Saturday, 25 April 2015

Concentration

I recently picked up my copy of Karate Jutsu by Funakoshi and had one of those light bulb moments.  Essentially this relates to explanations of form and concentration.  I’ve been thinking about this for the past 2 weeks and thought I’d share my thoughts on this with you all.

Lets take this standard martial arts flyer:


It’s amazing that all martial arts flyers I come across usually include the word “concentration” as a key benefit of training.  So this got me thinking, does Aikido really offer improved concentration.  In Karate, elements of concentration are more apparent.  They occur in the breathing patterns, the stances, the timing of movements - all this through the medium of Kata.  Take this clip for example, look at the concentration:


As an aside note, as a kid that was my favourite competition kata also.  Anyway, few can argue how well these Kata are executed.  The dedication, commitment and concentration required in regular training to carry out a demonstration of this standard is just applaudable.

So turning then to my art, Aikido/Aikibujutsu, I think we have all seen really bad Aiki demonstrations where there appears to be no form, no stances, no concentration - just two really over weight people waddling at each other and magically falling over.  For today I don’t propose giving a YouTube example of this as we’ve all seen it.  In truth our art is not alone, you see this in Judo, Karate, Jujutsu etc. also.

I must admit that because of the philosophy often ascribed to Aiki by the Ueshiba brand, this inability to apply form to Aikido is more common in our art than others.  In fact, many argue that Aikido should have no form at all and hence they don’t bother trying to develop it.  This reminds me of something Joe Thambu Shihan said to me many years ago, Aikido starts with the kamae (stance), without the stance you cannot do the kihon doza (basic body movements), without the kihon doza  you cannot do the basic kihon waza (basic techniques), without the kihon waza you cannot move onto free form practice.  For Joe, each segment of Aikido requires concentrated effort on a key element of training.  Without the basic stance, ultimately you can’t do the techniques nor put them into practice - it’s all connected.  It is near impossible to turn up one day and achieve the end goal without going through the stages of progression and really perfecting each in turn.

So lets see how this looks when concentration is applied to the basic movements in Aikido:


Notice that all the movements are exact and specific.  There is no lazy walking around without purpose, lack of discipline or casual body swagger.  Instead there is specific concentration applied to the form itself, on the movements, on the stance and timing.  This, for me, is how we should be aiming to train, especially at the start of our Aikido journey.

Once you’ve mastered that, Thambu Sensei offers us a really good example of what we should be aiming to achieve as an end goal.


Coming back then to the point in question, does martial arts offer improved concentration - yes, but only if the training regime allows for this.  This improvement in concentration is achieved by focusing on our stance, body movement, timing and technique.  Training which offers formality, like Karate Kata, specifically in terms of bowing, kamae, and engagement with get other, offers a centralised and focused way of improving one’s concentration.  It is my belief that we should attempt to employ such feeling in our own training least we fail to achieve a key achievement of our training, namely ‘concentration’.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Aikido vs MMA/UFC

Earlier today I responded to an online comment regarding the usual Aikido vs MMA type mud slinging match.  My response is below:


“This really depends on the terminology used. Aikido at its fundamental is basically a system which teaches you how to use your body effectively. It teaches good balance control, body coordination, weight distribution, timing etc. All of these things ARE, arguably, used in the octagon.

Aiki as a principle, the famous blending principle, would very rarely, if ever, work in the octagon. It was designed to work on the battle field where people would charge you at speed in an uncaring, over committed way.

Aiki-jujustu style techniques, few if any of these would, in my opinion, work in the octagon. For example, nikajo and kotegeishi, when made practical are as Mike said, small joint manipulation designed to incapacitate an individual attempting to take a weapon off you. These techniques owe their origins to feudal Japanese castle laws, such as you can't be higher than a feudal leader, hence sawari waza, and you can't hit or shed an equals blood hence techniques such as hijishime and to a lesser degree ikkajo etc. where control of an opponent, rather than incapacitation of him is the important ingredient.

The point being is that the octagon is a very different environment from that of the original envisaged arena for aiki-jujustu techniques. Even big throws such as koshinage, yama arashi, iriminage etc. are unlikely to work, in a similar way to how it's rare to see judo throws in the octagon. This is unsurprising as the main aim of the arena these days appears to revolve around getting your opponent to the mat as quickly as possible and then grapple.”


It was this that last point that really got me thinking, do people really know what they mean when they have the whole Aikido vs MMA slagging match?  If I cited this as an example of Aikido vs MMA, would you accept it?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhXp9qkf8zo

Some would, others wouldn’t.  They’d say it doesn’t bare relevance to MMA, or the UFC.  Others would simply say it’s not real.  Okay, I know this has little relevance to the argument directly, but the following clip is an example of “real”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX8MACeLjho

Does anyone honestly expect that any martial art, including BJJ, has a good counter for being blind sided?  I believe that the real argument is complete and utter rubbish.  Even UFC is not real to a degree.  It has rules, limitations, techniques that aren’t allowed.  Real, in the strict sense, has none of those.

So then lets consider the MMA/UFC argument.  Why is my first clip not of relevance?  I believe it is because what these individuals have become accustomed to seeing is the typical take downs that have become the staple of MMA/UFC.  These take downs lead into grappling, which leads into submission.  Watch the following clip:

https://vimeo.com/channels/622783/78116113

I chose this clip specifically as it was from UFC 2 - all the way at the beginning.  Back then MMA was truly MMA.  Karate guys fought Jujutsu guys and you waited to see who won.  Back then it was truly entertaining.  The problem many encountered was that for the ring, grappling was king.  A further problem was, very few knew anything about grappling so inevitably Gracie remained king of the tournament for a good few years, that was, until Ken Shamrock showed up.

My point in all this should be an obvious one; I believe that when people have the whole Aikido vs MMA discussion, what they truly mean, without knowing it is, Aikido vs Grappling.  If I phrased the discussion with that suffix would any of you be surprised when I say, Aikido doesn’t stand a chance, on the mat, against grappling.  Aikido, simply was not designed to do that - but then again, neither was boxing.  None of that comes as a surprise, does it?