Sunday, November 1, 2015

Joe Rogan on Aikido

Here is a sincerely perplexed fellow criticizing aikido as it is often presented:

Rogan's question is a good one, where is a video of effective aikido?  The vids of O Sensei waving his arms and people falling down are not credible.  Rogan notes a NCAA D1 wrestler would wipe that old man out.  No doubt.  But O Sensei did not build his reputation as an 80 year old man.  He rarely taught after say fifty years old, meaning 1935, more the occasional coaching, and demonstration of principles.

Rogan credits a judo tenth dan (in a video shown in a simultaneous window) showing credible counters to judoka in their prime.  But any of those guys could have also taken the 80 year old judo tenth dan, as could any NCAA D1 wrestler, and O Sensei could have as well at 80 years shown the judo counters as well as the spry 80- year old judo man.  The judo man is showing judo principles, the aikido man showing aikido principles.  (Aikido is an original mixed martial art, blending kendo, judo, jiu jitsu, etc. O sensei had mastered judo before forming his own art.)

Rogan is stating the obvious: martial arts is not some magic thing, where an 80 year old master must be effective against a NCAA D1 wrestler.  And then when some deluded fellow believes that, Rogan denigrates the art.  How about simply cautioning the deluded fellow?  Such delusions can end badly.

You'll note the fellow here has a dojo of deluded students.  Yes, O Sensei waves his arms and people fall down.  O Sensei was making the point that if you are not fighting, you can win. The idiot above actually tried to fight an MMA guy.  How is not fighting and fighting the same thing?  It is not. If students are self-deluding, that is not the master's problem.  If a "master" is self-deluded, that is also not a problem, for an MMA man, although you will note, initially, even the MMA bought the delusion, briefly.  And by the way, if O Sensei could take on a D1 NCAA wrestler, he would have, and taped it.  He was not delusional.

The test of a system depending on how it deals with a D1 NCAA wrestler is a false test anyway.  What weight class?  Within D1 NCAA the weights are divided since since a contest between bantam and middle is inherently unfair.  Next, to train enough to get to compete in NCAA takes discipline and dedication.  Many wash out.   In too many years of playing at martial arts, I am yet to see an accomplished fighter of any stripe initiating aggression.  The people I see initiating may be big and strong and fast, even crazy, but never disciplined.  Any discipline can be the deciding advantage in a contest.  The test is against the no-holds-barred, open-class attack.  Even MMA forbids that.

Muhammed Ali was not delusional when he fought Foremen in 1974. Ali developed a tactic to keep from losing, let alone killed.  He did not fight, but let Foreman fight the ring ropes.  After Foreman tired out, Ali went in for the knock out.

Pacquiao fought Mayweather, and Pacquiao was defeated, although controversially.  In any event, it is fair to say Mayweather won by not fighting, or in the measure Mayweather refrained from fighting Pacquiao, Mayweather got the edge.   (Incidentally, Pacquiao also used rope-a-dope in a fight once to win against a superior boxer.)

Aikido is unique in martial arts for making this paradoxical point, as Tohei called it, positive non-fighting (negative non-fighting is to run away). NCAA D1 wrestlers experience what many judo competitors note, that beautiful throw took no force on the part of the winner, the opponent's force brought him down when met with the timing and body positioning of the winner. A throw forever in the highlight reels. Aikido as a martial art studies exactly that.  No more, no less.  Every art esteems it, Aikido specializes in it.  In every martial art there is someone working on this concept.  O Sensei when he was a young badass, decided to concentrate on this.  Where is the video of effective aikido?

Here is O Sensei at 52 years old, in 1935.  This is the kind of aikido I learned, and although it looks suspiciously compliant, the uke are defending their limbs from nasty pain should they counter or resist.  O Sensei is not moving to win, he is moving to de-escalate.  Having the wind knocked out of you, or hitting the ground hard can dampen ardor. What is not shown is aikido against a NCAA D 1 wrestler, O sensei would move very differently.  And a 52 year old v a 22 year old would be messy.  (Also, in Japan Japanese students tend to "all fall down" as a sign of respect when not thrown...  I've seen the same kinds of things outside of Japan where one or two get knocked down, and the others do not fall for formality sake.  They make a master earn his throw.)

Like Pacquiao and Ali, O Sensei would adjust his tactic.  He would neither box a boxer nor wrestle a wrestler.  Three things, 1. both arts require both sides fight or the non-fighting side gets points off to the degree of losing the match.  2. All non-aikido systems have rules, while aikido does not.  No one trains to defend against what is not allowed.  Expect an aikidoist to make moves the other practitioner has never practiced against.  3. Both arts have clearly defined moves, expect the aikidoist to study the counters employed in the other sport.  When a NCAA D1 wrestler goes for another's legs, rarely does it work out, for the counter.  What makes one think an aikidoist will not employ the same counter?

Let's look at a 50% weight advantage vs aikido's chief instructor, circa 1955 (The aikidoka is Tohei Sensei, aikido chief instructor, with whom I have trained, and the instructor of my first three teachers):

The earnestness is demonstrated by the fact the challenger has torn Tohei Sensei's clothes, and apparently Tohei Sensei reckoned he might get taken if he did not choke his opponent out, which he does.  I see various points at which Tohei might have thrown the opponent with an tomoe-nage, but if you don't know how to hard fall out of that, you might get seriously injured if not killed.

I have practiced all over the world and sparred with people trained in plenty of other styles.  That just happens in 45 plus years of practicing assiduously.  I've sparred with an air force judo man who was a training partner in Colorado for the USA Olympic judo team.  I trained with a secret serviceman and surprised him.   Tae kwon do, and so on.  Never was anyone out to win, but to learn.

As a student of the legendary Bernie Lau I was taught to make arrests, and have effected about a dozen of them over the years, and plenty of face-offs that did not lead to me arresting the other party.  Here is another point often missed in these discussions.  Never once have I encountered anyone in a conflict that had any martial arts training.  I don't think there is a single club that will train someone essentially criminal, no instructor will tolerate such presence.  While most resisted, none were effective, because they simply had no idea what was happening or what to do about it.  Their resistance just brought them more pain, and clearly, I had not even begun to fight.  At the same time, if I ever tried to arrest a true psychopath, who could care less what was happening to him, and intent on killing me, well, then, my number came up, and I die.  It's the life I chose.

The reason we have NCAA vs NCAA because there it does get down to the man.  There is a closed system for competing within which there is another system for comparing and scoring. Aikido Vs whatever does not tell us much of anything.

But aren't there a lot of aikidoists who believe (like Rogan's guest) that the master could wave his arms and people fall down?  Sure.  Delusion sells.  I've been in those dojo's.  I am not welcome.  But I have practiced all over the world and you can find enough people everywhere that study aikido as a martial art.

Senator and Judo champion Ben Nighthorse credits judo with keeping him out of trouble, but then training for the Olympics does tend to mop up all of one's time.  His only regret is judo can sure beat up the body, leaving one with lifelong injuries, acute with old age.  It is no coincidence that most of the old aikidoists come over from judo, where they gave up the combat and injury to work on that rare exquisite perfect throw.

Aikido has more than its share of delusionals, but so what?  If you want an effective non-fighting martial art, there is aikido.  Mr. Rogan needs to nuance his criticism a bit more.

Aikido, practiced as a martial art, by a conscientious objector, looks like the above.  I will come at you with a view to pacifying you, you will not get up after I deal with you.  I won't kill you, and I'll work not to injure you, but if you do get up, I am coming at you again.  I can say truthfully there is nothing I enjoy more than dealing with violence.  Never am I happier or more alive.

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1 comment:

  1. Good thoughtful post.

    Rogan has very vulgur thuggish view of martial arts. If you can't use it to beat up people or win UFC matches, then it's no good to him.