Is Aikido a Martial Art ?
Henry Ellis Co-Author of Positive Aikido and an early pioneer of Aikido in Britain from 1957, he was also a direct student of the legendary master Kenshiro Abbe Sensei 1915 - 1985. In this article he questions the direction of much of the Aikido we see today. he accepts that there is still some good Aikido Dojos whilst many others have been watered down and are becoming quasi religious as opposed to a martial art.
Sensei Henry Ellis - 2001
This article originally appeared in 3 parts on the Cyberkwoon website. It is here published in its entirety.
At first sight of the above title I am sure that a lot of Aikidoist's will be angry, they will assume that this is yet another attack on the credibility of Aikido by other martial artist's.
The Aikido that I first saw being demonstrated by Abbe Sensei in 1956 was without doubt a positive martial art.
When Abbe Sensei arrived in the UK in 1955 he was 8th Dan Judo, 6th Dan Karate, 6th Dan Kendo, 6th Dan Kyudo, 6th Dan Aikido,
It is my opinion that Abbe Sensei would not have studied Aikido as it is today.
Please break my finger
As a direct student of Abbe Sensei I asked one day whilst we were traveling to a seminar
He said that he was a young man at the time and the Judo champion of all Japan and traveling on a crowded train across Japan to yet another Judo competion.
O'Sensei had spent many years studying various martial arts, I believe that the art of Daito-ryu and Ju-jitsu had more influence on the development of Aikido than anything else he had studied, and we know he went to Mongolia to fight and this would be the perfect opportunity to test his many skills in a real situation, so we can be in no doubt that this incredible man was a true warrior and modern Samurai.
A knife for my enemy
It was this early positive style of Aikido that Abbe Sensei brought to the UK in 1955, at this time there was also the first Japanese master to Europe, this was Tadashi Abe Sensei 6th Dan who was based in France, he was a small man even by Japanese standards, but to my mind he was the hardest man I have ever met.
He was very similar to Kazuo Chiba Sensei who I met with in London's West End last week, When he traveled he always carried a knife with him, this was not for his own protection but to hand to his shocked opponent, he would say "please, this is for you".
I think we can safely assume that as these teachers were so hard and positive then this must have been the style of Aikido that was being taught at the Hombu dojo in Japan, this was the Aikido of O'Sensei as a young man, the Aikido being taught today is that of O'Sensei as an old man, there is no doubt that as people get older they lose the spirit of their youth and become more philosophical in their approach to life.
My father who was once regarded as the toughest man in town later in life found his peace taking his dog for long walks. I believe that we now have two aikido's, traditional aikido which if truly traditional (this word is much abused) is the martial side of Aikido, the soft fantasy and dancing style of Aikido should simply be categorized as an "Art".
Those who are true traditional Aikidoists will take no offence at this article, yet the dancers will probably be offended and I care little for their feelings as I honestly believe that this soft Aikido has no more right to call itself a martial art than has synchronized swimming has a right to be in the Olympics.
In my previous article, I attempted to establish the hard style of Aikido that was first introduced to the West in the 1950's. I would like to emphasize the fact that I get no satisfaction from publicly criticizing Aikido and I get a great deal less satisfaction when I see Aikido being brought into ridicule.
To continue from part one.....
The training in and exercises in those early days were very hard and physical, with karate style kicking and punching a very integral part of our warm up, followed by 200 press ups on the backs of the wrists, with fingers pointing both inwards and outwards, very often while you were in the raised position Abbe Sensei would instruct another student to sit on your back, as we were the only group of five Dan grades in the UK and all in the same dojo then this was the training in all the Aikido dojos in the UK and today we are the only organization in Aikido still doing these press ups.
The purists say "these press ups are bad for you" what they really mean is they can't do them, this is all part of the watering down of traditional Aikido.
Aikidoists are often accused of practicing " Choreographed Aikido" and to be honest I must admit that these claims are very often justified, with Uke (attacker) preparing to break fall long before he makes his attack, and most of them attack off balance , therefore making any multiples of techniques possible with the minimum of effort and of course this makes Tori (defender) look "fantastic".
What is really sad is that these people believe that this is good Aikido.
If Uke attacks on balance then it is obvious that Tori's technique must be good and strong to throw him, and as Abbe Sensei said so many times " two students are training" .
Today all of these traditional exercises and training methods have now changed to a simple warm up routine with jumping up and down on the spot and lots of deep spiritual discussion.
Abbe Sensei said that hard training developed the spirit, he also referred to Ki during those early days as he demonstrated the power of his technique, when asked to explain the meaning of Ki, he said not to worry about Ki as that would be a part of our training and development.
He then said "Only when you reach first Dan will you be able to understand the true concept of Ki as a further extension of your Aikido."
Although Ki is generally recognized as the spirit and breathing during the application of technique, every teacher and student will offer a very wide and varied and sometimes bizarre interpretation of the meaning of this much abused word.
I am a carpenter and 2nd kyu in Aikido. I was working in a large new home doing repair work, I had finished my job and was heading for a long staircase when I noticed the owners two year old son was heading for the same stairs from the opposite direction.
That poor child may well now be as disturbed as the writer.
Harry Potter Ryu
There are many such misguided examples which I will refer to in future articles, it is this kind of nonsense that brings Aikidos credibility into doubt I am fully aware that every martial art has its own version of " Harry Potter" in their ranks, what I fail to understand is that there are more of them in Aikido than all the other martial arts combined.
The reason that I am so critical and vociferous about Aikido is that every day I see these people watering down this great martial art that I have spent most of my life studying, teaching and promoting for the past 46 years. I am often asked "Sensei, which do you think is the best and worst martial art".
I always make the same reply " All the martial arts are good, if there is a problem with any martial art, then it can only be the people who represent that particular art who misrepresent their art
In articles parts one and two I have covered the introduction of Aikido to the West, and the impact on other Martial Artists, Aikido progressed and developed in the UK by visiting existing dojos of all the various Martial Arts and offering to demonstrate and teach for free in the hope of starting a small class in the more receptive dojos, as one can imagine this was no easy task as more often than not our efforts were not an open invitation to most dojos.
I have referred to the many changes in Aikido over the past 46 years from its history to training and choreography and Ki Aikido and also the many Harry Potters of the Aikido world, as a direct result of these articles I was contacted by a Aikido student in the UK to tell me that she had now stopped training in Aikido because her teacher stated that he was now going to teach the students "To breath through their toes".
The most important of all the changes that have taken place in the past 46 years have to be the changes in technique and its application, the early style of Aikido was very compact and powerful. From the day of its introduction to the UK, Aikido was always taught as a circular moving Martial Art with Tori at the centre of all movement.
Kenshiro Abbe Sensei always taught that Uke would only "go" if the technique was effective. I often hear and have seen some of these people who say they can throw an opponent without touching them and sometimes by breathing and projecting their "Ki".
Aikido for real
I have read various accounts of the first Americans to practice Aikido in the early 60's. There were Americans practicing Aikido in the UK in the late 1950's at "The Hut" The Abbe School of Budo.
Sunday mornings were always the best practice sessions with the dojo doors being locked to all but the Dan grades. It was then that the Dan grades would fight each other for real. This was the only way to truly evaluate your technique.
The smallest of all the Dan grades was Eric Dollimore, he was only about 5ft-6in in height and around 130 lbs.
The Grading Lottery
If in the 1950's and 60's you saw a 5th or 6th Dan you would be in awe of him. I now see so many multi grades and to be honest they would not be graded first Dan in the old days. They make these claims knowing that if they are ever challenged and prove their mettle they know they can claim that this is against the principals of Aikido.
Mitsusuke Harada Sensei "5th Dan"
I will take a break now that these articles are complete and do some serious "Toe breathing".
As one of the comments (to the Cyberkwoon site forum) said "We can still make a difference".
Sensei Henry Ellis.
Article Tags: Those Early Days, Abbe Sensei Would, Other Martial, Those Early, Early Days, Kenshiro Abbe, Harada Sensei, Abbe Sensei, Martial Artists, Martial Arts, Judo Champion, Sensei Would, Very Often, These People, Harry Potter
Source: Free Articles from ArticlesFactory.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Henry Ellis Co-Author of the book Positive Aikido and the forthcoming publication of Positive Aikido - Hidden Knowledge.