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Chris swings the sword


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Some suburi happened Friday morning and evening, and class today.  A couple of poor life choices this weekend, but these things happen.

 

100 swings really isn't much at all, and not much of a time commitment. Interestingly, I found that I have a propensity to lose count when I start to focus on a particular part of the movement.  There's probably some kind of meditation type practice fun to be had there. 

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Huh, I missed replying to this somehow.  I'll trade it for an update on your points, a Discworld quote, and a description of how damn green things are where you live. :)

 

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In aikido, the task is always to not kill or injure the attacker.  It's sort of the defining feature of the art.

 

I sometimes wonder about that. From my admittedly small amount of reading and experience, it seems more along the line of 'least damage possible to resolve the conflict', which has a slight (but important to how I view it) semantic difference from no injury.  Especially considering if you are in a multi-attacker situation, or weaker against stronger.  What do you do after they are pinned and you have to wait around?  Especially considering the possibility of irrationality.   

 

Again though, I'm not very versed in Aikido, and the last art I practiced with throws and hold was a family style of Silat, and a hold was to control a person to either bind/disable them or kill them, so that colors my perspective.    

 

 

This is really going to depend on the style of aikido you train in, IMO.  There's a huge range of militaristic to quasi-spiritual aikido, roughly corresponding to the year when the head of the style was a student of Ueshiba's, and they're going to approach it with a different philosophy.  My understanding is that some will go for disabling in a heartbeat, others are incredibly pacifist and will teach you to simply that it's a moral responsibility to not injure.  (I can't tell you what my style advises in that situation, I'm not really senior enough.  And I suspect that even then, it varies by person.  People's aikido is their aikido, and they deal with their own moral dilemmas.)  One of the big real-world uses of aikido is by the Tokyo riot police, and by female police in Japan.  I'd imagine that in the latter case, some handcuffs are involved, and in the former, I know they're taught one of the harder, more militaristic styles.  It's a rough course.  (A very rough course, if rumor is to be believed.)  I doubt they're very squeamish about disabling.

 

There are a lot of pins where it's tremendously easy to kill the attacker, especially if you've got hold of a knife somehow.  A lot of them are basically designed to make the neck very vulnerable.  It's just not very practical to do it in the modern world, because no court is going to see that as self-defense or a justifiable use of force on someone you have safely pinned.  It's the other guy the law generally says you're allowed to hurt, the one who's a current threat, not the guy you've got down.  That's a problem with a lot of disabling as well.  Injuring someone who's not actively a threat, even if they could be one if you let them up, is legally very tricky territory, and my understanding is that generally you're not legally in the right if it isn't done in the heat of the moment, with no other options.  You can punch someone in the face and knock them out when they're swinging at you, and you'll probably be okay, but you can't do it when they're on the ground.  So, given aikido's pre-existing moral slant on that one and the legal role of violence in the modern world (and also how much time it tends to take a beginner to reach practical use of aikido), that's generally treated as an advanced topic.

 

@Mistr may be able to tell you more about that, she's definitely by far the senior person here.

 

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Aikido was drifting towards a "protection of the peace" model in the early days, and shifted there pretty sharply during and after the war.  The big current application for it, and likely the originally intended one, is controlling civilian violence with a minimum of force and no escalation of conflict.  Civilian violence is generally pretty irrational, and often committed under the influence.  That still doesn't give a good explanation for why you'd be controlling civilian violence with a sword in your hand, but I guess it's the principle of the thing. :)

That's where I have some wondering as well, if it's more a training tool.  I have some minor understanding of the situation you describe in the Edo period - I do know that it was bad form to harm a superior if you had to restrain them.  I also sometimes think that the writings of the ethical/moral samurai were kind of like the writings about chivalry - the ideal, but not necessarily the practice. My reading is pretty limited though. Is Japanese history an interest, or part of your job somehow? 

 

 

Just an interest.  While I don't have access to a dojo, I'm spending my time on research.

 

It's definitely idealized.  I doubt many people were quite as hip to the budo virtues as the documents would lead you to believe.  (For one thing, you'd have wiped out half the samurai class due to suicide after every war, and that's not sustainable.  For another, some percent of society is just composed of assholes.)  Japan does, in the broader sense, tend to place more value on ideal practice than a lot of cultures and have a lot more people who approach the practice of their profession as an art.  To me, that looks like a society where you will get a few people genuinely practicing the ideal.  Not many, but I'd be surprised if they weren't there at all.  And the way most traditional arts function in Japan, martial and not, they're probably the senior people.  That's a feature of professionalism in a lot of Japanese arts.

 

One of the most famous swordsmen at the time of the Meiji restoration, a really important political figure in returning the emperor to power and the head of a major swordsmanship school at the time, was said to have never killed anyone.  (And he's recent enough that he's moderately well-documented.  He did die kind of young, but there are photographs and a lot of accounts of him serving in court and so on.)  I think that's probably true of a lot of samurai in the Edo period, mostly because a lot of them became civil servants, but this guy had the opportunity.  I think it gets mentioned because it's unusual, but it's relevant because he was a teacher and in a lot of positions of authority over other samurai under Tokugawa and the emperor, and I doubt he was the only teacher at the time who felt that way.  I'd be very surprised if he, and others, didn't teach ending a fight without killing.  I doubt it was practical for many of his students or that it was expected to be, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't taught, in the sort of teaching culture where you drill every attack, response, and outcome to the smallest detail.  Whether it gets used, well, that's a different question.  You respond to the situation.  But this was very far from a lawless society, it's one of the longest periods of peace in the world, and that gets pretty civilized pretty fast.  If your warrior class doesn't function well as a force to preserve that peaceful society, it falls apart.  Maybe I'm wrong, and it is a fairly modern thing to take traditional attacks and modify them to control rather than injure, but I don't know, my reading of the late Edo is that protection of the peace and non-lethal response were probably ideas that were already floating around, and possibly formalized in some schools.  I don't think that's a chivalric ideal, but part of the actual role they'd been playing for two centuries.

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Sara makes a lot of good points (as always :))

 

My sensei discussed this issue in advanced class last week. We were working on sword take-aways. She noted that sometimes the person with the sword (uke) tries to resist in a way that ignores openings. The person being attacked (nage) is not allowed to punch or kick uke in the process of disarming him. Sensei noted that this requirement sets an extremely high bar for nage. Uke should move in a way that shows concern for a potentially disabling blow, even though in aikido those blows are not going to happen. Sensei said that in a real-world situation, nage might decide to use those violent options to ensure compliance.

 

One of the senior students in the class works in law enforcement. He said that a judge would be sympathetic to a defendant who put her foot on a person's neck after that person attacked her with a sword. Or knife. Or baseball bat. The unarmed defender has a lot more leeway in use of disabling responses than two people in a fist fight.

 

Learning to spot openings comes in at the more advanced levels in aikido training. We point out some obvious ones starting with basic techniques. At the higher levels the senior student is allowed to point out openings (usually by touching their partner) or even to "reverse the technique", meaning to reverse roles and take control of the situation. I think a lot of criticism of aikido from other martial artists is directed at junior aikidoka who don't realize they are leaving themselves wide open to punches or kicks. Most of the aikido that people see is semi-choreographed to show specific responses to specific attacks. It is rare to see two senior aikidoka going at each other with no pre-determined winner. That type of training happens at about 3rd degree black belt level. It requires both physical and mental flexibility as well as intense focus.

 

We also talk about how your choices are different in a single attacker situation compared to multiple attackers. With a single attacker the ideal response is to pin the person and talk them down. You can't do that with multiple attackers. Best case with multiple attackers is to throw person A into person B, then throw person C into person D and run like hell. If running isn't an option the sensible thing would be to disable them as quickly as possible. The theoretical goal would be to keep throwing them into each other until they give up. I don't know if any living aikidoka are at that level. On the other hand, an attacker who does not know how to fall might get disabled early on.

 

Sara has already gone into application of aikido in different real-world scenarios. Here is a quick overview. A proficient aikidoka vs.

  • single untrained person - use aikido to control without harm
  • single trained fighter - use aikido if possible, use aikijitsu if necessary
  • multiple attackers - use aikido to not get hit or mobbed. Escape if possible. Use aikijitsu if not.

The first scenario applies to most civilian situations and the majority of police interactions. The second situation describes military conflicts, MMA and rare civilian conflicts (assuming you stay away from that type of bar). The third situation happens in bad areas in some cities. In all cases the aikidoka has the option to use violence if non-violent methods are too slow or not sufficient. The philosophy of aikido is that it is morally preferable not to hurt the other person. Controlling without harm is hard to do, but that makes it an admirable training goal.

 

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7 hours ago, Mistr said:

It is rare to see two senior aikidoka going at each other with no pre-determined winner.

 

Life goals, man.  Life goals.  (Although this was the cause of the one serious injury I know of.  Not life-threatening or anything, but it took one of them out of training for nearly a year, IIRC.)

 

Aikijitsu, for context, is the parent art of aikido, and it's a more violent art, designed to do a lot of damage.  The founder of Aikido trained under a former samurai teaching his family's art, and his first few students were actually ranked in Aikijitsu rather than Aikido.  I don't know how much -do was modified away from -jitsu, but the impression I have is that it's very similar, except to a degree in philosophy and slight variations of technique.  (Basically, Aikijitsu is the harder end of the spectrum that Aikido runs, so he was teaching essentially Aikijitsu when he started teaching in the 1920s-30s, and gradually it changed more and more into the art he was teaching in the 1960s.  I suspect it's more of an aesthetic change, that gentleness and duty of care became increasingly prized, more than big changes in core technique.)  I suspect that a lot of the basics of Aikido's controlling techniques come from what was necessary in training conditions in Aikijitsu, because you just can't send your entire class home with broken arms or shredded shoulder cartilage after every lesson.  My sense is that more Aikijitsu creeps into classes at the senior levels.  Not always officially, but it's part of what you need to know.  It's not Aikido, but it's also a big part of Aikido.  If that makes sense.  (I think it comes down to people's Aikido being their own Aikido.  You can practice Aikido without the parent art, or you can consider the parent art an inseparable part of what Aikido is.  But this is one of those things where Mistr knows and I just guess.) :)

 

It's also the parent art of hapkido (perhaps not the only parent art, but certainly the prominent one), and I think the main aikijitsu school goes by Daito-ryu now.  Looking at the commonalities of those three schools would be kind of an interesting way to get a look at the art as it was practiced from 1880-1915.

 

7 hours ago, Mistr said:

The philosophy of aikido is that it is morally preferable not to hurt the other person.

 

My dojo, being filled with scrappy young black belts who liked playing rough, tended to say that the obligation was not to injure the other person, but pain was optional.  When they say aikido is the "gentle" art, they mean it's gentle on you. :)

 

But that's not totally true, of course.  I think basically every dojo, and from what I hear even the very hardest styles, train with the idea that every black belt should be capable of being extremely gentle with an attacker.  Where they differ seems to be on how strongly they feel that's an aikidoka's obligation to every attacker.

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Behind the officers, the man with the cigar winked at Polly.  His uniform was very old-fashioned - and ancient helmet, a breastplate, some slightly rusted chain mail, and big boots.  He wore it like a workman wears his overalls.  Unlike the braid and brilliance in front of her, the only statement his clothes maid was that he didn't intend to get hurt. 

(from Monstrous Regiment).

 

On 3/21/2016 at 1:50 PM, 'BoutThatActionBoss said:

Argh sorry, I have been a crap forum member this challenge. How is everything going for you? Been walking? I hope you're rocking it. 

I may have to consider having a challenge about sticking to a challenge, but I fear that way madness lies.  I have been keeping up with suburi a little better, but walking has been out the window.  Then again, I was assisting a photo shoot at work last Friday, and running back and forth from bakery to offices where we had a little area set up, so got some bump to the walking. 

 

I may have to add an extra block to how far away I park at work.   Hmmm...

 

On 3/22/2016 at 7:49 PM, sarakingdom said:

Huh, I missed replying to this somehow.  I'll trade it for an update on your points, a Discworld quote, and a description of how damn green things are where you live. :)

It's very, very green.  Actually, across the street is very, very white right now, as there are a lot of  ornamental cherry trees in bloom.  The other side of the street will likely be all pink next week, and then later my ornamental apples (I think) will bloom out.   Still...it's very green.  I'm assuming it's not green in your area yet?  What's your general location in this wide world, anyway?

 

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nior enough.  And I suspect that even then, it varies by person.  People's aikido is their aikido, and they deal with their own moral dilemmas.)  One of the big real-world uses of aikido is by the Tokyo riot police, and by female police in Japan.  I'd imagine that in the latter case, some handcuffs are involved, and in the former, I know they're taught one of the harder, more militaristic styles.  It's a rough course.  (A very rough course, if rumor is to be believed.)  I doubt they're very squeamish about disabling.

My teacher and his contemporary (they had the same teacher), got to sneak a peek on a police kendo class through and open window - apparently it was impressively combative, with body checks and throws for the unwary. 

 

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There are a lot of pins where it's tremendously easy to kill the attacker, especially if you've got hold of a knife somehow.  A lot of them are basically designed to make the neck very vulnerable.  It's just not very practical to do it in the modern world, because no court is going to see that as self-defense or a justifiable use of force on someone you have safely pinned.

I would agree in general not to hurt someone that is down, but I do still wonder what you're supposed to do with someone you have pinned while you're waiting for assistance.  That's just a general musing about grappling arts, not specifically directed to Aikido, and assuming irrationality, or just general a-holeishness. 

 

Interesting notes and thoughts about Edo period.   My reading is pretty scant here, so while I have a little knowledge of the what you're writing about, I don't have much to add for conversation. 

 

9 hours ago, Mistr said:

Sara makes a lot of good points (as always :))

 

My sensei discussed this issue in advanced class last week. We were working on sword take-aways. She noted that sometimes the person with the sword (uke) tries to resist ...........

That was one of the most interesting writings on Aikido thought and potential for advanced practice I've seen.  I officially have a martial arts nerd crush on on you and Sara.  I'm also in total agreement with the 'run if you can' option.  

 

And yes, I'd like to see two high level practitioners have a match.  I'm fascinated with movement and mechanics, so seeing free responses would be quite interesting.

 

I do have a passing familiarity of the history Daito & Aikido - I like how Ellis Amdur writes, and when his book that discusses the relationship between the two arts came out, I read it since I have an interest in Aikido/jistu, if not a study or practice yet.  Thank you both for the interesting discussion and thoughtful answers.

 

Back to the points - Lost track a little, but weeks 2 and three together - mowing + yard cleanup after the windstorm - +10.  Class and suburi came to +6.  So, 16 across two weeks, plus 14 for week 1 - 30 total.

 

This week - suburi +2 (hooray morning practice, even if my toes are complaining about idori at the moment), and a dance lesson yesterday, +2 (I think dance should be bumped a point - having a fun bit of skill growth, and just really enjoying it).

 

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I'm telling you, man, if you gotta practice on your own, morning is a real good time to do it. You wake up, you get loose, and you get it out of the way before everything else comes crashing in to drown it out.

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"My dad told me he fought with you at Blunderberg!"

"Ah, that was a hot battle, that was!" said Jackrum.

"No, he meant in the pub afterwards!  He pinched your drink and you smacked him in the gob and he kicked you in the nadgers and you hit him in the guts and he blacked your eye and then you hit him with a table and when he came round his mates stood him beer for the evening for managing to lay nearly three punches on Sergeant Jackrum."

Suburi this morning, and training tonight, +2. 

 

What's the Japanese word for senior by three weeks training partner that you can go at speed with?  Anyway - he was at training tonight, and we got to work through a couple of things.  Turns out I'm getting skewered with a spear because I'm rushing an entry/displacement, which means I'm unintentionally causing uke to track me (do the kata, don't do the dance, ahem).  It's not too noticeable when going slow, but at speed with someone that is pushing you a little anyway, and it stands out (especially when you have to do a quick head dodge to not get smacked).  It's also exacerbated a flinch that I need to get rid of.  So, progress. 

 

Otherwise, it was a day. 

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On 3/23/2016 at 1:15 AM, ChrisWithaStick said:

It's very, very green.  Actually, across the street is very, very white right now, as there are a lot of  ornamental cherry trees in bloom.  The other side of the street will likely be all pink next week, and then later my ornamental apples (I think) will bloom out.   Still...it's very green.  I'm assuming it's not green in your area yet?  What's your general location in this wide world, anyway?

 

Northeast.  It's been cold up till right about last week, but we're greening pretty fast now.  The trees are all still bare, but the buds are visible.  And the forsythia is starting to yellow up.

 

On 3/23/2016 at 1:15 AM, ChrisWithaStick said:

I would agree in general not to hurt someone that is down, but I do still wonder what you're supposed to do with someone you have pinned while you're waiting for assistance.  That's just a general musing about grappling arts, not specifically directed to Aikido, and assuming irrationality, or just general a-holeishness. 

 

I do, too, honestly, and more broadly than just aikido.  There's ending the fight, and there's ending the fight.  If you've got someone who's determined to keep escalating shit, things get unfortunate really fast.  That's just kind of luck, whether you've got someone who will back down when you fight back or will feel challenged by it.  At some point, you run out of good outcomes.  I don't think it's unique to aikido, but aikido does give you a pretty clear example - how do you back things out of a situation where things have probably gone too far to back out?

 

On 3/23/2016 at 1:15 AM, ChrisWithaStick said:

I do have a passing familiarity of the history Daito & Aikido - I like how Ellis Amdur writes, and when his book that discusses the relationship between the two arts came out, I read it since I have an interest in Aikido/jistu, if not a study or practice yet.  Thank you both for the interesting discussion and thoughtful answers.

 

You may know more than I do, then.  I haven't studied Daito in depth, just a little of the history.

 

So will you be joining us on the aikido side of the force?  I am so close to a toaster for recruitment. ;)

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On 3/24/2016 at 9:59 AM, Kishi said:

Senpai! Technically. But if it's only by three weeks, don't let it get to his head.

well...I might technically be ahead of him now as he was away for several months for life reasons.  We keep each other in check though.  It's going to be weird when we both have our own dojo and don't get to train together much.

3 hours ago, sarakingdom said:

 

Northeast.  It's been cold up till right about last week, but we're greening pretty fast now.  The trees are all still bare, but the buds are visible.  And the forsythia is starting to yellow up.

Ah... I lived in Montreal for 2 years.  4 honest-to-god seasons.  Out here we have S P R I N G summer F A L L L L wint...wait, no.. L L L L winte....hey c'mon now L L L L sigh...oooh win.. S S S dammit... S P R I N G G G summ...just kidding  F F F A L... and so on.   Granted, last year we actually had Summer... then again, I'm from the south, so it was really like cold spring, hot, dry end of spring, then fall....

 

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run out of good outcomes.  I don't think it's unique to aikido, but aikido does give you a pretty clear example - how do you back things out of a situation where things have probably gone too far to back out?

I'm hoping I never have to find out.   Granted, my personal self defense philosophy is a) try not to be there in the first place and b ) if pressed, kick in the knee or other close at hand voonerables, and then run like hell.  If that's not an option, then plan c ) is do what is necessary to protect myself and those around me (if I can).

 

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You may know more than I do, then.  I haven't studied Daito in depth, just a little of the history.

You might like Ellis' book then - it's called 'Hidden in Plain Sight' and is kind of an examination of Aikido with a lot of history of the the relationship between Takeda (who was apparently brilliant in his own right) and Ueshiba. 

 

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So will you be joining us on the aikido side of the force?  I am so close to a toaster for recruitment. ;)

Well...in spirit perhaps.  I do have a preference for the internal styles, so to speak, when not otherwise practicing to cut someone's hand off with a naginata.  I'm contemplating other arts to complement my Buko-ryu training.  I'd like to have another source of study for combative spacing and timing.  The good thing is, both are very upright in their movements.  The bad thing is that there is a different in intent, and there are differences in the sword, and I'm wary about mucking with body mechanics.  I don't think one is necessarily better than the other, but again, I want to be careful with what I introduce to my own practice.  That's partly why I haven't started training in the other art my teacher teaches, it's got a radically different set of body mechanics with a largely similar set of weapons. 

So - I don't know.  I do admire senior Aikidoka who actually understand and apply principles - I think I'd seriously enjoy the opportunity to see what it's like to train under someone like Mistr.  A lot of the discussion points from both of you have polished up Aikido's reputation for me. 

 

I suppose a question for you both - what do you look for in a good Aikido school?  What kind of attitude, and what kind of technical aspects?  I have my own preferences in terms of class dynamics, but would not be sure what to look for in a good aikido dojo. 

 

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Well.. Finished the challenge with a clean up of the office room (still needs some organization, but it's a lot neater than it was), +5.  Class today - +1.  So 6 more on the week.  Oh - and suburi on Saturday afternoon, so 7 total.  Which I think is 43 across the 4 weeks. 

 

I do believe I will be revamping the next challenge to have a slightly different structure - not quite sure what, possibly points, possibly not.  I do believe I will have some actual target goals, too, and not just habit goals, since I seem to be inconsistent with the habit ones.  Maybe having a target goal will help.

 

I will continue the Disc World quoting here and there, although not as heavily.  I think the next focus will be Vimes.

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Well, that's a wrap, then.

 

It doesn't look from out here like the challenge went badly. But I could see how you might look to benefit from a different organization. Fortunately, there's no hurry to figure that out.

 

Thank you for being part of the duo that got me reading Discworld.

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On 3/26/2016 at 10:27 PM, ChrisWithaStick said:

Granted, my personal self defense philosophy is a) try not to be there in the first place and b ) if pressed, kick in the knee or other close at hand voonerables, and then run like hell.

 

Kick him in the fork!

 

On 3/26/2016 at 10:27 PM, ChrisWithaStick said:

You might like Ellis' book then - it's called 'Hidden in Plain Sight' and is kind of an examination of Aikido with a lot of history of the the relationship between Takeda (who was apparently brilliant in his own right) and Ueshiba. 

 

I'll keep an eye out for it.  From what I've read, Takeda always seemed incredibly sharp.  And I don't think you just sort of accidentally wind up spawning two major 20th century martial arts styles, and influencing several others.  He was doing something interesting.

 

(What a strange life he must have had.  He watched Japan open up to the West and modernize from a medieval society practically overnight, had his hereditary profession and social standing abolished, nearly joined a doomed rebellion, remade his career, and IIRC ended up on Hokkaido, which... was pretty much the equivalent of settling in Siberia, from what I can tell.  And having Ueshiba become your most famous student must be a weird experience for most people.  Great martial artist, slightly strange religious and ideological views.)

 

On 3/26/2016 at 10:27 PM, ChrisWithaStick said:

The bad thing is that there is a different in intent, and there are differences in the sword, and I'm wary about mucking with body mechanics.  I don't think one is necessarily better than the other, but again, I want to be careful with what I introduce to my own practice.  That's partly why I haven't started training in the other art my teacher teaches, it's got a radically different set of body mechanics with a largely similar set of weapons. 

 

I hear you.  To a lesser degree, I've been running into that issue with tai chi.  I just sort of dabble for something relaxing to do, but it's physically all different.  There are senior aikido people who get a lot out of adding that art to their arsenal and improving their aikido with the principles, but my body just doesn't naturally move that way yet.  It's kind of weird and freaky, and doesn't feel right at all.

 

On 3/26/2016 at 10:27 PM, ChrisWithaStick said:

I suppose a question for you both - what do you look for in a good Aikido school?  What kind of attitude, and what kind of technical aspects?  I have my own preferences in terms of class dynamics, but would not be sure what to look for in a good aikido dojo. 

 

Hrm.  I don't know if I can answer the bit about technical aspects, I'm not advanced enough.  Though I'd say, in general, there are stiffer and more fluid forms of aikido, and the more fluid forms seem to be more widely in favor, technically.  I'd avoid a Tomiki style, it's sport aikido.  I wouldn't entirely dismiss a school without an affiliation to a larger organization, but I'd be a little wary of it.  Aikido styles are plentiful like rabbits, but they can usually tell you who they trained under and what organizations they're affiliated with.  (This will be something like the central Aikikai dojo at Hombu, or a style, major or minor, founded by one of Ueshiba's students, like Yoshinkan or Ki Society or something.)  There may not be anything wrong with an unaffiliated dojo, but it kind of makes me wonder why they don't have good relationships with the larger community and who are the senior people deciding on the technique forms, who do they work with and learn from, etc.  (If there's no one else training in your dojo's style... who's been modifying it and why, you know?) 

 

I kind of get the sense you might like something in the Yoshinkan family.  Yoshinkan is one of the earlier styles, and has a reputation for being one of the harder styles.  (The Tokyo riot police train at a Yoshinkan dojo, I believe, but it's a non-standard course.)  But all the styles are very influenced by their founder's personal aikido, and his or her influences and outside interests, so you'll find things with a heavy weapons or military influence across the field.  (For some reason, most of the senior French aikidoka seem very military to me.  No idea why.  Mistr is connected somehow to the guy who's the big name in weapons among the senior aikidoka, and he's Aikikai.)  You may also just like something with a different physical emphasis than Yoshinkan, which I believe has a reputation for also being somewhat less fluid than the later styles.  So I guess I'd just say, know what you want, but keep an open mind about where you'll find it.  The general guidelines won't account for the idiosyncrasies you'll find.  But for you, I'd maybe start looking on the Yoshinkan end, and maybe steer away from the Ki Society itself (which seems to trend a bit mystical).  Ki Society spinoffs can be anything and everything (due to some complicated politics there), so they're worth looking at, and Aikikai is sort of the canonical main style.  And these differences can be... subtle.  There's a lot that the styles have in common, in form and ideologically, so you might find the dojo level influences the experience more than the precise style.

 

I wouldn't worry too much about the official "intent" of aikido, if you find something you like in the art.  Everyone has their own approach to that, and Aikido is teaching a tool in the toolbox, not the tool in the toolbox.  Plenty of aikidoka study other, harder things alongside it.  Depending how far you go, it might just be a set of useful movements and safe falls, or a way to link your sword studies with your martial art studies.  Or it might be a practical martial art you can use in front of witnesses, or on an out-of-control minor.  (I've come around to the point of view that the most frequent violent conflicts in modern society are ones were control and non-injury are crucial, because it's people we have a duty of care towards, or some reluctance to injure that might make us freeze instead of fight.  It's definitely true for women, who are most often attacked by family or close friends, but in general, I think strangers aren't the risk most of us face.  That's the niche aikido fills, IMO, the option to respond and control violence without having to abandon duty of care or fight your own hesitation.  Which is not to rule out another tool for responding to strangers.)  Aikido, IMO, is... well, when I say it's a more elegant weapon for a more civilized age, I'm not entirely kidding.  I think it's the enforcement art of a civilized society, where the enforcers themselves need to be within the law or become part of the problem.  That sounds, to some martial artists, like I'm saying it's not good for "real" stuff, but it's a massively big deal in a society for people with power, any sort of power, to follow the law, be accountable to society, and protect the citizens.  If they don't, they're part of the breakdown of law and order.  So it's a way to practically use martial arts and maintain a responsibility to society.  If law and order has already broken down or doesn't apply in the situation, well, then it's a personal call whether it's better to switch to a different tool, or make that ideological stand and see what happens, and there are aikidoka who will go both ways.  (Heck, I'm certain there are aikidoka who love the overtly military side, and get a lot of pleasure from being able to do a hell of a lot of damage, but aikido matches their Responsible Use of Violence views.  They will drop the "don't injure" thing in a heartbeat when they think things have crossed the line where their role is protection.  It's very, very personal where people draw that line and what they do when it doesn't apply.)  People do aikido for a huge range of reasons.  They love the physical technique and feeling, or the classical art and preserved historical practice, or that it formally addresses the ethics and responsibilities of using violence, whether or not they fall squarely inside the idealistic stance.  And it's not all those things to everyone.  Some people just want to do the closest thing to a cool samurai art they can find, and that's cool, too.

 

In attitude, a good aikido dojo is... pretty darned egoless.  I don't have a huge number of other arts to compare it to, but my experience is that, compared to other arts, aikido dojos are almost uniformly soft-in-attitude even if not soft-physically.  When I say most dojos train gently, I don't mean they're going to be physically gentle with you, but they're going to speak very gently to you, watch your safety closely, and work hard to understand your physical limits.  You'll leave with a lot of bruises, and your joints may not be speaking to you, but the way the dojo functions tends to be very kind.  The founder of aikido had a saying about training joyfully that most dojos will repeat, and most dojos I've been in are very conscious of classes as a collaborative effort, where everyone is responsible for helping everyone else learn.  If you're getting a lot of hierarchy or ego or pitting students against each other in competition, or if the beginners aren't getting support or attention, something's a bit off.  Even the senior people who have a lot of swagger off the mat, they may be cracking a couple of jokes while they're teaching, but they're generally going to be very focused and helpful during class, and the mat should be pretty calm.  I mean, working hard, but calm.  It's just sort of the learned common mat etiquette, from what I can tell; you learn to be a certain variety of focused and polite and watchful of other people's safety.  I'm sure it varies by style and by the design of the course, but I haven't seen it vary too much, personally.  (It's not universal and not a deal-breaker, by any means, but a lot of aikido dojos are non-profit or volunteer, or at least very open to working with students who don't have the means to pay.  There's a big undercurrent of social responsibility running through aikido dojos, in what they're training you for, and how they train, and how the dojos run.  I have seen some truly great for-profit dojos and when it's someone's career, a non-profit may not be practical, so I'm not saying that's a bad sign, but you're going to see the attitude that a dojo is a community that everyone contributes to and running a dojo is a service position in a good dojo.  In my experience, vastly more aikido dojos are non-profit or volunteer than dojos in other arts.)

 

I have no idea how this will play with your preferences for class dynamics; the truth is that beginners are going to have a lot less opportunity to play on the rougher edge of things in most dojos, though you may get one where, once they get to know you, the black belts don't mind playing with that a little.  It's partly learning curve, and partly emphasis on safety.  The more you know about technique, and the more you and your partners understand each other's safe limits, the more things speed up and get less controlled.  That's going to be hard to figure out ahead of time whether you're in a dojo that dabbles on the more competitive side, because they're unlikely to advertise that.  Competitive situations aren't really "good aikido", and also a big thing people from other arts come looking for, so they're probably going to temper expectations and say they don't do that there.  Which will be true, but it might be 100% true, or 98% true, or 90% true.  For beginners, it'll pretty much be 100% true.  It's sort of a different learning style, where they take you gently up to your limit and back off, rather than let you find it by hitting it.  Outside of testing itself, you're going to be measured against your own improvement, more than against other students.

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12 hours ago, ChrisWithaStick said:

Well.. Finished the challenge with a clean up of the office room (still needs some organization, but it's a lot neater than it was), +5.  Class today - +1.  So 6 more on the week.  Oh - and suburi on Saturday afternoon, so 7 total.  Which I think is 43 across the 4 weeks. 

 

I do believe I will be revamping the next challenge to have a slightly different structure - not quite sure what, possibly points, possibly not.  I do believe I will have some actual target goals, too, and not just habit goals, since I seem to be inconsistent with the habit ones.  Maybe having a target goal will help.

 

I will continue the Disc World quoting here and there, although not as heavily.  I think the next focus will be Vimes.

 

12 hours ago, Kishi said:

Well, that's a wrap, then.

 

It doesn't look from out here like the challenge went badly. But I could see how you might look to benefit from a different organization. Fortunately, there's no hurry to figure that out.

 

Thank you for being part of the duo that got me reading Discworld.

 

Format structure should change, IMO.  You don't always need the same thing.  I'm probably going to switch formats a little next month, because I'm feeling the need for something simpler, with more logging and gamifying and using trackers more than my brain.  I mean, my challenge is pretty simple to check off and do at this point, it's got the reminders I need and everything, and I still want to work on these goals, but I think I just need a month of... concentrating on less.  And maybe developing the habit of using my fitness tracker more.  I use it every day, but I don't check the stats that often, and I'm out of the habit of going that step from logging behavior to modifying it.  This will be my cyborg challenge, or something.

 

I will probably not be doing Discworld next time, but I fully support a Vimes challenge.  Vimes is an excellent challenge.

 

Where you at in Guards! Guards!, Kishi?

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On 3/26/2016 at 9:27 PM, ChrisWithaStick said:

I suppose a question for you both - what do you look for in a good Aikido school?  What kind of attitude, and what kind of technical aspects?  I have my own preferences in terms of class dynamics, but would not be sure what to look for in a good aikido dojo. 

 

 

I agree with Sara that you want to find a style that fits for you. The Yoshinkai dojo at my university had a teaching style that emphasized kata. I much prefer the style that works with dynamic movement and learning to adapt to different body size and shapes. I have friends that practiced (probably still do) at the Yoshinkai school and loved it. They are good people. I've never seen a Ki society class. We had a student from a Ki society dojo come

 

I strongly recommend watching at least two classes. One should be a beginner class. Look at how the senior people interact with the newer people. Does the instructor demonstrate and explain in a way that makes sense for you? Can you see yourself doing this kind of training a couple times a week for a year?

The second class to watch should be an advanced class. How do the senior students work with each other? Do you watch them move and say "wow, I wish I could do that!"? If not, find a different dojo.

 

The other essential requirement of a good dojo is that they hold classes when you can attend. They might be the best martial artists ever, but if you can't make it to the classes, they can't train you.

 

52 minutes ago, sarakingdom said:

I wouldn't worry too much about the official "intent" of aikido, if you find something you like in the art.  Everyone has their own approach to that, and Aikido is teaching a tool in the toolbox, not the tool in the toolbox.  Plenty of aikidoka study other, harder things alongside it.  Depending how far you go, it might just be a set of useful movements and safe falls, or a way to link your sword studies with your martial art studies.  Or it might be a practical martial art you can use in front of witnesses, or on an out-of-control minor.  (I've come around to the point of view that the most frequent violent conflicts in modern society are ones were control and non-injury are crucial, because it's people we have a duty of care towards, or some reluctance to injure that might make us freeze instead of fight.  It's definitely true for women, who are most often attacked by family or close friends, but in general, I think strangers aren't the risk most of us face.  That's the niche aikido fills, IMO, the option to respond and control violence without having to abandon duty of care or fight your own hesitation.  Which is not to rule out another tool for responding to strangers.)  Aikido, IMO, is... well, when I say it's a more elegant weapon for a more civilized age, I'm not entirely kidding.  I think it's the enforcement art of a civilized society, where the enforcers themselves need to be within the law or become part of the problem.  That sounds, to some martial artists, like I'm saying it's not good for "real" stuff, but it's a massively big deal in a society for people with power, any sort of power, to follow the law, be accountable to society, and protect the citizens.  If they don't, they're part of the breakdown of law and order.  So it's a way to practically use martial arts and maintain a responsibility to society.  If law and order has already broken down or doesn't apply in the situation, well, then it's a personal call whether it's better to switch to a different tool, or make that ideological stand and see what happens, and there are aikidoka who will go both ways.  (Heck, I'm certain there are aikidoka who love the overtly military side, and get a lot of pleasure from being able to do a hell of a lot of damage, but aikido matches their Responsible Use of Violence views.  They will drop the "don't injure" thing in a heartbeat when they think things have crossed the line where their role is protection.  It's very, very personal where people draw that line and what they do when it doesn't apply.)  People do aikido for a huge range of reasons.  They love the physical technique and feeling, or the classical art and preserved historical practice, or that it formally addresses the ethics and responsibilities of using violence, whether or not they fall squarely inside the idealistic stance.  And it's not all those things to everyone.  Some people just want to do the closest thing to a cool samurai art they can find, and that's cool, too.

^^^^^^This.

Once again, Sara nails it.

 

Everyone in my dojo agrees that katori shinto ryu wins the coolness competition. You already practice katori, so you are looking for something else.

 

A few more thoughts to add to Sara's on aikido organizations and affiliations. If I recall correctly, you are in the Seattle area which has lots of aikido.

 

As a beginner, it can be very helpful to train in a dojo with several instructors. They don't all have to have high ranks (3rd dan or higher). Shodans and nidans can teach the basics competently. Different people will have different teaching styles and body types. They will show tweaks to make the techniques easier for tall people or more effective for short people. They will be really good at different things. That variety will help you get past some of the rough spots. Having a bunch of black belts in the dojo indicates that the chief instructor has decent people skills. Hopefully also advanced aikido skills. A lack of black belts training at an established dojo (not a university club) is a bad sign. Training in aikido gets more interesting at shodan. You should see evidence of that in the advanced class you watch.

 

I've trained in a smaller dojo with one high-ranking instructor. He was great and I learned a lot. That might be the only option in your area. Just know that when you get to the higher levels you will need to go to seminars and have other instructors fill in the gaps. There will be gaps because no one is great at everything. Likewise, having a good mix of people in the classes helps you learn how to deal with a range of body types.

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29 minutes ago, Mistr said:

Having a bunch of black belts in the dojo indicates that the chief instructor has decent people skills. Hopefully also advanced aikido skills. A lack of black belts training at an established dojo (not a university club) is a bad sign.

 

Oh, heck, yes.  We both said something like this to Teirin recently.  Most aikido dojos I've been in retain a lot of black belts, because they keep training, maybe something like 20-30% of the students in a class.  (If they have enough people to break up classes by rank, I guess you're talking total school population.)  That also tends to be the proportion of women in general, and female black belts.  If you're not seeing women stick around (maybe less of an immediate concern for you, but a dojo health sign), or black belts stick around, there may be something going on there.  I don't know if other arts retain black belts at that sort of rate, but aikido black belts keep training with their dojos, or form new dojos together, at a very high rate.

 

It looks like there are a lot of good aikido schools in the Seattle area, so it may just come down to how well you personally click with the instructors and if the class schedule fits.  A lot of Aikikai and affiliates, some Kokikai, maybe not a huge amount of Yoshinkan.

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Thank you both for the further food for thought.  There are a lot of aikido schools around here.  I'm not really looking for another school yet - possibly this summer.  Then again, I may find a place to start my own dojo, too (that is a near future goal).   Ponderings...

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