Saturday, January 5, 2019

Exactly what is Aikido?

Exactly what is Aikido? Especially if you have not come from an Aikido tradition, it can be confusing to understand what you are seeing.


Essentially Aikido is a tradition of locks, projections and takedowns, it also incorporates its own striking tradition to be force enhancement to make the aikido more effective to be applied. It was developed by Usheiba Morhei over time, and it can be somewhat classified as schools coming from the way he taught prior to WWII and post WWII.


The techniques from both era were the same, but perhaps is can best be summed up by the intent behind the practice became very different. Somewhat Aikido prior to the war remained focused on defeating an opponent. Post WWII, recognizing the atomic bomb made most of the prior focus less relevant it was less focused on street defense and became more a study of the principles within aikido. But the content of the study remained the same. Usheiba Sensei was filmed in the 30s and over the decades unto toe 50s and his technique remained constant. Of course when he entered his 90s, his students having so much respect for him, no longer focused on their attacks, instead allowing him to show that his execution was still there.


I am not an aikido-ka, never been trained by an aikido-ka.


Back in 1980 I was exposed to what I heard described as the Aikido drills taught by Tristan Sutrisno. His father trained at the Japanese Naval War College, after being drafted into the Japanese Navy. His father was an Indonesian doctor and at that time Indonesia was under Japanese control. As a doctor he had to be an officer, that is why he was at the Naval War College. While there he studied karate under Funakoshi Ginchin, and aikido under a disciple of Usheiba. Prior to WWII Japan freed Indonesia to show the world they were not bad guy’s, and Tristan’s father was released from service, He then served in the underground resistance during the War, using his karate and aikido training there.


That first night I acquired what were called 12 aikido drills. And only on that night. Over the years I observed Tristan’s studnnts perform them many times. Much later to teach the first 8 as advanced kyu supplemental studies. Later on Tristan would show/instruct other aikido techniques, even showing how they could be integrated into Heian Yondan kata.


Along the way I acquired a rather large group of Aikido books (I never met an aikido book I could not like) and found those 12 technique sets allowed me to understand the other aikido in those books.


But the aikido shown by Tristan was aikido integrated into karate. Done against striking and grabing technique. And in time I realized those drills were integrated with karate and Indonesian tjimande. A fusion that taught so much more.


Put most simply the Sutrisno use of aikido was when attacked it planted the attacker’s face in the ground using extremely small circular movement. Years later I had occasion to work with a Britisn Aikidoka whose aikido utilized very large fluid circles. But different appearance aside he readily handled a wide range of attacks with skill. It looked very different, but in the end it worked, very, very well.


These are several of the drills I learned.
Aikido No 1
Aikido No 2
Aikido No 3
Aikido No 4
Aikido No 5
Aikido No 9
Aikido Nos 1-6 older version

Now for the rest of the story


The reason I incorporated these techniques as advancing kyu level is much the same reason Sutrisno Sensei did. From what I later worked out.


They were of course good techniques series themsef, worth acquiring.

The aikido principles they used would prove to be useful adjuncs thereafter.

But the reason was much more as I worked out.


In the Sutrisno Shotokan, bunkai were shown to every kyu student.


But the study of Bunkai was a lifelong dan study where the bunkai studied were diverse and according to the Sutrisno family paradigm of bunkai.  I learned a bit of it, but it was not a paradigm that I adopted, for one thing I had not spent a lifetime acquiring those skill.

Among which the dan student never spends one instant working out how a technique could be used. Instead they are fully trained in the bunkai of their paradigm.


So I reasoned there were other things behind the study.


I worked out the Sutrisno system sees kyu study as the time one develops power and skill in technique execution. He saw that as being more important than the study of bunkai, They had many self defense drills each teaching useful skills the kyu adept could draw upon. But the aikido drills, along side the other reasons for their study, also developed an appreciation of a further principle used in later bunkai study.


That was that any attack creates a space inside and outside that attack, and you are learning a variety of ways to enter and use that space. That would prove to be a core skill for later bunkai studies.


I came to appreciate the logic of this. For me too the study would be a dan study, following my paradigm for such. But building up the students core abilities was very important. And the lessons how to use the space around an attack would also prove useful.


Later in the dan study there would be other aikido drills I acquired. For each of them had their uses too. But having to begin someplace, this worked for me.






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