15 September 2005

Aikido just doesn't work.

I have a book at whose pictures I love to look. They are all simple line drawings of Aikido techniques. The drawings convey so much information, like the rest of the book. It maybe the most thoughtful, scholarly treatment of any martial art ever produced. The book is called Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere by Adele Westbrook and Oscar Ratti. The illustrations are all Ratti's. And their deep love of this martial art is evident on every page.
As I said the text is as brilliant as the drawings. It is exhaustive, covering the foundations of Aikido, which can be translated as "the way of harmony," its theory of the dynamics of physical aggression as well as how such aggression is to be neutralized, and its philosiphical approach to self-defense. In short Aikidoists are to practice a "non-subjective" self-defense that leaves no one hurt. Other martial arts, Westbrook and Ratti claim, practice a "crude" philosophy, but the harmonious aspirations of Aikido's practicianers are a more "sophisticated approach."
"...Aikido says that you should and must defend yourself...but aikido also says that you must be responsible for not inflicting unnecessary damage upon your attacker. He is still operating at a lower level" (Westbrook and Ratti 1970). That is pretty nice stuff.
I don't know if there was a time when Aikido worked as a means of self-defense. I've seen some old pictures of its founder, Sensei Morihei Uyeshiba as a young man. He is grim faced and stoutly muscled, and his aikido at that time seemed something rough and tumble, a dark mix of grappling arts and calculated strikes. He changed as he got older I guess, because the art softened.
Whatever it began as, effective martial art, or nutty wrong turn, it has become something that is so far removed from the reality of combat to be, I think, completely, or nearly so, ineffective as a means of self-defense. It has become something more like dance or moving meditation with a partner. Which is fine by the way. My problem with the art only surfaces when its practicianers claim that they can teach people how to defend themselves from real, violent attacks. Aikido doesn't work because it has, as currently practiced, no clue as to how real attacks occur.
The attacks practiced in Aikido may have had some historical significance, but the attacks, performed with too, too much collusion by uke (any training partners performing attacks) seem more like mindless following until nage (defender or thrower) perform some thing graceful, but far removed from reality.
An example of completely mindless attack in Aikido, is this. Attacker lunges with both hands, to grab both hands of the defender. Defender dances away, keeping hands extended, yet, just out of reach. Attacker follows trying to grab. Follows some more, and some more and then defender does some defending. This is called "Leading Extension" by Aikidoists, I call it magic because it just isnt' real.
Fighting, in self-defense situations, or in a cage or ring, is an affair of swift, brutality. It is dynamic and alive. A boxer would never throw a right cross and then chase his target with his arm outstretched around a ring, no, no. He or she is firing the hook shortly after then the uppercut, and then maybe he or she will step back and appraise the violence done. The attacks are certainly committed, but not foolishly so. No, no. Aikido doesn't work, because its training methodology isn't reflective of reality. And they are clueless about that singular fact.
When you look at martial artists who can pull off their moves in real time, against real opposition from from any style, you can look to their training methods and see why. Boxers, and I use this term to refer to Western Boxers, Thai Boxers, modern kickboxers, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu players, Judo players, and the good Jeet Kune Do practicianers all drill techniques but then they try to apply them against a living breathing opponent, who uses, and this is key, sensible, realistic, attacks in a thoughtful tactical way. When I spar in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, submission grappling, or NHB my opponent is acctually trying to win the day!
Aikido maybe a thoughtful approach to moving meditation, or excersise, but it isn't effective self-defense, at least not as it is practiced in most dojo the world over. And Aikido instructors who tell their students otherwise are giving thier students a false, maybe dangerously so, sense of confidence in their ability to handle physical aggression.
P.S. Anne if you read this, I don't mean any offense!

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