Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Toward an Aiki Renaissance

Much of Tomiki's contribution to aikido was in the formation of rational, sequential teaching methodologies for getting beginners up to speed rapidly.  He was teaching in a University setting and only had the students for a few years - maybe 3-5 years - and wanted to get them up and running, exploring and working on aikido within that time.
So he created primers - small sets of techniques - 12 taiso, 7 offbalances, 15 (later 17) techniques... That represented a rational way to get students emulating Ueshiba's intuitive genius - particularly with respect to getting students doing randori quickly.
But here's a thought for you - In what other domain of knowledge do grad students recite their primer or their catechism for most of every class, year after year?  I'm not trying to downplay Tomiki's teaching and organizational genius, but these things that he gave us are primers (very good ones) meant for kyu grades.
So, along comes Hideo Ohba, another very talented student of Kano, Ueshiba, and Tomiki, and he organized a group of 5-6 kata (#3 might have been Tomiki's work) representing some of the pieces of Ueshiba's art that didn't fit into Tomiki's primers.  These kata represent most of the "advanced" work that we do in most Tomiki aikido classes.  But these things are still like High school textbooks - they point and hint at phenomena within the larger world of aiki but they are still somewhat superficial.  It is hard (if it is even possible) to get to the magical aiki by repeating those 6 kata ad infinitum.
In my opinion, we need to continue studying Tomiki's primers - they are just too good a method to dispense with.  And we need to continue studying Ohba's Koryu work as a set of hints at directions that we can take our research.  But I think we need to broaden our explorations even beyond that.  Similar to the previous post where I was talking about communication between Graduate students in Medieval and Renaissance colleges - we need to be working with instead of separately from Aikikai and Yoshinkai and the innumerable independent aiki instructors, and the Daito guys, and the Kito guys...
We need to move out of the Dark Ages of organizations that preach that they have the only true aikido.  We need to get past the Medieval aiki feudalism into a Renaissance of aikido.  We need to join The Conversation of Ideas - and I don't just mean absorbing Aikikai and Yoshinkai and Daito methods into our own, but also demonstrating and offering Tomiki-lineage ideas to the rest of the aiki world.
More on this thread later - stay tuned...

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Patrick Parker


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