This is the area where Kinokawa differs most greatly from other Aikido dojos. We believe in the practical application of Aikido as a method for self-defense. That means hard contact, resisting opponents, and a general roughness that is very uncharacteristic of an Aikido dojo. One cannot expect to defend effectively against a real attack unless they train against real attacks, and this philosophy is apparent in the way we train. Granted, the level of "aliveness" is certainly not as rough when a person begins their training. At the onset, one can expect compliant partners, pulled attacks, and a general emphasis on uke-waza over nage-waza. Once we are comfortable with a person and are reasonably sure that they can take a fall without getting a concussion, we "turn up the juice" appropriately. At the higher levels of training, one can expect full-contact, full-intent, un-telegraphed and often unexpected attacks from their ukes. They can also expect the necessity to breakfall out of most throws and joint locks as uke.
We have all the essentials (jo staffs, bokkens, tantos, clubs and a variety of bags), but most of our equipment is well-worn. It gets the job done, but is certainly not top-of-the-line. The sole exception is our mat. We have a nice canvas mat at our Bethlehem dojo, much more pleasant to be drilled into than the tatami-esque springboard at our Bryn Mawr dojo. As far as training weapons go, one would be advised to bring their own bokken, as we don't have very many, and the ones we do have are very well worn (and of questionable quality, to boot).
Gym Size: 6
Our main dojos are both commercially dedicated training spaces. However, they are not large by any stretch of the word. Our Bethlehem dojo is, quite literally, the bottom floor of a small familiy home with all the walls taken out. The small area forces students to be more mindful of where they're throwing their ukes. In addition to the commercial dojos, Kinokawa is also affiliated with a few college-based Aikido clubs, but I have no experience with said clubs and cannot attest to the size or quality of their training space.
Instructor/Student Ratio: 9
Most of the people who come to our dojo have a pre-conceived idea of what Aikido training will be like. More often than not, what they expect is not what they receive. Most are not ready for the amount of physicality (and quite often, pain) involved in dedicated martial arts practice. Because of this, the students that do stick around and commit themselves to training receive a great deal of personal attention. On average, a regular class has between 2-4 students (the largest class I've ever seen had 7 students). This small class size allows for the instructors (none of whom have been training for less than 13 years) to take an individual interest in each student and custom-tailor the classes to their students' needs and levels of ability.
The description provided by this website is pretty much a perfect description of our attitude: Open, supportive but challenging, bizarro hippy ass-beating love fest. In our dojo, you will be welcomed with open arms, and you will be pushed to your limits. As you continue to train, your limits will grow, and continue to be pushed. This is easily, in my opinion, the best aspect of our dojo. We take our art seriously, and have a sincere desire to improve ourselves and every person who sets foot on the mat, in a positive (but at the same time uncompromising) environment. In many an Aikido dojo, a person will be repremanded for attacking too aggressively, but in our dojo, it is expected that when training with a regular student, you give your all into each attack. We appreciate training with people who can keep us on our toes and push us to new limits.
Striking Instruction: 4
Since we expect sincere attacks in training, we do spend some time teaching proper technique for punches and kicks, but striking is not the focus of Aikido training, and this holds true in our dojo. Once we know that you can punch and kick correctly, we don't spend any more time developing your punches and kicks.
Grappling Instruction: 8
Kinokawa is often regarded not as an Aikido school, but as an Aiki-Jujutsu school, due to the high emphasis we place on effective street technique. As such, the vast majority of technique that we practice is some form of grappling. There's a rather even balance of jujutsu-style joint locks and judo-style timing throws, the intent of all of them being to put an opponent on the ground as quickly as possible. To share a brief anecdote: one of our sensei's top students is a (now retired) police officer. During his active duty, his training at Kinokawa twice saved his life against people trying to stab him (just for the record, the technique he used in both of these altercations was tsuki kotegaishi). Both situations resulted in the arms of the assailants being severely broken. That may be decidedly un-Aikido, but the end result allowed for all parties to live another day.
While we use weapons primarily for kata practice, we do also use them in full-contact sparring. A regular student can certainly expect to receive their fair share of bruises and bumps when weapons are used. We do not use any safety gear other than the thicker judo-style Gi (which can hardly be considered safety gear).
Last edited by LawnNinja; 2/04/2009 2:35am at .
Good writeup. The numbers can actually go in the bars if you check the box.
Are you sure aliveness is an 8? Because that would involve sparring without a designated uke and tori, including attacks that get through for both parties, takedowns for both parties, and locks for both parties. Does your aikido randori look like a judo match? I'm not saying it doesn't...I'm just making sure you know what an 8 entails. See RATINGS: How Do Aliveness.....does your school look like this? - No BS Martial Arts
I train at a JJJ school where we do full contact standup, randori and (compared to bjj, rudementary) grappling. I wouldn't give my school an "8" for aliveness, I second the call for videos.
As an Aikido practicioner, I think this seems like a good review.
To clarify for those who have asked:
Judging by the videos posted under the "8-9" category in the link provided by 1point2, I would say that an 8 is a pretty accurate rating for our level of "aliveness". Granted, we certainly do not train like that during every class. Indeed, it's only once or twice a month that we really get that intense (more often than not, if you end up attending a class where you and the sempai/sensei are the only ones to show up, you will be sparring, and you will be encouraged to act as both uke and nage and pull out whatever you can muster).
Since I am indeed a noob to this forum (and thusly a noob to the gradings and terminology used here), it is quite possible that an 8 may indeed be to high a score for "aliveness", but I wanted to be sure to stress the fact that our dojo is very much unlike most other Aikido dojos when it comes to the intensity at which we practice (as I stated in my review, not many people stick around to train with us, because they have a very different view of what Aikido training should be). If someone else who knows more than me could provide a more accurate assessment, I will be more than happy to change the grade to follow suit.
Now, if you would like to see some videos, simply search Youtube for "Kinokawa". They don't really give an accurate picture of our day-to-day training, though. The videos we have on Youtube are more or less demonstrations, not film of actual practice. Nonetheless, they're fun and will give you an idea of the type of technique we practice. Unfortunately, that's about all they'll give you. If you want a real taste of Kinokawa training, you'll have to visit one of our dojos and see what goes on when we aren't drilling typical Aikido techniques.
Anyone with other questions or concerns, please feel free to ask or voice your opinion, and I look forward to more discussion, and perhaps one day training with some of you!
Yeah, that's us. For some reason, I can't see any of the video past the first couple seconds after the bow-in, though, so I have no idea how good a representation of our regular training they are.
Originally Posted by DCS
And a side note: these videos are pretty old, as evidenced by the fact that the dojo where they were filmed is our Allentown dojo. Inquiring people should know that we no longer have that nice, big training space. We had to move from that location, and our current dojos are smaller.
The problem is Aliveness isn't just a matter of intensity or roughness, you can be intense and rough and still not alive.
When it comes to Aikido the Uke / Tori relationship in training by it's vary nature makes it not alive.
The closest we have ever seen is Tomiki tanto randori and even then you are still dealing with a restricted rule set and while I would give that type of sparring an A for aliveness the restricted nature of the Uke / Tori partnership still limits the quality of the grappling.
Okay, now that Youtube is working again I was actually able to watch all the "aliveness" videos provided. It's still rather difficult for me to pin down where we actually fall on this scale. I'd say that the fourth video under "2-3", and the first video under "8-9" are both very good representations of what can be expected, so I compromised and rated the "aliveness" as a 6, even though we use no protective gear of any kind. I must ask the veterans, does a rating of 6 emphasize that Kinokawa is a great deal more rough than most Aikido dojos? That's really the point I was trying to drive home with the 8 rating. Someone coming from Aikikai or a similar Aikido style will most likely be very intimidated by our intensity, and I want to be sure that anyone who reads my review and decides to visit our dojo understands what to expect.