Sunday, August 8, 2010

Realism, really?

I just got back from watching Salt and frankly I've no idea why reviewers are giving it a hard time. Sure, its not Bourne but Angelina has her charm and the action sequence were quite good, if over the top at times. Still, you gotta wonder whether such deep cover sleeper agents are even a possibility?

Train kids for what, 6-7 years? And they are all from these super genetic match up to ensure high mental and physical prowess. So they got the 1st equation right, a strong base to start off with. They they have regimented training from mental, physical as well as psychological. Now you have highly skilled, very smart and very loyal almost fanatical teenagers. Then, they get sent back home to be sleeper agents. Great.

They live maybe 20-30 years of their adult lives as a normal person, making normal friends and getting the usual run of ups and downs, that sort of thing... until one day they're called upon to do some drastic stuff that would use all their available skills. How do one keep up with those skills? You're unlikely to be able to go around killing people with your bare hands for 20 years and still act normal. For that matter, how do you go about training to jump from moving vehicles unto another moving vehicle? Or shoot at great accuracy? Or a bunch of other things?

Why am I even asking this in my blog? Actually... I thought it would be a good idea to put this in, for us to get some perspective on how we train. We can envision that real agents do have special skills, and I can attest to that truthfully. The things you see agents do on TV, they are realistic...well some of them are, like slick driving one handed at 200kpmh, shooting cans and keeping them in the air, sensing armed targets... these are things which I've seen to be true. Not those, get shot a hundred times and still kick some ass movies though. Agents are human, they bleed and they die. But ok... so the training is real and the skills are real, but here's the deal. They either keep at it, or they lose it. Not lose entirely, but a good deal of the edge becomes blunt.

Also, if they don't have enough of good training, there really won't be an edge to blunt over time. So the trick is, to get good enough to call it an edge, and to hone long it long enough so that it'll take a whole bunch of time before you lose your skills.

Training on empty will not cut it. Mostly training with everything to lose will be the only way for you to learn anything much. When you're riding a bike, you have to take the two wheels and dare the scrapes and falls for you to eventually master it. If you keep using crutches like having two mini wheels on the sides, or people holding on to you as you ride, you'll never get it. Or it will take a long long time to do so. It gets worst if you plan on doing crazy skills. But there you have it, the true risk reward system. The bigger the risk, the better the reward.

So is this how we do it in Aikido? With its almost ritualistic kihon waza or kata training, we're not actually anywhere close to pushing the envelope. But then how do you train? Everytime it gets down to full randori or free style training, it usually ends up as a brawl or slugfest or a grappling match. It never fails to amaze me that you will see aikidoka's hanging on to their opponents arms and limbs to get an ikkyo, shihonage or kotegaishe. Even iriminage looks more like a clothesline. And at the end of the day, they call it real Aikido.

If this looks familiar, then we all know something is really wrong with how we're training. We've become the Tae Bo of the jujitsu world. A joke. Yet, we continue to amaze audiences with sword disarming, knife disarming and stuff like that. No one has ever considered inviting an Iaido expert to become uke for those though...

We also laugh when we talked about how Steven Seagal made his rounds on the streets to try his for real (or so it was claimed). Do we dismiss this is a joke or do we secretly wish we had the guts to try it out for ourselves. Now there's also the philosophy of not fighting that holds us back, but really is it about the philosophy or more about the uncertainty? My silat brothers did and continue to try it out in the streets. Half of them I would call hoodlums myself, but will I get in the ring with them? No, truthfully no. I know their skills and I know why they survive out there. So there you have it. I still have something to lose, they feel as if they have none. We have limits, they don't. Yet, when it gets down to it, we will be meeting people without those limits on the streets. It is exactly those tossers who don't give a damn what happens to you or anyone including themselves that are out there knifing people up and snatching handbags out of pregnant women. While I've never backed down from helping someone in need, I've never had the bad luck to chance upon someone who was armed and dangerous. I truly wonder how I'd hold up to that.

I'm not advocating blood and gore in our training. Nor am I provoking a UFC grudge fest. The self defence kata is also not what I have in mind really. But, surely somewhere between 3rd kyu to 1st dan, there must be a litmus test of sorts. A point where the aikidoka must be able to handle a fighter of a certain level and hold his own. Otherwise, we really should not call it budo anymore. We're not looking for techniques, but more on the aikidoka's ability to use principles and concepts of Aikido to remain unharmed and subdue his opponent. Free for all, but to limit the lethality of attacks so as not to cause serious permanent harm. The goal should be to maintain the philosophy through ability and not just avoidance. To really understand the psychological aspect of being able to handle an attacker with intent to harm you and to subdue him without the intent of returning that harm. To be able to turn aside danger without being ensnared by fear or anger. To be able to move at will and not respond in a violent and instinct driven adrenaline rushed manner. A test.

Building up to this test would be the indoctrination of the mind and spirit and the forging of the physical. Always, students have to be aware, have to be ready and extended and relaxed at the same time. To maintain a natural focus that is neutral and not contrived.

Even today, forging intent with 2 basic exercises. Tenkan using an attack line and extending ki along the line. Shomenuchi strikes, to strike before striking and to keep striking after the strike. Even today, a basic exercise and something quite difficult to grasp. I wonder if it is possible to train in this manner until we reach realism. Should we even try, or in the end, it all boils down to what's in our hearts?


  1. The trick in training for realism is not to try to go from kata practice straight to no-holds-barred fighting, or even to randori. Instead it should be approached in stages. Start with basic kata practice and advance this and improve this until you can perform this against full force attacks. Practice entering drills like the uchikomi they do in judo. Practice kata drills that include multiple techniques and attacks, drills that don't assume you'll always be able to trap that first punch. Advance to light randori in which attacks and techniques are limited to one or two techniques, for example left or right hook punch against shiho nage and kote gaeshi. Rotate this style of practice through a bunch of attacks and techniques. Expand the technique window to include more techniques until you arrive full-fledged randori. Strap on pads to allow the attacks to be more realistic and to support safe practice at higher levels of force. The problem with Aikido and realism is all about how we practice.

  2. Thanks Mark, we'll keep that in mind when we explore this further. As it stands, I like to focus one thing at a time. Doing randori now will lead to something like a circus.

  3. the best part of being relax and under control was when her beloved hubby was shot right before her eyes....hopes nothing similar to ur future planned training haha

  4. I don't get it... you were relaxed BECAUSE your hubby was shot, or you were relaxed DESPITE your hubby being shot? Anyway, no shooting in our dojo. Just punches to the face if you don't extend enough.

  5. thats distinguishes between a good spy and a 'not so good' ones, i guess...about the punches, yes i heard it from one 'innocent' uke who experienced the 'no mercy aiki reflexes' for not doing enough extending during a training with one nage (fast like ninja) last week...poor girl haha..