I think we’ve fallen a long way behind those ancients, who at least regards combat, had half a clue about what they were doing.
Some people think they have to intellectually “learn techniques” and others like to imagine that untrained simplification will be sufficient. Then we have the academic masters of opinions and also the sports contest specialists.
Sporty mindsets will not save you in real combat. I’m not talking about some little old lady or someone half your size raising their voice, but real and deadly attack outside the cozily predictable protection of “the ring” with its single and unarmed opponent. The paradigm of sport is riddled with the bending of context. We all know what these fake constructs are. If you don’t, I can’t help you. Find out while there is still time for you.
Theories are wonderful, but only if they portray the result of experience in a meaningful way. Even then, conveying this with mere words is a hit and miss affair. It has to be actively practiced regularly. Otherwise it’s merely warming the air with waffle.
Of untrained simplification there is nothing to be said, except: find out the hard way.
This leaves us with why we have to “learn techniques.”
Who said anything about “learning” anything?
We REPEAT techniques! We EXPLORE techniques! We EXTRAPOLATE techniques! We EXPERIENCE VARIABLES! And we DISCOVER POSSIBILITIES!
If you think that you “know” a technique because you have an idea about it, or that you will “use a technique” in a real scenario because you “did” it in practice a few times, and this will save you, you are a dead man walking.
“A” technique is useless. Too many end up finding this out the hard way.
Just like single techniques, opinions do not win fights. EXPERIENCE does. Real situations are seldom equal and the degree of predictability will only increase by experiencing variable possibilities.
How can you gain at least a verisimilitude of experience without placing youself or others unduly at risk?
By regularly training the basics and their variables.
This does not mean that you have to remember anything at all. How does anyone remember and carry a list of 600 techniques or 3000 or 1000 or whatever? Or even 50 for that matter!
Intellectual remembering is not the purpose of Budo training. Indeed, in the thick of it you will be hard pressed to “think” of anything at all.
Budo training simply places you in a situation mildly similar to equating SOME attributes of a real violent scenario. It allows you to re-enact a multiplicity of variables, thereby adapting and exercising the living body-mind-adaptation-response mechanism.
You can’t fight from ideas, only real ability. Hence training the variables. Training variables are not for purposes of intellectually remembering anything, but for gaining experience in the intuitive best practice correct response simplicity of direct action.
On this basis, the basics, up to one dozen techniques and not more than two dozen, must be key techniques that best represent the underlying principles of natural physics as it relates to the biomechanics of interaction for the human frame. Ki no Nagare.
These simple basics must be useful in unlocking the multiplicity of variables which cannot be held in a long list in the intellect.
Because combat happens faster than the processes of thought, there is no need to consciously “remember” any technique for it to save you. But you must be able to DO it! And to unlock its variables. In any event, you will not be performing a classical movement, rather, a variable, or a combination of variables based on the real requirements of survival at that given time.
Of course, to teach, you have to provide a starting point of reference, hence the basics, which are nothing more than fundamental keys to Ki no Nagare in survival action. Preconditioned response pathways that enable functional combinations.
It takes too long to convert an idea about something you think you might know about because you once read about it, or saw it on a video, into natural action. The neural pathways will be missing because they have not been built for the purpose during regular practice. To be useful, skill MUST BE a preconditioned response. This only comes from regular experience. If you do it enough times you will adapt to doing it well. If you do it even more you will adapt to doing it better.
Regular training is a good way to get low-risk experience.
Survival responses are seldom conscious or live on the surface of consciousness. If they did, your behaviours would not be fit for civil society. So they lurk subliminally. And they emerge to save you. But only if the need is real.
Now here’s the difference. In the untrained (or the opinionated), something lurks subliminally also. It’s called confusion and perplexity. This is the result of not having a relevant point of reference. This too emerges in emergency, but only as blind reactivity. Reactivity generally gets you killed or otherwise compromised.
Hence proper training in any field where emergency response skills are required. The purpose of proper training is not a calcification of rote habit, but rather, an unlocking of possibility, a recalling of flexible body-mind and an opening up of latent potential. In effect, good training, is mental and physical housecleaning to unlearn the junk that gets in the way of simply moving naturally.
Training forms the backup. It modifies the subconscious predispositions to recognize more refined and skilled response variables.
You cannot know what form the final action will take, or how it will emerge, until the last moment. When it happens.
As far as training goes, train lots. Enjoy it. Be very present during training.
Then go home and forget it.
Turn up next training session.
Keep doing this until you no longer have to think unduly about it.
It’s not your ideas and opinions about training that will save you, but the accrued credit of experience in moving well. And this ability can be refined without end, whether you have any opinion or not.
The more you train, the better it gets. You cannot arrive with one or two or a dozen casual attempts. Budo, and especially Aiki budo, is not a destination. Nor one easily had. Rather it is a journey of augmentation without end.
Before the value of Aikido training can emerge, it must be identified as Budo and be integrated into daily life, until it becomes a Way of Life which is part of life itself.
The increase of real skill percolates gradually as a slow process of osmosis. It will increase in due season when you have earned the privilege, as a result of the input of work done, and not because of fanciful ideas about work which was not done or poorly done.
Take the striving out of it. Stop trying to perform or impress or learn anything in the first day or month or even year or ever for that matter. Simply persist and take each next step with integrity, sincerity and authentic heart. You cannot shortcut the processes of nature. Kannagara no Michi has no beginning or end and therefore no arrival or cessation or stopping. Simply get into that stream and swim and don’t stop.
Train often and regularly and with a spirit of enjoyment and discovery.
Everything you practice becomes stored reference together with the value of subtle nuances which action stress releases. Your head may forget but your body will not.
The body never forgets an experience.
Techniques are not ideas, but the foundational basis for real action and the harmonising of intense energy.
So don’t just think about Aikido. DO IT and let go. Then get on with life.
The important part in all this is DON’T MISS A TRAINING SESSION and then enjoy life in all its aspects.
Oh no! Am I suggesting that Aikido should be FUNCTIONAL? Heaven forbid. What is wrong with me? To all those purveyors of dysfunction, or less than function out there in the name of Aikido, I do sincerely apologize and offer my most sincere prayers that you never get attacked!
Just recently there was a case of a house built by a builder who felt the same way about building. The house fell down. Fortunately no one was in it at the time. The matter is currently before the courts. And may heaven forbid that he “teach” his philosophy to other builders!
In case you thought I was being facetious you are right!
Aikido must be useful for practical defence as well as being a personal path of self correction. Otherwise it is not Aikido, but some dancey, dishonest waffle which means nothing and has no purpose and risks falling on you when you need to place your reliance on it.