Sunday, April 24, 2011

Comfort zone

No man is an island, is such an apt saying for what I'm about to say. Where men exists, so does competition thrive and rivalry grows. In sports that is fine, in Judo and Kendo you can have the shiai. Yet, in budo, there is only an end to conflict, there can be no sporting ending.

In all the days that we've trained in the dojo. When was the last time you tried to improve your tenkan? Or even your kamae? When was the last time you honestly believed that your ikkyo is capable of putting your opponent down in any given situation. Has there been any urgency in your training?

With boxers, fights can occur every two months or so. Each time both fighters will study the other fighter's videos and look for their strengths and weaknesses. They then concentrate on either improving their own standing weapons or develop an arsenal to counteract and exploit the other's weaknesses. For a boxer that continues to build himself up like this cumulatively and gradually, his strength will grow from fight to fight. For another who only builds himself to match his opponent, his career will be shortlived.

Yet, in both cases, those boxers have 'improved' themselves from their baseline. But its different for us Aikidokas. We who do not have competition and matches, we who do not have rivals, where comes our drive and where resides our goals?

Its easy to say, a belt ranking or a generalised 'improve everything' but are we really getting better? Or are we just going to the dojo, doing the same thing again and again without a thought to its development. Are our uke's testing us for weaknesses each time?

I wondered at one time not long ago, whether a technique could later become a skill. I guess it could, if we only develop it to become one. Irrespective if there's a partner to help us or not, we need to train like we are fighting the greatest threat of our lives. After all, this is not a game. There are no comfort zones, there's only death if we are slow and too sure of ourselves.


  1. That's the disgrace with Aikido - otherwise the most beautiful approach to fighting out there. That Aikidokas get never challenged by realistic fighting.

    I found particularly enlightening your comparison between boxing and Aikido - in boxing gyms hundreds of thousands of guys in the world hit themselves on their faces daily: no carnage has ever been reported. Because in boxing gyms sparring is a daily routine.

    Yet, Aikido is hypersensitive even to the possibility of a smack in the face.

    We train imagining attackers that hold our hands, and wait. Where in the world such a thing will ever happen? In a business metting they may hold your hands...
    We imagine guys reacing out from our back to hold our wrists - I never saw this happening in a real situation.

    The outcome is that we have scores of aikidokas that seem utterly unaware that iriminage is going to do nothing, simply nothing, against an incoming attacker hurling direct blows at your face and who has the intention to get at you and maim you and who pursues it with determinatio and without pausing for several minutes.

    And as you rightly emphasized, too many of us are utterly unware of how nearly impossible it may be placing an ikkyo against an opponent who is determined to keep moving and opposing brutal strength. They will just NEVER know. They will NEVER know that their ikkyo, which they have been doing repeatedly in the last 5 years, will do NOTHING in a real situation (who knows how difficult it may be to make an ikkyo on a forceful attacker? so, hint: never use your hand on an elbow, if you want to place an effective ikkyo), and that uke's heads in a real situtation, when "grabbed" to place an iriminage not only will refuse to bend, but they won't even blink an eye.

    We go on doing for years the same techniques, over and over again, only to discover one fatal day (maybe even, as you rightly empahsize, our "deathbed") that those techniques, cultivated in THAT manner, do not just very little, not just some vague something, are not going to yield somewhat disappointing results - they will do NOTHING.

    Some persons will train for a lifetime in an Aikido dojo, and never, never, ever realize this.

    That's how sad - and serious - it is.

  2. What you've replied with is basically the problem that lies and is endemic in Aikido. A focus on techniques that are at best half of a whole sum and in most cases would not be able to withstand a trial by fire scenario.

    However having since revisited the concept behind Aikido training, I wouldn't discount our training methodology out of the bat. There IS a reason why we are doing it this way, its just that for most, they don't really know what it is.

  3. I'll stay tuned then for your next blog emtries hoping one explains the rationale behind this dangerous choice (dangerous inasmuch as it is positively dangerous promoting the idea one's aikido may be usable under fire, in order to let the guy discover it's not so only if and when he goes under actual heavy artillery) - unless it's gonna be a statement in the line of "The Last Theorem of Fermat" lol :-)

  4. Lol, no actually I'm revisiting what my sensei said about Uke being the most important aspect of learning Aikido. I've usually taken what he says at face value, but the scope is quite large being an uke, and the context is huge too. So I can't help but feel inundated.

    Reading Ellis' book Hidden in Plain Sight, he offers that being uke (a proper uke) really is the the exercise of creating a proper vassal or body for learning Aiki. I.e. to create a body that takes ideal ukemi is essential if we want to learn Aiki.

    And to close this chapter, learning Aiki allows you to take control of any fight without having to resort to techniques and methods where inevitably it ends in a fight or struggle.