In my last editorial I touched upon the subject of what I regard as poor training habits prevalent in many aikido dojos both in Japan and abroad. I pointed out that the execution of techniques against slow, weak attacks had disastrous consequences on their effectiveness and the quality of practice in general. I consider this subject to be of extreme importance and have some additional thoughts to express.
To review a bit, let us remind ourselves of the origin of aikido techniques and the historical rationale of their predecessor arts. As is well-known to readers of Aiki News, aikido inherited its techniques primarily from Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. Many techniques were eliminated from Daito-ryu by Morihei Ueshiba as too dangerous or complicated, and of those retained, most were simplified. This process of modification and simplification accelerated after World War II mainly due to the influence of Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Koichi Tohei Sensei and other leading students of the founder. What remain today are a few score techniques including joint-locks (kansetsuwaza) and throws (nagewaza). The traditional approach to aikido of Morihiro Saito, which still retains hundreds of techniques and an elaborate weapons system, is the exception.
Daito-ryu techniques themselves, like the curricula of other classical jujutsu and weapons schools, came into being as a process of gradual refinement based on the actual combat experience of the Japanese military caste. In a military context, unarmed techniques were designed for soldiers who were deprived of their weapons or unable to use them. Hence the existence of unarmed versus unarmed techniques and unarmed techniques versus weapons.
As late as the beginning of the 20th century, the Japanese fighting systems did not include karate-like punching and kicking techniques. Karate originated in China and took root first in Okinawa before being transplanted to the rest of Japan due in large measure to the efforts of Gichin Funakoshi. Jujutsu and judo were taken beyond the shores of Japan prior to World War II but were not widely practiced. However, after the end of the global conflict and the occupation of Japan by the U.S. Military, many servicemen joined judo and karate schools which subsequently led to the large-scale export of these arts to America and later Europe. Karate eventually achieved a greater degree of popularity in the west than did judo and has been glamorized in film and by the mass media to the extent that it and its Chinese cousin, kung-fu, have become the stereotypes of oriental fighting arts….
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