that it also has the inherent pros and cons that all martial arts have when compared to each other. No martial art is better then the other. Sure, some are more suited in realistic fight situations; BUT this is not what makes a good martial art. Is boxing a martial art ? No.

    The best martial art is the one that suits you. It's the one that makes you feel like you have come home.