Not to be negative, but these things bug me. I have compiled my list of the top eleven problems with Taido as
things currently stand I understood them when I wrote this ten years ago. This list is unique to me and represents my personal values for what Taido is and should become. I can cope if people don’t agree, but meanwhile, I’ll be working on moving things in a direction that I feel is healthier and more effective all around. Maybe I can change a few minds, and maybe I’ll change my mind too as things go forward. For right now, here (not really in any kind of order) are what I see as the eleven biggest things holding Taido back from its potential:
The Slogan: 21st Century Art of Self-Defense
Back in the 20th century, “21st century” sounded cool. But you know what? We are now in the 21st century, and it just sounds dull.
Why don’t we get a new slogan. How about one that describes what Taido is all about, like “three-dimensional combat sport.” Notice I wrote “combat sport” instead of “art of self defense.” That’s probably a better English expression for budo.
Women can be strong, and they can do amazing things. In Taido, women do not seem to get good at nearly the same rate as men. This is because we don’t teach them as well as we teach men.
I understand that there are physiological differences between the sexes. That’s fine. But look – all the women in the last all-Japan championship had terrible maai in jissen. Why? There is no good reason for this. I can understand that women’s musculature doesn’t support explosive power, therefore making it more difficult for them to do nenchu and such, but there is absolutely no reason that they can’t learn how to use the seigyo and sotai properly. None whatsoever.
Why don’t we teach girls real Taido? I think it has to do with cultural factors, especially the lingering inequality of the sexes in Japanese society. This is unacceptable. We should do better by our sisters, and teach them with every bit as much attention and care as we do men.
The Attitude of Superiority over Other Arts
Taido is really cool, and at high levels of proficiency, students learn to do things that most other styles don’t seem to teach openly. However, Taido techniques work best against Taido techniques. Taido students practice “using” their techniques only against other Taido students, in a tightly controlled environment with rules that disallow things like driving in with straight attacks, grappling (except in America), or contact to anywhere fun.
Taido has really cool theory, but it is probably not the best possible training for self-defense. Jissen is not “real combat.” It is a game, and like all games, it has a set of rules that determine who wins. I sincerely hope that no Taido students ever have to actually fight.
So let’s just drop the idea that Taido is the ultimate martial art that will teach little guys to kick ass on big guys (this is true for Taido tournaments only). In theory, Taido has a lot of aces up the proverbial sleeve, but we don’t practice most of those. Until we are teaching students how to use Taido as budo (as opposed to playing Taido as a sport), we need to just forget about Taido’s superiority.
Taido is a martial art that originated in Japan. I do not believe that Taido’s founder aspired for Taido to remain a Japanese martial art. Every time I heard him talk about it, he seemed to be of the opinion that Taido should be an international martial art – a world martial art. He said that Taido had “universal character.” Now it seems as if Taido students in other countries are expected to adopt Japanese character in order to learn Taido. This is wrong.
Now, I’m not going to put all the blame for this on the Japanese. There
used to be is a World Taido Federation that is trying to encourage the development of Taido worldwide.
In order to get Japanese Taido teachers to really care about sharing information or working together on developing the art, other countries are going to have to agree to meet Japanese standards on a variety of issues. Part of the problem though, is that these standards are still somewhat culturally biased. They don’t work as well in other countries. For example, Americans want to do Taido “American style,” but they want to be included in all tournaments.
Easterners and Westerners have different social values, and as long as both consider the other one to be “wrong,” we will continue to have friction.
Why can’t we just accept that we all have different ideas, and agree to work together where we can and respect our differences at the same time? Is it asking too much to hope that all the different countries practicing Taido can play together like big boys and girls? So far, it has been.
Politics and Organizational Hierarchy
Part of the problem here is the same as above, but there is more at play than gang rivalry.
I would like to see Taido run more collaboratively. I haven’t worked out exactly what steps I think we should take to run our organization more effectively, but I am thinking seriously about it. I will write more on this topic when I can make suggestions.
At best, the methods used in most dojo I’ve visited (dozens) are over thirty years old. We often do things that any qualified sports trainer would tell you are unhealthy and dangerous. Why does a “scientific martial art” continue to use ineffective means of training it practitioners?
In Taido Gairon, Shukumine says that Taido training is more sophisticated than sports training because it includes a means to concentrate the breathing. That might have been the case in Japan when the book was written, but today that is not the case. He also says that sports training is usually not scientific. Likewise, that might have been the case in the 1980s but today that is not accurate.
Sport is a high-dollar industry. Sports training is essential R&D to professional athletes and teams who make their livings off of their physical performances. One doesn’t simply stumble onto being capable of world-record physical performance. Sports training is very scientific and sophisticated, and we can learn a lot from the literature that is available on the subject (much of which pertains to breathing and mental skills).
Our educational model should also be updated with current theory to provide better results for our students. We currently are relying on the same method of instruction that has been used in every other martial art since the beginning of time. If you look at the number of people who start Taido and the number of people who get good at Taido, I think you will see that our track record for teaching is not as high as it could be. Let’s work on this.
Psuedo-Scientific Martial Sport?
Keiraku is not the most up-to-date metaphor for the body’s energy systems.
Scientists have been able to find the mechanisms of phenomena formerly associated with ki energy to functions of the nervous system. If Taido is scientific, we should choose to explain this stuff in a scientific idiom.
Let’s get with the times and find better analogies for our bodies’ energy systems. Through better understanding, we will be better equipped to improve our methods of accessing our potential energy production and efficiency.
Sport or Martial Art
Well, which is it? A martial art is concerned with fighting. A fight includes absorption and delivery of force, possible multiple assailants, possible weapons, escalation and deescalation, and a ton of other factors that Taido practice either neglects totally or glosses over. I’m not saying that the theory behind Taido doesn’t address these things, but the way Taido is usually practiced does not. Taido is practiced as a sport. We practice game rules, not combat. And that’s just fine.
We just need to decide. It’ll be hard to try and be both. We can’t practice sport all day long and then say “but if it were a fight you would just hit harder.” That is impractical. Practice is specific. If you don’t practice for fighting, you are not practicing martial art. Simple as that.
Nebulous Rules of Competition
If we go on and concede that Taido is not a martial art but a sport, please, let’s set the rules and stick to them. Write them down and have everyone agree on them. Translate them into all the languages of the countries in which Taido is practiced (and spend the money to have this professionally done). Retrain all of the referees in the new rules. Test them. Teach the students the new rules. Test them. When we have competitions, enforce the rules – all of them, all the time. Repeat this process every time any rule needs to be changed.
One legacy of our karate heritage is the notion of kihon. Kihon is one of the things that keeps karate static. Why do we need that in an evolving art? Answer: we don’t.
Just think about it: we have five techniques (the sotai), two strategic methods (unsoku and unshin), and three broad categories of force delivery (striking, kicking, and grappling). Sentaizuki could have an infinite number of possible executions. So could tentaigeri. So why do we limit ourselves to the “classic” named technical variations? Because that’s what everyone has always done. Illogical reason, right?
The Belt-Ranking System
This is always something that martial artists struggle with. It’s a necessary evil, but it’s not optimal.
So there you have it. My Top 11 things that I would like to improve about Taido. I plan to revisit this list periodically and update/adjust as I see fit. I will also be writing longer articles about each point when the time and inspiration strikes. Until that time, now you know what I really think, and if you are smart, you will agree (OK, just kidding about that last part).
You may also wish to check out the converse of this list: the Top 11.