Reassessing Aikido in the Modern Age

drop bear

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I think the question is how does something like aikido foster a philosophy.

For example a combat sport fosters a philosophy by adversity, sacrifice and shared hardship.

And the idea is you generate a sense of worth and discipline by doing very hard things with other people. And create a sense of being in the moment. Because not getting bashed is generally more important that your average day to day problems.

Where I am not sure what aikido does and how it does it.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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Strike when they lower their guard. Timing on the other hand is much different.
You have 2 options here.

1. Wait for your opponent to drop his guard.
2. Force your opponent to drop his guard.

IMO, 2 is easier than 1 because you may wait for something that will never happen. So, you have to give before you can take. But Aikido is no different from Taiji. They don't like to give. they just like to take.

What will happen when 2 Taiji guys fight? They both starve to death (because nobody wants to make the 1st move). I believe 2 Aikido guys fight is no different.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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I don't think it's possible to understand the philosophy without understanding the application.
When I cross trained the Zimen system, the 1st principle of that system is "畾 Can - cruel, brutal, cruelty, ruthless, brutality, brutally". Even today, I still don't know how to apply this philosophy into application.
 

Taiji Rebel

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Another book which moves beyond the mat and demonstrates the value of applying the underlying philosophies and principles in daily life is, Karate-Do: The Art Beyond Techniques by Albert Cheah

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"The Ultimate aim of karate-do lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of character in its participants" - Gichin Funakoshi
 

marvin8

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You have 2 options here.

1. Wait for your opponent to drop his guard.
2. Force your opponent to drop his guard.
You have a third option that is taught, drilled and proven to work in professional fighting (e.g., MMA).

3. Lure (proactive) your opponent to drop his guard without force.

IMO, 2 is easier than 1 because you may wait for something that will never happen. So, you have to give before you can take. But Aikido is no different from Taiji. They don't like to give. they just like to take.

What will happen when 2 Taiji guys fight? They both starve to death (because nobody wants to make the 1st move). I believe 2 Aikido guys fight is no different.
Which is why I changed the order of the 5 skills in the process of taiji fightingcontrolling the opponent starting from the furthest distance (1-4 can be done without touch).

1. Lure: give the opponent false impressions, making him feel like he can get you, and leading him to go where you want him to go,
2. Listen: feel or detect what the opponent wants to do,
3. Control: get the opponent under your control (usually means keep him off-balanced),
4. Dissolve: neutralize the attacking force, and
5. Attack: release a throwing force

 
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Xue Sheng

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The book in question uses the 'principles' of aikido and applies them outside of systems of physical conflict. It would be informative to know how many of you have taken the time to read the book before commenting on the topic. In my experience most people who enjoy the philosophical underpinnings of modern aikido have very little interest in combat, and those who are looking toward competitions and combat tend to misunderstand the philosophical aspects of the art :)
I just purchased the book. Seems to me it will possibly very close to applying taijiquan to everyday life
 

JowGaWolf

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What will happen when 2 Taiji guys fight? They both starve to death (because nobody wants to make the 1st move). I believe 2 Aikido guys fight is no different.
Very good. visual I got a nice chuckle on that. "Starve to death" is what counter fighters do as well.
 

JowGaWolf

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"The Ultimate aim of karate-do lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of character in its participants" - Gichin Funakoshi
Did Gichin Funakoshi know how to apply the techniques? Would this quote exist if he didn't know how to apply the techniques?
 

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Did Gichin Funakoshi know how to apply the techniques? Would this quote exist if he didn't know how to apply the techniques?
Well, one thing Funakoshi said was to "Seek perfection of character." Keyword is "seek," as opposed to "achieve."

That being said, when Funakoshi said "The Ultimate aim of karate-do lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of character in its participants," he had some personal trouble with this himself. Notably, the fact that he remained bitter about losing to Motobu Choki.
 

JowGaWolf

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Well, one thing Funakoshi said was to "Seek perfection of character." Keyword is "seek," as opposed to "achieve."

That being said, when Funakoshi said "The Ultimate aim of karate-do lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of character in its participants," he had some personal trouble with this himself. Notably, the fact that he remained bitter about losing to Motobu Choki.
When I read it from an applications perspective. Seek perfection is like trying to get good at using a technique. Like when you nail that technique just right and everything falls in place. I don't see it as perfection in my character as a person. More of a perfection in my character as a practitioner as I learn the system.

Jow Ga has a saying "First you learn to be a good person then you learn martial arts." This is more along my line of thoughts with character as a person. That can be built outside of martial arts. But the character of a practitioner can only be built within the martial arts. Unfortunately, many martial arts schools promote "Join our school to become a good person."

"The ultimate aim of karate-do lies not in victory or defeat" This seems to be close to how I see sparring. Spar to learn, it's not about wining or losing, but learning how to apply the techniques.

"the perfection of character in it's participants." = practitioners of the system. One of the things you'll hear me say from time to time, is that I want to be a good representation of Jow Ga kung fu.

I wonder how much would change if people viewed these quotes from the perspective of a practitioner of the system and not as a personal develop path to daily life, void of growing through application training.

Sort of like someone who studies music but doesn't play an instrument.
 

isshinryuronin

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"The Ultimate aim of karate-do lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of character in its participants" - Gichin Funakoshi

Did Gichin Funakoshi know how to apply the techniques? Would this quote exist if he didn't know how to apply the techniques?
He definitely did, but he studied karate-jutsu (combat-oriented karate). Karate-do (the path or way of karate), with its philosophical, Zen, and moralistic trappings did not develop until it was introduced into the Japanese school system in the 1920's and 30's and onward. It evolved into, and marketed as, a more self-improvement system that fit well into Japan's existing psyche and religious beliefs like Buddhism and Confucianism.

Okinawa's historical metaphysics was mostly based on Shinto (worship of Nature's numerous spirits) along with mysticism/shamanism. Isshinryu's founder, Shimabuku Tatsuo, for example, was an adherent of numerology. These kinds of beliefs were much less moralistic and idealistic than Japan's, and early karate accordingly did not stress the philosophical aspect, concentrating on the combat side of things.

IMO, Funakoshi's quote is still valid as both karate jutsu and do can be practiced side by side and may even complement each other. In what proportion is up to the individual student's interests.
 

Taiji Rebel

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A few thoughts from a martial arts legend :cool:

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"I came to understand that behind every martial art is a philosophy, usually Zen or a system similar to Zen. The philosophy is an integral part of the learning process. The learning experience is subtle and gradual, because to truly learn a martial art requires as much use of the brain as the body. The real lessons of martial arts aren't kicks and punches but rather the calm self-assurance that comes from feeling good about yourself, certain of who you are and what you hope to accomplish, and the way to reach your goal" - Chuck Norris

The philosophical underpinnings of aikido are not specific to the way of harmony. When you delve deeper you will begin to realize there is a similarity amongst all arts. Once you have studied the martial arts and fighting for a while it becomes clear they are not just about martial techniques and fighting. In reality we are moving toward the same destination, getting caught up in which style is better than another is nothing more than a waste of precious time. We either bash one another's styles or choose to see the benefits of investigating the various martial arts and their philosophies :)
 
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Kung Fu Wang

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I agree. I've been telling everyone that Jow Ga is better. You guys are just wasting your time with these other martial arts :D
It has nothing to do with MA style. It has to do with how many "door guarding skills" that you have developed through your lifetime.

The "door guarding skill" can be defined as a technique that you have used it to work N times in the ring, or on the mat. Where N = 100, or 1000, or, ...
 
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JowGaWolf

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This is me sometimes. But not today lol.
 

marvin8

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"You can't truly call yourself 'peaceful' unless you are capable of great violence. If you're not capable of violence, you're not peaceful, you're harmless."

Feb 25, 2024

The second installment to the John Wick techniques series where I break down every aikido, jujutsu, and judo techniques showcased in the film (I know, I know, its pretty much all old school jujutsu). This movie had a lot more ground techniques (Ne Waza) than previous entries, and sadly too much Sasae foot trips. Still Keanu, the stunt crew and fight coordinators did incredible work in an incredible film.


May 3, 2023

In part one of this series, Im going to be breaking down the Aikido, Daito Ryu Aikijujustu, and Judo techniques found in the first three John Wick films (theres even some Ninjutsu and BJJ techniques sprinkled in).

 

O'Malley

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Thank you for taking the time to respond with this excellent post.
Always happy to share!
It's important not to impose our modern viewpoint on historical figures. Morihei Ueshiba was a person of his time and place. Many people who survived WWII had very strong opinions that we today may not necessarily have. If we look at important figures in any philosophy we see flawed human beings trying to live up to their own ideals. Seneca comes to mind. He was a deeply flawed person in a deeply flawed world but he did his best and his letters are a blue print for stoicism that inspire people to this day.
Fully agree. My point was that there are a lot of common misconceptions about Ueshiba's vision of peace and how it translated into the technical aspects of aikido. They are often used to justify the lack of fighting ability of current aikidoka ("Ueshiba's will was peace and so he designed the art not for combat but for harmony"). When we look at the historical and technical aspects of the art, the justification unfortunately does not hold up so the answer must be sought elsewhere. "Bringing the eight corners of the world" under the rule of the Japanese emperor is a vision of peace, but not one I'm personally comfortable with, nor one that would translate into the defanging of techniques that resulted in modern Aikikai aikido.
I lump Hapkido techniques into two categories. The first is a technique that will do the requisite harm whether or not the opponent complies such as a follow through punch to the solar plexus. The second is a technique that will only do harm if I apply greater force or if the opponent attempts to escape and in their struggle the harm themselves such as any of a myriad of joint locks. These techniques are useful because they create a situation where you can subdue and in a sense contain the threat and initiate communication. Usually in the form of yelling things like, "don't move, give me your other hand etc." I often think of my time in law enforcement here. Cooperation is gained through pain, fear, panic, etc. If the person doesn't cooperate then apply more of the first kind till they do or they stop attacking.
As far as how this is applied philosophically to non combat situations in my mind it becomes a conversation about actions and consequence. I.e. "stop harassing me," non compliance, "stop harassing me or I'll notify the authorities", non compliance, "you kept harassing me so I notified the authorities." non compliance, and then the authorities impose legal restrictions like a no contact order or a protection order, non compliance. Harasser ultimately pays a legal price and goes to jail. Compliance.
Makes sense from here, although I don't have any law enforcement experience to comment on this. Do you train against resistance? It's usually difficult to set up those locks in sparring (it might be easier in a law enforcement scenario where you have the initiative and a psychological advantage). I also suspect that hapkido's striking toolset can help in setting up the locks.

What is your favorite Aikido book? I think Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere was the book that started my interest in Aikido and led me ultimately to learning Hapkido. Thank you again for your post.
It also sparked mine! The "dynamic sphere" is a powerful, seductive image, and having the ability to subdue an attacker samurai-style without hurting them is so cool. But yeah reality is quite different.

As for favorite books, I think "Hidden in plain sight" by Ellis Amdur should be mandatory reading. For technique, "Total Aikido" by Gozo Shioda and the "Takemusu Aiki" series by Morihiro Saito are the best reference material IMO. And as regards aikido history, Chris Li's Aikido Sangenkai blog and Guillaume Erard's blog are excellent.

Another book which moves beyond the mat and demonstrates the value of applying the underlying philosophies and principles in daily life is, Karate-Do: The Art Beyond Techniques by Albert Cheah

55937627.jpg


"The Ultimate aim of karate-do lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of character in its participants" - Gichin Funakoshi
Interestingly, there is an art whose founder clearly states that "there is no first strike" in it. It is not aikido, but shotokan karate.

A few thoughts from a martial arts legend :cool:

R.496924e12e635eb9463b28801ab77adb


"I came to understand that behind every martial art is a philosophy, usually Zen or a system similar to Zen. The philosophy is an integral part of the learning process. The learning experience is subtle and gradual, because to truly learn a martial art requires as much use of the brain as the body. The real lessons of martial arts aren't kicks and punches but rather the calm self-assurance that comes from feeling good about yourself, certain of who you are and what you hope to accomplish, and the way to reach your goal" - Chuck Norris

The philosophical underpinnings of aikido are not specific to the way of harmony. When you delve deeper you will begin to realize there is a similarity amongst all arts. Once you have studied the martial arts and fighting for a while it becomes clear they are not just about martial techniques and fighting. In reality we are moving toward the same destination, getting caught up in which style is better than another is nothing more than a waste of precious time. We either bash one another's styles or choose to see the benefits of investigating the various martial arts and their philosophies :)
I think that there are universal lessons that can be learnt through martial arts, and it's that type of personal growth that's captured in the quote. That's perhaps why most of us are in the arts, and what makes them so fulfilling.

That being said, I would make a distinction between those universal lessons and the "philosophical underpinnings of aikido". These are rooted in a particular understanding of the universe which do underpin all movements in the art. When Ueshiba says that you need to "stand on the Floating Bridge of Heaven" it is actually technical instruction rooted in his cosmology. "Stand in the six-direction posture of aiki before, during and after techniques" means that you have to constantly maintain a particular form of isometric tension throughout your body, that represents a manifestation of yin and yang (the union of which is called aiki). These are specific to the art.
 
OP
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Not buying it.

The mark of mastery of oneself and martial arts is simply the ability to successfully do a technique when needed as needed. A person who can resolve a confect without resorting to martial arts is just skilled in conflict resolution, which is not a martial art, it's a negotiating skill.

The fact that martial arts have techniques and weapons that can cause great harm is contrary to your statement. Don't confuse "Conflict Resolution via de-escalation and negotiation" with "Martial Arts."

You have me here, I'll concede. But having lived and been attacked before martial arts and after I think my ability to deescalate a situation has improved. That could be because I'm stronger, more capable, more confident, and more dangerous now than I was before and thus negotiating from a position of strength instead of weakness. Perhaps I'm just getting older. Older people seem to face fewer physical threats than younger people do.

I tell my students that Hapkidoin are like porcupines, many animals can kill a porcupine but they ALL regret it afterwords. If someone challenges me with violence I don't intimate I will win or that I'm not beatable I intimate that attacking me will be physically costly to the attacker. I.e. you might beat me but your body will not work very well afterwords.
 
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I'm loving all the book recommendations here I can see my library is about to grow.
 
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Do you train against resistance? It's usually difficult to set up those locks in sparring (it might be easier in a law enforcement scenario where you have the initiative and a psychological advantage). I also suspect that hapkido's striking toolset can help in setting up the locks.
Where I think Hapkido and Aikido differ the most is that Hapkido employs punches and kicks. I agree that employing certain locks is very difficult against a resistive opponent. This is why we punch, kick, and utilize soft Jeet Kun Do style interceptions in the program I belong to.

We find the combination of the hard external punches and kicks used to soften and addle the opponent in conjunction with the soft interceptions for closing the distance and then joint manipulation to decisively end the engagement to be an effective combination.

In practice we do it very soft at first then as the training partners gain ability we gradually ramp up the resistance. Every practice we play a game called stump the chump where the students can attack the teacher any way they want with as much force as they want and I demonstrate how I would deal with the attack. It's a lot of fun and sparks some very interesting thinking. This "game" provides pressure testing, resistance, and randomness and keeps us from growing stale.
 

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