Mokuren Dojo conducted an interview with Roy Dean an Aikido Yudansha, a 3rd dan in Seibukan Jujutsu and a 2nd degree black belt in BJJ and he had some interesting thoughts on Aikido reflecting closely to my own views of Aikido (though not necessarily of the dojo’s).
Here’s an excerpt that particularly touched the right notes with me:
Pat: What do you make of the apparently declining popularity of aikido, as seen, for instance, on Google Trends? Why is that happening and what could be done to reinvigorate aikido?
Roy: To me, it begins and ends with media exposure. Royce Gracie and the UFC put BJJ on the map as a required discipline for professional mixed martial artists. It’s effectiveness in its range is undeniable. People see that and want to learn how to do it themselves. Steven Seagal brought a huge new segment of the population to Aikido (myself included), and made it look exciting, powerful, and very direct in its application.
Today, it’s unfortunate that many people don’t have a positive impression of Aikido, but I can understand why. Demonstrations look too cooperative and rehearsed. Correlations between rank and applicable skill are not always accurate. Some segments of the Aikido community have emphasized the philosophy over martial prowess and the art has lost some teeth in dealing with realistic resistance levels. “True believers” in the art aren’t helping in this process, as they sometimes claim that Aikido can’t evolve, it’s already perfect, and relies on universal principles that are somehow higher than those utilized by other martial arts. Since it’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba, defeated all comers, then some believe that’s proof enough to keep training another 10 years and effectiveness will suddenly materialize, even if evidence is scant so far.
I think the key to “saving” or reinvigorating Aikido lies in shifting perspective, not necessarily changing the art. I would recommend cross training and observing Aikido from another shore. Train Judo and see how Aikido’s emphasis on kokyu and structure affect your gripping strategies. Train BJJ and understand how Aikido’s emphasis on ukemi and rolling skills lets you use your opponent’s momentum against themselves on the ground, turning your body into a ball to deflect their attacks. Train boxing and learn to slip and parry attacks from an expert in punching, chaining together evasive manuevers off the line of attack in real time. There is ju or yielding in all of them, so the key may be in allowing Aikido students to discover the pockets of aiki that exist in other fighting forms. Training an art like Daito Ryu Aiki-jujutsu Seibukan Jujutsu, KoKoDo Jujutsu, or another traditional Japanese Jujutsu system would also allow Aikidoka to see where their techniques came from and how they’ve evolved.
The art of Aikido has already evolved since it’s inception into several styles or factions, including Tomiki, Yoshinkan, Yoseikan, Ki Society, Aikikai, Iwama, and so forth. We shouldn’t worry about what is or what is or isn’t “real” Aikido. There is a Buddhist saying I’ve heard that applies here: “The minute something is born is has already begun to die.” I’m not only thinking of Aikido here, but also BJJ. BJJ is still growing, but it will decline in time, and other arts will supplant it. Arts that are evolving right now. MMA is a good example. MMA was born from vale tudo, but is a different art now as the number of rules and rounds have fueled changes. MMA will have it’s rise and fall and transform into something else. All things do.
If we have to learn arts of war to enforce the Art of Peace, then so be it. That doesn’t necessarily indicate a flaw with the art or in the practitioner of the art. It’s simply what needs to be done for deeper understanding, and should be viewed as another extension of training. Embrace the evolution. You’ll be better prepared for what comes next!
And just to see how Aikido doesn’t exist in its own universe but derives many of its techniques from Jujutsu, let’s have a look at Seibukan Jujutsu and see if you can spot the similarities! You’ll be surprised:
In conjunction with the celebration of Jun Yamada Shihan’s 40th Anniversary in Malaysia, Academy Aikido Jyuku is hosting this year’s Aikido Fellowship – South East Asia (AFSEA) seminar in Malaysia. Seishinkan Aikido Dojo, as an affiliated dojo of Academy Aikido Jyuku has been invited to participate and we highly recommend this to our students.
Among the guest Shihans who will be conducting the seminars are:
Motohiro FUKAKUSA Shihan, President of Aikido Association of Thailand & Chairman of the Aikido Fellowship-South East Asia
Toshiyuki ARAI Shihan, disciple of Founder Morihei Ueshiba, Chairperson of the Gunma Aikido Federation & Director of the All Japan Aikido Federation
Venue: Wisma Olympic Council Malaysia
Sat, 20th October 14:00 Seminar begins
Sun, 21st October 09:00 Seminar begins
19:00 Dinner Party
(Time of seminars is subject to change)
RM200 (includes Seminar Fee and Dinner Party)
RM100 for primary school students (includes Seminar Fee and Dinner Party)
RM200 for Observers (includes Seminar Fee and Dinner Party).
Please contact Desmond or Reuben should you be interested in participating as soon as possible.
The following is my own understanding of ma-ai or distancing. It is a complex concept and one I’m still coming to grips with, but here are my thoughts.
Ma-ai is one of the most important concepts in any martial art but is often not emphasized in our daily training. Ma-ai although directly meaning ‘interval’ translated very roughly means ‘engagement distance’ or ‘proper distance’. Mastery of distance is essential to make any effective use of Aikido or any martial art for that matter. If you understand distance, you instinctively know how far exactly you need to be to avoid strikes/attacks and how much to move in to deliver a technique effectively. In fact with proper distancing, you can effectively control a ‘fight’ without much fighting at all since you are controlling the pace and the terms of the encounter and engage and disengage on your own terms.
In Aikido, the distance that we learn to maintain is actually “Ittsiko-itto no Maai” or “one step striking distance”. Traditionally this means you are one step away from executing a strike to your partner. However as Aikido is a more defensive and reactive art (at least traditionally), I would prefer it to mean the minimum distance in which you can be safe from an attack from your opponent. There is a difference between the two. If following the concept of Ittsiko-itto no Maai (Itto-Ma), a smaller person might already be in the striking range of his partner despite him maintaining Itto-Ma. This is not an ideal position to defend from whereby you can be hit without being able to reach your opponent.
Proper distancing therefore changes all the time. This can be influenced from a whole bunch of factors including:
Physical attributes: Speed, height, size, reaction time. For e.g. If your opponent is very fast and has quick burst speed, you may need to stay further off to give you sufficient time to react. Or if your reaction time is very fast, you can be closer to your opponent since you can react quickly to an incoming strike. Also if the person is very proficient with kicks, the distance also opens up.
Angle: For example, if you are behind a person, you can practically be very close to the person and yet be safe from attack. If you are off on the side, you can also be closer.
The introduction of weapons: The introduction of weapons changes ma-ai drastically. Even a short weapon like the knife extends ma-ai by several inches especially when the consequences of getting cut are much higher. A longer weapon of course increases the range even further.
Note that I say the MINIMUM distance you need to be safe. Of course if we were 10 feet apart, no one can strike you but by being too far away, you are drawing him to come closer. When space is limited, this is a problem if your opponent is constantly trying to close the distance, and you don’t want to give ground without having to. If you’re too far away you cannot also hope to be in an ideal range to perform any entries or techniques. You want to be as close as you can while remaining safe so that when an opening arises, you are in the best position possible to take advantage of it. You want also to be as close as possible so that he doesn’t feel compelled to keep on closing the distance with you.
I tried searching for a video that illustrates good ma-ai in Aikido but instead found the classic Pernell Whittaker who had absolute mastery of distance. Note how he stays right out of range of his opponent while darting in and out and moving in when he wanted to. The principles are the same for all martial arts.
The Swinburne Aikido Club is now back in full swing and we have had a very encouraging response.
For Swinburne students who are interested in Aikido, you may contact Eileen: 016 8829707. Transportation from Swinburne to our dojo and back can be arranged.
Date: Every Saturday
Time: 1:00 pm to 3:00pm
Venue: Aikido Dojo located at Jalan Simpang Tiga, Kuching, Sarawak (near Guardian)
Transportation will be provided to those whose might need it. Please inform us before hand and do wait for us at Chillipeppers around 12.15p.m., we will leave at 12.40p.m.
Swinburne students are also allowed to participate in 1 regular class per week on any of our regular class schedules should they be interested to practice during the weekdays as well and we strongly recommend this once the student is familiar with basic techniques.
Our fees are nominal as we are a strictly non-profit school:
Fees for Swinburne Aikido
Fee per semester = RM 75
Registration = Rm 30
Uniform = Rm 65
Upgrading fee = RM25 for each level below black
______________________________________________ During semester break
Fee per month = RM35
We are pleased to invite all dojos under Academi Aikidojyuku to our seminar jointly hosted by Seishinkan Aikido Dojo and Sekishin Aikido Dojo to commemorate the 40th year since Aikikai Aikido was introduced to Malaysia by Shihan Jun Yamada.
There will be a nominal seminar fee of RM30.00 to cover costs for Seishinkan/Sekishin Members, RM50 for other dojos affiliated with Academy Jyuku.
Light refreshments will be provided for participants. Meals are to be handled individually but there are several eating places nearby the venue so it should be relatively convenient.
Please confirm your participation by contacting Desmond, Reuben or Eileen by the 14th October 2011
In conjunction with the 40th Anniversary, these shirts are available for sale from the Academy Aikidojyuku Malaysia Aikikai and will be brought by Shihan on his visit here. Please let us know as soon as possible if you wish to order.
Date and time is on the 24th June 2011, Friday, 7.30 PM – 8:30 PM (or however long you want it to be 😛 ). We will still have classes commencing at 7.00 PM if you want to warm up or practice your special techniques to show off to Sekishin (kidding) :P.
There will be drinks and some food as well so don’t eat too heavy a dinner! Please let us know if you’ll be attending so we can estimate the amount of food and drinks required. Thanks!
Happy Gawai! Just to let you know our schedule for the Gawai Holidays are as follows:
30th May Monday: Classes as per normal 1st June Wednesday: Closed for Gawai Holidays 3rd June Friday: Classes as per normal 4th June Saturday: Closed for Agung’s birthday 5th June Sunday: Classes as per normal
For the next two months we’ll be also shifting our Saturday class to 4pm to 5pm as Swinburne University goes into their semester break.