Dear reader: I hope you’re not offended by the word “ass”. If you are, you’ve probably stopped reading by now. If not, please read on.
Someone told me once that “The point of the martial arts is to kick someone’s ass”.
As you can tell by the quote, the person who said this was more in tune with the UFC than with the budo as I know it. But although it’s obvious bullcorn on a bunch of levels – and is a statement that could get one thrown out of a lot of dojo – there is still an element of truth to it.
Just not the element that the commenter would have expected.
In Muso Shindo Ryu iaido, the practitioner begins in seiza, the traditional Japanese seated position. He’s basically in meditation, having already defeated the foes we think of as “thought” and “distraction”. He is immovable, his focus resolute and unwavering. At this moment, he can see everything in the room without moving his eyes. When he begins to move into his technique,
he does so without allowing his mind to either lead him or follow.
In China, the practice of tai chi takes on a whole different meaning. Here they practice in spontaneous groups, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, in public parks and other large areas. They’re the first people to get up in the morning, and they make their way to the practice place at the same time every day, regardless of age or health or weather. Parents died? Go practice. Kids sick? Go practice. Lost your job? Go practice.
Some of them practice all day. For them, it’s just something they do. But here’s the thing: they’re not practicing to get better at it, they’re practicing just to practice – again, it’s just what they do. I’ve heard people say that tai chi isn’t really a martial art. Of course, whoever said that wasn’t a tai chi practitioner. But even some practitioners have said that it’s not really combat effective. But even the people who say that have battled their own excuses and their own inabilities for so long that they’ve forgotten what it was like to NOT be able to fight them.
I know you’ve been waiting for me to get around to aikido. There have been a lot of arguments over the years about the efficacy of aikido techniques. And I agree that there are a few that don’t look too effective. Kaiten nage, for one, doesn’t look like something I’d use to defend myself in a dark alley. But to call it ineffective is to look at it from the wrong perspective. If you think it can’t kick someone’s ass, you’re watching the wrong ass.
In order to get good at kaiten nage, one has to perform it ten thousand times. Twenty thousand times. Thirty. And we’re still not talking master level. Most aikidoists never use aikido in a fight, in their whole lives. Why is that?
It’s because of techniques like kaiten nage, and because of the mental and physical discipline it takes to practice them in such volume. Engaging in thuggish behavior like street brawls isn’t something a disciplined mind does; the best defense for such a mind is to break contact and walk away. In this example, kaiten nage has worked beautifully, and no one even had to get thrown. The ass that got kicked was that of the ego – and it happened in the dojo, not on the street.
What MMA people (and others) don't seem to understand is that the actual, physical fight is only the beginning, and that a deeper understanding will (hopefully) come with maturity and many, many years of practice. So in this way we see that the martial arts are indeed all about kicking someone’s ass. Your own.