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Nick Pagnucco
05-31-2008, 07:54 PM
link: http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=4900

To summarize: In a piece on how to try and integrate internal training & strength/kokyu into aikido practice, Mr. Amdur offers 5 general rules:
Seniors should stop the techniques of junior students once, but not constantly
Always be aware of positioning as nage and uke for strikes
Don't make your teacher look bad in front of students during a demo, even if you can stop the technique
Social Darwinism is a lousy pedagogical philosophy
Ukes have a responsibility to challenge but not break nage's structure


Now, part of the reason for me starting this thread is to make sure I have accurate summaries of what he means. I believe Mr. Amdur is specifically talking about paired practice for specific techniques (shomenuchi iriminage, tsuki kaitenage, etc.), not sparring or exercises like kokyudosa (I THINK).

But beyond that, reading this was a bit of a light bulb for me. It struck me that many of my personal frustrations have emerged when these rules have been violated, especially when they are violated in the name of good teaching.

So, do people agree? Are these just good elements of paired technique practice for aikido? Have I misunderstood what Amdur was saying?

Nick Pagnucco
05-31-2008, 08:12 PM
PS -

And here is where I may get in trouble.
If these are good principles for paired practice in aikido, I suspect it may serve to reconcile some of the opinions in the No Fight in Aikido Thread.

I teach sociological theory (this relates, I promise). One of my favorite thinkers is Jurgen Habermas, who argues that democracy ought to be grounded in 'discourse ethics': the ideal that society runs off agreements that emerge from rational debate, free from ignorance or coercion. To the degree that society falls short of that ideal, in Habermas' opinion, the society falls short of being perfectly democratic.

I'm not naive (for lack of a better term) enough to believe a dojo should be a democracy. However, whats important from Habermas here is process matters. Even more importantly, process matters beyond efficiency (i.e., "What is the most effective way of people learning"). There is an ethical component to process, to how we decide to come together do to something, be it practice aikido or vote in an election.

This is where I might start getting naive: I wonder if one can try to ground the moral dimension of aikido in a 'paired practice' ethics, at least in part. I make no claim that this is O-Sensei's aikido. As I am not a neo-shinto practitioner / shaman, I cannot wholesale adopt his moral vision. It must be translated, as faithfully as possible, into my own understanding and practice.

I THINK that what I just said is possible without wandering into aiki-bunny territory. I suspect creating an environment where this kind of practice occurs could still have a martial element to it, yet also not have 'the fight' the original poster in that other thread discussed. I am not suggesting, however, that this type of paired practice is the only thing necessary for good aikido. I know that isn't Mr. Amdur's position, nor is it mine.

Nor am I claiming this is the only way to go; its just some partial ideas I wanted to post. In either case, I'm more interested in people's reactions to Amdur's piece than I am to this second post, but I still needed to post it, if that makes sense. I just hope this post made sense.

Keith Larman
05-31-2008, 08:20 PM
link: http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=4900

To summarize: In a piece on how to try and integrate internal training & strength/kokyu into aikido practice, Mr. Amdur offers 5 general rules:
Seniors should stop the techniques of junior students once, but not constantly
Always be aware of positioning as nage and uke for strikes
Don't make your teacher look bad in front of students during a demo, even if you can stop the technique
Social Darwinism is a lousy pedagogical philosophy
Ukes have a responsibility to challenge but not break nage's structure


Now, part of the reason for me starting this thread is to make sure I have accurate summaries of what he means. I believe Mr. Amdur is specifically talking about paired practice for specific techniques (shomenuchi iriminage, tsuki kaitenage, etc.), not sparring or exercises like kokyudosa (I THINK).

But beyond that, reading this was a bit of a light bulb for me. It struck me that many of my personal frustrations have emerged when these rules have been violated, especially when they are violated in the name of good teaching.

So, do people agree? Are these just good elements of paired technique practice for aikido? Have I misunderstood what Amdur was saying?

Yeah, the article is very good -- I read it yesterday. It is a nice explicit exposition of what I have been taught about proper training, teaching and cooperation over the years, albeit less explicitely. I can't count how many times I've heard sensei talking about "testing" technique. We practice techniques like how we test things like keeping balance, unbendable arm, etc. The test isn't to cause them to fail, but to push their limits further each time. You want them to "pass", but pass better each time. The test allows nage to improve their structure, their movement, and therefore their ability to do the technique. So my test of a brand new white belt is *very* different from my test of an experienced aikido person. And I expect the same in return. Keep pushing, keep bumping, keep nudging, and find that uncomfortable spot where you have to keep getting better.

MM
05-31-2008, 08:48 PM
Had a recent discussion with my friends at the Itten Dojo in Pennsylvania, who are trying to integrate internal training (solo exercises) into their aikido practice. A dilemma can occur when trying to "insert" the acquired power into aikido, particularly if you've learned it from outside, rather than from day one. The new insights and strength that one acquires can potentially bust aikido technique, or disturb practice. One can easily begin to question the aikido form/techniques, and be tempted to simply stick to the internal training without aikido at all. Of course, that is a viable option. But if you think you ought to, why continue to do your aikido at all?


I think there's a very good reason to stick to internal training and stop aikido training. If you are just beginning internal training, it's a completely new environment. If your current aikido training hasn't already incorporated it, then you're going to get very messed up and at times, the two trainings will diametrically oppose each other.

So, yeah, I think if someone is serious about internal training, my suggestion would be to stop regular aikido training for a year or two. No, not forever, just long enough to build some structure.

Once there is some structure built, then one can go back to aikido training. It's at this time in one's internal training that I think Ellis' article is very useful. Before this point, no, I don't agree that his article applies.

But, that's me and my personal been there, done that opinion.

Mark

Budd
05-31-2008, 09:19 PM
Pooh on you, Mark, just cause you can't get it to work doesn't mean we all have to give it up ;)

. . . from my own "there now and doing it" perspective . . .

Erick Mead
05-31-2008, 10:16 PM
I think there's a very good reason to stick to internal training and stop aikido training. ...
Once there is some structure built, then one can go back to aikido training. ... But, that's me and my personal been there, done that opinion.The problem is one of learning style and inherent biases of perception (which we all have)
493.

Some perceive training better in blue (tai-jutsu).
Some see it better in red (tachi-waza or other weapons).
Some see it better in yellow (kokyu undo and other tanren).

Some see it better if they go through regular alterations or rotations of each, and for some that would be highly confusing.

Eventually, they all merge and the differences become functionally irrelevant. But the perceptual biases and the differences in history to get to that point remain. Even though the final product is perceived as white for everyone, a person with strong inherent bias toward one or the other thinks that there is no other way than the way they see it in terms of training to get there. And one can quite legitimately believe that from ones' own perspective. But more objectively it can be seen that while he is not wrong to believe that -- he is not completely right either.

MM
06-01-2008, 08:02 AM
Pooh on you, Mark, just cause you can't get it to work doesn't mean we all have to give it up ;)

. . . from my own "there now and doing it" perspective . . .

ROTFL! Well, you're in a very special case. It isn't like you're alone training in an aikikai dojo (or whatever dojo you choose) having to follow the instructor's syllabus for training. Even if you get your partner to go really slowly so that you can work on this stuff, they won't understand what is required of them to help you train internals.

On the other side of things, I think you've got a great bunch of people up there. Sounds like it's more of a group dynamic at work, which makes things a whole lot better. If the distance was just a bit closer ... I'd be there a lot more often. :)

Peter Goldsbury
06-01-2008, 10:31 AM
I think there's a very good reason to stick to internal training and stop aikido training. If you are just beginning internal training, it's a completely new environment. If your current aikido training hasn't already incorporated it, then you're going to get very messed up and at times, the two trainings will diametrically oppose each other.

So, yeah, I think if someone is serious about internal training, my suggestion would be to stop regular aikido training for a year or two. No, not forever, just long enough to build some structure.

Once there is some structure built, then one can go back to aikido training. It's at this time in one's internal training that I think Ellis' article is very useful. Before this point, no, I don't agree that his article applies.

But, that's me and my personal been there, done that opinion.

Mark

I have a small question.

I cannot state very much about Akuzawa Sensei's view of Morihei Ueshiba, but it seems that both Dan Harden and Mike Sigman agree that O Sensei definitely had 'the goods' about internal training.

Yet, he taught all his deshi waza, as did Takeda and Sagawa. If the value of internal training is so clear--and it clearly is, why did the creator of aikido never renounce his commitment to waza? It seems to me that M Ueshiba was committed to waza, right from the beginning of his budo training, but he seems to have become aware of the crucial value of internal training in parallel and alongside his training in waza: the two seem to have complimented one another.

Thus, it seems to me that to separate the two is not to follow in O Sensei's footsteps. The issue for aikido is how you do internal training as well as waza, not whether you do internal training as well as waza.

Or have I misunderstood you?

Best wishes,

PAG

Budd
06-01-2008, 10:35 AM
Mark, you know I like to push the buttons when you wave them at me, bro.

You also know that I think, without any bias whatsoever ;), our dojo freaking rocks. I'm eternally grateful and indebted to Robert Wolfe Sensei for his ability, sacrifice, leadership, and the way he's taught us all to keep seeking, keep striving and strengthening our dojo family. Any "group dynamic" that we bring to the table comes from doing our very best to follow his example.

Anyhow, like I've said before, I think I have a foot in the door . . . just working on it from there.

Keith Larman
06-01-2008, 11:18 AM
...Thus, it seems to me that to separate the two is not to follow in O Sensei's footsteps. The issue for aikido is how you do internal training as well as waza, not whether you do internal training as well as waza.

FWIW I couldn't agree more. I can only speak for myself but in my training what I understand people here call "internal" and "external" have both been taught as necessary for it to be "aikido" in the first place... At least in my experience. I can understand doing "exercises" to develop better grasp of the internal aspects but my understanding has always been the goal is to express that very thing within the waza each and every time.

MM
06-01-2008, 12:03 PM
I have a small question.

I cannot state very much about Akuzawa Sensei's view of Morihei Ueshiba, but it seems that both Dan Harden and Mike Sigman agree that O Sensei definitely had 'the goods' about internal training.

Yet, he taught all his deshi waza, as did Takeda and Sagawa. If the value of internal training is so clear--and it clearly is, why did the creator of aikido never renounce his commitment to waza? It seems to me that M Ueshiba was committed to waza, right from the beginning of his budo training, but he seems to have become aware of the crucial value of internal training in parallel and alongside his training in waza: the two seem to have complimented one another.

Thus, it seems to me that to separate the two is not to follow in O Sensei's footsteps. The issue for aikido is how you do internal training as well as waza, not whether you do internal training as well as waza.

Or have I misunderstood you?

Best wishes,

PAG

I think there's been a misunderstanding here. I didn't mean that one should quit aikido altogether, nor disregard waza. That wasn't my intent. Back when Takeda or Ueshiba trained, they were training the internals from day one. It really was part and parcel of their training. But, now, I'd say that the internal stuff is missing in most US aikido schools.

If you belong to a dojo that doesn't have any of the internals, then that's where my comments come into play. Working on internals and following a "normal" aikido dojo syllabus at the very beginning is definitely very hard to do. I'm not saying it can't be done, but that IMO it's going to be the long hard road.

But, if you stop the "normal" aikido practice for a year or two while you build a basic structure, then returning to aikido practice while still training internals is better. And at that point, it is where Ellis' article becomes important.

Or, as Budd has indicated, if you have a whole group, or a whole dojo committed to doing internals, then that's a very different situation. I think Ellis' article would apply then. But most people aren't going to be in that kind of situation. They're going to be one of many trying to train two completely different things -- at the very beginning.

It's almost like playing a game of catch-up. Since the internal training wasn't integrated into "normal" aikido training, one has to "catch up" with what should have been there. And trying to work on the internal training and at the same time work on "normal" aikido dojo waza is a very hard way to train for someone just starting out.

Which is why I say, for those starting out, concentrate on the internal training for a year or two and then return to aikido training. My guess is at that point (2 years in), you would have enough structure to still be able to work on regular waza while working internals. At that time, I believe Ellis' article would be invaluable for how to keep training effectively without being disruptive.

Does that help make my posts clearer?

Thanks,
Mark

Nick Pagnucco
06-01-2008, 03:05 PM
Which is why I say, for those starting out, concentrate on the internal training for a year or two and then return to aikido training. My guess is at that point (2 years in), you would have enough structure to still be able to work on regular waza while working internals. At that time, I believe Ellis' article would be invaluable for how to keep training effectively without being disruptive.

I think I interpret Ellis Amdur's article & its implications slightly differently than you. My sense is that if a dojo actually practiced technique in accordance with the 5 points he outlined, it would create a space in the dojo for one to explore a lot of different elements one could not in a more resistant (sparring, etc.) training setting.

Assuming one has enough time to dedicate oneself faithfully, crosstraining is a good thing. Thats a big if, however, for many people, myself included.

Of course, I happily admit my own ignorance here, so if there's a better argument, I want to hear it

Rupert Atkinson
06-01-2008, 05:02 PM
I'd say the rules outlined in post #1 are pretty standard and define Aikido in terms of practice methodology - as opposed to other arts - in most dojos. These rules, ?or the lack of them?, are not the cause of the perceived problem. For me, I think that the problem lies in the fact that many seniors continue to do this forever so never test themselves beyond minimal realism. Thus, we have the eternal beginner, in the wrong sense.

I prefer the quote Ellis gave - far more sensible to take on board if you want to improve: Di Guoyong on Xingyiquan, V. I.: “Strengthen your root internally, strengthen you body externally. The internal is the way to nourish health, the external is the way to move. If you have the internal but not the external, then you cannot succeed at martial arts. If you have the external but not the internal then you cannot succeed at deep trained skill” Xingyi Classics

MM
06-02-2008, 11:33 AM
Keith, Nick, and Rupert,
With due respect, I've found that "normal" aikido training is vastly different than working on internals -- in the beginning. While Ellis' article *seems* to overlap "normal" aikido training, it really does not convey the same situation.

I think Ron posted a very great example of this, but in another thread. Ron, I'm stealing your words. :)



One way of testing these skills is to use varying non-cooperative settings. My own personal experience has been that aikido partners (myself included) have a trained, almost pavlovian, conditioned response to cooperate or even resist in inappropriate ways for this type of training. Now that I am realizing this, I find it necessary to watch my own responses in training both as shite and uke VERY carefully. I also must be carefull in how I assess my progress in this area.


I've found what Ron has. For the most part, aikido training has this kind of preconditioned responses. These responses are, at times, diametrically opposed to internal training. A new beginner will not get very far if trying to work on both training situations at the same time. It's why I posted what I did.

It's my opinion that if the aikido training *has* already incorporated internals, then everything will be fine. As Peter eloquently suggested in his posts, the two complement each other. It is as it should be.

However, if the aikido training hasn't incorporated internals (and this, IMO/guess, would be a vast majority of US aikido schools/dojos), then the beginner is better to stop the "normal" aikido training for a year or two until his/her structure is better. Once that's accomplished, he/she can go back to aikido and follow Ellis' advice.

Ron Tisdale
06-02-2008, 12:44 PM
I have mixed views on this subject. And I appreciate Mark's viewpoint (and him quoting my poor words). But...

At this point in time, I believe that part of training is learning how to focus on your individual goals while you "get along" with whatever group you train with. For me, this is often the "meat" of the "spiritual" training. How do I shape my own individual keiko while working with others who may indeed have a VERY different mindset? It could be the young bucks who want to use every ounce of muscle to toss their partners, or the ki weenie who wants very light, sensitive training (and I don't even get to break a sweat), it could be someone who believes every waza must contain atemi, and he must land it every time.

I myself have probably been some of the worst versions of all of the above. So in this latest iteration of me, I need to keep that past in mind as I take Ellis's words to heart. Peter's post also resonates with me. I think this all means that I must accept failure, often. And be willing to just try and even fail again.

BUT I must also mark WHERE I fail and HOW, and strive to fail a little further down the path each time. I can no longer allow the rote movement of the waza to just flow while some part of my mind takes a nap. Before I had to pay attention to what foot went where, where my hand went, and oh so many wonderfull details. At some point, I reached a place where things just flowed, and I love that part of aikido. But sometimes you have to deny yourself what you love, to get to a better place.

So if I get stopped a lot because my structure is too weak to work it on the Bully Boys, or if I want more resistance to a particular movement but my partner is a Wet Noodle, or any number of other problems...

I need to focus my mind, stick to my principles, and strive to fail less often. In whatever environment I find myself.

Best,
Ron

DH
06-02-2008, 01:03 PM
I can see all of Ellis's points from being a student, to being a teacher, to opting-out to an owner of a Darwinian dojo out of my Barn (gee could we have been a little more subtle). very clearly They are a good start but I just didn't read that he was offering a comprehensive solution for all parties. In the end there may not be a one size fits all solution. I think Ellis offered some good starter points to go by in a modern aikido dojo, is all.

Reading Mark's views against Bud's, shows the dichotomy of training these skills. Not the least of which involved where any one person is training their internal skills. Many that I have spoken with have expressed the frustration in going back and trying to get those in authority or even just training buddies to cooperate while they worked their skills. Thinking you can train internal skills and just go walk in and do waza is going to prove to be problematic. I know I couldn't do it. I am always open to someone having a better idea than me, though. If I remember correctly Mike and Ark couldn't either. I'll wait to hear from them, but I thought they both opted out, and trained ardently in solo work as well trying to burn these skills in before letting waza ruin what they were trying to build.
On my end I am the Darwinian barn worker type Ellis referred to. Over 18 yrs of teaching I have morphed continually, from fighting to waza, to aiki, to waza, then fighting to aiki, then fighting with aiki....till I frustrated most of the 220 or so folks who tried to follow until only a dozen or so stayed for extended periods of time. In that sense Ellis is spot on yet again. I could afford not to care about those who left. I had no art to forward or preserve. I focused on me, and what I was trying to achieve. Most people do not even come close to having that luxury.

This also ties in with Peters observations that Ueshiba "had it." Yes he did. But the overriding question of the thread is "how" he got it? I do not agree with anyone who states that he got it from doing Aikido. He got it from doing Daito ryu. The focus on movement and intent there is totally different there than in aikido. And it was only there that we found Ueshiba's contemporaries and betters. But mores the point did he or any of them really ever get it from the student end? Or, was it in their long periods of training without Takeda when they transcended into the teacher/experimenter/solo training end where they could control more of the proceedings and not be as susceptible to waza ruination- that they solidified their skills?

Marks points, after all, may be the most strident.
That if you are practicing in someone else's dojo you are probably not going to get an opportunity to explore the skills you are aiming for either in movement as Uke or nage. Buds situation is that he also trains in one of Ellis's Darwinian examples in that they can pretty much do as they like and evolve together without fear of losing people.
So where is the fully comprehensive solution to the problem? The solution from a students end is far different then the solution from a teaching end. And that is different from a free lancers end.

1. If the goal is Aiki power utilized in Aikido? Then practicing waza and internals in a dojo as a student is slowest way.
2. If the goal is rank and learning waza as expressed in an art? Then practicing waza in a dojo as a student is the fast way.

3. If the goal is Aiki power utilized in Aikido in the fastest way possible? Than you are going down a road that will take years. You will have to get Aikido people to train with you outside of the aikido paradigm. Internal power-AIKI-power. IME it is totally different from what I have felt/see/read most aikido people think it means. The movements of aikido are meant to be powered by internal (Aiki) power. Without it-they ain't much. With it, they will forever change.
So you will need to work on the development of structure and what that feels like. Then work on maintaining structure and intent while moving. But trying to develop intent as having any real affect on your body or someone coming into contact with you is best done solo, then slowly with a person helping you, having hours and hours of work go by while training on only a very few things. It's one of the reasons Sagawa would do months and months on just a few waza. Next up would be ramping up the resistance to your movement, then adding changes and multidirectional positional changes. Then waza and being able to change incoming forces while adding your own. None of which has to do with you moving all over the place just to move them.
Now, conceivably years have gone by while working on all of this. With you doing solo work as an adjunct- to your paired work. BTW most will probably no longer train with you anymore. The real problem is then going to the dojo week after week and defaulting and failing, and seeing all your newly learned wiring once again falling apart; breaking structure, having your weight/balance on one side, being led out from your held equilibrium and seeing your shoulder tense up, or seeing a muscle train externally go right up through you and get manipulated before your eyes.
Later, most assuredly not sooner, you will change and everyone will notice. And over time-you-will be the wiser, and far more powerful one. If experience is any indicator, the people who used to laugh at you or stopped training with you will feel you now and say "What was that you were doing, again?"

So, I think it remains a difficult problem to solve. I also think that folks will have to weight their end goals in the balance; wanting Aikido as an art that looks like everyone else's? Or the internal power that was meant to drive the art?
Once -you- get it. Your aikido will never look or feel like what most call Aiki-do ever again. I'd bet you will join the ever growing voices, including aikido teachers now encountering this power and opting to train this way asking "What the hell were they thinking? That isn't aiki!"
I think many are entering into the most wonderful time in their martial careers. I can't wait to see what happens in ten years.

Robert Wolfe
06-02-2008, 02:02 PM
Dan,

Rather than Budd training "in one of Ellis's Darwinian examples," I'd say our dojo tends more toward the "Intelligent Design" end of the spectrum. While we do have the opportunity to train pretty much as we want, we also have to pay the rent for the dojo. And that has become increasingly problematic.

As our general training paradigm became more sophisticated under Ellis's guidance, requiring solo work outside formal classes, people practicing only occasionally and casually were steadily dropping behind and began to drop out. Now that we're trying to incorporate a structured approach to internal skills following the seminar with Mike Sigman, demanding even greater amounts of solo training and individual initiative, it's worse. On top of that, we don't want to have to "dumb down" regular practices now that the core group doing the work wants to play around a bit -- and the people on the periphery aren't even doing enough training to get purely mechanical fundamentals.

So, as Budd frequently notes when we're debating how best to accomplish what we're after, "It's a real balancing act."

-- Bob

DH
06-02-2008, 02:33 PM
Hi Bob
Oh I do I hear that bud
I'd say "welcome to the club!" But I haven't figured out which club I'm in, or left, was part of, or want no part of. :freaky:

Seriously though I sat down and was reading my sign-in register. It's all over the map; 16 people regularly training to 2, 8 to occasionally training to 4. I've only got 8 regular people now and a bunch of visitors. But I've been down to just two members many times. With all manner of comments for leaving, I wanted more groundwork, I wanted more stand up, I wanted more striking, I wanted a more traditional approach, I wanted more freestyle and not that aiki crap!!!
Oh well. No profit mind you. But no real bills either.
As I wrote I just focused on me. I've never really figured I had anything worth being called a teacher for anyway. I think of us a place for Shugyo. Hence, Shugyo dojo (named by a teacher I once had). A totally non-traditional name for a totally non-traditional place.

Were I you guys I would embrace this stuff with everything you have. I'd guess you'll thank yourselves and probably be shocked years from now with how many will be looking you up as a source. Not that you are catering to a crowd. It's just that percentage wise it's very hard to find anyone who has appreciable skills. So it's an investment in your future. Anyone who trained smart-stands out. I also think as it build in you you'll wonder "Why do anything else?' If you do it right the power and sensitivity just keeps growing and growing.

So I guess I remain the only Darwinian experiment. Hopefully some of us here have progressed past their Neanderthal stage. I don't think many would include me in that category though.

Robert Wolfe
06-02-2008, 02:50 PM
Dan,

Well, the only sure thing is you can't please everyone...

Our best head-scratcher was the evening two potential members came to watch the same practice. The vet said what we were doing was too much like the practical combatives he did in the Army, while he was looking for something softer. The college-aged kid said what we were doing was too soft, and he wanted something a little more "real."

Neither joined.

-- Bob

MM
06-02-2008, 03:20 PM
Rather than Budd training "in one of Ellis's Darwinian examples," I'd say our dojo tends more toward the "Intelligent Design" end of the spectrum. While we do have the opportunity to train pretty much as we want, we also have to pay the rent for the dojo. And that has become increasingly problematic.


Well, you do have Budd there, so "Intelligent" might not be the best word choice. ;) Maybe "Stubborn" Design? :crazy: Just Kidding!


As our general training paradigm became more sophisticated under Ellis's guidance, requiring solo work outside formal classes, people practicing only occasionally and casually were steadily dropping behind and began to drop out. Now that we're trying to incorporate a structured approach to internal skills following the seminar with Mike Sigman, demanding even greater amounts of solo training and individual initiative, it's worse. On top of that, we don't want to have to "dumb down" regular practices now that the core group doing the work wants to play around a bit -- and the people on the periphery aren't even doing enough training to get purely mechanical fundamentals.

So, as Budd frequently notes when we're debating how best to accomplish what we're after, "It's a real balancing act."

-- Bob

Seriously, though. I really, really wouldn't wish anyone to be in your place. Yuck. You're caught between two worlds and it's a real kick in the rear. The bills have to be paid and this internal stuff is at best, boring, and at most, severely repetitively straining. Most people won't want to do it. So, you can't just focus on internal training, but after having tasted some of the internal stuff, you realize you can't go without it.

I guess I chose, though. But, I was lucky in that I don't have the overhead that you do. And if the overhead does become a problem, I'll work in my yard or find a place that's cheaper. Aiki, or internal training, is worth it in the long run. We're down to three of us, me included. Some of your guys met Chris as he was at the Sigman workshop. You haven't met Brian yet. We sort of just focus on this internal stuff right now with the hopes of returning to aikido in another year or so. That's the plan, at least. But, after reading Dan's post, I'm not given much hope. (Gee, thanks Dan. :yuck: )

Maybe you'll find a middle road in there somewhere. It would give the rest of us hope. I couldn't find it, but I'm not exactly the best or brightest. :) I have found that now that the three of us have concentrated on just working on internal stuff, we're progressing a bit better. Either that or the past year has helped our progression. It's hard to tell, really.

Sometime this summer, we'll have to visit again, though. Thanks for everything you've done so far. It'd be a heck of a lot harder without the things you've done and are doing. We appreciate that.

Mark

Budd
06-02-2008, 03:50 PM
Well, you do have Budd there, so "Intelligent" might not be the best word choice. ;) Maybe "Stubborn" Design? :crazy: Just Kidding!


ZING!! Now, I really can't wait to see you soon, Mark . . . it'll be fuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnn :) (Why, yes, that is an EVIL grin)

Ron Tisdale
06-02-2008, 04:06 PM
Nah...THIS is an evil grin...
:D

Best,
Ron

MM
06-02-2008, 04:06 PM
ZING!! Now, I really can't wait to see you soon, Mark . . . it'll be fuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnn :) (Why, yes, that is an EVIL grin)

LOL! Well, just get the other partner in crime (you know, the one that's always busy working) to free up a day ... :)

EDIT: Um, the one that posted when I did!

Ellis Amdur
06-02-2008, 08:27 PM
Dear Dan - I wasn't thinking of you at all. I was thinking of myself. I have a garage dojo, and frankly, I'm a lot less welcoming than you. You accept guests to practice, I do not. You issue open invites, I do not. So why a "garage or a barn?" I have a habit when I write of coupling words together for rhythm. "A garage or a barn," sounds like a community; far better than "a garage," which merely sounds lonely and depressing.
But if you want to argue with me and include yourself among the isolates who see students in terms of "suitable or please get out - now," you are welcome. The only question is if two misanthropes together are any less lonely.:)
Ellis

gdandscompserv
06-02-2008, 10:20 PM
It's one of the reasons Sagawa would do months and months on just a few waza. Next up would be ramping up the resistance to your movement, then adding changes and multidirectional positional changes.
I feel this is an important principle. And you're right Dan. Finding an environment conducive to that kind of training is difficult. If you want it, you usually have to create it yourself.

DH
06-03-2008, 09:01 AM
Dear Dan - I wasn't thinking of you at all. I was thinking of myself. I have a garage dojo, and frankly, I'm a lot less welcoming than you. You accept guests to practice, I do not. You issue open invites, I do not. So why a "garage or a barn?" I have a habit when I write of coupling words together for rhythm. "A garage or a barn," sounds like a community; far better than "a garage," which merely sounds lonely and depressing.
But if you want to argue with me and include yourself among the isolates who see students in terms of "suitable or please get out - now," you are welcome. The only question is if two misanthropes together are any less lonely.:)
Ellis
Hah! Or maybe it was unconscious. :D
Which misanthrope is lonely(er)?
Well hell, the only reason I opened my door after years of saying “No!” was what a certain someone said to me after plying me with mojitos. Two months later I had guests!! (blek) from all over.
Ya know, I think that guy may have been right after all.;)

Speaking of barns and garages- or country settings. I think that it would be an excellent expansion in both you and Peters capable hands and works on transmission / heritage / history (you know, that writing thing you two are good at) To consider what made the masters? What is the most common formula?
You're working on Takeda and what has become of Daito ryu down to Ueshiba.
Peter on Ueshiba and what has become of Aikido through Kissamaru to the present.
That's probably a fair summation of your latest work.

So, in a more general sense for the masters in Budo:
1. What was the real method of transmission that clicked VS the crap most did back then?
2. How does that play against allot of the crap we do today?
3. In the end were they or us really all that different in what it takes to master something?
I am certain, that large dojo’s and big organizations had not to do with it.
Even my kid-who's turning into a powerhouse himself noted something. He had seen peoples reaction to my stuff for years. He noted how many held ranks were teachers that came from established dojos and large organizations and had heard theircomments. He said "Don't they read their own stories? It was never about them, large groups and systems. All the stories were about the guy in the barn, the guy in the country, or the mountains. Always a story about a visionaries small journey played out against samurai who were by an large just budo wallpaper.
Barns and garages may be, just maybe, not such a bad idea after all. What changes when you don’t have to pay the rent, don’t have to follow a set course, or have the responsibility to good and honest seekers under you to layout a comprehensive program for them, instead of spending all that time working on evolving within a small group. And then going out now and again to test what you think you learned. I’m guessing there is, over the years, a tremendous difference in growth and development. But that’s just a personal subjective view. I wonder what a more objective study would reveal.
What did the masters do? Where did they come from? Were they alive, what would they think has become of the arts? What would they be doing? Maybe it’s just me, but I think that would be an interesting read.

MM
06-03-2008, 09:46 AM
Well hell, the only reason I opened my door after years of saying "No!" was what a certain someone said to me after plying me with mojitos. Two months later I had guests!! (blek) from all over.
Ya know, I think that guy may have been right after all.;)


Um, yeah, I owe that "certain someone" dinner. :) If not for that person, quite a lot of things/events/training would never have occurred for me. It'd be the least I could do to say thanks.

(Perhaps the best I could do is to show them in a few years that their effort was worth it. That some people really are seekers and really do work hard to train. And that is what I'm trying to do.)

Mark

jennifer paige smith
06-03-2008, 10:39 AM
[QUOTE=Nicholas Pagnucco;207663]link: http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=4900

To summarize: In a piece on how to try and integrate internal training & strength/kokyu into aikido practice, Mr. Amdur offers 5 general rules:
Seniors should stop the techniques of junior students once, but not constantly
Always be aware of positioning as nage and uke for strikes
Don't make your teacher look bad in front of students during a demo, even if you can stop the technique
Social Darwinism is a lousy pedagogical philosophy
Ukes have a responsibility to challenge but not break nage's structure


Those 5 match my 5.

jennifer paige smith
06-03-2008, 10:49 AM
I have a small question.

I cannot state very much about Akuzawa Sensei's view of Morihei Ueshiba, but it seems that both Dan Harden and Mike Sigman agree that O Sensei definitely had 'the goods' about internal training.

Yet, he taught all his deshi waza, as did Takeda and Sagawa. If the value of internal training is so clear--and it clearly is, why did the creator of aikido never renounce his commitment to waza?Best wishes,

PAG

This is directed at the thought rather than the thinker, in all respect. I read this and felt a need to jump in.

In my technical and philosophical integration, waza are the techniques of Nature. That is where Nature expresses itself in form, for practice, through aikido.
My summation is that O'Sensei had a lot to say about Nature and Nature had a lot to say to him, and us.
Thanks.

Tom H.
06-03-2008, 10:55 AM
To summarize: In a piece on how to try and integrate internal training & strength/kokyu into aikido practice, Mr. Amdur offers 5 general rules:
Seniors should stop the techniques of junior students once, but not constantly
Always be aware of positioning as nage and uke for strikes
Don't make your teacher look bad in front of students during a demo, even if you can stop the technique
Social Darwinism is a lousy pedagogical philosophy
Ukes have a responsibility to challenge but not break nage's structure


I have a comment on #3, regarding safety. If you try to stop the technique, the other person may react by ramping up power or changing suddenly, either of which can be dangerous :)

Tom

MM
06-03-2008, 10:58 AM
Those 5 match my 5.

But, are you doing internal training such as Sigman, Akuzawa, or Hardin are doing?

Peter Goldsbury
06-03-2008, 11:03 AM
This is directed at the thought rather than the thinker, in all respect. I read this and felt a need to jump in.

In my technical and philosophical integration, waza are the techniques of Nature. That is where Nature expresses itself in form, for practice, through aikido.
My summation is that O'Sensei had a lot to say about Nature and Nature had a lot to say to him, and us.
Thanks.

Sorrry. I do not fully understand you here. Which thinker and whose thought?

Best wishes,

PAG

Aikibu
06-03-2008, 11:26 AM
Dan,

Well, the only sure thing is you can't please everyone...

Our best head-scratcher was the evening two potential members came to watch the same practice. The vet said what we were doing was too much like the practical combatives he did in the Army, while he was looking for something softer. The college-aged kid said what we were doing was too soft, and he wanted something a little more "real."

Neither joined.

-- Bob

I've done the math and I'd say we get 1 new student out of 8 and of those only about 2 stay more than a year the rest leave often citing your two excellent "excuses"

Let them go with love I say and more power to them. I am here to work with the ones that want to be here. :)

SoCali's one caveat is there are so many World Class Martial Artists trying to make a livng it is a "students market."

We practice the 5 suggestions of Sensei Amdur most of the time. :) I need to work on #1 a bit more. Sensei thinks I can be too chatty at times LOL :)

William Hazen

DH
06-03-2008, 12:39 PM
I have a comment on #3, regarding safety. If you try to stop the technique, the other person may react by ramping up power or changing suddenly, either of which can be dangerous :)

Tom

I've backed off from doing this too much as I have gotten older, but in the past people have been hurt and broken when they tried that crap on me. If I feel a change to what I am just trying to show -I will change with them and continue.
Sometimes it's a new student not understading the danger inherently involved. Most of the time the smartalec who pulled that kind of crap was simply not as prepared for the outcome. It has precedent with some very famous Budo teachers. Teaching a waza is not to be confused with fighting and positional change. Only a fool would do it more than once.
Often the teacher is teaching with more respect for the student than that very student is aware of.

Josh Lerner
06-03-2008, 03:15 PM
Often the teacher is teaching with more respect for the student than that very student is aware of.

As one teacher of mine used to say, "Don't mistake compassion for incompetence."

Josh

Mike Sigman
06-03-2008, 10:36 PM
... but it seems that both Dan Harden and Mike Sigman agree that O Sensei definitely had 'the goods' about internal training. I'd have to say that nowadays it seems obvious that a number of Japanese ryu experts had 'the goods', popping the bubble (misperception) that I had 3 or 4 years ago. The problem is that 'the goods' were there all around many of us who spent years studying various Asian martial arts, but we didn't see them because we couldn't conceive of something that basic and that 'large' that we could be unaware of. I.e., the number of westerners who were blinded by a conceit of sorts and whose conceit was reinforced by their fellow westerners who also had the same conceit is staggering. ;) It seems to me that M Ueshiba was committed to waza, right from the beginning of his budo training, but he seems to have become aware of the crucial value of internal training in parallel and alongside his training in waza: the two seem to have complimented one another. Sure. If all it took was internal strength, there wouldn't be so many martial arts... internal strength would be all that was practiced. The issue for aikido is how you do internal training as well as waza, not whether you do internal training as well as waza.
It's not just Aikido where this is a problem of great import. Slowly a number of different styles are beginning to see the problem. The real problem is that it's very different to try to put "internal strength" into movements that have already been repetitiously patterned for years in a way that doesn't use internal strength.

FWIW

Mike Sigman

Mike Sigman
06-03-2008, 10:54 PM
Reading some of the other posts again, I'd like to add a quick comment: "Quitchyerbitchin'". ;) Aikido has some enormous advantages over most of the other arts where there is also an attempt be various individuals to install or re-install internal strength. There is a structure to Aikido (generally speaking) that is not to be found in all the eclectic "Tai Chee", Bagua, Xingyi, etc., versions being practiced by westerners. Aikido does not have the extreme, cultivated stiffness/tension of so many karate styles (I discourage many karate and Wing Chun, Choy li fut, etc., people from coming to workshops because they are too stiff to change). And so on. Aikido is probably the best of all formats.

Secondly, it's always worth remembering that Tohei had to go outside of Aikido to get a lot of his understanding of how these things worked. So this is not a new problem in Aikido. The fact that there are small groups doing dedicated practice and research is a wonderful thing, no matter how cumbersome and trying it is at present. There may never be large groups of people doing actual "aiki" with the mind-directed forces and the ki development... but I feel pretty sure that O-Sensei was well-aware of that fact. Somebody's got to break the trail, so... quitchyerebitchin' and enjoy it. These are the good old days, right now. ;)

Best.

Mike Sigman

rob_liberti
06-04-2008, 12:46 AM
Now, conceivably years have gone by while working on all of this. With you doing solo work as an adjunct- to your paired work. BTW most will probably no longer train with you anymore. The real problem is then going to the dojo week after week and defaulting and failing, and seeing all your newly learned wiring once again falling apart; breaking structure, having your weight/balance on one side, being led out from your held equilibrium and seeing your shoulder tense up, or seeing a muscle train externally go right up through you and get manipulated before your eyes.

From my current perspetive, in terms of aikido practice while developing internal skills - I see this kind of specific training opportunity as a way for me to be able to continually up the progressive resistance . I cannot imagine ever NOT enjoying taking ukemi - unless I were injured. I just very much like the idea of having more "choices".

Rob

Rupert Atkinson
06-04-2008, 04:23 AM
Slowly a number of different styles are beginning to see the problem. The real problem is that it's very different to try to put "internal strength" into movements that have already been repetitiously patterned for years in a way that doesn't use internal strength.
Mike Sigman

Certainly an interesting point. As someone who has trained in several arts for an extended period, I can say with 100% certainty that people who learn any type of Aikido always find it easy to go elsewhere and learn new stuff. Others coming to Aikido are like beginners starting again. This is probably the main reason I have continued to have faith in Aikido. In Korea I remember exchanging a few techniques with a Judoka. I was ten years out of touch and he showed me how to do his 'power' slam Judo. Naturally, he thought he was better than me (he was) and I was happy to oblige and learn his technique. After critiquing my tech until I did it his way, as an afterthought, he asked me to show him my way. I would not have bothered had he not asked. I don't know if my way would win against him in a fight, but one thing was for sure -- he could not do it my way at all. It doesn't mean my way was better, rather, just that he was totally unadaptable - almost like a beginner. To me, this means he had learned nothing of value. But if your conclusion here is not to learn Judo, that would be another mistake. If I were 16 again, I would take it up with a vengence!

Alex Megann
06-04-2008, 07:52 AM
The real problem is that it's very different to try to put "internal strength" into movements that have already been repetitiously patterned for years in a way that doesn't use internal strength.

Coming in to this discussion a little late, I am feeling that what Ellis and Mike are saying here is very pertinent to the way my teacher has been teaching in recent years. These days Kanetsuka Sensei teaches in what you might call an "unstructured" way, and hardly ever teaches specific techniques. Instead he shows a large range of variants of kokyu-ho, with one or multiple attackers and in suwariwaza, tachiwaza, hanmihandachi and occasionally from lying full-length on the floor or hanging from wall bars. He stresses very much the "first contact", and as soon as you hold him you understand exactly what he means (not that it is guaranteed to work when it's your turn...).

He often says that he is "not teaching aikido", and his favourite analogy for his students who aren't getting what he is teaching is of "hamsters on a wheel" - plenty of repetitive and perhaps mindless effort, but with no useful outcome. In his classes it always feels as if we have to break down all of our habits as well as letting go of the physical strength if we want to do what he can do. Even after more than twenty-five years of trying to follow him it is still hugely challenging.

One of the hardest things after a weekend with Kanetsuka Sensei is to try to teach techniques in a regular class in my own dojo. It often feels as if the structure of the "canonical form" of the techniques is a distraction from the real aim of the training.

Interestingly, on the subject of Ellis's interesting suggestions on the subject of "stopping" the partner, I have never seen Kanetsuka Sensei stop a technique. Sometime he will call someone out in front of the class to show what they are doing wrong, and what happens is that that person tries to throw Sensei, and they simply keep falling over. When this has happened to me it is a weird feeling - it really feels as if his physical body has turned into something completely "other", which completely sidesteps whetever I try to do to him.

Alex

Robert Wolfe
06-04-2008, 09:14 AM
I wanted to respond sooner to some of Mark's posts, but didn't have the chance ‘til now.

I'll caveat my remarks, noting that the situation at our dojo (we're independent) is conducive to this undertaking and we definitely enjoy certain critical advantages others might not. Most importantly, the curriculum designed for us by Ellis was structured with the intention we would move into the internal skills as opportunity presented, and we have the leeway to adapt technically as the internal study informs / illuminates our practice. Others, operating within organizations and more codified curricula are likely much more constrained.

We also enjoy a small, core group within the dojo bringing to the table a considerable breadth of experience and the ability to work collegially and research / debate / test / bang heads with the overall objective that we all get as skilled as possible, together. We're not much into social engineering or having our practice provide a "spiritual" alternative to religion; we honor the ethical standards inherent to aikido, but at the end of the day we would prefer to be the ones still standing.

There are two trains of thought mentioned in this thread, and elsewhere, with which I disagree.

The first is Mark's proposition that the best way to undertake internal training is as an entirely separate endeavor initially, only incorporating the practice to one's martial studies after some considerable period of time. To the degree I've been exposed to the early stages of internal training, I would propose rather that there are aspects to which even aikido novices can relate, and can profit thereby.

Mechanical aspects such as body alignment and structure, weighting, relaxation, and fundamental methods of moving are taught from the beginning in all arts anyway, either implicitly or explicitly, so why not include reference to how these aspects relate to internal skills? Telling a new student, "Do this because ultimately you'll be healthier, more powerful, and better able to kick butt" seems to me to provide a good rationale for undertaking the solo work necessary to getting anywhere with Ellis's approach to aikido, let alone internal skills.

The "mind-directed" aspect of internal skills is certainly an esoteric concept to most people — it is to me, anyway — but, again, it seems to me training beginners to operate intentionally (and in their solo practice, introspectively) at least lays a foundation on which more complex aspects of training might subsequently be addressed.

Mike is adamant that internal principles and paradigms must be integrated to the point they become one's natural state, 24/7, so it seems to me a mistake to start off compartmentalizing the practice, making it something separate from whatever else one does. True, most of us are not at the point we can manifest internal skills in fast-paced training. So slow down! A lot! One of my instructors constantly criticized "practicing at the level of your incompetence." That's a danger, but one avoidable by working consciously and reducing the intensity immediately when it's no longer possible to operate with intent and proper mechanics.

The bottom line to me is that researchers like Mike and Dan are providing a structured means to acquire and incorporate these skill sets. Most of us have very likely seen bits and pieces of these skills in various arts, maybe without even realizing it, but what Mike and Dan are doing is sharing the results of years of their own struggles and searching during a time this material was not typically presented here in a coherent package, so that we might stand on their shoulders and reach higher. (Or at least the younger guys will; some of us will just be hoping to catch up a bit.)

The second notion with which I take exception is the idea that the best way to practice is to say to yourself, "Okay, I know I'm doing this completely wrong…" I mean, I get the point that the greatest obstacle to improvement is self-satisfaction (especially if it's bordering on utter delusion), but if you don't have some notion of what you're supposed to be doing, and whether you're doing it or not, you ought not be doing anything at all (hence the absolute requirement to be shown, hands-on, by someone further down the path). Another of my old instructors used to say, "Practice doesn't make perfect; it makes permanent." Without some clear perception of at least a very basic component, all you're likely to do is ingrain errors. Maybe it's just semantics, but I'd rather build on positives.

To conclude, in the four months following our seminar with Mike Sigman, we've found it is without question possible as a dojo to incorporate things we were shown to regular practices. We also schedule one practice a week focusing exclusively on the material from the seminar. In some cases, we're still arguing how best to incorporate a particular aspect. It's a work in progress.

Rupert Atkinson
06-05-2008, 02:19 AM
These days Kanetsuka Sensei teaches in what you might call an "unstructured" way, and hardly ever teaches specific techniques. Instead he shows a large range of variants of kokyu-ho,
Alex

It sounds to me like he hasn't changed at all !

jennifer paige smith
06-05-2008, 11:35 AM
Sorrry. I do not fully understand you here. Which thinker and whose thought?

Best wishes,

PAG

Just trying to say, your thoughts inspired mine but they may not be similar.

Thanks

Nick Pagnucco
06-05-2008, 03:00 PM
Aikido has some enormous advantages over most of the other arts where there is also an attempt be various individuals to install or re-install internal strength. There is a structure to Aikido (generally speaking) that is not to be found in all the eclectic "Tai Chee", Bagua, Xingyi, etc., versions being practiced by westerners. Aikido does not have the extreme, cultivated stiffness/tension of so many karate styles (I discourage many karate and Wing Chun, Choy li fut, etc., people from coming to workshops because they are too stiff to change).

I may be asking an incoherent rube question, but could you elaborate what you mean here? I generally understand the stuffness claim, but what do you mean by structure, in this context?

Mike Sigman
06-05-2008, 03:24 PM
what do you mean by structure, in this context?
Generally, Aikido has a classroom structure of everyone doing exercises, technique, working with partners, etc., that is *generally* followed/accomodated throughout the art. Within that general format are a number of already-existing exercises that were originally used for ki/kokyu development, even though those exercises have become ritualistic, muscular, technique-y, etc., almost across the board. It would be a far simpler matter to insert bona fide ki/kokyu training into Aikido than it would into most of the other parodies of Asian arts that flourish in the West. Karate, for example, has for the most part become a muscular parody of the southern Shaolin arts that it derived from.

Taiji (Tai Chi), Xingyi, most of the Chinese martial arts don't follow a generally standardized method of teaching. It's difficult to find any 2 teachers that have classes resembling each others and the theories have become wild, non-standardized guesses that run the spectrum of fantasy and science fiction. ;)

So what I'm saying is that Aikido is like a car body pretty much ready for the engine to be dropped in. Most other arts are just bits and pieces that don't have a waiting coherent structure. One of the most interesting experiments at the moment in the US, in my opinion, is the Itten Dojo and how they attempt to transition to a ki-based Aikido... and not in the flowery sense; in the practical sense.

There may be others attempting the transition out of Dan Harden's methodology (or Akuzawa, Ushiro, and some others that I am being negligent in not mentioning), but I don't have much of a feel what their approach is or how complete the syllabus is, etc., so I can't comment intelligently. If any art can do it, though, it will almost certainly have to be Aikido.

FWIW

Mike Sigman

Nick Pagnucco
06-05-2008, 04:02 PM
Thanks; that refined some of my confusion.

Generally, Aikido has a classroom structure of everyone doing exercises, technique, working with partners, etc., that is *generally* followed/accomodated throughout the art. Within that general format are a number of already-existing exercises that were originally used for ki/kokyu development, even though those exercises have become ritualistic, muscular, technique-y, etc., almost across the board. It would be a far simpler matter to insert bona fide ki/kokyu training into Aikido than it would into most of the other parodies of Asian arts that flourish in the West. Karate, for example, has for the most part become a muscular parody of the southern Shaolin arts that it derived from.

Taiji (Tai Chi), Xingyi, most of the Chinese martial arts don't follow a generally standardized method of teaching. It's difficult to find any 2 teachers that have classes resembling each others and the theories have become wild, non-standardized guesses that run the spectrum of fantasy and science fiction. ;)

So what I'm saying is that Aikido is like a car body pretty much ready for the engine to be dropped in. Most other arts are just bits and pieces that don't have a waiting coherent structure. One of the most interesting experiments at the moment in the US, in my opinion, is the Itten Dojo and how they attempt to transition to a ki-based Aikido... and not in the flowery sense; in the practical sense.

There may be others attempting the transition out of Dan Harden's methodology (or Akuzawa, Ushiro, and some others that I am being negligent in not mentioning), but I don't have much of a feel what their approach is or how complete the syllabus is, etc., so I can't comment intelligently. If any art can do it, though, it will almost certainly have to be Aikido.

FWIW

Mike Sigman

Ron Tisdale
06-05-2008, 04:07 PM
As Mark has pointed out, the people who will have the hardest time are individuals trying to bring this into their own practice in dojo that aren't necessarily taking the same focus. There will be some struggles, but as I said before, I kind of consider that part of the training.

Best,
Ron

Mike Sigman
06-05-2008, 04:19 PM
As Mark has pointed out, the people who will have the hardest time are individuals trying to bring this into their own practice in dojo that aren't necessarily taking the same focus. There will be some struggles, but as I said before, I kind of consider that part of the training.I, along with a lot of other people who have posted on the subject, agree with that. If you get your eyes opened and you suddenly start trying to practice these things in a dojo where the teacher and other students don't know these things, you either need to quit bother trying to do them or you need to quit the dojo. You're doomed, if you're trying to learn.

I went and looked at a local dojo as a potential place to workout/exercise and after watching the way everyone moved, I knew it would be a waste of time and frustrating to join. Peer pressure would eventually cause friction because I "wasn't doing it the way Sensei showed us", etc. Conformity will kill you. ;)

YMMV

Mike