Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Where to begin...

Coming up through westernized school systems and colleges, etc… we are used to courses of study being set up with prerequisites. You have to take come courses before others because without the prerequisites you cannot be expected to succeed at the more advanced material. Coming from this sort of academic environment, I think it is interesting that there are virtually no prerequisites to any aikido techniques. You can pretty much teach anything to anyone in any order. You can start in any place. You can build the system around any technique.
Nearly the only restriction on this is ukemi (falling) ability. It is reasonable to teach the non-falling stuff before the stuff that requires a backward breakfall before the stuff that requires a forward roll before the stuff that requires an airfall. But beyond the ukemi/safety consideration, each technique is a subset of aiki, an example of aiki-like motion, so anyone can improve their aiki-like motion by practicing any aiki technique.
One really cool consequence of this asynchronous syllabus is that the first-day newbie does not have to spend an inordinate amount of time banished to a corner of the mat wasting an assistant instructor's time showing them 'the basics'. Beginners can jump in wherever the class happens to be that particular day and people of all 'levels' can gain from practicing any of the techniques in the system because (here's the big secret) techniques don't matter. They are just examples of the underlying principles. Principles matter.


  1. Man, I am jealous to read all of your class notes and see the variety of work. I attend a very structured class - meaning, "same exercises, every time." I've learned that 1) I have to ask my own questions, completely come in with my own agenda, every time, and 2) even though there are lots of martial arts places out there, even just *good* teachers are hard to find. And when you find them, there's no guarantee they'll have time for you. Sigh. #1 I can deal with, but #2 is making my martial arts goals *really* tricky to meet.

  2. Thanks for the compliment. If you're ever in southwest Mississippi drop me a line and come play with us.

    Tomiki aikido and its offshoots are really a stepwise progression, analytical type thing, so if that's the class that your in, I'm not surprised that you'd practice the same exercises every time. And that's not bad. You do have to practice some of the same stuff every single class. Do a search on my blog for 'kihon' and you'll find some articles dealing with my ideas of kihon.

    You also have to balance technique with principle because technique gives the beginning and intermedate student something to focus on in order to see progress. The principles make it work and make it viable, but you have to teach _something_ so you have to have technique.

    My class might be a little bit overbalanced on the principle side and a _little_ bit too carefree on the technique side of things. But, modesty aside, My class produces fabulous martial artists, so I don't beat myself too much about that.


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