I began training in Brazilian jujitsu two months ago.
I found it was the most wonderful class and was instantly hooked.
There were things that were alien…but things which were familiar…very familiar.
My background is in Aikido (hang on in there for a bit!), and I occasionally take personal tuition from Sensei Rob in his Browne Ryu Kempo Jujitsu, as well as dabbling in western boxing and thai boxing.
I am in no way a ‘martial artist’ – more of a hobbyist.
I’ll grab what I can for fun!
I formally trained in Iwama Ryu Takemusi Aikido for quite a few years (no, i wasnt any good).
It differs from mainstream Aikido, but during my training I quickly noticed how little Aikido was regarded as an effective system. Frankly, disparaged by other martial arts followers and practitioners in things I’d read.
I remember in a seminar once, an highly regarded teacher once said to me ‘Aikido!…gets a lot of bad press doesn’t it?!’
And boy he was right.
Another very senior jujitsu instructor said
“Aikido is more of a spiritual thing”
A website called ‘bullshido’ even had an entire month dubbed ‘Aikido sucks month’
Instead of disregarding, I found myself intrigued by it more and more.
Well… when I began training, I decided to devour as much reading material as I could, which gave me a framework to pin my training around. This had some interesting things which stoked my intrigue further.
One reason I did ‘read up’ was because I was quickly astonished by the training in the dojo…nothing seemed like it was anything to do with martial arts. I was fascinated by the techniques, but to me, they had no martial context. Or more precisely, it felt like it was all leading up to something , but never did. Now that was partly to do with the fact that I wasnt ready to ‘step up’, but I also felt that I had signed up to do a martial art and something wasn’t right with the things that were missing from the training.
So I read up a bit on what all this was about, which led me to the doubters.
Several things didn’t add up when it came to the critics of Aikido, and some things actually did ie: confirming the issues that modern practitioners need to face to preserve Aikidos legacy as a legitimate Budo.
So, if I may, I’ll break down some of my findings, which are mearly meanderings, I am in no way an authority on the subject!
The first thing I realised is that the techniques and training methods we call ‘Aikido’ is not ‘Aikido’ at all.
Please please please MMA guys on YouTube stop posting messages about how these techniques wouldn’t work in real life, on the street and in the Octagon/cage.
Because…..drum roll please….they are not fighting techniques….
What? I hear you say?
“There are no techniques in Aikido”
Guess who said that?
I’m paraphrasing but also words to the effect of:
“the techniques are simply waza to develop your aiki”
“all the fundamentals of martial arts can be found in the basics of Aikido”
“Study other martial arts, for they also have the truth”
“aikido has no form”
(BTW, the similarities between Bruce Lees philosophy and Ueshibas philosophy are startling, but that’s for another time)
so…im a little confused…
Thinking back though Not once, did a teacher say to me that what we were doing was ‘how you would do it in a fight’.
Not once did they suggest that the techniques were ‘applied’
The techniques of Aikido are almost entirely ‘drills’…
But what are these drill suppose to be?
why train like this? Why so much lack of martial skill among many Aikido practitioners? Why no ‘Aikido’ fighters in UFC?
The nub of the matter comes down to this – Aikido is a system for concentrating power, for developing timing and sensitivity. The same concepts present in all martial arts either overtly or covertly.
The Waza are Ueshibas personal distillation of Aiki ju jitsu, various ju jitsu and sword and spear movements into arguably a simpler core set of movements and excercises which outlines and drills a set of principles.
This later was was influenced by Ueshibas spiritual development, evolving into the practice of his old age.
Hence different students came away with different ideas of what Aikido was, depending on where Ueshiba was at the time.
This is both the strength and weakness of modern Aikido.
Without a core understanding of martial art techniques, simply turning up to a dojo and training will produce skills in Aikido waza, and perhaps some useful self defence nuggets. It won’t cover other areas of martial arts that one needs to understand for martial all roundedness, as its not concerned with that.
Neither will it impart you with the superhuman levels of power Ueshiba was able to generate.
Join a Ki Aikido school and you will be doing soft flowing movements. Do Iwama style, and you will be doing a more physical ‘rough/tough’ expression of the forms
And I think this is a key point
“Expression of the form”.
All of Ueshibas students had to be black belts in other arts.
So you had Judoka, Karateka and jujutsuka studying with him. Judo founder Jigoro Kano sent several of his top students to train.
It is safe to assume these guys knew how to punch, kick and grapple.
It’s safe to assume that Ueshiba was showing them ‘something else’.
Something more akin to the internal martial arts of China.
One cannot deny similarities with Ba Gua, although the technical base is clearly Daito Ryu with smatterings of various weapon forms.
He was able to do amazing things, just like other masters like Wang could.
But not understanding these areas of martial art basics that Ueshibas early students had in fact stifles ones understanding of the meaning in Aikido movements. Conversely, concerning oneself with the martial effectiveness of Aikido also stifles ones understanding of the waza as one begins to focus on ‘fighting’ effectiveness. I call it the ‘what if syndrome’ – it plagues most beginners.
The waza can be seen as analogs of the forms or shapes one sees in many martial arts. For example in BJJ the instructor was demonstration a simple guard pass which was identical to irimi nage. Except on the ground of course!
Another takedown I saw demonstrated was the movements of Shihonage and irimi nage with an added leg reap.
All the movements off BJJ when well executed by a master have within them sensitivity, timing, uniform movement, hips, kokyu power, centre line control etc etc
I don’t want to overstate these universalities, of course there are major differences as well. But these differences are only in the execution and application, not in the heart of it.
It might be a different colour, but it’s all paint…
And hence the “expression of form”.
One must make Aikido ones own -
If ones Aikido is practised as a mind/ body discipline then great, if one seeks a more martial form, then great.
BJJ also allows for personalisation of the techniques, adaption and improvisation – that should be part of Aikido. I think it’s a part that can easily get lost.
However, herein lies the problem, the proverbial elephant in the room:
How does one develop martial aikido when someone else is simply there to train in mind/body?
In a modern dojo you can’t progress further than the forms, you are there to do Aikido. Or more precisely, some parts of the sphere that is Aikido.
What of so called martial effectiveness?
To develop a martial form of Aikido one possible route is to cross-train.
(I dont really like that expression as it suggests a barrier or fence between styles, which is counter intuitive to this discussion, but hey, needs must) Using the mechanics that Aikido provides; posture, hip movement, kokyu power, timing, sensitivity etc and apply it to martial arts techniques whether one is doing Ne Waza in Judo or BJJ or learning a Kempo sequence ( in my case I’ll add ‘desperately learning!’)…
Kind of ‘retrofitting’ it with the martial base one would have needed before you were allowed even near the Ueshiba dojo if you were new to martial arts and, I’d venture, even experienced martial artist could gain a great deal from it …perhaps!
And so, why no Aikido in UFC?
Actually…you see it all the time;
Concentrated power, timing and co-ordination…
And some of the best martial artists I’ve trained with although have never stepped foot in an Aikido dojo including the instructor who commented correctly that ‘Aikido has a bad press’…well you guessed it… have the best Aiki I have ever seen and felt.