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Current Sensei's Corners
7/08/01 - In Memoriam: Shihan Fumio Toyoda
5/13/01 - The Myth of Martial Arts
3/21/01 - Recommended Reading
3/21/01 - Interview With Larry E. Bieri
3/13/01 - Why Are There No Ashi Waza in Aikido
3/3/01 - Interview With Tokimune Takeda

THE MYTH OF THE MARTIAL ARTS

Often throughout our training in Aikido we are always beleaguered with the question of "is Aikido Realistic" "will it work?" "What good is it against a kicker?" and now with the rising popularity of "extreme fighting" how does a traditional martial art fare? These are all legitimate questions asked by illegitimate people.

Modern Martial arts (Shinbudo) which Aikido is one of were created for the sole purpose NOT of battlefield combat or dueling. The Shinbudo were created due to the realization that the way of the sword was over. Commodore Perry in 1853 gave the Japanese the wake up call that they needed.

Japan needed to modernize and needed to do it quickly. Under the Meiji reforms, the Kobudo or old martial ways were quickly seen as old fashioned. What good was the traditional Samurai sword against a conscript army with rifles? The practitioners of the Kobudo knew that changes needed to be made in their curricula for them to survive. Some forms lasted albeit on a much smaller scale and are still practiced today by a small few, even smaller outside of Japan. The other big three (Judo, Kendo, and Karate-do) were all heavily modified for consumption by the masses. The emphasis of the Shinbudo was through each particular art, they could retain the positive elements of the Koryu and build on character and self-development, via that particular style, whether it be the way of the Sword, the gentle way, or the way of the empty hand.

Aikido is odd that in it's creation it manages to maintain some of those classic elements when it is a modern art founded by a modern martial artist (Ueshiba Morihei was born after the Meiji Restoration). It is unique that it is the only art of it's kind to flourish without a loss of tradition due to competition.

These modern arts such as Karate, and Judo are in a sense no longer martial ways but martial sports. There are schools in each style that do shun the emphasis on competition and tournaments. But on the whole, most have had to adopt the competition style and all the baggage that accompanies it. This is the way they have survived in America. We have changed the arts to accommodate our needs. Is this wrong? No. Is this right? It is neither, both have good and bad points. And it is not my place to castigate each school, without seeing the interior of each student. Some may have reached a more confident bearing and self-awareness through a McDojo. Others may still be thirsty for knowledge.

Yet when practitioners of these arts start to compare and contrast relative merits of each style compared to another, they are missing the point, that these arts are not designed for this. Aikido for example is not the art of choice I would use if I was in the military and needed to quickly and aggressively dominate and kill my enemy. It simply is using a hammer to install windows. Neither would Jujutsu be good in a multiple attacker situation where one or more opponents are armed. Tae Kwon Do has range limitations and no ground fighting in it. So each style is missing something that one or more style may have. Yet if each practitioner is gaining in composure, relaxation, and self-awareness and control. They have accomplished their founder's goals.

We buy into this myth that each of us is preparing for an attacker that we have imagined is 6'8" 300lbs, wielding a knife or bike chain, just released from death row due to a technicality, and very irate that Grand Funk Railroad broke up. Daily violence albeit a nightly occurrence on the news is such a rare case that to prepare ourselves for a mythical confrontation for an imagined attacker is to do a serious injustice to why we train. Furthermore, we prepare ourselves for dealing with this "attacker" by "fighting" someone whom conveniently enough trains in the same style we do, and more often than not is a good friend of ours. With friends like that...

So the critics will say "Cross train, Cross train, Cross train". To this I reply, "don't waste your time or money, doing this". Better to know one thing really well, than to know a lot, half-assed. Most Martial arts require fine motor skills that quickly Detroit when our pulse increases, such as in a flight or fight response. This will degrade us to the skill of gross motor movements, punch, kick, and clinch. Easily replicable movements. The Koryu knew this from battlefield experience and limited their curricula as such. The military calls this the K.I.S.S. principle, Keep It Simple and Straightforward.

All of this conversation about Aikido vs. Grappling, or TKD vs. Karate is an argument posed by practitioners of limited mind and with continual training these questions will be answered. Sadly though, most drop out due to the fact that they cannot find the answers that they seek, as they are looking for the hammer to install the window. Be realistic in your training and in the reasons why you train, and these questions will need no answer, as you will know the question that need not be asked.

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