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Cooperation During Demonstrations

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #65 (December 1984)

The AIKI NEWS staff recently returned from a long, highly successful trip to the west coast of the United States during which 13 Aikido film presentations were given, each in a different city. A total of some 800 appreciative persons viewed the seven films we had selected from our collection of O-Sensei movies plus a beautiful color film shot primarily in Iwama which was kindly provided by Saito Sensei especially for our trip. The number of impressions and experiences collected during those 34 event-filled days would no doubt fill a small book if I were to have the time to record them. But as that is not possible here, let me relate to you one incident which did occur, not once but several times, that left me feeling extremely awkward and has presented me with quite a challenge in order to find a suitable response.

Several of the viewers of the O-Sensei films, one of them in fact being my father, had the following reaction upon seeing the movies: “This is nonsense, the attackers are all cooperating with the old man!” Well, how would you respond to that sort of deflating comment directed at the founder of Aikido, one of your life’s heroes? This especially when a careful viewing of many sections of the films indeed reveals what appears to be half-hearted, weak attacks often delivered late after O-Sensei has already begun to move. I assure you that this is the case since I have without doubt watched O-Sensei movies more times than any other mortal in the history of mankind! Having I hope duly established my credentials and by way of a response to the above comment, I think it might be fruitful to probe a little into the psychology of the attack in Aikido.

First, assume that you are an advanced student in your dojo and will be taking falls for your teacher during a demonstration. Your instructor is an accomplished martial artist and has long since earned your respect for his/her technical expertise and, no doubt, for other reasons as well. I presume this to be the case, else why would you be training with this particular teacher in the first place? Now, you are standing before an audience and are ready to attack your teacher. What attitude do you adopt? I would imagine you would attack in very nearly the same manner as you do in the dojo under normal circumstances, except that you might be a little more intense because ofthe adrenalin flow in your body. After all, you have been training for a number of years and certain habits have surely become ingrained. But then, on the other hand, what have you learned from past experiences when you have attempted to test how your teacher responds by attacking more strongly than usual? Probably you will have discovered that your fall becomes more difficult. Or, put in plain and simple terms, the harder your attack, the harder your fall. You moreover recognize that for the exhibition you may be called upon to take not one, but many falls, that is, a long series of “harder” falls. What is likely to be the cumulative effect of this repeated pounding on your body? Quite a beating, indeed! Fatigue, too, must definitely be factored into the equation. What do your attacks look like when you are tired?

Then, there is also the other side of the coin. Your teacher, too, is likely to be stimulated under the circumstances and may be putting a little more “ki” into his throws than usual. In short, you have a special situation in which some extraordinary demands are going to be placed on your body. You are going to be required to absorb the application of numerous, painful techniques which, lest we forget, were originally intended for maiming and killing. Not exactly a Sunday afternoon picnic!

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