The word, shibboleth was originally a botanical term referring to a part of a plant, but it came to mean a pass-phrase or a practice that identifies a member of a group. The word comes from the Biblical account of a battle between the Ephraimites and the Gileadites in which the Gileadites were able to use the word as a pass-phrase to identify Ephraimite enemies because the Ephraimite dialect did not contain the sound, /sh/ (so they would mispronounce it /siboleth/ (Judges 12:5-6).
All martial artists have shobboleths too. Ways of doing things that identify us as members of a group. I often wonder after a seminar, what are our shibboleths? For instance, The students at Mokuren dojo have a distinctive way of performing kata as compared to the students at MSU. But the two styles are close enough that Andy was able to do a very fine Ikkyu demo this weekend with an uke from MSU, having only practiced the material together once briefly.
It is also frequently noted that students that learned aikido at MSU, including myself, John Kirby, James Reuster, Mike Denton, etc... All have something about their aikido that is identifiable as deriving from our teacher, John Usher. There is just something very Usheresque about our aikido.
So, the things that we do are identifiably the same but at the same time, identifiably different.
I'd really like the folks that were at this past ABG to answer a few questions - leave me a comment and let me know...
- What aspects of Mokuren Dojo aikido makes us identifiable as a group?
- What aspects of MSU aikido makes them distinctive?
- What do we share?
What are our Shibboleths?