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Aikido/Aikido Newbie wanting to add other martial art

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QUESTION: Dear Mr. Patton,

I recently started Aikido lessons (2 months, 2 hours/week). My Sensei is a 5th Dan in Aikido and black belt also in JiuJitsu and Karate.

I am now 36 and practiced Kickboxing at 16-17 for one year (but its still my natural instinct defensive style).

I would like to advance faster in Aikido by going also a few hours/week to another dojo.  My Sensei suggests that I wait a few years first not to confuse me.

I do want to invest 2-3 hrs per week ideally in more Aikido, and if not in another martial art that would combine well.  I am considering going back to do some boxing (no kicks as Im older now), or another striking art such as: Krav Maga, Jujitsu, Kali, Kenpo...?

My short term goal is to learn real selfdefense and de-stress from work, and my long term goal is to enjoy the holistic martial arts path. I see myself doing TaiChi Chuan when I grow old.

Any suggestions on wether to join 2 different dojos or which additional Art I should pursue now is most welcome.

Thank you very much.

D

ANSWER: Daniel:

First, I don't know what school or style of aikido you might be studying.  There are a lot of differences between them, and the approach each dojo takes might differ as well.

For my own part, I did a lot of self study, or practice of the basic movements on my own outside of class and read up on the movements of the different styles.

This helped me deconstruct the movements or techniques trying to see what the core parts were.  Too often in class instruction it is monkey see monkey do.  Do it this way, with no explanation of what the core parts are, and why you need to do them.

For instance, timing might be more critical for one technique than another.  Balance break is usually the first key movement upon which everything else hinges.

Then once balance break is achieved, either by use of timing, or a deliberate move on your part, then the technique movement components can be executed.

If you are not having these kind of discussions in class, you need to do them yourself to gain a better understanding of what makes a technique work, so you can identify and correct those things that might have crept into the way it is done over time.  Techique execution can be like the parlor game, something handed down by one instructor to the next, and in so doing, mistakes creep in over time.  Pretty soon a technique is no longer valid and no body recognizes it especially if Ukes are overly obliging when working with the Tori.

Since muscle memory is key to any martial art, I wonder if your attempt to master so many will not retard your progress in them all.

For instance Aikido takes a commitment to either retreat or attack when an assailant breaks Mai.  You have to have already made up your mind that you are going to wreck the guy because you feel there is no other way to protect your safety.  

I had to destroy a guy outside a bar, and in hindsight, considering the outcome and how it could have gone down, I probably should have walked away.  I was confronted with three guys, took one down hard and the other three left.

The guy I put down was saved from serious injury or death by the fact that he came down on a car fender, breaking his fall rather than on his head on the concrete.  I could have been up on manslaughter charges but was lucky.

So, today I am a bit more cautious about the frivolous use of my skills.

Now, if you possess multiple skills, say Karate, or Kenpo and Aikido, when do you decide which skill to use?

Do I want to take a punch to give a punch as you have to in Kenpo or Karate?  or do I wait till the other guy starts something and end it quick, or just walk away?

I used to bounce in clubs, and never took a punch, which amazes me, since I always got too close to the trouble makers and psyched them out, I guess.  To hit me they would have had to push be back or stepped back.  Anyway, today I maintain Mai and know then what the other guy intends to do, by him having to come to me in which case I hopefully will have decided in advance what I am going to do.

So when would you decide?  I guess its kind of like walking around with a belt on which you have a hand gun, pepper spray, tazer and a machete.  Which weapon do you use when confronted by an adversary?   Once he launches his attack its too late to decide.

I would stick with one dojo and learn that to a proficient level.  Then sample another dojo.

You will find that dojo's are parochial, they have their way and others have theirs.  Unless you fully understand one style, you are likely to become confused and it will only retard your progress.





---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Keith,

Thank you for your extensive reply.  My Sensei teaches us many styles but mostly Nishio. Soon we will start with some Iaido. I will follow your advice, buy a few Morihei Ueshiba books and stick only to my current dojo though limited to only a few hours a week.

I do enjoy my old boxing moves, so maybe just practice them in front of a mirror now and then. I guess that as I improve my Aikido skills these will be drilled into myself, and that my instinctive reactions will slowly shift towards Aikido rather than the current boxing ones.

Fortunately I don't usually come across violent situations. And if I ever do I would have the choice to whether attack with boxing or defend with Aikido. But adding more to the belt would only confuse me and delay me from mastering Aikido.

Thank you,
D

Answer
I studied an offshoot of Tomiki Aikido.  It was different that traditional Tomiki.

Not at all like Ueshiba.  We did all our techniques in a fluid style, practicing our moves in a continuous chain of about 8-10 techniques.

We called it practicing for failure.  What we meant was if you do one technique and it does not work, we had muscle memory of a second and a third and a fourth that we could do, without having to think or say, "Oh shit!" if a technique was not successful.

We also did not use strength, not at all.  To do a technique with strength you have to stop moving.

To pick anything up, or to move or press down requires leverage or the planting of your feet.  If you try to crank the Uke's wrist doing Kote gaeshi for istance, rather than using off balance, you have to stop, plant your feet and push on his wrist.  The mere stopping undermines the effectiveness of the technique in the real world.  While you are doing that, either his friend are on their way to clobber you, or you have committed to something that might not work.

In our practice if it fails we have not stopped, and can smoothly move into another technique that might.  

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Keith Patton

Expertise

I can answer questions regarding Aikido, particularly a highly advanced form of Tomiki Aikido, primarily concerned with self defence in real situations. I can address the basic techniques, releases, and the advanced kata as well as high level concepts of constant movement (kihara), balance breaking (kuzushi), internalization of techniques and chaining of techniques. Can also offer guidance in what to look for in selecting a dojo and an instructor.

Experience

I have been recognized for my skill in teaching new students and raising them to a high level of proficiency in a short time. As a trained scientist I like to reduce the Aikido techniques to their basic physics enabling a new student to see the essence of the technique.

Education/Credentials
Bachelor of Science and Master of Science. 26 years experience in the petroleum industry as well as mentoring and teaching new scientists and non-technical co-workers. Also Teaching at the college level.

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