NGAExperience® Nihon Goshin Aikido

Inside Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ #59

5 February 2018

Inside This Edition:

Our Aikido Cousins Are Having a Crisis of  Belief ~ What Does the Future of Aikido Look Like and Can We Capitalize?:

I'm not sure if you have noticed or not, but things are quickly changing in some corners of the Aikikai Aikido world which present a strong opportunity for those who train in Nihon Goshin Aikido.  

Backdrop:  Due to the meteoric rise in popularity of MMA, and its inherent ground based fighting systems, aikido membership roles associated with the Aikikai are in rapid decline.  The average practitioner is older and older.  There is a crisis in the absence of younger members.  The underlying question everyone asks about traditional aikido is "Will it really work when I need it to work?"  Against a intoxicated, or untrained attacker ~ the answer is "yes" ~ it will absolutely work.  But will it work against a martially trained opponent who is able to keep his balance?  The consensus answer seems to be "No" ~ or at least "Not as Aikikai Aikido is currently trained."

That has lead to a crisis of belief among many of our aikido cousins.  Among them a nagging question was unconsciously floated, and publicly suppressed:  "If the art does not work against people who are trained to fight, why are we even doing it?"  And “What Happens If I Do End Up On The Ground?”

Last year, the reflections in a youtube video which presented an honest personal assessment of an Aikikai Aikido Sensei who sparred with an MMA fighter for the first time triggered a plethora of honest questioning about the art's effectiveness.

Prompted by the aforementioned video, a recent Aikido Summit Webinar Series considered the topic "Is Aikido a Martial Art?" It turned out the be one of the more popular webinars in the whole lineup.  As you might also imagine, those practitioners who believed the art had "lost a step" were mocked, ridiculed, and scorned.  The session was filled with backbiting, insults, and general passive aggressive behavior by aikido traditionalists toward their doubting practitioners (some of whom were Senseis in their own right).  Still, the entire discussion lit a up the imaginations of the audience.  It was impossible to be unaffected by the intensity of the heated debate.  

A question was proffered, "Would it be possible to make aikido more effective ~ by training with real punches, combinations, strikes, and also include ground fighting concepts, etc.?"

The reasoning:  If attacks change. Defenses must also change to keep pace.

Consider a historical parallel.  Look at photographs of the old bare knuckle boxers.  Why are their hands so low?  Answer:  Because the face was not a primary target of the bare knuckle boxer.  He could just as easily break his hand by hitting your jaw as knocking you out ~ so punches to the liver and solar plexus were preferred targets, and therefore defended appropriately.  This is why you see these old school photos of them covering and protecting these abdominal areas, and leaving their head otherwise exposed.

With the development of the boxing glove, which allowed a boxer to strike the head of his opponent with less risk of injury, the classical boxing stance changed, with the hands moving higher to protect the face ~ leaving the elbows to cover the abdomen and rib cage area.

Somehow, I doubt there were many boxing purists decrying the loss of the low hands boxing stance.  The change was adopted as a pure survival mechanism.  This guy keeps smashing me in the nose.  I'll bring my hands up to defend.  Everyone recognized it as a vital evolution,and adopted it.

To stay relevant, all martial arts should probably follow suit and change their attacks to reflect modern attacker behavior.

Consider daityo-ryu akijutusu (from which all aikido, judo, and jujutsu forms derive).  Their art comes straight from the katana (samurai sword).  In this fashion empty handed attacks were designed to reflect the predominate sword culture of the time.  

Continuing these attacks shows deep lineage to the founding arts, but a modern would be attacker has no idea how to strike with a katana, and he would therefore never attempt a yokomenuchi strike  ~ which replicates the geometry of the striking hand if it was holding a katana.  He would throw a hook, uppercut, or roundhouse instead.

In the same fashion, the shomenuchi (overhead chop) which replicates the striking motion of the hands if you attacked straight down the center line of your opponent with a sword held in your hands is equally outmoded.  The top of the men (head) is not a modern target.  Your attacker is more interested in breaking your nose ~ not unzipping your center line beginning at the top of your head.  The difference in reading a jab to the face and a shomeuchi strike to the front of the head are significant.  Without question, the jab is much faster to the point of impact.

The same is somewhat true with a muneski strike.  When a traditional aikido practitioner throws a muneski (punch to the stomach) the strike is realistic (while still replicating a sword thrust to the abdomen), but the attacker's non striking hand is typically positioned very low (unrealistically low).  It is not positioned in any semblance of a defensive application if the emphasis was to protect the attacker's vital organs, chin, ribs, etc., or available for a potential combination attack.  

Furthermore, the notion of combination attacks must be included in all martial study and included early.  

I would also submit that ground fighting be also included in the self defense discussion.  Someone who has watched MMA on TV may be inclined to take you to the ground.  Perhaps your attacker has wrestled or studied Gracie Jujutsu.  Even if he has only trained in that medium for just 3-6 months, he could completely destroy a typical standing martial artist (with no knowledge of ground defenses) ~~~ that is, "if" they could get them to the ground.  Many among us like to assume that we would never fight on the ground, but what if I tripped over a curb and fell down in the middle of a fight and my attacker landed on top of me?  What would I do then if I didn't know how to fight on the ground?

Consider this profound statement about being flexible when it comes to martial confrontations:  "I think Bruce Lee was perfectly right when he said one should not become a "programmed robot" when fighting.  As an example, a few years ago the Russians swept the World Judo Championships, and for the first time ever took certain weight divisions that had been Japanese turf since the championships began.  "How did this come about?"  The Russians used some moves from sambo (a Russian martial art), and the Japanese, trained to randori in the traditional judo way, were not responding correctly to the unorthodox maneuvers....As soon as they realized that the sambo techniques had dethroned them, they sent a number of their leading judokas to study the new art and at the next World Championships they resumed their rightful place as the world's judo power.  Now when I am asked such questions as to what my favorite techniques are, my answer is "whatever fits the occasion."

~ Richard Bowe, Masters of Self Defense, August 1974   

Think about the forward posture and thinking in the above statement made just over 43 years ago.  There is a reason we call Mr. Bowe "Shihan."  Formal Bow.  Much respect.

I guess in some ways, it is comforting to those who study Nihon Goshin Aikido, as we have already dealt with "that" whole thing 50 - 60 years ago (without having to modify our positions to defend against modern attacker behavior).  Still my desire is that we should strongly endeavor to share our knowledge with those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.

In my mind, there is a great opportunity to introduce a series of workshops in which we could explain "How to Make Aikido Street Ready" to Aikido Dojos outside of the various Nihon Goshin Aikido alliances who have these concerns.  I lack the gumption for such exercise as my ministry is too full now as it is, but the opportunity to spread the Nihon Goshin Aikido Gospel is there for someone so inclined.  The fields are white with harvest.  We need laborers to bring in the harvest.

Call for Papers:

Finally we are issuing a formal "Call for Papers."  If you have ever written an essay on aikido.  We would like to consider it for inclusion on the website.  Desired Topics would be sho-dan essays, like "The Point and the Circle."  I think we could all benefit from seeing the best efforts Sho dan essays out there.  Other topics of interest would include essays about dojo success models, Randori training, Mental Keys to Your Favorite Technique, perspectives from new students, as well as videos you may have shot or a cool application you ran across, etc.  

Alright ~ well that is it for this issue!  Have a great month.  In my mind March is the unofficial start of summer in SC.  When we next meet, I hope to be getting a sun tan!  As we all say in the south, "Ya'll come see us!"  

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Mystery Articles of Interest

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Let's meet together on the mat ~ and soon!

All the best,

Jonathan Wilson

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Unless otherwise stated, the author’s views, musings, and opinions do not necessarily reflect the attitude of leadership within any of the various Nihon Goshin Aikido associations, or unaffiliated Nihon Goshin Aikido dojos.

When a punch is thrown from the ground up, through the hips, through the core, through the shoulder, and not with the arms ~ you will get unfathomable power.  One of these guys understands this. The other guy does not understand this, and does not defend himself properly.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second best time to plant a tree is today.  

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This is a quote from the comments section of the video above that I found confirming:  “As a Sandan in Aikido I started taking BJJ after a US Army Soldier in one of my classes wrecked me by taking me down. I realized that the mind set of do not get taken down is great. But if you get taken down not knowing how to fight on the ground is stupid and huge oversight in my training as well as my students. I totally feel where you are coming from.

~ Curtis Schrum

Boxing’s mindset of what constituted a proper stance immediately changed with the advent of the boxing glove ~ which allowed boxers to target the nose and chin in addition to the mid section.

When the gloves came out, the hands came up.  This is a simple adaptation which reflected the changing nature of attacks boxers were likely to see.  How might Aikido adapt if the strikes were modernized, and ground fighting included?

Watch this video after you read the article.  I think you will find that the demonstration here is the targeted or logical progression of what they are searching for in the article.

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