Coffee Machine Aikido

Discussion in 'Aikido' started by OwlMAtt, Jan 9, 2012.

  1. OwlMAtt

    OwlMAtt Armed and Scrupulous

    Do you remember the old vending machines that sold coffee, hot chocolate, and sometimes tea or soup, dispensing them out of a nozzle into a little paper cup for a few quarters? I do; there was one in the lobby in the science building in college (the machine has since been replaced by an entire Starbuck's--kids these days don't know how good they have it).

    Dave Barry remembers them, too. In one of his columns, he recalls:
    I took a class this week from an aikido instructor who reminded me very much of one of those old machines.

    I have been investigating the possibility of moving to another club for some time now, both for reasons I have discussed in print and for unrelated reasons I'm not going to put on the internet just yet. Only recently, I've started actually visiting other clubs.

    The club I visited this week is home to several former members of my current club. One of them, a friend of mine, sent me an e-mail shortly after he left, inviting me to come take a look at his new club. I'm not sure how I feel about this kind of recruiting, but hey, I'm looking. So I showed up, worked out with an old friend, and got to see a different kind of aikido.

    As it turned out, I think it was a little too different for me.

    The instructor was a very nice, very friendly, very capable man with a background in many different martial arts. His expertise extended far beyond aikido into kung fu, boxing, muay Thai, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, among other things. He didn't wear a hakama.

    His class felt strange to me. We trained with bo (six-foot-long staves not commonly used in aikido). We finished techniques with jujutsu-style armbars rather than what I know as aikido pins. We practiced gun disarms, some based on recognizable aikido techniques and some not. It was lots of fun, to be sure, but I had to look very hard for things I definitively recognized as aikido.

    I asked the instructor afterward how accurately the class I'd just taken represented a typical night at his dojo. He admitted the gun disarms were a rarity, but said that otherwise what I'd just experienced was pretty typical of the classes he liked to teach. He told me that he liked to bring the perspective of other martial arts to aikido, to show that aikido can be a deadly (his word, not mine) martial art.

    I'm going to abstain here from any argument about whether or not deadly is a word that ought to be used in reference to aikido. It's not really the subject at hand and I'd like to give the benefit of a doubt to a man whose experience and skill so obviously exceed my own.

    What did concern me was the nagging feeling that I was getting aikido from one of the old coffee machines: so many flavors had become mixed together that I was having a hard time telling one taste from another. I couldn't help thinking that this instructor was trying so hard to bring all his martial arts experience into play that his aikido class had become an eclectic self-defense class instead.

    There are probably those who don't see this as a bad thing, but I don't think I'm entirely comfortable with it. To be sure, aikido is a malleable martial art that can be fit into many molds. I don't dispute that, and I certainly don't dispute the value of crosstraining. But I decided when I began two years ago that aikido is an art form with its own value that transcends its material usefulness to me (ars gratia artis and all that); if I change aikido to suit my needs, then I'm afraid that decision was a lie.

    I will almost certainly visit this club again. Even if I don't join, I'm sure I'll drop in from time to time just for the chance to work out with my old training buddies. In either case, it's unlikely I'll become a regular attendee of this particular instructor's classes.

    Give me that old-time aikido; it's good enough for me.

    (This article originally appeared in The Young Grasshopper, OwlMatt's martial arts blog.)
  2. El Medico

    El Medico Valued Member

    From your blog,sort of ,with "corrections"

    "There is a breed of T'ai Chi that functions more like yoga or Aikido: a meditative dance that builds flexibility and supposedly develops the mind and spirit. It is martial in origin, but embraces little or no element of danger. It teaches control of the body, but does not push the body to its limits."

    OK,I transposed the names "T'ai Chi" and "Aikido". However, I could have written that exact statement and it would appply to most of the Aiki clubs around where I am. From what I saw over the years,I doubt most of the instructors could have come up to scratch w/my TC students who been around about two years.

    My point is Owl,your statements paints TC with an awfully absolute brush. I wouldn't do that to Aikido. I'm of course aware that most places teaching either of these pretty much are crap.

    You have offended my family,and you have offended...I dunno,some temple somewhere, I guess.:)

    Sorry to interject this into your comments thread on your article,but hey!whaddya xpect?

    Good article,btw.

    (People don't realize how silly they sound using the word "deadly" in regards to their systems. If it's a functional system that can lead to a individual's permanent demise,it's "deadly",I guess. That would include Aikido_Or boxing.)
  3. OwlMAtt

    OwlMAtt Armed and Scrupulous

    You're right, of course. When I said "tai chi" in that old post I was referring to the kind of stuff old people do in the park.
  4. El Medico

    El Medico Valued Member

    Bocce Ball?

  5. Rebel Wado

    Rebel Wado Valued Member

    Even the old-style coffee machines are different today. The ones at my work grind the coffee beans and brew the coffee before dispensing into a cup of your choosing.

    Now in regards to visiting other martial arts schools, despite how open-minded one believes they are, everyone can have first impressions. I feel any impressions are part what you observe (e.g. how you feel about others) and part a reflection of yourself (e.g. how you feel about yourself).

    When I first started Kajukenbo, my wife checked out the school. Since we had met years before in karate, she knew what kind of disciplined training I was used to. She observed in Kajukenbo something she described as undisciplined... there was music (Taiko drums and Hawaiian music) in the background. Different groups were working on different drills (somewhat like circuit training where every station you work on something and then after the allotted time you would move to a different station). The feeling would not have been much unlike observing the scene in the movie, "Joe Somebody", where Tim Allen's and James Belushi's characters first meet in the martial arts studio.

    She is of the opinion that to be disciplined, you must surround yourself with discipline. I am of the opinion that to be disciplined, you must surround yourself with chaos and be self-desciplined. In reality, both opinions are correct depending on what you are looking for.

    I had, years before been in a situation where I came to a karate class and the instructor was teaching boxing. I was disillusioned by this that I went and trained somewhere else for a year. I eventually came back after realizing that it wasn't the instructor teaching boxing that was the problem, the issue had been with myself. I was not ready to see what was there, but was instead stuck at looking for what I THOUGHT I needed. I thought I needed a traditional formal environment, but what I really needed was some time to learn self-discipline. Before if there were a hundred people around, I would get distracted by them, but now I can train with no one or a hundred around, and I just am aware that they are there.

    At the same time, I would never have got to this point if I hadn't been trained in such a traditional and formal environment where I knew what was expected. Only after the strict discipline was I set loose on the world and found chaos. I had to learn to invoke my formal training in a chaotic environment, a journey that was for me and only me to take. Everyone has their own journey and it is up to them to live it.

    Back to Kajukenbo... what it was that made me stick to it was that the principles were there from all the martial arts I've trained in. My Aikido training was in a formal setting mostly, and within this formal training were principles embedded in the procedures. For example, there was always the possibility of a weapon or multiple attackers. After pinning uke, they tried to get up, they could try to pull out a concealed weapon... you took this into account ALWAYS pinning in such a manner and disengaging in ways that kept uke from immediately attacking you with a concealed weapon.

    Despite how chaotic Kaju class was in comparison. The same principles were there. We would ground and pound, always mindful of concealed weapons and possible multiple attackers. When we disengaged, we would cover the enemy and look for any potential weapons and such. This was the same as Aikido in principles. To me that was very important and over the years I know it to be true. Formality is just a way to turn principles into procedure. In the end, you bring the principles to where ever and when ever you train.

    For instance, when I started cross-training in BJJ, there was no thought in class about concealed weapons and multiple attackers. We did our training, but we as a group could not leave principles behind, so when the time was right, we added in concealed weapons and multiple attackers into our BJJ training.

    I guess what I'm saying is that, IMHO, discipline and principles come not only from others, but they most importantly come from within yourself... no matter where and when you train.

    OwlMAtt, good luck in finding a place you can call home dojo. In this journey, you may find something about yourself that will change you. Cheers.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2012
  6. OwlMAtt

    OwlMAtt Armed and Scrupulous

    Thanks, Rebel.

    I'm not so much talking about discipline as I am identity. When I go to an aikido class, I expect to find something that I identify as aikido. Not because I think aikido is the one true way, not because I'm not interested in other martial arts, but because I came to a specific class in search of something that meets a specific need.

    There are needs that aikido does not meet, and when I have the time and the money I will meet those needs with more crosstraining. But when I go to an aikido class, I expect to be learning aikido.

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