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Ellis Amdur
06-25-2008, 10:23 AM
Some time ago, Dan H. posted a question in a middle of a thread, concerning how someone became a "master" of an art. (Hi Dan). He included my name - and Peter Goldsbury's - in the question, wondering if our various researches (don't know if what I do can be qualified by such a term) in any way could illuminate what is unique about an Ueshiba Morihei or Kodo Horikawa. The salient question really comes down to this: The knowledge is either/both available or discoverable. Yet only a few people emerge with genius. The following link is the best answer I think I will ever find, on the life of a Grandmaster http://www.newsweek.com/id/143083
It believe it speaks for itself, but to sum it up - only death - not even torture - only the destruction of life itself will destroy genius and passion.
Best

rob_liberti
06-25-2008, 10:45 AM
I thought this was going to be like How do you get to Carnegie Hall? - practice, practice, practice - with the assumption that you already have genius enough to separate yourself from everyone else who practices as much as you do and will never play there.

If I spent my life trying to be a naval aviator, I still may never have the chops to be a top gun pilot. Same if I spent my life trying to be a singer for a rock n roll band. I think a level of natural talent is required for GRANDmaster title. I was just going to train as hard and SMARTLY as possible and get to some form of master. Grandmaster can be for others unless I discover some dormant innate talent that has been so far hiding within myself.

Rob

Nicholas Eschenbruch
06-25-2008, 11:43 AM
Thanks for pointing out the interview. Genius and despair seem to be pretty close most of the time, and I often wonder how that was for Morihei Ueshiba. His genius has been spoken about a lot, but I sometimes feel that to understand his mastery, it would ne necessary to know much more about what he was running away from (just in the way that most of us are).

I recently read the autobiography of singer/songwriter Christy Moore. His format is the folk song, the whole book is organised not as a chronology or in topical order, but around individual songs, which he takes as points of departure for remembering his life. The intensity and risk in his life, and the drugs, become very clear, but he also mentions one or two "mystical" experiences on stage. I was especially stunned by him writing that some of his preferred songs he never plays on stage. Seemed like a master to me.

Joe McParland
06-26-2008, 02:32 AM
Q: "How do I become a master?"
A: "Print a business card."

The exchange may sound facetious, but it's not.

Ask what is at the heart of this question in the first place.

Mark Uttech
06-26-2008, 02:37 AM
In the school of zen buddhism, there is the saying: "Even the Buddha was only halfway there."

In gassho,

Mark

Ellis Amdur
06-26-2008, 03:59 AM
"What's at the heart of the question?" It's not just practice. I never saw anyone, anywhere, practice as hard as the Tokai Daigaku Fusoku %5 high school judo team in Japan. (I would practice with them 1x a week. I was welcome every day, but it took me a week to recover each time).
Of all the team members, only one of them was going to be the "next Yamashita," and he, sadly, died of leukemia his senior year.

I suppose that there are at least two reactions to the article that I linked to this thread. The one is, "Wow, what a wonderful story." The second is, "Do I have THAT in me? And if I do, what's holding me back?" Which answer is yours defines what the question means to you. (Actually a third reaction comes to mind. Some - I imagine Kuroda Tetsuzan, for example - might react, "That's a kindred spirit.").

Nicholas Eschenbruch
06-26-2008, 04:29 AM
I suppose that there are at least two reactions to the article that I linked to this thread. The one is, "Wow, what a wonderful story." The second is, "Do I have THAT in me? And if I do, what's holding me back?" Which answer is yours defines what the question means to you. (Actually a third reaction comes to mind. Some - I imagine Kuroda Tetsuzan, for example - might react, "That's a kindred spirit.").

I had both reactions to some extent, and "What's holding me back?" is the Koan that has been with me for a while.

Also, while I appreciate and practice the "inward" kind of enquiry about mastery Mark and Joe seem to propose, I think studying how others solved the riddles in their lives and became what they are can compelement that in an extremely useful way. Ultimately, I guess, both studies converge.

As an additional aspect, personally I would only call somebody a master if they manifest their art in a way that makes their life and practice inspiring, or even worth emulating to a degree, beyond technical skill in that art, even to people who dont practice it. But that is just my take, and I am not sure I am expressing it well.

Joe McParland
06-26-2008, 10:41 AM
Do you wonder if a duck admires how an eagle soars, or if an eagle is envious of how a duck swims---all while you sit at the table eating a chicken dinner?

What is there that you can master?

For what it's worth, I dug this up---something I had written some time ago considering similar questions: http://inexhaustiblethings.blogspot.com/2007/10/mastery.html. No answers, I'm afraid :-)

ChrisHein
06-26-2008, 10:56 AM
That was a great read.

Amazing how humble and honest he is. Grandmaster Flash is a pretty good example indeed.

rob_liberti
06-26-2008, 10:58 AM
Do you wonder if a duck admires how an eagle soars, or if an eagle is envious of how a duck swims---all while you sit at the table eating a chicken dinner?

I wonder that since a duckling is a small duck, what the heck I'm eating when I order dumplings. (stolen from tv)

Rob

Ron Tisdale
06-26-2008, 11:12 AM
Rob,

Ewwww...

;)
Best,
Ron

Ellis Amdur
06-26-2008, 11:33 AM
BTW - in framing this discussion, I was not even thinking about the moral or ethical as a component to what we are talking about. You can, if you want, but I (and Dan, in his original musing, I believe) were simply talking about mastery of the skill. For example, Artur Rubenstein was a narcissist who would wake his children in the middle of the night and force them to sit attentively as he verbally described what he did and how he felt during his concerts, screaming at them if they fell asleep. Claude Debussy's wife, furious at the way he treated her, poisoned herself, and then, semi-conscious, realized that he'd discovered her and was searching her clothes for money before he called for help and she was so furious, that she willed herself back to full consciousness, staggered off to a doctor and lived a long life - divorced. Caravaggio was probably a psychopath. Ty Cobb was a murderer and a nasty racist. - OR, consider the personality flaws of Takeda, Ueshiba, and Sagawa. Horikawa, at least, seems to have been an ordinary man - albeit with quite a temper at times.
The point - it should be obvious, but it links with some of the discussions on that other thread regarding childbirth and "internal power," is that a moral dimension is not requisite to mastery. To be sure, GMFlash's story is wonderful due to, among other things, that moral dimension, but were he a nasty, misogynistic, dope-slinging man, it would change the mastery of his art.
That Ueshiba, rather than being a Nelson Mandela type, (facing down the Kempetai and refusing to teach at military and spy schools), was an ordinary man of his times, who cooperated with the military, bowed his head when told to and taught soldiers and spies to maim and kill, and accepted his gov't imprisoning, torturing and murdering some of his "brothers and sisters" in Omotokyo - does that make his martial art any less skillful? It adds nuance to considerations of the moral dimensions that aikido professes, perhaps, and is part of Peter's discussion on how modern aikido, the mass art, developed. In that other dimension of moral stature, of course, such questions are very relevant - hence, Stan Pranin notes, the alienation between Ueshiba and his nephew, Inoue Noriaki.
But unless one imposes a religious or Buddhistic definition of mastery (one certainly can - feel free), that is not relevant, I believe, to the question of "how" one becomes a master of one's skill.

Dennis Hooker
06-26-2008, 11:52 AM
Q: "How do I become a master?"
A: "Print a business card."

The exchange may sound facetious, but it's not.

Ask what is at the heart of this question in the first place.

First get a job as an apprentice bater on a fishing boat, then become an assistant bater, then a bater's helper and after a few years a master bater.

Joe McParland
06-26-2008, 11:57 AM
BTW - in framing this discussion, I was not even thinking about the moral or ethical as a component to what we are talking about. [...] But unless one imposes a religious or Buddhistic definition of mastery (one certainly can - feel free), that is not relevant, I believe, to the question of "how" one becomes a master of one's skill.

I didn't see anyone else bring morality or ethics---or even a possible definition of mastery---to the discussion until now. ;)

Here's a question: Today, would O'Sensei want to become the perfect Ellis Amdur?

The eagle can't be a perfect eagle while wanting to swim as well as a duck.

The way to improve a skill is to practice. The way to mastery may be a different thing entirely. The way to realize what mastery is and how to achieve it may likely be found in dedicated practice of Aikido---even though my tenchinage may always suck. ;)

Fred Little
06-26-2008, 12:20 PM
But unless one imposes a religious or Buddhistic definition of mastery (one certainly can - feel free), that is not relevant, I believe, to the question of "how" one becomes a master of one's skill.

Beyond the moral issue, there is the additional relevant question of whether the mastery sought (or the seeker of mastery) is closer to the hedgehog or the fox, as this linked essay by Isaiah Berlin on Tolstoy's view of history (http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=876676) discusses. It's a lengthy essay, but the executive summary is right up front for those who won't give the entire essay the time and attention it deserves -- and will reward.

Regards,

Fred

Nicholas Eschenbruch
06-26-2008, 12:20 PM
I didn't see anyone else bring morality or ethics---or even a possible definition of mastery---to the discussion until now. ;)


Well, I did intend to bring in morality, though certainly not in a cheesy or black and white way, rather the contrary. For myself, I am not sure I can separate the question of extreme motivation - to master a skill - and a discussion of morality in the broadest sense. Precisely because of the very apparent flaws of so many highly skilled people. But I am also not sure anymore I understand Amdur Sensei's question, and I do not want to contribute to more thread drift, so I am back to lurking. Thanks for the exchange.

phitruong
06-26-2008, 01:02 PM
First get a job as an apprentice bater on a fishing boat, then become an assistant bater, then a bater's helper and after a few years a master bater.

"master bater".... I laughed until I cried. ohh dear god, my side hurts!

Aikibu
06-26-2008, 01:53 PM
Beyond the moral issue, there is the additional relevant question of whether the mastery sought (or the seeker of mastery) is closer to the hedgehog or the fox, as this linked essay by Isaiah Berlin on Tolstoy's view of history (http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=876676) discusses. It's a lengthy essay, but the executive summary is right up front for those who won't give the entire essay the time and attention it deserves -- and will reward.

Regards,

Fred

Thanks Roshi

Well my life depends on the philosophy of being powerless and the danger of trying to achieve any power not in the service of a higher power. Aikido Iaido and Zen are vehicles for me to be of love and service...If I am diligent and give it my best efforts then perhaps I will leave a legacy or warm smiles and happy memories in those whose path I have crossed or walked along...

Technical Mastery is meaningless without good charactor in my experiance and and it's dangerous to deify anyone beyond thier humanity O'Sensei included...

I think that fact that technical/physical mastery is a meme that deifies someone may be a bad side effect of Modern Western "Media" Culture... That makes Mr Berlin's essay a very good read...:)

William Hazen

Aikibu
06-26-2008, 02:04 PM
I don't know how many of you are familiar with Parabola Magazine or the books written by Joeseph Campbell However I do recall an issue on Prophets and Prophecy that had a few stories from different cultural and tribel traditions on Mastery. One theme of that issue still lingers with me...

One does not choose to be a Prophet... One is chosen...and there in lies the struggle that marks of the life of most well known Masters...

William Hazen

DH
06-26-2008, 02:58 PM
Mastery is certainly is a relative term isn't it? From what vantage point do we view a master of something? And just who is doing the viewing?
Comparatively, how does,
a) A master of something, that exhibited innovation and an amalgam of disparate disciplines that they could somehow see through to arrive at a new vision, stand when examined next to
b) The master of the piano? A carpenter?
The former may have required expertise in several areas and a genius level of insight to see a new way of doing something. The others practiced, failed and practiced some more.
Or how would a. view b.?

OK, here's another take. Two people play the piano. One becomes a master of classical the other improvisational Jazz. Who is the more masterful? They both play the same instrument, yet the former is playing others compositions, the later requires just as much-arguably more-technical skill, but a far greater level of intuition, heart, and innovation. Same instrument.
Is the outcome equal? Are they equal in the mastery or their skills? Maybe there is no sense in a subjective qualitative value at all. It’s just mastery of, whatever.

The reason for the initial question was in the context of the martial arts though. How do we explain so many who are really nothing more than the Budo wallpaper, that so very few stand out from. As in my piano example, or Ellis’s High school Judo kids, the Martial artists, down through the ages were all doing the same thing. Yet the fire, the spark, touched only a few.
When all are looking in the same direction-why do so few…see.

Practice is not all, but practice has a tendency to build on itself. The old Fortune favors the well prepared” idea. In training the body incrementally is able or prepared for the next epiphany. No preparation, no epiphany. Does a perpetual linked series of preparation and hard work affording epiphanies then become a foundation for some stunning enlightenment? Or does enlightenment create the foundation for hard work and preparation that leads to epiphanies?
It sure isn’t about intelligence only. I know a few extremely intelligent guys who are, for all practical purposes, useless. They are perpetually drawn to by the vagaries of intellectual stimuli. So, mastery cannot be all about intelligence. There is some measure of insight as well, and others of organizational skill, work ethic, innovation in the face of failure and just plain dogged determination.
And here is my last. I beleive there is a measure of the George Bernard Shaw idea. [i]"The reasonable man looks at the world and wonders how he can change to fit in, whereas the unreasonable man looks at the world and wonders how he can change it to fit him. Its no wonder the wolrd is ruled by unreasonable men."[/u]
Where I see that fitting in, is that there is a fine line between truly studying and accepting, leadership over you, and then seeing through it, piercing the veil and daring to trust in your self and that "spark" or epiphany. Moreover, seeing it fail, and daring to do it again.

Many a good idea has been stopped dead by a mans own doubts. It's easy to do what your told. Many people can't live with the idea they are capable of so much more. For then they'de have to walk in it.

bkedelen
06-26-2008, 03:04 PM
It adds nuance to considerations of the moral dimensions that aikido professes

I have to take exception here. I believe that the moral and ethical are not "nuances" of the spirit of Aikido, but additional requirements to Aikido's mastery. This is precisely why I can never fully agree with Mike and Dan that Aikido's full realization is completely encompassed by some physical skill, no matter how sophisticated. What could possibly be the purpose of attaining mastery level skill if one still treats others, or oneself, like crap (great examples in Amdur's post above)? In my own estimation, any skill level attained must be tempered with deep contemplation about how such skills are to be used, and significant effort should be expended, on the part of the martial artist, to forge himself into a person of quality, not just a person of means. This in no way takes away from the importance of gathering means, but is, in my opinion, at least as crucial in terms of seeking martial arts (at least Aikido) mastery.

Ron Tisdale
06-26-2008, 03:05 PM
Wow. Great post Dan.

2nd Wow...Rennis, what are you doing lurking here? Man, things are looking up...

B,
R

Fred Little
06-26-2008, 03:14 PM
Many a good idea has been stopped dead by a mans own doubts. It's easy to do what your told. Many people can't live with the idea they are capable of so much more. For then they'de have to walk in it.

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."

It seems that Goethe didn't actually say this (http://german.about.com/library/blgermyth12.htm), though he's often credited with it, but it still coincides with your point ....

Regards,

FL

Rennis Buchner
06-26-2008, 03:15 PM
2nd Wow...Rennis, what are you doing lurking here? Man, things are looking up...


Damn, my ninja lurking skills obviously need some refining. Been lurking here a lot recently. Certain discussions here have had great bearing on issues (or perhaps "gaps" is a better word) that have come up in my training the last year or so....

Best
Rennis

Ron Tisdale
06-26-2008, 03:24 PM
Ditto, and the same for me. Lot of work to do.
Welcome!

Best,
Ron (short cut my arse...) :D

gdandscompserv
06-26-2008, 03:58 PM
The most important subject for mastery should be the family unit. The men and women who have mastered being a good parent and spouse deserves more recognition than all of the other masters combined. Here is a quote that I will always remember;
"No other success can compensate for failure in the home."
~David O. McKay

DH
06-26-2008, 04:57 PM
Rennis
Still doing Hozuin?

Rennis Buchner
06-26-2008, 06:20 PM
Rennis
Still doing Hozuin?

Katayama Hoki ryu actually, but yes. :)

Mike Sigman
06-26-2008, 06:22 PM
I have to take exception here. I believe that the moral and ethical are not "nuances" of the spirit of Aikido, but additional requirements to Aikido's mastery. This is precisely why I can never fully agree with Mike and Dan that Aikido's full realization is completely encompassed by some physical skill, no matter how sophisticated. Two points, starting with your second sentence: I have never and I don't think Dan has ever said or implied that "Aikido's full realization is completely encompassed by some physical skill". I get tired of these completely false attributions.

In reply to your first sentence.... how would you know?

Mike Sigman

Mike Sigman
06-26-2008, 06:27 PM
In terms of how one becomes a master, I am always reminded of a multi-part series that once appeared in "Tai Chi" magazine. A well-known western figure had one of his students write and publish the article called "The Making of a Master" about himself. Henceforth he called himself "Master". Pretty simple, actually. ;)

Mike

Stefan Stenudd
06-26-2008, 06:33 PM
Wow, this is a thread that earns going on forever.

I guess that it's about the mystery of genius. Some have it, some don't, and some very few have it in amazing abundance. Nature is not fair.
On the other hand, genius certainly is no guarantee of happiness - rather the opposite, judging from many examples in history.

The movie "Amadeus" deals with this theme - genius versus mediocrity. Mozart was indeed a genius, but at the time of his life there were many other composers praised above him - now forgotten. That seems to be true for a majority of geniuses. They are discovered by posterity.
It took El Greco more than 200 years to be recognized. The genius of Shakespeare was doubted by many, for hundreds of years (wasn't another genius, Goethe, one of them?). One of the few geniuses widely praised in his lifetime was Leonardo, another was Picasso.
And so many more people have been praised as geniuses in their lifetimes, only to be forgotten shortly after their final curtain.

I guess that genius is such a mystery that it cannot be recognized by its contemporaries. Maybe true genius is the very least likely to be recognized by its contemporaries? So, we should probably be very hesitant to point out geniuses among the living. The odds are against it.

DH
06-26-2008, 06:59 PM
Genius may have nothing to do with it.

Identifying mastery is fraught with illusion. I think it's a mistake to confuse vision, with mastery, or genius with mastery.
Frank Lloyd Wright was a visionary. Many called him a master. In truth he never mastered his use of materials incorporated in, and foundational to (pun intended) expressing his visions. Thus they were rife with flaws. Yet his accolades of "master" remain...long after the repairs bills were paid.

Fred Little
06-26-2008, 07:47 PM
Genius may have nothing to do with it.

Identifying mastery is fraught with illusion. I think it's a mistake to confuse vision, with mastery, or genius with mastery.
Frank Lloyd Wright was a visionary. Many called him a master. In truth he never mastered his use of materials incorporated in, and foundational to (pun intended) expressing his visions. Thus they were rife with flaws. Yet his accolades of "master" remain...long after the repairs bills were paid.

All too true.

Moreover.....most of the credit for his best executed ideas and projects should really go to the man who did the work while Wright took the credit: Rudolph Schindler (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolf_Schindler)

The best book on his work (http://www.amazon.com/R-M-Schindler-Judith-Sheine/dp/0714839140/ref=pd_sim_b_1/104-9968204-7989556)was done by Judy Sheine, who's no slouch herself....

bkedelen
06-26-2008, 11:58 PM
In reply to your first sentence.... how would you know?
If I knew, I would not be on Aikiweb trying to learn :)
I do, however, spend a lot of time with people who are excellent, if not masterful, and I try to determine the qualities they possess which I would like to absorb. The most exceptional of these people are so exceptional because they are genuinely kind and responsible, in addition to being martially viable. Like everyone else here, I also know truly wonderful people who are not martially viable, and martially viable people who are scumbags. In my estimation it is the conjunction of the two that is noteworthy in the context of this discussion.
I am aware that my estimation does not hold much value to you, Mike, but this was posted to an open forum and should be moved to the "Voices of Experience" area if regular people should not be posting here.

Ellis Amdur
06-27-2008, 12:37 AM
I deliberately chose the word "master" because a) it gets people in a sweaty lather b) Grandmaster Flash provoked the idea. Perhaps a better image is "principal" - as in principal dancer in a ballet company. I've been very intrigued at what makes the principal just that much better than the soloist or even the corp dancers. Same question, really.
Which brings to mind someone close to me, who was one of the foremost dancers in the world in the 1980's. She was taken to dance class at her request at the age of 3. The dance mistress was a Russian from the Ballet Russe. The little child one day had - an accident. She wet herself. The ballet mistress was furious and yelled at her that she was not allowed to return to class until she apologized. She was so scared she couldn't speak. Her mother took her home. Every day for the next month her mother took her to class, but she couldn't speak and she was sent away. The doors to the studio would close and she would drop to the floor, laying her cheek on the floor, one eye to the gap between floor and door. And she would lie there, watching the slivers of feet moving too-and-fro. After a month, her mother was fed up and told her that if she didn't speak, she would never bring her back. She looked the teacher in the eyes and apologized that day. As I posted in the beginning, only death will stop passion and genius. (How many three year old children will return to a scary, angry old woman's place and then rejected, day after day, lie on the floor to catch the flicker of feet through the gap of a door?)
The word genius is, I believe, similar to the Greek word daemon. My understanding is that contrary to the modern belief that we come into the world a blank slate, are educated and become someone, the Greek idea was that our daemon (NOT demon) was a spiritual essence that lived us, the same way a tree is already in the acorn. Those genius', those principals, have a daemon that will, as long as the body is alive, demand that it's destiny be fulfilled.
Best

Allen Beebe
06-27-2008, 01:38 AM
Hi Ellis,

I have to admit that I haven't been reading this thread closely but I still wanted to share two thoughts (not necessarily related). First, with your initial post I immediately thought of your wife so apparently that train of thought was communicated somehow. Second, I would like to share again how much I enjoy your writing or perhaps, more specifically, story telling. Once again, I wasn't following the thread closely so my appreciation isn't focused on the veracity of the point you may, or may not be trying to make, it is simply an appreciation for your ability to spin a yarn in a captivating and enjoyable manner. I like it. And I might add that it goes well with Guinness!;)

BTW, my wife is has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from your alma mater and is also a professional science writer and a (soon to be famous) fantasy novelist. In the same manner that you muse on the subject of what makes a master (ballerina for example) I muse on what makes a master (writer for example.)

Blah, blah, blah, I am not a master writer . . . just trying to stoke the flames of your fire. Looking forward to more posts and perhaps a book in the near-ish future.

Best,
Allen

Stefan Stenudd
06-27-2008, 03:36 AM
I've been very intrigued at what makes the principal just that much better than the soloist or even the corp dancers.
A relative of mine who was a ballet dancer told me that the difference between chorus and soloists was mostly just hard work and devotion. Dancers of the ensemble who were not satisfied with being in the chorus had to put in a lot of extra effort, which was almost guaranteed to make them soloists soon enough. And they had to keep on with the same devotion, in order to stay soloists.

On the other hand, that is not enough of an explanation for cases like Nurejev and Baryshnikov (however to spell their names)...

Master or genius? Both words provoke our modern sense of egality, I think. To master something is usually the result of hard training, whereas genius can seem to appear out of a whim.
Talent is often lazy and impatient - finding the shortcuts, not caring to repeat the ways of old. Maybe what we are searching for here is a combination of master and genius - someone who is impatient about the irrelevant, but very dedicated and persistent about what matters to him or her.

In psychology, there has been a long and sometimes passionate discussion about what is inherited through the genes, and what is the result of the environment. We have to say that there's a mix.
And then there is the injustice in society, as to who get to explore their talents, and who have little or no opportunity to do so.

Dennis Hooker
06-27-2008, 07:46 AM
To define a master is rather simple in the terms below but is that what you are talking about? Or are you speaking of how one is considered a master by others of his/her peers. I would know a good pianist but I would not know a master. I would know what I considered to be a good painter but I would not know if he were a master. Given more that four decades in studying and training budo under various teachers I do believe I can recongize a person that has mastered ceratin elements of some arts and perhaps one or two that have mastered their art in total (IMO). But frankly I could care not care less if I were not consider a master of anything. It is the journey that fascinates me.

Definitions of master on the Web:

maestro: an artist of consummate skill; "a master of the violin"; "one of the old masters"
overlord: a person who has general authority over others
victor: a combatant who is able to defeat rivals
directs the work of others
headmaster: presiding officer of a school
an original creation (i.e., an audio recording) from which copies can be made
an officer who is licensed to command a merchant ship
be or become completely proficient or skilled in; "She mastered Japanese in less than two years"
someone who holds a master's degree from academic institution
overcome: get on top of; deal with successfully; "He overcame his shyness"
dominate: have dominance or the power to defeat over; "Her pain completely mastered her"; "The methods can master the problems"
an authority qualified to teach apprentices
chief(a): most important element; "the chief aim of living"; "the main doors were of solid glass"; "the principal rivers of America"; "the principal example"; "policemen were primary targets"; "the master bedroom"; "a master switch"
passkey: key that secures entrance everywhere
have a firm understanding or knowledge of; be on top of; "Do you control these data?"

SeiserL
06-27-2008, 07:54 AM
IMHO, I found George Leonard's book on Mastery a good read.

He suggested that its the training through the learning plateaus that change the shape of the usual up/down learning curve into a step configuration in which the plateaus become the new baseline so the skill aquisition continues to rise.

While natural ability is great, being coach-able and disciplined can take you further.

So, to those who said that the could turn into the "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" thread, sorry.

Until again,
Lynn

Mike Sigman
06-27-2008, 08:49 AM
I do, however, spend a lot of time with people who are excellent, if not masterful, and I try to determine the qualities they possess which I would like to absorb. The most exceptional of these people are so exceptional because they are genuinely kind and responsible, I dunno... when I was in my late teens and early twenties I was in Japan, Okinawa, Philippines, Vietnam, etc., and I read and talked all I could about martial arts and martial-arts masters. My impression of most of the "names" in martial history is that they tended to be functional and the student had to prove himself. Certainly, Ueshiba was not remembered because of his sparkly kindness and personality.

If anything, the implication in a lot of martial anecdotes is that if you're looking for someone to be your pal and take care of you solicitously, the odds would seem to be stacked against you among the really good teachers.

Personally, I took the best that I could get. Generally, the friendliest, nice-guys tended to be the people that knew the least. The ones that were the best are all still my good friends, but that's mainly because they could afford to be friends with me. What do I mean by that?

That means that first of all I worked hard to do what they asked of me so that I had results they could be proud of in me. If I was the nicest guy in the world and talked all the smoothe-talk, but I couldn't perform what I'd been taught, then they would have been smart enough to realize that I simply wasn't serious and they, with their reputations, could not afford to have an unskilled "nice guy" claiming to be their student.

They're all "nice guys" (the ones who really taught me the useful stuff), BTW. But you don't know that until you really get in the door. The rest is for show and to keep the wrong people at their distance. It sounds like a few of my teachers wouldn't make the cut for you, Benjamin, but personally I wonder if maybe you aren't simply focusing on the wrong things because you have a fixed idea of how the world should work for you. ;)

Finding and matching up with a good teacher is a very hard thing to do. I've spent more time looking for the right guys than I could say. While I was looking for the people who could teach me what I wanted to know, that's all I looked for... I didn't have a personality test that they had to pass before I would accept their knowledge. :D

Mike Sigman

Keith Larman
06-27-2008, 09:50 AM
Just fwiw...

I spent about 17 years working in psychometrics -- mental skills measurement. I'd write tests, validate them, do studies, do job analyses, all that stuff. Over those years I often thought about those who seemed, well, special. Common features of those people were incredibly hard work. Often there was a sort of obsessive compulsive approach to their area. But it wasn't somehow a sign of mental illness, more a person who had found something that meshed almost completely with the way they thought.

It is hard to explain, but there is almost always a degree of self-selection in certain things. Some people gravitate to computer programming because they're wired such that they're good at it. Most don't start exploring something new unless there is an attraction of sorts. And that attraction has to do with how it meshes with other aspects of your make-up.

So we've all met those with "natural ability". They just seem more "built" for doing some particular thing well. The oft given examples of these people are usually athletes. Gretzky's ability to know where the open person was on the ice before they knew they were open themselves. And often behind him. Same with Michael Jordan.

The other factor you always see in these people is an incredible focus on their work, exactly what Mr. Amdur is talking about with these people. I particularly liked the example of the little ballerina. How is it a 3-year-old is that focused on doing something? I'd submit that part of it is that it "speaks" to her. Because she was born with a wiring that makes that sort of thing an inexorable force in her life.

But there always has to be a combination of things. One time I was working on a job analysis for a very large company and was interviewing some of their top programmers. There was one guy who was simply incredible. Odd fella, but you'd swear he could probably beam his thoughts directly into a computer. All he did was program. It drove him. The problem solving completely consumed him. When he ran into something particularly difficult he couldn't let it go until he'd solved the problem. He was wired that way. No life other than that terminal... But he was happy. Very happy. And completely driven.

Anyway, on the flight home after interviewing the guy I was reading the biography of Richard Feynman by Gleick called "Genius". I was struck by this quote:

There are two kinds of geniuses: the 'ordinary' and the 'magicians'. An ordinary genius is a fellow whom you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they've done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. Even after we understand what they have done it is completely dark. Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest calibre.
Mark Kac

I laughed because that is exactly the sort of thinking I was dealing with in the programmer. And it is apropos to many of the "scary good" people in most anything, martial arts included.

I would point out that these "magicians" themselves often don't know how they do what they do. Ask them how they came up with the answer they did and they'll likely tell you something, but if you look closely you'll often find the answer incomplete. Or post hoc.

So the rest of us try to do what these guys do, but it always seems out of reach. Or it seems we're doing an "approximation" or a caricature. And in a real sense that *is* all we're doing.

and fwiw, Gladwell's book "Blink" also tends to come to mind here. Most of it probably isn't relevant, but I'm thinking of the aspect of how "experts" are able to make virtually precognitive judgements on very complex things. You don't get there without intense work. Nor do you get there without the aptitude in the first place.

So some of us will never get there no matter how hard we work. A few might. But we can safely say without the hard work and focus it simply won't happen... Which means in today's day and age prospects are quite dim, eh?

Sorry, just random musings on the topic.

Michael Douglas
06-27-2008, 12:43 PM
...
I would point out that these "magicians" themselves often don't know how they do what they do. Ask them how they came up with the answer they did and they'll likely tell you something, but if you look closely you'll often find the answer incomplete. Or post hoc.
.
So true, and so crucial, and so not understood.

Tenyu
06-27-2008, 05:55 PM
That Ueshiba, rather than being a Nelson Mandela type, (facing down the Kempetai and refusing to teach at military and spy schools), was an ordinary man of his times, who cooperated with the military, bowed his head when told to and taught soldiers and spies to maim and kill, and accepted his gov't imprisoning, torturing and murdering some of his "brothers and sisters" in Omotokyo - does that make his martial art any less skillful? It adds nuance to considerations of the moral dimensions that aikido professes

Choosing not to create conflict with political powers isn’t the same as condoning their actions, perception of moral depravation with Ueshiba Sensei fails to understand one of aikido’s highest principles – non-resistance, a compassionate expression of moral integrity. Anyone learning aikido acquires more ability to injure or kill, but with the intention of never having to. Attempting to tarnish the founder’s character and life’s work has no ground outside of your subjective view – imo, especially when citing “inconsistencies” to Ueshiba Sensei before he fully realized aikido post-war.

Buck
06-27-2008, 09:09 PM
The age old staple question, how to become a master.

First, is the word master interchangable with genius, or not. In my opinion a genius are those individuals of exceptional intelligence
like the first person who invented the wheel, the first wid-wife, the first healer in the tribe, Archimedes, Leonardo Davinci, Sir Isaac Newton, Plato, George Washington Carver, Einstein, Stephanie Kwolek, Marie Curie, Edison, Patricia Bath, M.D.

Antonius Stradivarius didn't invent the violin, he mastered the crafting of it. Master, is someone skilled or proficient, since we are talking Aikido and martial arts, O'Sensei would be an example, and so would builders, artists, craftsmen, etc. I would say most martial artists unless they invented a weapon like a bow, or strategies (battle plans etc.) of war such as Sun Tzu. If they are better then others at it, or others think they are, then they are masters.

How to get to mastery, is it unwavering dedication, un-dieing passion, long hours of exhausting practice and nothing else in life. Or is it honing skills and experienced gained over-time like a master welder, quilter, negotiator, orator, salesperson, culinary, entertainers, sports figures, etc. Not all masters get there the same way. Some don't start as child prodigies, or have unmeasurable passion, drive and sacrifice of an Olympian.

On how to become a master is the dedication to honing skills and be more proficient in the art or craft with results that are above or beyond most others in the field. In some arts and crafts that takes a life time. In other a few years. It also depends on the aptitude and talent of the individual and the field. And then what level is recognized as mastery also plays a part. Martial arts is subjective on how to become a master, because martial arts don't produce an object to be judged.

Has the word master lost it's punch where all you need to do is print it on a business card and vola your a master? Yep.

Should mastery and genius be absent of good character, sanity, and morals and ethics? Or is mastery and genius a carte blanche for egomania, eclectic and anti-social behavior. Or does being crazy come bundled with genius and mastery. It seems that those in the arts come bundled with poor character, lack of morals and ethics, over-indulgence, eclectic, egomaniacs, and anti-social behavior. Sports has it too though society expects sports players to be role models, but not for artists. In both if your are good your behavior is tolerated. Van Gogh was a nut, but Tiger Woods isn't. Yet, Bobby Fisher was a nut. There are women who where great people and some where not. It seems morality and character have to do with attention, wanting to be in the public eye. Whether insanity etc. behavior is bundled with mastery and genius doesn't seem to be a prerequisite, but it does happen to drive many famous masters or geniuses beyond the abilities of everyone else. It is fair to mentioned that there are many well adjusted masters or genius in and out of the spot light. It's that we find the tortured souls who are of mastery and genius more interesting and intriguing.

Yes, what they all have is passion for what the do, they may or may not started as children, but their passion is real whether it be healthy or unhealthy. Be coming a master is subjective and takes work and a degree of passion, but genius doesn't. Genius is something you either have or not, and no amount of passion, hardwork, dedication etc. is going to give you genius if you don't have it.

I know of geniuses who do Aikido, and they have mastered it so a degree. I know of geniuses who can't master Aikido at all. But, those who have really have mastered Aikido or other martial arts worked hard, had a passion, and dedication. But not everyone requires the same amount of passion, hard work, dedication, and time. And some have a greater talent or comes more naturally then others so the road to mastery is quicker. Some have access to great teachers, while other don't. For those lucky enough to have a great teacher, the time, and the money the road is quicker as well. I am not saying you need to be as dumb as a brick to master Aikido. Yes, you need intelligence, but it doesn't require a person to be a Mensa. It requires the intelligence for the complexities and intracies of Aikido.

The words master and genius are used way too loosely that there is little significance anymore to these words anymore. In the field of Aikido and martial arts once you get to mastery, then what? You start your own style, you become famous on the internet, and you have a hord of people wanting what you know, wanting you to teach them, staring at seminars, and they bow to you admiring your ability the wish they had. That's it. It doesn't get you those million dollar endorsements, special treatments at the clubs or restaurants or paparazzi following you everywhere you go. Being a master in Aikido isn't much fame or fortune, outside of the field of Aikido in most places.

Buck
06-27-2008, 09:29 PM
The hardest thing to do is master yourself, and an art. Moral and ethics differ from place to place, but there is universal acceptance of what is acceptable behavior and what isn't. Like no one in the world likes an jerk- I would prefer to use a strong word. Anti-social behavior or bad character like stealing, drunkard, lying, cheating etc. are not widely accepted in most places. You are usually not well liked in public or society.

I think a great master has acceptable character but it isn't required. The better person you are and not a jerk and a real genuine person the more people will be loyal, dedicated, follow and more supportive of you as their master. You also will have a better reputation and respected and be in less isolation. This is really true for Aikido.

I want to combine my two thought from my first post up there and this one that the benefit of being a master is also a boost to the ego, it feels good that people are attracted to you.

Ellis Amdur
06-27-2008, 10:25 PM
"Tenryu Hamaki: wrote:
Choosing not to create conflict with political powers isn't the same as condoning their actions, perception of moral depravation with Ueshiba Sensei fails to understand one of aikido's highest principles -- non-resistance, a compassionate expression of moral integrity. Anyone learning aikido acquires more ability to injure or kill, but with the intention of never having to. Attempting to tarnish the founder's character and life's work has no ground outside of your subjective view -- imo, especially when citing "inconsistencies" to Ueshiba Sensei before he fully realized aikido post-war.
Dear whoever you really are: It was an interesting discussion - and still can be, if you would kindly send your breathy outrage to another thread. One tarnishes another's reputation when one lies about the person - one tarnishes one's own when it is the truth that one has to be ashamed of. And as for non-resistance, Doshu broke out laughing in a presentation when someone asked him about his father's pacifism, stating that aikido is not pacifistic at all, and regarding people getting hurt in practice, "After all, it is a martial art." Doshu also recalled being bullied as a child by some European kids, and his father came running out, yelling, to rescue him, only to slip in the mud.
Oh, and the "fully realized aikido post-war." I'm aware of some rather flamboyant moral failings that Mr. Ueshiba enacted post-war, but unlike you, who apparently needs a god to create aikido instead of a man, that makes the art more interesting to me. And anyway, I can only assume that you are not Japanese, despite your nom-de-plume, because any Japanese knows that the gods are immoral as the men and women they create, just on a larger scale. (Yes, I've just tranished the reputation of Susano-oo - flayed piebald colt and all).
Best
Ellis Amdur
Oh, and please, if you want to debate this further, please start another thread. This one's about genius, not puerile fantasies of flawless demi-gods who non-resist.

DH
06-27-2008, 11:08 PM
...This one's about genius, not puerile fantasies of flawless demi-gods who non-resist.
Genius? I thought it was about mastery. I've delineated Genius and Mastery, with the former -IMHO-not being a necessary requirement to the later. You disagree?

Ellis Amdur
06-27-2008, 11:39 PM
Genius, mastery, principal - Why interrupt a screed about someone else with nitpicking? You want some too? My friend, Dan H. picking on someone else for being imprecise in language? :eek:
As I wrote above, genius is, I believe, related to the concept of daemon. I never used the word "mastery." I started with "master." The quality of a "master" - is that they are, in some sense, possessed. No, they never arrive - blah, blah, blah. Nureyev had that magic quality referred to in the post above. Takeda did. Ueshiba did. Probably Horikawa was the "ordinary kind."
Want another master? Ah genius? Anyway, look up Artis the Spoonman. A difficult character, to say the least. Yet, I saw him blow some of the top drummers in the world completely off a stage - it was supposed to be a jam, and they just stopped, silent for one-half hour as he played the bones (and kitchen utensils) all over his body, with blood running down his head, the silvery rattle of syncopated rhythms running from marrow to skin, running in poly-rhythms from the bones in his hands to the bones in his flesh, bare torso, mohawk headed, bad-tempered, anarchistic street muscian, stunning the best in the world - stone silent.
If that isn't enough, look up Baby Gramps. (Bet you folks didn't know that the way Popeye the Sailor used to sing was the remnants of a street music style among rough-neck dockworkers and sailors at the end of the 19th century - and Baby Gramps is the last who knows the tune).
Best

Ellis Amdur
06-28-2008, 12:00 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3TFkvEmBYM

AND BABY GRAMPS
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAkEn9ie-Vk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11-psw-CjV8&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNcAH-Dm2GY&feature=related

DH
06-28-2008, 12:02 AM
Genius, mastery, principal - Why interrupt a screed about someone else with nitpicking? You want some too? My friend, Dan H. picking on someone else for being imprecise in language? :eek:
Best
Sure do your best
And yes, I also expect good grammar, punctuation and spelling…
from you.:D
I’m apparently exempt.

So you apparently see genius and being a master as interchangable since the the happless chap is merely expressing the will of his Daemon? I can’t go there.

I see it as personal vision, preparation, talent, and work ethic. Though laudable, I see little to compare the mastery of the guy playing the spoons or a master carpenter or blues player, to mastery of a higher order involving true genius and as well as the mastery of a skill.
But were I to buy into the daemon theory; Einstein and a guy playing the spoons were equal, simply in that they were fulfilling their required roles
Pass.

Ellis Amdur
06-28-2008, 12:19 AM
Problem is, Ueshiba would be closer to Artis than Einstein. As soon as we compare "intellectual" genius to physical genius, we get in hierarchies of attainment. Although, interestingly, I've read that EInstein FELT special and general relativity and only later imagined it and only later put it to numbers.

Anyway, I don't think I'm going to get anywhere with quibbling. This started with GMaster Flash, and what I was struck by, as I was with our little ballerina, as I was with Takeda Sokaku is the inescapable drive - passion - committment. But I know for a fact regarding our little ballerina is that 1000s worked as hard as she. Maybe 100,000s. Yes, there's hard work, and study and all the rest - but that doesn't cut it. I do not believe Mifune practiced judo any harder than many of his contemporaries. Talent, work ethic, personal vision, only take you so far. Descriptions of Nureyev or Nijinsky (poor tortured madman that he was) have them doing things that no one imagined, and still evoke awe.
Your question, originally, was what makes a master (though I don't recall if you used that word). And my answer is, I don't know. But it's not merely your list, or there would be lots more - kensei, (sword saints). I think part of it is that it is so much part of you that when you close your eyes, you dream it. And when you inhale, you breathe it. Further - you literally cannot escape it, anymore than you can run from your shadow. That doesn't necessarily mean you work harder or more hours. But it's you - not something you do or decide to learn.
Beyond that, I don't know - but I know I won't figure it out debating definitions. (And yes, I do know hard work is involved - I know how hard virtuoso pianists work every day, for example - and I know how hard Kuroda Tetsuzan worked, to use a martial arts example).
One more passage which describes the intangible something, re the aforementioned Baby Gramps:
He was described by writer Patrick Ferris as having "a mass appeal in the sense that any audience between the age of 2 and 102 are (sic) captivated by his vaudeville antics, hilarious lyrics and animated guitar playing. [...] His voice is a cross between Popeye the Sailor and a Didgeridoo and the plinkity plink of his VERY worn National steel guitar, sounds like a wind up jack in the box. If you listen closely and know anything about music, you'll realize Gramps is an absolutely incredible guitar player. Being a professional musician for over 40 years can't help but give you some sort of chops, but Gramps is a modern day Robert Johnson; a revolutionary guitarist that, like Thelonious Monk on piano, can play the notes 'between the cracks.'" Lots of great guitarists out there, but playing the "notes between the cracks." That says what I'm trying to say.


Best

Tenyu
06-28-2008, 01:39 AM
"Tenryu Hamaki: wrote:

Dear whoever you really are: It was an interesting discussion - and still can be, if you would kindly send your breathy outrage to another thread. One tarnishes another's reputation when one lies about the person - one tarnishes one's own when it is the truth that one has to be ashamed of. And as for non-resistance, Doshu broke out laughing in a presentation when someone asked him about his father's pacifism, stating that aikido is not pacifistic at all, and regarding people getting hurt in practice, "After all, it is a martial art." Doshu also recalled being bullied as a child by some European kids, and his father came running out, yelling, to rescue him, only to slip in the mud.
Oh, and the "fully realized aikido post-war." I'm aware of some rather flamboyant moral failings that Mr. Ueshiba enacted post-war, but unlike you, who apparently needs a god to create aikido instead of a man, that makes the art more interesting to me. And anyway, I can only assume that you are not Japanese, despite your nom-de-plume, because any Japanese knows that the gods are immoral as the men and women they create, just on a larger scale. (Yes, I've just tranished the reputation of Susano-oo - flayed piebald colt and all).
Best
Ellis Amdur
Oh, and please, if you want to debate this further, please start another thread. This one's about genius, not puerile fantasies of flawless demi-gods who non-resist.

When nage performs perfect technique by being totally non-resistant, uke can still easily be injured if one's ukemi skill isn't up to par with the intensity of one's own attack, typically when uke resists the opportunity to take the pre-determined path mirrored and presented by nage. Obviously nage, by being aware of uke's own lack of awareness, can choose to compromise technique and introduce resistance as well in order to protect uke from injuring oneself, which is what I see most teachers doing in dojos with new students who tend to be overly aggressive. So I agree with you aikido isn't fundamentally pacifist at all. Though I'm sure Ueshiba Sensei knew the threshold of each student's ability and correct me if I'm wrong but no one ever suffered a permanent debilitating injury taking ukemi for him. I wasn't inferring he was always perfect and aware all the time, I don't think that's possible or even desirable as that would make anyone a completely boring person, which we all know Ueshiba Sensei was far from despite being one of if not the greatest martial artist in history. I think he realized fighting political hierarchy is an immensely resistive and inefficient practice, not to mention a violation of aikido's principles. Most raised in a conflict-oriented culture would mistake such strength as weakness or moral failure.

I mean no offense, only interested in having honest discussion including hearing more of your stories on possible moral transgressions by Ueshiba Sensei. I'm not sure why you would assume I'm posting under a false name?

Regards,
Tenyu Hamaki

Ellis Amdur
06-28-2008, 02:13 AM
Mr. Hamaki - I will apologize for this - I read your name fast, and misread "Tenryu" which I assumed was assumed. Otherwise, my post stands, and I have no interest in deviating the thread into a discussion of Ueshiba's skill, intentions, or moral failings. The only reason to have mentioned the latter previously was to underscore that genius, mastery, and all the rest are not necessarily tied to being a perfect or even a good person. Beyond that, non-resistance, the nature of aikido ukemi, whether he hurt anyone permanently or not - another thread. Like asking for a tofu burger in a kaiseki ryoriya.

Stefan Stenudd
06-28-2008, 02:41 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3TFkvEmBYM
Thank God for YouTube!

What he is doing, I regard as Budo. The essence of it. I see no difference. The same with Nureyev et al.
And, completely independent of semantics, some just do it so much more fascinating than others.

Buck
06-28-2008, 08:46 AM
Problem is, Ueshiba would be closer to Artis than Einstein. As soon as we compare "intellectual" genius to physical genius.

Best

In my diatribe I blabbed on that I too think O'Sensei and martial arts are mastery of a craft or art, and not in the sciences like Einstein or like Edison who I considered genius and not masters. Because of my view on the matter it is very interesting to me the idea of physical genius.

Because Ellis hasn't defined what he means by that I am interested to know. I am betting it is a coined word. For me, It is an other element that sound interesting, and to consider when talking mastery. At this point I am not sure if there is such a thing as physical genius since genius refers to the mind, the intellect, and not physical movement.

Ellis I am really interested in hearing what you mean by physical genius. Is it the same as talent or related to physiology?

Thanks. :)

Stefan Stenudd
06-28-2008, 09:46 AM
Ellis I am really interested in hearing what you mean by physical genius. Is it the same as talent or related to physiology?
Not that I am Ellis, so you both have to pardon me, but in my experience the two kinds are not as far apart as one might think.
The physical genius is often very well defined about what he or she is doing, and the intellectual genius is often not at all that very intellectual when it comes to describing his or her capacity.

I have had the fortune of meeting some geniuses, and I was struck by their similarities, much more than their differences.

I know that the "genius" idea is very much an invention of the Romantics of the early 19th century, but still they were on to something - and that something was not completely unknown to their predecessors. The old explanation of it was something along the line of "gifts from god/the gods". That points out the mystery of it all - the magic, so to speak.

DH
06-28-2008, 10:16 AM
Hmm..
And as I stated earlier it all depends on who is judging. Case in point. I am a musician, having watched Baby Gramps, I fail to see anything even remotely reminiscent of Mastery. While he was very entertaining and imaginative and I enjoyed him very much (thank you Ellis), there is no hint of mastery in a D G A chord progression or playing slide in open tuning. Where do I place him in context with George Benson who could scat sing what he was about to play and / or sing the notes he was playing concurrently with proper voicing without skipping a beat. Anyone who plays will understand the mastery that is conveyed in doing that-as Eddie van Halen noted about Benson and Henrdix noted about Phil Keagy. The only other guy I heard could do that was Buzzy Feighton from Full Moon. Most guys play scales, and have licks or chops they use, Benson could play for hours and not repeat and was frequenlty amazed at what came out of himself. He told me once it was like someone else was playing and he would think "Wow, that was good!" And he couldn't recover what he did. Which is, in my view, a whole other aspect of Ellis's Daemon idea in practice. Or what we may consider as the "spark."
At any rate its fun to be reading the various views. I agree with Ellis that defining it is difficult. Perhaps it’s a bit like that Supreme Court justice’s definition of pornography. "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it." So apropos to the discussion as we do not all agree what pornography is, nor just what defines mastery.
But we all know we know it when we see it.

Buck
06-28-2008, 10:40 AM
Since I have no life, and my only true friend is the computer I will drone on, no doubt.

In relation to Aikido and martial arts, mastery and genius share similar properties in some people, such as passion, for some that is to the extent of being obsessed to really obsessed, die hard desire, and wavering dedication, and lots of perspiration. Edison, was one such person. But, Mark Twain was not, he was a master of wit and writing. Les Paul and Dave Brubeck both genius and a masters of their field, neither obsessive both driven. I am saying you don't have to be obsessed as in the film Ai no corrida, to be a genius and or a master in something. You don't have to go to extremes to be a master at something. Hard work, practice, and a love (aka passion and that I think Ellis means by passion but not sure, he could mean it as seen in Ai no corrida, we are taking martial arts).

Who ever came across ki or internal power in my book wasn't a genius, rather mastered a skill beyond most at that time and give it a name inorder to could tell other people about it. Like this person sends the opponent flying across the room, and the surprised opponent stunned on the floor in a heap mutters out in disbelief, "what power, how did you do that?" The person who figured ki out (not a genius) replies slowly with a mysterious and intriguing, "internal power." Instead of saying what he was really thinking in his mind, look you hack, knuckle dragger, I am just better then you. Next time, if you insult my brother again, I will really kick you wimpy man butt. Yea I know, I watched too much Anime.

Was O'Sensei genius? no. Was he a Master, yes. How did he do it. He had good teachers and instruction, and the money to pay for instruction, he was dedicated, he had the time, he worked hard, he had a love of it, passion to succeed, and had talent. Was his drive beyond the ordinary, no. The average, yes. His instructors where, and possibly his talent. Mastery is about skill and not about being a genius. Though possibly Takeda had both, or the other people I am not familiar with that Ellis said where.

I think O'Sensei was gifted in many ways, but he was human. he became a better person- even if he thought of himself as a god in the Japanese way it shows he had changed in character. That is something we also have to allow masters of anything especially martial arts, is that they are human. That their skills don't reflect their personality. Great skills don't mean a great person. O'Sensei may not have set out to be a Saint, but during his life he made an effort to change for the better. Again mastering oneself is far more difficult then mastering a skill. Mastering oneself, that to me is internal power.

Here is the link to Ai no corrida a Japanese film about obessesion, well about the Japanese.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074102/

Buck
06-28-2008, 10:43 AM
Oh, and not everyone with passion and the rest of the bundle become masters. Not everyone who practices becomes perfect.

Buck
06-28-2008, 11:04 AM
Stefan, Dan, being more cut and dry of a person, a person who sees lines where say the judges don't or don't want to do so , or know that there are some people far beyond the average intelligence, and regardless of calling it magic,mystery or genius. BTW, I think the idea of magic or mystery is what got us thinking that the Pyramids in Egypt or South America was the result of aliens...lol- being goofy. What ever we term it, intelligence above the majority of other's exists. And it is seen by those individuals who build and advance civilization, from the conception of building a fire to sending humans into space.

I can't be abstract like you two can. I appreciate your views, but I do see easy definitions. Either you are above the rest or your not, be it mastery or genius. I see the difficultly as you point out Dan, when there are comparisons of how individuals got to mastery, and the comparisons of the fields inwhich mastery came about. If that is what your getting at, I am with ya.

Buck
06-28-2008, 11:21 AM
Oh, and not everyone with passion and the rest of the bundle become masters. Not everyone who practices becomes perfect.

That is regardless of what they think of themselves. A master isn't a laple pin, or can be printed on a business card. It isn't the winner of a popularity contest either. Mastery is evident or it isn't. Just as genius.

Joe McParland
06-28-2008, 11:36 AM
Refined thoughts after a few days of reading:

When through repetitive practice your body is trained to perform without conscious thought, your mind is free to move about. You now have a degree of choice in how "embodied" your mind is.

At one end, the body acts completely out of habit and the mind is lost in thought. You're driving at night and suddenly you are home, wondering how and thanking god nothing unexpected happened. Somewhere in the middle, you consciously try to pay attention, but you also catch your mind wondering. This is like sitting in meetings or having that "how was your day?" conversation: you know it's important somehow, but sometimes it's hard to focus. At the other extreme, your mind is absolutely and fully present with your body. Here you're "in the flow." Athletes find it. People facing imminent crisis find it. Contemplatives find it. You are hyper-aware of your situation. Here your mind has "one-pointedness." There is no intervening thought separating your mind from your body. You are operating instinctively or intuitively.

The opposite perspective is true as well too: If your niche is an intellectual activity---which is to say that thinking is your thing (where some of the "geniuses" lie)---a quiet, fully present body helps. If your stomach is grumbling, you might have trouble creating that new computer algorithm. If you're tired or have a hangover, you might have trouble focusing in your 8 a.m. class.

At this higher end, when the body is trained and the mind is fully present, amazing, spontaneous, and unexpected things can happen. "How'd he do that?!" "Where did that come from?!" Takemusu happens.

That's where I believe mastery lies.

Now, whether you are lost in thought while doing the dishes or whether you are fully present, it's still a matter of doing the dishes to an outside observer. The fellow physically decaying beneath a pile of pizza boxes and Mountain Dew cans may be a master of the XBox or be a master computer programmer, or he may just be a lazy slob. The two states may be physically indistinguishable, but sometimes you can discern a difference.

In this sense, chasing mastery and developing skills are two completely different things; however, higher aptitude in your chosen practice undoubtedly contributes positively. Regardless, whatever your skill level, being fully present is something of a multiplier that may seemingly take you past the boundary of your physical or mental skills, at least momentarily. For instance, when a child is in imminent danger, even the fat slob can, for a moment, be seemingly transformed into a super hero; a heart attack may follow, but for that one moment, wow!

The path to this mastery---or this "mind-body integration" or "harmony with the universe's ki"---is the practice. Your own circumstances will dictate what your interests are and where your talents lie---whether Aikido, Zen, Chado, Karatedo, Kyudo, or any-other-do---and then that becomes your practice: Increasing skill and remaining fully present in that activity, whatever it is. Once you find that state and cultivate that state, the next challenge becomes maintaining that state as you move away from your practice.

In this sense, you do not have to actually be talented at Aikido, for instance, to practice being fully present at your level, but it may be more difficult if you find the need to constantly think about what to do next. No one may run around proclaiming your mastery (meaning "extraordinary skill"), and you may be a bit self-conscious about putting it on your business card, but you may still find mastery.

In this sense, yes, I do tie "mastery" to "enlightenment." No, I do not think that mastery in Aikido means improved martial technique, but, yes, I do think selecting a martial path for your practice means you must practice hard and try intensely to better your martial skills and practice with martial intent. And, no, I do not necessarily believe that ethics, morality, or anything else is integral to finding mastery. What you chose to do with your perfected self is your business, though I'd hope you'd be nice. :)

Stefan Stenudd
06-28-2008, 12:09 PM
And as I stated earlier it all depends on who is judging.
(- - -)
Benson could play for hours and not repeat and was frequenlty amazed at what came out of himself. He told me once it was like someone else was playing and he would think "Wow, that was good!" And he couldn't recover what he did.
About who is judging: "True genius" is not safely detected by contemporaries. It usually takes a hundred years or more.

About Benson's impression: This is probably exactly the feeling that led previous generations to talk about a gift from the gods. The Christian idea of inspiration is also traditionally one where divine intervention is used to explain it. Man as a tool for other forces.

When I say magic, I don't mean to subscribe to any Deus ex machina, I just tried to find a word to fit the experience.

PS: I love this thread :D

Buck
06-28-2008, 12:23 PM
I was going to shut up and stop bogarting the thread, really I was. Remember it is sat. and class doesn't start for several hours and I have no life.

I will make it short. Stefan touched on it and now Joe put it out there. Mind, body connection. I am not going to debate either person's views. I am going to comment on what my personal views are. Brace yourselves, the feelings, the experiences of mind body connection it is all chemicals being chemicals in the brain. Our thoughts and feels are the result of chemicals, mastery, and genius and physical genius are the result of chemicals in the brain and the body. The enlightement etc. experiences are the result of chemicals.

I respect the philosophy of Aikido and the cultural and traditional language used prior to the knowledge what really is happening in the body and brain. Though I really think what Joe is talking about of having it all come together is nothing more then chemicals being released, etc. to give us those types of feelings. Alot of times I feel those feeling and I think am really in the zone and latter find out I wasn't in the zone preforming as good as I thought.

Maybe becomeing a master is genetics and having the right amout of chemicals and reactions?

Stefan, I got it, sorry I misunderstood that.

Keith Larman
06-28-2008, 12:44 PM
I don't know...

In the years I spent studying performance there were occasionally people who popped up who were, well, different. Having that experience left me with the idea that a "master" isn't all that big a deal. Lots of people attain mastery. Which was kinda the point of my earlier post about Feyman and two "types" of genius. There are those who are very, very good but then there are those rare few who seem to come from another planet entirely. I've always been very taken with the definition of genius that Mark Kac came up with and I used that over the years when I was explaining things like intelligence and performance.

Mastery is something that years of hard work and dedication can bring to most of us. But there is another step past that, the magicians, the ones who try to explain but no one seems to understand. And frankly most of the time they don't even understand what they're doing which is why often you find them speaking in parables and with wildly poetic terms. Those people are rare indeed.

The reason I was reading the Feyman biography (where I first read the quote about genius) was that I knew him as a kid. My father was at JPL and Caltech and I grew up in that environment. His kids were in school around the time I was and a lot of these families all socialized together. And I remember being told stories about Professor Feyman -- walking into a room, looking at a board full of equations and numbers, then glancing at the "solution" and saying "You made a mistake -- that can't be right". They would be talking about a complex computation that would take significant time to complete by hand. And he'd just look and say it wasn't right. It "looked" wrong. He was wired that way and few are. One could spend a lifetime studying physics and mathematics and never be able to do the same thing. One could have "mastery" but never be able to do that.

That's where I think some of those greats within any area come from. First of all they all invest incredible work, focus and commitment. But there's something else necessary, something we don't all have access too.

So that's my rambling way of saying that "master" to me is pretty much just a point along a much longer path for those people. Mastery is to some extent universally obtainable -- we just have to be willing to invest the sweat equity. But the "real" genius? That is quite rare indeed. It is something that cannot be obtained without all that sweat equity. But that investment of sweat equity is no guarantee you'll ever get there. Necessary but not sufficient. So it won't happen without it. But it probably won't happen even with it unless you're one of those special few... And of course we all think we are one of those, right?

After all, 95% of the population knows they are above average... :D

Cady Goldfield
06-30-2008, 11:10 AM
Genius is the life spark of creativity and curiosity that drives a person to not only explore outwardly, but to reflect inwardly and to synthesize new insights from his observations and experiences. It's the engine that does work; physical ability and skill are the machine to which it is attached, to drive it. Mastery is the "product."

As a kid, I loved reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" stories, and read every one of them numerous times. A constant theme throughout was Holmes's insatiable curiosity -- the "why and how" of a conundrum, and whenever he had to compare himself to one of Scotland Yard's up-and-coming young detectives, he would note that the one thing the pups were lacking was the essential curiosity; intelligence and analytical ability were not enough to help them reach mastery in the art and science of crime-solving (the predecesssor of CSI. ;) ).

Compared to the other people in Doyle's fictitious London world, Holmes was a genius and a master of his craft, while the rest were baffled by his ability to see what they couldn't. He once commented to Watson that when he did not explain his methods -- just provided the solution the mystery -- everyone thought it was magic; but, when he explained his sequence of thoughts and actions for arriving at his answer, they all thought "how commonplace!" The magic was gone due to the logic of the explanation, yet they completely overlooked the fact that they had failed to have such insights.

This harks back to Keith Larman's reference to "two kinds of genius" (post 41) in reference to Feynman.

On a more prosaic note, genius has also been defined by an unusually large number of a certain kind of brain cell/neural cell (and also more of a protein-like substance that all brains have) that apparently can process and store more information -- particularly "binary"-type stuff (mathematics and its kin) and which allows the possessor to "see" mathematical patterns in deeper complexity and at more rapid pace than the typical human.

I find it interesting that most of the things we consider to be signs of genius tend to relate in some way to mathematical themes and patterns, or which in some way allows a person to more deeply perceive things that follow the physical/mathmatical patterns and processesses of Nature. Artist Jackson Pollack is thought to have "seen" order in the universe and recreated it in the seemingly random patterns of paint he spattered. Mozart and other musical geniuses perceived the sublime mathematics of musical patterns, spaces between the notes, and the ordering and tonal stepping of the sounds themselves.

I wonder, though, how many others there have been in the world who had similar abilities, but lacked the ambition, drive and/or energy to master a medium -- whether a musical instrument or an art form -- to bring their inward perceptions to the outer world. Would these people still be geniuses because they possessed the ability to "see or hear pure math"? Or would their lack of mastery in some outer skill, to reveal the inner genius to the world, simply place them among those trees that fall in the forest when there is no one there to hear them?






"Excellent!" I cried.
"Elementary," said he.

--Watson and Sherlock Holmes, in "The Adventure of the Crooked Man"

Ron Tisdale
06-30-2008, 11:35 AM
Though I'm sure Ueshiba Sensei knew the threshold of each student's ability and correct me if I'm wrong but no one ever suffered a permanent debilitating injury taking ukemi for him.

Sorry for the slight off-topic, but Yukawa was serriously injured during a demonstration for the emporer no less...check aikido journal for the article.

Best,
Ron

Ellis Amdur
06-30-2008, 11:38 AM
The mathematical link leads to another speculation of mine. Autistic individuals often display savant or splinter skills. You may have a person who has considerable difficulty in relating to other people, gets caught in obsessive loops, and yet - displays an unbelievable ability to calculate, to draw (starting at the corner of the painting, rather than the middle, as if it is already in the brain and merely needs to be copied), etc. Many who display savant skills are quite impaired otherwise.
Let us take this a little closer to "normal." Genius' are often very difficult people. It is generally conceded that Issac Newton was probably a very high functioning autistic, for example. Our genius' are, as has been noted above, often very obsessive and single minded. I think that Ueshiba and probably Sagawa had this quality - nothing stood in the way of their obsessions. Horikawa, on the other hand, seems a far more well-rounded and socially integrated person. It may be that his humility - content to be a "perfect" student of Takeda, rather than having a drive to surpass or be free of him - gave him the center to simply practice, over and over, what he was taught. (I have no idea - nor do I fantacize - who was better, nor do I concern myself with what is a better way - it depends on one's nature).
Back to our words:
1. Splinter skill - usually autistic, a remarkable ability, "god-given," unrelated, otherwise, to their level of functioning.
2. Mastery of a skill - a hard-won ability, now a "pseudo-instinct," if you will - so natural to the person that they do it without preparation or reflection. There's an interview with Saito Morihiro up on AJ at present, where Saito quotes Ueshiba as saying something to the effect of "it took sixty years of hard training to get what I have today."
3. Genius - someone with the innate capacity, inclination, nature to develop mastery - + what K. Larman talks about re FEynman - a magic.
4. Master - again, I chose that word , originally, for the baggage it has - because doesn't this imply, for many of us, the idea that the person IS somehow special in character as well as skill? Unlike the autistic or merely obsessed, there is an idea that the person is "well-rounded." (And if so, they would be the last to claim they were a master). Yet, consider Saito Denkibo, the "master swordsman" of Ten-ryu, who walked around with a kimono made to look as if he had feathers - a tengu. And Muso Gonosuke, of Shinto Muso-ryu, who had a haori with Nippon Ichi emblazoned in gold on the back. If well rounded translates as nice, most "masters" would never have become what they became, because nice people think of others rather than indulging in their obsessions at the expense of their family.
5. For example, it's my belief that Ueshiba used each center of aikido (Shingu, Iwama, Kyoto, etc.) as "crash test dummies," teaching each a different aspect, and using them as a laboratory to test out skills. Thus, it wasn't merely that he, the sensitive teacher taught each what they "needed." Rather, he picked out people as exemplars of a type, taught them congruent to this, and then worked against it. Like, if I want to practice my dexterity in music, I pull out one practice book, and if I want to practice lyricism or tonal quality, I would have other books for this. There is something very selfish and exploitative in this - and I think it goes with the territory. The students get the benefits of what they are taught, but they definitely are "used." Autistic individuals are, by nature, "selfish," because they have such a difficult time grasping other people as independent, free entities with their own rights. If one considers this as a continuum phenomenom, then it is very possible that, at least some of, the masters/genius' were of this ilk - not clinically so, perhaps, but in the way they dealt with others and attained their mastery of their game.
Best

Dennis Hooker
06-30-2008, 11:56 AM
Shu Ha Ri

http://www.aikidofaq.com/essays/tin/shuhari.html

If one truly completes the process could one than be considered to be a master of the art?

Tenyu
06-30-2008, 02:12 PM
5. For example, it's my belief that Ueshiba used each center of aikido (Shingu, Iwama, Kyoto, etc.) as "crash test dummies," teaching each a different aspect, and using them as a laboratory to test out skills. Thus, it wasn't merely that he, the sensitive teacher taught each what they "needed." Rather, he picked out people as exemplars of a type, taught them congruent to this, and then worked against it. Like, if I want to practice my dexterity in music, I pull out one practice book, and if I want to practice lyricism or tonal quality, I would have other books for this. There is something very selfish and exploitative in this - and I think it goes with the territory. The students get the benefits of what they are taught, but they definitely are "used." Autistic individuals are, by nature, "selfish," because they have such a difficult time grasping other people as independent, free entities with their own rights. If one considers this as a continuum phenomenom, then it is very possible that, at least some of, the masters/genius' were of this ilk - not clinically so, perhaps, but in the way they dealt with others and attained their mastery of their game.
Best

If O Sensei were selfish he would have never learned aikido, wanting to resolve conflict so the attacker doesn't have to get hurt requires a lot of respect, patience, and vulnerability especially until he mastered the infinitely powerful principles of total non-resistance and responding purely in the upstream.

One of my favorite quotes by O Sensei:

As soon as the
Demon Snake
Attacks
I am already behind it
Guiding it with love

He wasn't just speaking metaphorically there. It's modern society which suffers from autism, the majority are disconnected, conflicting with each other and the universe. Aikido and all the other religions practicing the same principles are the only hope we literally have as a collective species if we're to have any future at all.

Ron Tisdale
06-30-2008, 02:25 PM
Aikido is not a religion...Ueshiba Sensei said that himself. He did say that it completes all religions...but it is not one itself. Important distinction methinks...

Best,
Ron

Ellis Amdur
06-30-2008, 02:26 PM
Mr. Hamaki - Problem is, I'm on the demon snake's side - and I wish the old man would stop sneaking around behind him. Snake told me personally that he found interspecies romance to be a little creepy - of course, that's just what a snake would say.

Counsel
06-30-2008, 02:30 PM
This is, likely, way off the mark, but how, exactly, you define "Master" may have a lot to do with the answer.

A "Master" may be a coach. Many coaches can not play, real well, the sport they teach but are able to teach people to become great at the sport. That applies to any action where the technique can be known, but the application of the technique in a "stressful" situation may be difficult for some to ever acquire.

If by "Master" you mean a person who is an "Expert" at the art (are we talking technique, philosophy, and/or both?), my definition would change.

It all depends on what the student is after. After all, the person I consider to be my "Master" certainly may not be right for you. You know, that is okay with me. :D

Dennis Hooker
06-30-2008, 02:56 PM
Mr. Hamaki - Problem is, I'm on the demon snake's side - and I wish the old man would stop sneaking around behind him. Snake told me personally that he found interspecies romance to be a little creepy - of course, that's just what a snake would say.

Not me Ellis, don't like a sneaky snake at all

"Boys and girls take warning, if you go near the lake
Keep your eyes wide open, and look for sneaky snake
Now maybe you wont see him, maybe you wont hear
But hell sneak up behind you, and drink all your root beer

And then sneaky snake goes dancin, wigglin and a-hissin
Sneaky snake goes dancin, gigglin and a-kissin
I dont like old sneaky snake; he laughs too much you see
When he goes wigglin through the grass, it tickles his underneath"

Tenyu
06-30-2008, 03:06 PM
Mr. Hamaki - Problem is, I'm on the demon snake's side - and I wish the old man would stop sneaking around behind him. Snake told me personally that he found interspecies romance to be a little creepy - of course, that's just what a snake would say.

I guess as long as you're aware the snake is always uke then there's nothing wrong with that. :p

Tenyu
06-30-2008, 03:32 PM
Aikido is not a religion...Ueshiba Sensei said that himself. He did say that it completes all religions...but it is not one itself. Important distinction methinks...

Best,
Ron

Ron

I agree. Religious practice shouldn't be exclusive to any specific place or time such as an aikido dojo.

O Sensei:

This budo is both martial art and religious faith... a divine revelation from God. If you practice it for three months, you will have no enemies under heaven.

Ron Tisdale
06-30-2008, 03:43 PM
Yikes! Nice poetry Dennis!

The only thing I am master of is my domain...

Best,
Ron (today, anyway...:D)

bkedelen
06-30-2008, 06:16 PM
Ellis brings up two interesting distinctions within the subset of people who can be considered to exhibit genius.
The first distinction is between the high-functioning and the low-functioning genius. Low functioning genius, as seen in the severely autistic, seems to be characterized by literally having one activity be the focus of one's whole life. The severely autistic often cannot master or even attempt many basic skills, but can obsess completely and totally with a single piece of subject matter to the point of becoming expert who can never pass on their mastery. A good example is the Daniel Tammet who can recall pi to 20,000 some digits but cannot tell left from right and has been unable to learn to drive a car. Daniel does math by interpreting the colors and imagery he sees in his mind's eye. This is not a "learnable" skill, but I will get to that in a minute. By contrast, Leonardo Da Vinci was a high-functioning genius who was able to function very well in society of his time, but possessed the "renaissance man" ability to excel in any area his curiosity would take him. It seems that many of those I look up to as subject matter experts in my social sphere often excel in a similar variety of ways, often being able to add the likes of chef, poet, sculptor, craftsman, and engineer, to martial artist.

bkedelen
06-30-2008, 06:29 PM
The second distinction is between people with seemingly "innate" skills and those with "learned" skills. As a caveat I would like to mention Ellis' story about the ballerina (maybe the same one) who was able to learn a rote form of Taekwando within a single demonstration. Training methods such as gymnastics and ballet often bestow upon the practitioner almost superhuman physical learning capacity, and that is not what I am talking about here when I say "innate" skill. That type of neurological adaptation is itself a learned skill and does not count as or bestow "innate" ability. An innate ability is something like what Daniel Tammet discovered after having a seizure. After a while he was able to associate the visions in his head with numbers and realized that he was now at the helm of a seemingly non-deterministic computing machine. Althought Daniel had to put in a lot of effort to discover the parameters of his new ability, the ability itself seems to be something he innately possesses. While all of us may have the occasional brush with synesthesia, it is unlikely that most of us will be able to teach ourselves to perform intensely complex mathematics by interpreting closed-eye visuals. On the other hand, a subset of people seem capable of taking some subject matter and either making it or adding it to their life's work in a way that yeilds unique or very hard to replicate results. They, over time, through effort, attain an understanding of the subject that cursory study would never reveal to any normal person. In my mind this is Osensei, fairly high-functioning, did not start martial arts training particularly early, did not train particularly long with the exactly right people, but made himself through his efforts and a unique (possibly incomprehensible) insight he brought to the table. Perhaps Osensei's unique insight was itself an "innate" skill, but it seems to have blossomed a lot later in his life than the innate skills of many others.
For me a difficult question is should I attempt to replicate Osense's insight, his methods, both or neither. It is a tough question and as many have stated here on Aikiweb, the results of choosing wrong can lead to spending a lot of time not learning much.

Ellis Amdur
07-02-2008, 12:11 PM
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-expert-mind
I've highlighted several sectins in the quotes

Practice, practice, practice?
Motivation?

Seems to explain things in the most mundane fashion. There seems to be no genius, at least not that can be "scientifically" proved. The first quote, below, is a perfect exposition of kata training done properly.

Yet, Gauss, who was mentioned among math prodigies, was doing creative math at age three. This is not a mere matter of practice. Kobe Bryant (an arrogant jerk) and LeBron James (a fine young man) - - again, character and skill are not linked - - are more than the product of mere practice. I used to practice basketball six hours a day. I literally practiced in over a foot of snow. And I believe, in retrospect, in the right way, with prospectively more difficult tasks (see below). But I never got beyond mediocre.

Are purely physical skills different from purely mental? Is there a continuum from the athletic to that in the middle (music, for example) to the purely mental (chess). Are physical skills more a mark of talent? One thing to note, again, is ballet. The Russians in the Bolshoi, the French in the Paris Opera, for example select children at a very young age, measuring limbs, flexibility, and reflexes. They can predict, with considerable accuracy, who will be a fine ballet dancer. They have no way of predicting who will be a Nureyev.

But harkening back to my original posts - Grandmaster Flash, our little three year old ballerina - passion (motivation) will drive "superhuman" levels of focused training. Sagawa (several hours of solo training for many decades every day), Ueshiba ("what I am is the product of 60 years of hard training" - recent interview on AJ of Saito Morihiro)

Since asking oneself if one is a genius is bootless, but proper training seems to take you as far as possible, motivation is the accessible key. (A lot of words expended to say the obvious:rolleyes: )

Ericsson argues that what matters is not experience per se but "effortful study," which entails continually tackling challenges that lie just beyond one's competence. That is why it is possible for enthusiasts to spend tens of thousands of hours playing chess or golf or a musical instrument without ever advancing beyond the amateur level and why a properly trained student can overtake them in a relatively short time. It is interesting to note that time spent playing chess, even in tournaments, appears to contribute less than such study to a player's progress; the main training value of such games is to point up weaknesses for future study.Even the novice engages in effortful study at first, which is why beginners so often improve rapidly in playing golf, say, or in driving a car. But having reached an acceptable performance--for instance, keeping up with one's golf buddies or passing a driver's exam--most people relax. Their performance then becomes automatic and therefore impervious to further improvement. In contrast, experts-in-training keep the lid of their mind's box open all the time, so that they can inspect, criticize and augment its contents and thereby approach the standard set by leaders in their fields.

At this point, many skeptics will finally lose patience. Surely, they will say, it takes more to get to Carnegie Hall than practice, practice, practice. Yet this belief in the importance of innate talent, strongest perhaps among the experts themselves and their trainers, is strangely lacking in hard evidence to substantiate it.

motivation appears to be a more important factor than innate ability in the development of expertise.

Best
Ellis Amdur

bkedelen
07-02-2008, 02:41 PM
That makes me wonder how many leaders in various fields are more the products of inspirational coaches than the products of their own effort. A great coach can sometimes motivate a student beyond what they themselves could accomplish. In addition a great coach can mercilessly reveal the weaknesses that must next be addressed, and not coddle the student into thinking they are doing a great job when they are just treading water.

Ellis Amdur
07-02-2008, 05:11 PM
Genius/talent passion and work. Renee Fleming, considered among the most wonderful sopranos of this age has written quite a lovely book (The Inner Voice: the Making of a Singer. Paperback ed. New York: Penguin Group, 2004. ISBN: 9780143035947). It is gracefully written, but is truly remarkable for the meticulous descriptions she gives on how "magic" is created - how technically precise beauty must be. Compare this to the relatively untrained Andrea Bocelli, a gifted natural talent - but whose weaknesses are quite apparent, due to his lack of training.
And then I think of a fellow from my neighborhood - who had this passion to be an opera singer, and who worked at low-level jobs most of his adult life, spending every spare dime on singing lessons. And my mother, who was an opera singer, visited him, he already in his mid-forties, and as she told me, "It was so sad. I can't imagine anyone working harder. But his voice was just not - - -it was painful to listen to."
And in many cases - a final component - timing. When do you start to learn. Some disciplines require an earlier beginning than others. Ignacy Jan Paderewski was renowned as a great performer. He was talented, brilliant, and had wonderful musical sense - and a wonderful work ethic. But, it was generally conceded, he started too late in music to be at the highest level.

Buck
07-02-2008, 08:56 PM
Ellis,

After reading the last two stories, which I enjoyed and am not debating you, I can't help to think that Andrea Bocelli isn't a master. I understand he lacks technical training and doesn't stand up to those measures of what is set as acceptable in Opera. I am sure it is like Bob Dylan vocals vs. Whitney Houston (before the drugs) vocals.

I understand your point. My comment about Bocelli has nothing to do with your point about mastery. It is that he became so popular and really did a lot for bringing more people into enjoying Opera. Opera is in all it's technical greatness, requires an ear trained in the appreciation of Opera. I prefer Bocelli, because my ear isn't trained, it prefers imperfection for some reason.

There are many of us who lack talent and have the passion for the art who will never be masters, this is true. I think we expect and place too much importance on mastery of skill, and that is the only thing that is valuable. It is about results, about winning. But there is also the mastery of passion. Those of us who have passion but don't have the talent to be masters. There isn't much placed on the importance on passion, the amount of passion, the longevity of passion etc. a person has.Like a passionate person who knows they lack the talent, but is still intensely passionate keeps on. But that isn't valued. It is over-shadowed my technical mastery.

In other areas like romance, passion is highly valued, it is what makes it all happen. Later in life, passion for like is what keeps you going. Many people have sad lives because they lack passion. But too often people don't see the connection and value results over everything else, like the passion. Because mastery is like genius where only a small percentage of people become master have, I think those who have great genuine passion regardless of the technically abilities are masters. And so what if your instrument isn't played perfectly, because it is the passion behind the musician and not the technical perfection that makes the music passionate. Come to think of it, it is the same for dance a passionate dancer brings life to the dance. A technically great dance who doesn't bring or put passion into the dance is dancing dead.



I think if a person is a master and acts like a royal diva, a rotten arrogant jerk or snob doesn't make them less of a master, it makes them less of a person.

So the question is how one becomes a master, but mastery really is about passion and if you don't have the passion to put into what your doing, your not going to be much of a master even if your a devil or a saint.

Do I got it?

Ellis Amdur
07-02-2008, 09:25 PM
Buck -

As far as I'm concerned, yes, I think we both got it. Passion above all, because without it, the practice, no matter how many reps and hours, is rote and dead.
Best

Buck
07-02-2008, 10:46 PM
Ellis,

I should have said that upteen posts ago before replying. In my first posts I took passion in one light, then after reading more of you posts I started to see you may have been using passion differently then what I had first read it as. I am glad I got it.

Thanks.

Aikibu
07-03-2008, 12:07 AM
Hey Ellis, Buck, and gang,

A particular tome that I find inspirational year after year is

"Sparks of Genius" by Michele and Robert Root Bernstein.

I bought it when it first came out and it has some really great insights (in fact a whole book full! LOL :) ) and I highly recommend it.

I guess the 2nd edition is now subtitled "The 13 Thinking Tools of the worlds most creative people."

Here is the Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Sparks-Genius-Thirteen-Thinking-Creative/dp/0618127453

If you guys buy it I hope you enjoy it and it's practical suggestions as much as I do. :) I found it to be very helpful.

William Hazen

Keith Larman
07-03-2008, 12:57 AM
It is gracefully written, but is truly remarkable for the meticulous descriptions she gives on how "magic" is created - how technically precise beauty must be. Compare this to the relatively untrained Andrea Bocelli, a gifted natural talent - but whose weaknesses are quite apparent, due to his lack of training.

Ya know, it's funny. I've been working on the 3rd movement of the moonlight sonata. Lots of years of classical training. And I have a few recordings I like to listen to. Horowitz does a lovely job. I have a few others that are quite remarkable. But lately I've been "re"-listened to my Glenn Gould recordings. Damnit, that man was a genius.

And he played that third movement too damned fast!

It's infuriating!

But gorgeous...

From another planet...

And I can't reconcile it...

:confused:

DH
07-03-2008, 01:02 PM
Great discussion!!

Buck -

As far as I'm concerned, yes, I think we both got it. Passion above all, because without it, the practice, no matter how many reps and hours, is rote and dead.
Best

And a thousand reps of suburi done wrong, but none-the-less done "passionately" by so many is also dead. Practice doesn't cut it as many-including the opera singer-aftetr years of training came up bupkis. Oh I can't count the Berkley grads I used to play with who sucked.

It's why I asked in the first place. It’s a fascinating, but perhaps fruitless quest to either define or replicate it.
I don't think genius alone cuts it, as fortitude, obsession, and a good dogged work ethic is needed in most cases
Mentoring is no promise either.
Passion alone I mentioned above.
I don't think anyone truly knows the spark's origin-or even how to nurture it. Your idea of Daemon driving someone to "play out their calling or predilection may equate with the Christian idea of divine prominence. Call it God playing and having fun spreading some talent and seeing what comes of it.
Or an evolutionist’s dream of certain human folk jump starting the next selection.
But maybe both of those still require a trigger perhaps to put it in motion, and the right environment to help it grow.
I've seen genius squandered, talent gone to waste, impassioned mediocrity, and visionaries imprisoned and held back by dullards in authority. Inversely most bankers will tell you its very dangerous to have the visionary at the helm, they are always looking for the bean counter / planner behind him.

I guess I don’t have a real point to make, other than I think it may just be a broad range of in born talent, coupled with genius or not needed for certain things, nurtured skills that help extend a conducive environment, and maybe a little weirdness thrown in to achieve a self- absorbed state of focus through failure, that brings us the masters.
Who knows. One thing is for certain. Men’s judge of just who the masters are, when it doesn’t involve statistical models and competition- is as subjective as their favorite foods and their own abilities to judge.
One sees a spark
One see a bright flame…
And another just sees a lot of smoke.

Ellis Amdur
07-03-2008, 01:27 PM
My compliments. You sometimes say you can't write - and that was both lovely - and true (in that architect's sense of things lined up).

Best

Mark Kruger
07-03-2008, 05:59 PM
To reach the very pinnacle of an art requires innate talent as well as hard work, good instruction, and a host of other things.

I hate innate talent.

It is a variable in the equation of mastery that I cannot control. It is constant that was set in my genetics. I can't do anything about my innate talent (or lack thereof), so why think on it? I'd rather spend my time and effort on those things I can control. Things like time spent, awareness invested in practice, and skilled teachers sought out. Will I ever be the best? Given my lack of innate talent at anything, no. Will I be better than if I didn't work on the things I could control?

All to often it is a crutch to explain away failure. The other person is better, not because paid more attention, found better instructors, spent more time training, and just plain did the work. No, it is because the other person has more innate talent... :grr: At a pistol match last winter a new shooter shows up. His score was 30% of mine. He said: "Wow, I wish I was a natural like you." He had no idea of how much time I spent at home working on the basic skills in dry-fire, how many times a week I go to the range, the tens of thousands of rounds fired every year, the money spent training with skilled instructors. What work? It's innate talent that allowed me to beat this guy.

When I get beaten, is it because of innate talent, or because they put in more and better work than I did? Sure, at the very top levels, when everyone has done as much work as they can, innate talent will provide that little extra edge that separates the winner from the first loser. Am I near that level? (The answer to that last one is: No.)

Passion. I think that passion is a motivator that drives awareness. Awareness, examining the moment, is where I think most folks fall down. It is all to easy to fall into the trap of routine and train for 20 years and end up with the 1st year 20 times.