Saturday, September 30, 2006

Do-nothing self-defense aiki

Today we had Clan McKenzie, Hattiesburg Andy, and Kristof the Ukrainian uchideshi. We calibrated, worked on ukemi, and moved rapidly into tegatana, which we repped twice without any particular focus. Then we paired up and did hanasu, at first in "kata mode" then moving into "experiment mode" for several reps. The topics that came up in hanasu included some commentary about there only being three releases in hanasu (walk-arounds, pass-bys, and walk-unders) and some discussion of the importance of beginning evasion at maai while there's still time. We practiced aigamae from nijusan, then the chain of the day was hanasu#3 followed by kote mawashi, wakigatame, and gyakugamae ate. The emphasis ended up being on evading, getting behind uke, and moving with him while limiting his potential. Good fundamental aikido self-defense.
Sensei James Reuster of Edwards AFB made an interesting comment in an email a few weeks ago that has been eating on me for a while. We were discussing the upcoming Aiki Buddies Gathering in Magnolia and tossing around ideas for topics or themes for the clinic. I suggested a self-defense theme, perhaps something related to how we teach "self defense" along side the principle of "do nothing." Reuster commented that everything we do every class day is self-defense oriented, that we don't have to do anything special or stronger, or rougher or anything different at all to be teaching self-defense. That pretty much put an end to the discussion because he is absolutely right. Self defense is not something special that we cover every so often at a special class. It is the ruling strategy underlying every technique and tactic that we teach and practice every class. Everything we teach has to have good probability curves under conditions of chaos, has to fail relatively softly, and has to be testable and falsifiable.
And that makes pretty good sense to me after nearly 20 years of martial arts practice, but the question still stands: when a student comes in wanting self defense and we tell him we can teach him a viable self-defense, then we try to explain "do nothing" aiki principles to him, it does not make sense. So my suggestion was not so much to work on cool ninja defense techniques at this ABG, but rather to work on how we teach the things we teach. What is the best way to explain the things we do in order to get the buy-in necessary from the beginning student to invest the time and effort necessary to learn our ideas of self-defense.
Which reminds me of a little story that Andy would like. An old master swordsman, veteran of a thousand battles, was trying to impress a student. The master asked the novice, "Quick, tell me, what would you do to save yourself if I were to attack you like this?" To which the novice answered, "Nothing." The master left enlightened.
(With that story in mind, check out my 'Creamed Asparagus' post from 9/24/2006. Interesting contradiction...)

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