Thursday, January 25, 2007

Too soft aikido

A few weeks ago, an anonymous commentator left the following comment on a Google video that I’d posted.
“The motions of ypur students are too soft.”
Interestingly, that commentator rated the video at 5-stars. This comment is almost too terse to be useful because it is hard to tell in what sense it is meant. It is really an incomplete thought - too soft for what? To be martial? To be aikido? To be effective? Also, I don’t know whether the word “too” is meant in a good sense (as in “TOO cool”) or not (as in “excessively” soft).

Anyway, my initial reaction was, “Wow, thanks for the nice compliment.” In many ways, soft is the goal. Soft is more sensitive. “Hard” implies doing something to uke. People are pretty much wired to use their muscles to either ‘feel’ or to ‘do’ but not both simultaneously. As an example, can you imagine trying to feel the texture or temperature of direction of motion of a body by punching it? Incidently, there is a gender difference here – men tend to naturally ‘do’ while women tend to more naturally use their muscles to ‘feel’.

During aikido practice we are trying to feel and follow uke’s motion and our own, so sensitivity is more important to us than ‘doing.’ Because soft is more sensitive, we learn faster because we sense more when we are not trying to ‘do’ uke.

On the other hand, we don’t want to be soft in the sense of wimpy, flaccid, impotent, or ineffective. Our aikido has never been described any of those ways. If you are basing your comments on effectiveness, you have to consider the goal that you are trying to accomplish with aikido. Even though our aikido is definitely ‘soft’ aikido, it has been demonstrated many times in ‘real’ situations to be effective self-defense. My students and friends in particular have used this soft aikido as real defense.

So, I personally think that you should have ended your thought like this...
"The motions of your students are too soft…" for my taste.
But I do appreciate your comment. Though terse, it was thought provoking and I did take it to heart.

2 comments:

  1. Do you want to be a mster of aikido? It is very easy just love your enemy,because it is the only way you can do aikido with them. No more believe me.

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  2. i juz watched d video and find no lessons in it what so ever.
    the 2 of them seems to be doing what taichi practitioners call "push hand". i can tell u that even among taichi practitioners many arent doing it correctly. the idea of "push hand" is to learn to act and react to the momentum/force of the enemy. reaction includes blending/redirection of force and proper movement of the lower body.

    as for aikido being 'soft', it is very much a misunderstanding by many. my experience with many aikidoka is that love=soft. this is incorrect. tagging it as a soft art comes from the word "jujutsu" itself, literally meaning "soft art". however, the soft part is talking about the techniques itself, e.g. u use ur arm as a spring to absorb the enemy's punch, that kind of soft. what many aikidoka do is what i prefer to call it "rubbery" or "hesitant".

    a little extra to add. samurai follow a set of code called bushido. after the samurai era bushido is used as reference for martial artist, which in turn calls it budo. morihei ueshiba adds love and compassion into budo and use it as the philosophical principles of aikido. so this means that when training, u still have to train sincerely, but do not overuse your strength nor underuse them. use them appropriately according to each uke's level. that is the love of aikido~

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