On Aikido: Its Origins and its efficacy

Gerry Seymour

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i have a question about this video, after watching how they attacked, it seemed to me they all had designated responses of the defense, almost as if they were expected to fall away, roll away, or just drop off their attack after the defender began his defensive technique, now wouldnt this type of practice build bad habits for both the attacker and the defender? in a real life situation would the defender would expect his attacker to respond in a predetermined action such as a roll, flip, or drop? and the same if he became the attacker?
Yes, it does. I've had partners who did that kind of thing, and I find it aggravating. Don't do me any favors by making me look good - make me work for the result, because the guy on the street certainly will. These sorts of uncommitted attacks and preemptive falls can fool the defender into thinking he's fantastic. I believe this sort of thing is where the "no-touch" guys get their delusions.
 

Gerry Seymour

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Yeah. You will notice, for us anyway, we set two goals for any resisted drill. So like the one I just posted in another thread. One goal is to take a guy down. The other is to defend. Both have equal merits in the training.

I think the idea for me is the attack has equal worth to the defence.

You can attack in quick succession you just need an end point. We do similar when we do a gauntlet drill.
Agreed on the dual purposes. As someone mentioned a few posts ago, giving crappy attacks builds bad habits. If I give you crappy attacks, you don't learn good defense, and I don't learn the intensity needed in a fight. In fact, we both learn exactly the opposite of what we need.
 

Gerry Seymour

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That is exactly how you learn a skill, by setting up the scenario for the defender to succeed. I agree that if someone is always having 100% success then they may be experiencing some "dojo-itis" but learning a viable combat skill means that it would have a high chance of success for the situation it was designed for. If you fail the defense, you either did it wrong or the skill being taught is not appropriate for what people think it should be used for.

Research shows that something like a 15% failure rate is optimal for learning. The way our brains are wired, we learn relatively little from successes. It's when the outcome isn't what we expected ("failure") that we most readily learn something new.

Now, when we're ingraining "muscle memory" (neural pathways for habit), we certainly do want to practice with 100% success, but only if the student is actually doing it right enough for that success. If they aren't, we're just helping ingrain a habit of the flaw, which is bad learning.


I agree here, but a well trained person should be able to set up his/her techniques through appropriate usages of angles, distance, timing, and other tactics or strategies.

Eventually, yes. But that still depends upon the right input. If I want to practice a retreating movement as a response to someone grabbing my shirt and shoving back, I can't do it if they grab and pull in. That's where we set limits on the attack, to force the attacker to give the input needed to practice a given response. In a flowing situation, I can wait it out and maneuver an attacker into the position I want, but that's not what I _should_ do. I should look for the opportunities that exist, rather than trying to maneuver someone into the ones I wish existed.
 

Gerry Seymour

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This doesn't seem practical training unless you are learning the very basics of defense. I tried aikido for a few months and never had this kind of slow movements. Is it possible they taught a different kind of aikido than what you are showing here?

Probably just a better teacher. When I watch that video, I see them violating many of the principles of "aiki" - and that's why the uke's (attackers) are falling without having to. There's no stealing of center, very little kuzushi (unbalancing), no leading beyond intention, no leverage-based over-rotation, etc. The attacker remains in control of himself, rather than being drawn off his center by the defender. This is only one step from no-touch stuff.
 

Gerry Seymour

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I'm not arguing with this. I would be a fool to say a technique will always work, and in fact there are a lot fo times when various techniques don't for me. If you purposefully put yourself in a bad position against another fighter there's no reason to assume you will always get out-otherwise that would be a good position. This is true for most SD holds. However, Rear bear hug specifically is one that I have never found a technique that as a small person I can use semi-successfully to get out. Looking for that and using it as a measuring stick of the art seems pointless to me.
I think his point was precisely this. If an art or school shows 100% success in defending a rear bear hug, that's a sign of a problem.

First, I wouldn't suggest a grading is a bad example. The point of a grading (IMO) is to show that they can do the technique. To see that, you need them to be compliant. Otherwise you will almost definitely see a bad technique. A grading is not about testing the technique, it's about testing the person, so I don't see it contributing to the culture.

I have two thoughts on this, and had to choose between them for my own curriculum.

1) Testing is only a formality. The instructor has already seen all the competence he/she needs to (in randori/sparring, etc.), and just wants to make sure the student can do the formal technique under the stress of a "test".

2) Testing is actual testing. The instructor chooses a student who is probably ready and tests them. In this case, defensive testing should be part of the test - including non-compliant, try-to-beat-him attacks by skilled attackers.

True to my nature, I chose both. I require that students be demonstrably over-prepared for the next rank before I will test them (situation #1, above). Then I really test them (situation #2). I'm not a nice instructor sometimes.
 

Gerry Seymour

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Unfortunately, I don't think this particular video clip is a good example of demonstrating even the principles of the art. I don't know if you can apply aiki in a meaningful way with an uke who feeds a slow motion, unfocused "attack" with no actual intention and then throws himself the moment you give him the signal. It's hard to blend with an attackers energy when he doesn't have any real energy. It's not just that the "attacks" aren't representative of a modern, western self-defense scenario - they aren't representative of attacks in any geographic location or time period.

(None of this is intended as a knock against Aikido in general - just an observation regarding this particular school's approach to randori at that particular grading test on that day.)
Agreed. I have been known to stand still for attacks like this. I cannot use the principles of my art effectively against a non-attack like that. Moreover, I don't need to.
 

Gerry Seymour

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OK competitive randori.

OK. Unarmed vs knife is an exercise in loss. But at least you know where you stand.

Here we go akido actually being effective.
That second one is a much better expression of "aiki" than the one posted earlier. Now, add to that some competent strikes (Shotokan Karate, etc.) as another option, and we can see where Aikido fits, and why it doesn't have to fit everything.
 

Gerry Seymour

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After watching the clip I will say this is not aikido self defense at all. This is a training exersize. There is a list of specific responses that the person is expected to do. The hard part is to get the mind to pull a response from that list for each and every attack with out freezing up for a second and thus missing the timing of the attack.
I think the biggest fix in this situation - if you really want to have nage use the principles properly - is to slow down the rate of attackers. Not the speed of the attack, but the timing of each attacker. That allows nage to actually execute the technique, rather than moving to the nexdt attacker before he has actually done anything.
 

Chris Li

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Yeah of course, that connection to the Omoto Kyo only came into it after WWII which is after you attribute the creation of Aikido and, of course, post-dates forms of Aikido such as the Yoshinkan (Gozo Shioda), who left to form his branch prior to WWII himself so, while it can certainly be seen as a large influence on Ueshiba's development, particularly later in his career, it doesn't necessarily factor in all forms of Aikido. Shudokan (Tomiki Aikido) would be another notable example of it's absence.

Hmm...Ueshiba's first dojo, opened in 1922, was actually on the grounds of the Omoto compound in Ayabe. That would pre-date both Gozo Shioda and Kenji Tomiki by a number of years. In the earliest known interview that I am aware of the religious language is quite clear - that's 1932. The religious language is also prevalent in Budo Renshu - which was published in 1933, and whose text was probably written in large part by Kenji Tomiki. Gozo Shioda actually used to complain about all the time that Ueshiba spent in prayer when he studied with him before the war, although he did rethink his position somewhat in his later years.

Best,

Chris
 

Gerry Seymour

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Hmm...Ueshiba's first dojo, opened in 1922, was actually on the grounds of the Omoto compound in Ayabe. That would pre-date both Gozo Shioda and Kenji Tomiki by a number of years. In the earliest known interview that I am aware of the religious language is quite clear - that's 1932. The religious language is also prevalent in Budo Renshu - which was published in 1933, and whose text was probably written in large part by Kenji Tomiki. Gozo Shioda actually used to complain about all the time that Ueshiba spent in prayer when he studied with him before the war, although he did rethink his position somewhat in his later years.

Best,

Chris
Interesting. It seems the Omoto influence came early, but appears not to have had a profound effect on the art until later. There's an apparently clear progression among Ueshiba's senior students (notably those who formed their own styles or led the mainline style) of more "flow" and less martiality as the years progressed. This could, of course, also be attributed to his personal maturity (perhaps he simply had different aims as he aged), or his own change in skill (some instructors struggle with delivering simple basics once they gain a profound understanding of some deeper principles they find more interesting), or even his own age (by necessity and skill, he became gentler and more flowing, and senior students copied his approach).
 

Chris Li

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Interesting. It seems the Omoto influence came early, but appears not to have had a profound effect on the art until later. There's an apparently clear progression among Ueshiba's senior students (notably those who formed their own styles or led the mainline style) of more "flow" and less martiality as the years progressed. This could, of course, also be attributed to his personal maturity (perhaps he simply had different aims as he aged), or his own change in skill (some instructors struggle with delivering simple basics once they gain a profound understanding of some deeper principles they find more interesting), or even his own age (by necessity and skill, he became gentler and more flowing, and senior students copied his approach).

If you compare what he was actually doing in the 1930's with what he was doing in the 1960's (there's a good comparison here), there was actually....very little change. The changes you're thinking about were primarily introduced by Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Koichi Tohei in Tokyo after the war (see Is O-Sensei Really the Father of Modern Aikido?).

You might also be interested in "The Ueshiba Legacy, by Mark Murray", a further discussion of the changes that occurred between Morihei and Kisshomaru Ueshiba.

Best,

Chris
 
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Gerry Seymour

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If you compare what he was actually doing in the 1930's with what he was doing in the 1960's (there's a good comparison here), there was actually....very little change. The changes you're thinking about were primarily introduced by Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Koichi Tohei in Tokyo after the war (see Is O-Sensei Really the Father of Modern Aikido?).

You might also be interested in "The Ueshiba Legacy, by Mark Murray", a further discussion of the changes that occurred between Morihei and Kisshomaru Ueshiba.

Best,

Chris
I was counting Tohei in that progression. Unless I'm mistaken (and I actually might be - I'm going from my rather faulty memory), he was well after Shioda, and I understood that the training he received was "softer" than Shioda's. I am unclear where Kisshomaru's training fits in. If it is accurate that the changes came when Tohei and Kisshomaru had primary influence, then I'd have to wonder where the softer influence came from. They were both taught by Ueshiba, so I'd expect them to have similar approaches to his.

Thanks for the recommendations. I'll add them to my reading list, and might actually get to them some day. So many books, so little reading time.
 

Chris Li

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Koichi Tohei trained a little bit (a few months) before the war. After the war he was mainly in Tokyo and had only sporadic contact with Morihei Ueshiba. So....the answer is that he really didn't receive that much direct training, although he was talented and quite strong.

I'm not sure that "softer" is the best division to make, since Daito-ryu itself can often be softer than modern Aikido (see Kodo Horikawa).

Basically, their goal was to create a type of training that could be popularized and done by the masses - Zumba as opposed to ballet. There's nothing wrong with that - very few people really do ballet because it involves so much work (and pain), whereas millions do Zumba every day, get fit, have fun, and get together with friends. They're just two different things.

Best,

Chris
 

Gerry Seymour

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Koichi Tohei trained a little bit (a few months) before the war. After the war he was mainly in Tokyo and had only sporadic contact with Morihei Ueshiba. So....the answer is that he really didn't receive that much direct training, although he was talented and quite strong.

I'm not sure that "softer" is the best division to make, since Daito-ryu itself can often be softer than modern Aikido (see Kodo Horikawa).

Basically, their goal was to create a type of training that could be popularized and done by the masses - Zumba as opposed to ballet. There's nothing wrong with that - very few people really do ballet because it involves so much work (and pain), whereas millions do Zumba every day, get fit, have fun, and get together with friends. They're just two different things.

Best,

Chris
I like that analogy. With "softer" I was more referring to Tohei compared to Shioda, to pick one of the widest differences.
 

oaktree

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On Aikido: its origins and its effectiveness
I hope this might provide something of an insight to those who criticise Aikido for not being prevalent on the MMA scene :)
Feedback, comments etc. always appreciated! :)
I remember I was discussing daito ryu and bjj with my teacher and how people want daito ryu to for a specific purpose or to be able to handle ring or street or what ever flavor of the month is, what we came to a census was it is what it is you train in the art because you enjoy the art for what it is, trying to make it more then that or validate it into a conceptual mold or compare it to other modern styles in the end misses the point of training in arts like daito ryu or those descending from it. For me, when I was accepted to train in daito ryu one of the question was why koryu why daito ryu, and my answer had nothing to do with fighting or realistic application. Anyway just my opinion on this squabble.
 

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I remember I was discussing daito ryu and bjj with my teacher and how people want daito ryu to for a specific purpose or to be able to handle ring or street or what ever flavor of the month is, what we came to a census was it is what it is you train in the art because you enjoy the art for what it is, trying to make it more then that or validate it into a conceptual mold or compare it to other modern styles in the end misses the point of training in arts like daito ryu or those descending from it. For me, when I was accepted to train in daito ryu one of the question was why koryu why daito ryu, and my answer had nothing to do with fighting or realistic application. Anyway just my opinion on this squabble.
I don't think a person's intent "misses the point of training in arts like daito ryu". For them, it is the point. If they choose to study it for aesthetic reasons, that's the point for them. If they choose to study it for combat purposes, that's the point. And the best situation is when the instructor's intent aligns with the intent of the student. Just because you have a reason for studying Daito-ryu that has nothing to do with fighting doesn't mean anyone else is missing the point. Nor does it mean that you are - you each have your point.
 

oaktree

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I don't think a person's intent "misses the point of training in arts like daito ryu". For them, it is the point. If they choose to study it for aesthetic reasons, that's the point for them. If they choose to study it for combat purposes, that's the point. And the best situation is when the instructor's intent aligns with the intent of the student. Just because you have a reason for studying Daito-ryu that has nothing to do with fighting doesn't mean anyone else is missing the point. Nor does it mean that you are - you each have your point.
To train in koryu is because you enjoy the art for what it is, granted yes some people want to learn it for combative reasons or historical or whatever, but most people practicing it are not concerned if it fits into mma or how realistic it is or needs to be for the modern world. That is all I am saying train in it for what it is.
 

Gerry Seymour

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I do understand that, and have considered training in a koryu for that very reason. I also know those who chose a koryu for the effectiveness of the the techniques (knowing the adaptation needed). I even know someone who went from a modern TMA to the original koryu because they felt it was more effective.
 

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To train in koryu is because you enjoy the art for what it is, granted yes some people want to learn it for combative reasons or historical or whatever, but most people practicing it are not concerned if it fits into mma or how realistic it is or needs to be for the modern world. That is all I am saying train in it for what it is.

I did capo for the same reason. But nobody suggests you go and throw cartwheels in a fight.
 

oaktree

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What I meant to say drop bear,
Is people who do koryu don't care what mma people think of it because if someone isn't doing koryu they won't get it and though many videos are on YouTube the depth of the system is only given orally. So even taking a class or two won't even give to much of an understanding.
 
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