“If you’ve been hit, you know what it feels like. No academic theories
can infest the mind of one who knows from direct experience”
In its implementation, however, we come across certain problems.
At a physical level, apparently good people are often incapable of simulating a serious attack. Being most often reasonable people, having grown in reasonably comfortable situations, such people lack insight into the nature of evil as would mount a real and deadly attack.
This is not to say, however, that such individuals are saints or anything like that. Merely paralyzed in the ways of interpersonal physical survival, much as that of a child who has grown up overly shielded from life in a monastery and who lacks a certain degree of street sense.
Within this naivety, sometimes a greater evil than physical attack often emerges through that of underhanded organizational politics that can destroy good structures.
Often a good dojo under the tutelage of a talented teacher, who whilst not necessarily a master, has a few years on those he teaches and thereby something useful to impart. Such a teacher will be ousted, by way of the political machinations, a tool of the weak and cowardly hubristic dunderheads, who then implement their takeover bid. This usually destroys a dojo within six months. I’ve seen it often in budo and other organisations. It is a cancer of the mind, which when combined with greed, brings about such all-lose scenarios.
Not all attacks are physical.
Some considerable years ago, such a bid was mounted upon my dojo. It was an educational experience. Fortuitously, the nature of battle being as it is, I took it as my training and let the morally weak go to the alternative that was seductively being offered. Predictably, it collapsed within half a year. Free will is such a good thing. They screened themselves and stopped wasting valuable dojo time. I would not have it any other way.
One new student arrived and we rebuilt from there. This opened up the way for a new influx of the best and most dedicated Aikido students I have had the privilege of knowing in over 40 years. Being a traditional dojo, money is not a goal and looking back, it was also one of the most educational experiences, getting this first hand. However I must add, I cheated. I had prior experience dealing with similar issues in other organizations and had also witnessed it happening in organizations I was not directly involved. This illness seems more common than the flu. Incompetent fools seeking positions of power above their station and capability seems to be everywhere. It only achieves harm.
These insignificants invariably find their level along with anyone fool enough to be hypnotized and follow them to their folly. Fools and their money, as the old saying goes, are soon parted. It does raise concern that in other cases, some people can remain deceived for long periods of time, staying on a path of self-deception. But there is nothing one can do, other than watch, observe, notice and perhaps offer a prayer for their enlightenment, which invariably comes in some form or another.
Discussions about inept, psychiatrically damaged power seeking political players who ruin good structures, however, is not the point of this discourse.
The point of this essay is that of poor or insufficient physical attacks in dojo training.
Poor attacks result in poor Aikido and a decline in the art. If not in the artistic appearance, then certainly in the understanding of it and its effective deployment at times of dire necessity.
Good people need to learn to mount a proper challenge in order to squeeze the juice out of Aikido training and actually find the AIKI latent within strong energy exchanges. If there is no attrition to harmonize there can be no real Aikido. Merely a weird and meaningless cooperative dance of some kind.
To learn to harmonize a challenge we require a meaningful challenge duly modulated within the ability of the persons practicing. This is to say, uke does nage no favours by flinging himself gratuitously when a technique has evidently failed in its substance and purpose. And uke does nage the best favours when he makes him or her WORK!
This is how we help each other learn and grow in Budo. Especially Aiki Budo. We provide a viable challenge which is then worked until it is harmonized by authentic AIKI. Not faked.
Observable is the fact that those who come to Aikido from a background of either karate, jujutsu, judo or some form of weaponry, tend to fare much better. In other words, there can be no doubt that eclectic riai will clarify your understanding and can augment your aiki skills.
Let me explain. If you’ve been hit, you know what it feels like. No academic theories can infest the mind of one who knows from direct experience. Especially regarding strong pain. If you’ve been submitted with either kansetsu or sustained a fractured bone, strangled out, or smothered within an inch of your life, you have first hand experience in getting closer to the reality of the violence that we of Aikido are striving towards harmonizing.
If you’ve been attacked with weapons and survived, you develop a deep understanding that neither Budo, nor real violence is either a game or a toy to be taken lightly.
Such potentially deadly experiences are obviously best addressed in the dojo, where you can safely tap out and which is, or should be, supervised by a facilitator whose prime motives are improvement for all concerned, with safety paramount.
Sloppy, often unsafe attacks are not part of Aikido, and yet they are far too common. Nor are disrespectfully harmful ones of any kind. In reality, in what appears a paradox, often the hardest/strongest attacks are the easiest to disarm and the sneakiest/unobtrusive by far more dangerous. Something to watch out for.
In training, an essential skill is that of modulating ki to adapt to all variables. For example, the reasonable person tones down to train with beginners, old people and children, then modulates back up to pound the mats in multiple attacks with youthful seniors in their prime.
This too, is part of a package of possibilities that make us better as individuals and help others to also improve in the ways of addressing, responding and profiting from challenges.
Eclectic variables are an essential to training. You can’t say to a real attacker: “Sorry, I can’t defend myself against you today because you are using this or that and I’m not trained in this or that, so I refuse to address the issue of my life and safety. And no surprises, please, I’m accustomed to 6 weeks notice in writing in triplicate on the proper form..” After you drop him with laughter, he will then hurt you in the way that you’ve neglected to train. On this basis Aikido is, and must be embracing of all training methodologies because it innately contains the methods and principles that can harmonize, or teach you to harmonize anything at all, even a Sherman Tank if the necessity should arise.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A WRONG ATTACK!
ONLY A WRONG RESPONSE.
THIS, is what Aikido, if practiced properly should be imparting. The ABILITY TO RESPOND!
Attackers are never reasonable. If they were they would not be attacking in the first place! So attempting to appeal to reason, with the mad, has little prospect.
Aikido is a state of mind and a strategic, skillful means which whilst most useful in navigating daily life gently and with a smile, can also be unleashed in high risk situations as revealed by security operatives in the field, who adapt training to reality instead of cosy suburban office fantasy.
The other paradox in all this is that whilst striving to maintain integrity and efficaciousness in our training, it must be kept respectful and safe at all times.
This is best embodied in Aikido in that we study the flows of physics, primarily in relation to kuzushi (this for good reason) and leave out, but notice, dangerous other possibilities of survival necessity which can break, impact or cause harm.
A word of caution. Never attack harder or faster than you can absorb the recoil of a properly effected AIKI. You may injure yourself. This is probably why life-long sedentary workers do in fact practice fake-kido as they could not take a serious ukemi recoil. I suppose a little bit of something is better than nothing.
Sometimes the collusional fake dancers, masters in the ways of deception of self and others, can be most dangerous in this way in their use of underhanded, sly means wrongfully misused in training. Although such as these are useless in the street, or service in the field as protectors, they are often seen to be misusing the dojo setting to gratuitously cause harm. Such individuals are lower than common criminals, who at least admit who they are openly, whereas dojo abusers abuse a trust which would not be otherwise offered. My advice is: Refuse to train with these idiots unless you are sufficiently skilled to mete out their own medicine to them so they can start to learn from empathy. Nobody needs injuries which can chronically compromise the remainder of a life.
Finally, the endless nuances of strategic skill that regular Aikido training unlocks are most useful in all spheres of life, both to identify risk and also to deploy responses. Of course each individual’s path is unique and that must be honoured and respected as we can all learn from each other. And thereby improve our conscious awareness and navigation of life skills thereby.
The path of harmonising intention and activity is a great gift to the world, which in my opinion as a result of the proven skills arising therefrom, Aikido deserves to be noticed as a critical life navigation practice deserving of attention, development and worthy of being embraced as a global heritage of great worth. Whilst perhaps it is still a new paradigm of understanding for most of the 7 billion or so human occupants of this planet, it can and will, in the course of time, contribute to making life on earth and that of all human beings, at least that one step up or so better than things appears to be right now.
On the Do of Aiki you will meet many paradoxes.
In their reconciling, you will learn much about generating dynamic harmony in the face of conflict and its best implementation into the world. This in the best possible way that exists to do so. By whole person testing, which enables innate practical wisdom to emerge from within.
May it be a fruitful journey for you.