Monday, June 24, 2013

Comparing Aikido as a Martial Art

Martial arts are designed to deal with violence, the intentional wicked use of force.  A key distinction in the difference between sport and violence (since both use force) is consent.  If someone uses force on you without your consent, it is violence.  If you consent, it is sport.  For example, in dodgeball.
Ouch!  That smarts.  The exact same smack delivered to an unwilling participant on a street outside the dodgeball court would be a serious case of battery.  No doubt jail time.  But the attitude of the players in a game of dodgeball is not unlike that of martial artists.  Faced with a threat, game on.

There are stylistic rules to martial arts.  The are hard and soft styles, say wing chun vs tai qi, and there are circular and linear styles, such as judo vs karate. An observer would be right to judge aikido a soft circular style.  But it gets complicated.

Aikido comes from kendo, with a legendary chief instructor who was a go-dan in judo before he began aikido.  Kendo is a linear style, so how come aikido is circular?  Well, aikido movements are circular, but the throw is delivered like a kendo strike, linear.

Aikido does not block, so the approach is linear but the defensive movement is circular, as in judo.  But here again aikido is unique, because in judo that sublime ippon is delivered when both parties are off balance.  In aikido the nage is necessarily on balance to deliver the throw.

Feast your eyes:

(Number five uses the opponents hand, tied up in a gi, to effect the throw.  Shibui!  That happens in aikido some times.  But note in all cases both parties are off balance when the throw is effected.)

The hard linear styles such as shotokan karate and boxing have people blocking and exchanging strikes.  Those guys are tough!  As people always say, martial arts is essentially an internal effort, for the toughest enemy you will ever meet is yourself.  The external toughness reflects an internal toughness.

Lau Sensei quotes O Sensei as saying aikido is 80% atemi.  I wonder at that, for the expression is unlikely or a bad translation.  Certainly old videos show O Sensei striking, especially with weapons.  For my part I like an aikido that has no strikes (which is doable in this system).  As as conscientious objector, aikido is an ideal martial art.

(I was speaking to an air force brat the other evening and mentioned I was a conscientious objector in a conversation as to my military experience.
"O, you skedaddled."
"Rather I faced down the most fearsome military in the world."
<When will people learn the difference between draft dodgers and conscientious objectors.>)

Anyway, although my aikido has no strikes (as I learned it anyway) the movements can be quite lethal. The falls from aikido throws can kill the person who hits the ground.  Since Aikido uses the force of the attacker, if the force is lethal and is directed into the ground, an assailant could get killed.  This is why aikido spends so much time on rolling (which is also an excellent defensive move) as well as hard falls.

The other part of aikido as a martial art is one necessarily gets hurt training.  Rolls themselves hurt.  Hard falls hurt.  Practicing when you are hurting hurts.  Getting smacked in the face, run into a wall, arms wrenched, knuckles bruised, ankles twisted, it is all there.  And the training part is to ignore the pain.  Practice through it.  Time will come if you need to use it, you will get hurt.  You might lose the use of an arm during an altercation, but you do not stop.  One huge advantage in a conflict is if you do not register getting hurt.  That comes with the choice of being a martial artist.

This then becomes part of the training, as outlined below, grabbing the assailant, if you can, to save him from injury as he falls.  A little bit anyway.

So in summary, aikido is a martial art, and ought to be practiced as if the energy is lethal, with all of the joy of "game on."  It appears to be soft and circular, but the execution of throws is hard and linear.  It is an on-balance, not off-balance art.

It is practically a martial art like any other, but designed to de-escalate violence, and can be trimmed to serve conscientious objection without sacrificing technical scope.  And ultimately it is grounded in the same internal self-discipline demanded in any martial art.

Feel Free To Email This To Three Friends.

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