PDA

View Full Version : Deepening Our Training


Please visit our sponsor:
 

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!


senshincenter
04-16-2006, 07:52 PM
Wishing to talk about the more universal elements found in the "Am I missing something?" thread...

Mark Uttech
04-16-2006, 08:50 PM
I am of the opinion that the spirit of repitition is valuable. True practice is to do things over and over. Keeping the "beginner's mind" is also valuable. I don't think people can "make" their practice deep; they can make it continuous.They can have periods of time where they stumble about in darkness.Newness is always nearby though, it is also said that enlightenment is there already.

In gassho.

senshincenter
04-16-2006, 09:01 PM
Good point Mark. I definitely think repetition, or rather an enduring capacity for repetition is key. So I guess by "deep," in this regard, I would be trying to refer to a capacity to make one's practice continuous. Perhaps we can merge our opinions on that note. That said, I agree that the "beginner's mind" (shoshin) is very relevant. But, and I think you would agree, perhaps we should make a distinction between shoshin and the mind of a beginner. The two are far from the same. In my experience, an enduring capacity for repetition is very much a cultivated state of being. In this sense, the reference to the beginner's mind (shoshin) is more one of being related to the subjective experience of introduction. Here I am referring to the virtue of being able to experience old things as if they are new (over and over again); the trait of experiencing the first time many times. So, there's the first set of questions we could ask and try to answer:

How does one learn to or become able to experience the "first time" many times?

What gets in our way of being able to experience the "first time" many times?

What makes our repetitions get old for us?

For me, the answers here would all relate to an incapacity to stay in the now.

thanks for writing,
d

Logan Heinrichs
04-17-2006, 01:35 AM
I think that our own personal practice is very important for the "first time, many times" experience. We have to be consiously trying to improve our technique by determining what works and what doesnt in our own set of ideosyncracies. By constantly examining our techniques we begin to see subtle variations and differences in our own and others techniques. I think that this is what makes the techniques seem new. I have heard many Shihan and Ive heard people quote O Sensei saying that every technique is different. If we are conciously trying to better our technique then we wont simply be "going through the motions" and these repitions won't "get old for us". If we only perform a certain technique because our sensei told us to then we areno longer training. The idea of training indicates that we are trying to better ourselves or our technique. This critical evaluation and re-evaluation of our movements is what gives a beginner the "beginners mind" Once people get comfortable with the guestures and footwork they sometimes get stuck there because they feel "Hey, I know this technique," rather than "Hey, what can I do to improve this technique"

Ive noticed that I have to continually experiment with different movements for each technique. Some variations work well at improving my technique while others dont, and I throw those away. Guidance from our sensei helps too as long as we use it benificially and not let it go through one ear and out the other.

My advice is to actually train during your training. Whether you are focused on movement, maai, timing, ect. O sensei said that only 25% of aikido is learned from your sensei. The rest is from your own practice.

Kevin Leavitt
04-17-2006, 01:48 AM
Logan, you hit the nail on the head. I had the same thoughts when I read thes post above yours. I know of a very dedicated nidan (non-akikido) that has always embraced the concept of beginner's mind, but a little too much. He is very parochial in his approach to things, and never questions, and constantly does kata and trains repetitively over and over. Result is he has become very good at techniques.

However, he does not understand practical applications and is not very adaptive. He has not really internalized his Martial Art, 'made it his own".

There is beginner's mind. To me it is always about not having preconceived notions about expectations or what is layed before us. It is not about blindly accepting things or having such humility that you cannot have an opinion!

SeiserL
04-17-2006, 07:46 AM
So, there's the first set of questions we could ask and try to answer: How does one learn to or become able to experience the "first time" many times? What gets in our way of being able to experience the "first time" many times? What makes our repetitions get old for us?
IMHO, its all answered the same way with the same two words that mean the same thing; the mind and the ego. Its in how we think about it, the first time and everytime.

senshincenter
04-17-2006, 08:33 AM
Perhaps I am thinking along the same lines as Lynn after reading Logan and Kevin.

To be able to look for something to improve upon each and every time you exercise a rep, such that it remains new each time, you have to know there is always something to improve upon. To always know that there something to improve upon, you have to know that you will never attain perfection or mastery. To know that you will never attain perfection or mastery, especially within a practice that has lasted decades, you will have to have a very strong foundation in humility (non-attachment to ego).

On the other hand, however, one also requires what has been called a kind of "spiritual audacity" - that trait that enables one to chase after perfection or mastery nonetheless.

Working off of Lynn's post mentioning "mind," I think it is wise to also have the right kind of focus. For example, you have to practice each rep for the sake of each rep. Your practice won't be too continuous if you practice each rep for the sake of something else - like rank or title or privledge, etc. In other words, to practice continuously, you have to focus in on that which has no end (and perhaps no beginning). You have to focus your attention on the universals of the art - not getting caught on the temporal or material trappings of the institutions that are necessary for that art to be transmitted through culture.

SeiserL
04-17-2006, 12:13 PM
Working off of Lynn's post mentioning "mind," I think it is wise to also have the right kind of focus.
And what tool is it that we focus? What tool do we use to get a larger/smaller, clearer focus? What tool is distracted and focused on something other than training?

Again, IMHO, we find the must undisciplined tool we have; our learned ego identity, the mind.

The mind is a very useful tool in that hands of a real craftsman or artist. It can also be an extremely dangerous tool when in the hands of fear and pain.

senshincenter
04-17-2006, 12:31 PM
Too true - and yet, somehow the mind sharpens, can be sharpened. Thus, let us ask then: How does that happen? By use or by non-use? Does it happen outside of fear and pain or through a reconciliation of fear and pain? I'd say "by use," but by a particular kind of use - right use, and I'd say that fear and pain must be a part of training - that they are far from being antithetical to training. I'd say the easiest way to hone the mind by right use, and to make fear and pain a part of training (such that such exploration remains safe and productive), is to pair our minds with an already wizened mind. This would be where humility would again have to come in since here we are talking about the mentor-disciple relationship - a key tenet of traditional Budo training - and one would have to learn to defer the impulses brought on by things like fear and pain in order to risk a new way of being - a way of being that will in all likelihood make no sense initially since it is not speaking to the part of ourselves that we have most often listened to up until then.

SeiserL
04-17-2006, 02:13 PM
IMHO, like Aikido, to deepen our training in anything (especially the fear and pain based mind or ego) we need to connect to (the higher levels of thinking are always more inclusive, not exclusive), enter into, blend with, and redirect subtly (not with force).

Mark Uttech
04-17-2006, 05:17 PM
What makes repitition never old and ever fresh is when we wake up to the fact that we can't do the same technique twice. I was at a seminar years ago, when Saotome Shihan was demonstrating entering into a yokomenuchi attack. He looked at us and said: "you have to think: 'maybe I am going to die'..."

SeiserL
04-17-2006, 05:24 PM
What makes repitition never old and ever fresh is when we wake up to the fact that we can't do the same technique twice.
You never enter the same stream twice.

Derek Gaudet
04-17-2006, 07:02 PM
I'd just like to touch on one of the issues in the other thread. We were discussing moving beyond "desire", but from saying it along those lines it got distorted into "you have no choice, you must practice regardless your feelings". I personally don't think that was the main message that was being conveyed. If it were the message then one could interpret it as, "the minute you walk through that door more then once, you have committed yourself to this training", because indeed the desire to get you through the door is gone, and unimportant, you are already through the door. However that initial desire that got you through the door the first time may have transformed into the other direction. Perhaps after the first month a student will decide it's not the path they wish to walk, therefore what they initially considered commitment, turns out to be temporary, or "untrue" commitment. Or maybe it takes even longer to realize this, perhaps months or years down the road, someone just says "what am I doing?"

I believe what Dave initially posted was true, that to truly understand Aikido one must move beyond training only when one "desires". I believe my Aikido will benefit greatly from that post as well. This is true commitment, and important to the mature development of Aikido. If one simply says "I don't want to train because I don't feel like it today", it is insanity to think they will develop along the same lines of someone who trains regardless their "feeling of the day". I'm not saying that anyone who does not practice every chance they get will have poor Aikido, but the later will be far better of in their pursuits of Aikido.

My understanding was that desire is unimportant because it is somewhat selfish. The desire we were discussing implies you do something for the self and the self alone. If you are in search of your own inflated ego, then this is not a good form of desire to train. However Aikido is about more then the self. Of course you can also have the desire to work with others and make them better at their Aikido. So I guess there are two desires, "Selfish desire" and "Benevolent Desire". Perhaps Benevolent Desire is not that bad in Aikido.

I'm understanding that for true "mature training", one has to move beyond desire, but I think the definition of desire may also have to be altered a bit. Perhaps to a more benevolent form. To continue something we must have some form of desire to do so, but it should not be our main motivation. Perhaps desire to understand the chosen art is important to the continuation of the practice? it would seem to me that if desire was completely none existent, then it would just be mechanical. Of course it also would show dedication, but dedicating to something we do not desire to dedicate to seems confusing. It seems like we are hollowly following a path. Perhaps desire goes through several phases? We begin with the desire to enter into an area of interest, and then once we do so that desire transforms into committed "attendance" (for lack of a better word) to that activity. Once we have established that, then we go through a desire to learn, once we begin learning that desire is meant, and hence we become committed to learning. Learning on the mat, or in ever day situations. Hence we slowly progress beyond the desire stages of each. The next would probably be desire to understand what has been taught. The interesting thing about this, is it is difficult if not impossible to understand all Aikido, hence there is only shifts in this stage, but there is a commitment to staving to understand Aikido. When we decide that we have reached a level of understanding, we satisfy that stage temporarily, but then we have to have a form of "want" to progress any further, because if one doesn't want to progress then one won't.

Perhaps I have simply confused the meaning of desire. I to no extent believe desire is a good enough motivation to study. It is as Dave said an "outer" force of study. I just believe that desire may be a push to the "inner" force of study and therefore somewhat important to the continuation of study. This is simply my attempt to not only understand Dave's post, but to attempt to expand an idea. I could however be wrong.

Kevin Leavitt
04-18-2006, 01:16 AM
Good stuff!

I guess we can get really deep and start debating the concepts of altruism, and if it exist or if people act in their own self interest, even if that self interest is world peace and completely appears to be selfless.

I kind of think chasing the dream of deeper meaning in our training is kind of like chasing a rainbow, the harder you try, the farther away it gets.

When I went through Ranger training I thought that it would be a type of shugyo that would somehow enlighten me. It didn't. That was 10 years ago. I learned a great deal about myself and my potential, but no major ephiphanies! 10 Years later, things unfold daily and I now know that there were lots of things I learned, but did not understand! So it is a journey that continues to unfold.

Faith is another issue. We have faith that somehow we will acheive something greater from our training. Sometimes the biggest lessons we learn are that what we have done was a mistake!

We cannot possess aikido or the skills that we learn from it as our own. We evolve, hopefully in a positive manner through our training.

People study aikido for different reasons. They stay for different reasons. The leave for different reasons. In the end, all we have are the experiences we gain from our practice.

What is great is when we have shared experiences with others and we can connect on some level other than the superficial. Sometimes a lightbulb goes off and we can see a glimmer of hope of what things can be like if we work together!

I think this is what makes people come back to the art...hope.

my thoughts on this for the day.

crbateman
04-18-2006, 04:59 AM
I kind of think chasing the dream of deeper meaning in our training is kind of like chasing a rainbow, the harder you try, the farther away it gets.
Good point. I think one must LET Aikido happen, as opposed to MAKING it happen. By that, I mean that the growth must come of itself, at its own pace. It's good to dedicate oneself to training and to learning, and to have a goal of becoming better (and a better person) every day, but not to be discouraged if progress is slow. It is natural to reach plateaus, but the goal need not be more than to reach the other side. One cannot force oneself through the training, but simply keep "eyes on the prize" and enjoy the ride. The way is a little different for everyone.

I, too, like to experiment. Not because I have decided to ignore the way others have worked so hard to forge, but because I want the full experience. One can see the things around him, while still maintaining the focus necessary to walk the path. The beauty is in the wholeness.

Just one old duffer's opinion...

Pauliina Lievonen
04-18-2006, 06:08 AM
Or maybe it takes even longer to realize this, perhaps months or years down the road, someone just says "what am I doing?"
Maybe only then is when real commitment starts , or doesn't?

I know for me I started aikido because my sister was doing it and I thought it looked cool. Basically I drifted into it like I've drifted into many things in my life. But somewhere along the way it has changed from something that I just happen to do into something that I do. Now how to do more of it...

I love that quote from Saotome about you think you might die. I think that's what happens when we change our habits. Change of any kind is a risk to the organism, after all, we survived just fine until now and so the safest option would be to not change a thing.

kvaak
Pauliina

John Brockington
04-18-2006, 09:11 AM
I hope this isn't simply restating the matter, but I think it actually can be more important to train when things aren't going well, when the training itself is boring or frustrating or ineffective for the individual. It's easy and fun to train when the kudos are plentiful and everything seems to work, the techniques come easy and the ukemi flows. But, to me, in some ways this is only a confirmation of what is already known or ingrained. In a way, it is sort of self-congratulatory. But when the training doesn't go well, and I feel down on myself or doubtful of my ability, when I continue to train this down period usually is followed by a period of distinct improvement (I think). Probably, my assumptions are being challenged and later revised or removed, rather than just repeated. Stopping training at that point would be a huge mistake.
I think that shugyo is when the effort to succeed is greater than the likelihood of success.

John

SeiserL
04-18-2006, 09:29 AM
I think one must LET Aikido happen, as opposed to MAKING it happen.
I hate it when other people state my best stuff before I do. Yes, IMHO, going deeper is a "let" not a "make". This attitude alone will deepen your training and your relationships with people in general.

In one way, its a simple change of mental frame of reference. On another level, its a "letting go" of ego, mind, goals, desires, etc.

IMHO, Aikido is only a set of tools that allow us to further refine not just our technique but who we are. Like a polishing cloth, with use the gen gets more and more refined until it dissolves or disappears. But, you have to "let" yourself keep polishing and "let" yourself refine and disappear.

Its an attitude, and then "letting go" of that. There is no goals or desire, there is just the training. And then "let go" of that.

What happens to a thought that doesn't come out our mouth or a feeling we don't act on? Without attachment, they go away. The purpose of the initial connection is to eventually "let go."

The "deeper" is already there.

"Let it be." (Beatles)

Bart Mason
04-19-2006, 10:56 AM
I am a new student to Aikido, so I will not even try and get deep with you "big boys" but I would like to share a quote with you all in regards to the mind which i picked up yesterday. Chuang Tzu said, "The mind of the Sage is like a mirror which reflects the entire universe." I think this implies that the mind is NOT to be slave to the object, but the Master. We will not be shaken by every movement or stimuli that crosses our field of vision. thanks for letting me play!!

Michael O'Brien
04-19-2006, 06:58 PM
I hate it when other people state my best stuff before I do. Yes, IMHO, going deeper is a "let" not a "make". This attitude alone will deepen your training and your relationships with people in general.

In one way, its a simple change of mental frame of reference. On another level, its a "letting go" of ego, mind, goals, desires, etc.

IMHO, Aikido is only a set of tools that allow us to further refine not just our technique but who we are. Like a polishing cloth, with use the gen gets more and more refined until it dissolves or disappears. But, you have to "let" yourself keep polishing and "let" yourself refine and disappear.

Its an attitude, and then "letting go" of that. There is no goals or desire, there is just the training. And then "let go" of that.

What happens to a thought that doesn't come out our mouth or a feeling we don't act on? Without attachment, they go away. The purpose of the initial connection is to eventually "let go."

The "deeper" is already there.

"Let it be." (Beatles)
Lynn,

I've read your posts a couple of times now and while I feel I understand and agree with parts (the general flow) of it there is part I don't think I'm understanding. Perhaps I've just been at work to long and my brain is overloaded?

In one way, its a simple change of mental frame of reference. On another level, its a "letting go" of ego, mind, goals, desires, etc.
Are you talking about only training here or life in general? If we "let go" of our goal, desires, etc in life at that point don't we merely exist? Goals, desires, etc in life are what give us purpose and direction are they not?

Maybe I'm just not looking at it correctly tonight? I would love to hear your take on this further, and others as well. I know I have a lot to let go of for my training to evolve to the level that I desire.

SeiserL
04-19-2006, 07:26 PM
Lynn, I've read your posts a couple of times now and while I feel I understand and agree with parts (the general flow) of it there is part I don't think I'm understanding. Perhaps I've just been at work to long and my brain is overloaded?

Are you talking about only training here or life in general? If we "let go" of our goal, desires, etc in life at that point don't we merely exist? Goals, desires, etc in life are what give us purpose and direction are they not?

Maybe I'm just not looking at it correctly tonight? I would love to hear your take on this further, and others as well. I know I have a lot to let go of for my training to evolve to the level that I desire.
IMHO, there are so many conceptual levels of training and life. They are just ways of thinking about it and certainly not the real thing. To me, training and life in general are not that different.

Yes, on one level goals and desires give us purpose and direction. On another level, it is the mental focus on goals and desires that block us from seeing and experiencing everything else.

Yes, on one level goals and desires define who we are and what we do. On another level, our identity is not in our "doing" or "making", but in our "being" and letting".

As you noted, the first part of our training is letting go of the past training and learning something new. My first couple years in Aikido was awful. Finally, the goal and desire is to let go of even that and "let" the techniques/identity/life happen. Sometimes, once you plot a course, you have to get out of the way and enjoy the journey getting there and quite possibly beyond. Its the journey that matters. There really is no goal or destination. There is no "there".

There is any underlying assumption that is already there, we just forget and get caught up in the learned mental ego identity. Its like a sculpture looking at a stone, sees whats already there, and takes away (lets go) of the unnecessary.

Words are so inadequate for this stuff. I only claim to have a belief in it and the occasional glimpse. I know I don't have it, but keep training to let a little bit go as often as I can.

Does that help to muddy the water some?

senshincenter
04-19-2006, 08:18 PM
Undoubtedly, there must remain a type of "naturalness" to one's overall training - especially at the end or once one's practice has matured. The idea of forcing and/or attempting to manipulate oneself and/or one's practice is indeed one possible way of making one's Aikido artificial and thus most likely "shallow." However, when I speak of "deep," and why I do not see it being 100% synonymous with "continuous," I am referring to the deeper aspects of our selves. In that sense, I want to discuss the ideas and/or practices by which one makes one's practice a spiritual practice. From this perspective, I would suggest that the advice of "let it be" could only be taken as a caveat of sorts - like, "If you don't want ruin your Aikido as a spiritual practice, you better not force it." I would not suggest that "let it be" is 100% going to guarantee that one's practice deepens (i.e. becomes a technology for spiritual cultivation). “Let it be” may not always function as a positively as one might think.

It may be the case that spiritual traditions the world over have developed techniques, pedagogies, practices, and theories, precisely because “let it be” can only be a part of the deepening. It may be the case that spiritual traditions the world over have developed techniques, pedagogies, practices, and theories, precisely because the “let it be” of a non-spiritual practice is not a spiritual practice but only more of the same non-spiritual practice. In any case, when it comes to Aikido, while we can see that there was indeed a naturalness to the depth of Osensei’s practice, we can also see that he very much indeed engaged in all kinds of techniques, pedagogies, practices, and theories that were designed precisely to actively deepen his Aikido.

One of the key one’s for Osensei, and one of the one’s he lectured on to a group of students that asked him directly about the makeup of his Aikido, was to see God in every aspect of the art. This technique for deepening one’s Aikido is interesting because in that same lecture you see Osensei take the common mystical position that proximity to God equals distance from a material existence. Since most of us come to Aikido via a material existence, I wonder if seeking a naturalness to our training at too early a stage might have us simply making our Aikido part of our own material existence. Here, using the common mystical understanding of things, I am wondering if the improper placement of such a technique might have us stuck in our own materiality, away from our spirit, operating not at depth.

In that regard, I like very much what Derek had to say, and I’m completely engaged by the question Pauliina asked after reading Derek. From this point of view, of gaining distance from our own material existence, of bringing depth to our practice, it would indeed seem the case that real training cannot begin until we reach some sort of internal crisis, one that has us seriously asking of ourselves: What am I doing?

I would suggest then that there are times when it is better to try to ask this question continuously – until we move beyond the frustration of being unable to answer it, until we move beyond even asking it – relying on “let it be” not until after this.

Michael O'Brien
04-19-2006, 08:34 PM
Words are so inadequate for this stuff. I only claim to have a belief in it and the occasional glimpse. I know I don't have it, but keep training to let a little bit go as often as I can.

Does that help to muddy the water some?

Thank you for your reply; That actually helped me see the philosophy behind what you are saying much better. I complete understand the analogy of "it's a journey not a destination" and agree wholeheartedly.

Words are inadequate sitting face to face, and keyboard to keyboard makes it even more difficult so thanks again.

SeiserL
04-19-2006, 09:18 PM
What am I doing?
In a Zen koan frame of reference: Who is the "I" that is asking, training, or doing? IMHO, to deepen the training, lose the "I".

Michael O'Brien
04-19-2006, 09:31 PM
So like Nike:

"Just do it"?

senshincenter
04-19-2006, 09:42 PM
Too true again.

Yet even Zen has, "Sit like this, not like that." "Eat this, not that." "Think like this, not like that." "Bow here, not there." Etc. There are ways that these techniques point to the dropping of the I, but it is not always like the beginner thinks when he first hears about dropping the I. Rather, most often, the beginner comes to these techniques and the artificiality of them is as intense as one is resistant to them. In that sense, they feel extremely forced at the beginning, and for a great while after - feeling very very different from "let it be."

Michael O'Brien
04-19-2006, 09:51 PM
Too true again.

Yet even Zen has, "Sit like this, not like that." "Eat this, not that." "Think like this, not like that." "Bow here, not there." Etc. There are ways that these techniques point to the dropping of the I, but it is not always like the beginner thinks when he first hears about dropping the I. Rather, most often, the beginner comes to these techniques and the artificiality of them is as intense as one is resistant to them. In that sense, they feel extremely forced at the beginning, and for a great while after - feeling very very different from "let it be."
*smiles* ... Ok, I'm lost again; Boy I really shouldn't be online tonight I guess.

In your previous post you referred to "naturalness" in training and here you mention artificiality and feeling forced.

Are you talking about with the naturalness being comfortable enough with the technique to "make it your own" so to speak?

Then springboarding off of that with the feeling forced and artificiality of techniques, are you meaning that in the sense of the beginner starting Aikido where every technique feels forced and artificial until you finally start to learn to move from your center and find the proper position to take the balance of uke or something deeper?

Pauliina Lievonen
04-20-2006, 10:51 AM
This kind of discussion always inevitably makes me think of my training as an Alexander Technique teacher. I haven't had training that intense in aikido at least until now.

There's a saying about the teacher training process (the training course is typically about three years) that I've heard in various forms from people on different training courses, so it seems to be somewhat universal, that goes something like this:

First year student: I don't know, but I feel great and I love this training
Second year student: I don't know, and it's driving me nuts, and the teachers aren't helping
Third year student: I don't know, and that's OK
...and then you graduate... :)

Anyway, the letting go of the need to know that happens towards the end of the training, wouldn't be meaningful without the need to know during the training. Otherwise people would stay on the level of first year students forever.

I don't know how this would compare to a process in aikido though.

Letting go in general... it's an important tool in what I do when I teach, but it's not the only tool. Alexander pupils often fall into the trap of just letting go, but if you let go of everything, you end up a directionless noodle on the floor, and you still haven't really addressed your habits in a meaningful way. That said, once you decide on a direction, it's also necessary to see how you are stopping yourself from going in that direction, and letting go of that. Otherwise there's going to be conflict. There's going to be conflict anyway because it's not possible to see for ourselves all the ways that we stand in our own way, and so there's always going to be something stopping us from going where we want to go.

When a real change takes place it all happens in the same instant, the wish to enter something new, and the letting go of the old, the feeling that this new thing is artificial and "wrong" and the realization that it's giving us more freedom and space, but that we might possibly die and it would really be safer to go back to the old known comfortable...

I don't know if I'm even on topic anymore, just thinking out loud and in a bit of a hurry.

kvaak
Pauliina

Derek Gaudet
04-20-2006, 12:02 PM
In that regard, I like very much what Derek had to say, and I'm completely engaged by the question Pauliina asked after reading Derek. From this point of view, of gaining distance from our own material existence, of bringing depth to our practice, it would indeed seem the case that real training cannot begin until we reach some sort of internal crisis, one that has us seriously asking of ourselves: What am I doing?

I would suggest then that there are times when it is better to try to ask this question continuously -- until we move beyond the frustration of being unable to answer it, until we move beyond even asking it -- relying on "let it be" not until after this.

Thanks kindly Dave. I agree with Pauliina, that we decided whether it is true commitment after we have solved our "identity crisis". I'm going to think a while on this and see what I come up with though... Good topic Dave.

Kevin Leavitt
04-20-2006, 02:04 PM
I think you are on topic Paulina and correct. Letting go is important.

senshincenter
04-20-2006, 07:51 PM
Hi Michael and All,


Michael, from your two options, your second one is probably the closest to what I am trying to talk about (i.e. “…in the sense of the beginner starting Aikido where every technique feels forced and artificial until you finally start to learn to move from your center and find the proper position”). It is just that I would like to understand this subjective feeling of “forced” or “artificial” from more than just the experience of seeking technical maturity. I am also referring to this feeling from the experience of seeking spiritual maturity. If you will allow me that extension of this idea, I would like to expand a bit more on what I am thinking by using the process of technical maturity as an analogy.

When we first come to training, much of our person is very “out of synch” with the tactic of Aiki. This is because much of our person is more in tune with other ways of being. These other ways of being are more supported by Modernity (among other things), and thus these ways of being are what we have practiced mostly throughout our lives. That is to say, by the time we attempt to commence our Aiki study and practice, we often have accumulated decades of practice (i.e. reinforcement and repetition) of anti-Aiki ways of being.

These anti-Aiki ways of being often have us technically attempting to push against a push and to pull against a pull. They may also have us retreating against push and submitting against a pull. It all depends upon our demeanor and thus the personal collection of experiences that make up our individual history. In either case, whether we provide the necessary energy to form a clash (as in the first type of reaction) or whether we provide the necessary lack of energy to define a push or a pull (as in the second reaction), we in our anti-Aiki way of being give genesis to the attack against us. We are unable to reconcile the energy, such that neither push nor pull can form itself, etc. Because of this, because of being “attacked,” etc., technically, in the first case, we often rely on those muscle groups incorrect to Aiki applications. That is to say, for example, we often incorrectly utilize the topside muscles of our torso (e.g. biceps, shoulders, chest). These muscles are the muscles of repulsion, of clashing, of energy working against energy. They are the muscles of fear, and anxiety. They are the capturing of our mind and breath in the upper part of our body. Alternately, we may opt just to lose or to forfeit our center. This is still a kind of fear or anxiety response, only it is seeking to address the attack through submissiveness.

In either case, we will not perform the Aikido technique correctly when our way of being is still more skilled and practiced at these anti-Aiki ways of being. What will feel natural to us, depending upon our demeanor, is to push and pull with the topside muscles of our torso, or to forfeit our center to the attacker. What will feel unnatural to us, and thus forced, is to seek to not fuel the attack and/or contribute to its manifestation. It will seem completely against our being and thus our sense of reality, for example, to turn when pushed and to enter when pulled (as is often required when Aiki is to be applied). Additionally, we will often not remain calm enough, because we cannot drop our practiced sense of being attacked enough, and thus we will be unable to utilize other muscle groups different from the fear or anxiety-based muscle groups of the topside torso.

To progress technically then, we must at first seek to engage in a practice that comes to us unnaturally – against our then current natural way of being. Often, this is not as big a deal as it seems to be here. Often, the difference between what is natural and unnatural to ourselves is very small and thus we can equally often fit our natural anti-Aiki applications into the space of the unnatural Aiki-explanations. This is because the intensity of training is often not that high. As such, it is very possible to fit a square peg in a round hole. However, should training progress to higher degrees of force, and/or should it seek to leave the predictable and relatively comfortable confines of Kihon Waza training, the value of Aiki ways of being become much more relative as our anti-Aiki ways of being become much more out of place.

The same can be said for Zen practice – which has been brought up. A little Zen practice, a little zazen, and the practice is actually quite nice. It feels very light, even relaxing, refreshing, etc. It feels very much like our anti-Aiki ways of being would subjectively understand “natural,” “let it be,” or “just go with the flow,” or “just be in the now,” etc. However, up the intensity a bit, do a sesshin (for example), and our anti-Aiki ways of being are pressed into having us experience something so unnatural that it borders on torturous. As such, we wax and wane between the two anxiety responses. We will seek to fight our way through the sits or we will seek to forfeit our center and submit ourselves to the abuse we are experiencing. Because the sits continue, we are pressed into seeing the futility of our only two options. As such, a new way of being opens up to us. However, it will not open up to us until the old ways of being drop off. This “dropping off” of course must happen naturally – since that is the only way for things to drop off. However, before it goes, the subjective feeling of it loosening is most uncomfortable. Because we often define what is natural to us by how comfortable it is (i.e. by how much it agrees with us), the beginning of this natural process can seem most unnatural.

With the usual caveat of “make sure you are in a safe place,” the ancient spiritual masters of every tradition have always encouraged their disciples to first seek out the uncomfortable experience – to use this “unnaturalness” as a kind of guidepost - to make it the start of their reflections and investigations – to not see it a priori as a sign that one is heading down the wrong direction. This is the point I have attempted to explain above.

Pauliina, I think you are spot on target. Thanks for that post.

dmv

Michael O'Brien
04-20-2006, 09:37 PM
David,

I think you did an excellent job of expounding upon your initial post to answer my questions and I appreciate it. I clearly understood the concepts you were describing regarding the physical aspects of the training.

I am still trying to absorb the last portion of your message as it relates to the spiritual aspect. I understand zazen and am starting to incorporate regular meditation into my training. I have never considered undertaking a sesshin and think your use of the word torturous would be quite accurate.

Thank you for your time, patience, and giving me something to ponder further.

Pauliina Lievonen
04-21-2006, 05:51 AM
I just came across this, and it was so apt that I just have to put it in here:

Philip Pawley on http://groups.google.com/group/alextech said:... The purpose of paying attention is to allow those things that you believe are **not** right to happen anyway. Those things that you believe **are** right you will automatically allow: you gain nothing by paying attention to those. No, pay attention to the things that are going wrong. Pay attention to them and **allow them to go wrong**. Pay attention to them because, if you didn't, you never would allow them to go wrong. Not allowing, you would never discover that the wrong way actually works better. You would, instead, remain convinced for evermore that they really were wrong. ...

Philip Pawley, btw has a really interesting website www.alexanderworks.org.uk
Not meaning to turn this into an AT advertisement but I thought he deserves a bit of promoting for coming up with the above. :)
kvaak
Pauliina

Derek Gaudet
04-21-2006, 11:33 AM
Here's what I wrote late last night... I generally get my best writing done at 2 o'clock in the morning ;) . It's mainly influenced by Daves posts, and a combination of things that have been said in this thread, and by a friend of mine that I was discussing this topic with. Guess I'm trying to put everything together and trying to figure out what some of the reasons we train are. Let me know your thoughts. And I'd like to repeat, influenced greatly by you guys, I'm not stealing your ideas as my own, and giving credit where it is due :D . Enjoy.... and it lengthy so take a deep breath...

Why Do We Train?
Perhaps one of the hardest questions we ask ourselves as martial artists is why? Why train, what are the reasons, and are the reasons justifiable? Training happens on many levels, ranging from a hobby to a lifetime commitment or way of life. The hobbyists seeks something to do with their spare time, going to class when they "feel like it" or "desire too". There are different types of hobbyists though, and hobby-ism in the martial arts is not all bad. It's the hobbyist that considers him/herself a committed individual but does not perform as such, that can lead to self-destruction. It's the hobbyists that know they are hobbyists, and are either, ok with it, or wish to further their own commitment that can perform well, and not suffer from a form of cognitive dissonance. The cognitive dissonance that happens is as the definition states; anxiety resulting from inconsistency in the beliefs one has, and of the actions one performs. When we are at equilibrium with our reasons and actions, then and only then can we progress in our understanding of what we pursue. To think we can progress when we don't even understand ourselves is irrational, for how can we step forward, if we do not know from where we are stepping?
To understand that there are as many types of training as there are people is important. Everyone may have a different understanding, or philosophy, which they pursue. One's personal philosophy reflects who they are, what they will become, and how hard they will work. The vast majority of individuals usually start with a philosophy of doing it for themselves, thinking the martial arts is about them, their own development, or even making a martial art their own. While many will develop differently in the martial arts is it really their own? Or does this reflect some form of egocentric view? If we work so hard to preserve an art yet make it our own, then why do we pass it on? If we pass it on, it is no longer ours. This, in perhaps a shallow sense, confirms that we do not always study martial art simply to make it our own or for ourselves, because we understand that it will someday be someone else's turn to be the vehicle in which martial traditions travel. And while a martial art develops slightly differently with each individual it's core remains stable and intact. Never shifting, and continuously applied through the techniques of the system. Although things can appear distorted or shifted on the outside, nothing compares to what they are on the inside, which is where the importance lays.
Training for the self is irrational. The irrationality of this lays in the fact that if we train for ourselves, what good is it to the rest of the world? One life in this world is a blink of the eye in all time. And in the greater scheme of things, what is the good of one person's achievement, if not shared with others? For soldiers, they train to keep themselves alive, but the motivation is greater when they have family, children and friends. It should be understood that death and life cannot coexist within one individual's time. When death comes, life is already gone, so why fear death; it is irrational to do so. The fear lies in the process of dying. However the motivation to the soldier is that he may not know his own death, but his loved ones will, so their death is a mean to hurt loved ones, and therefore the solidier trains for their loved ones. "There is nothing more dangerous then someone who has nothing to lose".
To seek fame in the martial arts is perhaps a low point, to become famous by understanding however is a different subject. When one is looking for fame, from the traditions of the martial arts, or in other aspects of life, it is not about others, it is not about what they are doing, it is completely about the individual. Fame in it's simplest form acts as an ego boost to those who are completely aware of how they are becoming famous, or purposely seeking fame. Most of these people train not to preserve the martial tradition, but to use it as a personal advantage, and aid the ego. Some, though few may seek fame to spread the art, but few can keep it from transforming their own reasons for study. The ego is a dangerous part of the personality, if not properly controlled through conscience and rational thought, it can have devastating effects on the individual, and will prevent them from forming into a rational being or to a level of "mature practice". This path is far from the intention of the Traditional Martial arts.
Hobby-ism as stated can be on several levels, the first, which creates problems, is a hobbyist in denial. Hobbyist who are in denial see themselves as committed practitioners, however only when convenient to their life. Many of the reasons these people do not train as hard are, because "I don't feel like it today", or "I don't need to". However, we all need to, and should. There are legitimate reasons for not training, but these barely qualify. And when the individual realizes that they see themselves as committed, but are indeed far from training as hard as they could, they have a mix of emotions, or cognitive dissonance, because their training routine does not match their mind set. The other form of hobbyist is the one who understands they are such, and if they were willing, could progress to a committed and "mature" study. There is no cognitive dissonance involved here because their thought pattern does indeed match their level of study.
A truly committed practitioner, moves beyond a desire based model of study. This in short, means they do not rely on how they feel to decide whether they will train. They simply train. The mind set is one step ahead, because of the rationality of thought, knowing they have to practice to advance. To think you will be at the same level as this person only training when one desires too, is much the same, as saying ten pounds will fall off you even if you do nothing. Training is essential to progression; there is no way around this. If two people train, one only when they desire, the other regardless of whether they, at the moment, desire to, then it is obvious which will be at a higher level of understanding.
Then why is it we should train? Is it for ourselves, for others, for society, for the art? To train for the self, is egocentric and not beneficial to the greater scheme of things. To train to keep the art alive is crucial to the art's survival and unarguably a reason. So perhaps the answer is we train for others, to keep society in a nonviolent state. To train in martial arts, as a friend has told me, is to train in a mind frame of satsujinken; "the sword that cuts down evil". However one must also embody katsujinken; "the sword that gives life". "The sword that cuts down evil is the sword that gives life". When we train for the greater of society, we train to keep evil suppressed, which allows life to flourish. In a society that we do not train "to cut down evil", evil will prevail, killing life when it sees fit. This is demonstrated in law enforcement, which is indeed a contributor to the suppression of evil. Without the officers, and the laws society passed, we would live in a much more violent world. Even when we train to protect ourselves, why are we doing it, would we work as hard if we had nothing to live for? So training in the Martial arts allows us to be able to maintain that level of nonviolence, to suppress it when necessary. We should view our martial training as a means to keep the innocent safe, to keep society stable, and to "cut down evil" to prevent endangerment of life. This principal applies to a lot more then aikido, but it does fit into aikido nicely, as a means to bring harmony to the world.

kokyu
04-21-2006, 11:38 AM
I am of the opinion that the spirit of repitition is valuable. True practice is to do things over and over. Keeping the "beginner's mind" is also valuable. I don't think people can "make" their practice deep; they can make it continuous.They can have periods of time where they stumble about in darkness.Newness is always nearby though, it is also said that enlightenment is there already.

Going back to an earlier comment...

I agree that repetition is valuable, but it also depends if one is fully aware of the purpose of repetition.

I attended the classes of a high-ranking Sensei who seemed to prolong the duration of each move - i.e. other Sensei would change the waza after about 10 minutes, but this particular Sensei would extend the duration of moves to 15+ minutes. Everyone I trained with (and probably myself) would get bored after a while and either blank out or start doing variations... Looking back, I guess my understanding wasn't deep enough so as to enable me to focus on the finer points of the move (which would have required the 15+ minutes).

On the other hand, I had another Sensei who made us do relatively simple nage waza for the entire training session. It was repetitive too, but he made it clear it was a test of stamina and also a means to tire ourselves out so that we would rely less on strength and try to harmonize with our uke. In this case, we had a purpose in mind from the beginning, so it wasn't boring at all.

Also, "beginner's mind" has more than one meaning. If we always pretended we were seeing the move for this first time, then we would always be struggling with the move - i.e. we would never develop smoothness in our technique. On the other hand, if we paid the same amount of attention as we did when we first learned the move, then there is some value, because we would be bound to pick up something we did not notice before - like the photographs of moves in books - it just amazes me that I've had some books for over 5 years, but there was always some minor detail in the photos that I missed, and would catch later on...

Michael O'Brien
04-21-2006, 04:31 PM
Derek,

I enjoyed your post and can see where a lot of thought went into forming your ideas. On a conceptual level I agree with you and in the context of this forum, where most everyone is indeed striving to improve their training and grow in all aspects of their lives I can see it is as being insightful.

However, I think it is far fetched to state that a hobbyist who views themselves as committed is “self-destructive” or will lead to self-destruction. Then you said training for the self is irrational and our life in this world is a blink of the eye in all of time. While it may be true that my 80-100 years on this world is short compared to the last 2000 years or the next 2000 years that doesn’t mean I want to cut my life any shorter than it will already be; If that is the mindset then we may as well all commit mass suicide Monday at noon. If my personal training can increase that lifespan by 1 day due to improved health or my ability to defend myself then that training is worth it for that reason alone. Don’t misunderstand that to mean I am afraid of death though. I served in the military for 9 years and have no fear of dying if need be to defend my country, my family or my friends. That is a sacrifice I have come to grips with and am fully willing to make if it ever comes to that. Should that day never come though then my goal is to enjoy as much time on this earth as I possible can.

Regarding again, training as a hobbyist vs. someone who is committed to training and who gets more out of it. At that point I am training 2 days a week. I work nights and by the time I leave work, get home, and get in bed I get to sleep about 1:00 AM. I get up 4 ½ hours later at 5:30 AM to be at the dojo for a 6:30 AM class on Tuesday and Thursday mornings (the only 2 day classes offered by my dojo). So I am training all I can until my work situation changes. However, we have another student, a college student, who trains 3 days a week when he could be at 4-5 classes a week. Who is more committed? Him, merely because he attends more classes as he chooses or me doing all I can?

I hope at least part of this makes sense. I’ve had numerous interruptions and distractions so my train of thought may have de-railed somewhere along the way.

Derek Gaudet
04-21-2006, 04:51 PM
Good points Micheal. I didn't quite mean that "self destructive" in a complete sense. I was leaning more towards it being easier for them to come to a point where there is a "Identity crisis" , simply because their routine and personal impression of themselves doesn't equate. Perhaps "self-destruction was to severe a word. Like I said...it was late. Also if we are Solly training for ourselves, then I just don't see a point. I think we are training for the good of everyone (personal view and philosophy though). And I never stated that we should commit mass suicide, because we don't matter. I was referring to practice of an activity. NOT life in general. And remember, I didn't say how much time you train makes you "hobbyists, etc." I said that the ones who use the excuse of "I don't want too, just because...", There are however good reasons, all your fall into good reasons, and I can't call you a hobbyists if you feel you are committed. I would say you are more committed then the other student, providing he doesn't have good reasons for not training. Time on the mat isn't the formula, being there when at all possible is. Thanks, Maybe that clears it up a bit. I'll probably revise that sometime ;) . I will be joining a Dojo 6 hours from my house, I can only afford so many classes a year. Does this mean I will not be commited?, Absolutely not, I will train hard in between those visits.

Derek Gaudet
04-21-2006, 05:41 PM
Oh, I think I missed the wording in your post Micheal,

However, I think it is far fetched to state that a hobbyist who views themselves as committed is "self-destructive" or will lead to self-destruction.

If a hobbyist views them self as committed and truly is, then they are not a hobbyist, they are truly committed. But if a hobbyists views them self as committed and uses the excuses above, they are only saying they are committed. I think that better explains the hobbyist thing I wrote.

David Yap
04-21-2006, 08:02 PM
...O sensei said that only 25% of aikido is learned from your sensei. The rest is from your own practice.

O sensei actually said that? :eek:

No wonder!! Mathematically, starting from the first generation of his students, no one will ever surpass him :rolleyes: ...not even if they follow his practice to the "T" :D

Best training

David Y

Michael O'Brien
04-24-2006, 05:41 PM
Good points Micheal. I didn't quite mean that "self destructive" in a complete sense. I was leaning more towards it being easier for them to come to a point where there is a "Identity crisis" , simply because their routine and personal impression of themselves doesn't equate. Perhaps "self-destruction was to severe a word. Like I said...it was late. Also if we are Solly training for ourselves, then I just don't see a point. I think we are training for the good of everyone (personal view and philosophy though). And I never stated that we should commit mass suicide, because we don't matter. I was referring to practice of an activity. NOT life in general. And remember, I didn't say how much time you train makes you "hobbyists, etc." I said that the ones who use the excuse of "I don't want too, just because...", There are however good reasons, all your fall into good reasons, and I can't call you a hobbyists if you feel you are committed. I would say you are more committed then the other student, providing he doesn't have good reasons for not training. Time on the mat isn't the formula, being there when at all possible is. Thanks, Maybe that clears it up a bit. I'll probably revise that sometime ;) . I will be joining a Dojo 6 hours from my house, I can only afford so many classes a year. Does this mean I will not be commited?, Absolutely not, I will train hard in between those visits.
Derek,

Thanks for the kind reply; It did help clear up things a bit. :)

6 hours away? I can understand that would make attending class much harder. I thought I had it bad when I was taking TKD several years ago and I had a 2 hour drive that I made 3 days/week.

Best of luck to you.

Derek Gaudet
04-24-2006, 07:38 PM
Thank you kindly Michael,

Yeah 6 hours will be a lot, but I'm sure it will be worth it. One of my friends convinced me on attending a Nami Ryu Aiki Heiho seminar, and I decided to also train at a dojo whenever I can. In the end it will be worth the travel and time. Furthest I've had to go for a dojo is 45 mins, so this will be new ;). I'm glad I cleared up my thoughts a bit. Thanks for your regards, now back to our regularly scheduled topic,