By Sensei Henry Ellis
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.
Kenshiro Abbe Sensei would always say to us that "two" students are training at the same time, one is Uke who is learning and improving his attacking techniques and his opponent Tori is also learning and improving his defensive techniques, whilst we were training with Abbe Sensei if Uke's foot or heel came off the mat as he attacked Abbe Sensei would give the offending leg a good whack with a shinai (bamboo sword) he would then say " My English is very bad but my shinai speaks fluently!".
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" .
Mark Eastman a strong young Dan grade with me went on a seminar recently where there was a 6th Dan. The 6th Dan refused to use him as Uke stating " I can not use you as you do not harmonize with me", he was not being awkward or difficult just attacking on balance.
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.
Hard exercise is now considered to be aggressive and not in harmony with the true spirit of Aikido.
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."
I still believe that line of thought, and the instructors in our dojo's very rarely speak of Ki although it is taught as a important and integral part of our training and study.
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.
The main problems arise and are created by the teachers themselves, who very often mislead their students to the extent that they almost believe that Ki is a form of magic. The following is one prime example from a very prominent Aikido magazines letters section.
Title: The Spirit of Protection
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.
As he approached the top of the stair he was watching me and not where he was going. I was too far away to grab him, so I shot to him (irimi) and stuck my arm straight out to him, my "Ki" went through the little boys' face and out the back of his head, he fell backwards and started crying.
His mother heard the crying and came up the stairs, when I told her what had happened, she thanked me, I said "Don't thank me, Thank Aikido".
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.
Sensei Ellis (5th dan Traditional Aikido) is one of the most experienced Aikido instructors in the United Kingdom and is Principal Instructor of the Ellis Schools of Traditional Aikido. http://www.EllisAikido.org