View Full Version : VOE: Training/Teaching Focuses

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04-02-2007, 11:24 AM
Hi folks,

Since I haven't seen anyone else bite on the new feature that anyone can start a new thread here in the Voices of Experience forum (as outlined in this thread (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2297)), I thought I'd throw out a few questions for the folks here.

In what ways has your main focus in your aikido training and teaching changed over the past 20+ years?

Do you think some of these focuses went down "the wrong track?" If so, in what ways do you think "going down the wrong track" was necessary or unnecessary?


-- Jun

04-02-2007, 08:16 PM
This September will be my 25th year. The first 16 were under the guidance of Mits Yamashita Sensei and since July of 2000 with Amos Parker Sensei. I don't believe that my training ever went down the wrong path though at times I do wonder if my initial reasons for starting aikido were mis-guided though. I believe my first teacher prepared me well in being able to adjust and change things under my new teacher. I consider myself extremely blessed having the two teachers that I do.

As for teaching, I find that over the last several years I had to change and adapt as compared to the way I trained. I find I can't train folks the way I was taught. Well the majority that is. So I've relied on watching my current teacher in action during clinics to see what secrets I can pick up. Then make the appropriate adjustments as needed.

I've also chilled out a bit when it comes to the youth class. I use to push them to perfection in the same manner as the adults. Then my daughters enlightened me about reality. One thing I've learned is to listen more and not to expect everyone to get it right the second time. All 3 of my girls progress differently and at their own pace. The standards are still high, but not so strict.

As for focus, always on the basics as taught within my organization, the Yoshinkan. One thing that has changed from my first dojo to my dojo is I spend more time on those basics. Meaning, more repetitions and attention to detail. I've found in my own training and practice this has helped my own technique, though I still consider myself an infant as compared to my two teachers.

04-03-2007, 10:20 AM
Thanks, Steven, for sharing your thoughts and experience.

Any other thoughts from the Voices of Experience group?

-- Jun

R.A. Robertson
04-03-2007, 05:00 PM
Hi folks,
[\]In what ways has your main focus in your aikido training and teaching changed over the past 20+ years?

Do you think some of these focuses went down "the wrong track?" If so, in what ways do you think "going down the wrong track" was necessary or unnecessary?

Jun, lately I've been feeling that it's not just my aikido, but very nearly the whole world of aikido that has taken a wrong turn. I think there is much too much emphasis on the successful completion of a given technical form (kata) than on simple, essential aikido. I think aiki really best manifests in jyu practice, where we can see actual takemusu aiki. These days, as tori I'm working on doing NOTHING to my partner. I like so much what I'm seeing that I wonder why I didn't start this from my very first class.

Have all my previous years been a waste of time? No, and I still find value in the many varieties of kata training. Nor do I intend any disrespect to my teachers, or anyone else's way of practice.

But sometimes a quantum leap can only come from a major paradigm shift. For me, such a shift has occurred, and it's hard to want to keep doing things the same way again. I used to have a reputation for being one of the softest, subtlest aikidoka around. Now, "soft" and "hard" seem irrelevant.


04-05-2007, 01:41 PM
Of my thirty-one years on the mat twenty-six have been spent in the role of instructor. For many of those years I simply taught what I had been taught by Shuji Maruyama Sensei without giving much thought to what lay behind the techniques I was showing my students. Rather than stressing the inter-relationships between technique and principles, I was more concerned with martial effectiveness of what I was being taught and teaching. The ki exercises and testing that I was brought up on began took a back seat to technique which was far sexier and more fun to teach. I and my students at the time were all at our physical peaks and our classes were punctuated by lots of hard throwing and zesty randori. Weapons kata were done perfunctorily mainly because they were on rank tests. In short, my teaching was pretty much what one would expect of someone so young and with so little time in.

My transformation from a teacher of aikido technique to a student of aikido occurred gradually until six years ago. It was at that time that I "discovered" my aikido and realized it was time for me to find my own path in the aikido wilderness. That decision led to a fundamental change in my experience of aikido. I began to understand that in order to teach what I was learning I had to let go of the notion that there is a difference between the two.

I find that it is impossible to differentiate the process of learning from the act of teaching. What I am teaching my students now is primarily my practice of learning aikido. Technique is a vehicle to demonstrate the principles that are awakening within me. I strive to provide students with a venue that will permit them to realize their own aikido potential and strongly emphasize the cultivation of ki as a way to develop correct feeling and strong coordination of mind and body. I have discovered that my solo work with bokken and jo staff has provided me with a whole new set of tools for enabling my students learn to move from their centers and relate to their ukes.

And now that we're all a lot older, classes are punctuated by lots of not so hard throwing and the randori is a notch or two lower on the zesty scale.:rolleyes:

I don't think that there is a right or wrong track. Today I find myself at the precise place I am at because of where I have come from.


Peter Goldsbury
04-05-2007, 10:13 PM
Well, I have had a large number of teachers over the years that I have been training. Some would call this a lucky experience, whereas others, who believe that it is essential to have just one teacher, would think it unfortunate, probably because it places a heavier burden on the learner and the close relationship between teacher and student is harder to achieve.

The point is that the large number of teachers is a given in my own case, since this is the way my training history has evolved. Having had a large number of teachers, all but one of whom were direct students of Morihei Ueshiba, has strengthened my belief in the crucial importance of having one's own training regime and also of the constant monitoring of its efficacy. Even if you have one good teacher, ultimately he or she can only show and point the direction. Moreover, the importance increases as one grows older and one's physical powers decline.

Mark Uttech
04-06-2007, 09:04 AM
This is my 23rd year of practice, and it has evolved into having priorities. The late Hikisutchie Shihan once said: "When you see good aikido, you know what bad aikido is..." I have kept that in mind. My practice has veered in different directions twice; once into taiji and internal arts, and once into the study of systema. I have always looked at many different aikido 'styles' and gone to the dojos of other organizations. I have kept the buddhist approach of just going on, 'not this', 'not this'. I once learned the concept of 'the village dojo'; where every village has a dojo, a place of refuge where adults and children can be introduced to a way of learning how to be with others and be safe. Aikido practice/teaching should grow the way a tree grows.

In gassho,


Rocky Izumi
07-14-2007, 02:13 AM
Each time I go back to the basics, it is with a different understanding, a different level of complexity and a different level of analysis. The techniques no longer have any meaning except as examples of the application of the principles, a way of learning more about the principles, or as useful tools in my work.

I used to see the techniques as Aikido. I now see them only as tools for learning the principles which I see as Aikido. As such, I have become much more particular as to how a technique is done by a student. Just being able to do a technique is no longer adequate. I now want to see the principle being demonstrated and studied being applied in the technique.

I've become much more finicky.