Thursday, November 27, 2008

Impressions, Aikido, Karate, and attacking first

Ever thought provoking, Colin's Traditional Taekwondo Techniques (an excellent blog sharing the techniques, training methods, and philosophy of one who teaches an older, and yes, more traditional form of TKD than you usually see), responded to our post, Impressions, impressions... with his own, which I will quote and to which I will respond below:

There is no first attack in Karate ... by Colin Wee

This is a response to Nat's post Impressions, impressions ... on the TDA Training Blog.

In a deadly environment where ruthlessness was the norm, it would be the wise instructor to promote peace and harmony whilst equipping the student with the tools to defend or de-escalate the situation if it got out of hand. Funakoshi, father of modern karate, called for 'no first attack' in Karate. Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, focused on defensiveness and spiritual oneness, rather than on the lethality of his techniques.

In Nat's post, impressions are enough for you to judge the fighting prowess of the people around you. Yet there is still a lot of dumbness that get people into road rage, bar fights, and other brawls ... especially when the evening wears on. Dare I say these guys should be at the dojo practicing?

Indeed, the philosophy of Funakoshi and Ueshiba, as well as Judo's founder, Jigoro Kano, was to avoid or de-escalate any situation in which violence may result, and their teachings clearly reflect those ideals. Morihei Ueshiba and Kano created their styles from the ancient battlefield art we know as traditional jiu-jitsu (as opposed to BJJ), which contained the footwork, postures, locks, throws, chokes, and falls of both arts, but also incorporated many more offensive techniques. Jiu-jitsu has every element of an offensive combatives (military application) system of unarmed combat, including open and closed hand strikes, kicks, strangles, weapon defenses, and deadly finishing moves with the explicit intent to maim or kill. Funakoshi's Shotokan Karate, on the other hand, is a direct descendant of Okinawan "kara-te" (China hand), which was a civilian art with a primary emphasis on striking. Indeed, it was he who changed the meaning of "kara-te" to "empty hand," denoting those devoid of offensive weapons.

My opinion is that all three, Funakoshi's karate (as opposed to other styles of karate), Uyeshiba's Aikido (the "Way of harmonious spirit), and Kano's Judo (the Gentle Way"), are a product of their environment, and do not represent the entirety of their respective antecedents. All were formed or matured in the shadow of World War II's militaristic expansion of the Japanese Empire, with all of the barbaric acts committed therein. My reading of history is that the post-war years were characterized by large elements of pacifism, with rejection of arms, violence, and weapons resulting from occupation and national shame. In all three cases, those arts were perfectly positioned to grow and expand in the years when anything that seemed military (or too reminiscent of what had become associated with the Bushi or samurai class was either forbidden or strongly discouraged). Judo was promoted as fitness and safe competition, Aikido was a spiritually rich alternative to violence, and that laid the groundwork for a politically correct Karate (Shotokan) to eventually become popular.

I am not saying that the origins of these arts are all post-war, just that they probably survived and thrived because of their seeming rejection of the aggressive nature of their parent arts. All three still contain the seeds and even techniques of their more violent forebears, but are all restrained by the moderating principles of their founders. Indeed, those philosophies are the ideals to which the faithful aspire: non-violence, non-aggressive, or, at least, not "attacking first."

A careful reading of the original post to which Colin is responding is one in which I actually express skepticism of the idea of judging a book by it's cover, or, an opponent by his appearance, not agreement with the concept. But re-reading it after reading Colin's response got me thinking that Colin may actually be advocating the opposite, passive-aggression through stealth!

Fear this man! [Is this man causing conflict?]

One of the core things in our system is that we shouldn't engage the opponent in any way. The posture we sometimes favour is called 'please don't hurt me' ... head hung a little lower, hands up with palms outward, and standing straight ahead. We take some of our drills in this manner, and we dish out some strikes from this starting point.

On the surface, Colin's preferred posture might be interpreted submissive, and invite attack. It's non-aggressive, but I've learned over the years that someone who appears submissive may not attract good will, but aggression or bullying behavior; in other words, bring on, or invite aggression. Knowing a little about what Colin probably teaches (based on his writing, videos, and my black belts in TKD), I'd bet that his students are anything but wimpy, and he's actually promoting a good defensive posture, not really "please don't hurt little ol' me" body language. On the other hand, though, if he is advocating that posture, but teaching powerful striking techniques based on out of a posture that invites attack, then he's actually starting fights! Wow! I'm not going to pick on anyone who seems wimpy anymore, 'cause they might actually be getting ready to ambush me after reading Traditional Taekwondo on the Web!

I'm betting that I've offended a lot of people, started some arguments in Australia, and made Colin regret revealing his hyper-aggressive stealth world takeover tactics to me, the decoder of ancient and modern secrets! The Illuminati have to be worried!


Have a great Thanksgiving.


BSM said...

You're too damn big to ambush.


Patrick Parker said...

sure, these three arts are partial subsets of their precursors, and they probably thrived postwar because they toned down the blood and guts, but the founders were not exactly peace and free love type guys.

there is a story somewhere about ueshiba, founder of aikido, seeing some kids beating up his son in the street. When he went to repremand them they ran from him and taunted his son and him. in his frustration, ueshiba supposedly got into such a rage that he chased the kids down the street, eventually falling headlong into a mud puddle and embarassing himself at his inability to catch and beat a bunch of kids.

The aikido of the prewar students of ueshiba was vastly different from the aikido of the postwar students. the prewar were closer to the precursor aikibudo and the postwar were closer to the hippie love ideal that we see sometimes today.

Nathan at TDA Training said...

BSM- I'm going to lose weight, I promise! Maybe then, someone'll ambush me.

Patrick- I appreciate your insights on this. I DON'T in any way mean to give the impression that I think any of those arts are not "street-worthy" at all. As with all systems or styles of combat, it's always the individual using it.

I have found that many of the tales of those founders are filled with stories of their exploits as youth, then their maturation as they grew older. I find that's still happening. Most "kids" want nothing to do with anything that's not rough and tumble enough for them. As they grow older, they learn that bones don't heal so fast, they care more about hurting others, and may value life more.

Colin Wee said...

Okay Nat ... here's my response at last!

Nat from TDA Training Asked if I am Causing Conflict