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Don
09-06-2007, 06:02 PM
I would like some opinions, and particularly from those who have trained a long time. I've been training for 14 years now, nidan for several years, assistant instructing for 4 or 5. As I would guess with most aikido schools, except those in very large metropolitan areas, our school is small, has mostly beginners more or less, not many staying to first kyu or beyond, lots of turnover, and we don't have class every day because we all have day jobs.

My problem is that I find myself exploring various subtle and more advanced aspects of aikido (or at least thinking about them and WANTING to explore them!). However, with only a few advanced students and instruction, I find it hard to do that. And because the bulk of our students are relative newcomers, even our advanced classes tend to be skewed to their levels.

This is very frustrating and is causing me to derive less enjoyment from training. And it speaks to a larger problem which Leydard sensei has spoken to; namely relatively fewer and fewer students reaching really master level and having those real subtle aspects mastered. The obvious consequence is that the art loses probably vital aspects.

I know there is much much more to learn, but I feel like I am not going to ever get there.

Any suggestions on how to overcome this problem would be appreciated.

Derek
09-06-2007, 06:56 PM
Don,

There comes a point as you progress where your home school can't offer all the advanced training you may seek. What to do?

First, I find that I can explore several advanced points and fine points with the lower ranks. I don't necessarily explain what I am doing with them, although I sometimes do, as long as I can keep them safe.

Second: travel. Go to seminars and other dojo within and without your affiliation. There are lots of good instructors out there. Lots of seminars out there, you just need to find them.

Finally, maybe you need a change. Is there another dojo or instructor that can help you explore these areas?

Good luck on your journey.

SeiserL
09-06-2007, 08:14 PM
Derek and I come from the same school in more than one way.
Agreed, there are always people who want to train in the subtle and advanced aspects of all ranks.
Agreed, traveling to seminars and experiencing other instructors and students as a participants always brings out new ideas.

aikidoc
09-06-2007, 08:21 PM
You might try finding a dojo with some higher ranked student that want to get together and explore a little. It doesn't always have to be a formal class but perhaps some in your area would like to do the same.

Another option would be visiting schools that hold black belt training classes with an instructor that is open to letting you explore.

RBPierce
09-07-2007, 02:26 PM
Perhaps a true "Advanced" class would help? I'm sure you could find one or two people interested in exploring a little deeper into the nuances of the art with you!

phitruong
09-07-2007, 03:16 PM
Whenever I hit a plateau, I went to one of Ikeda sensei seminar and found myself climbing steep slope. A few years ago, I can still see his circle. Now the circle disappeared. He was talking about moving/changing his inside. After awhile listening to him asking about whether we saw he moved his inside. We had a running joke. "yes, sensei. we saw you lowering your liver, then entering with your spleen, then perform aiki-age with your left kidney at the same time aiki-sage with your right kidney which caused your uke to throw himself/herself into a spectacular break fall." "Is there a doctor in the house? I need to move my inside!" I finally got the Ikeda happy dog technique to work, because I was barking at the moon the other day. :D I still have not mastered the chipmunk eating nuts or the elephant throwing techniques. Last year he did the duck waddling technique. Whatever I picked up from him, I applied it on everyone of my practice partners, low rank, high rank, medium rank, anyone. I liked to use them on beginners because they have not been aikido "conditioned" and their responds are much more unpredictable.

Have you try doing aikido with two arms and one leg or one leg and one arm or two legs and no arm? I got thrown (shomen uchi iriminage) by Endo sensei which just a shoulder nudge and no arm.

Or hike down to Atlanta and play with Seiser sensei. Heard he a nice guy. :)

barron
09-07-2007, 03:52 PM
Read "Mastery" by George Leonard Sensei. (Available through Amazon) He does a very good job of putting plateaus into the proper perspective.

Cheers

SeiserL
09-07-2007, 07:37 PM
Whenever I hit a plateau, I went to one of Ikeda sensei seminar and found myself climbing steep slope. ... Or hike down to Atlanta and play with Seiser sensei. Heard he a nice guy. :)
Ikeda yes. He will be in Alabama and Florida soon. Always works for me.

Seiser? Heard he is just some old has been having a good time.

Peter Goldsbury
09-09-2007, 06:41 AM
I would like some opinions, and particularly from those who have trained a long time. I've been training for 14 years now, nidan for several years, assistant instructing for 4 or 5. As I would guess with most aikido schools, except those in very large metropolitan areas, our school is small, has mostly beginners more or less, not many staying to first kyu or beyond, lots of turnover, and we don't have class every day because we all have day jobs.

My problem is that I find myself exploring various subtle and more advanced aspects of aikido (or at least thinking about them and WANTING to explore them!). However, with only a few advanced students and instruction, I find it hard to do that. And because the bulk of our students are relative newcomers, even our advanced classes tend to be skewed to their levels.

This is very frustrating and is causing me to derive less enjoyment from training. And it speaks to a larger problem which Leydard sensei has spoken to; namely relatively fewer and fewer students reaching really master level and having those real subtle aspects mastered. The obvious consequence is that the art loses probably vital aspects.

I know there is much much more to learn, but I feel like I am not going to ever get there.

Any suggestions on how to overcome this problem would be appreciated.

Well, I have been training for nearly 40 years by now, but I have not had to face the problems that you have. In my time I have had very many teachers and the problem for me has always been to find the principles that lie behind such different ways of doing supposedly basic waza. And also staying fit enough and sharp enough to keep ahead of the speed and enthusiasm of twenty-year-olds who have just put on hakama and have their aikido 'lives' before them.

Your post made me think of a few questions.

You are a small school and have mostly beginners. There is a large turnover and very few who stay to first kyu and beyond.
Even though there is a high attrition rate in aikido, in all the dojos of which I have had any experience there is a core of junior yudansha (1st to 3rd dan) who are hungry to progress and advance. In Hiroshima, these core yudansha who trained with me since I arrived here in 1980 are now senior instructors of 6th dan rank who run their own branch dojos and are training their own core of junior yudansha. My own dojo is too new to do this, but I expect that a few years down the line we will have a good group of shodan and nidan students and the challenge for them will be to improve on what I have taught them. So, the fact that in your dojo very few stay for 1st kyu and beyond makes me wonder why this is. Are the higher kyu grades being challenged enough? What about the junior yudansha? Is the chief instructor capable of showing them interesting possibilities in their training? As an assistant instructor, how much freedom do you have to plan your own class? Can you split the class into two groups of beginners and more advanced kyu grade students?

Recently I encountered an organization where the junior yudansha were frustrated with their seeming lack of progress. They somehow felt that they had come up against a wall, which they could not go beyond. It seemed to me, from watching their training, that they had not been shown enough possibilities. Their training in basics had been too rigid and they were not able to see that there were other ways of doing the same basic waza. I think junior yudansha (up to around 4th dan) need to see these possibilities, for it helps them to cope with the HA stage of SHU-HA-RI. Are you familiar with SHU-HA-RI? It can represent either the stages in a student's learning process at the hands of the master, or the stages in a student's relationship with the 'forms' by means of which the art is taught.

On another occasion I held a workshop for yudansha and senior kyu students (I think there were 16 participants in all). This might be common in the US, but it was not common at all where I was. During the 4-hour workshop, we took apart a basic waza (specifically, shoumen-uchi ikkyou) and practised it as it had evolved from Daito-ryu to postwar aikido. The burning question was to make sense of why it had evolved.
Then we looked at a form of attack (specifically, kata-dori, plus or minus shoumen-uchi) and searched for all the loopholes and tried to plug them.
Then we did randori. My intention was to explore the work that George Ledyard has done on randori in aikido, but even in 2 hours we did not get very far.
The general consensus was the workshop was a very good occasion for the yudansha to train together (which they rarely do in practice) and do some brainstorming (ditto).

Finally, what steps are in place for you to obtain your 3rd dan? I assume that you are committed enough to aikido to want to take your third dan and also to do a good test.

Best wishes,

PAG

Don
09-09-2007, 07:47 AM
Peter I would like to answer your questions offline. Could you please send me an email address to don_mcconnell@mindspring.com?

Thanks