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Thread: Introduction to Aikido

  1. #1
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    Default Introduction to Aikido

    In a little over a week I'm going to give a short presentation to help adults learn how to introduce elements of Japanese culture in English. I decided to use aikido as an example, and here is the draft of that section of my speech:

    You're probably wondering why I'm dressed like this.
    Today, I want to introduce one of my favorite pieces of Japanese culture -- aikido.
    What is aikido? This is a simple question, but the answer can be quite long and complex. I'll try to keep it simple.
    Aikido is a modern martial art created in the mid-20th century by Morihei Ueshiba. Ueshiba based aikido primarily on Daito Ryu aikijujutsu, which in turn was derived from the martial traditions of the Takeda clan.
    The techniques of aikido basically fall under throws and break-falls, locks, pins, chokes and weapons. The weapons generally used are the wooden sword, staff and wooden knife. These weapons are not taught as fighting methods as such, but rather as a means of further understanding aikido body movement.
    The name "aikido" refers to meeting or blending with the energy or intent of one's partner, and the nature of the techniques reflects this. A combination of entering and turning movements gives rise to the actual techniques, and the aim is to perform the technique without relying on mere physical strength. That said, aikido techniques have the potential to be painful or even dangerous. Practitioners are encouraged to adjust their technique to match their partners. For example, I have trained with people of both sexes, in all shapes and sizes, aged from 12 to over 70.
    Millions of people around the world practice aikido, and I hope that from this short presentation you can understand why.
    I would be happy to take any questions you may have.
    Thank you.


    I've deliberately tried to keep it as impersonal as possible, and have also tried to avoid using jargon. I decided that histories were inappropriate for this level of introduction, as are "syles".

    Any feedback or suggestions are most welcome.
    Andrew Smallacombe

    Aikido Kenshinkai

    JKA Tokorozawa

    Now trotting over a bridge near you!

  2. #2
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    Two questions:

    What is the level of English proficiency of your audience?
    What kind of questions are you expecting?
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

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    My students' English level will be varied, from upper intermediate to advanced. I plan to use photos and realia as well in the presentation.
    I imagine most questions will be technical in nature, in which case I'll simply demonstrate. I can't imagine too many questions on history (except the usual "Is aikido a samurai art?"). More likely I'll get "what's the difference between aikido and ____?"
    Andrew Smallacombe

    Aikido Kenshinkai

    JKA Tokorozawa

    Now trotting over a bridge near you!

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    Just dealing with English native speakers I find they have trouble with words like break-falls: it's quite a specialised terminology. Perhaps step back a bit and explain that it's a grappling martial art, that specialises in throwing people around or tying them in knots. Don't worry too much about being accurate, it's getting your enthusiasm over that's important - they will remember that long after they've forgotten that tey heard the words "Daito Ryu". If you're rigged up in a hakama, as your introduction suggests, perhaps explain that side of things a little - I was recently teaching on a modern jujutsu course in Germany and kept being approached by people asking why I was wearing a skirt.

    And perhaps a closing sentence summarising, even repeating, everything you've said to that point: "Aikido is a modern martial art with strong influences from the past, practiced by young and old around the world" or some such.

    Good luck
    Giles Chamberlin
    http://www.jujutsu.org.uk

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    Thanks for that Giles.

    I remember sometime in 1997 I was asked to talk about aikido to some school kids (aged about 13 IIRC) and I got mostly "skirt" questions.
    Since this time I'll be dealing with Japanese adults (who essentially all have some level of awareness of the hakama), I doubt I'll be asked any questions of that nature. I'm more likey to receive questions on atemi, competition (or lack thereof), grading processes, "Can you break bricks?", etc.
    Aikido is a modern martial art with strong influences from the past
    Exactly what I wanted to say!

    I should point out here that I wanted my presentation to avoid doing as too many "Let's talk about something Japanese" speeches do: mystify the subject ("this is a deep, unique tradition, spontaneouly created by us uniquely unique taditional Yamatos"), make ridiculous claims about its long history (I remember someone talking about the "5000 year old tradition of Japanese drumming"!), and combining the above into some kind of cultural arrogance. Hence the presentation is a little on the dry side.
    Andrew Smallacombe

    Aikido Kenshinkai

    JKA Tokorozawa

    Now trotting over a bridge near you!

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    Update:

    My presentation was well received.
    I got a few questions, mostly ones I had anticipated.
    I was a bit reluctant to answer questions about ki from a qigong practitioner, partially because I'm not sure if her definition of ki was the same as mine, and partially because of time constraints.
    getting your enthusiasm over that's important
    Interestingly, that was mentioned in some of the feedback. People said that my passion for aikido showed through in the presentation.
    Andrew Smallacombe

    Aikido Kenshinkai

    JKA Tokorozawa

    Now trotting over a bridge near you!

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