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EMelanson78
10-13-2010, 09:41 PM
Hey all, I am Eric, new to Aiki Web, and relatively new to Aikido. I was wondering how many days a week the average person in Aikido trains? My dojo is two days a week. But after you feel comfortable you can stay for the intermediate class which is directly after the beginners class. I think I could do with more. At least 3 days a week. Is two days enough?:confused:

raul rodrigo
10-13-2010, 10:00 PM
My own experience is that two days a week is enough just to maintain my current level of skill and fitness, ie, I remain on a plateau. If I want to achieve any improvement, then I have to train more. Four times a week seems to be the optimum time for me. More than that would be good, but I currently don't have that kind of time to spare.

Brian Gillaspie
10-13-2010, 10:26 PM
Two days may be enough but I guess it really depends on what your overall goal is. I train 2 nights a week and go to a 3 hour class every other Sunday. I would love to train more but I work full time and I'm married and have two kids who are involved in many activities.....so for me two days is enough.

EMelanson78
10-13-2010, 10:33 PM
Thanks guys, I just feel that 2 days isnt nearly enough. Its mondays and thursdays. My goal is to learn as much as possible. I am married too, no kids, and am a flooring contractor during the days, so my evenings are open. But the dojo isn't. and unfortunately there isnt any other Aikido dojo in a thirty mile radius. Should I clean the garage out and buy some mats and just ukemi in my time off? LOL. I am frustrated.

Brian Gillaspie
10-13-2010, 10:57 PM
It sounds like getting in some extra time at home may be your only option. I would check with other students in the dojo because you may find some others who also want extra time and would be willing to workout in your garage.

I think about aikido a lot (probably too much) and will mentally walk my self through things we work on during class. I know its no substitute for time spent on the mat but I feel that it does help me remember some things.

WilliB
10-14-2010, 12:02 AM
Hey all, I am Eric, new to Aiki Web, and relatively new to Aikido. I was wondering how many days a week the average person in Aikido trains? My dojo is two days a week. But after you feel comfortable you can stay for the intermediate class which is directly after the beginners class. I think I could do with more. At least 3 days a week. Is two days enough?:confused:

You´ll learn something regardless how many classes you take. Of course, the more the betters.

If you are asking about fitness though, and this is your only physical activity, then no. Getting your butt off the sofa twice a week is probably not enough to improve physical fitness.

Janet Rosen
10-14-2010, 12:11 AM
I'd say two times a wk is the minimum for getting stuff into "muscle memory" and as you learn you can always practice basic movement and any weapons kata to do on your own.

Eva Antonia
10-14-2010, 02:52 AM
Dear Eric,

I started with one day per week, just to accompany my big son. After two weeks I found out that that was by far not enough, and we went twice a week. Then I passed my 5th kyu, became ambitious and said that until 4th kyu I'd train better 3 times per week.
Then all my kids enrolled in aikido and I started to train four time a week. Now two of the kids left aikido again, but I still train four times a week.

For physical fitness I don't see it makes much difference, but then I am someone without car or television, going by bike everywhere and moving around a lot even without aikido.

For learning I think it is the necessary minimum because I'm not one of the naturally aiki-gifted whose body learns easily. I have slow reactions, bad sense for distance and lots of typical female submissive habits I'm not aware of but just don't get rid off (like shrinking back and bend my arms when someone attacks). So even with four times a week I advance slowly, but I advance, and that's enough.

There are several people in my dojo who come twice a week, and they advance more or less at my pace. There was a guy who came once a week, and he made zero progress.

But on the other hand - there is also work, family, friends, other hobbies - you just have to look where is the best balance for you.

Best regards,

Eva

amoeba
10-14-2010, 03:03 AM
Well, I think that as you're relatively new to Aikido, maybe it's not so bad to train twice a week for now. The movements are still new to you and your body isn't that used to it. Also, even if you are very enthusiastic right now, if you overdo it, you might "burn out" your interest... have seen it happen!

That's not to say that a third time would be bad if you had the possibility, but as that's not the case, I'd go with the two times right now. I'm not sure it's such a good idea to go about stuff like buying mats for home training already...
Hey, as a beginner, I think you'll make loads of progress with two classes a week! Once you've reached a certain level, you'll probably eventually have to train more, but right now you should be fine... in the beginning, you learn fast, anyway!:)

crbateman
10-14-2010, 06:21 AM
Everybody's different. For some, twice a week is adequate to meet their needs and expectations. For others, it's not. And for still others, it's the best that can be done, and it looks like you are in this category. Certainly, two days is better than no days.

You can supplement your non-dojo days by stretching, breathing exercises, single weapons training, meditation, ukemi practice (if you have the room), and by watching the plethora of video material available, and reading the books that spark your interest. For many, aikido is also a mental process and discipline which broadens out into all areas of their lives, so that aikido is really something they do every day.

Train when you can, and be sure to relax and enjoy the journey.

lbb
10-14-2010, 08:34 AM
What's "enough" depends on your goals, your body, how you learn, and probably a dozen other things that I'm overlooking now. If your current training isn't doing what you want, it's enough. If it's not doing what you want, it may be not enough, or it may be too much, or it may be that you're using a screwdriver to try to paint a fence. Could be any of the above.

NagaBaba
10-14-2010, 10:35 AM
Thanks guys, I just feel that 2 days isnt nearly enough. Its mondays and thursdays. My goal is to learn as much as possible. I am married too, no kids, and am a flooring contractor during the days, so my evenings are open. But the dojo isn't. and unfortunately there isnt any other Aikido dojo in a thirty mile radius. Should I clean the garage out and buy some mats and just ukemi in my time off? LOL. I am frustrated.

Find some judo, bjj, iaido (sword practice) or jodo dojo, these arts have the same roots as aikido. You have to practice every day, all year long. Otherwise you are wasting your time.

Chris Evans
10-14-2010, 12:11 PM
Find some judo, bjj, iaido (sword practice) or jodo dojo, these arts have the same roots as aikido. You have to practice every day, all year long. Otherwise you are wasting your time.

that's excellent advise.

You should practice every day, all year long with skillsets that have the same root, to gain a "critical mass" of skill, for few years, then otherwise you are wasting your time.

I'll be increasing my karate to 6~7 times per week, x4 in the dojo.

When I was in college and playing in competitions I trained 7 times a week plus running and weight lifting.

As 'm evaluating Aikido dojo for myself, I have a strong preference for a dojo that offers 6 to 7 class days per week.

WilliB
10-14-2010, 12:34 PM
that's excellent advise.

You should practice every day, all year long with skillsets that have the same root, to gain a "critical mass" of skill, for few years, then otherwise you are wasting your time.

I'll be increasing my karate to 6~7 times per week, x4 in the dojo.

When I was in college and playing in competitions I trained 7 times a week plus running and weight lifting.

As 'm evaluating Aikido dojo for myself, I have a strong preference for a dojo that offers 6 to 7 class days per week.

Why so niggardly? Lets go for 100 times a week. Everything else is a waste!

I drink to the fanatics :p

NagaBaba
10-14-2010, 12:51 PM
Why so niggardly? Lets go for 100 times a week. Everything else is a waste!

I drink to the fanatics :p
There is nothing fanatic in every day practice. It is simply most efficient way of using free time. There are times in the life you can do it(as it is a case of topic owner) then other time, when you have big family, busy work, getting health problems - so can't do it so easy.

From other point of view, such intense practice will help you figure out how to practice when you are out of dojo - no books, youtube or advices other ppl can do it.

Also, aikido training should lead to transformation. One indeed needs a 'critical mass' as a starting point. Otherwise he will always scratching the surface.And achieving this 'critical mass' is possible only by such every day training.

And may be most important - every day training means Commitment. Without such Commitment training has no value.

Chris Evans
10-14-2010, 12:53 PM
Why so niggardly? Lets go for 100 times a week. Everything else is a waste!

I drink to the fanatics :p

lol.

I should have added that if you want to know how good it feels to have a sense of your waza move with "no-mind" instinctively, mushin no shin (無心の心), or wish to do well in competition, where an injury's a possibility.

there's joy and, perhaps, some learning even at 1 a week, esp. once you've had a sense of learning the basics.

Gichin Funakoshi practiced karate everyday, granted that he was a pro.

How good would your cello be if you practiced daily, 7~14 hours a week? Budo is no different then music or language.

I have seen karate-ka practice for six plus years and still show no real 'gung fu' or sense of proficiency of the basics (not talking about toughness/fitness, btw, but demonstrating clean techniques and attention to significant detail, with a warrior attitude, that should be there regardless of strength or size). After all, budo is not flower arranging or tea serving, both that are zen practices but does not deal with life and death.

ninjaqutie
10-14-2010, 12:55 PM
I think two days a week isn't too bad. My old dojo was just two days a week and eventually, like you I could stay for an additional hour each day (so I was banking 4 hours a week). In my current dojo, I train four days a week (banking 6 and half hours a week). I am hoping to add another day to my training schedule in the near future.

Just as not enough training can be bad, so too can over training. Some people get burnt out, injured, sick, etc. Each person has their own optimal classes/hours per week that they have to find for themselves. Most people in my dojo seem to train two to three times a week. :) Welcome to aikido and best of luck!

Shadowfax
10-14-2010, 01:56 PM
Two days a week is the minimum I think one needs in order to progress. We have several in my dojo who come twice a week and they are making very nice progress. Once you can start getting into the second class with your dojo that should help some of your frustrations.

But I understand how you feel because for me twice a week would not be enough either. I train 3 days/5.5 hours a week and as far as I know my progress is just fine. This is all my dojo has to offer right now. Ive considered adding a 4th day by visiting another dojo occasionally but I really don't feel like I need it.

On the off days if I need some aikido I can do some weapons kata or some footwork or ukemi practice on my own at home and frequently do so.

As much as I would love to be able to work out 7 days a week I have to accept the fact that this body is not going to put up with that kind of abuse at my age and besides... there is life outside of the dojo. It's not like I'm in training to go to war or something after all. I have a whole lifetime to learn it. ;)

RED
10-14-2010, 03:06 PM
You should train, to some capacity, every day IMO.
I'd leave a dojo that only held formal classes 2-3 days a week at this point in my life.

There is also something to be said about quality of practice. I mean there are some people who show up to 4-5 classes a week, don't push themselves, and you can see it in their Aikido. You get out of Aikido what you are willing to invest, like anything else.

Ideally, train everyday in some capacity, with your full attention.

odudog
10-14-2010, 04:52 PM
2 days a week is enough to learn. I myself want to practice more but the dojo space is only available for two days. Practice mentally off the mat and do shadow practice. You will surprised on how much detail each technique requires. You don't have to practice with someone in order to progress.

Jeff Sodeman
10-14-2010, 05:25 PM
I should point out that the original post is a bit misleading. That dojo has more than 2 days a week of Aikido classes. They have 2 beginner's classes per week, with more advanced or other topical classes on other days.

JJF
10-15-2010, 04:30 AM
sigh... I don't know how many times we have to beat this old - and very seriously dead - horse.

We all have different needs, desires, situations and abilities and in my opinion there's no answer to the question.

I have created a dojo in my area, but I have to take care of my family and my job as well, so I can only afford (time and money) to teach once a week. To all of you who claim that is not enough.. well.. I am happy - my technique is getting better than it was when I wasen't practicing, and my so far few but dedicated students are happy as well... so once a week is by far better than no aikido... twice a week is bette than once obiously, but I don't spend a lot of time agonizing over this.I just enjoy whatever practice I can fit into my life.

Now if I wanted to become an interantionally acclaimed master, I should probably take it up a serious number of notches, but that's not in the cards for me.

I don't give a hoot how much a person practices or if they come every freakin' session... if a student has a sick child and feel they should stay home.. then they need to do that. Sacrificing your loved ones and not being true to your values is not within my take on the concept of Aikido.

I DO know that if you are present and serious during your time in the dojo, then even a small amount of practice will help you evolve. If you just spend a vast number of hours in the dojo, but have your head somewhere else, then it's a vaste of time.

In my world it makes sense to drop all the criterias in number of classes, months spend on each kyu/dan level etc etc. I believe the best teacher is the one who achieves a balance, and who is able to recognise progress without consulting his timesheets, curriculums and calculations. I am not even half there, but I strive for that rather than spend to much time building and maintining systems for controlling something.

We need some sort of structure, and I implement what the national organization suggests, but apart from that we just practice and take care of our selves and each other.

so... in conclusion... the answer varies... is two days enough... well it depends on the goal. Is it enough to become the next doshu of hombu dojo.. probably not... but is it enough to make you happy about what you do.. well then...yes..

Explore your life and your needs - then ask the right question.

- Jørgen Jakob

Shadowfax
10-15-2010, 08:45 AM
sigh... I don't know how many times we have to beat this old - and very seriously dead - horse.

As many times as there are new people who want to ask this question. Because to them this is a fresh topic that they need to discuss. Nobody forced you to respond.

Honestly. If the older members are tired of discussing certain topics why not just refrain form posting? It would be a whole lot better than this derogatory and discouraging kind of post. Just because you are done discussing it does not automatically mean every new person who comes seeking advice and answers should be invalidated or made to feel unwelcome or wrong for asking.

Imagine of you asked your sensei a question and he just looked at you and said well Ive discussed this particular topic dozens of times with your seniors. I'm tired of answering the same question to you beginners. Go figure it out on your own....:(

what if one of your juniors came to you in the dojo with this kind of question? Would you treat him with the same cold condescension?:uch:

This is our dojo in cyberspace. In fact it's Jun's dojo so to speak. We need to really start acting a bit more respectful of its members.


Explore your life and your needs - then ask the right question.

- Jørgen Jakob

Judging by his second post he did exactly that. :)

@Maggie. Would you kindly share with us exactly why you would leave a dojo just because it does not provide classes every day? What if said dojo were headed up by your own sensei? What if the teacher is such a dojo was of a very high caliber? Would you quit a dojo where you could only train with such a person twice a week? Quantity does not necessarily equal quality.

Before we can say what enough is I think we must look at the intended goal.

Enough for what?

Is two days a week enough for one to make progress and learn? Yes it is. It is certainly better than no days. Of course more may be better; but you do what you can with what you have.

Is two days a week enough for someone who wants to become, super uber samurai warrior sensei, in a short period of time? Well then no its not enough. But with that kind of attitude there are not enough training days in week to satisfy that particular desire.

So again? What is the goal. Everyone here has a different reason for their answers, depending on what their goal is in training. It would help to put things into perspective for the OP is this were shared.

Personally I'm not all that concerned about self defense or whether or not I can handle some dude who sticks a knife in my face. (and whether or not he is holding it right). My chief goal in learning aikido; is to deepen my understanding of myself; of body mechanics; developing awareness and presence of mind; and improving my balance and connection when I ride my horse.

I figure 3 days/6 hours a week is sufficient for me to achieve that goal. And in fact I feel like I am making very good progress. If I had to make do with two, and I did for the first 6 months or so that I trained, then that's what I'd do. Because my teachers have exactly what I am looking for in my practice.
:)

Anyway those are the reasons behind my first answer.

lbb
10-15-2010, 09:21 AM
Gichin Funakoshi practiced karate everyday, granted that he was a pro.

At one point he became a "pro" (that is, full-time dedicated to karate); however, before that he was a schoolteacher. During that time, if I recall correctly from "Karate-do: My Way of Life", he still trained daily. The book is a worthwhile read for anyone who wants to explore the issues of "way of life" and "how much is enough", because what comes forward quite clearly are one person's answers, understood as such. Funakoshi's daily training wasn't the result of a formula of how many days a week to train; it was something he did because it made sense. Indeed (and I may be misremembering, it's years since I read the book), but it seemed that the daily training wasn't the result of a one-year plan or five-year plan or life plan, or any plan but the plan of the moment. At the end of his day of teaching, he would start walking to the dojo, because then -- right in that moment -- it made sense to do so. That seems to me like a good barometer of "how much is enough".

Lyle Laizure
10-15-2010, 10:46 AM
Well said Cherie.

Janet Rosen
10-15-2010, 11:40 AM
If one is, as most of us are in most dojos, essentially a serious hobbyist for whom aikido is part of a balanced and busy life, 2-3 times a week is ample on-the-mat time to make continual progress.

Andrew Macdonald
10-15-2010, 11:54 AM
no matter how many times a week you train, if you want to progress you need to work when you are away from the dojo.

once a week is ok, but make sure you work out at home

henry brown
10-15-2010, 12:33 PM
It takes 10,000 hours to mastery, according to Gladwell
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outliers_(book)

The math:
At 2 times per week = 4 hours per week x 50 weeks = 200 hours per year.

Being generous, at 4 X week = 10 hours/week = 500 hours per year, it would take 20 years to 'master' aikido. I figure that would be about 5th dan level....seems about right to me.

You need to decide what you want for yourself.

Amassus
10-15-2010, 01:38 PM
I'm going to agree with those posters that said that as long as you are training with full intent each time, you will progress at two days a week. However, I think back to my beginning days as a single man with time to burn and I pushed it up to 4 x a week because I could. So my fire burned brightly.
Nowadays with a young family and fuller work commitments my fire is smoldering at training one day a week and teaching one day a week. This fits my lifestyle and maintains my skill level.

I think the OP is answering his own question. "Is two days enough?" You are frustrated so I would suggest it isn't but you can find another outlet for training a third day. A similar martial art or solo training are options others have mentioned.

I'll echo the over-training thing as well. This can happen in any physical endeavor so be careful not to burn so brightly that you burn out.

I wish you all the best.

Dean.

shakou
10-16-2010, 09:40 AM
I see nothing wrong with only 2 classes per week. This is the amount I go for and have progressed fine. Yes it is a given that people learn at a different pace and may need more. It would also boil down the the level of instruction as in most things you are only as good as the person teaching.

George S. Ledyard
10-17-2010, 12:47 PM
I know that everyone always wants to be validated for whatever effort they are currently prepared to put in. But let's be realistic here...

Say your child is taking music lessons... what does the teacher say about that? You need to practice "every day". Your child shows up for his or her lesson having practiced once or twice that week and the teacher knows immediately, and usually comments on it.

Your child is engaged in youth sports... how often do they practice? During the season, usually EVERY day. Try going up to the coach and telling him you think your child should practice just a couple of times a week and see how long the child is on that team...

What is "enough"? Enough for what? Once a week is fine to have a good time. It will never be enough to be any good. In my experience, twice a week allows someone who already trains to keep up his or her skills but doesn't move them "forward". I require that anyone training for Yudansha testing be training at least three times a week. There's no way they can perform at what I think the standard should be without three times a week as the Minimum attendance.

Everyone I know who is really accomplished at this art spent some extended period during which they trained 6 or 7 days a week, often multiple classes each day. The uchi deshi we strive to learn from were on the mat every day, 6 - 8 hours a day every day for years. Back in the day, we trained six or seven days a week and held jobs too. Now, a SERIOUS student at my dojo trains three times a week.

Now I happen to think I have shortened the learning curve for my students by developing better explanations and more targeted training exercises than what I did when young. So these folks are doing pretty well. There are actually several who, if they stay with it, will be better than I am. But they are still working at what I consider to be the minimum required to be excellent.

Folks are welcome to come train at any commitment level they wish. Frankly, the dabblers support the training for the serious folks; it's always been that way. But I am not going to pretend with them that they are doing something they are not. They can train any way they want but if they want to move up the Dan ranks, they have to commit and train three days a week or more.

This art is supposed to be "Budo". It is a "Way", a "Path", an art that was intended to be a way of life, not just a "hobby". To pretend that all training is good, which is the approach some folks take, is to cheapen the art. I really do not see any value in mediocre Aikido for its own sake. Lack of real commitment yields pseudo spirituality and a skill level that is really nothing more than Aikido-lite. If folks don't want to make enough commitment to really understand the principles of the art, in body and mind, what's the point? Find something else you can be passionate about and master that...

This art was Founded by one of the great martial and spiritual geniuses of the 20th century. It was handed down to a group of teachers who spent their entire adult lives trying to master and understand what they were given while passing it all on to another generation. These folks made enormous sacrifices to spread Aikido around the world. And still, even the most accomplished would say that they only got a portion of what they Founder tried to teach them. So at what point do we admit that a couple times a week, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours each time, simply isn't enough to do an Aikido that has anything of real depth at all?

The more folks pretend that real commitment isn't actually required to do this art, the more we try to make it accessible to everyone, regardless of whether they want to do the real work involved, the closer we get to not even knowing what great Aikido is any more. I sat in the stands at the Aiki Expo and watched a few people with really big numbers after their names do absolutely wretched Aikido, a total embarrassment to the art, and yet some folks didn't even seem to be aware just how bad the Aikido they were seeing actually was... It was like the Emperor's New Clothes and I felt like yelling, "Excuse me, but that Sensei has no clothes on..."

This is an absolutely amazing art! The more I do it the more I see in it. This art deserves to be, even demands that it be, more than just a "hobby". L0ook at what has happened to our culture... We have the astounding wealth that historically only the very top of any society achieved. Time not devoted to survival issues is crucial for all great art and cultural achievement. We have this amazing opportunity to do, not just Aikido, but virtually any Path we wish.

So what have we done with that? We as Americans get less vacation time than any industrialized nation in the world and we don't use up what we get! We have allowed our lives, our own sense of self worth to be defined by our jobs. Our whole function as human beings, with all the tremendous potential this time and place in history affords us, is to work at jobs that, in the end, serve to make a very small group of folks at the top of our society more and more rich and powerful. And then we are told we need to buy more to keep the machine running. Well, if you are going to buy more, then working more is a given. So your life is consumed by the need to put increasingly more and more effort in to "work", even though we already have far more than survival requires. Then we turn around and tell ourselves that we don't have time for those very things that we could be doing, probably should be doing, to support ourselves as human beings. So folks are always telling me that they don't have time to train... That they can't afford to do some seminar... Well, time wise, they have exactly the same amount of time that every other Aikido practitioner has. 24 hours each day, seven days a week, 12 months a year. No one gets more, and some folks pass before it seems they should have.

So do we keep telling ourselves that twice a week is enough for this amazing art? Or do we admit that it takes far more to even realize what depth is available? Maybe we should question the whole foundation of this illusion that we don't have the time or money for a practice that is so unique and amazing while feeling obligated to perfecting our roles as consumers in the consumer society. There seems to be almost no awareness that, throughout history, the "merchant class" was always considered to be on the lower rungs of the societal hierarchy. Not in the least the group that supplied the spiritual and moral values a society needed to be great.

So now we are a society in which the merchant class has attained dominance and strives to define our values accordingly. We spend our lives doing jobs at a stress level that we know is killing us, requiring more and better pain killers every year, sustaining ourselves on foods with little real nutrient value... and the tell ourselves that we don't have time for the things that really represent "spiritual sustenance". It's not just Aikido, it's everything that we have developed over thousands of years of civilization that has depth and the potential to elevate the human spirit. For the first time in history we have enough wealth to free up the time for the majority of the people in society to have enough time not devoted to pure survival issues, that we could actually do some amazing things with our lives. And instead, we let ourselves get sucked into the vortex of work in order to consume, necessitating more work...

And then we ask the question whether the small time we can squeeze out of our daily life is enough to give to this complex and sophisticated art that has so much potential to provide real richness to ones life. Two times a week enough? That's less than most folks watch TV in a day. We need to get real here.

Pauliina Lievonen
10-17-2010, 04:01 PM
<appaluse> I once tried to write a column about the difference between hobbyists and professionals, but really what I would have liked to say was what Ledyard sensei just wrote.

Going to go do some solo exercises now...:o

kvaak
Pauliina

Rob Watson
10-17-2010, 04:43 PM
on the mat every day, 6 - 8 hours a day every day for years.

How many dojos can one find this level of instruction? Where I train there is offered 12.5 hours of instruction per week plus some 5 hours kids/teen classes. Compared to many others it is quite a full schedule (one instructor for all). Previously I trained where there were ~19 hours per week of adult instruction. Besides Hombu and the Yoshinkan I have not heard of anyplace that offers anywhere near 40 hours per week of instruction. I'm not saying there aren't any but they are few and far between.

Granted, serious students make the effort to get themselves to where the instruction is to be had but the rest of us would still rather train than not so we get the best we are able. Does aikido suffer because of us 'slackers'? Maybe we do not make a direct positive contribution (besides the support to the serious as mentioned) but I like to think we do no more harm.

I guess the real question needs to be is two days a week enough for what the OP wants to get out of aikido. If they want to be better than Mr. Ledyard than no but if they want to be help support their instructor and a few serious students along the way then the answer is yes. Just so long as one is honest with themselves and others about what they are doing then two days may well be plenty.

Just to be selfish I'll mention that if I'm able to get 5 hours a week I feel I'm barely treading water. Even with that meager schedule my family suffers due to my selfishness. They may think I'm a serious student but I know I'm not... by a long shot. Even at my most 'prolific' moments I can barely sustain an 8 hour weekly rate. Got no family and are under 30 then get it while you can because life has a way of getting in the way of the way.

Chris Li
10-17-2010, 06:55 PM
How many dojos can one find this level of instruction? Where I train there is offered 12.5 hours of instruction per week plus some 5 hours kids/teen classes. Compared to many others it is quite a full schedule (one instructor for all). Previously I trained where there were ~19 hours per week of adult instruction. Besides Hombu and the Yoshinkan I have not heard of anyplace that offers anywhere near 40 hours per week of instruction. I'm not saying there aren't any but they are few and far between.

Generally, you have to go to more than one place, or train on your own. There's quite a lot you can do with solo training, and you don't have that dead time spent traveling to and from the dojo, hanging out before and after class, and so forth.

I don't get 6-8 hours a day, but I do get something going every day.

Best,

Chris

RED
10-17-2010, 07:11 PM
How many dojos can one find this level of instruction? \



New York Aikikai is one place. If the uchi deshi life style is something some one is serious about, they tend to move to dojo like New York Aikikai for extensive training and apprenticeships.

6 hours a day isn't something most dojo offer.
I wouldn't attend a dojo offering less than 10 hours a week, because that's my personal minimum training requirements that I have for myself. My dojo exceeds my personal minimum exponentially, which I am blessed for.

I think a commitment of 10-12 hours a week is a minimum requirement.(if this many classes are not offered at your dojo, then a serious student I'd think would take every class they do offer, whenever possible.)

I train 10-12 a week... but in all seriousness the uchi deshi who train like a full time job, they are more serious than many of us are. And we should never disrespect them by pretending we are on the same level of commitment. I've heard of people giving up jobs, family and friends to move to New York or Japan to train seriously. Everyone really is a hobbyist in comparison. They deserve that much respect.
However, 3 hours a week is the very least I believe some one needs to make gradual progress as a 6th kyu. I get sad when I see new students only coming for 1or 2 classes a week or less. They have more potential than that. But if it is a hobby and they are enjoying themselves, whatever.
But, I think that if you have hopes for yudansha that a training minimum of more than 3 hours is to be at least considered.

lbb
10-17-2010, 08:46 PM
I wouldn't attend a dojo offering less than 10 hours a week, because that's my personal minimum training requirements that I have for myself. My dojo exceeds my personal minimum exponentially, which I am blessed for.

I doubt it exceeds it exponentially (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exponential_growth), but I take your meaning: it's well above your personal minimum. If it didn't, would you move to another city? If your dojo had to cut back on hours, would you leave?

RED
10-17-2010, 09:23 PM
I doubt it exceeds it exponentially (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exponential_growth), but I take your meaning: it's well above your personal minimum. If it didn't, would you move to another city? If your dojo had to cut back on hours, would you leave?

I don't foresee this ever happening, because my dojo is strong.

However if I was in that situation, I'd have to start taking trips to the nearest local Dojo in my federation to fill in gaps.

But if it wasn't livable to travel, I'd likely move.

RED
10-17-2010, 09:37 PM
I doubt it exceeds it exponentially (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exponential_growth),

I love when my browser fixes my spelling mistakes by replacing it with what "it thinks" I meant to spell. :cool:

Lyle Bogin
10-22-2010, 06:23 PM
"training everyday" does not mean "being on the mat everyday" or even "doing martial arts techniques everyday." Eventually the martial arts lifestyle leads to the consideration of all tasks as training.

Mark Uttech
10-23-2010, 08:57 AM
Onegaishimasu. Training once a week will keep you busy enough in the beginning. It becomes "once a week, no matter what". Next thing you know, you have a practice that keeps building and growing itself, all based on that simple foundation of: "once a week, no matter what."

In gassho,

Mark

Ryan Seznee
10-25-2010, 02:27 PM
"training everyday" does not mean "being on the mat everyday" or even "doing martial arts techniques everyday." Eventually the martial arts lifestyle leads to the consideration of all tasks as training.

I think "training everyday" does in fact mean to log some hours on the mat... unless you train on the grass or sand (which is fun). I usually train 6 to 12 hours a week in my dojo, and I consider myself a hobbyist. I just don't think it is a realistic attitude to take to say that martial arts is my life if I am only training for 2 to 3 hours a week, regardless of how I view other tasks.

RED
10-25-2010, 02:52 PM
I believe that training in a martial art in much respect is an act of apprenticing yourself to the highest ranked/skilled instruction you can find. While doing foot work and bokken kata in your livingroom can be helpful, I wouldn't ever go as far to say I am training when I do this. Practicing what my instructor already taught me maybe, but not training.
As a martial art, I believe in putting your time in as an apprenticeship to the highest level instruction you can find, whenever you can find it.

George S. Ledyard
10-25-2010, 03:10 PM
Onegaishimasu. Training once a week will keep you busy enough in the beginning. It becomes "once a week, no matter what". Next thing you know, you have a practice that keeps building and growing itself, all based on that simple foundation of: "once a week, no matter what."

In gassho,

Mark
Mark,
This sounds great but, in my opinion is just another for of "it's all ok, it's all good". No one is going to become any good this way. Period. Except maybe the person who is training once a week but doing three different arts... like many of the koryu folks did when they lived in Japan. They trained every day, just not in the same art necessarily.

You and I are part of the same organization... you know what our requirements are... The time in grade requirements for qualifying for being eligible for taking the next test are based on three to four times a week. Someone training once a week would take over ten years to do a Shodan. Since Shodan represents the point at which you can really start to train, in other words, a serious beginner, you are talking about taking over ten years just to get to the point at which it is worth the time of a teacher like Saotome Sensei to speak to you.

I just don't see any point at all in dabbling. If it's not important enough for you to make a larger commitment, then quit and find something that is. When you don't make an effort, you are far more likely to get hurt, you take up a lot of time and effort on the part of the seniors helping you with the same things over and over because you never train enough to master anything. Sure it's great to have folks who help pay the bills, but since none of us got into this because of the money (that would have been a grave error), I'd rather have a serious student who is unemployed and on a scholarship program than someone dinking around but paying dues. Now if someone really wants to support the dojo, and I have several people like this, then they can pay dues and not train. These folks can be a real help in paying the bills and I REALLY appreciate the fact that, even though they cannot train right now, they want the dojo to be there when they come back, so they pay dues each month.

But someone who doesn't think the practice is important enough to give it absolute minimum twice a week... why would they bother and why would I? As I said, anyone testing for 3rd kyu and up, can't test at my dojo unless he or she is training at least three times a week. Period.

Linda Eskin
10-25-2010, 04:25 PM
I would say if you like that dojo, if the teacher is a good match for you, if it's convenient for you, etc., at least start there for the 2 days a week they are open. See how it goes. Since everyone will be training at that same rate, you all should be progressing at relatively the same rate (unique abilities aside). And as others have said, some of your training can be off the mat, too. If you find you are yearning for more, perhaps (if enough others are, too) you could ask for an additional class or open practice time. Worst case, you could look for a new (or additional) dojo.

When I started I only went one evening per week. That expanded to the point where now I am very happily training 4-5x/week. I'm just very lucky that my dojo offers so many classes.

amoeba
10-26-2010, 03:42 AM
I just have the feeling that if you overdo it in the beginning, you might quit again. Once you've trained for a while, in my opinion, you'll start coming more often by yourself if you like it. But your body will also not be used to it, so imho I'd start a little more slowly... maybe 2-3 times a week. And if I understand correctly, for the advanced people there will be more classes anyway? Then I'd just wait until I'm allowed to go there...

Btw: Most really good people I know train about 3-4 times a week. Thats probably about 5-8 hrs. Of course, before gradings or in holiday time or whatever, they come more often. But I don't believe it's necessary to train every day to become "any good"... of course it's nice if one has the time. At the moment, I'm also training 10-12 hrs a week. But that's about the maximum I can fit into my schedule if I want to have a little bit of my life left...;)

George S. Ledyard
10-26-2010, 11:55 PM
But I don't believe it's necessary to train every day to become "any good"... of course it's nice if one has the time.

It all depends on what your goals are. Everything you said is true... but who are the models for our training? Is it about what we want to or feel we can put in? Or are our teachers the model? If our teachers, who paved the way for us, represent the model we are striving for (and I am not saying that it is for most, or even many, practitioners) then we need to look at what they did to get to where they are.

Without exception, every senior teacher of Aikido with whom I am familiar spent some significant period of time during which they trained virtually every day, often more than one class each day. Ikeda Sensei told me that, remembering Mary Heiny Sensei when she was at Hombu Dojo, she not only trained every day, she trained in every class every day. Hardly anyone trains in all the classes... they start in the early am and go til the late evening. So, if Mary Heiny Sensei is someone we are striving to model our training after, does anyone think they can become as good as that by training a fraction of the amount she trained? One could make the same argument about virtually any of our teachers.

Everyone wants to feel good about what they are doing. Everyone makes the commitment he or she feels fits into their life as they currently live it. But what must it be like to be a teacher looking out at the student population knowing that very few of them are even trying to be excellent at the art, much less master what that teacher is capable of passing on.

Every year I go to big events at which my own teacher is instructing. This man trained with the Founder and the other post war giants of Aikido for 15 years. I watch as he tries to teach something more advanced and cannot because so many of the people are simply not training hard enough to come back each year better than the year before. So each year he tells them the same things are wrong and they go home and come back the next year with the same things wrong. So he can't teach what he'd like to teach because the majority of the folks aren't ready for it. And they won't be ready for it the way they are training.

So, what happens is that the art begins to adjust to the capacities of the folks doing it. Rather than have a standard that is too high for most people, which would certainly be demoralizing and cause large numbers to quit, the standard changes so that folks can get a win, feel included, pay the rent on the dojo, etc. This changes the whole culture of Aikido. If the standard is now set by the hobbyist, rather than the seriously committed student, then you end up with lots of dojos but none at which one could become excellent. I travel a lot and see lots of dojos around with all sorts of folks. But at very few would I honestly say one could become really excellent at the art.

The fact of the matter is that, if they decided that they really wanted the standard to be excellence, if they were to insist that the dojo be geared towards taking people to a true high level of skills in the art, there would be so few people willing to train that way that the dojo would probably close.

So, we end up with "market forces" determining the character of the art which started as an amazing, complex, and deep practice. It becomes not an art that is hard to comprehend, that is pursued by practitioners who strive each day for mastery but one that the average person understands and can do, with the kind of commitment that average person is willing to make. You end up with the larger dojo paradigm making it impossible for that small number of people who would and could do more to actually do so. You see students who could be great and want to train towards that goal held back by the fact that the majority won't or can't.

I am not really quite sure what the answer is to this quandary. I am fairly sure that most folks, if you asked them, wouldn't wish to believe that what they are spending so much time and effort on is just "Aikido-lite" yet without a critical mass of really serious students striving to match their own teachers, that's what the art becomes.

Maarten De Queecker
10-27-2010, 04:08 AM
"training everyday" does not mean "being on the mat everyday" or even "doing martial arts techniques everyday." Eventually the martial arts lifestyle leads to the consideration of all tasks as training.

This, to me, is one of those typical, pseudo-deep answers some aikidoists tend to give (no offense meant).

It's also dead wrong.

If you want to become good or even just decent at something, you have to create a routine. Developing a routine means training as much as you can. In case of aikido: being on the mat as often as your personal life, job etc. allow you to.

By the way: a martial arts lifestyle is the lifestyle of a contemporary soldier. They train multiple hours per day, every day. A martial art lifestyle means rigorous training and mental and physical exhaustion, with the sole purpose of pushing the limits of what you body can take. Martial means "Of War". Martial art, in turn, means "Art of War". War is not doing tea ceremonies, or anything like that.

TL;DR: a martial lifestyle means training each day, every day, for hours at an end.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
10-27-2010, 05:02 AM
This, to me, is one of those typical, pseudo-deep answers some aikidoists tend to give (no offense meant).

It's also dead wrong.



This, to me, is one of those typical, pseudo-tough answers some aikidoists tend to give (no offense meant).

It's also dead wrong. ;)

Pauliina Lievonen
10-27-2010, 05:10 AM
But what must it be like to be a teacher looking out at the student population knowing that very few of them are even trying to be excellent at the art, much less master what that teacher is capable of passing on.
In the two other arts I practice, music and Alexander Technique, there's a clear difference between amateurs/hobbyists and professionals. There's also a clear difference between teaching amateurs and future professionals. I'm only doing the former and not kidding myself about doing the latter. The people who come for Alexander Technique lessons with me aren't planning to teach the technique themselves. The adults I teach recorder playing to aren't planning to become professional musicians. The only exception to this might be the occasional talented child - we'll see what they end up doing.

As far as I can tell they aren't telling themselves that they are as good as anybody. There seems to be a clear idea of the difference between someone who's had the professional training and put in the hours and who hasn't.

Especially in the AT lessons I'm explaining the very basics over and over again. Most people barely lean the basics, which is usually enough to solve the problem or question they came with. Then they stop having lessons. I get to feel satisfied that I helped someone solve a problem they had. If I want to enjoy talking about the finer points of the Technique, I go visit the teacher training course where I trained and work with the students there. They are busy studying the Alexander Technique every day.

If someone would come to me asking for recorder lessons with the goal of passing an entrance exam for the conservatory for example, that would be a different situation altogether. In that case I would demand much more from the student.

In aikido the situation is much more unclear because the professional training courses aren't there really. It's easy to start training at a dojo and imagine that what one's doing is the same as what the seniors did when they started, because where else could they have learned this? Especially if the seniors themselves are effectively amateurs as well, which seems to be the case in some dojo. I mean, I could start a dojo now and be a bad example to a new generation, and who would know any better? :)

kvaak
Pauliina

Nicholas Eschenbruch
10-27-2010, 05:50 AM
In the two other arts I practice, music and Alexander Technique, there's a clear difference between amateurs/hobbyists and professionals. There's also a clear difference between teaching amateurs and future professionals. I'm only doing the former and not kidding myself about doing the latter. The people who come for Alexander Technique lessons with me aren't planning to teach the technique themselves. The adults I teach recorder playing to aren't planning to become professional musicians. The only exception to this might be the occasional talented child - we'll see what they end up doing.

As far as I can tell they aren't telling themselves that they are as good as anybody. There seems to be a clear idea of the difference between someone who's had the professional training and put in the hours and who hasn't.

Especially in the AT lessons I'm explaining the very basics over and over again. Most people barely lean the basics, which is usually enough to solve the problem or question they came with. Then they stop having lessons. I get to feel satisfied that I helped someone solve a problem they had. If I want to enjoy talking about the finer points of the Technique, I go visit the teacher training course where I trained and work with the students there. They are busy studying the Alexander Technique every day.

If someone would come to me asking for recorder lessons with the goal of passing an entrance exam for the conservatory for example, that would be a different situation altogether. In that case I would demand much more from the student.

In aikido the situation is much more unclear because the professional training courses aren't there really. It's easy to start training at a dojo and imagine that what one's doing is the same as what the seniors did when they started, because where else could they have learned this? Especially if the seniors themselves are effectively amateurs as well, which seems to be the case in some dojo. I mean, I could start a dojo now and be a bad example to a new generation, and who would know any better? :)

kvaak
Pauliina

Very interesting analogy, thanks! That is food for thought.

MM
10-27-2010, 09:47 AM
Hi George,

I don't want to give an impression that I totally disagree with you. I don't. And more often than not, when I do disagree, it's usually fractions instead of large amounts. :) For the most part and in regards to Modern Aikido, I agree with your post. I just wanted to look at specific parts in more detail.


Without exception, every senior teacher of Aikido with whom I am familiar spent some significant period of time during which they trained virtually every day, often more than one class each day. Ikeda Sensei told me that, remembering Mary Heiny Sensei when she was at Hombu Dojo, she not only trained every day, she trained in every class every day. Hardly anyone trains in all the classes... they start in the early am and go til the late evening.


From what I can gather, so please correct me where I get things wrong:

There were three to four classes per day at Hombu for most of the Aikido seniors out there. Class time was an hour to an hour and a half? Don't have my notes here.

But, from around 1945-1955, classes at Hombu were uncommon and not well attended. And during those years, Ueshiba Morihei didn't spend a whole lot of time at Hombu. If he did, it was lecturing most of an hour for one class (the early class).

Even from 1955 to his death, Ueshiba Morihei really only had one official class (that is when he was at Hombu and did actively teach) and that was the early morning one.

We are left with Ueshiba Kisshomaru, Tohei Koichi and a few other senior teachers to instruct. This is the first critical area to address in regards to training. Is two days a week enough? Consider that a lot of the Modern Aikido Seniors only had access to Ueshiba Morihei for at most 5 hours a week. If current Modern Aikido practice is 1.5 hours a day, then two days a week is 3 hours. Certainly an equal amount of hands-on time that a lot of Modern Aikido Seniors had.

But, let's take a look at Modern Aikido's creators: Kisshomaru and Tohei. If we look to them and the amount of time Seniors had training ... we can see quite a lot more time spent per week. So, in this regard, yes, two days a week won't hold up very well.


So, if Mary Heiny Sensei is someone we are striving to model our training after, does anyone think they can become as good as that by training a fraction of the amount she trained? One could make the same argument about virtually any of our teachers.


The dedication some of the Modern Aikido Seniors had (and have) is certainly very exemplary. I think Mary Heiny has shown that. I think she held herself to a standard very few of us will ever reach. And I think that's it is also very sad that she was at Hombu at a time when Ueshiba Morihei wasn't teaching the secrets of aiki, wasn't there often to teach, and didn't care if anyone surpassed him. Had Ueshiba Morihei actively taught what he knew ...

Certainly the case for other people, too.


Everyone wants to feel good about what they are doing. Everyone makes the commitment he or she feels fits into their life as they currently live it. But what must it be like to be a teacher looking out at the student population knowing that very few of them are even trying to be excellent at the art, much less master what that teacher is capable of passing on.

Every year I go to big events at which my own teacher is instructing. This man trained with the Founder and the other post war giants of Aikido for 15 years. I watch as he tries to teach something more advanced and cannot because so many of the people are simply not training hard enough to come back each year better than the year before. So each year he tells them the same things are wrong and they go home and come back the next year with the same things wrong. So he can't teach what he'd like to teach because the majority of the folks aren't ready for it. And they won't be ready for it the way they are training.

So, what happens is that the art begins to adjust to the capacities of the folks doing it. Rather than have a standard that is too high for most people, which would certainly be demoralizing and cause large numbers to quit, the standard changes so that folks can get a win, feel included, pay the rent on the dojo, etc. This changes the whole culture of Aikido. If the standard is now set by the hobbyist, rather than the seriously committed student, then you end up with lots of dojos but none at which one could become excellent. I travel a lot and see lots of dojos around with all sorts of folks. But at very few would I honestly say one could become really excellent at the art.

The fact of the matter is that, if they decided that they really wanted the standard to be excellence, if they were to insist that the dojo be geared towards taking people to a true high level of skills in the art, there would be so few people willing to train that way that the dojo would probably close.

So, we end up with "market forces" determining the character of the art which started as an amazing, complex, and deep practice. It becomes not an art that is hard to comprehend, that is pursued by practitioners who strive each day for mastery but one that the average person understands and can do, with the kind of commitment that average person is willing to make. You end up with the larger dojo paradigm making it impossible for that small number of people who would and could do more to actually do so. You see students who could be great and want to train towards that goal held back by the fact that the majority won't or can't.

I am not really quite sure what the answer is to this quandary.


I have an answer. Most don't like it. Most don't even want to hear it. The answer comes from the shift between Ueshiba Morihei's aikido and Modern Aikido created by Kisshomaru and Tohei.

There is a profound and fundamental reason why Ueshiba's aikido techniques do not look like other Japanese jujutsu. The "aiki no jutsu" of aikido creates that profound and fundamental difference.

Without the changed body that is aiki (Ueshiba's statement of "I am aiki" is one of the more important things he has said), one must use 100% jujutsu to complete aikido techniques. Things like timing, small body movement, body placement, etc all become very important.

With aiki, the profound physical effects upon a person alter the encounter in ways most Japanese jujutsu would not have. With aiki, the training environment is different than most jujutsu.

If you remove aiki and attempt to train aikido techniques to become good at jujutsu, you find that the time frame is astronomically increased. That is why judo, BJJ, and other jutsu approaches can become proficient in usage in far, far less time than someone in aikido.

And yes, the square peg will fit in the round hole ... because after many hours per week, many weeks per year, and 20-40 years, one will become proficient in some very good jujutsu that relies on timing, body placement, etc. We have a whole world of aikido where some have gotten a bit of structure and a bit of internal power through aikido training. Most of those people have taken 20+ years to accomplish that.

It only takes a small bit of research to find out that the Aikido Greats accomplished far more in 5 years.

When you spread out the improvements over such a large time frame (20-40 years) amidst such large groups, you introduce impediments, which then creates the conditions you elaborated on in your above quote.


I am fairly sure that most folks, if you asked them, wouldn't wish to believe that what they are spending so much time and effort on is just "Aikido-lite" yet without a critical mass of really serious students striving to match their own teachers, that's what the art becomes.

The problem is in Modern Aikido itself. A time frame of 20-40 years is fairly standard to become good in the art. And people know this. They are told it in no uncertain terms. "This is a 20 year technique", etc. Who really wants to face those facts that you have to spend that much time per week (more than 2 days) over a period of 20 years? Modern Aikido has perfected the training to create "Aikido-lite" people.

George S. Ledyard
10-27-2010, 12:57 PM
In aikido the situation is much more unclear because the professional training courses aren't there really. It's easy to start training at a dojo and imagine that what one's doing is the same as what the seniors did when they started, because where else could they have learned this? Especially if the seniors themselves are effectively amateurs as well, which seems to be the case in some dojo. I mean, I could start a dojo now and be a bad example to a new generation, and who would know any better? :)

kvaak
Pauliina

Hi Paulina,
yes, this is precisely it! My wife comes out of a music background in which it is much more clear. Top teachers don't even train lower level people, they do "master classes". You basically get invited or apply and get accepted to the "master classes". Lower level folks who are serious but not quite at the level to take part actually pay to watch the "master classes". I REALLY wish there was something like that here. There are Instructor Level seminars but usually they are Nidan or Sandan and up. While a considerable improvement over general admission training, because the Dan Ranking system has been so mangled, it doesn't mean what it should mean any more.

If you went back to Hombu Dojo back in the day, it was quite clear who the professionals were and who everyone else was. The uchi deshi got training that was not given the general membership, trained more frequently, had teaching responsibilities, and generally spent 6 - 8 hours a day on the mat either teaching or training. They had private classes with O-Sensei, did their own private training, were provided with opportunities to work with senior teachers of arts other than Aikido, all the while the general membership did their one class a day.

For a long time Hombu used the titles Shihan to designate these folks. Finally, there were simply too many foreigners who had trained for decades and were serious teachers themselves, so they extended the title to outsiders, but they still do not consider them equal to "Hombu" Shihan. Nevertheless, that title is the only designation, outside of Dan Rank that tells you much about the person's qualifications as a teacher. Right now it is still a very exclusive group and one is fairly well assured of some level of expertise. But, over time, I worry that it will end up like the Dan Ranks in which people just get kicked upstairs by virtue of hanging with it for years and years. There are folks you see getting promoted solely on time in grade whose Aikido hasn't changed one iota in 20 years.

And everyone expects this... People expect to be promoted for time in grade. In the ASU we typically don't test after 3rd Dan although a few teachers do test for 4th Dan. So after 4th Dan, it's simply time in grade... The Japanese tend to promote people "with their class" so to speak. It is not typical, in martial arts, or in a corporation, to fast track a whiz kid. It is very hard to move up past your sempai. So, if there is a lot of dead wood amongst the sempai, it doesn't matter if you are the "second coming of the Founder" you will get promoted when your peers do.

Take this and compound the issue by the fact that, since Aikido was so young in the US, in fact the martial arts were young, it became common place for lower Dan ranks to open dojos. So we got used to the idea of Nidans and Sandans running schools. My peers and I had dojos when we were San Dans... So, the fact is, most folks training in Aikido have not experienced training under a really qualified Shihan level teacher for any length of time. Most folks get this exposure a few times a year, at most, at seminars and camps.

All of this combines to create a situation in which people don't necessarily even know what truly high level Aikido is. If they do know, they tend to think it is this special thing that their Shihan does that the rest of us mere mortals can't even aspire to. The teachers at the dojos where these folks train can't do what their Shihan does, so how could they teach it? People actually get in the habot of not getting it. Time after time they attend a seminar with their Shihan and go home none the wiser. There is no one back at their dojo who can function at that level nor are they willing / able to training hard enough or frequently enough to work it out on their own. So they end up with this disconnected view of Aikido in which there is the Aikido done by the "special" folks... and then there is what everyone else does.

This would be fine if it were consciously recognized. But ordinary folks don't sign up for Aikido-lite lessons, they put a fair amount of time, money and effort in to their training and want to feel like they are doing Aikido. And over time they want recognition for this. They want those Dan ranks, they want to teach classes at their dojo and be "instructors". I have known a large number of folks over the years who either quit Aikido or left their dojos because they didn't feel validated by being promoted, being asked to be on the teaching schedule, or even, taking ukemi from the teacher when he or she was demonstrating.

The system can be fixed, in my opinion. But like any therapy, the patient has to admit there is a problem before he can get better. Everyone is capable of doing Aikido that is far more sophisticated than what they are doing. Aiki can be done by anyone. It just has to be taught properly.

If I had my way, and I don't expect to, so this is purely hypothetical... Every Aikido organization in the country which "in theory" oversees the Aikido done under its auspices, should have a certification process like the Systema folks do. You want to be listed on the website as an official member dojo? Fine... But in order to keep up that certification, you have to actually show up at the training conducted by Vladimir and Michael, attend seminars with the senior instructors, etc No one sees you , you are off the list. Initially this is a yearly process. later, when people know you are really serious, you won't be off the list just because you had a year when you couldn't train much for some reason. But that's for the seniors who have already shown they are willing to do the work. Everyone else has to show up EVERY year. So, it would be impossible to have a teacher who doesn't get out, who no one has seen in decades at a seminar or camp. There should be similar requirements at every member dojo for anyone teaching class. No one teaching a class at a member dojo should be able to teach without qualifying. By qualifying, I mean getting out and attending camp every year, hitting at least two or three seminars with the Shihan or other senior teachers. No one should be teaching anywhere in the organization who isn't participating in the training offered by the organization.

Then, once you have made participation mandatory at all levels of teaching, there should be instructor level training offered every year that is targeted and level appropriate for the instructors. As far as I am concerned, at least 60 - 70 % of the seminars and camps offered by the Shihan and seniors in an organization should be instructor training. Frankly, other than for inspirational reasons, there is no benefit to having a Shodan training under Saotome Sensei. It is a waste of Sensei's time and the poor Shodan spends most of his time mystified. The Shihan should be mostly teaching the 4th - 6th Dans. The Rokudans should be teaching the lower yudansha instructors. Only people who are actively teaching a class or classes at a dojo should be able to attend the instructor training events. There should only be a few general, all level, seminars, perhaps taught by the Rokudans at local area dojos.

Once there is a more stringent process for transmitting skills to the instructors, then it's time to fix the testing process.
A) people need to fail tests. (I don't want to get into a discussion of what organizations do what and who does not. So I will not discuss specifics here. People can decide for themselves if what I am saying applies in their situation). As things stand now, there is often no set standard for what constitutes passing a certain level of test. I have seen San Dan tests that were no better than another persons' Shodan test. I have seen people miserably fail on an important portion of a test and pass anyway. This needs to stop.

B) Teachers need to be held accountable for their students performance. Saotome Sensei has always said that when a student does not do well on a test, it is not the student's fault, it is the teacher's fault. As far as I am concerned, when a test takes place that is substandard, the teacher should hear about it. Imagine what would happen if once or twice one of he Shihan chewed out an instructor in front of the whole group for a bad test by one of his students... I guarantee that it would only have to happen once or twice before the word had gone all around the country to every dojo out there and no one would be sending mediocre students to test any more.

As far as I am concerned, teachers who want promotion should be evaluated on the performance of their students. Any teacher whose students consistently fail or are mediocre, doesn't get promoted. Teachers who consistently turn out superior students get promoted faster. Eventually, and this might take twenty years, you would have the best teachers at the top of the organization. Scarp this whole time in grade thing and look at performance. This takes care of the idea of not testing at the higher ranks. I don't have a problem with not testing after 4th Dan. But, for folks running dojos, there should be a standard based on evaluating their success in transmitting the skills of the art.

C) Students after a certain rank, need to be required to make additional commitment to their training if they want to be promoted. After 4th Kyu, students who wish to be promoted should have a minimum number of hours on the mat per week set as a standard. I would say three times a week if one wishes to be promoted. Now, no one can tell someone else how often to train... But it is certainly more than fair to require a certain level of commitment for someone who wants something back, like rank. Three times a week and a certain number of seminars or no testing. I would also allow folks who are training more to test more quickly. Once again , in an attempt to get the people training the hardest up to the top of the dojo hierarchy. So, if they can put the time in on the training and meet the required standard of performance on a given test, that's what is required. To keep people from simply trying to get rank by testing as quickly as possible, there can be a significant "time in grade before testing again" provision if someone fails a test. That way, everyone will be careful to be fully prepared when they test.

Also, I would use (as I currently do) Doran Sensei's system of having each student who wishes to test assigned a "trainer" who has done that test before. The "Trainer" has to sign off on the student and say he or she is ready for the test. If that student doesn't do well on the test, the "trainer" hears about it. Doran Sensei told me he finds that the students are harder on each other than he would be and he doesn't have to be the "bad guy".

The point of this whole effort is to raise the quality of Aikido as a whole by effecting the pieces. Set up a systematic method of transmission from the top down, set up performance standards for the membership, especially the teachers, and set more stringent commitment standards for the general membership that have to be met for promotion. Folks can train any way they like. Nothing whatever has to change for people if they don't want it to. But they cannot expect to move up in rank if they don't meet a standard. They can't teach at all if they don't meet a standard. They can't be a certified dojo within an organization if the teacher doesn't meet a standard. And teaching experience gets counted in with other factors when promotions are considered for the most senior folks, not just time in grade.

I think that twenty years of this would result in fewer people doing the art at a much higher level. There would be fewer dojos with more members. Those dojos would be better dojos with better instructors and higher level training. And the very top teachers would be able to pass on what they have learned to the folks below them in the line of transmission. Will this happen? Probably not... but there is no reason aside fro lack of will that it couldn't. I think an attempt to move things in this direction would result in huge resistance on the part of the general population of average folks and average teachers because it would require more effort. The folks whose dojos couldn't be financially tenable with fewer students would resist it. The teachers with spouses who don't like the time they already spend on the art would resist it. The folks who feel that they couldn't afford more financial commitment would resist it. And so on. That's why it is so hard to make positive change in any society. There is a vested interest in how things are and change requires more time, effort, and money. So I am not holding my breath. But it's what I would do if I had a say, which I don't.

Richard Stevens
10-27-2010, 01:47 PM
The fact that people have lives outside of Aikido shouldn't bar them from testing for Shodan (or higher Kyu ranks). If you can only train two days a week, you can only train two days a week. If it takes longer to get to Shodan, so be it.

Some people are willing to make Aikido the focus of their lives. Some have higher priorities or simply see Aikido as a hobby that keeps them active.

Obviously two days a week isn't going to be sufficient to "master" the art, but I would guess that a big chunk of those practicing Aikido want to be proficient, not a Shihan.

In my own case, I am only able to formally train 3-5 hours per week, but I put in effort outside of the dojo. Is this sufficient amount of time to get me where I want to be skill-wise? Definitely not. However, work/family/school take priority at this point in my life. However, the training time I sacrifice now is allowing me to put myself in a situation where I can train at a very serious level.

Two days a week is certainly enough to progress in any art as long as the time is well spent. You have to get on the mat with intent and focus. You can't let yourself go through the motions. Self-motivation is essential.

In regards to Ledyard-Sensei's comments regarding failing students who are meeting testing requirements, I am in completely agreement. If you don't have the skills, you shouldn't get the rank.

George S. Ledyard
10-27-2010, 02:28 PM
Hi George,

There were three to four classes per day at Hombu for most of the Aikido seniors out there. Class time was an hour to an hour and a half? Don't have my notes here.

But, from around 1945-1955, classes at Hombu were uncommon and not well attended. And during those years, Ueshiba Morihei didn't spend a whole lot of time at Hombu. If he did, it was lecturing most of an hour for one class (the early class).

Even from 1955 to his death, Ueshiba Morihei really only had one official class (that is when he was at Hombu and did actively teach) and that was the early morning one.

Hi Mark,
I just want to clear up something... since there is a revisionist tendency prevalent these days that the ushi deshi didn't really spend a loot of time with the Founder. Yes, the Founder only taught his early morning class daily. But the ushi deshi were with him every moment of every day. Training was a 24 hour a day issue for them. Chiba Sensei talks about the job they had of helping O-Sensei to the bathroom in the middle of he night. He learned to come awake just as O-Sensei opened his eys and was ready with his slippers. That's training.

Saotome Sensei has talked about the fact that they went everywhere with the Founder. When he went to Iwama, he had deshi from Hombu with him. He would show them things on the train, they would do all the misogi he did, they would get pulled out of bed in the middle of the night and shown stuff O-Sensei was thinking about. That was training.

O-Sensei was open to questions as well. Saotome Sensei used to ask him questions all the time. I gather he was something of a pest... And he said O-Sensei would always show him something when asked. He wouldn't explain, if you got it, you got it, if not, look more closely next time.

It is clear to me that, for the post war deshi, more of their training from the Founder himself was off the mat rather than in formal class, although they had that daily. Not only did they have class with him daily but they took all the ukemi. They had their hands on him to feel it repeatedly every day. Then they spent many hours a day assisting him, traveling with him, listening to him, absorbing more from him than they could possibly absorb at the time. Most have spent their lives digesting what they got during that period.

This tendency towards saying that these guys were really students of Kisshomaru and Tohei and not really influenced very directly by the Founder is a set of theories putout by people who either, a) haven't talked to many of these teachers who were deshi at the time or b) who have a particular point of view favoring another interpretation (like the Iwama folks for whom Saito was clearly the guy who had spent the most time with O-Sensei). This viewpoint is hard to credit once you talk to the actual people who were the uchi deshi at the time. Now some of them, like Imaizumi Sensei, did consider themselves to be students of other teachers, like Tohei, once the Founder had passed. Saotome Sensei definetly considered Kisshomaru as his teacher, once O-Sensei passed away. But every aspect of Saotome Sensei's Aikido was and is informed by his experience, on and off the mat with the Founder.

So I take this revisionist thing with a huge grain of salt... I've talked extensively with folks who were these deshi and know how deeply they were effected by the Founder, technically, spiritually, etc.

Basia Halliop
10-27-2010, 02:49 PM
I agree with so much of what you're saying... and love the idea of making higher rank promotions based on student progress -- clever -- but I'm still stuck on that days per week thing. If the testing standards were solid and designed as you propose, then don't people who don't train many days a week just take many many many years to reach any kind of ability or rank? If standards are high and not everyone can reach high levels, then there's not really much danger of someone who's 'not really trying to get excellent' becoming higher ranked than they've really earned, or ending up at the head of an organization. They will just reach whatever rank they earn in the time they have. Someone who trains 2 days a week for ten years has trained a lot more hours than any 4th or 3rd kyu and probably has better skills -- if you want ranks to be transparent and linked to ability, then to me it doesn't make sense to deny whatever rank they've genuinely earned to the 2 times a week for 10 years student...

I.e., I'm not convinced that the mere existence of 'hobbyists' threatens the quality of the higher levels or threatens the future of the art. If there aren't a certain number of people training very intensely and getting to a very high quality (note I didn't say a certain percentage -- 1 'future master' and 10 'hobbyists' vs 1 'future master' and 1 'hobbyist' is still 1 future master - you haven't gained any masters by getting rid of those hobbyists), THAT is a problem, but you don't create professionals by removing hobbyists or putting external pressure on them to train more than they're really interested in -- you create professionals by creating professionals.

E.g. in the analogy to music (or hockey or golf would work), most people who study piano a few hours a week will never go on to become professional concert pianists or teachers of other professionals. Does that mean we should try to discourage people who are interested from studying piano for a few hours a week, and say if you aren't interested in making it a career, go away, you insult us by pretending to be interested in music? NO! Every art, every sport, almost any skill has a range of hobbyists to serious amateurs to masters. They aren't somehow inversely related - an increase in hobbyists doesn't cause there to be less masters (usually if there's any relationship at all it's the other way around -- e.g. countries where a sport is a widespread popular hobby are more often than average the same ones that win olympics). If there's a problem with not having enough 'future masters' then deal with that problem directly...

aikilove1
10-27-2010, 03:21 PM
Aside from all the friendly opinions bestowed above. The truth is that any training is good enough in the begining and its important that you enjoy your training and get the quality of training not the quantity. Aikido is a complex and endless art to learn and it will take the rest of your life, training never stops, and as some fellows have said previously... it should be a way of life to get any real benefit from it. But as O'sensei said....dont be be in a hurry as takes a minimum of 10 years to master the basics and advance to the first rung. Plus if all you accumulate while attending every class under the sun is a multitude of high quality techniques over the years then you still wont have learnt anything of any real value.

Understand this, aikido is an art that is designed to offer to transform your life, it is just an offer, you have to take up that offer, it is up to you how you train but like anything else you get back what you put in, but here im talking again about quality not quantity, you have to be willing to train in a productive way that will allow you to see the many benifits for yourself, this is what makes aikido a great martial art to learn.

Aikido ultimately is about inner and outer transformation, both spiritually and martial, but the outer techniques are nothing without proper inner development, this is the core of the art and the fertile ground for which your training and way of life will progress. It takes a very sincere and committed approach on your part to fully understand the principles for yourself, no one can show you these, it comes from inner knowing and understanding. So, as an eager fresh new student i would suggest to them that you set yourself a target of putting importance on learning about the "Hara" or "one point" and how to conduct your bodily function in such a way that you learn how to improve your posture, breathing, concentration and awareness, as these are the fundemental underlying principles that provides the foundation for your techniques in aikido and everyday life. This acts as a platform as how to proceed with your training and how you should conduct yourself as a whole and will act as the foundation of all your training throughout your life. Mastery of techniques will come with time and practice, but its the essence of whats behind the techniques that is important and a mark of the quality of your aikido.

So, in the begining, its important not to be in a hurry, take your time, look deep into the principles of aikido and look to train this way from the ground up. You can do this easily over time training once or twice a week at the dojo and progress faster by training yourself in inner development in your spare time and practicing how to move effectively ect, aikido is like learning to walk all over again, in every day activities try use every moment as an oppertunity to do this. Once you feel confident that you are starting to realise what this "centre" business is all about, you can put it behind your technique and feel it working for real, then as you begin to feel good at it, then you will want to train more and more and put the principles you have learned to use which makes aikido more interesting rather than just going through the motions.

When starting aikido, you will be overwhelmed by the amount of sheer learning involved and what it takes for you to get there. So the best thing to do is just take it slowly and easy and dont pressure yourself or alow yourself to become overwhelmed, learn it properly and go at your own pace and enjoy it. Dont get too excited, be patient and put sincere basic training in that you will enjoy, create a solid foundation that you can build from, then you can take it from there and you will want to train more and more as you progress!

O'Sensei when asked always said that the meaning of Aikido was "Masakastu Agatsu" (True victory is self victory), overcoming oneself (ego) in order to fully understand the way in its true light, this is the way to train.

Sensei Paul Love

Pauliina Lievonen
10-27-2010, 04:19 PM
Without a lot of cutting and pasting - replying to several different posts (sorry if I jump about a bit from topic to topic):

My experience is training at a dojo and organization where people do fail tests, and that does indeed to some extent take care of the question of how often is enough. On the one hand people will train harder when they know that failing is an option, and on the other hand if someone is ready to test despite only training twice a week then that will already be observable before testing. That works for us I think because were a small organization where everybody knows everybody and the standards are pretty clear.

Actually setting a clear testing standard and sticking to it would probably go a long way towards achieving the items on Ledyard sensei's list. Good luck to anyone trying to formulate clear testing criteria though.

Someone said that the fact that people have lives outside of aikido shouldn't bar them from testing for shodan... why not? If aikido isn't a priority, then how much does another grade really mean to that person? Of course it's nice, but isn't it more important in that situation to get recognition for the effort and time that has been put into work, or family, and so on, from the people at home or at work? Or should people get aikido grades for being such good parents and hard working employees? I think there are more appropriate rewards that one could think of...

About teacher training: I trained to become an Alexander Technique teacher at a three year course with just ten students at that time. We all paid for the training ourselves, the school doesn't get any kind of subsidies. I wonder if it would be possible to do something like that in aikido, to have some sort of intensive training course for people who want to become instructors, and whether or not that would do anything to solve some of the problems Ledyard sensei writes about. (I know some dojo have some sort of uchi deshi programs, but I don't know how long people usually take part in those, and how much the intention really is to become a teacher?)The problem of course is that having done such a course people would probably want to make some kind of a living teaching aikido, and that's almost impossible.

I've talked with my teacher about starting my own dojo. The reason I don't want to is because the difference to me is so clear - my teacher teaches aikido for a living, trains every day, I do aikido next to two other rather demanding disciplines, I don't train every day. I think people are much better off training with my teacher. :)

To return to the original question - for a brand new beginner I think two times a week is enough. Until you have some little idea of what aikido is and how deeply you want to throw yourself into practicing it. After that, you have to decide what you want to achieve, and train accordingly.

kvaak
Pauliina

Richard Stevens
10-27-2010, 05:28 PM
Someone said that the fact that people have lives outside of aikido shouldn't bar them from testing for shodan... why not? If aikido isn't a priority, then how much does another grade really mean to that person? Of course it's nice, but isn't it more important in that situation to get recognition for the effort and time that has been put into work, or family, and so on, from the people at home or at work? Or should people get aikido grades for being such good parents and hard working employees? I think there are more appropriate rewards that one could think of...

Going by that train of logic I shouldn't be able to turn in my thesis to get my Masters degree because I was only able to commit to two classes a semester.

I agree that someone who is training "part-time" shouldn't be given a "pass" during testing. However, I find it ridiculous to suggest that someone who has the skills to pass Shodan would be barred from testing. :confused:

George S. Ledyard
10-27-2010, 06:43 PM
I.e., I'm not convinced that the mere existence of 'hobbyists' threatens the quality of the higher levels or threatens the future of the art. If there aren't a certain number of people training very intensely and getting to a very high quality (note I didn't say a certain percentage -- 1 'future master' and 10 'hobbyists' vs 1 'future master' and 1 'hobbyist' is still 1 future master - you haven't gained any masters by getting rid of those hobbyists), THAT is a problem, but you don't create professionals by removing hobbyists or putting external pressure on them to train more than they're really interested in -- you create professionals by creating professionals.



It isn't that the "existence" of the hobbyists threatens the art. It is the fact that they far and away predominate in a system that is increasingly set up only to train them. In other words, the demographic on Aikido (and other traditional martial arts as well) is not very good right now. The young males, who used to supply the bulk of the new students for all the martial arts, do not want to do more traditional training, they want to fight. They want to do what they see on Prime Time Cable each night.

All across the country and around the world adult membership in many dojos is down. The membership at my own dojo is at a fifteen year low. So if you look at that fact you see that two things are happening. One, is that the average age of the dojos around is rising steadily and two, the proportion of women in these dojos is rising. While having more women in the dojo isn't an issue, at least for me, having the average age rise is. If someone is going to really be good at this, there is a stage of training one needs to go through that is very intense and physical. You need to do this when you are young because your body can't handle that level of physicality later in life. So when you have a dojo where the youngest folks are already in their thirties, there is no way you ca train folks with that intensity. This is a problem in my own dojo. My students can't experience the intensity of the training I went through because they are too old already to be able to not be injured all the time.

When folks only train twice a week, the conditioning that comes with daily training just isn't there. So if they try to train really hard, they tend to get injured more because their bodies aren't strong and flexible enough to handle it. So the intensity of the training gets adjusted downwards to allow the bulk of the students to train without getting too beat up. Couple that with the need to tone it down for older bodies and the training becomes even more toned down.

So, the question is, not whether the hobbyists represent a problem... because they don't. It's that when the art is tailored for their needs, where do the really serious folks train. Look around at most dojos and ask yourself if you honestly believe that there is anyone at that dojo who looks like he or she will be better than the teacher. Ask whether that dojo could turn out another Mary Heiny Sensei if someone was there with that capacity and drive.

Most dojos I see will not turn out anyone better than the teacher. If anyone who really wanted to train more intensely and more frequently than the dominant dojo paradigm allows for, pressure would be brought to bear and they would either toe the line or they would leave. I have seen this happen a number of times. I have seen folks leave a dojo and even quit Aikido after they were forced out because they were hurting people, being too rough. My take on it was that they really wanted to train hard and the folks in the dojo couldn't take it when they did.

So, as Paulina has stated, what really needs to happen is that there are dojos at which instructor level training takes place and dojos where it doesn't. The hobbyist wouldn't even consider training at the dojo that is committed to turning out instructor level students and folks who wanted to be instructors wouldn't train at the dojos devoted to the hobbyists. This is essentially what the ushi deshi program at Hombu is about... They get the higher level training, train with more intensity, train more frequently, do classes that are not offered to the public, and everyone else just does the homogenized stuff reserved for the hobbyists.

Most dojos here wouldn't put up with a two tiered standard like that. Everyone feels like they are doing their best and should be validated for that. They have little patience for some interloper who comes in and surges past them i rank and gets o the teaching roster when they've been at the dojo half the time... They simply will not admit that this person my be more serious than they are, is training harder, and should be put ahead of them.

If there were some standard for delineating dojos in to hobbyist dojos and instructor training dojos, and the rank one could attain aty a hobbyist dojo was limited to San Dan, say... then it wouldn't be a problem. If we started to look at things the way they do in Japan, which is that 6th Dan is really an instructor and normally someone under 6th Dan wouldn't be expected to have his own dojo... that 4th and 5th Dans might teach at their home dojos or run a community center intro class but normally wouldn't open his or her own place until much later in their training... Then we couple that with the assurance that anyone who does have a 6th Dan went through many years of instructor level training with other people at that level and we might have the start of a solution.

Right now, instructors are simply the most talented and committed students who come out of the very same dojos populated with the hobbyists. I would maintain that, short of having a real uchi deshi system as in Japan, the normal dojo doesn't do an adequate job of preparing future teachers and a dojo that was really geared to do that well, wouldn't be someplace that a hobbyist would survive any more than the average person at Hombu dojo could do the training the deshi get.

There is absolutely no problem with the hobbyist. It's that the hobbyists represent the pool out of which the instructors emerge. So the next thing you know, those hobbyists are teaching at the dojo. Then they move up the ranks but still remain hobbyist / instructors. Then perhaps they have a falling out with their teacher, or leave their organization, or their teacher simply retires and now they have their own dojo! Still being the hobbyist / instructor and they now train other folks. When that is the situation with the majority of dojos, the standard inevitably gets lowered. Folks have said that it shouldn't matter how often folks train, that they should simply be required to meet a given standard to get rank. But the fact of the matter is that the standard will be adjusted to fit the dominant training paradigm in order that folks can succeed. So, inevitably the standard will become what the average person training twice a week can do and succeed. Teachers want their students to be able to pass their tests. Shihan want their members happy. None is going to set a standard that can only be met by a minority of folks training.

When I come up with the three day minimum standard for promotion past 3rd kyu, it isn't arbitrary. It is my considered assessment that this is what almost anyone needs to master at an acceptable level, all the things we are responsible for knowing. Saotome Sensei has two sword forms, single sword forms, two sets of jo forms, an array of sword techniques which are derived from old koryu sword work. He has kihon waza, he has martial application. One is expected to be able to manifest a technique large or small and make adjustments as needed. I have never seen anyone be able to do all of this at an acceptable level of skill who wasn't training at least three times a week.

So, I simply state that expectation in our requirements. People who don't wish to train that much don't need to test. But we don't pretend that some lower level of commitment is enough because it isn't. At three times a week, which is what most of my serious students are doing, I can barely pass on the required curriculum. I simply can't pass on all that was given to me by my teacher, or pass on more than a piece of what I have been given by the other teachers I have trained with over the years.

I feel that I have managed to shorten the learning curve by developing much better teaching technique and explanation than I had available. My teachers didn't explain much of anything back then. So, I do believe I have several students who will be better than I am by the time they have train ed as long as I have now. But they won't know what I know because they aren't training enough to master all of it. There are whole blocks of stuff that Saotome Sensei did with us that I simply have never gone over with my students.

So, no two days is not enough. It is not enough to know what a Yudansha should, in my opinion only, know. It certainly isn't enough for someone to move up the Dan ranks and be competent. I don't wish to rain on anyone's parade... I know people love Aikido, that folks put themselves into their training in all sorts of different ways, that they have to balance their Aikido with all sorts of other concerns... it hasn't been any different for those of us who chose to make different choices. We all have the same 24 hour day. So we have to choose what we spend the time on. There is nothing wrong with choosing to spend most of your time on other things than Aikido. Makes sense to me... I have many times thought how completely crazy it has been to have devoted my entire adult life to pursuit of this arcane stuff.

My point is that people make what they see as the greatest commitment they can make and then they have the expectation that it will be good enough. They still want to be black belts, they eventually would like to teach class. They want their Sensei to recognize them, they want to be validated. So the standard will never be set as an absolute that people either meet or not. Rather it will continue to be adjusted to meet the commitment that folks are willing to make. As the gentleman said, no one should be excluded from getting a back belt because they can't train more than twice a week. Well, that totally illustrates my point. I would ask, as others have, why not? Is getting a black belt a "right"? Is it something you feel you've paid for after a certain amount of dues paying?

Well, I do exclude people from black belt rank because they don't train more than twice a week. I do because when a student has a black belt from me, he represents me and the dojo, just as I represent Saotome Sensei. I am not going to attach my name to someone as his or her teacher who will not "represent" adequately. People judge what you do as a teacher by the quality of your students. When someone gives you a black belt, they have accepted you into their line of transmission.No teacher who has the least concern for his professional reputation wishes to attach his or her name to someone who isn't competent. So that student who wants a black belt from me, under the authority given me by Saotome Sensei, is incurring an obligation. It is not a right to have rank but a privileged and it is earned. One of the things you have to do at my school to earn it, is to train with a consistent frequency that will realistically allow for mastery of the required curriculum at an acceptable (to me) level.

If folks feel like this is elitist or exclusionary, I suppose it is. I am an elitist in that I want Aikido to be far better than it has been. For that to happen people need to recognize what it really takes to be decent. Not the best, just decent. If folks do not wish or cannot give it enough commitment to be that good, I am fine with them not doing it at all.

While I am an elitist about what I think the standard should be, I also totally believe that everyone can do Aikido with "aiki". There is absolutely no reason that even a relative beginner can't do technique that works for the same reasons that Saotome Sensei's technique works. It is explainable, teachable, and anyone with average ability can start doing it. Making it your default setting to the point at which you can manifest the principles freely while under a lot of stress, as in a martial confrontation is very difficult. But understanding the principles of aiki and using them i ones Aikido is the normal practice setting is not difficult. It just requires better instruction than what has been typical. So in that sense, I am not an elitist at all. Because I actually believe that even the hobbyist can do Aikido with "aiki". I also believe that anyone who wishes to make the level of commitment we have been talking about can be quite competent in the art. Maybe not a Shihan level practitioner but certainly solid.

But for this to happen people have to stop believing that things are fine the way they are, which in my mind they are not, and they need to be willing to make the greater commitment to make the change. I don't expect that to happen, as I said before. I fully expect people to tell me I am wrong and the way they train or the standard they use at their dojo is all fine. What I am saying is required is definitely about going past the average person's comfort zone.

Janet Rosen
10-27-2010, 07:13 PM
I've been following this thread with great interest. George, your analysis is cogent. As a person who started training late in life and then lost time from injury, who may never test for shodan but plans to keep showing up and training, I can't argue with your description of the prevalence of "Aikido Lite" and I can understand your concern about the dilution of the art/teaching. Yeah, for every test I've seen in which a student failed and a teacher got chewed out, I've seen several in which students seemed to be "given a pass."

Part of the issue I think really is the idea of aikido being "for the world" - hence the "rightness" of "go forth and open another dojo and teach"and making it accessible to folks who have physical limitations does come smack up against the reality of how to maintain standards for teaching. Chiba Sensei I think may have one path, which is separately grading for teaching from rank. There are some dojos (Aikido of Berkeley comes to mind here in NoCal) that do have uchideshi programs to accommodate students who wish to be on a different track from us hobbyists.

MM
10-28-2010, 07:50 AM
Hi Mark,
I just want to clear up something... since there is a revisionist tendency prevalent these days that the ushi deshi didn't really spend a loot of time with the Founder. Yes, the Founder only taught his early morning class daily. But the ushi deshi were with him every moment of every day. Training was a 24 hour a day issue for them. Chiba Sensei talks about the job they had of helping O-Sensei to the bathroom in the middle of he night. He learned to come awake just as O-Sensei opened his eys and was ready with his slippers. That's training.


Don't take this the wrong way. I'm going to paste a rather long section of stuff. Even though it's long, it's only a portion of my research and at that, my research doesn't encompass a whole lot of what's out there.

I'm posting it here because I want you to see what *I myself* am trying to reconcile. As you read through it, you will see that, through many different people, Ueshiba Morihei didn't teach in Tokyo often, didn't show much when he actually did teach, that tending to Ueshiba on off hours wasn't a very good learning experience in regards to aikido, talked quite a lot, entertained visitors, traveled, etc. On top of all that, you start to see that Ueshiba Morihei really didn't teach that often in Iwama, either. :)

Best,
Mark

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http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=99
Moriteru Ueshiba: I remember when I was small, there was not yet much activity at the Hombu Dojo. For a time my father (Kisshomaru) was actually in Iwama instead. He married there, and starting around 1949, he worked for about seven years at a company called Osaka Shoji. He had no other choice. Even if you have a dojo, you can't make a living if nobody is coming to train, which was largely the case after the war.

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http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=68
Having a wife, two children and several hungry uchideshi to feed, Doshu was at that time employed full-time at a securities company and taught aikido classes in the morning and evening. His father (Morihei) remained ensconced in Iwama training a few close students, among them Morihiro Saito. As practice in Tokyo gained momentum, Kisshomaru started to direct part of his efforts toward the spreading of aikido to a public almost totally ignorant of the art. A major turning point was a large demonstration held in the Takashimaya Department Store in 1956 where for the first time, not only the Founder, but senior instructors as well as demonstrated.

By the mid 1960s, large numbers of trainees crowded the mats of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo along with scores of foreigners who streamed to Japan to train in the mecca of aikido. The founder, although now in Tokyo much of the time, was already in his eighties and Kisshomaru and Koichi Tohei were the major figures at the dojo.

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Mitsunari Kanai (1939-2004)
1959-1966 Uchideshi at Hombu
1966 Dispatched to America (yondan)

Yoshimitsu Yamada (1938-)
1955-56 Uchideshi at Hombu
1964 Dispatched to NY Aikikai

Kazuo Chiba (1940-)
1958- Uchideshi at Hombu
1960 -- Sandan. Assigned to Nagoya
1962 Yondan and teaching at Hombu
1966 Dispatched to England
1970 6th dan
4 years from start to 4th dan.
12 years from start to 6th dan.

Mitsugi Saotome (1937-)
1955 Started Aikido
1958 Uchideshi at Hombu
1960 Teaching at Hombu
1975 Departed to America

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Seiichi Sugano (1939-2010)
1957 Started training at Hombu
1958-59 Direct student of Morihei Ueshiba
1965 Dispatched to Australia

http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=94 (AJ #112)
AJ: Do you have any particular memories of the old Wakamatsu-cho dojo?
Seiichi Sugano Sensei: The present Doshu (Kisshomaru Ueshiba) was one of the first people I met there. The place had the feel of an old-style dojo; quite different from the way it is today. Most of the time only O-Sensei and Doshu were there. Koichi Tohei was the head of the teaching staff. In the afternoon we were taught by people like Sadateru Arikawa, Hiroshi Tada and Shigenobu Okumura. A few years later Saito Sensei started coming down from Iwama to teach on Sundays

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Masao Ishii
1965-ish Started training at Hombu

http://aikidocanberra.com/Docs/main/doc/MasaoIshii
NCT: Really? So you started training there. Did you have a chance to train with O'Sensei then?
Ishii Sensei: Well, at that time he was already retired and he didn't have a regular class. I was only 15 years old. I went to Hombu dojo many times, where there were many teachers teaching regular classes. I expected to see O'Sensei at the dojo. His home was just next to Hombu dojo, and I expected him to come out of his room to teach us. But he didn't come to the dojo often. After a few months I learned that it was only for Yamaguchi Sensei's and Kisshomaru Sensei's classes that he came to the dojo to join us. This means that O'Sensei was not interested in other teachers training.

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http://www.iwama-aikido.com/Saito_Interview.html

Q: Who among the Senseis today have been uchi deshis?

A: Well, if you speak of Senseis like; Yamada, Tamura, Tohei, Saotome and Kanai they all are students of Kisshomaru Ueshiba. They never went to Iwama and practised for O-Sensei. Chiba Sensei once stayed in Iwama for 3 months.

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Black Belt Magazine Vol 1 No. 2.

In an article about Tohei. "His contributions to the art of Aikido are legend. He has devised many of the exercises and throws which are now standard and taught in all Aikido schools both in Japan and the United States."

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Yoseikan NA website:
9. What is the relationship between Yoseikan's robuse and the similar techniques practiced as ikkyo in most other aikido schools?

Mochizuki Minoru Sensei said that when he was studying with Ueshiba Sensei (late 1920's), robuse was the name given to the technique that later became Ikkajo, then Ikkyo after the war. The present ikkyo as taught by most Aikikai (and Aikikai related) teachers is the result of the modifications made by Tohei and Kisshomaru Sensei in order to simplify Aikido and make it available to more people....[edited for length]

Patrick Augé Sensei

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Black Belt 1966 Vol 4 No 5
"The uchideshi's day begins around 6 a.m., when he cleans the dojo and the grounds outside. The first class of the day starts at 6:30. This class is usually taught by Uyeshiba himself, the Osensei, which means the old teacher. The young uchideshi sit on their knees during this hour, which can be an uncomfortable and tiring experience.
The first class is usually taken up mostly with discussions about God and nature - Uyeshiba doing the talking and the uchideshi listening. It is in this hour that the young uchideshi is exposed to Zen philosophy and the deeper meanings of aikido - its nonviolent and defensive perfection and understanding.
If this all sounds rather remote and difficult to grasp for a Western reader, he may be interested to know that the young Japanese uchideshi often feels the same way. The 83-year-old Uyeshiba many times speaks about highly abstract topics, lapsing usually into ancient Japanese phraseology, so that his listeners often find it difficult to follow him.
When this long hour is over, the young uchideshi exuberantly spill out onto the dojo floor for a half-hour exercise break. All the restless energy pent up within seems to come out and they throw themselves into the practice of their techniques with each other.
At 8 a.m. begins the real study of aikido techniques. This class is taught by a different instructor every day, and is attended by a large number of persons from outside the dojo. Sometimes this hour is taught by Uyeshiba's son, or Waka sensei as he is called. Sometimes Tohei sensei, the greatest of Uyeshiba's followers, instructs the class."

"If the uchideshi isn't helping out at this time, he may have a private class of his own with Tohei or Waka sensei or some of the other instructors."

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Black Belt 1968 Vol 6 No 5

At a typical training session, the instructor demonstrates a technique once or twice, then everyone practices for at least five minutes. Another technique is then shown and the practice is resumed.
The concept of ki is part of the regular instruction, because as the younger Ueshiba points out, you can't separate ki from the ordinary lessons."

Article also notes that because of the shortage of instructors, Kisshomaru has a battery of promotion examinations.

While his 45-year-old son handles the administrative end, the 85-year-old father spends most of his time these days at the martial art's tutelary shrine known as the Aikido Shrine in Iwama, Ibaragi Prefecture, north of Tokyo."

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Black Belt 1974 Vol 12 No 2

Article by Andy Adams about Yoshinkan.
Quotes Shioda, "I don't really feel that I broke away from the mainstream of aikido since there was nothing to break away from back then. Uyeshiba sensei (the late Morihei Uyeshiba) was farming, his son Kisshomaru was working for some company, and the sensei's aikido dojo at Iwama in Ibaragi Prefecture was being rented out as a dance hall."

But Shioda notes that Hirai, Koichi Tohei (chief instructor at the WAF hombu) and even Kisshomaru Uyeshiba were not used as the sensei's uke and therefore didn't have to undergo the constantly rough treatment at the sensei's hands that he and a handful of others experienced."

From 1947 to 1950, there was virtually no aikido for Shioda, who was forced to devote all his energies to the task of scraping out a living in a ravaged, destroyed Japan.

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Black Belt 1984 Vol 22 No 10
Article by Gaku Homma
Regarding Ueshiba entering a class…
Usually instructors taught only basic techniques when Uyeshiba was in the dojo, knowing he preferred those over fancy, advanced techniques. In some cases, instructors were scolded openly when caught teaching dangerous techniques.

In the dojo, after greeting a few students, he would lecture on the essence of aikido in Omotokyo teachings, which few students could understand completely.

The day began as usual, Uyeshiba rising at 5:00 a.m., taking his bath and putting on a set of clean kimono. At about six o'clock, he headed for the Aiki Shrine for his morning religious ritual, which took about an hour and a half each day.

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Black Belt 1985 Vol 23 No 7
Article about Shoseki Abe by James and Mari Berkley
Abe: In 1954, there was an opening ceremony for the Shingu Dojo. I went with O-Sensei and we stayed two weeks. We trained in the morning from six to seven, and then again from 11 to 12. The afternoons were free, and then we trained again in the evenings from six to seven.

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Black Belt 1989 Vol 27 No 8
Interview with Mochizuki

BB: What was the status of martial arts in Japan after World War II?
Mochizuki: Uyeshiba Sensei's techniques had lost most of their martial appearance. He apparently had gone through some very deep emotional states. The war, the atom bomb, all contributed to his belief that there would be no other war, that budo had to become only a do (way). Uyeshiba Sensei believed that, after the war, an era of peace and love had started. Since there was no necessity to fight, aikido had to become a means of physical education. Also, in order to make it easier for a lot of people to take it up, he had to simplify it. That's where I did not agree.

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Intro to Takemusu Aiki book by Morihiro Saito

Saito quoted as saying, "In the early 1960's, even though the Founder was still enjoying good health, he did not teach weapons or basic taijutsu techniques anywhere other than Iwama. His teaching elsewhere consisted mainly of demonstrations-like performances with little explanation."

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Aiki News Issue 025
Doshu: After the war, he isolated himself in Iwama. He lived on potato gruel while there. In any case, that experience became one of the spiritual bases for our training.

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Aiki News Issue 027

In 1942, largerly because of the fact that the Second World War war in progress and most of his students were involved in the war effort, O-Sensei retired to the small country town of Iwama in Ibaraki Prefecture where he had purchased land the year before. His was a very secluded existence devoted primarily to training, meditation and farming. He remained in Iwama for the most part for the next ten or so years.

From the 1950's until his passing in 1969, O-Sensei divided his time between Tokyo and Iwama.

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Aiki News Issue 028
Letter by Bruce Klickstein
During the "taisai" the best teachers in the world talked about how so much of what is called Aikido barely even resembles the Aikido O-Sensei taught. There will be some changes here (in Japan) to correct this.

From all that I've heard of O-Sensei teaching daily classes from Saito Sensei, Inagaki-Sempai, Isoyama Sensei and other people I've trained with, he stopped to do static, basic techniques. He broke them up, said, "This is right. This is wrong," etc., ... and was severe in his corrections. In his later life he just would demonstrate once or twice and then watch. At that time, the sempai would go around and correct.

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Aiki News Issue 031
Editor: During O-Sensei's long martial arts experience, he underwent a number of changes. In the initial period he especially emphasized power and technique, later, I understand he attached greater importance to spiritual matters.
Doshu: During his later years, rather than teach, my father demonstrated movements which were in accord with the flow of the universe and unified with nature. Thus, it was a matter of students watching his movements, learning by themselves, in that way understanding his technique. He wasn't deeply concerned about teaching students …

Editor: You mentioned earlier that O-Sensei in his later years would demonstrate his technique in front of his students and that the students learned Aikido by watching and being attracted to his movements rather than O-Sensei teaching them. Was O-Sensei's teaching method like that from the beginning?
Doshu: No. At first he taught techniques point by point although it didn't seem that he was attached to a specific teaching goal. But he emphasized that you have to do things exactly, one by one, so you won't make mistakes. Recently, there has been a tendency for Aikido training to become too soft and flowing and some beginners lightly bypass hard training. That's not the way it should be. If you are going to practice you must practice basics earnestly. This he told me frequently even in his later years … exactly, not changing anything … if you don't reach the level of softness beyond technique by getting the basics down perfectly, you won't develop true strength. If, from the beginning, you practice a "tofu-like (bean curd) soft style, you will be vulnerable to an attack.

Doshu: That's how it was. So, he went from Hokkaido to Ayabe in Kyoto prefecture; he trained in Ayabe; he came up to Tokyo where he was, let's see … for about 14 or 15 years; then he went to Iwama and spent about 10 years there; and again he came to Tokyo for five or six years where he came to the end of his life.

In the dojo, he would sometimes intently watch students training, or gather everyone together and lecture on the Aiki path, or sometimes he would personally teach beginners.

… he was besieged by visitors starting from early in the morning and he spent large amounts of time in receiving them. In addition, the occasions when he would, on invitation, travel to teach or lecture were not few.

Thus, the sight of those present not immediately understanding the true meaning of his remarks and ending up completely baffled was a frequent one. This was understandably so because O-Sensei 's lectures involved difficult to comprehend explanations based on mental and physical austerities far more numerous than those undergone by ordinary people, remarks about intuitive spiritual realizations, and words about extraordinary things he experienced.

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Aiki News Issue 032
Saito: During the war O-Sensei had been busy. Though he had old students in many places those who learned from O-Sensei were few. All the junior students learned from their senior students. We were lucky because O-Sensei himself remained at Iwama all the time. During the war he was ordered by the military to teach the martial art he himself had studied as a method to defeat the enemy and to kill people. He was also asked by the military school at Nakano to teach lethal techniques. But the war ended and it became unnecessary to do so. O-Sensei was glad because he was finally able to absorb himself in the Aikido of harmony which he had been contemplating … Aikido according to his own belief. Morning after morning he would pray to the kami and instruct us. Since we had to eat, we also farmed. O-Sensei was so exhuberant that he was not satisfied with using the normal farming tools that his students used. He ordered a blacksmith named Narita to make an especially heavy tool for him. He also carried double the weight of rice bundles on his shoulders compared to we students. We raised silkworms together, too … and we would harvest and plant rice.

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Aiki News Issue 033

[Summary from Kisshomaru's book]
As I have written above, the Founder was in his prime from 1927-40. Then after the war the popularization of Aikido was handed over to a group of we young people while the Founder oversaw our activities with a benevolent eye from Iwama.

At about the same time, in 1942, he established himself in Iwama, along with his wife and handed over the direction of the Tokyo dojo to me. He then built the Aiki Shrine and immersed himself in training and farming.

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Aiki News Issue 038
Editor: I have been studying the life of O-Sensei and the history of Aikido. As a result, some of the points that had previously given me trouble have slowly cleared up. Don't you think that probably most of the present teachers actually received only a little direct teaching from O-Sensei? The reason for this being that for 15 years after the war he lived in Iwama and visited other dojos for only very short periods of time. I wonder if a proportion of the teachers didn't have very much opportunity to learn the sword and stick.
Kanai Sensei: I suppose that one could say that, but in my own case, when I entered as an uchideshi (circa 1958), O-Sensei divided his time equally between Iwama and the Hombu Dojo. For that reason, I don't think anyone can say that Hombu people didn't learn much directly from O-Sensei. It's simply a matter of each person taking from within O-Sensei's technique that which he could grasp and the resulting differences are another problem. Isn't it unfortunate that the number of such people is so small?

Kanai Sensei: He would throw the uchideshi (live-in disciples) with very little in the way of explanation and we would grasp what we could of the feeling of the technique while we were flying through the air.

Editor: Were you allowed to start training right from the beginning? [references Yonekawa and early training]
Kanai Sensei: We were in the same situation. Field work, splitting firewood, hauling water, laundry, and preparing the bath … In the first place, these were jobs that I thought no one ever did any more and, in addition, there was nothing to eat!

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Aiki News Issue 045
Abe Sensei: For 20 years I spent one week of each month with O-Sensei.

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Aiki News Issue 049
Mr. Kamata: Those trainees who came from outside would attend one class a day but the live-in group trained four times a day; the early morning and morning classes, plus the afternoon and evening workouts. In addition, they had the various classes outside such as those held at the Naval Academy or the Army Secret Police School (Kempai Gakko), among other places.

Editor: Did O-Sensei give verbal explanations of techniques?
Mr. Kamata: It varied. Sometimes he would explain and at others his idea seemed to be to let us find out for ourselves. He always said, however, "You have to enter into the inside of the training partner; get into the inside and then take him into your inside!" But in the end you can't learn just by having Sensei throw you and taking ukemi. A person has to positively take action to master it, don't you agree?

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Aiki News Issue 056

Doshu: The dojo was entrusted to me around 1942. That is because my father left for Ibaraki with the rest of the family.

Doshu: After the war, I began to practice seriously because I thought it was my duty.

Doshu: I have come to hold the belief that the most important task for Aikido since the war has been to conform our way of thinking, teaching and philosophy to the trends of the time. It was around 1937 or 1938 that I began to practice Aikido seriously. I had already learned techniques by then. One can learn techniques in two or three years.

Doshu: Until the war ended, the dojo was closed. After the war I re-opened it and about 100 people came to live in it but unfortunately they had no sense of propriety.

Doshu: It took until about 1955 to get them all to leave.

Doshu: I started practicing seriously in 1949.

Doshu: I used to work in a company for a living until 1955. At the same time I managed the dojo.

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Aiki News Issue 058

Okumura Sensei mentions that he returned to Tokyo in 1948. He states there were no people training because of lack of food. This situation changed after the Korean War started (1950).

Okumura Sensei: It was at the time that a French gymnastics teacher named Andre Nocquet entered the dojo that it became active [1954-55].

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Aiki News Issue 060

Editor: When you began practicing Aikido [around 1951], was O-Sensei living in Tokyo?
Nishio Sensei: No. He rarely came down from Iwama. It was half a year after I joined the dojo that I saw his face for the first time. Until then, I only knew about him by hearsay.

Editor: When you entered the dojo, there weren't many students, were there?
Nishio Sensei: No, there were only a total of seven or eight. Some days no one was there and I swung the sword by myself and went home. The present Doshu and Mr. Tohei were the teachers. Everybody was at about the same level.

Nishio Sensei: (When I was a beginner) I asked how they applied the body techniques to the ken, but no one showed me. Since there was nothing to be done about the situation, I began practicing the ken in 1955 soon after I began Aikido training. What else could I do? Nobody taught me! O-Sensei did sword techniques at lightning speed and would say, "That's how you do it," and then disappeared from the dojo. I tried in vain to understand what he was doing and the next moment he was gone.

Yonekawa recollected, "The new uchideshi started his day cleaning the toilet, eventually being promoted to taking care of O-Sensei - massaging his shoulders and accompanying him on trips and so forth. Doing everyday jobs was a form of training in a certain sense."

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Aiki News Issue 066
Aiki News: Who was teaching at that time? [1953 or 54]
Tamura Sensei: Since the present Doshu was head of the dojo then, he usually taught classes. We used to call him "Wakasensei" (young sensei) in those days. Of course, we called Morihei Sensei, O-Sensei. At that time, these two were the only instructors at Hombu dojo so I thought they were the only teachers of Aikido.

Aiki News: Did O-Sensei come to the dojo every day?
Tamura Sensei: As I said earlier, since his house was attached to the dojo, he would pop in when the present Doshu was teaching and show 2 or 3 techniques and then disappear like the wind. He sometimes taught the entire class but on occasion he would talk for more than half of the practice time.

Aiki News: Proportionally speaking, how long would O-Sensei stay in each place?
Tamura Sensei: Well, there were times when he stayed in Tokyo for about a week or a month and other times when he stayed for two or three days and then went of to the Kansai area.

Tamura Sensei: When O-Sensei came to the dojo, he threw us one after another and then told us to execute the same technique. At the beginning we didn't even know what kind of technique he did. When I practiced with a senior student he would throw me first. Then, he would say, "It's your turn!", but I didn't know what to do. While I was struggling to throw him, O-Sensei began to demonstrate the next technique. During the first period of my training which lasted a long time, I was just thrown and made to feel pain. It took one or two years for me to be able to distinguish techniques a little.

niall
10-28-2010, 10:05 AM
Wow, fascinating interviews. Thanks, Mark. I'll read them carefully but one point I noticed already was this quote:

Ishii Sensei: Well, at that time he was already retired and he didn't have a regular class. I was only 15 years old. I went to Hombu dojo many times, where there were many teachers teaching regular classes. I expected to see O'Sensei at the dojo. His home was just next to Hombu dojo, and I expected him to come out of his room to teach us. But he didn't come to the dojo often. After a few months I learned that it was only for Yamaguchi Sensei's and Kisshomaru Sensei's classes that he came to the dojo to join us. This means that O'Sensei was not interested in other teachers training.

Ishii Sensei concludes in the final sentence (and with the perception of a teenager) that O Sensei was not interested in other teachers. A powerful counter-argument would be that an experienced teacher like O Sensei would want to join the classes of the teachers who still needed support or supervision.

Rabih Shanshiry
10-28-2010, 10:14 AM
Mark,

In addition to the Warders of the Gate sequel, please put me on the pre-order list for your history of aikido book. You've clearly done a lot of research and I think you should put it to good use.

...rab

Basia Halliop
10-28-2010, 10:22 AM
Everyone feels like they are doing their best and should be validated for that. They have little patience for some interloper who comes in and surges past them i rank and gets o the teaching roster when they've been at the dojo half the time... They simply will not admit that this person my be more serious than they are, is training harder, and should be put ahead of them.

I've seen this happen many times and no-one seemed to care that much as far as I could see - they might lament that they wished they had time to practice more... but they can see for themselves that the other person has put in more training time and energy. And at the kyu level in particular, testing requires a certain number of 'days of training' so if you haven't got them, you can count for yourself and see you can't test for a while longer... As long as the promotions are clearly based on training hours and skill and there's no appearance of politics or anything, people seem to take it as a matter of course that someone who trains more hours a week will usually progress faster. If in doubt they can always look at the attendance records and compare number of days of training, or watch the person's test. Also people often go through phases -- someone trains 4-5 days a week, then something changes (usually they either have a new child or go to school) and cut back to once a week for a year or two, then after a few years get back up to 3, or in some cases back to 4-5...

When I come up with the three day minimum standard for promotion past 3rd kyu, it isn't arbitrary. It is my considered assessment that this is what almost anyone needs to master at an acceptable level, all the things we are responsible for knowing. ... (snip) One is expected to be able to manifest a technique large or small and make adjustments as needed. I have never seen anyone be able to do all of this at an acceptable level of skill who wasn't training at least three times a week.

Seriously, even if they trained for ten years for two days a week, you've never seen someone reach a real 3rd kyu level when looking at their skill?

Ryan Seznee
10-28-2010, 12:09 PM
Seriously, even if they trained for ten years for two days a week, you've never seen someone reach a real 3rd kyu level when looking at their skill?

I would have to agree with Mr. Ledyard on this issue. I've seen people's aikido get sloppier when their attendance drops. I felt sloppy as hell the last time I missed 2 weeks due to a knee injury. Any kind of physical activity is a "use it or loose it" mentality so if you go 2 times a week you are actively loosing it for all but 2 to 3 hours that week. Is this really that hard of a concept to accept? I mean that is the reason that professional athletes and musicians exist (they spend all their time practicing so they can't afford to have another job).

George S. Ledyard
10-28-2010, 12:56 PM
I've been following this thread with great interest. George, your analysis is cogent. As a person who started training late in life and then lost time from injury, who may never test for shodan but plans to keep showing up and training, I can't argue with your description of the prevalence of "Aikido Lite" and I can understand your concern about the dilution of the art/teaching. Yeah, for every test I've seen in which a student failed and a teacher got chewed out, I've seen several in which students seemed to be "given a pass."

Part of the issue I think really is the idea of aikido being "for the world" - hence the "rightness" of "go forth and open another dojo and teach"and making it accessible to folks who have physical limitations does come smack up against the reality of how to maintain standards for teaching. Chiba Sensei I think may have one path, which is separately grading for teaching from rank. There are some dojos (Aikido of Berkeley comes to mind here in NoCal) that do have uchideshi programs to accommodate students who wish to be on a different track from us hobbyists.

I think Kayla Feder Sensei has it right... she has an uchi deshi program nicely suited for the young, unattached, deshi who wants to put in beau coup hours on training. I wish my facility lent itself to something like that but I just don't have the space and couldn't afford it, based on the pure numbers of folks training. But it is a great opportunity she is providing and I have recommended her to several young people who wanted to train like maniacs while they still could do so.

George S. Ledyard
10-28-2010, 01:08 PM
I've seen this happen many times and no-one seemed to care that much as far as I could see - they might lament that they wished they had time to practice more... but they can see for themselves that the other person has put in more training time and energy. And at the kyu level in particular, testing requires a certain number of 'days of training' so if you haven't got them, you can count for yourself and see you can't test for a while longer... As long as the promotions are clearly based on training hours and skill and there's no appearance of politics or anything, people seem to take it as a matter of course that someone who trains more hours a week will usually progress faster. If in doubt they can always look at the attendance records and compare number of days of training, or watch the person's test. Also people often go through phases -- someone trains 4-5 days a week, then something changes (usually they either have a new child or go to school) and cut back to once a week for a year or two, then after a few years get back up to 3, or in some cases back to 4-5...

Seriously, even if they trained for ten years for two days a week, you've never seen someone reach a real 3rd kyu level when looking at their skill?

Sure they'll make 3rd kyu... but so what? If, as I think is generally agreed upon, Shodan represents the point at which one is considered a serious beginner, that the person at that point has enough of a foundation to really start training on something with a bit more depth, not advanced yet, but at least a bit deeper... then what would the point be in taking ten years just to get to 3rd kyu? 15 years to Shodan? Unless one started Aikido at age five, at that pace, one would NEVER actually get to the point at which anything of any substance could be taught. They'd spend their entire lives learning the basic motor skills. I see no value in that at all. It's not even Aikido-lite...

niall
10-28-2010, 01:42 PM
George you're being judgemental. Didn't Saotome Sensei ever tell you that it's the journey, not the destination.

Rabih Shanshiry
10-28-2010, 02:00 PM
George,

Forgive me if I missed it, but what role does at-home training play in your equation? Does practice time spent out of the dojo count for anything?

How would you reconcile the person who attends your dojo 3x per week and doesn't practice at home with the person who can only attend twice and yet trains everyday on their own time?

I have a hard time believing that the former practioner has much advantage (if any) over the latter. In fact, I'd tend to argue the opposite.

What do you think?

...rab

George S. Ledyard
10-28-2010, 02:29 PM
Don't take this the wrong way. I'm going to paste a rather long section of stuff. Even though it's long, it's only a portion of my research and at that, my research doesn't encompass a whole lot of what's out there.

I'm posting it here because I want you to see what *I myself* am trying to reconcile. As you read through it, you will see that, through many different people, Ueshiba Morihei didn't teach in Tokyo often, didn't show much when he actually did teach, that tending to Ueshiba on off hours wasn't a very good learning experience in regards to aikido, talked quite a lot, entertained visitors, traveled, etc. On top of all that, you start to see that Ueshiba Morihei really didn't teach that often in Iwama, either. :)

Best,
Mark

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http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=99
Moriteru Ueshiba: I remember when I was small, there was not yet much activity at the Hombu Dojo. For a time my father (Kisshomaru) was actually in Iwama instead. He married there, and starting around 1949, he worked for about seven years at a company called Osaka Shoji. He had no other choice. Even if you have a dojo, you can't make a living if nobody is coming to train, which was largely the case after the war.

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http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=68
Having a wife, two children and several hungry uchideshi to feed, Doshu was at that time employed full-time at a securities company and taught aikido classes in the morning and evening. His father (Morihei) remained ensconced in Iwama training a few close students, among them Morihiro Saito. As practice in Tokyo gained momentum, Kisshomaru started to direct part of his efforts toward the spreading of aikido to a public almost totally ignorant of the art. A major turning point was a large demonstration held in the Takashimaya Department Store in 1956 where for the first time, not only the Founder, but senior instructors as well as demonstrated.

By the mid 1960s, large numbers of trainees crowded the mats of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo along with scores of foreigners who streamed to Japan to train in the mecca of aikido. The founder, although now in Tokyo much of the time, was already in his eighties and Kisshomaru and Koichi Tohei were the major figures at the dojo.

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Mitsunari Kanai (1939-2004)
1959-1966 Uchideshi at Hombu
1966 Dispatched to America (yondan)

Yoshimitsu Yamada (1938-)
1955-56 Uchideshi at Hombu
1964 Dispatched to NY Aikikai

Kazuo Chiba (1940-)
1958- Uchideshi at Hombu
1960 -- Sandan. Assigned to Nagoya
1962 Yondan and teaching at Hombu
1966 Dispatched to England
1970 6th dan
4 years from start to 4th dan.
12 years from start to 6th dan.

Mitsugi Saotome (1937-)
1955 Started Aikido
1958 Uchideshi at Hombu
1960 Teaching at Hombu
1975 Departed to America

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Seiichi Sugano (1939-2010)
1957 Started training at Hombu
1958-59 Direct student of Morihei Ueshiba
1965 Dispatched to Australia

http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=94 (AJ #112)
AJ: Do you have any particular memories of the old Wakamatsu-cho dojo?
Seiichi Sugano Sensei: The present Doshu (Kisshomaru Ueshiba) was one of the first people I met there. The place had the feel of an old-style dojo; quite different from the way it is today. Most of the time only O-Sensei and Doshu were there. Koichi Tohei was the head of the teaching staff. In the afternoon we were taught by people like Sadateru Arikawa, Hiroshi Tada and Shigenobu Okumura. A few years later Saito Sensei started coming down from Iwama to teach on Sundays

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Masao Ishii
1965-ish Started training at Hombu

http://aikidocanberra.com/Docs/main/doc/MasaoIshii
NCT: Really? So you started training there. Did you have a chance to train with O'Sensei then?
Ishii Sensei: Well, at that time he was already retired and he didn't have a regular class. I was only 15 years old. I went to Hombu dojo many times, where there were many teachers teaching regular classes. I expected to see O'Sensei at the dojo. His home was just next to Hombu dojo, and I expected him to come out of his room to teach us. But he didn't come to the dojo often. After a few months I learned that it was only for Yamaguchi Sensei's and Kisshomaru Sensei's classes that he came to the dojo to join us. This means that O'Sensei was not interested in other teachers training.

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http://www.iwama-aikido.com/Saito_Interview.html

Q: Who among the Senseis today have been uchi deshis?

A: Well, if you speak of Senseis like; Yamada, Tamura, Tohei, Saotome and Kanai they all are students of Kisshomaru Ueshiba. They never went to Iwama and practised for O-Sensei. Chiba Sensei once stayed in Iwama for 3 months.

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Black Belt Magazine Vol 1 No. 2.

In an article about Tohei. "His contributions to the art of Aikido are legend. He has devised many of the exercises and throws which are now standard and taught in all Aikido schools both in Japan and the United States."

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Yoseikan NA website:
9. What is the relationship between Yoseikan's robuse and the similar techniques practiced as ikkyo in most other aikido schools?

Mochizuki Minoru Sensei said that when he was studying with Ueshiba Sensei (late 1920's), robuse was the name given to the technique that later became Ikkajo, then Ikkyo after the war. The present ikkyo as taught by most Aikikai (and Aikikai related) teachers is the result of the modifications made by Tohei and Kisshomaru Sensei in order to simplify Aikido and make it available to more people....[edited for length]

Patrick Augé Sensei

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Black Belt 1966 Vol 4 No 5
"The uchideshi's day begins around 6 a.m., when he cleans the dojo and the grounds outside. The first class of the day starts at 6:30. This class is usually taught by Uyeshiba himself, the Osensei, which means the old teacher. The young uchideshi sit on their knees during this hour, which can be an uncomfortable and tiring experience.
The first class is usually taken up mostly with discussions about God and nature - Uyeshiba doing the talking and the uchideshi listening. It is in this hour that the young uchideshi is exposed to Zen philosophy and the deeper meanings of aikido - its nonviolent and defensive perfection and understanding.
If this all sounds rather remote and difficult to grasp for a Western reader, he may be interested to know that the young Japanese uchideshi often feels the same way. The 83-year-old Uyeshiba many times speaks about highly abstract topics, lapsing usually into ancient Japanese phraseology, so that his listeners often find it difficult to follow him.
When this long hour is over, the young uchideshi exuberantly spill out onto the dojo floor for a half-hour exercise break. All the restless energy pent up within seems to come out and they throw themselves into the practice of their techniques with each other.
At 8 a.m. begins the real study of aikido techniques. This class is taught by a different instructor every day, and is attended by a large number of persons from outside the dojo. Sometimes this hour is taught by Uyeshiba's son, or Waka sensei as he is called. Sometimes Tohei sensei, the greatest of Uyeshiba's followers, instructs the class."

"If the uchideshi isn't helping out at this time, he may have a private class of his own with Tohei or Waka sensei or some of the other instructors."

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Black Belt 1968 Vol 6 No 5

At a typical training session, the instructor demonstrates a technique once or twice, then everyone practices for at least five minutes. Another technique is then shown and the practice is resumed.
The concept of ki is part of the regular instruction, because as the younger Ueshiba points out, you can't separate ki from the ordinary lessons."

Article also notes that because of the shortage of instructors, Kisshomaru has a battery of promotion examinations.

While his 45-year-old son handles the administrative end, the 85-year-old father spends most of his time these days at the martial art's tutelary shrine known as the Aikido Shrine in Iwama, Ibaragi Prefecture, north of Tokyo."

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Black Belt 1974 Vol 12 No 2

Article by Andy Adams about Yoshinkan.
Quotes Shioda, "I don't really feel that I broke away from the mainstream of aikido since there was nothing to break away from back then. Uyeshiba sensei (the late Morihei Uyeshiba) was farming, his son Kisshomaru was working for some company, and the sensei's aikido dojo at Iwama in Ibaragi Prefecture was being rented out as a dance hall."

But Shioda notes that Hirai, Koichi Tohei (chief instructor at the WAF hombu) and even Kisshomaru Uyeshiba were not used as the sensei's uke and therefore didn't have to undergo the constantly rough treatment at the sensei's hands that he and a handful of others experienced."

From 1947 to 1950, there was virtually no aikido for Shioda, who was forced to devote all his energies to the task of scraping out a living in a ravaged, destroyed Japan.

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Black Belt 1984 Vol 22 No 10
Article by Gaku Homma
Regarding Ueshiba entering a class…
Usually instructors taught only basic techniques when Uyeshiba was in the dojo, knowing he preferred those over fancy, advanced techniques. In some cases, instructors were scolded openly when caught teaching dangerous techniques.

In the dojo, after greeting a few students, he would lecture on the essence of aikido in Omotokyo teachings, which few students could understand completely.

The day began as usual, Uyeshiba rising at 5:00 a.m., taking his bath and putting on a set of clean kimono. At about six o'clock, he headed for the Aiki Shrine for his morning religious ritual, which took about an hour and a half each day.

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Black Belt 1985 Vol 23 No 7
Article about Shoseki Abe by James and Mari Berkley
Abe: In 1954, there was an opening ceremony for the Shingu Dojo. I went with O-Sensei and we stayed two weeks. We trained in the morning from six to seven, and then again from 11 to 12. The afternoons were free, and then we trained again in the evenings from six to seven.

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Black Belt 1989 Vol 27 No 8
Interview with Mochizuki

BB: What was the status of martial arts in Japan after World War II?
Mochizuki: Uyeshiba Sensei's techniques had lost most of their martial appearance. He apparently had gone through some very deep emotional states. The war, the atom bomb, all contributed to his belief that there would be no other war, that budo had to become only a do (way). Uyeshiba Sensei believed that, after the war, an era of peace and love had started. Since there was no necessity to fight, aikido had to become a means of physical education. Also, in order to make it easier for a lot of people to take it up, he had to simplify it. That's where I did not agree.

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Intro to Takemusu Aiki book by Morihiro Saito

Saito quoted as saying, "In the early 1960's, even though the Founder was still enjoying good health, he did not teach weapons or basic taijutsu techniques anywhere other than Iwama. His teaching elsewhere consisted mainly of demonstrations-like performances with little explanation."

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Aiki News Issue 025
Doshu: After the war, he isolated himself in Iwama. He lived on potato gruel while there. In any case, that experience became one of the spiritual bases for our training.

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Aiki News Issue 027

In 1942, largerly because of the fact that the Second World War war in progress and most of his students were involved in the war effort, O-Sensei retired to the small country town of Iwama in Ibaraki Prefecture where he had purchased land the year before. His was a very secluded existence devoted primarily to training, meditation and farming. He remained in Iwama for the most part for the next ten or so years.

From the 1950's until his passing in 1969, O-Sensei divided his time between Tokyo and Iwama.

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Aiki News Issue 028
Letter by Bruce Klickstein
During the "taisai" the best teachers in the world talked about how so much of what is called Aikido barely even resembles the Aikido O-Sensei taught. There will be some changes here (in Japan) to correct this.

From all that I've heard of O-Sensei teaching daily classes from Saito Sensei, Inagaki-Sempai, Isoyama Sensei and other people I've trained with, he stopped to do static, basic techniques. He broke them up, said, "This is right. This is wrong," etc., ... and was severe in his corrections. In his later life he just would demonstrate once or twice and then watch. At that time, the sempai would go around and correct.

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Aiki News Issue 031
Editor: During O-Sensei's long martial arts experience, he underwent a number of changes. In the initial period he especially emphasized power and technique, later, I understand he attached greater importance to spiritual matters.
Doshu: During his later years, rather than teach, my father demonstrated movements which were in accord with the flow of the universe and unified with nature. Thus, it was a matter of students watching his movements, learning by themselves, in that way understanding his technique. He wasn't deeply concerned about teaching students …

Editor: You mentioned earlier that O-Sensei in his later years would demonstrate his technique in front of his students and that the students learned Aikido by watching and being attracted to his movements rather than O-Sensei teaching them. Was O-Sensei's teaching method like that from the beginning?
Doshu: No. At first he taught techniques point by point although it didn't seem that he was attached to a specific teaching goal. But he emphasized that you have to do things exactly, one by one, so you won't make mistakes. Recently, there has been a tendency for Aikido training to become too soft and flowing and some beginners lightly bypass hard training. That's not the way it should be. If you are going to practice you must practice basics earnestly. This he told me frequently even in his later years … exactly, not changing anything … if you don't reach the level of softness beyond technique by getting the basics down perfectly, you won't develop true strength. If, from the beginning, you practice a "tofu-like (bean curd) soft style, you will be vulnerable to an attack.

Doshu: That's how it was. So, he went from Hokkaido to Ayabe in Kyoto prefecture; he trained in Ayabe; he came up to Tokyo where he was, let's see … for about 14 or 15 years; then he went to Iwama and spent about 10 years there; and again he came to Tokyo for five or six years where he came to the end of his life.

In the dojo, he would sometimes intently watch students training, or gather everyone together and lecture on the Aiki path, or sometimes he would personally teach beginners.

… he was besieged by visitors starting from early in the morning and he spent large amounts of time in receiving them. In addition, the occasions when he would, on invitation, travel to teach or lecture were not few.

Thus, the sight of those present not immediately understanding the true meaning of his remarks and ending up completely baffled was a frequent one. This was understandably so because O-Sensei 's lectures involved difficult to comprehend explanations based on mental and physical austerities far more numerous than those undergone by ordinary people, remarks about intuitive spiritual realizations, and words about extraordinary things he experienced.

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Aiki News Issue 032
Saito: During the war O-Sensei had been busy. Though he had old students in many places those who learned from O-Sensei were few. All the junior students learned from their senior students. We were lucky because O-Sensei himself remained at Iwama all the time. During the war he was ordered by the military to teach the martial art he himself had studied as a method to defeat the enemy and to kill people. He was also asked by the military school at Nakano to teach lethal techniques. But the war ended and it became unnecessary to do so. O-Sensei was glad because he was finally able to absorb himself in the Aikido of harmony which he had been contemplating … Aikido according to his own belief. Morning after morning he would pray to the kami and instruct us. Since we had to eat, we also farmed. O-Sensei was so exhuberant that he was not satisfied with using the normal farming tools that his students used. He ordered a blacksmith named Narita to make an especially heavy tool for him. He also carried double the weight of rice bundles on his shoulders compared to we students. We raised silkworms together, too … and we would harvest and plant rice.

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Aiki News Issue 033

[Summary from Kisshomaru's book]
As I have written above, the Founder was in his prime from 1927-40. Then after the war the popularization of Aikido was handed over to a group of we young people while the Founder oversaw our activities with a benevolent eye from Iwama.

At about the same time, in 1942, he established himself in Iwama, along with his wife and handed over the direction of the Tokyo dojo to me. He then built the Aiki Shrine and immersed himself in training and farming.

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Aiki News Issue 038
Editor: I have been studying the life of O-Sensei and the history of Aikido. As a result, some of the points that had previously given me trouble have slowly cleared up. Don't you think that probably most of the present teachers actually received only a little direct teaching from O-Sensei? The reason for this being that for 15 years after the war he lived in Iwama and visited other dojos for only very short periods of time. I wonder if a proportion of the teachers didn't have very much opportunity to learn the sword and stick.
Kanai Sensei: I suppose that one could say that, but in my own case, when I entered as an uchideshi (circa 1958), O-Sensei divided his time equally between Iwama and the Hombu Dojo. For that reason, I don't think anyone can say that Hombu people didn't learn much directly from O-Sensei. It's simply a matter of each person taking from within O-Sensei's technique that which he could grasp and the resulting differences are another problem. Isn't it unfortunate that the number of such people is so small?

Kanai Sensei: He would throw the uchideshi (live-in disciples) with very little in the way of explanation and we would grasp what we could of the feeling of the technique while we were flying through the air.

Editor: Were you allowed to start training right from the beginning? [references Yonekawa and early training]
Kanai Sensei: We were in the same situation. Field work, splitting firewood, hauling water, laundry, and preparing the bath … In the first place, these were jobs that I thought no one ever did any more and, in addition, there was nothing to eat!

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Aiki News Issue 045
Abe Sensei: For 20 years I spent one week of each month with O-Sensei.

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Aiki News Issue 049
Mr. Kamata: Those trainees who came from outside would attend one class a day but the live-in group trained four times a day; the early morning and morning classes, plus the afternoon and evening workouts. In addition, they had the various classes outside such as those held at the Naval Academy or the Army Secret Police School (Kempai Gakko), among other places.

Editor: Did O-Sensei give verbal explanations of techniques?
Mr. Kamata: It varied. Sometimes he would explain and at others his idea seemed to be to let us find out for ourselves. He always said, however, "You have to enter into the inside of the training partner; get into the inside and then take him into your inside!" But in the end you can't learn just by having Sensei throw you and taking ukemi. A person has to positively take action to master it, don't you agree?

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Aiki News Issue 056

Doshu: The dojo was entrusted to me around 1942. That is because my father left for Ibaraki with the rest of the family.

Doshu: After the war, I began to practice seriously because I thought it was my duty.

Doshu: I have come to hold the belief that the most important task for Aikido since the war has been to conform our way of thinking, teaching and philosophy to the trends of the time. It was around 1937 or 1938 that I began to practice Aikido seriously. I had already learned techniques by then. One can learn techniques in two or three years.

Doshu: Until the war ended, the dojo was closed. After the war I re-opened it and about 100 people came to live in it but unfortunately they had no sense of propriety.

Doshu: It took until about 1955 to get them all to leave.

Doshu: I started practicing seriously in 1949.

Doshu: I used to work in a company for a living until 1955. At the same time I managed the dojo.

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Aiki News Issue 058

Okumura Sensei mentions that he returned to Tokyo in 1948. He states there were no people training because of lack of food. This situation changed after the Korean War started (1950).

Okumura Sensei: It was at the time that a French gymnastics teacher named Andre Nocquet entered the dojo that it became active [1954-55].

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Aiki News Issue 060

Editor: When you began practicing Aikido [around 1951], was O-Sensei living in Tokyo?
Nishio Sensei: No. He rarely came down from Iwama. It was half a year after I joined the dojo that I saw his face for the first time. Until then, I only knew about him by hearsay.

Editor: When you entered the dojo, there weren't many students, were there?
Nishio Sensei: No, there were only a total of seven or eight. Some days no one was there and I swung the sword by myself and went home. The present Doshu and Mr. Tohei were the teachers. Everybody was at about the same level.

Nishio Sensei: (When I was a beginner) I asked how they applied the body techniques to the ken, but no one showed me. Since there was nothing to be done about the situation, I began practicing the ken in 1955 soon after I began Aikido training. What else could I do? Nobody taught me! O-Sensei did sword techniques at lightning speed and would say, "That's how you do it," and then disappeared from the dojo. I tried in vain to understand what he was doing and the next moment he was gone.

Yonekawa recollected, "The new uchideshi started his day cleaning the toilet, eventually being promoted to taking care of O-Sensei - massaging his shoulders and accompanying him on trips and so forth. Doing everyday jobs was a form of training in a certain sense."

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Aiki News Issue 066
Aiki News: Who was teaching at that time? [1953 or 54]
Tamura Sensei: Since the present Doshu was head of the dojo then, he usually taught classes. We used to call him "Wakasensei" (young sensei) in those days. Of course, we called Morihei Sensei, O-Sensei. At that time, these two were the only instructors at Hombu dojo so I thought they were the only teachers of Aikido.

Aiki News: Did O-Sensei come to the dojo every day?
Tamura Sensei: As I said earlier, since his house was attached to the dojo, he would pop in when the present Doshu was teaching and show 2 or 3 techniques and then disappear like the wind. He sometimes taught the entire class but on occasion he would talk for more than half of the practice time.

Aiki News: Proportionally speaking, how long would O-Sensei stay in each place?
Tamura Sensei: Well, there were times when he stayed in Tokyo for about a week or a month and other times when he stayed for two or three days and then went of to the Kansai area.

Tamura Sensei: When O-Sensei came to the dojo, he threw us one after another and then told us to execute the same technique. At the beginning we didn't even know what kind of technique he did. When I practiced with a senior student he would throw me first. Then, he would say, "It's your turn!", but I didn't know what to do. While I was struggling to throw him, O-Sensei began to demonstrate the next technique. During the first period of my training which lasted a long time, I was just thrown and made to feel pain. It took one or two years for me to be able to distinguish techniques a little.

Hi Mark,
I generally do not dispute what you see here. There are a couple of statements that are in direct opposition to some things I have heard from Saotome, Chiba and Imaizumi Senseis but overall, it's really the interpretation that I have a problem with.

No one claims that O-Sensei "taught technique" even when he did teach. He showed stuff, usually by way of illustrating something he was talking about, which was always obscure. Saotome Sensei himself said he could remember three times in fifteen years in which O-Sensei actually talked about "How" to do something technical.

This doesn't mean that he wasn't the ultimate model the students had in their minds that they were striving for. As stated above, these guys put their hands on him constantly. They were expected to figure stuff out from that. No one I know would maintain that this represented a very useful method of transmission. The students necessarily relied on their seniors to pass on whatever they had figured out on their own to their juniors. In this respect it was a very collective, group form of transmission. But O-Sensei was still the main source.

Looking at how this works in my own dojo, I teach three times a week. I do not even teach the beginner classes. So one could say that my beginners are not even my students but rather the students of these junior instructors. This rather ignores the fact that what the instructors are passing on is pretty much what I taught them. Sometimes when I watch class, I can hear things I said, word for word, being passed on by the instructor I said it to.

So, yes, Kisshomaru and Tohei, Arikawa, and Osawa, and later Yamaguchi were the folks that taught frequently. Kuroiwa Sensei was important as well. Each one had trained with the Founder extensively. I mean, if O-Sensei didn't really teach in Tokyo much after the war. And the Tokyo guys didn't train much in Iwama, as Saito would maintain, then where did a generation of post war instructors come from? They didn't spontaneously generate.

There are teachers I learned from who changed my Aikido entirely. Yet, if one did an analysis like the one you did, you'd see that I had a total of a few hours of exposure to them over all. Yet the things they showed me or told me were so central to foundational principles that two classes with them changed my Aikido entirely. O-Sensei was a catalyst more than a teacher. He had worked out the basic form of post war Aikido with Saito in Iwama. Somehow that magically got passed on to a generation of teachers in Tokyo who supposedly didn't have much exposure to the Founder. Not sure how this happened but if you look at what everyone was doing, there was a generally agreed upon set of movements and techniques that constituted modern Aikido. No one would look at Tohei, Saito, Yamaguchi, or Osawa and think they weren't doing Aikido. And if one looked back at O-Sensei in the 30's, one could clearly see the Daito Ryu it all came from and in many respects it wasn't all that different.

I think that there is absolutely no evidence that the Founder didn't in some sense set the direction of post war Aikido. Yes, he handed it off to his son. But, from what I have read, his explicit instructions about not messing it up had to do, not with technique, internal power, martial application, etc but rather don't lose the spiritual content.

The one place where you can see a continuous connection between post war Aikido and pre-war Aikido was in the person of Shirata Sensei. He was actually Sempai to the big three, Shioda, Tomiki, and Mochizuki but he was the only one to stay with the Aikikai and the Ueshiba family after the war. While there were aspects of his Aikido that had a different flavor from the other teachers of the post war period, I guess I don't find that surprising since he had different training initially and by the time the post war period comes along, he had trained far longer than any post war teacher at Hombu or Iwama. He had over 25 years in Daito Ryu, Aikido Budo and finally Aikido, before most folks who became the top post war teachers had even started training.

Yet if you watch his Aikido, it's not drastically different in form from everyone else's Aikido. How he trained people was quite different but the form it took wasn't. So what I am trying to say here is that there simply isn't the difference that is implied by the revisionists between what went before and what came after the war. And Kisshomaru and Tohei didn't change things as much as everyone says.

Then of course we have to look at the thirties guys themselves, not a one of whom actually taught what O-Sensei did, except Inoue and everyone has forgotten him. If you want to see Aikido as O-Sensei taught it, he was the guy to look at. He had more time with the Founder than anyone. He was O-Sensei's closest student by far until their falling out over the Omotokyo Incident. There is quite a lot of him on video. You'd swear that you were looking at O-Sensei in his old age. And guess what. He doesn't look anything like any of the prominent 30's teachers we are familiar with.

Everyone changed O-Sensei's Aikido! This si because he didn't attempt to pass on technique, he passed on principle. And even that he expected you to figure out for yourself. So Mochizuki Sensei's Aiki Budo is no more like O-Sensei's Aikido than Kisshomaru's. He took an entirely different direction from Tomiki.

And Shioda...he was at least the systematizer that Kisshomarus was. He had to entirely change the way Aikido was taught because he had to train large classes of law enforcement folks, not the small, intimate groups that represented traditional Aikido training before the war when the training was still "private".

The idea that Shioda's Aikido was drastically different than what was taught in post war Hombu just doesn't cut it. I train quite nicely with Yoshinkai folks with some frequency. Aside from a certain martial outlook that is sometimes absent these days fro much of Aikido, these guys pretty much do the Aikido I was taught ny my teacher. We don't have any trouble being on the same page. I don't find their stuff far more powerful or effective and I don't get the impression that they find my stuff weak or lacking in intention.

There is no question that, at some point, much of the internal power solo work dropped out of post war Aikido. Some teachers, like Shirata never dropped it out. I was told by one of his students that EVERY class had a portion devoted to these exercises. I think the deshi, when with the Founder, did everything he did. From what Saotome Sensei has said I have been lead to conclude that much of what Sensei has in terms of internal structure he developed doing some of these exercises but was perhaps unaware of it. O-Sensei didn't explain it certainly. So, at 135 pounds Sensei can drop me where I stand effortlessly and, even in my much reduced state, I still have 100 pounds on him. That cane from somewhere but it was never presented to us in any systematic form nor was there explanation of why these exercises existed or that they should be done daily to develop the body for internal power.

Anyway, I can and do go on and on about this... so I will conclude by saying that , the fundamental assumption in these discussions is that post war Aikido wasn't as good as pre-war and that it was all the fault of changes made by Kisshomaryu and Tohei.

Well, my take on this is quite different. I believe that post war Aikido became much more the practice that O-Sensei intended it to be as a transformative, personal practice. I see no evidence whatever that it bothered O-Sensei that it was less effective from a fighting standpoint. He virtually NEVER talked about that. To the extent that he was dissatisfied, I am convinced it was because the folks training kept focusing on physical technique and he wanted them to understand how technique was merely an expression of large, much deeper spiritual principles. I do not think there is a single shred of evidence, and quite a bit to the contrary, that O-Sensei's oft quoted "no one is doing my Aikido" had anything whatever to do with the lack of internal power training in post war Aikido. Rather it was the focus on technique to the exclusion of the spiritual that bothered him.

Anyway, thanks for the input. It's always interesting to see how folks can look at exactly the same information and draw different conclusions.

George S. Ledyard
10-28-2010, 04:16 PM
I just had a very nice exchange with one of my on-line friends and she motivated me to clarify my views a bit. I know I seem very hard ass and judgmental on this stuff. I want to say that I pretty much am addressing my posts to folks who are teachers, who instruct others, or who aspire to do so.

I do not wish to give the impression that the regular folks out there are not valued or important, in fact crucial to Aikido. There are plenty of folks here who do not train more than a couple times a week or even less, but they think about Aikido all the time. Aikido informs every activity they do. They genuinely love the art and will talk about it with any one who will listen for as long as they will do so. Look at all the time and effort people put in on the forums...

The average practitioner is the backbone of the art. Without them there would be no professional teachers, there would be few dedicated dojo spaces, there would be few, if any, seminars out there. There would be no videos or no books because the market would just be too small. There will always be someone who is more talented, more serious, more everything than the average person. That's why we call it the average...

At my own dojo my students are just like the people here... they train as hard as they can, as frequently as they can. The fact that this is different from what I did when I was younger is neither here nor there. They are my students and I have to teach to that reality. So I don't waste time worrying about it not being how I would like but rather how to do the best with what is. And I am happy with that.

Where I am a real hard ass, and unapologetic is when it comes to the folks who are teachers. I have no patience for well meaning mediocrities who set up dojos and then become the limiting factor in the training of their students. I am definitely not kind when it comes to the hobbyist teacher. It's not just that a teacher takes the student's money, for that can be replaced, it's that the student gives the teacher his or her most prized possession, their time. Every minute a student spends in a dojo is a minute they didn't spend elsewhere and is a unit of time they can never get back.

Opening up a dojo is a huge responsibility, a massive obligation. You have a responsibility to represent your art, your teacher, and to deliver the goods to your students. Not "as best you can" which is an excuse that folks use to justify mediocrity, but simply deliver the goods. If you can't deliver the goods, don't teach. Simple as that.

I encounter teachers who will tell me, "well, I'm not really very good at Sensei's Kumitachi..." well, the question is why not and what are you doing about it? If you know you aren't up to par on something it is your responsibility to teach to others as part of their preparation for yudansha testing, why aren't you torturing yourself over that fact every night. Why haven't you trotted yourself off to the dojo of one of the teachers who could help you with it, why haven't you asked them to your dojo to teach the kumitachi, grabbed that guest instructor before, in between and after regular classes and pestered him to show you more? Screw going to lunch... why aren't you fixing this problem? It is your duty as a teacher to become instructor level at the material. Not just good enough to pass the damned Nidan test on which the kumitachi appear. You have an obligation to take your understanding far past what the average student requires. Otherwise you will be the limiting factor in the training of any student who is above average potential.

As far as I am concerned that is virtually fraudulent behavior. You've set yourself up as a teacher but you actually can't do your job. And passing off the responsibility to one of the other instructors isn't the answer. I see that all the time. The teacher who isn't interested, doesn't want to do the work, feels guilty about the fact that some aspect of his or her Aikido is sub standard but simply passes off the responsibility to a junior instructor as if that takes away the problem. The teacher is the model for the students. If the teacher has a lackadaisical attitude, then the students will have the same. The teacher must model the attitude of never being satisfied, always striving, going after what is needed to better and to teach better.

So, while I am totally supportive of any and all folks doing Aikido as serious student or hobbyists, I feel no obligation to baby anyone who sets himself up as a teacher. Do your jobs. If you don't want to, go back to training and close your dojo. No training is better for your students than poor training.

And so, when I am talking about time requirements etc to move up in grade, I am really addressing the next and future generations of students who will end up teaching. Start off expecting less of yourself than you are capable of and you will end up that way. And your students will be worse.

If this were a competitive art, things would take care of themselves. You can't fool yourself about how good you are when there is competition. You aren't any good, you lose. You have twenty years of experience and still suck, a three year junior beats you up. Not in Aikido... You can teach, you can stay the same for twenty years and not get any better. You can rationalize your defects by saying it's not about fighting anyway. You train your ukes to take the ukemi that makes your stuff look good and you don't leave your dojo to train else where because the folks out there are jerks (i.e. they don't fall down for you). I see teachers like this all the time.

And when did the problem start? Way back when they were white belts and they told themselves that what they were willing to do would be enough. That just passing the test was enough. Just getting through the weapons work well enough to not fail was enough. That training twice a week, because that was all that would fit into the schedule, was enough. And then twenty years later we have a teacher who is the product of years of wishful thinking and just barely enough.

So when it seems like I am too strict it is only to try and get people thinking about what Really is enough? And I mean to be the kind of black belt that would be an ideal in your mind, to be the kind of dojo instructor that you would be proud to be, to be the kind of master of the art which a dojo head should be, how much is enough for that? When most folks ask how much is enough they are asking how much is the bare minimum required... Anyone who has the least aspiration towards mastery of the art, especially towards teaching the art, even if it's only at someone else's dojo, needs to be asking what it takes to be excellent. It's not how little you can get by with, it's what it takes to do your job and do it well.

The average practitioner is not responsible to anyone but himself for his level of commitment and how far he or she wishes to go in the art. It is the job of those of us who have made training our lives to pass on everything we can to these folks. It will be their effort and commitment that determines what they take from that instruction. But everyone deserves our efforts and no one is a waste of time, if they at least try when they are there.

Rabih Shanshiry
10-28-2010, 07:54 PM
Where I am a real hard ass, and unapologetic is when it comes to the folks who are teachers. I have no patience for well meaning mediocrities who set up dojos and then become the limiting factor in the training of their students.

My guess is that they wouldn't be teaching if they didn't have a dan grade under their belt. Seems like your anger/frustration should be directed more to the those who promoted them in the first place.

Can you really blame the sandan who sucks for being deluded when some shihan somewhere gave them that rank and told them they were ready to teach in the first place?

George S. Ledyard
10-28-2010, 08:30 PM
My guess is that they wouldn't be teaching if they didn't have a dan grade under their belt. Seems like your anger/frustration should be directed more to the those who promoted them in the first place.

Can you really blame the sandan who sucks for being deluded when some shihan somewhere gave them that rank and told them they were ready to teach in the first place?

Hi Rabih,
I am simply not in a position to comment about what goes on "above my station", especially on the internet. Suffice it to repeat what my own teacher Saotome Sensei said, if the student doesn't do well, it's the teacher's fault. One can easily extend that to instructors who are below par.

RED
10-28-2010, 10:48 PM
I'm becoming more and more annoyed by this attitude where people want to get as much as they can for as little effort as possible.
I've been talked down to about the "real meaning of tenkan" by 2year student 6th kyu who admittedly train once every few weeks. I'm willing to respect everyone as a practitioner, but you have to be intellectually honest with yourself about what Aikido is in your life.

If you want to be successful in Aikido, or any other en-devour, you need to put your hours in, under the eyes of an instructor. (I'm not keen on the entire "but I study in my livingroom"..Aikido is an apprentice program. I do kata in my living room too, but I don't disrespect the art or my instructors by calling it serious training!)

Would you expect to get your Bachelor's degree while only making 2 out of the 24 classes your instructor teachers?Why should Aikido be any different? When you get an F in class you can't go to your teacher and say "Oh but I was reading the text book at home a WHOLE lot!!" The point is, you didn't make it to class enough to advance. Likewise, don't expect to advance in Aikido when you are absent from class."A" students show up to all their classes on time and complete the course work. Aikido is no different. It requires discipline, dedication and commitment. You have to give up time, money, other activities and some socialization to part-take seriously.

If you expect to get better and learn Aikido you have to sweat some hours on the mat.. a lot of hours!
Aikido like any fine art is an apprentice program to me. Find yourself the highest instruction you can, and commit yourself to studying it.

There is nothing wrong with taking Aikido 1 or 2 hours a week, so long as you don't fool yourself into thinking you are serious. If your life does not permit practice more than 1 or 2 days, reorganize your life. A serious person schedules their life around their training. A weekend warrior schedules their training around their life.

I've sacrificed a lot of time, money, jobs, and socialization to commit to a self-imposed minimum training requirement. I've put off a few personal goals to guarantee my body is in the condition it needs to be to continue training for now. And on bad days, I still call myself a hobbyist, because I have too much respect for my Shihan to ever be diluted enough to consider myself as serious as them.
When I say this to people I hear people complain "Well, not everyone is as lucky as you to just be able to not be able to worry about other obligations!!" The fact is I do worry about obligations, I just like Aikido a hell of a lot more.

Aikido is about love for me, being in love.
When people find their first love, they blow off family members, friends sometimes, they sneak in and out windows, sometimes skip school to meet them, just to get to them, they are day dreaming about them at work and counting the seconds in between dates. Being committed isn't hard when you are in love.

How about doing Aikido for Aikido's sake? Go to the dojo because there's no where else you rather be, nothing else you rather do. If you found out you had 24 hours to live, would you be training? Are you in love, or is it just a nice way to spend an evening?

Einstein once said "There is no such thing as Genius, only obsession."
If you wanna do that "unreachable" Shihan quality Aikido, you gotta get a little obsessed. IMHO.

AGAIN: nothing is wrong with you if you train 2 hours a week! So long as you aren't diluted into thinking Aikido is more than a recreation for you. And there is nothing wrong IMO about Aikido being some people's recreational activity.

George S. Ledyard
10-29-2010, 12:02 AM
George,

Forgive me if I missed it, but what role does at-home training play in your equation? Does practice time spent out of the dojo count for anything?

How would you reconcile the person who attends your dojo 3x per week and doesn't practice at home with the person who can only attend twice and yet trains everyday on their own time?

I have a hard time believing that the former practitoner has much advantage (if any) over the latter. In fact, I'd tend to argue the opposite.

What do you think?

...rab

Well, it's not that I don't put some value on training at home... I used to do 1000 sword cuts each day, practiced my iaido... used to do some solo work, such as it was, watched tons of videos, back when you actually had to buy them... But none of that is worth much without hands on partner work. This art is about connection. It is fine to do things at home which can augment your practice but as a substitute for the hands on partner practice, no. Outside work can make your partner practice stronger, calmer, more precise, but it isn't any kind of substitute.

There's a reason that you don't get to check off your home-study hours on your attendance card at the dojo. Those solo training hours don't count when calculating your training hours towards the next test. Two days a week at the dojo is still two days a week. I can pretty much guarantee that someone training two days a week at the dojo and doing all sorts of solo training at home, will only be marginally, if at all better at his paired practice than the person who just trains twice a week and watches TV at home.

Richard Stevens
10-29-2010, 12:14 AM
Would you expect to get your Bachelor's degree while only making 2 out of the 24 classes your instructor teachers?Why should Aikido be any different? When you get an F in class you can't go to your teacher and say "Oh but I was reading the text book at home a WHOLE lot!!" The point is, you didn't make it to class enough to advance. Likewise, don't expect to advance in Aikido when you are absent from class."A" students show up to all their classes on time and complete the course work. Aikido is no different. It requires discipline, dedication and commitment. You have to give up time, money, other activities and some socialization to part-take seriously.

I think you may be overlooking the counter-argument that has been persisting in this thread. There is no denying that students should not be passed if they do not have the technical skills. However, utilizing your analogy, if I were to take that same class for for 12 years wouldn't I have developed the knowledge required to pass that class?

Is a person training twice a week for ten years going to be unable to attain the skill level of a person training three times a week for six years? I don't buy it. Yes, I agree that going once a week will make it harder for a student to remember what they've learned a present a major obstacle for most. However, I cannot accept that a focused and dedicated person attending classes twice a week would not be able to attain the same skill level as they would if training three or even four times a week. It would simply take them more "years" to put in the same hours to get there.

I am certainly not denying that going two times a week may not be enough for some students to make consistent progress. However, training four days a week may not be enough for someone else. Unless we are talking about a big gap between training sessions, I think it comes down to the individual. :)

George S. Ledyard
10-29-2010, 12:20 AM
George you're being judgemental. Didn't Saotome Sensei ever tell you that it's the journey, not the destination.

Actually, no Saotome Sensei never said anything like that... He did say that there was no final destination, that one never arrived. Yes, he did say that. But the majority of what he talked about was how we made the journey... The quality of the journey was and always is important. That's all I am talking about here.

All journeys are not equal. Some folks put so little into their journey that it's too much to be asked to cross the street. Others will journey so far from home that they reach uncharted territory. Sensei ALWAYS talked about O-Sensei and how strict he was, how uncompromising when it came to the training. His art was most definitely not a hobby... His journey had been long and hard but he never stopped on that road. The point is that O-Sensei, even teachers like some of the uchi deshi, went so far on their journeys that regular folks don't even try any more. They accord some special status to these teachers and then tell themselves that however far they themselves get on their journey is fine. There is no sense at all that they should be trying to go down that path as far as the folks who blazed the trail had done.

O-Sensei is gone, the uchi deshi are passing, soon there will be no one left alive who has even journeyed to those far off realms visited by these pioneers who went before; not unless we do it ourselves.

George S. Ledyard
10-29-2010, 12:56 AM
I've re-read this thread and I think I should clarify something. There seems to be general agreement that someone who cannot meet a standard, shouldn't pass a test. Where there is disagreement is the idea that one should require a certain commitment in order to qualify to even take that test.

Well, I should say here that I am not a believer in any kind of absolute standard for testing and rank. A student who starts when he or she is sixty simply isn't asked to perform the same way a twenty year old is. The physically stronger student isn't expected to perform the same as the smaller weaker student, especially at the beginning. The abuse victim has a whole different standard in my eyes than the student with long martial arts background. All sorts of issues come to play.

So, while the idea of meeting a standard is great, I know of no absolute standard that all students could be asked to meet and have the process make sense.

On the other hand, the one standard that everyone shares is time. Everyone has the same time. It's 24 hours. It's seven days a week. No one has more and no one has less. So, in asking for a set commitment, I believe I am being eminently fair.

You might have different physical capabilities, maybe more or less athletic talent, you might be male, you might be female. You might be young or you might be old. But asking for a minimum commitment of time from all the students is simply asking that they, at the minimum, place their Aikido training in some similar relative place of importance amongst their other concerns. If they choose not to give it that level of importance, then fine. That is the choice everyone makes.

Some folks will put their Aikido first, above all their other concerns. That's fine too. But everyone has the same "currency" to spend... their 24 hours each day. They spend it as they feel they must or as they wish. So "commitment" is something that can be made by anyone, any age, any sex, any ability, any experience. It is the one standard that can be applied fairly to just about everyone.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
10-29-2010, 03:36 AM
George Sensei,

thanks so much for the last couple of posts, that really clarified a lot that had been unclear to me as to what you think, and gave me a lot of stuff to ponder. It's great to see you writing more again!

Nicholas

Nicholas Eschenbruch
10-29-2010, 05:07 AM
So reading this thread, and after some talk on aikiweb about Malcolm Gladwell’s „Outliers“ and the 10 000 hours minimum requirement for becoming really good, I felt inspired to sit down and make an excel-based rough estimate: If i am honest with myself, where am I in regard to those 10 000 hours, and when did I do how much of my training? It was really interesting, and while it produced only a few real suprises, it underlined some points that I think are relevant to this thread.

So I find as, as a very passionate hobbyist who has been blessed with quite flexible working hours, good travel opportunites to seminars in driving range, a partner who does aikido, too, and an o.k. salary to base it all on, if I calculate realistically, I have been able to put about 4600 hours into 16 years so far, counting just aikido on the mat, and about 6000 hours if I include cross-training in other arts, body work and meditation relevant to aikido.

(These hours are rough estimates, in no way objective and absolute, so relations are stronger conclusions here than numbers!)

Random observations:

Glorification of past training hours: When asked casually, I would have maintained previously that there were about five years where I trained, in the dojo, five times a week on average. Well, looking at old diaries, that was in fact true for an ideal week back then, but considering all the „non-ideal“ weeks, travel, illness, work, injuries, holidays, etc., there were fewer ideal weeks than I would have thought in retrospect. So one tends to glorify past training intensity, I guess.

Place and intensity: Over all, 60% of my training was on the aikido mat in my home dojo, 20% on courses of some sort, 20% cross-training and supplementary training etc.. Especially in years where I trained a lot, the bulk of the training, that which made the difference in terms of hours, was on the mat in my home dojo. I trained most hours in the years before and after my shodan, and, just counting hours, I have also passed George Sensei’s three times a week criterion any year after my 3rd kyu – often by a lot, sometimes just about. So steady traing in my home dojo was the crucial factor for my over-all hours.

Seminars & events: Even when I went to many seminars, they did not make such a difference in terms of hours, really, unless there was a huge lot of them in one year. And though I went to a lot of summer schools, they hardly matter in terms of hours, either. It’s funny to see, however, that in one month as uchideshi I once did, I trained a lot more than in my whole one-training-a-week first year of aikido. So outside events only seem to matter here when the intensity of the outside event is that of an uchideshi period, or a sesshin for that matter. See below, "money"...

Years for grade: I put in most hours on the aikido mat for shodan, three quarters of that number for nidan and sandan each. Considering that I did not know my left hand from my right when I started, which got better with time, that sort of makes sense as a linear development. Also, the cross-training and supplementary training really got started after nidan with almost 1000 additional hours until sandan. My federation does not count all that, but it was interesting to see.

Money: I will not put sums on the internet, but I was absolutely stunned to find that I probably spent double of what I thought I had on my training – and my initial guess had not been a low figure. Wow. Courses were about 60% of that sum. Some supplementary training (body work etc.) was also really expensive. Considering that I learned some very important stuff on body and mind, with immediate relevance to aikido, on intensive meditation retreats, they turned out to be quite cheap when calculated per hour.

All this, and here we come back to some of George’s points, stresses the importance of (a) the best teacher you can find for the daily training (b) a dojo that offers a lot of training opportunities per week.

In addition, after a certain point, seminars only seem to make sense when they really provide A LOT of new insight and inspiration. I feel vindicated in my recent tendency not to go to seminars that only go through kihon type technical training, even when they are done by some famous teacher.

The future: To be clear, I dont do aikido for fantasies of mastery nowadays, but still I want to give it the very best I can and aim high. So in terms of the 10 000 hours one could come to quite bleak conclusions: if my body gets less resilient and needs more regeneration, which it has started to do, and my professional obligations get more, which they are likely to, how am I going to do the remaining 4000? Which, again, are arguably just the minimum. Not even mentioning possibilities like kids, dependent senior family members, serious injury or illness, etc... I could easily be 60 to even reach the 10 000 hours threshold – which is fine for me personally, but in terms of transmission of the art, there would then maybe just be ten years in which I would have full potential as a teacher.

So if you are younger, I guess I do recommend the couple of places that have intensive and yet personal and humane uchideshi programs, like Kayla Sensei’s which was mentioned. I only got to know about them at 35.

Much food for thought – I recommend the exercise, retrospective or prospective! Excel is juts a blast for maths averse people like me...

Greg Jennings
10-29-2010, 07:06 AM
I'll go out on a limb here -

Anyone that puts aikido first in their life is either a professional instructor with no family, or they have their priorities askew.

FWIW,

Rabih Shanshiry
10-29-2010, 07:39 AM
I can pretty much guarantee that someone training two days a week at the dojo and doing all sorts of solo training at home, will only be marginally, if at all better at his paired practice than the person who just trains twice a week and watches TV at home.

For someone familiar with the amount of solo training that developing internal skills requires, I am really surprised by this statement.

Developing an aiki body aside, I firmly believe that time spent on general cardio training, practicing solo footwork/movements, visualization, and even studying books or videos can have a measurable impact on one's aikido.

Is it a substitue for paired pratice, especially under the supervision of an instructor? Clearly not. But it has to be far and away better than spending the equivalent time watching TV.

Rabih Shanshiry
10-29-2010, 07:52 AM
Well, I should say here that I am not a believer in any kind of absolute standard for testing and rank. A student who starts when he or she is sixty simply isn't asked to perform the same way a twenty year old is.... On the other hand, the one standard that everyone shares is time. Everyone has the same time. It's 24 hours. It's seven days a week. No one has more and no one has less. So, in asking for a set commitment, I believe I am being eminently fair.

Without any absolute standards for testing, you are back to simply another form of rank for time served. Only difference is that it is based on frequency of training rather than duration.

Certainly, not everyone is capable of attaining the same level of skill due to a number of factors but why make allowances for that when it comes to testing and rank? Isn't that the problem that got us into this mess in the first place?

I think ultimately the answer is a business one. Without rank progression, the average student loses a significant motivator to keep them in the dojo and paying dues. Testing fees dont hurt either.

MM
10-29-2010, 08:44 AM
George,
It would be great to have this conversation in person. The internet is never great for communication.


So, yes, Kisshomaru and Tohei, Arikawa, and Osawa, and later Yamaguchi were the folks that taught frequently. Kuroiwa Sensei was important as well. Each one had trained with the Founder extensively. I mean, if O-Sensei didn't really teach in Tokyo much after the war. And the Tokyo guys didn't train much in Iwama, as Saito would maintain, then where did a generation of post war instructors come from? They didn't spontaneously generate.

There are teachers I learned from who changed my Aikido entirely. Yet, if one did an analysis like the one you did, you'd see that I had a total of a few hours of exposure to them over all. Yet the things they showed me or told me were so central to foundational principles that two classes with them changed my Aikido entirely. O-Sensei was a catalyst more than a teacher. He had worked out the basic form of post war Aikido with Saito in Iwama. Somehow that magically got passed on to a generation of teachers in Tokyo who supposedly didn't have much exposure to the Founder. Not sure how this happened but if you look at what everyone was doing, there was a generally agreed upon set of movements and techniques that constituted modern Aikido.


If we look at several accounts of what the deshi did, we find that there were 4 training sessions a day. The only training session that Morihei Ueshiba taught was the early morning one. When we look at how often Morihei Ueshiba actually taught, we find that it was not often. Until at least the early 1950s, he was mostly in Iwama and even there he didn't teach often.

When he did show up to teach in Tokyo, he either spent most of the time talking about stuff that no one understood or he was interrupted by guests or he would just pop in to show/demonstrate something and then disappear. We know from his students that he traveled. There are numerous interviews about that.

If we look at just how the training was usually set up, we can read and watch the videos to see that Ueshiba typically demonstrated with one uke and then the class practiced with each other. In fact, one interview with Tamura Sensei states it took one to two years to "distinguish techniques a little."

Overall, the actual hands on training time with Morihei Ueshiba, whether Tokyo, Iwama, post-war, or pre-war was very little. The statements made, and repeated, that the deshi trained extensively with the founder is not true. It wasn't extensive. Nothing I've found has yet to support that. Everything, so far, actually supports the opposite. That they had very little direct, hands on training with Morihei Ueshiba.

That isn't to say that there was no training or that these students didn't learn anything from the founder. Nor is it saying that the students of Morihei Ueshiba were lacking in any way. If anything, I think they were exemplary in their quest to learn aiki from the founder. They had hands on time with him as an uke so they felt (IHTBF) the power, the softness, the electric, the ghostiness of the founder and it was phenomenally different than anything else in the martial arts world. There was no lack of enthusiasm or trying on the parts of those students. Heck, just look at some of the interviews on what they had to do, for example clean the toilets. This in post war Japan. Not something commonly done at that time period.

Which brings up your very good question, if the founder wasn't really teaching, then who was? "Where did a generation of post war instructors come from"?

I look at Kisshomaru's words …

Aiki News Issue 056

"The dojo was entrusted to me around 1942. That is because my father left for Ibaraki with the rest of the family."

"After the war, I began to practice seriously because I thought it was my duty."

"I have come to hold the belief that the most important task for Aikido since the war has been to conform our way of thinking, teaching and philosophy to the trends of the time. It was around 1937 or 1938 that I began to practice Aikido seriously. I had already learned techniques by then. One can learn techniques in two or three years."

"I started practicing seriously in 1949."

One can learn techniques in two or three years? From Doshu, no less. He started practicing seriously in 1949, which means he was trained in techniques enough by the early 1950s to teach the new students.

Then we look at this:

Aiki News Issue 060
Editor: When you began practicing Aikido [around 1951], was O-Sensei living in Tokyo?
Nishio Sensei: No. He rarely came down from Iwama. It was half a year after I joined the dojo that I saw his face for the first time. Until then, I only knew about him by hearsay.

Editor: When you entered the dojo, there weren't many students, were there?
Nishio Sensei: No, there were only a total of seven or eight. Some days no one was there and I swung the sword by myself and went home. The present Doshu and Mr. Tohei were the teachers. Everybody was at about the same level.

Kisshomaru and Tohei were the primary teachers.

Backed up by this:

Aiki News Issue 066
Aiki News: Who was teaching at that time? [1953 or 54]
Tamura Sensei: Since the present Doshu was head of the dojo then, he usually taught classes. We used to call him "Wakasensei" (young sensei) in those days. Of course, we called Morihei Sensei, O-Sensei. At that time, these two were the only instructors at Hombu dojo so I thought they were the only teachers of Aikido.

Aiki News: Did O-Sensei come to the dojo every day?
Tamura Sensei: As I said earlier, since his house was attached to the dojo, he would pop in when the present Doshu was teaching and show 2 or 3 techniques and then disappear like the wind. He sometimes taught the entire class but on occasion he would talk for more than half of the practice time.

Which is confirmed by Black Belt 1966 Vol 4 No 5:

If the uchideshi isn't helping out at this time, he may have a private class of his own with Tohei or Waka sensei or some of the other instructors.

And then we find out from Black Belt 1968 Vol 6 No 5, that because of the shortage of instructors, Kisshomaru has a battery of promotion examinations.


And Kisshomaru and Tohei didn't change things as much as everyone says.


That's a very serious topic for another time. I don't think the aikido world is ready for it. The very short answer, IMO, is that the change was actually much greater than everyone thinks. That isn't to say it was necessarily a bad, or wrong, change.


There is no question that, at some point, much of the internal power solo work dropped out of post war Aikido. Some teachers, like Shirata never dropped it out. I was told by one of his students that EVERY class had a portion devoted to these exercises. I think the deshi, when with the Founder, did everything he did. From what Saotome Sensei has said I have been lead to conclude that much of what Sensei has in terms of internal structure he developed doing some of these exercises but was perhaps unaware of it. O-Sensei didn't explain it certainly. So, at 135 pounds Sensei can drop me where I stand effortlessly and, even in my much reduced state, I still have 100 pounds on him. That cane from somewhere but it was never presented to us in any systematic form nor was there explanation of why these exercises existed or that they should be done daily to develop the body for internal power.

Anyway, I can and do go on and on about this... so I will conclude by saying that , the fundamental assumption in these discussions is that post war Aikido wasn't as good as pre-war and that it was all the fault of changes made by Kisshomaryu and Tohei.


No, I don't think that. Post war actually had some of the very same problems pre-war did in regards to Ueshiba and teaching. I also think Ueshiba changed after the war and that change was amplified by his son. But, at one level, yes, Kisshomaru and Tohei did create changes that directly led to Modern Aikido. As I said above, that isn't to say they were necessarily bad, or wrong, changes.


Well, my take on this is quite different. I believe that post war Aikido became much more the practice that O-Sensei intended it to be as a transformative, personal practice. I see no evidence whatever that it bothered O-Sensei that it was less effective from a fighting standpoint. He virtually NEVER talked about that. To the extent that he was dissatisfied, I am convinced it was because the folks training kept focusing on physical technique and he wanted them to understand how technique was merely an expression of large, much deeper spiritual principles.

In a way, I think you're right. There is an interview where he is quoted as stating that he was a martial artist and not a religious person. That if he had decided to go into the religious field, he would have done great, but he didn't. His was a budo. While spirituality intertwined with his martial effectiveness, it can be seen that when he was lecturing on spiritual matters, he was also directly trying to inform people of the martial effectiveness. As seen in things like this:

Black Belt 1984 Vol 22 No 10
Article by Gaku Homma
Regarding Ueshiba …

In the dojo, after greeting a few students, he would lecture on the essence of aikido in Omotokyo teachings, which few students could understand completely. After a short, puzzling moment, he would continue by saying, "What I meant was …" or "For example …" In one class, he called the instructor to the front and placed the teacher's hands on his hip, commanding the man to push him over. "My body is joined with the universe and nobody can move me," the founder said. The young instructor tried to push him but couldn't.

And there's an interview where he states ai is love. There are interviews where students say his post war was more circular and flowing. Where his post war view of aikido as a spiritual endeavor wasn't all that changed from his pre-war attitude.

So, did it bother him in regards to how effective his aikido was at fighting? I agree with you that it didn't. It was self victory where there was no opponent ... using aiki principles.

Then again, I leave you with quotes from Mochizuki Sensei (bold is my addition):

Black Belt 1980 Vol 18 No 4
Article by David Orange Jr about Mochizuki.

Mochizuki remembers the younger Morihei Uyeshiba and his teaching ways much differently than most modern aikido practitioners who only saw the older man. "Uyeshiba was thinking, as he got older, how to make aikido simpler so people could take it as an exercise." But Mochizuki warns, "Uyeshiba's way of aikido is quite okay for Uyeshiba, but in our case, we are common humans, and nobody will get his power by aping him."


I do not think there is a single shred of evidence, and quite a bit to the contrary, that O-Sensei's oft quoted "no one is doing my Aikido" had anything whatever to do with the lack of internal power training in post war Aikido. Rather it was the focus on technique to the exclusion of the spiritual that bothered him.

Anyway, thanks for the input. It's always interesting to see how folks can look at exactly the same information and draw different conclusions.

I think this is another topic best left for another day. :) Too much information overload at this point.

And it's nice to have a discussion where we can agree, disagree, and read other opinions in a constructive manner. My thanks for that.

Mark

RED
10-29-2010, 10:28 AM
I think you may be overlooking the counter-argument that has been persisting in this thread. There is no denying that students should not be passed if they do not have the technical skills. However, utilizing your analogy, if I were to take that same class for for 12 years wouldn't I have developed the knowledge required to pass that class?

Is a person training twice a week for ten years going to be unable to attain the skill level of a person training three times a week for six years? I don't buy it. Yes, I agree that going once a week will make it harder for a student to remember what they've learned a present a major obstacle for most. However, I cannot accept that a focused and dedicated person attending classes twice a week would not be able to attain the same skill level as they would if training three or even four times a week. It would simply take them more "years" to put in the same hours to get there.

I am certainly not denying that going two times a week may not be enough for some students to make consistent progress. However, training four days a week may not be enough for someone else. Unless we are talking about a big gap between training sessions, I think it comes down to the individual. :)

I'm not sure personally. I've never heard a student with that lack of commitment last more than 2 years.

The attitude is what I dislike at least. Say a guy had a girl friend and he wined her and dined her every day. Then a buddy comes over and says "You don't have to do that, I bought her a pack of gum and cheeseburger twice a week, and she totally puts out!" I sort of feel like the boyfriend in this situation. Some times people say things that make me feel like you're calling my girl easy! Like she isn't important enough to commit to.
If I don't believe my girl Aikido to be "easy", thus it annoys me if I hear people say that they only need to commit 2 or 1 days a week to get her to "put out". In other words they think they can get good with a limited level of commitment.
You might get your hours in in 12 years, but are you at the same level as some one who can commit a great amount of time to Aikido?

As a woman, we call the man that commits everyday a husband, we call the guy who can give his time twice a week the pool boy. lol

Nicholas Eschenbruch
10-29-2010, 10:35 AM
I'm not sure personally. I've never heard a student with that lack of commitment last more than 2 years.

.

I have friends with that type of committment who have outlasted many burning enthusiasts, one has trained like that for many years, because of family, work and a long drive to training, and I admire him for that. Another one has had three kids and I admire her even more.

So unless you have been there yourself for a long time, I think it's risky to say others "lack" committment.

By that I dont mean to say one gets far with once a week, but if that is their committment, it covers the ground they stand on. I have learned not to judge committment until a person has been around for at least ten years. Probably more would make sense.

RED
10-29-2010, 10:51 AM
I have friends with that type of committment who have outlasted many burning enthusiasts, one has trained like that for many years, because of family, work and a long drive to training, and I admire him for that. Another one has had three kids and I admire her even more.

So unless you have been there yourself for a long time, I think it's risky to say others "lack" committment.

By that I dont mean to say one gets far with once a week, but if that is their committment, it covers the ground they stand on. I have learned not to judge committment until a person has been around for at least ten years. Probably more would make sense.

It is a lack of commitment. It is a hobby to them. You say the hobbyist should be on the same level as the uchi deshi?
The uchi deshi obviously has more commitment to it than the hobbyist.
The guy who gives 12 hours a week commits more than the guy who gives 2 hours. It is a lacking of commitment.

There is nothing wrong with training 2 hours a week steadily. Just don't confuse it as the same as a guy who devotes many many hours. Aikido means some thing different to these people. It is in a different place in their life.

Greg Jennings
10-29-2010, 10:58 AM
A lot of this is covered by something my instructor told me early on "Shut up and train".

I believe Jun quoted Ikeda Sensei, apologies if it get it wrong, "Less talk, more train".

MM
10-29-2010, 11:31 AM
A lot of this is covered by something my instructor told me early on "Shut up and train".

I believe Jun quoted Ikeda Sensei, apologies if it get it wrong, "Less talk, more train".

You have entered a discussion where there are multiple layers of nuance. I would take a moment to reread the thread for a better understanding of what is really going on. You words above seem more an insult than anything. I'm sure they weren't meant that way.

For instance, if Shioda and Tomiki took about 5 years to get really good at aikido, then why is it that 40+ years of training hasn't created more like them? So, the adage of "shut up and train" can be construed to just be a mindless sheep listening and learning from teachers who have yet to attain any appreciable level (compared to the Aikido Greats). "Eat more rice", "it's a 20 year technique", etc.

One of the nuances being discussed here is the Modern Aikido vs aiki approach. Another nuance is, as George stated in his post #71, is directed towards teachers. Another is historical.

"Shut up and train" is not, IMO, very constructive in regards to this thread. I'm sure you have some very good actual content that you could post and it would be refreshing to read it.

Demetrio Cereijo
10-29-2010, 11:33 AM
Define the standards. The ones delivering the goods got promoted. With clear standards this kind of issues don't happen

lbb
10-29-2010, 11:59 AM
It is a lack of commitment.

Because you said so?

Again you are setting yourself up as the arbiter of standards, not to mention a mind-reader. You claim to know both what the standard of "commitment" is and also what is present in another person's mind. Surely you see that this is simply projecting your own attitudes, beliefs and experiences onto others.

lbb
10-29-2010, 12:05 PM
You might have different physical capabilities, maybe more or less athletic talent, you might be male, you might be female. You might be young or you might be old. But asking for a minimum commitment of time from all the students is simply asking that they, at the minimum, place their Aikido training in some similar relative place of importance amongst their other concerns. If they choose not to give it that level of importance, then fine. That is the choice everyone makes.
It isn't always a choice. There are people whose bodies will simply not let them train two days in a row. I'm one of these people, temporarily I hope, but for others it's a permanent fact of life.

If you wish to say that without a certain frequency of training, one will never achieve mastery, I wouldn't disagree -- you'd know much more about that than I would. What I dislike is the repeated use of the term "commitment", a word that encompasses both attitude and action, as if it were a matter of simple volition. This is only true for those who are able-bodied and unencumbered with responsibility.

RED
10-29-2010, 12:08 PM
Because you said so?

Again you are setting yourself up as the arbiter of standards, not to mention a mind-reader. You claim to know both what the standard of "commitment" is and also what is present in another person's mind. Surely you see that this is simply projecting your own attitudes, beliefs and experiences onto others.

Is some one who trains 2 hours a week committing as much time as some one who devotes 8-12-24 hours a week?

There's nothing wrong with committing 2 hours a week, it's people's need for validation I think that leads them to wanting their 2 hours a week to be considered as serious as some one who devotes the better part of their life to the art.

2 hours a week, it is a fun recreation for you. Nothing wrong with that.

patf
10-29-2010, 12:17 PM
Is some one who trains 2 hours a week committing as much time as some one who devotes 8-12-24 hours a week?

There's nothing wrong with committing 2 hours a week, it's people's need for validation I think that leads them to wanting their 2 hours a week to be considered as serious as some one who devotes the better part of their life to the art.

2 hours a week, it is a fun recreation for you. Nothing wrong with that.

When I visit my homeland every summer, I visit the local Dojo and train there. The sensei is 2nd Dan and IMO an excellent teacher. Most of his Aikido training to achieve dan grade involved a 2hr drive, each way, to get from his home to the nearest dojo, for a couple of hours training, once or twice a week.
That's commitment.

Rabih Shanshiry
10-29-2010, 12:38 PM
Maggie,

All your talk about commitment and sacrifice is really coming off wrong.

I'm sorry but getting to roll around in your pajamas 5x/week when you are a healthy, unemployed college student with no children and the finances to support that lifestyle does not make you any more passionate about or committed to aikido than someone who's life circumstances do not allow that frequency of training.

If you're still doing what you're doing after having a couple kids, struggling with medical issues, and working a full-time job, I'll be all ears.

RED
10-29-2010, 01:04 PM
Maggie,

All your talk about commitment and sacrifice is really coming off wrong.

I'm sorry but getting to roll around in your pajamas 5x/week when you are a healthy, unemployed college student with no children and the finances to support that lifestyle does not make you any more passionate about or committed to aikido than someone who's life circumstances do not allow that frequency of training.

If you're still doing what you're doing after having a couple kids, struggling with medical issues, and working a full-time job, I'll be all ears.

That's unfair. Who told you anything about me?

I'm married, am a full time student, employed, with 3 cracked discs in my back.
I've worked my life's circumstances around to do what I prioritized as important...like we all do.

I've quit a job that I felt was putting to much strain on my body because it was taking me out of training. It is just because I prioritized one thing above the other.
All about priorities. I value my savings account more than spending money... so it isn't financial security, it is a series of wise finical decisions....again prioritizing.
People make too many excuses. If some thing is important to you, you work it in!


If something is important to you, hell fire can not stop you.
Many people, especially of my generation lack a sense of personal responsibility. Your success in anything is your own doing. If you want something, nothing is an obstacle to stop you.

There's nothing wrong if things in your life take priority over Aikido, just be honest that they do. There's nothing wrong with that. and there's nothing wrong if I prioritize training over other things. We all do it, we just need to be honest with what Aikido is on our lives.

Demetrio Cereijo
10-29-2010, 01:18 PM
Is some one who trains 2 hours a week committing as much time as some one who devotes 8-12-24 hours a week?

Of course not but, does he/she meets the standards?

lbb
10-29-2010, 02:30 PM
Is some one who trains 2 hours a week committing as much time as some one who devotes 8-12-24 hours a week?

Of course not. But note that "committing as much time" has a very different connotation than "have as much commitment".

There's nothing wrong with committing 2 hours a week, it's people's need for validation I think that leads them to wanting their 2 hours a week to be considered as serious as some one who devotes the better part of their life to the art.

This strikes me as a strawman argument. I can't think of anything said in this thread (or elsewhere, for this matter) in which anyone considered two hours of training a week to be equivalent as "the better part of [your] life". However, you're taking another sharp tack into the realm of subjectivity when you judge them based on their "serious"ness. Apples are not oranges.

2 hours a week, it is a fun recreation for you.

It really isn't for you to say what others' training is or isn't.

If something is important to you, hell fire can not stop you.

"hell fire"? So, you've died and been to hell and can tell us what "hell fire" is like?

Hyperbole may convince some. On me it has the opposite effect.

Mary Eastland
10-29-2010, 02:46 PM
I have noticed that people who train 2 times a week tend to stay longer than people who train 4 times a week right away. People who burn bright usually seem to burn fast, in my experience.

Richard Stevens
10-29-2010, 02:53 PM
There's nothing wrong if things in your life take priority over Aikido, just be honest that they do. There's nothing wrong with that. and there's nothing wrong if I prioritize training over other things. We all do it, we just need to be honest with what Aikido is on our lives.

From what I'm gathering from what you've posted your position is that a person who trains only twice a week is less committed to Aikido than the person who trains three times a week? Even if, hypothetically, that person has a family that comes first and the other person has no outside commitments?

Have you considered the possibility that for some people training two days a week is far more difficult than it may be for another to train four or even five days a week? Doesn't that show greater commitment on their part?

Janet Rosen
10-29-2010, 02:54 PM
I'm not sure personally. I've never heard a student with that lack of commitment last more than 2 years.

{raises hand} almost 15 years now.
For the first two years, twice a week because that's all that was offered at that dojo.
For the next couple of years, sometimes three times a week but mostly twice a week due to other, pre-existing life committments.
Then mostly 3 times a week for some years.
After injuries/surgery/rehab, mostly 2 times a week.
Now, getting myself back into better shape, alternating twice a week with three times a week.
Got news for ya, kiddo, there's a lot of us out there; we are older, we have other family members and obligations in life but we treasure every moment we can train, and your yardstick and your poolboy metaphors are pathetic.

RED
10-29-2010, 03:06 PM
From what I'm gathering from what you've posted your position is that a person who trains only twice a week is less committed to Aikido than the person who trains three times a week? Even if, hypothetically, that person has a family that comes first and the other person has no outside commitments?

Have you considered the possibility that for some people training two days a week is far more difficult than it may be for another to train four or even five days a week? Doesn't that show greater commitment on their part?

If you have a family and that family is of a higher priority then fine. I'm talking about prioritizing your life.
If Aikido is a higher priority to you then you will prioritize more time for it. However, I'm complaining about the attitude I'm finding where people seem to think they can get amazing at Aikido with little commitment. If all you can commit is two days a week, don't kid yourself by coming off like Aikido is your life...which I've seen many people do. If you can only commit 2 days because of family obligations, then your family is your life. Just be honest about it.

RED
10-29-2010, 03:10 PM
"hell fire"? So, you've died and been to hell and can tell us what "hell fire" is like?

Hyperbole may convince some. On me it has the opposite effect.

I think the point of the analogy was lost. People will be willing to move their life around and over come great obstacles in accordance to how important a given thing is to them.
I've known many children who can never seem to find time to finish their homework, despite spending hours on video games a day. The video game is of a higher priority to the child. We find time for the things we enjoy and fulfill us. People move mountains to accomplish what they value.

Shadowfax
10-29-2010, 03:27 PM
One of my past managers had a saying that I think could apply...

"The weeds will weed themselves out."

Personally I don't have time to worry about whether someone else's training is enough or not and I'm hardly going to waste my time worrying about them. If they show up cool I get to play with another body. If they don't, oh well, I still have at least sensei to play with....

And if someone is busy worrying about whether the time I put into my training is enough or not I have to wonder if they really need to adjust their own focus. That is between me and my teachers. If they are satisfied then I have nothing to worry about.

Mr Ledyard thank you for your recent couple of posts. They have helped clarify a few things that I was having trouble with in your earlier posts.

George S. Ledyard
10-29-2010, 04:19 PM
I'll go out on a limb here -

Anyone that puts aikido first in their life is either a professional instructor with no family, or they have their priorities askew.

FWIW,

Yup! That would certainly be the general consensus... askew pretty much sums it up.

Ryan Seznee
10-29-2010, 05:11 PM
{raises hand} almost 15 years now.
For the first two years, twice a week because that's all that was offered at that dojo.
For the next couple of years, sometimes three times a week but mostly twice a week due to other, pre-existing life committments.
Then mostly 3 times a week for some years.
After injuries/surgery/rehab, mostly 2 times a week.
Now, getting myself back into better shape, alternating twice a week with three times a week.
Got news for ya, kiddo, there's a lot of us out there; we are older, we have other family members and obligations in life but we treasure every moment we can train, and your yardstick and your poolboy metaphors are pathetic.

No, I think her comparison is pretty accurate. If you love something, you show it by spending time doing it. Whether you are physically able to do it or not is a separate issue. If a paraplegic (someone who is completely unable to train at all) who had never trained said that Aikido was their life... who would believe them? Some people are too old, sick, injured, or disabled to train regularly, but they are not on the same level of an aikidoka who trains 40 hours a week just because they have an excuse.

Your argument is the same line of logic that for a, "I'm as good as a doctor because I like to help people. I just can't put devote any time to medical school like all the other doctors."

Brian Gillaspie
10-29-2010, 05:30 PM
I'm not sure how much someone has to train to be good at aikido....and I really don't even know what being good at aikido means.

Being a father and a husband, I find it disappointing that some people think that aikido (or any number of other activities) takes priority over family. I had a family before I started aikido and I provide for them financially so quitting my job is not an option and neither is ignoring them 5 nights a week so I can train. Believe me, I wish I could train 8 hours a day but some day when my life is about to end I would much rather be remembered as a great father instead of a great aikidoka....and hopefully I can find a way to be remembered as both.

George S. Ledyard
10-29-2010, 05:30 PM
I have noticed that people who train 2 times a week tend to stay longer than people who train 4 times a week right away. People who burn bright usually seem to burn fast, in my experience.

Not surprising... it takes more effort to do the four than the two. The question is, is there some inherent benefit in making the commitment that doesn't necessarily result in higher level skill, over deciding that what it takes to be good is too much and using ones time elsewhere? I am not saying that I have the answer to this... I know how I feel about it for myself, but then my priorities are askew...

Maybe, it really is the purpose of all the hobbyists to provide the support for the dojos and the hard core students out there and that is their function... I have resisted thinking that way over the years although I have had a number of folks express it that way to me. It is still my belief that EVERYONE is capable of doing his or her Aikido with "aiki". That each person training is quite capable of doing what teachers like Endo Sensei, Saotome Sensei, and Ikeda Sensei are doing. It isn't hard to do. It does require a certain amount of reprogramming and that takes a critical amount of time committed to accomplish as well as better training methodology than we have generally had. Anyone can do it, but it takes the aforementioned 10,000 hours of hard training to make it your "default setting".

I don't want to buy into the notion that most of my students, all these folks that attend the seminars I teach, the people who buy my videos, are all just there to support me in my getting better. I have been told by Japanese Shihan that my job is to up the mountain as high as I can... and to show my students what I am doing. There was no sense at all that I would be concerned whether about whether they could follow the path I had blazed. That is their problem not mine.

I have chosen not to buy in to that. I think it is a distinctly Japanese viewpoint, and lucky for my students, oh! I am not Japanese. I care whether people get it. I really want people to succeed and get good at the art. In doing so, the real "goodies" start to be revealed. It just gets more and more fascinating. But folks insist on telling themselves that they will get the goodies making a commitment that will not allow that to happen. When I state my view on what it takes, people tell me that they can get what they want on less.

As a teacher, I REALLY want people to get it. But think what it is like to stand up in front being asked to pass on what one knows to a group of folks that you know, right then and there, won't train enough to ever get it, no matter how good your instruction. Do you have any idea how hard it is to not get jaded, to stop caring about all practitioners and just put my effort into the folks that have a chance of getting what I am teaching. I make a simple statement about what I think it takes to be good at this art. Then folks turn around and tell me why they cannot will not, or don't actually need to do that. What is one supposed to do with that? I could say, you're right.. I was too hard, too judgmental, too demanding.. You really can get good at this art while putting family, career, etc ahead of it.

EVERYTHING I have read by by O-Sensei, Kisshomaru, any of the other senior Aikido people talks about daily training. Not to be a Shihan, not to be a teacher, but just to really do Aikido. At Hombu Dojo there is an entire group of folks who have been doing Aikido every morning for decades. They do the Dohu's class each am before work. These guys have killer jobs, I'm sure most have families, although that doesn't mean the same thing there as here. But Aikido is simply built into their lives.

I'm not even talking about that... I said THREE times a week, out of the seven available, is what it takes to be good at this. I didn't even talk about daily training or five nights a week... And folks are going to debate that with me. It doesn't matter as long as everyone understands that you really need more practice to be competent. If you don't care if you are competent, then fine. If you don't care if you get your black belt or ever teach class, great. But that isn't what happens...

What happens is the when the majority of folks see two times a week as enough, pretty soon the standard for getting a black belt is dumbed down to allow them to succeed. Eventually, by virtue of hanging in there with that twice a week for a long time, they'll get promoted again and again. They'll end up teaching, for sure. When the yudansha-kai are made up primarily of folks who believe that they represent the proper standard for the rank they have, which I assume most folks would, otherwise you should give your belt back, then in no time at all, people don't even remember what the standard used to be. That the standard used to be much higher. It used to be much harder to get that rank. Give this twenty years and you'll have these folks running dojos. They will be responsible for the training of other students of Aikido but simply will not be able to take them to any level higher than mediocrity because they have never excelled themselves.

Looking around, could anyone honesty maintain that what you see of the community of dojo cho represents a group of people who have excelled at the art? Someone earlier asked how these folks got promoted and ended up in these positions? Well, it started way, way back when they first took their kyu tests and weren't held to a high enough standard then. With each promotion it gets harder to hold them back, to tell someone he is substandard. It's like work where you have had nothing but good reviews and then they fire you. How do you tell a person that is a San Dan that they are pretty bad? That should have been taken care of years ago. Maybe they would have quit, or maybe they would have changed their training. But you wouldn't have a San Dan who sucks.

But that doesn't happen any where near enough. Typically the student tells the teacher that he can only commit two times a week to his Aikido. The teacher says ok. Then, since the teacher will not simply state that twice isn't enough, he or she will let this person rise up the ranks anyway. By San Dan, they'll look just like someone who has done Aikido twice a week for twenty years.

So, I let people know right up front. If you want to get rank, to move up towards getting a Shodan from me, to progress at all beyond 3rd kyu, you have to train, not every day, not an amount that calls for ending your career or neglecting your family but three nights a week or two nights and something on the weekend when we run all our events. It's fine if they don't want to do that. I give them the same effort as everyone else gets when they show up. I give them every bit the same instruction that rare five or six day a week person gets. But I have a standard for what I think constitutes a black belt. I am not dropping that standard. And I have yet to see anyone who could meet that standard training twice a week. So folks can make their choices.

I have a very small dojo, in part because of this. It would be great to have a lot of students but it is more important to me that the students I have get a chance to be great themselves. They won't get that if I am lying to them about what is required or telling them all training is ok. It's not.

Aikido may be a modern martial art but what makes it a great art, and a traditional art despite its youth, is that it is a vehicle for "old wisdom". There is stuff going on in this art that it took thousands of years of practice for people to develop and pass on to each generation. This "old knowledge" is like an endangered species. It can only survive in the proper environment. That environment is provided when people really take their practice seriously. That they accept the responsibility of being part of the survival of this art. When too many people put everything in their lives ahead of Aikido, the environment gets degraded and this old knowledge is lost because this is not hobbyist knowledge, it is deep knowledge. It will not be rediscovered once it is lost, any more than an an animal that goes extinct will reappear out of thin air. When its gone, its gone.

patf
10-29-2010, 06:30 PM
I have the solution :-).

Eliminate Black belts and replace with Merit badges that you sew on your gi. Just like the scouts. One badge for ikkyo, one for nikyo, one for sankyo, etc, one for each weapons kata and so on. Aikidoka collect them based on a single examination for each technique. A person who trains 2 days a week may focus on only a subset of techniques and gain his "black" merit badges in the same time as the 3 day a week person gets his "expanded curriculum" badge set.

Eventually the 2-dayer will accumulate the same number of badges as the 3-dayer. That way you truly judge each student on his ability to perform specific techniques.

It would make for a colorful dojo!

Janet Rosen
10-29-2010, 09:09 PM
No, I think her comparison is pretty accurate....Your argument is the same line of logic that for a, "I'm as good as a doctor because I like to help people. I just can't put devote any time to medical school like all the other doctors."

I would say that both of you are making a logical fallacy, equating loving the art or feeling committed to it to claiming "my aikido is as good as your's." I never said the latter. I have said up front that I am not a professional aikidoka. But as Mary has pointed out, neither of you are in a position to second guess our hearts, our motives, or, yeah, or level of committment to the art.

Brian Gillaspie
10-29-2010, 09:27 PM
I have to agree that you can't judge someone's commitment based only on the number of days of class they attend a week.

Another thing to keep in mind, at least in my opinion, is that some people just learn and progress faster than others. Take two people that both train 3 days a week and their level of aikido will probably not be equal a couple years down the road. It may not be the norm but I know some people who only train 2 days a week that have progressed quicker than people who trained more often.

So I train as much as I can and enjoy it without worrying about how much someone else may be training. Just remember there is always someone in the world who is training more than you are...unless you truly are the person who trains more then everyone else.

Rob Watson
10-29-2010, 10:20 PM
I recall Shibata Ichiro taking rank away from folks (not to mention the MANY failed tests). I guess they didn't continue to measure up so he dinged them. Not at all like merit badges that are collected but ongoing evaluation and rank according to now with minimal regard for history.

If more did that (taking rank away) then I think things would be considerably different. Think of all the professional groups that have annual, semi or biannual re-certification requirements. If one does not measure up then the door is shown.

Janet Rosen
10-29-2010, 10:51 PM
I recall Shibata Ichiro taking rank away from folks (not to mention the MANY failed tests). I guess they didn't continue to measure up so he dinged them. Not at all like merit badges that are collected but ongoing evaluation and rank according to now with minimal regard for history.

If more did that (taking rank away) then I think things would be considerably different. Think of all the professional groups that have annual, semi or biannual re-certification requirements. If one does not measure up then the door is shown.

I was present at a USAF-WR Camp many yrs ago and watched someone fail his recert as shidoin. It happens.

patf
10-29-2010, 11:45 PM
I recall Shibata Ichiro taking rank away from folks (not to mention the MANY failed tests). I guess they didn't continue to measure up so he dinged them. Not at all like merit badges that are collected but ongoing evaluation and rank according to now with minimal regard for history.

If more did that (taking rank away) then I think things would be considerably different. Think of all the professional groups that have annual, semi or biannual re-certification requirements. If one does not measure up then the door is shown.

That's (subtly) what I was hinting at. So much emphasis is put on Shodan, as if magically one becomes "enlightened" after reaching this coveted grade.
Does the student who trained 4 days a week to reach shodan, only to drop back to 1-2 times a week after shodan, really deserve to keep the shodan title? Where as the person who diligently and continuously trains 2 times every week, those 2 times potentially representing a tremendous commitment of time away from career/family, does not even qualify for shodan consideration?

Carsten Möllering
10-30-2010, 01:42 AM
I'm aware that this may sound strange or wrong or hard or ...
... but

I had a family before I started aikido and I provide for them financially so quitting my job is not an option and neither is ignoring them 5 nights a week so I can train.
This is not just set.
It is a decision you make.

Believe me, I wish I could train 8 hours a dayIf you want to, you can. You decide how to live your life

but some day when my life is about to end I would much rather be remembered as a great father instead of a great aikidoka.This too is your decision.

Some do.
Some don't.

Carsten Möllering
10-30-2010, 02:32 AM
If you're still doing what you're doing after having a couple kids, struggling with medical issues, and working a full-time job, I'll be all ears.
I don't know Maggie.
But I know a whole lot of students of aikido living aikido exactly the way you describe.
The people I know who commit their life to aikido have familiy, often make their living from a "normal" fulltime job, have got friends ... but train a lot more than twice a week. (shihan, teachers, students ...)

By the way:
Who decides whether my priorities are "askew" or not?

George S. Ledyard
10-30-2010, 03:11 AM
I would say that both of you are making a logical fallacy, equating loving the art or feeling committed to it to claiming "my aikido is as good as your's." I never said the latter. I have said up front that I am not a professional aikidoka. But as Mary has pointed out, neither of you are in a position to second guess our hearts, our motives, or, yeah, or level of committment to the art.

Once again, I think I need to make my feelings clear. My statements about time training have to do with whether someone can master, at what I consider to be a decent level of competence, the techniques of Aikido.

There are folks who are VERY committed to the art, really love it, who really put themselves into their training when they can train, and who make enormous contributions to their dojos, their teachers and their fellow students but just cannot or do not train very frequently.

I have always had a problem with the hierarchical nature of the art... In this kind of structure, we tend to confer value, or status on the person with the highest rank. You get that rank by training more, and therefore the folks who train more have more value. I think that is total bs.

I know people who are millionaire business owners who built their businesses from the ground up. These guys are fantastically talented and have leadership and managerial experience that far exceeds anything you might find in your typical martial artist. But they don't have any particular status within the community because they aren't terribly high ranked. So the organization has all this talent that it really can't take advantage of, because the only thing that counts is the rank. Makes me crazy... these guys are Shihan in their world but in our world no one confers any great status on them.

When I say that you cannot reach an acceptable level of skill in Aikido unless you are training a certain amount, that is a totally separate issue from someones love of the art. They may have totally had their lives changed by their practice. They may have been a crucial element in the founding and survival of a dojo. There are all sorts of ways in which people can care and be committed. As far as I am concerned we should have ways of recognizing this contribution that is separate from rank or, we could have a separate track for teacher certification that is separate from rank. Then the many different ways that people can be committed could be recognized. Thirty years of Aikido is something, even if it isn't taken to a very high level. That person deserves recognition.

There are a number of folks whose Aikido is quite good but who are pretty wretched as human beings. O-Sensei cautioned his students against being too focused on technique. It misses the larger point of training.

We need to un-hook this imagined connection between technical skill and our own self image or sense of self worth. A great nikkyo has nothing to do with any individual's value. Technical skill only matters when we are talking about the transmission. I wouldn't care what Dan ranks people got relative to their skill if it wasn't intrinsically connected to their opportunities to teach. If teacher s had a separate certification from the Dan ranks, I think that folks could get Dan rank for any of a number of contributions they make on a regular basis to the art.

Technical skill must be there in order to be able to teach. Teaching skill must be there to be able to teach well. Rank at this point has little to do with the first and nothing to do with the second. I would like to see rank as only one element someones influence in Aikido. Great talent i any area should be something that commands respect in our world. I have a friend who does executive leadership training for huge corporations around the world. Do you think we take advantage of the talent? Of course not... she is relatively junior so no one pays attention. If I ran things I'd have her doing leadership and team building work with our senior instructors...

Everyone contributes according to his abilities and according to his or her desire. Ones value as a person is intrinsic and totally independent of whether ones Aikido is any good or not.

I am worried about the transmission. I worry about the quality. I try to inspire folks to be better than they have allowed themselves to be. I have no patience for teachers who can't do their jobs and won't do anything to change that fact. I have a tremendous sense of gratitude for all those folks, who know they'll never get high rank or be a teacher, who still train and love the art. That's a fantastic thing and no one should demean that commitment. It's just different than the commitment of time and effort needed to be excellent at the art. Teachers should be excellent at their art and many are not. That doesn't make them bad human beings, it just means that they shouldn't be teaching. It doesn't mean they care any less, they just haven't made the necessary commitment to training. Several folks have said they'd rather be a great Dad than great at Aikido... we should applaud that. I'm tempted to say that the world would be a far better place with more great Dad's than more great Aikido teachers. Personally I'd like to see both.

You can see how this whole thing can shape up to be oppositional. The folks that love Aikido but can't train more want to feel like it's still enough to be of value. The folks that put more effort and time into their mat training want to feel that it's worth the sacrifice, that the "more" that they do somehow makes them "better".

Well, it will make you better from a technical standpoint but it doesn't make yo better in any other sense. Folks who feel that they have to make hard choices and won't train as they would like to i an ideal world, need to be grateful to those folks who do make sacrifices for their art. because these folks will be the ones that keep the transmission alive, who give the art its depth and breadth.

And you definitely want to unhitch that sense of self worth coming from technical mastery. If you don't feel good about yourself already, don't create a false sense of worth because you are pretty good at throwing someone. Bruce Klickstein was an excellent Aikido teacher but was a completely wretched human being. People need to unhitch that need to be a teacher from their sense of self worth. I've done Aikido all these years so I should be teaching now. Why? Are you excellent at your Aikido? Are you an excellent teacher? Do you inspire people? If you can honesty say yes, then by all means be a teacher. But if you honestly can't say yes, don't teach. You can make every bit as important contribution by being a great student, a model for other students.

There should be no sense here that three times a week is better than two or that seven days a week makes someone a better or more valuable person. I'll stay with the three days a week as necessary to be good at the art. I haven't seen anything that would make me question that and I've been around a long time, But that has nothing to do with what someone takes out of their participation in the art, or how profoundly their participation, such as it is, can contribute to the art, the dojo, and their classmates.

These are simply choices. It's really simple. You want to be in the Olympics i any sport, you have to find an international caliber coach. You have to train every day for years. You have to compete against folks who are also world class, you have to put all that first, ahead of EVERYTHING else or you won't make it, because your competition did.

So if you want your Aikido to be anything like the Aikido modeled by your Shihan, you are going to have to train and train frequently. I think we are getting to the point in many areas in which one can legitimately expect someone heading a dojo to be a Shihan level teacher. I am trying to say that with only three days a week, he or she can do Aikido that is just as sophisticated as any Shihan you can see. You won't be as good at it as he is, not without the same kind of commitment in training they made. But you can be excellent with three times week and you can do an Aikido which has some depth and sophistication.

Not training that frequently doesn't mean you are not a good person. But it probably means that much of what your teacher would like to show you, you will never master because you simply aren't putting in the time. This isn't a value judgment. It is, at least in my own view, merely a statement of fact.

So, I'd like folks to not put value judgments on a personal level into these considerations. The question was "is two days a week enough?" If that means to love Aikido, support the dojo and the teacher, to get a basic sense of the art and the movement with perhaps flashes of something brilliant that you can't reproduce at will, then sure it's enough, given enough time. But if you mean attaining levels of proficiency associated with each Dan rank, to continuously improve from each stage to the next, then no.

lbb
10-30-2010, 07:37 AM
When I say that you cannot reach an acceptable level of skill in Aikido unless you are training a certain amount, that is a totally separate issue from someones love of the art. They may have totally had their lives changed by their practice. They may have been a crucial element in the founding and survival of a dojo. There are all sorts of ways in which people can care and be committed. As far as I am concerned we should have ways of recognizing this contribution that is separate from rank or, we could have a separate track for teacher certification that is separate from rank. Then the many different ways that people can be committed could be recognized. Thirty years of Aikido is something, even if it isn't taken to a very high level. That person deserves recognition.

That person doesn't need recognition. That's what the "masters" will never understand. How could they? If you're all about the recognition, you'll never get what makes these people tick.

Brian Gillaspie
10-30-2010, 08:59 AM
I'm aware that this may sound strange or wrong or hard or ...
... but

This is not just set.
It is a decision you make.

If you want to, you can. You decide how to live your life

This too is your decision.

Some do.
Some don't.

I respect that you consider these as decisions but to be honest for me I do not consider them as decisions. I chose to start a family so I am obligated to them so for me it is a responsibility. Please note that I am not condeming anyone who puts aikido as a priority over family but it is something that is not appropriate for me and my situation.

By the way, I do train more than 2 hours a week so I just want you to know that I am not bashing anyone who trains several hours a week. I simply just sharing my thoughts.

George S. Ledyard
10-30-2010, 11:20 AM
That person doesn't need recognition. That's what the "masters" will never understand. How could they? If you're all about the recognition, you'll never get what makes these people tick.

You are right! They don't "need" the recognition, they do it all anyway. I'm just saying the should have recognition, not because they need it but because the rest of us agree better for having made that recognition.

Janet Rosen
10-30-2010, 11:24 AM
George, I recall a column Katherine and I collaborated on a few yrs ago on the issue you raise of folks getting their self-worth as people inappropriately conected to their technical abilities on the mat. An easy trap to fall into if you either turn OSemsei into a spiritual demigod to follow or are in a dojo that promotes an us-vs-them, true believer mentality.
Again I tend to agree with Mary that many of us parttimers don't link grading to our contributions to the workings of the dojo; we put in those nontraning hours of effort because we are woven into the fabric of the dojo community.
Having said that...I'd encourage you to find ways to make use of some of the nontechnical talent you have among your members

George S. Ledyard
10-30-2010, 11:59 AM
I respect that you consider these as decisions but to be honest for me I do not consider them as decisions. I chose to start a family so I am obligated to them so for me it is a responsibility. Please note that I am not condeming anyone who puts aikido as a priority over family but it is something that is not appropriate for me and my situation.

By the way, I do train more than 2 hours a week so I just want you to know that I am not bashing anyone who trains several hours a week. I simply just sharing my thoughts.

Hi Brian,
It's all still choices... I think we all have to accept that every act we make involves a set of choices. Jack Kornfield entitled one of his books, A Path with Heart using a term from Castanefa;s Don Juan. It's about living intentionally. Most of us don't do a very good job living intentionally. Stuff just happens and we start in one place and end up in another without having much of a sense of how we got here.

Each individual picks his Path. A good Path has "heart". That means it is a Path that allows you to look at yourself in the mirror in the morning and see someone who doesn't waste time on regrets. So you've chosen to have a family and see that it entails an obligation. Many folks have families and don't see that as a set of obligations at all. So your Path with heart is to be a good Father and if while doing that you can fit in some Aikido, that's great. But you are clear about where your priorities lie.

I would say that what you are doing is what the vast majority of folks doing Aikido are doing. My message for these folks isn't that they've misplaced their priorities or that in order to have value in the Aikido world they need to shift those priorities... My message is that, with only a slight adjustment in their effort and a lot of changes to the system of transmission, they could all be doing much more sophisticated Aikido. Can most folks really maintain that twice a week is really, absolutely the limit they can train? I know folks for whom that is true. One guy had his relationship falling apart and twice a week was what was agreed on in their counseling. But for most folks, when they say they can't, it simply means it is too difficult or inconvenient.

That's why I made it a requirement for promotion after 4th Kyu to train three times a week. Folks come in and right from the start they know what is expected and they tell their spouses, they build it into their schedules, their family quickly gets used to it... And I tell them that in exchange for the support that they get from the family for their training, they need to be really present when they are home. Often, when a guy says he can't get to the dojo three times a week, he is saying he doesn't want to miss the game on Saturday's TV or some such. He really isn't doing much with the family when he is there... they probably would have been fine with an extra day.

I don't believe that for most folks it's about the extra time to be good, it's about the inconvenience. It's harder to balance everything else in your life every time you add a day to your training. So, for most folks I am not saying every day or five times a week... I only say that to the young singles who should take advantage of this time in their lives when they are relatively unencumbered to train their brains out. If they can't find the time now, they never will.

All I am saying is that, finding one more day each week can make the difference over time between doing this art well and not doing it well. Rather than tell oneself that you can do it with less, or accept that you will never be any good at it, neither of which is true, why not put some thought into how one might get that extra time. Maybe you could ask your teacher to add an early am class and go before work. Maybe a Sunday evening class that would let you do all the stuff you'd normally do with the family, all your chores, etc and when everyone else is winding down you get in an extra session. Folks do this all the time. It's not about telling yourself all the reasons why you can't train more, it's about doing the work to find a way to do so. If twice a week just isn't quite enough to get good and one extra day would allow that to happen, isn't that extra effort worth it? I absolutely fail to see how that extra day would make one unable to meet ones other obligations, if one put some thought into it.

The art is worth it. The satisfaction of knowing that your black belt really meant something is worth it. Being able to read things that O-Sensei wrote and have a real sense of what he might have meant is a wonderful goal for a Path with Heart. And it doesn't take that much extra effort. To be great... sure, that is all consuming. But just to be good, no, anyone could do that.

George S. Ledyard
10-30-2010, 12:13 PM
George, I recall a column Katherine and I collaborated on a few yrs ago on the issue you raise of folks getting their self-worth as people inappropriately conected to their technical abilities on the mat. An easy trap to fall into if you either turn OSemsei into a spiritual demigod to follow or are in a dojo that promotes an us-vs-them, true believer mentality.
Again I tend to agree with Mary that many of us parttimers don't link grading to our contributions to the workings of the dojo; we put in those nontraning hours of effort because we are woven into the fabric of the dojo community.
Having said that...I'd encourage you to find ways to make use of some of the nontechnical talent you have among your members

One of the ways in which I get around the whole Dan rank thing is to use "Titles". People love titles. As soon as someone has a title people see them differently and the see themselves differently. This isn't always good but if used judiciously it can work really well. I have a student who is a newbie. I think she's up to 4th kyu now. This is on a mature dojo in which I have 5th Dan, and everything below that. But this person is the energize bunny... she is one of those get things done, take charge folks. So I made her "Dojo Operations Manager". Cool title, right? Well, it works perfectly. She can go up to any of the Yudansha and and ask them to do things. ask for help or time, and no one thinks anything of it. The guy who is President of the dojo is not the most senior. The title gives him parity with the senior Dan ranks. Works really well.

Brian Gillaspie
10-30-2010, 12:21 PM
I guess I really can't argue that it is a choice to give up some training time to be with your family. I also completely understand that I would be better if I did spend more time on the mat. I get on average 5 to 6 hours a week on the mat and my family understands that. My wife would be ok with me training more but that's tough to justify to my 8 and 11 year old kids. Sometimes it hard to justify antyhing to them :-)

So for now I choose to stick with the 5-6 hours and am satisfied with that amount of time....even though I am not necessarily happy about it. The good news is that my wife and I had our children early so I'll barely be over 40 when both kids are off to college so hopefully I'll still be in good enough shape to increase the training.

I have actually tried to talk some other students in to coming over and train in my garage late in the evening after my kids get in bed so I am looking for additional training time without to much interference with family time.

I appreciate everyone's replies to my posts and just wish I could express myself as well as Mr. Ledyard.

Chris Evans
10-30-2010, 03:13 PM
2 days per week at a Aikido dojo,
+ 3~4 days per week at a kara-te dojo,
daily zazen,
being of "no-mind" and fully perceiving, especially during sparring class.

That's what's "enough" for me now and I am grateful for my familly and for my work that allows this level of practice.

2+2 would be sustainable during more busy times.

If you wish to move really well, then think of the level of intensity and the number of practices a colledge sports athlete does, say for three plus years. Assuming access to good coaching/instruction, that kind of schedule's what I suggest if you want your body to move instinctively fast, smooth, with effectiveness in under stress.

Twice a week of receiving feedback seems just right to acquire a sincerely taste of what can be.

RED
10-30-2010, 04:18 PM
I would say that both of you are making a logical fallacy, equating loving the art or feeling committed to it to claiming "my aikido is as good as your's." I never said the latter. I have said up front that I am not a professional aikidoka. But as Mary has pointed out, neither of you are in a position to second guess our hearts, our motives, or, yeah, or level of committment to the art.

I've known many Aikidoka with extreme health issues, blind, old etc. Their Aikido will never be of a certain level because of physical disabilities. But, They train every chance they get. They are in love with Aikido. Aikido is like young love... when you're in love nothing takes priority. Health permitting, I see these people scramble to get to training, as much as humanly within possibility. Even when it isn't fun anymore, they have to be there.

Some people are in love with Aikido, hopelessly.. infatuated. A day without training is an anxious, bad day. When you are in love you rearrange your life, fiances and plans to accommodate the object of that obsession. That anxiety and depression without Aikido is what drives people to be with the object of their obsession...not matter what. I can't say who is and who isn't in love with anything. Only the individual can judge his own heart. I've not personally judged anyone for their level of commitment, because I don't know anyone on here personally. I just can't imagine anyone who loves something who wouldn't rearrange heaven and earth to get to it. If my statements are bothersome, they are not being directed at any individual. I'm just stating my beliefs on the issues, and I figure if what I complain against is in line with how some people train it might strike a nerve, and I apologize, because I'm not trying to direct my statements at any individual.

I don't care about other people's rank, or even skill set. You can be the worse Aikidoka that ever walked the earth...but I love it when I meet people who catch that love bug for the art.

My entire point in this is that I don't believe in excuses for why some one doesn't train more. I believe people make time for the things they love, they find time, no matter what. Life is complicated and taking more time to train can make it even more complicated--- but like a boyfriend your mom hates; it's worth the complication.
If something else takes priority in one's life over Aikido, that's fine.

These sets of decisions and priorities define what our lives are about IMO. I firmly believe a person is defined by love. What they love, and whom loves them. If your child takes priority over Aikido because you love him, be proud, you are defined as a mother. If Aikido takes priority over somethings in your life, be proud, you are Aikidoka.
I like the idea of people being who they are, and being intellectually honest with themselves about what the priorities of their life amounts to.
Other words, it's okay to do Aikido and not have it be your priority in life. Casual practice, hobbyist, recreation, or just the joy of the art are Nobel enough reasons to practice on a casual basis. Just understand for some one who practices a lot 2 days a week will always seem "casual", even if it doesn't feel casual for the 2 day a week practitioner.

Again, I apologize if you felt I was directing my complaints to any individual. I can't judge anyone, let alone people I've never met. These are my beliefs on priority, training and a life commitment to an art.

RED
10-30-2010, 05:46 PM
I've known many Aikidoka with extreme health issues, blind, old etc. Their Aikido will never be of a certain level because of physical disabilities. But, They train every chance they get. They are in love with Aikido. Aikido is like young love... when you're in love nothing takes priority. Health permitting, I see these people scramble to get to training, as much as humanly within possibility. Even when it isn't fun anymore, they have to be there.

Some people are in love with Aikido, hopelessly.. infatuated. A day without training is an anxious, bad day. When you are in love you rearrange your life, fiances and plans to accommodate the object of that obsession. That anxiety and depression without Aikido is what drives people to be with the object of their obsession...not matter what. I can't say who is and who isn't in love with anything. Only the individual can judge his own heart. I've not personally judged anyone for their level of commitment, because I don't know anyone on here personally. I just can't imagine anyone who loves something who wouldn't rearrange heaven and earth to get to it. If my statements are bothersome, they are not being directed at any individual. I'm just stating my beliefs on the issues, and I figure if what I complain against is in line with how some people train it might strike a nerve, and I apologize, because I'm not trying to direct my statements at any individual.

I don't care about other people's rank, or even skill set. You can be the worse Aikidoka that ever walked the earth...but I love it when I meet people who catch that love bug for the art.

My entire point in this is that I don't believe in excuses for why some one doesn't train more. I believe people make time for the things they love, they find time, no matter what. Life is complicated and taking more time to train can make it even more complicated--- but like a boyfriend your mom hates; it's worth the complication.
If something else takes priority in one's life over Aikido, that's fine.

These sets of decisions and priorities define what our lives are about IMO. I firmly believe a person is defined by love. What they love, and whom loves them. If your child takes priority over Aikido because you love him, be proud, you are defined as a mother. If Aikido takes priority over somethings in your life, be proud, you are Aikidoka.
I like the idea of people being who they are, and being intellectually honest with themselves about what the priorities of their life amounts to.
Other words, it's okay to do Aikido and not have it be your priority in life. Casual practice, hobbyist, recreation, or just the joy of the art are Nobel enough reasons to practice on a casual basis. Just understand for some one who practices a lot 2 days a week will always seem "casual", even if it doesn't feel casual for the 2 day a week practitioner.

Again, I apologize if you felt I was directing my complaints to any individual. I can't judge anyone, let alone people I've never met. These are my beliefs on priority, training and a life commitment to an art.

I just want to clarify, I do believe you can be very good at Aikido with other priorities. I'm married, and if something was wrong with my husband, I wouldn't just train regardless of him. Aikido is about love IMO...I'm not a freak willing to spit in the eye of love and common sense.
I just have priorities, and some personal standards for my training, because of an honest love of an art.

Ryan Seznee
10-30-2010, 08:45 PM
I would say that both of you are making a logical fallacy, equating loving the art or feeling committed to it to claiming "my aikido is as good as your's." I never said the latter. I have said up front that I am not a professional aikidoka. But as Mary has pointed out, neither of you are in a position to second guess our hearts, our motives, or, yeah, or level of committment to the art.

I am trying to point out your logical fallacy. I made the comparison on purpose because it was so ridiculous that even someone who skimmed it would be able to understand how flawed it was. I starting off saying, "using THAT logic..." to denote that it was the logic that I perceived you to be using. The one that you continue to use... The arrangement is one for I feel this way even though I am giving every possible physical indication that I do not. I love it even though I only spend 2 to 3 hours a week with it. This would not make a convincing argument if we were referencing a relationship with a child, wife, or any kind of lifelong commitment, why should it fly with Aikido?

The average American spends 5.5 hours a week showering, 18.2 hours watching TV, and 2.349 hours shaving. If you spend 2 to 3 hours a week training in Aikido, you could make a stronger argument that you are a nudist, couch potato, or barber than an Aikidoka.

Shadowfax
10-30-2010, 08:54 PM
Not sure I care for the idea of being "in love" with aikido. "In love" is something that never last long. It tends to be blind to the truth of things, it is irrational and usually acts without thinking things out. In love almost always burns out and become dislike, disinterest, or boredom. And occasionally it burns down to a steady partnership that lasts a lifetime.

I think I'd really rather have a real lasting relationship with aikido than be enamored of that high feeling of being in love with it. Seeing not only its beauty but it's practical sides as well imperfections and appreciating it as a whole.

I can never say aikido is my life because my life is bigger than aikido. But aikido certainly enhances life and affects many aspects of it.

I have always had the attitude that whatever it is I am doing I want to be as good at it as I can possibly be. And generally find that I can become very good and even excel at anything I truly take an interest in doing. Maybe I can never be a great aikido teacher but I dang sure intend to be an excellent aikido hobbyist at the very least.

And I have already told my sensei that he had better not ever promote me to a rank that I have not earned and don't deserve.

Ryan Seznee
10-30-2010, 09:07 PM
I respect that you consider these as decisions but to be honest for me I do not consider them as decisions. I chose to start a family so I am obligated to them so for me it is a responsibility. Please note that I am not condeming anyone who puts aikido as a priority over family but it is something that is not appropriate for me and my situation.

By the way, I do train more than 2 hours a week so I just want you to know that I am not bashing anyone who trains several hours a week. I simply just sharing my thoughts.

If you CHOSE to start a family, then you CHOSE to fall under the obligation. If you veiw it as a natural recourse of having a family, then you knew you would have the obligation when you CHOSE to start your family. It was, as you admit, your CHOICE.

That is what is annoying me the most about this post. It is the choice of every Aikidoka out there how committed and how good they are. No one is downing you for whatever level of commitment you are perusing, but everyone is equal in that they choose how much time they spent there. Everyone CHOOSES what is valuable and worth pursuing. I trained with a single father who went to every class with his son because he couldn't find a sitter. Don't complain that you can't have your cake and eat it too.

Brian Gillaspie
10-30-2010, 11:00 PM
If you CHOSE to start a family, then you CHOSE to fall under the obligation. If you veiw it as a natural recourse of having a family, then you knew you would have the obligation when you CHOSE to start your family. It was, as you admit, your CHOICE.

That is what is annoying me the most about this post. It is the choice of every Aikidoka out there how committed and how good they are. No one is downing you for whatever level of commitment you are perusing, but everyone is equal in that they choose how much time they spent there. Everyone CHOOSES what is valuable and worth pursuing. I trained with a single father who went to every class with his son because he couldn't find a sitter. Don't complain that you can't have your cake and eat it too.

I am not complaining about not getting more time to work out. And I realize that I can make choices as extreme as quitting my job, leaving my wife and abandoning my kids and train every minute of my life but you are right that "I" choose not to. If someone else choses to do that then that is fine with me and it doesn't make a difference if I agree or disagree with their choice.

I am just trying to point out that I train about 5-6 hours a week but I considered that committed considering my work load and family obligations. I don't need someone else to justify if I am committed to aikido but if you can tell me what the magic number of hours is to be considered committed (and tell me who gets to set that number) then we will see how I measure up to it.

dps
10-31-2010, 01:48 AM
Person A trains everyday and quits after five years.

Person B trains 2 times sometimes once a week for the rest of his/her life.

Who is the more committed?

David

guest1234567
10-31-2010, 03:13 AM
Person A trains everyday and quits after five years.

Person B trains 2 times sometimes once a week for the rest of his/her life.

Who is the more committed?

David

Person B..
Last year I trained almost every day because I prepared my examen for shodan and our teacher was so kind to give us extra classes in a small gym in his brothers house the days we had no classes in the normal gym,
After the examen I returned to the classes twice a week and it is a relief for me, I have more time for the rest of things I have to do working 8 hours a day.
As I said in another thread aikido is part of my life but twice a week and maybe once every 2 months a seminar or course is enough ..

Carsten Möllering
10-31-2010, 03:21 AM
Person A trains everyday and quits after five years.
Person B trains 2 times sometimes once a week for the rest of his/her life.
Who is the more committed?
Hmm, what is this alternative about?

I know few people practicing only two times a week for a lifetime.
A lot of people I know have integrated aikido in their life and practice more often then two times a week for their life.

Most people go to work everyday. For (nearly) a lifetime if this is possible.
Most people see their familiy members everyday. For a lifetime if it is possible.
Why should aikido be different if someone is committed to practice?

Interesting: There is no fitting german word. If we want to express that someone loves something like aikido in a way he arranges his life around it, we sometimes use the english expression "committement".

We may say: "Er/Sie hat ein committement: Aikido."
(At least people I know use this term.)

guest1234567
10-31-2010, 03:36 AM
Hmm, what is this alternative about?

I know few people practicing only two times a week for a lifetime.
A lot of people I know have integrated aikido in their life and practice more often then two times a week for their life.

Most people go to work everyday. For (nearly) a lifetime if this is possible.
Most people see their familiy members everyday. For a lifetime if it is possible.
Why should aikido be different if someone is committed to practice?

Interesting: There is no fitting german word. If we want to express that someone loves something like aikido in a way he arranges his life around it, we sometimes use the english expression "committement".

We may say: "Er/Sie hat ein committement: Aikido."
(At least people I know use this term.)

Of course everybody is different, it depends on the time everyone has to train and what he wants to invest in aikido.
I didn't know that you say committment, I know that you wouldn't say lieben;) as we don't say it in spanish. But living in the country makes you know more words although I learned first german than spanish with my parents..

guest1234567
10-31-2010, 03:47 AM
But commitment is Verpflichtung, doesn't it and I wouldn't say so for aikido..
It does not fit in this thread, sorry to the others

Rabih Shanshiry
10-31-2010, 07:50 AM
And I realize that I can make choices as extreme as quitting my job, leaving my wife and abandoning my kids and train every minute of my life but you are right that "I" choose not to. If someone else choses to do that then that is fine with me and it doesn't make a difference if I agree or disagree with their choice.

I think it's incubment on an instructor to give any student a reality check if they discover that training is jeopardizing their family life or financial well-being. That's pretty much the definition of addiction. If someone ignored the advice and abandonded their family to practice Aikido, they would not be welcome in my dojo until the situation was rectified. If you wish to dedicate your life to the art, that's wonderful - but not at someone else's expense.

Brian Gillaspie
10-31-2010, 08:30 AM
I think it's incubment on an instructor to give any student a reality check if they discover that training is jeopardizing their family life or financial well-being. That's pretty much the definition of addiction. If someone ignored the advice and abandonded their family to practice Aikido, they would not be welcome in my dojo until the situation was rectified. If you wish to dedicate your life to the art, that's wonderful - but not at someone else's expense.

I completely agree with everything you said in this post. I think I tried to say something similar myself in previous posts but it didn't come out so clearly.

I'll continue reading this discussion but this is my last post on this topic because all the time I have spent reading it should have been spent on the mat so I can call myself committed to aikido :D

Nicholas Eschenbruch
10-31-2010, 09:09 AM
I think it's incubment on an instructor to give any student a reality check if they discover that training is jeopardizing their family life or financial well-being. That's pretty much the definition of addiction.

Very good point, Rab. I would like to expand that it is also easy to use "comittment" to aikido as a cover-up for masochism, avoidances of all sorts and escaping from unwanted challenges in the rest of one's life. But everybody needs to draw their own lines and make their own choices, really - and sometimes most of us need somebody to knock us on our heads and point out what we are really doing here...

George S. Ledyard
10-31-2010, 11:18 AM
Person A trains everyday and quits after five years.

Person B trains 2 times sometimes once a week for the rest of his/her life.

Who is the more committed?

David

Hi David,
This is where I see the problem...
Let's posit that this is all done under the same teacher and that teacher is very high level. I would say that almost certainly A) was better when he quit than B) ever achieved.

So, that's always been at the heart of my doubts... is there some inherent value in being mediocre in Aikido, just because it's Aikido or is there some theoretical baseline below which it is just too shallow to really be worth much at all and is perhaps something of a waste of time?

A) May have walked away... but the lessons from the intensive experience are far deeper and more based in some reality than those derived from the half-hearted and inconsistent experience of B). So, A) walked away with something of substantial value from the experience. While B) stays in the art and dabbles for years and years.

Unfortunately, B) will be precisely the person Saotome Sensei would be referring to when he chides the folks at camp. "I see you people every year for ten years... each year your Aikido is the same. Your practice, what meaning?"

So, personally, I am coming down on the side of A) is being the more committed. He trained harder and went deeper when he trained. The other fellow has been pretending to train for a long time.

George S. Ledyard
10-31-2010, 12:00 PM
Most people go to work everyday. For (nearly) a lifetime if this is possible.
Most people see their familiy members everyday. For a lifetime if it is possible.
Why should aikido be different if someone is committed to practice?


Hi Carsten,
This touches on something really important... I would say that O-Sensei never thought of or intended Aikido to be a "hobby". It is a Budo a Michi.

Personally, I think that Aikido has tremendous depth and sophistication and the practice has the potential to be trans-formative in a host of ways. As I said before, it represents "old knowledge" which one might consider worth a lot of effort to preserve in this modern world.

As Americans, we have allowed our selves to be subsumed by work. We derive a huge part of our sense of self from our jobs. We think very little of not seeing the family as much as we'd like, if the cause is work related. We get less vacation than any other industrialized nation in the world and the average American doesn't use up what we have.

We are a nation of workaholics. We are by far the richest nation in the world but feel we have to scramble just to keep our heads above water. We don't have time for the things that would enrich our souls because we have bought into this whole idea that we are what our jobs are. And this is getting worse... All those things you hear on the news about "productivity gains" in various industries... well, that's fewer people doing the same or more work than more folks did previously. Folks are working themselves in to an early grave. Stress related illness is one of the biggest causes of ill health in America. Our pain killer industry is larger than many countries GNP. Why do we need so many pain killers in the first place?

So a practice such as Aikido, which can feed your soul, your intellect, is good exercise, and provides a great social community is placed behind your job in priority. That job is probably killing you, for most folks involves selling or producing something that is completely non-essential or is even unhealthy, and the doing of which enriches your life not at all. And we let this happen with little or no complaint.

This whole thing of "I don't have time to train more" is simply symptomatic of larger issues in our society. We are more than what we do in our jobs. Yet almost everyone I know would be doing something different if he or she could do so. Everyone. has a whole list of things that they'd like to be doing but feel they can't. If only I'd win the lottery, then I could do ....

If there ever was a time in history when the average person did have the time and the means to pursue something beyond basic survival, that time is now. The whole system is set up to make a very few richer and richer and yet the vast majority allow themselves to be sucked into the belief that they have to work harder and harder just to get by. But this is an illusion. The only reason you are asked to work harder and harder is so that the top five percent of the wealthy can GROW their wealth. Not just maintain it, but grow it. And everyone says that they can't train more, or whatever it is that they REALLY rather be doing.

This whole society is pretty crazy. At its heart is a set of assumptions that could easily be different if people understood how they are manipulated and collectively decided to change things. But I don't see these things changing any time soon. In fact I see it getting a lot worse in the future.

It's always been about time and money... When you have time you often don't have the money, when you have the money you frequently don't have the time. That's why throughout history much of the spiritual work was done in monasteries and religious communities because the could economically afford the "leisure time" required to do something other than produce food and shelter.

We are a richer society than any in history ever dreamed of and yet will still tell ourselves we don't have time for these amazing things we could be doing rather than killing ourselves to produce ever increasing profit for a ruling class of wealthy individuals and corporations.

Ok, that's it for the "Lefty" tirade. It's just hard to watch how people buy in to these myths... myself included. I think we really need to question all of our assumptions. If things keep going they way they are, no one will be doing anything seriously... It will all be hobbyists in everything, that and marketers... A whole world full of hobbyists and marketers. Nothing of real depth can survive in that environment.

Pauliina Lievonen
10-31-2010, 12:16 PM
So, that's always been at the heart of my doubts... is there some inherent value in being mediocre in Aikido, just because it's Aikido or is there some theoretical baseline below which it is just too shallow to really be worth much at all and is perhaps something of a waste of time?
With all due respect, here I think you make the same kind of mistake of perspective that was talked about earlier in the thread, but from the opposite side - that of the professional.

Of course for a professional it would not make sense to aim for mediocrity. It certainly wouldn't make sense to admit to it! :p

From the point of view of a hobbyist the goal of excellence is I think much less important. Haven't people even in this thread said things along the lines of "I don't care if I never become excellent in aikido, I love doing it and want to keep on doing it"?

I know I've got a lot out of my aikido practice, things that are of value to me personally. Whether or not my aikido practice is of value to anyone else is another question...

It comes down to choices for the teachers as well I think. If you want to train professionals - well you could try to set up some kind of program for that. It might bankrupt you, but you could try it. Or you can teach hobbyists, and be happy that they get something out of the experience, even though they never reach your level.

Pauliina

guest1234567
10-31-2010, 12:32 PM
With all due respect, here I think you make the same kind of mistake of perspective that was talked about earlier in the thread, but from the opposite side - that of the professional.

Of course for a professional it would not make sense to aim for mediocrity. It certainly wouldn't make sense to admit to it! :p

From the point of view of a hobbyist the goal of excellence is I think much less important. Haven't people even in this thread said things along the lines of "I don't care if I never become excellent in aikido, I love doing it and want to keep on doing it"?

I know I've got a lot out of my aikido practice, things that are of value to me personally. Whether or not my aikido practice is of value to anyone else is another question...

It comes down to choices for the teachers as well I think. If you want to train professionals - well you could try to set up some kind of program for that. It might bankrupt you, but you could try it. Or you can teach hobbyists, and be happy that they get something out of the experience, even though they never reach your level.

Pauliina

Paulina I agree, of course with all due respect to George.
I don't think a person who only can train twice a week for the rest of is life must be mediocre .

Pauliina Lievonen
10-31-2010, 12:39 PM
Carina, that's not what I meant exactly. I mean that someone who only trains a couple times a week probably doesn't care that much if they are mediocre at aikido or not. They get something valuable out of the training anyway.

If someone wants to be really good at something, I'd assume that they start to train more almost automatically. The hunger for excellence seems to take care of that.

Pauliina

guest1234567
10-31-2010, 12:45 PM
Carina, that's not what I meant exactly. I mean that someone who only trains a couple times a week probably doesn't care that much if they are mediocre at aikido or not. They get something valuable out of the training anyway.

If someone wants to be really good at something, I'd assume that they start to train more almost automatically. The hunger for excellence seems to take care of that.

Pauliina
Ok Paulina that is assuming you have any time you like, as I posted before, preparing my shodan examen my family almost didn't see me.
If we take 2 persons who do not must go to a job either attend a family of course the one who trains every day will be much better.
But training only twice a week does not mean you don't care much

Pauliina Lievonen
10-31-2010, 01:05 PM
Carina, let's put it this way: would you like to become 8th dan?

If you say, no, I don't have that much time... then that is what I mean. I don't mean that you don't care about aikido. I just mean that you probably don't care if you become 8th dan.

By mediocre I don't mean "mediocre compared to all the other shodans in the world." I don't think Ledyard sensei meant that either. I mean mediocre compared to the very highest that it's possible to achieve in aikido (and that's not really 8th dan, but I'm using that as an convenient example, ok?...)

I really hope that if someone would come here on Aikiweb and say: I'd like to become as good at aikido as it's humanly possible to become, that we'd all agree that that takes more practice than twice a week... and yes, we'd probably tell that person to be prepared to not start a family, to have no other hobbies, and to only work to support the aikido practice.

Pauliina

guest1234567
10-31-2010, 01:25 PM
Carina, let's put it this way: would you like to become 8th dan?

If you say, no, I don't have that much time... then that is what I mean. I don't mean that you don't care about aikido. I just mean that you probably don't care if you become 8th dan.

By mediocre I don't mean "mediocre compared to all the other shodans in the world." I don't think Ledyard sensei meant that either. I mean mediocre compared to the very highest that it's possible to achieve in aikido (and that's not really 8th dan, but I'm using that as an convenient example, ok?...)

I really hope that if someone would come here on Aikiweb and say: I'd like to become as good at aikido as it's humanly possible to become, that we'd all agree that that takes more practice than twice a week... and yes, we'd probably tell that person to be prepared to not start a family, to have no other hobbies, and to only work to support the aikido practice.

Pauliina

Yes I understand you Paulina:) No I will not become 8th dan, I like aikido very much and when I started to train I had problems with my husband who did not understand it. Now he respects it.
I train to relax and amuse myself after 8 hours job, so it is my hobby . I train in my free time, if I wouldn't need to have to work and had enough time perhaps I would train every day, but even then I don't would think to become an 8th Dan. The grades are not important for me as I m not thinking to teach aikido,
I enjoy very much the training with my good friends in the dojo thats why I train as much as I can and hope for the rest of my life.

Ryan Seznee
10-31-2010, 01:27 PM
Person A trains everyday and quits after five years.

Person B trains 2 times sometimes once a week for the rest of his/her life.

Who is the more committed?

David

Neither has any commitment. Training every day would be the minimum for doing something on a professional level, but quitting shows a deffinate lack of commitment. They would both acheive about the same, and both would be just scratch the surface in Aikido and never make it past the rank of "beginner".

Why compare degrees of failure, don't you believe in success in this area of life?

guest1234567
10-31-2010, 01:36 PM
Sorry Pauliina, in dutch right:)

Ryan Seznee
10-31-2010, 01:55 PM
I think it's incubment on an instructor to give any student a reality check if they discover that training is jeopardizing their family life or financial well-being. That's pretty much the definition of addiction. If someone ignored the advice and abandonded their family to practice Aikido, they would not be welcome in my dojo until the situation was rectified. If you wish to dedicate your life to the art, that's wonderful - but not at someone else's expense.

All training is at someone else's expense, though. You could take that hour you spend at the dojo and spend it with your wife, children, parrents, put more hours in at work to make your household more profitable, time at the local church or community center, or even going to feed starving children in Africa. You are choosing not to invest it in those areas. You are choosing not to strengthen those relationships, do those good things, or even not take some *me* time. I think it is completely irrational that an average american spends 18 hours watching TV and can't find more than 2 hours a week to train and thinks that they are a serious student (which was what precipitated this conversation).

It is alright to be a family man. It is a GOOD thing to love your family, but it is possible to be a good parent and an aikidoka. I have known people that can pull it off, and I have met their wives and children who don't complain. Why do you think that you are so special that you have a busier life than all of the people who are now shihan?

lbb
10-31-2010, 02:14 PM
Carina, let's put it this way: would you like to become 8th dan?

If you say, no, I don't have that much time... then that is what I mean. I don't mean that you don't care about aikido. I just mean that you probably don't care if you become 8th dan.

How about this: it means that I'm not delusional. Becoming 8th dan requires decades upon decades of training no matter how many days a week you train, plus being on the right side of all the politics. There are many people who come to aikido and who simply do not have four or five decades of life left.

RED
10-31-2010, 02:16 PM
I think it's incubment on an instructor to give any student a reality check if they discover that training is jeopardizing their family life or financial well-being. That's pretty much the definition of addiction. If someone ignored the advice and abandonded their family to practice Aikido, they would not be welcome in my dojo until the situation was rectified. If you wish to dedicate your life to the art, that's wonderful - but not at someone else's expense.

Sensei Ledyard is asking students to commit 3 hours a week. The average person spends 18 hours watching TV a week. I spend a good 3 hours a week at the coffee shop.
3 hours is gonna kill your family financially?
I train 3 hours on Monday alone.
I've know too many Uchi Deshi and Aikidoka that do train 12/18/24 hours a week. THEY AREN'T FREAKS without a family who ignore obligations. If you love something, you find a way to work it in. I am not a freak with no family and obligations financially, job-wise or what-not either. People find time for what is important to them. It is just an excuse in my opinion to say "well that person has it easy, I can't do that!" It is shooting yourself before you try. Take a closer look and you will see everyone's life is just as complicated as yours.

I think this thread with all the talk of committing 2 hours a week being enough, and 15 years to earn shodan; there isn't much respect being paid to Aikido as a Budo. What is enough for a Budo? A Budo has no summit. Talk of 15 years for a shodan, and standards for belting, isn't even in the same universe when you are talking about a resolution to a Budo.

lbb
10-31-2010, 02:17 PM
It is alright to be a family man. It is a GOOD thing to love your family, but it is possible to be a good parent and an aikidoka. I have known people that can pull it off, and I have met their wives and children who don't complain. Why do you think that you are so special that you have a busier life than all of the people who are now shihan?

Out of curiosity, how many shihan are parents? Or, let's be blunt, how many shihan are not men who have dumped their parental responsibilities onto their wives?

There are, and always have been, plenty of men who are deeply dedicated to their career or profession or whatever, and who are fathers only in the biological sense. That's very different from being a parent.

George S. Ledyard
10-31-2010, 02:18 PM
It comes down to choices for the teachers as well I think. If you want to train professionals - well you could try to set up some kind of program for that. It might bankrupt you, but you could try it. Or you can teach hobbyists, and be happy that they get something out of the experience, even though they never reach your level.

Pauliina

Hi Paulina,
You are right of course, and that is pretty much what I have done. I have students who now run dojos and have more members than I do at mine.

I am not exactly talking about training professionals... I am talking about training regular average folks to be excellent. My point is that it is doable for a person with a job and a family to do very good Aikido. Not perhaps what I think of as Shihan level, but certainly to be a fully adequate instructor and be someone who could actually do Aikido as a martial art. As I stated before, the majority of my students are family people with demanding jobs. Half my dojo works for Microsoft, most are married or have relationships and may of them have kids.

These folks manage to work in their three times a week, so I am loathe to believe that others simply cannot do so. And that "magic" third class over the twice makes a huge difference. Sure, they'd be better if they trained more and harder. But they are doing pretty excellent Aikido overall.

I think that people who don't actually care if they do better on some level damage the art. Even if you only train twice a week or even once a week, you should be trying hard within those parameters to be as good as you possibly can be. To train with no investment in getting better is a cop out and pretty much guarantees that neither good technical skill nor good spirituality will come from the practice. A teacher with that kind of student will lose his or her edge and will eventually stop demanding more of himself or the students. A student with great potential will be held back in his progress and will not be able to be excellent at a place where this type of student is prevalent.

You are right... most people either don't really care if they truly get better or they lie to themselves that they are, or even more commonly, they tell themselves that progress isn't necessary because it's the doing of it that counts. That is a story people tell themselves to justify less than they are capable of doing. True, ultimately it isn't "progress" that is the important element. It's the effort. But for most folks, when there is no thought of progress, there is less than committed effort. Effort without attachment is sort of a high level Zen thing... most folks who say that's what they are doing are simply indulging.

You see, my association with mediocrity is paying a lot of money to go train with a great teacher and watch as he has to dumb down what he started trying to show because the majority of folks on the mat won't do the work to show up each year better than the year before. My association with mediocrity is seeing some folks open dojos and start teaching and then get not one iota better for decades. They become the limiting factor in the progress of their own students. All this mediocrity is endemic in Aikido because there's no competition where people have to really step up, people have been allowed to progress who shouldn't have, have been encouraged to teach when they weren't good enough, etc. All this, just to grow the number of folks training. Numbers, not quality became the end in itself.

Maybe there should be two separate arts... Aikido and Aikido-lite. Then there wouldn't be so much confusion and no one would have his or her feelings hurt when someone says you have to train three times a week to do Aikido. You just trot down the street and find the Aikido-lite dojo. At the Aikido-lite dojo no one is allowed to train every day unless he or she limits the level of intensity and effort in the practice to make sure that excellence doesn't accidentally creep in. Anyone trying too hard will be asked to leave and go find an Aikido dojo.

This is really what happens now, but with much confusion. The Dan Certificates all say Aikido. Yet a Nidan at one place may have almost nothing in common with a Nidan at another. I have seen a very experienced martial artist driven out of an Aikido dojo because the folks training there were all so scared of the guy because he could actually punch and kick, not the nonsense everyone else was doing. They made it so unpleasant for him to be there that he left. He knew, and everyone else knew, that he could have hit any of them at will. That didn't fit in with the story they were telling themselves about how committed they all were to Aikido and their martial arts training.

So, perhaps we should simply overtly acknowledge that for some its about real training and for others its the story they tell themselves about real training. Separate the teachers, the dojos, the students, the certificates, the associations... everyone has to declare... Aikido or Aikido-lite. Then everyone gets to feel good about what they are doing and its really a reflection of reality.

The only problem here is that I suspect not very many people would actually sign up for Aikido-lite. Everyone tells himself that he wants to do Aikido, the real thing, the art that O-Sensei founded and the Uchi Deshi spread around the world. Then they proceed to make that art into what fits them, not fit themselves to the requirements of the art. So Aikido will continue to have real quality problems until people decide to get straight about what they are doing. Maybe the guy who started "Real Aikido" had a point. Give what you are doing another name so that people know up front that it isn't what most other folks seem to be doing.

RED
10-31-2010, 02:36 PM
Out of curiosity, how many shihan are parents? Or, let's be blunt, how many shihan are not men who have dumped their parental responsibilities onto their wives?


Hold up! I'm sorry, you're wrong. Just, black and white, dead wrong on this one. :/

You're USAF right?
Your Shihan:

Yamada Sensei (beautiful daughters! are you gonna accuse Sensei of not taking care of his children)
Peter Bernath Sensei (Never bad mouth the Bernath's, devoted husband and father. Penny is his beautiful 6th dan wife, wonderful children and family)
Kennedy Sensei (at Atlanta)
Sugano Seiichi (Was a sweet man. Never badmouth his devotion to his loved ones.)
Harvey Konigsberg Sensei
Clyde Takeguchi Sensei
Linda Lee Vecchio Sensei (oh SNAP a WOMAN...there are many Shihan women, mother's and wives btw.)
Kanai Sensei (you go tell his widow that he was an absentee father and husband! She is your nieghbor and instructor of New England Aikikai.)

You got my point...the list goes on and on and on. I could be here all day.
Your statement is misplaced. I"m sorry. These Shihan are devoted parents, loving spouses, some one's children and siblings. They deserve more respect than this accusation. Have you ever met, or talked to your Shihan? If so, how could you think anything as horrible as what you just said?
It is offensive to their students as well, whom are devoted and love them.
I'm sorry, but you accuse other's of being judgmental, but you are judging people who frankly are out of your rank here.

Peter Bernath Sensei once said people think Aikido is all magic with the hands.
It isn't just magic with the hands, it is obtainable, even high level Aikido by the devoted practitioner. Family, school jobs and all. Penny Bernath Sensei has been a glowing example of how some one can achieve high level, 6th dan ranked Aikido after being divorced, a mother, worrying about money, full-time worker, and a full-time student...all at once for years at a time.
It isn't just magic, it is obtainable. No excuses, for people who try their hardest.

Janet Rosen
10-31-2010, 03:17 PM
I think that people who don't actually care if they do better on some level damage the art. Even if you only train twice a week or even once a week, you should be trying hard within those parameters to be as good as you possibly can be. To train with no investment in getting better is a cop out and pretty much guarantees that neither good technical skill nor good spirituality will come from the practice.

Total agreement here. The person of any rank who shows up on cruise control is first of all pretty obvious and second of all a lousy training partner who does everybody a disservice.

Whether I"m training 2 or 3 times a wk in the dojo, I'm always working on weapons kata and some "piece of the puzzle" on my off-the-mat days and pushing myself both on and off the mat to exceed my current limits.

I suspect that this is something all of us participating in the thread have in common or we would not be posting so passionately. :)

From a purely practical standpoint: it is physically hard for me to train 3 nights in a row week after week. I did better when training in dojos that also had weekend classes so the training could be on alternating days. So the off the mat stuff I do now becomes all the more important to my continued growth.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
10-31-2010, 03:23 PM
I suspect that this is something all of us participating in the thread have in common or we would not be posting so passionately.

I just had the same suspicion a couple of minutes ago....:D

lbb
10-31-2010, 06:02 PM
Sensei Ledyard is asking students to commit 3 hours a week. The average person spends 18 hours watching TV a week. I spend a good 3 hours a week at the coffee shop.

Unless you happen to live next to your dojo, this comparison is invalid. It takes me a minimum of 45 minutes to get to the dojo, and that's if absolutely everything goes right. My one hour of training (which is all that is available some days) actually takes a minimum of two and a half hours out of my day.

lbb
10-31-2010, 06:07 PM
Hold up! I'm sorry, you're wrong. Just, black and white, dead wrong on this one. :/

Ya know what...I give up. You tell yourself whatever you want to believe. I'm done bashing my head against this wall.

RED
10-31-2010, 06:15 PM
Unless you happen to live next to your dojo, this comparison is invalid. It takes me a minimum of 45 minutes to get to the dojo, and that's if absolutely everything goes right. My one hour of training (which is all that is available some days) actually takes a minimum of two and a half hours out of my day.

That's an excuse. I live an hour from school..Never late, there 5 days a week. I don't just not show up for work because it takes 45 minutes to get there.
If you had a desire to train more, consider asking your Sensei for sunrise classes. Get up at 5am, train then go to work. Or ask for night classes alternatively. People make requests when they wanna train more all the time.

We have three students, one of which 62, all of them have children, one is a law enforcement agent, all have full time jobs and wives. All drive OVER an hour to get to class. Two of them come from another state, all for their one hour a day.

My point, if you have a desire to train more, then you will make it happen. If you have no desire to train more and your hour is enough that's okay, just don't make an excuse for why you don't train more.

RED
10-31-2010, 06:17 PM
Ya know what...I give up. You tell yourself whatever you want to believe. I'm done bashing my head against this wall.

You've said something very insulting. Especially towards people I've met. Some people I'm in communication with, and know.

I mean man, you insulted your own Shihan. Stop bashing your head. Just be more respectful to seniors.

I'm not trying to be mean...what you said was just wrong, and these men and women's character shouldn't be in question.

oisin bourke
10-31-2010, 06:45 PM
Hi Carsten,
This touches on something really important... I would say that O-Sensei never thought of or intended Aikido to be a "hobby". It is a Budo a Michi.......



That whole post was great. I agree completely. Does that make me a "Lefty?"

mickeygelum
10-31-2010, 06:53 PM
Remarkable....:eek: ....Absolutely, remarkable....:D

tim evans
10-31-2010, 08:09 PM
Why the drama I train twice a week minimun sometimes 3 or 4 just depends how tweaked or sore I am it,s all good

George S. Ledyard
10-31-2010, 08:24 PM
Out of curiosity, how many shihan are parents? Or, let's be blunt, how many shihan are not men who have dumped their parental responsibilities onto their wives?


Hi Mary,
In my sex's defense, I stayed at home with the kids. My ex and I had eight kids between us (hers, mine and ours). I may not have been a stellar Dad in some ways but all my kids, step kids too, knew I loved them and I never put all the work onto my wives. I cook, am an ace with dirty diapers, can treat colic with homeopathics, can put any baby born to sleep on my shoulder in ten minutes, have dealt with eating disorders, ADHD, runaways, hoodlum friends, you name it. And I trained just about every day.

Now on the money front, well that's another matter... pretty low score on that report card. Spent what should have been my kid's college money on Aikido. They've all been aware for many years that they'll have to work it out as best they can. I can help but I sure don't have much to contribute. My Dad would say that I didn't fulfill my responsibilities there... and I suspect some here would agree. I wouldn't argue with them.... it's just what I chose and we all have to live with it. Some kids get an alcoholic Dad, some get a Dad who is abusive, some have Dads they never see because they work so hard. My kids got a Dad who blew all his money training in this weird art with an interesting Japanese teacher and now spends most of his time teaching that weird art to other folks who march to that different drummer we've all heard about.

- George

RED
10-31-2010, 08:24 PM
Why the drama I train twice a week minimun sometimes 3 or 4 just depends how tweaked or sore I am it,s all good

<3

lol

George S. Ledyard
10-31-2010, 08:41 PM
Hold up! I'm sorry, you're wrong. Just, black and white, dead wrong on this one. :/

You're USAF right?
Your Shihan:

Yamada Sensei (beautiful daughters! are you gonna accuse Sensei of not taking care of his children)
Peter Bernath Sensei (Never bad mouth the Bernath's, devoted husband and father. Penny is his beautiful 6th dan wife, wonderful children and family)
Kennedy Sensei (at Atlanta)
Sugano Seiichi (Was a sweet man. Never badmouth his devotion to his loved ones.)
Harvey Konigsberg Sensei
Clyde Takeguchi Sensei
Linda Lee Vecchio Sensei (oh SNAP a WOMAN...there are many Shihan women, mother's and wives btw.)
Kanai Sensei (you go tell his widow that he was an absentee father and husband! She is your nieghbor and instructor of New England Aikikai.)

You got my point...the list goes on and on and on. I could be here all day.
Your statement is misplaced. I"m sorry. These Shihan are devoted parents, loving spouses, some one's children and siblings. They deserve more respect than this accusation. Have you ever met, or talked to your Shihan? If so, how could you think anything as horrible as what you just said?
It is offensive to their students as well, whom are devoted and love them.
I'm sorry, but you accuse other's of being judgmental, but you are judging people who frankly are out of your rank here.

Peter Bernath Sensei once said people think Aikido is all magic with the hands.
It isn't just magic with the hands, it is obtainable, even high level Aikido by the devoted practitioner. Family, school jobs and all. Penny Bernath Sensei has been a glowing example of how some one can achieve high level, 6th dan ranked Aikido after being divorced, a mother, worrying about money, full-time worker, and a full-time student...all at once for years at a time.
It isn't just magic, it is obtainable. No excuses, for people who try their hardest.

Hi Maggie,
Although I did pipe in on this and described my own case, I will say that it has been my experience that real partnership in this area is rare. Almost always, when you find a major Sensei, you find a spouse who supported him or her. The more senior the teacher, the more likely that there's a big extended family of the dojo or even the organization that needs to be supported. More often than not, the accounts of being the son or daughter of someone "great" isn't all that positive.

I think the kind of relationship which Penny Bernath and Peter have is very rare. For both to take their training up to that level and raise a family at the same time is an amazing accomplishment. Usually, one person is far junior and acts in a support role. They might be mutually supportive, but a real partnership in training while raising a family is quite rare. My friends Eugene and Kamenna Lee have managed to do it. They both train at the DC dojo where I started and have two of the best loved, wonderful children you could ever find. One watches the kids while the other trains, then they switch off. Sometimes when I visit I will watch the kids so that they can actually train together, which they don't get to do as often as they'd like. I have never seen a couple achieve such an equal balance of family responsibility and training. It's all the more amazing for its rarity. Usually, someone is doing more of one than the other. Mary is right that some of the really senior folks did not really do the work of raising their families. I think that most were there for them but I doubt most cases the domestic work load was very equal.

George S. Ledyard
10-31-2010, 08:51 PM
Just an aside...
Current understanding of how the brain "learns" is that it is far more effective to do something for a relatively short period every day than it is to do it for a longer period all at once. So, it would be better for your actually progress to train one hour each day than to do the same number of hours compressed into two days.

Since it seems that getting to the dojo is the big hurdle for most folks, rather than how long they are there once they get there, one can see why folks would find that the twice a week option is the easiest to do. But if they made three or more trips to the dojo, even if they didn't train as long on the nights they went, they would progress faster going more frequently but training a bit left each time.

Walter Martindale
10-31-2010, 09:19 PM
Just an aside...
Current understanding of how the brain "learns" is that it is far more effective to do something for a relatively short period every day than it is to do it for a longer period all at once. So, it would be better for your actually progress to train one hour each day than to do the same number of hours compressed into two days.

Since it seems that getting to the dojo is the big hurdle for most folks, rather than how long they are there once they get there, one can see why folks would find that the twice a week option is the easiest to do. But if they made three or more trips to the dojo, even if they didn't train as long on the nights they went, they would progress faster going more frequently but training a bit left each time.

Yes, and if on the days they didn't go to the dojo, they either practiced "shadow aikido" or visualisation of their movements, they would also increase their learning - review of the stuff they practiced the day before...
Problem with going frequently is the fuel spent getting to the dojo, the time spent getting to the dojo, and the availability of training times...
Now, if I had a job, this wouldn't be as big a problem, but, because I coach, it would be, as most dojo train during my coaching time.
W

RED
10-31-2010, 09:29 PM
Hi Maggie,
Although I did pipe in on this and described my own case, I will say that it has been my experience that real partnership in this area is rare. Almost always, when you find a major Sensei, you find a spouse who supported him or her. The more senior the teacher, the more likely that there's a big extended family of the dojo or even the organization that needs to be supported. More often than not, the accounts of being the son or daughter of someone "great" isn't all that positive.

I think the kind of relationship which Penny Bernath and Peter have is very rare. For both to take their training up to that level and raise a family at the same time is an amazing accomplishment. Usually, one person is far junior and acts in a support role. They might be mutually supportive, but a real partnership in training while raising a family is quite rare. My friends Eugene and Kamenna Lee have managed to do it. They both train at the DC dojo where I started and have two of the best loved, wonderful children you could ever find. One watches the kids while the other trains, then they switch off. Sometimes when I visit I will watch the kids so that they can actually train together, which they don't get to do as often as they'd like. I have never seen a couple achieve such an equal balance of family responsibility and training. It's all the more amazing for its rarity. Usually, someone is doing more of one than the other. Mary is right that some of the really senior folks did not really do the work of raising their families. I think that most were there for them but I doubt most cases the domestic work load was very equal.

I just consider the argument "High level Aikidoka are good because they ignore the obligations to their families" as another excuse for why one has given up on the idea of quality Aikido as accessible for themselves. It is easy to say "It is impossible, see I have a family, See me NOT devoting more time to practice actually makes me a GOOD person *validation!!!*". It's not a valid excuse to me. People look for reasons why something is impossible for themselves. I find the entire "but Shihans have no life and children that hate them" to be a way to make ourselves feel better about underachievement. We get to still pretend to be good Aikidoka, with as little effort as possible. As a side note: I think the generalization,and over all disbelief she had that good family men-shihan didn't exist(or are too far in between) might be highly offensive to some teachers. Again, a devotion to a training schedule does not make you a social reject, or a person with no obligations IMO.

Shidoin, Shihan, etc, known too many people I consider to be both doing the art at a high level and also have a strong family life. I know of some account where children are left behind, and I don't buy those stories are a reason to not aspire to excel to learn and train in high level Aikido. And I think it expresses an over emphasis on how much people might value rank or title. I've not once talked about rank as a mark of commitment. I have talked about hours and intensity of training however. I some times feel like no one remembers what high level Aikido looks like, because they've spent so long making up reasons why themselves, their dojos and what not can't do it.

My dojo has a lot of coloring books and candy on the side lines. I train 50% of the time with tiny eyes watching me. People make it work, while striving for quality, and chasing high level Aikido as their example.

kironin
10-31-2010, 10:31 PM
Just an aside...
Current understanding of how the brain "learns" is that it is far more effective to do something for a relatively short period every day than it is to do it for a longer period all at once. So, it would be better for your actually progress to train one hour each day than to do the same number of hours compressed into two days.

Since it seems that getting to the dojo is the big hurdle for most folks, rather than how long they are there once they get there, one can see why folks would find that the twice a week option is the easiest to do. But if they made three or more trips to the dojo, even if they didn't train as long on the nights they went, they would progress faster going more frequently but training a bit left each time.

I think twice a week is fine if one has something to work on at home a little each day. Hitori waza, breathing exercises, weapons forms, all things that one could take 30-40 min to work on a day. I have a mat to roll out at home to work on. When time/distance is an issue, you find what you must.

mriehle
10-31-2010, 10:36 PM
So, no, I didn't read every message in this thread in detail. At some point it became repetitive and redundant.

Still, I get the gist of the ideas presented here. A gestalt, if you will. And I have some opinions of my own:

Ledyard Sensei: In one of your early posts in the thread you made the point about all major Aikidoka having at some point in their training gone through a period of super-intense (my description) training. I think this is key. That bit of above-average - even for themselves - training affects the way they train ever after. Even more casual training they do later is intensified by that period.

Several people have made the point that some training can be done outside the dojo. I agree. But only if you are actually prepared to do that training. That preparation doesn't happen by magic. See my above comments regarding Ledyard Sensei's point.

From my own personal experience: I had to stop going to the dojo for several years. I fell prey to the Silicon Valley Work Ethic. Consider all the criticisms Ledyard Sensei has about the American obsession with work and amplify it a few times, that covers it. But when I went back to Aikido I found I had somehow improved considerably over those years. Huh?

1) This improvement was in no way comparable to what would have happened had I been able to continue training over those years.

2) Early in my training there was a very intense, five-days-a-week stretch that lasted for two and half years.

3) I continued to perform a lot of the exercises I had learned and studied on my own as much as I could.

Then I went and did another three years of five-days-a-week training. And guess what...

...I improved even faster. Now I'm back to having other time commitments and I'm sure I'm not improving the way I'd like to.

The point here, I think, is that you can make some progress in individual training. I think, in fact, it's a requirement. Part of the commitment. But there is some training that requires a teacher and training partners. It's certainly possible to overtrain, but short periods of very intense training will make you better.

The biggest concern with individual training is the person who goes through the motions and doesn't really understand what he or she is working at. You can't train yourself without the training to know how to train and the commitment to actually do it.

mathewjgano
10-31-2010, 11:07 PM
I just consider the argument "High level Aikidoka are good because they ignore the obligations to their families" as another excuse for why one has given up on the idea of quality Aikido as accessible for themselves. It is easy to say "It is impossible, see I have a family,
I don't think that's exactly what she was saying, but I agree with the point you're making. Speaking as a person who probably has less training in than anyone posting here, I can attest to the ease of excuses. More than that though, i can attest to the speed by which time flies where suddenly you may realize 10 years have gone by without any "real" training, despite almost daily practice of some variety or another to make you (me) feel like you're (I'm) doing something. On the other hand, I've been busy doing a lot of other things too. Some of that has had more validity with regards to training than others, but the validity is for no one other than myself to judge. And besides, the path I've taken has led me to an awesome place, so who can honestly say what the "better" choices whould have been? The question to my mind is "how happy are your choices making you?" and "how can you learn from the experience of life to make your future choices better?"
Is two days a week enough? I think that will change over time based on a person's values, which will also naturally change somewhat over time. Life is full of compromise. As long as we're practicing that great slogan "masakatsu agatsu" I think we're doing fine...more or less.

Also would like to reinforce the idea that it helps a lot having some period of intense training if one is doing Aikido for something more than a healthy hobby.

...and on a side note I'm finally going to train on the mat again: about once a week is what I have dedicated myself to for the time being.

kewms
10-31-2010, 11:56 PM
However, I cannot accept that a focused and dedicated person attending classes twice a week would not be able to attain the same skill level as they would if training three or even four times a week. It would simply take them more "years" to put in the same hours to get there.

If they're so focused and dedicated, how come they're only in class twice a week?

It's a physical art. I don't think you'll find any teacher or coach in any physical art, from recorder playing (Hi Pauliina!) to baseball, who will agree that twice a week is enough.

In my own experience, I plateau at two classes a week. I make steady progress at three. I make faster progress at four, but can't sustain that for long before other parts of my life suffer more than I'm willing to allow. Other kinds of off-mat physical training help me maintain my conditioning, but they don't help my aikido much.

Katherine

Full disclosure: I am one of Ledyard Sensei's students, and followed one of his emails to this thread. But I agreed with his perspective on this before I'd ever met him.

dps
11-01-2010, 12:17 AM
Question,
If they're so focused and dedicated, how come they're only in class twice a week? .

Answer,
...... other parts of my life suffer more than I'm willing to allow.

dps

barbaraknapp
11-01-2010, 12:35 AM
I think respect for the often limited time of students is also important, and sometimes lacking.

I have trained 5 and 6 days a week for a few years, and about two days a month for some months, and just about everything in between. Four days a week seems to be a lower limit to feel good about what I am doing, below that there is a big drop off in the quality of practice. A dimension just isn't there.

That said, there have been times I simply could not practice more than a couple of days a week. That two day a week commitment may be absolutely precious to a student, the very best they can do for the time being. The instructor can do a lot to help make it count, or at any rate to not get in the way. There is nothing so exasperating as finally getting to the dojo and getting in maybe 30 minutes on the hour of actual practice.

I don't watch any TV at all. And I spend very little time on aikiweb, either! But a bit too much tonight...

cheers

Barbara

Aiki1
11-01-2010, 12:50 AM
Definitions and defined goals are important, but it depends a lot on what the source of your training is, where the focus is, and what the instructor knows. If one trains only the physical, and the source is only technical, then it usually takes a fair amount of training on the mat to get good, unless one has a gift for it.

If one's training revolves around developing the consciousness and skill of reorganizing one's interior landscape into being able to grasp the subtlety of what Aiki and Aikido are at the energetic levels, and learning to integrate and externalize that in a realistic manner that is both morally and martially responsible, then the time one trains on the mat and in life is all relative. If you have the right teacher, twice a week is ok. Three is usually better, but the rest of one's life becomes a part of the process anyway. It actually depends on one's internal commitment, how close you get to the instructor, and if he or she actually knows the stuff and has the ability to induct you into the awareness and experience of it.

Hmmm, maybe this was off-topic....

:)

kewms
11-01-2010, 01:10 AM
Question,

Answer,

dps

Sure... but I'm not claiming that I can reach the same level of skill as someone who trains five days a week, and I'm certainly not claiming that I'm qualified to open my own dojo and award rank to other people.

Only training twice a week doesn't make you a bad person. There's nothing "wrong" with only training twice a week. It's just not enough to develop any real skill. (At any physical art, not just aikido.)

Edit: Actually, make that any art, physical or not. Writers, photographers, and people learning a language need more practice, too.

Katherine

dps
11-01-2010, 01:24 AM
Sure... but I'm not claiming that I can reach the same level of skill as someone who trains five days a week, and I'm certainly not claiming that I'm qualified to open my own dojo and award rank to other people.



Who on this thread has made that claim?

David

kewms
11-01-2010, 01:25 AM
The instructor can do a lot to help make it count, or at any rate to not get in the way. There is nothing so exasperating as finally getting to the dojo and getting in maybe 30 minutes on the hour of actual practice.

I'm a big fan of longer classes for exactly this reason. Three classes a week gets me nine practice hours. That's a much better return on the time spent driving to and from, changing, warming up, etc. than I would get if classes were only an hour long.

Katherine

kewms
11-01-2010, 01:26 AM
Who on this thread has made that claim?

David

The person I was responding to:

However, I cannot accept that a focused and dedicated person attending classes twice a week would not be able to attain the same skill level as they would if training three or even four times a week. It would simply take them more "years" to put in the same hours to get there.

Katherine

dps
11-01-2010, 01:33 AM
I think it is completely irrational that an average american spends 18 hours watching TV .....


and completely untrue.

"The Nielsen Co.'s "Three Screen Report" -- referring to televisions, computers and cellphones -- for the fourth quarter said the average American now watches more than 151 hours of TV a month. That's about five hours a day and an all-time high, up 3.6% from the 145 or so hours Americans reportedly watched in the same period last year.."

http://articles.latimes.com/2009/feb/24/business/fi-tvwatching24

dps

dps
11-01-2010, 01:35 AM
The person I was responding to:

Katherine

Quote:
"However, I cannot accept that a focused and dedicated person attending classes twice a week would not be able to attain the same skill level as they would if training three or even four times a week. It would simply take them more "years" to put in the same hours to get there."


Ok

dps

kewms
11-01-2010, 01:49 AM
Unless you happen to live next to your dojo, this comparison is invalid. It takes me a minimum of 45 minutes to get to the dojo, and that's if absolutely everything goes right. My one hour of training (which is all that is available some days) actually takes a minimum of two and a half hours out of my day.

You could move, you know.

There are always choices. They may not be the choices that you (or I) would make, but they always exist.

Katherine

guest1234567
11-01-2010, 03:19 AM
Hi Paulina,
You are right of course, and that is pretty much what I have done. I have students who now run dojos and have more members than I do at mine.
These folks manage to work in their three times a week, so I am loathe to believe that others simply cannot do so. And that "magic" third class over the twice makes a huge difference. Sure, they'd be better if they trained more and harder. But they are doing pretty excellent Aikido overall.
Sensei Ledyard and what about if the owner of the dojo where our sensei is teaching is giving TKD classes and there is only 90 minutes time left for aikido 2 times a week?
I surely would go 3 times a week if there would be classes

I think that people who don't actually care if they do better on some level damage the art. Even if you only train twice a week or even once a week, you should be trying hard within those parameters to be as good as you possibly can be. To train with no investment in getting better is a cop out and pretty much guarantees that neither good technical skill nor good spirituality will come from the practice. A teacher with that kind of student will lose his or her edge and will eventually stop demanding more of himself or the students. A student with great potential will be held back in his progress and will not be able to be excellent at a place where this type of student is prevalent.......


Maybe there should be two separate arts... Aikido and Aikido-lite. Then there wouldn't be so much confusion and no one would have his or her feelings hurt when someone says you have to train three times a week to do Aikido. You just trot down the street and find the Aikido-lite dojo. At the Aikido-lite dojo no one is allowed to train every day unless he or she limits the level of intensity and effort in the practice to make sure that excellence doesn't accidentally creep in. Anyone trying too hard will be asked to leave and go find an Aikido dojo.

This is really what happens now, but with much confusion. The Dan Certificates all say Aikido. Yet a Nidan at one place may have almost nothing in common with a Nidan at another. I have seen a very experienced martial artist driven out of an Aikido dojo because the folks training there were all so scared of the guy because he could actually punch and kick, not the nonsense everyone else was doing. They made it so unpleasant for him to be there that he left. He knew, and everyone else knew, that he could have hit any of them at will. That didn't fit in with the story they were telling themselves about how committed they all were to Aikido and their martial arts training.

What about the aikido drop out rate in the States treated in another threat, I was surprised reading about that, because in our dojo almost every month is coming someone new and they are all staying, last year we were 5 new shodan, every body is still training and this year we have only one but 3 or 4 for next year.. Our sensei is very commited to progress although it is very dificult and expensive for us to move from the island to go to seminars.
In our dojo almost all of us put all our effort to progress, we all care very much. So I don't think we damage the art just it is the contrary. But beside al the care we put in the training we enjoy ourselves and I think that is the point of the success in our dojo.
I train as much as I can but not think from myself to be a highlevel aikidoka and I sure don't care for the grades beside a nidan costs min 200€ and a sandan €300

guest1234567
11-01-2010, 03:36 AM
The examen for nidan costs min 200€ and for sandan 300€ or more

lbb
11-01-2010, 07:07 AM
You've said something very insulting. Especially towards people I've met. Some people I'm in communication with, and know.

I mean man, you insulted your own Shihan. Stop bashing your head. Just be more respectful to seniors.

I'm not trying to be mean...what you said was just wrong, and these men and women's character shouldn't be in question.

You tell yourself whatever stories you want to, Maggie. You have been all along, and you will continue to do so, no matter what I say. You tell yourself whatever stories gratify whatever need it is you have, and you tell yourself that they're true. You keep right on doing that. I, however, don't have to listen to them.

Greg Jennings
11-01-2010, 08:39 AM
This same thread has been posted about once per year over the 10 years that I've been on here. It comes up, gets over-analyzed and the core issue missed. Repeatedly.

My thesis is that moderate training over the long haul is what pays for 99% of students. I can't write a defense here, I have other things to do. However, let me drop a few quick thoughts before I have to go to work.

1. One cannot buy their aikido with hours recorded in the training log, seminars attended, repetitions performed. It leaves out efficiency and quality from various perspectives.

Related is "settling time". Every study of pedagogy that I have read indicates the superiority of short, focused instruction periods separated by periods of settling time.

2. People are prone enough to succumb to the idea that aikido is just about doing techniques. We shouldn't be tempting them down that path.

In addition to mat time, they should, spend some time in study outside the dojo that allows their time on the mat to be more productive and develop a deeper appreciation of the art. I humbly suggest that it should include studying the Aikido Journal archives. Lots of good information there. Said it before, will say it again "Stan is The Man".

3. When you get right down it, life is much bigger than aikido. An *intemperate* focus on aikido to the exclusion of family and profession is a road to unhappiness. Been there, and only very drastic action got me out of that tar pit. Aikido has a flat learning curve. The only way to really get anywhere is consistent, *long-term* training. For most students, asking them to commit four or five nights per week will impact their family and professional responsibilities and is, therefore, is ill-considered.

So, my conclusion, tying this to "shut up and train", is train when health and life's responsibilities allow and *train*, do not just exercise or waste valuable time in talk. If it is two days per week is what life allows, then train two days per week. On the flip side, as long as health allows, it is better to train than sit watching TV.

Life is short. Sieze the day, but sieze the day for *your* happiness, not someone else's idea of what it should be.

Greg J.

You have entered a discussion where there are multiple layers of nuance. I would take a moment to reread the thread for a better understanding of what is really going on. You words above seem more an insult than anything. I'm sure they weren't meant that way.

For instance, if Shioda and Tomiki took about 5 years to get really good at aikido, then why is it that 40+ years of training hasn't created more like them? So, the adage of "shut up and train" can be construed to just be a mindless sheep listening and learning from teachers who have yet to attain any appreciable level (compared to the Aikido Greats). "Eat more rice", "it's a 20 year technique", etc.

One of the nuances being discussed here is the Modern Aikido vs aiki approach. Another nuance is, as George stated in his post #71, is directed towards teachers. Another is historical.

"Shut up and train" is not, IMO, very constructive in regards to this thread. I'm sure you have some very good actual content that you could post and it would be refreshing to read it.

Ryan Seznee
11-01-2010, 08:40 AM
and completely untrue.

"The Nielsen Co.'s "Three Screen Report" -- referring to televisions, computers and cellphones -- for the fourth quarter said the average American now watches more than 151 hours of TV a month. That's about five hours a day and an all-time high, up 3.6% from the 145 or so hours Americans reportedly watched in the same period last year.."

http://articles.latimes.com/2009/feb/24/business/fi-tvwatching24

dps

I don't want to get in a statistic discussion, but assuming your 5 hours a day is right, that is 35 hours a week watching TV, computer and cell phones. In the face of that, 2 hours of training a week is nothing. This only serves to emphasize my point. People have the time to train, they just put other things ahead of it.

Ryan Seznee
11-01-2010, 08:46 AM
You tell yourself whatever stories you want to, Maggie. You have been all along, and you will continue to do so, no matter what I say. You tell yourself whatever stories gratify whatever need it is you have, and you tell yourself that they're true. You keep right on doing that. I, however, don't have to listen to them.

You have said something very insulting though. One of the people involved in this discussion is a Aikikai Shihan with children, and you called all Aikikai Shihan unfit parents. That is exceptionally rude, and I am insulted because I am acquainted with Peter and Penny Bernet. They are not bad parents. They are good people who love what they do as well as their children.

MM
11-01-2010, 09:00 AM
So, my conclusion
Greg J.

IMO, that was a much better post than your previous ones.

Thanks,
Mark

MM
11-01-2010, 09:12 AM
Ryan, Maggie, and whoever else wants to dive into the far spectrum of things ... why not ask Mary exactly what she meant when she posted

Out of curiosity, how many shihan are parents? Or, let's be blunt, how many shihan are not men who have dumped their parental responsibilities onto their wives?

There are, and always have been, plenty of men who are deeply dedicated to their career or profession or whatever, and who are fathers only in the biological sense. That's very different from being a parent.

Because if you read it again in a neutral voice, you'll see that Mary never stated anything specific about any one person. And to pick up the question about time spent becoming a shihan ... just how many hours did these shihan spend in training? From a purely historical perspective, what amount of time did the shihan (all of them) spend in their training to reach that status? How many were married and what amount of time was spent on family life?

Now, toss in how many of the Japanese shihan had work responsibilities that took up (I'm fairly sure) most of their daily life, what proportion of time left went to training and family?

Let's take one famous Japanese, Takeda Sokaku. It's pretty much known that Sue raised Tokimune. Sokaku was rarely at home to do so. Good or bad? Go ahead, be the judge. I certainly won't.

So, why jump all over Mary when she never stated someone specific? I did state someone specific. You want to judge Takeda Sokaku?

How about taking a step back, rereading things without jumping to conclusions? Why not let Mary say the specifics of what she wants to say? You might be surprised at what she really meant. Or maybe not. But you'll never know by taking the route you did take.

Mark

lbb
11-01-2010, 10:14 AM
You have said something very insulting though. One of the people involved in this discussion is a Aikikai Shihan with children, and you called all Aikikai Shihan unfit parents.

I did? Got a cite for that?

pezalinski
11-01-2010, 10:31 AM
If they're so focused and dedicated, how come they're only in class twice a week?

It's a physical art. I don't think you'll find any teacher or coach in any physical art, from recorder playing (Hi Pauliina!) to baseball, who will agree that twice a week is enough.

In my own experience, I plateau at two classes a week. I make steady progress at three. I make faster progress at four, but can't sustain that for long before other parts of my life suffer more than I'm willing to allow. Other kinds of off-mat physical training help me maintain my conditioning, but they don't help my aikido much.


Thanks, Katherine! I was about to make this same observation from my own personal experience, and read a little farther down the thread before posting.

Some would say that we need more opportunities for aikido people to train at the elite levels. I would say that those opportunities are already there, and that people need to decide to make those sacrifices and commit to that level of training if that is what they want to achieve. Dedication means sacrifice, people, and you get what you pay for. "Agatsu," victory over self, implies sacrifice.

I have taken the long road, and have spent many years (decades, in fact) working up to the meager rank of Nidan, and have been blessed to have seen my own students (from my kids aikido classes) who have blossomed, planted, and bloomed into Nidans before they left University. I have trained more frequently (as an uchi deshi for a while, 6-7 days a week), and less frequently (as little as twice a month), depending on my current level of dedication and involvement in the rest of my life. I am happily 45 years old, and have been training in aikido since college, with only a few short respites. I have traveled to Japan three times so far and practiced with many wonderful teachers both there and in the states, including all of the major Shihan in the US. I am happy to see that my support of the art has enabled others more dedicated to be able to achieve things I have not, and I will be continuing my progress at whatever rate my dedication allows me to achieve.

This is MY path, my WAY. No one can convince me that you cannot walk the path unless you run it quickly. I meet wonderful people along the way, some of us meet at the same waypoint, others just wave as we pass by on different levels of the switchbacks. We help each other along the way. Everyone reaches a different destination along the way at any given point in time. This is in keeping with O-Sensei's message of harmony as much as anything is.

For the art to continue, we need to acknowledge and support the fact that some people are more dedicated than others and are willing to sacrifice to make great progress in the art and become the elite aikido athletes and future Shihans. While not all of us are going to excel at that level, all of us can and should participate at whatever level of dedication and training we can avail ourselves of, and always strive to improve.

Any athletic organization has feeder systems and bush leagues and such to both weed out the less enthused and give the less trained a place to start. Aikido is blessed with a fairly self-selecting system that enables anyone to achieve higher rank through dedicated training. People simply need to step back and gain a little real perspective and decide if their personal level of dedication is going to make them an "elite marathon runner" or a "fitness runner." Aikido is more of a relay race than an individual event, if you take my meaning -- it's part of the way to be willing to pass the baton and help the faster runner along towards victory.
:circle: :square: :triangle:

Ryan Seznee
11-01-2010, 10:56 AM
I did? Got a cite for that?

Did you not type, "Out of curiosity, how many shihan are parents? Or, let's be blunt, how many shihan are not men who have dumped their parental responsibilities onto their wives?

There are, and always have been, plenty of men who are deeply dedicated to their career or profession or whatever, and who are fathers only in the biological sense. That's very different from being a parent"?

You are indirectly calling shihan with children deadbeat dads with such statements. You didn't name names, but you talk about it like it is common practice.

tim evans
11-01-2010, 11:09 AM
Who cares It,s called an opinion Mary didn,t mention no names maybe you and maggie can bring this up at wintercamp next weekend let us know how that works for ya.

lbb
11-01-2010, 11:10 AM
Did you not type, "Out of curiosity, how many shihan are parents? Or, let's be blunt, how many shihan are not men who have dumped their parental responsibilities onto their wives?

I did indeed. See that curly thing at the end of those two sentences? Those are question marks.

You are indirectly calling shihan with children deadbeat dads with such statements.

No I'm not, but you tell yourself whatever stories you want to.

And if you want questions answered, Ryan? You have to ask them. ASK them, not tell the other person what they think.

C. David Henderson
11-01-2010, 11:15 AM
You have said something very insulting though. One of the people involved in this discussion is a Aikikai Shihan with children, and you called all Aikikai Shihan unfit parents. That is exceptionally rude, and I am insulted because I am acquainted with Peter and Penny Bernet. They are not bad parents. They are good people who love what they do as well as their children.

*****

You are indirectly calling shihan with children deadbeat dads with such statements. You didn't name names, but you talk about it like it is common practice.

Ok, first, so at least acknowledge you're backing away from your first statement.

Second, Dude, you guys kill me.

Why are you "insulted" exactly, aside from the fact that you seem to want to win an argument and its convenient? Do you have such low regard for these hothouse shihan that you doubt they can speak for themselves if they felt maligned? Ever think that maybe they don't because ... because of whatever, but, really, why is it your problem?

Third, can we please get back to some semblance of a discussion about something other than whether your significant other was right or wrong in her chortling declaration of victory over big, mean, bad Mary.

You guys think hours=commitment. OK, we get it. Go knock yourselves out, and best of luck in your training.

But you can't win a discussion, you can only shut it down.

Ryan Seznee
11-01-2010, 11:19 AM
Ryan, Maggie, and whoever else wants to dive into the far spectrum of things ... why not ask Mary exactly what she meant when she posted

Because if you read it again in a neutral voice, you'll see that Mary never stated anything specific about any one person. And to pick up the question about time spent becoming a shihan ... just how many hours did these shihan spend in training? From a purely historical perspective, what amount of time did the shihan (all of them) spend in their training to reach that status? How many were married and what amount of time was spent on family life?

Now, toss in how many of the Japanese shihan had work responsibilities that took up (I'm fairly sure) most of their daily life, what proportion of time left went to training and family?

Let's take one famous Japanese, Takeda Sokaku. It's pretty much known that Sue raised Tokimune. Sokaku was rarely at home to do so. Good or bad? Go ahead, be the judge. I certainly won't.

So, why jump all over Mary when she never stated someone specific? I did state someone specific. You want to judge Takeda Sokaku?

How about taking a step back, rereading things without jumping to conclusions? Why not let Mary say the specifics of what she wants to say? You might be surprised at what she really meant. Or maybe not. But you'll never know by taking the route you did take.

Mark

READ THE WHOLE THREAD.

The only thing that bothers me about this whole thread is that people are passing blame onto their busy lives or their familes as a reason why they only train an hour or two a week. I am offended that anyone would present their family as a burden rather than admit that they just would rather do other things than train. A little further down the conversation switches to drive time as the reason they don't train more. When it is mentioned that there are people at Maggie's dojo that drive further than that with children and wives, it is an issue of a personal attack. This seems like a conversation out of an Anne Ryne novel how it is always anyone's fault but mine. :confused: I choose to train versus doing other things, just like everyone else.

Maggie, I and every one else on this side of the issue has said that it is OK to be a hobbyist, just be honest with yourself. I myself consider myself a hobbyist with 6 to 12 hours at the dojo a week. I understand that there are some (whom I have met before) who train 6-10 hours a day and I consider them to be serious.

kewms
11-01-2010, 11:21 AM
I think we all can name shihans with complex personal lives. But then, we can probably name professional athletes, writers, and musicians with equally complex lives. And we can all name people in all those categories who are good parents, devoted to their spouses, and generally exceptional human beings.

Based on my own experience, though, if your marriage will fall apart because you do something you love three times a week instead of two, there are probably other issues there that have nothing to do with aikido.

Katherine

MM
11-01-2010, 11:39 AM
READ THE WHOLE THREAD.


Actually, I have. And I'd guess that I'm not the only one who thinks that you and Maggie are coming across poorly.
I had hoped that you would review the thread and choose a more appropriate direction for your interaction with Mary.
Up to you ...

Mark

George S. Ledyard
11-01-2010, 12:05 PM
Quote:
"However, I cannot accept that a focused and dedicated person attending classes twice a week would not be able to attain the same skill level as they would if training three or even four times a week. It would simply take them more "years" to put in the same hours to get there."

Ok

dps

Look, to do Aikido with some level of "aiki", which I would hope would be someone's goal, from a technical perspective at least, entails re-programming the body and the mind to act differently than it is naturally programmed to do. There is a certain "critical mass" in terms of training time for this to take place. If you don't reach that, the skills do not "sink in ", they don't ever become your default setting. If "years in" was any kind of important factor, there would be a lot of excellent Aikido out there because there are a lot of folks who have been training in the manner you are talking about and have been doing so for decades.

Barring some sort of scientific study that could verify this over time with a large sample, I am stuck with my own observations from 35 years of Aikido. I haven't seen it done. I have seen people training more than we are talking about and not be very good at all. Some of that's effort, some is talent related and some is the quality of the instruction. What I am saying here is, given high level instruction and an average athletic ability, one could be good at this art with three times a week or more. Perhaps, my standard is different. I see many folks, even whole dojos in which folks seem quite content with the world. But they don't have any idea what I am doing or what my teachers are doing. It is the same in outward form only.

Aikido is about altering our fundamental reactions to threat and conflict. It is about learning to relax rather than kick into fight or flight. It is about teaching ones body that relaxing can make it safe rather than tensing up. It is about learning an entirely different way of using the body. Your brain takes a huge amount of practice and assurance that there is something other than pushing and pulling that is effective. It takes a huge amount of proper and intense practice to convince the body / mind that accepting the energy of an attack rather than defending or retreating is the way to be survive.

This is difficult stuff, even if you are training every day. I just don't get why folks think this can be done at all with a time commitment that is less than what most people spend on their commute to work each week. This isn't just about a set of motor skills. I get the impression that some folks think it's about knowing techniques. If that were the case, then sure, you can put ten years in twice a week and know a bunch of techniques. You can't actually do any of them, but you have tones of stuff you can reproduce. The problem is that it's the "aiki" not the techniques that's important in Aikido (once again , my opinion). I mean, it's the name of the art! "Aiki - do". Aikido with no aiki is simply an "Aikido-like substance" with little or no nutrient value.

I told me wife, who is a former national championship fencer and a beginner in Aikido about this thread and she just laughed... Basically she said, "why would anyone think that they could become any good at an art like Aikido putting less time and effort into the training than a bunch of little girls put into their ballet class?" Take any kind of lesson you can think of and the teacher is going to tell you to practice every day. The fact that we need partners and a mat to do most of what we do is unfortunate but a fact. So we can't carry our Aikido "violin" home with us, nor do most of us have that Aikido "piano" in our living room. So we are stuck with an are that requires that we go elsewhere to have our partners and our mat space.

There is actually stuff one can work on at home. It will make your practice better and certainly stronger. The internal power development work is fantastic fro that standpoint. You can add a whole new dimension to your training without adding any more classes at the dojo. But if you aren't already training enough to reach that "critical momentum" in that re-programming of your body / mind, solo internal power work will just make your ineffective technique stronger.

This is why I "care" so much about this... You can see right on the forum that folks have a desire to do good Aikido... they don't want to be told that what they are doing isn't enough, they will ignore all evidence to the contrary, in order to tell themselves that what they can put in will be enough. If the majority of folks in the art are telling themselves this story, pretty soon there is a collective belief that it's true. Eventually, in order to make that view square with reality, the definition of "enough" will be changed. What used to be a mediocre Shodan would now be be an acceptable San Dan. I have seen this with my own eyes. I have seen teachers whose San Dan tests I saw many years ago, now presiding over tests from students that are not even in the ball park with what they had done at the same rank. Not even in the same universe. And no one seemed to recognize this fact. The teacher even seemed rather proud of the student's performance. This is how reality gets distorted to fit the stories we tell ourselves.

We all have our "stories", all of us. I was lucky in that I formed my "story" training with Saotome Sensei. So my "picture" of what a 6th Dan should look like and what he should know was formed very early on. If anything, my view has gotten more difficult to attain, not simpler and easier. I'm ok with my rank but in my own mind I am not even close to where I want to be, merely good enough to not have to apologize. Being aware of ones "stories" and trying to separate what's really true about them and what's just fiction that makes us feel good is a serious part of our training. On this thread, I hope folks have been given a better context in which to view their own stories. That's the point of discussions like this.

George S. Ledyard
11-01-2010, 12:14 PM
Actually, I have. And I'd guess that I'm not the only one who thinks that you and Maggie are coming across poorly.
I had hoped that you would review the thread and choose a more appropriate direction for your interaction with Mary.
Up to you ...

Mark

Actually, I have to say that I found it a bit refreshing to have some of the women here "mixing it up".. usually it's just the boys getting their knickers in a twist. When Mary and Maggie were going at it, no disrespect intended at all, all I could think of was Dan and Mike... I guess I have no real problem with folks getting a bit edgy when they know what they are talking about. And I really appreciate the women when they decide to go toe to toe with anyone because so often they don't stand up for themselves. It's why so few women post on-line. But I've always liked "in your face women anyway". You should see my wife when she gets irked, it's like the wrath of God and I run for cover. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
11-01-2010, 12:16 PM
Actually, I have. And I'd guess that I'm not the only one who thinks that you and Maggie are coming across poorly.
I had hoped that you would review the thread and choose a more appropriate direction for your interaction with Mary.
Up to you ...

Mark

+1

This was an interesting thread before ....

thisisnotreal
11-01-2010, 12:30 PM
I miss those guys. What happened?

Pauliina Lievonen
11-01-2010, 12:32 PM
I feel a bit guilty about introducing the idea of an 8th dan in one of the posts...

It seems like in aikido we're trying to do something that is really very difficult to do, namely try to make sure the art is passed on, not by training a few individuals to a high level to be the professional teachers of the next generation, but by trying to get a bigger group of people with other priorities and obligations to take on that role.

Pauliina

Basia Halliop
11-01-2010, 12:48 PM
Getting back to the discussion on technical skill level, I don't think anyone suggests that someone training less frequently will likely progress at the same rate or, given the same lifespan, reach the same level of skill (at least I don't suggest that). All other things being equal (which of course they usually aren't, but for a start), someone training half as often should theoretically progress at half the pace. And given the finite nature of human lifespans, they would only get half as far at maximum. But it seems what's being suggested is something different than that statement, something much more specific.

I.e., the suggestion I'm hearing, if I understand right, is that with too large time gaps between classes, people will not significantly progress at all -- not just much more slowly, but not at all. That even if they train for several hundreds of hours and concentrate fully during class, they will not improve significantly if they leave too many days between classes. I assume the idea is that the brain (or body?) tends to keep forgetting everything learned between classes, such that the person tends to just keep relearning what they know, rather than continuing to progress?

This is actually quite an interesting suggestion and I think worth thinking of in terms of how people learn.

It doesn't fully correspond to my own experience with people I've seen train with lower frequency -- to me many of them do seem to progress when I look at them last year vs this year. And the people who got the same rank quickly vs the ones that got the same rank slowly don't always seem to me to be totally different in skill or anything... But then it's not like I've trained with THAT many people, or for that many years, or am that experienced that I'd always be able to judge. And when I think about it, even people who train relatively less often tend to increase the frequency for bursts every now and then. So it's actually an interesting comment to hear...

kewms
11-01-2010, 12:59 PM
I.e., the suggestion I'm hearing, if I understand right, is that with too large time gaps between classes, people will not significantly progress at all -- not just much more slowly, but not at all. That even if they train for several hundreds of hours, they will not improve significantly if they leave too many days between classes. I assume the idea is that the brain (or body?) tends to keep forgetting everything learned between classes, such that the person tends to just keep relearning what they know, rather than continuing to progress?

I think that's generally true. I think it depends on the individual's prior training, though. Someone who trains five days a week for a period of years and then drops back to two days a week when life interferes is going to be in a much different place than a beginner who only trains for two days a week from the very beginning. You need some kind of foundation in order to make progress, and I don't think beginners can build that foundation in two classes a week.

At the other extreme, we have shihans who are almost exclusively teaching other people -- most of whom are vastly less skillful -- and who still continue to learn and improve. I think it's safe to say that such people have internalized the art to such a degree that they are their own best teachers. "Mat time" is irrelevant, because their whole life is their practice.

I think it's safe to say that most people in most dojos are closer to the untrained beginner than the shihan end of things.

Katherine

MM
11-01-2010, 01:25 PM
Actually, I have to say that I found it a bit refreshing to have some of the women here "mixing it up".. usually it's just the boys getting their knickers in a twist. When Mary and Maggie were going at it, no disrespect intended at all, all I could think of was Dan and Mike...

LOL! Not an analogy I had thought of. Thanks for putting that in my head. :eek: :crazy:

Mark

George S. Ledyard
11-01-2010, 01:38 PM
I feel a bit guilty about introducing the idea of an 8th dan in one of the posts...

It seems like in aikido we're trying to do something that is really very difficult to do, namely try to make sure the art is passed on, not by training a few individuals to a high level to be the professional teachers of the next generation, but by trying to get a bigger group of people with other priorities and obligations to take on that role.

Pauliina

Hi Pauliina,
Yes, I think that is precisely the issue. And I think the jury is out on whether it can be done. O-Sensei had to be persuaded to open up the art to the general populace to train. Before that it was basically private. You had to be "accepted" as a student and if you didn't measure up, you went away. But of course you didn't want to fail because someone had provided an introduction to O-Sensei for you and you'd never dream of embarrassing them by not stepping up.

Hombu has the idea right... There does need to be a professional training program to make sure that we have top notch instructors for the future. I think they correctly recognize that this can't be done adequately by folks simply training the way most folks do.

The problem I have wit what they are doing is that unlike the training that was provided to the uchi deshi of Saotome Sensei's generation, in which the deshi were given training well beyond what they were expected to teach to the genera; student populace, the current program seems to be nothing more than a teaching college to train deshi to teach a certain curriculum. It's teaching to the syllabus. So, while it ensures quality instructors of kihon waza, it is not attempting any kind of transmission of much of what was really deep about Aikido when the Founder was alive.

So, I think that if you look at the history of the art, the uchi deshi went forth and spread Aikido all over the world. Whatever you might think of their abilities relative to the old generation of thirties deshi, I see little sign that there is anyone in the Hombu pipeline of that caliber. So, these folks went all over the world and did their level best to pass on the Aikido that was taught to them. Now that Aikido isn't even being taught back at headquarters. So the transmission is down to us. As a senior student of one of these uchi deshi, the only way for the transmission to remain unbroken is for me to step up and master what I have been taught and pass it on again.

There is no professional training program here. I have no facilities for an uchi deshi live-in program. I don't have enough students to support taking prime time classes away from the general membership to devote to Professional training. So everyone trains together and the seniors are limited by the efforts of their juniors. That's why I stipulated a certain level of effort to even get promoted. If I filled the membership with a huge number of folks training once or twice a week, I wouldn't be able to get the training to a level at which someone who did really want to train could ever become excellent. At that point I wouldn't be doing my job, which is to ensure the transmission.

I laugh sometimes... Saotome Sensei was once giving me advice on how to make my dojo more "user friendly" so I could have more students and the place would be ore successful on a business basis. I told him that I hadn't really gotten in to it for that reason... I had always used our old DC dojo where I started Aikido with him as the model for what I was trying to reproduce with my own dojo. He looked wistful, sighed deeply, and said,"Probably can't do, not on West Coast."

While that is probably unfairly maligning some folks on the West Coast and letting other folks off the hook... he is right that I can't duplicate what I had with him back in the seventies. There simply aren't enough people who want to train that way. So I find myself trying to do the impossible in passing on what I learned training six or seven days a week for 35 years to a bunch of very good students who train half that. I have yet to figure out exactly how to do this task. I am always trying some new strategy or syllabus. While happy with how people are coming along, I am afraid that I will never be able to pass on all of what I have been taught. So I decide what is central, what is important, and focus on that.

So, why would I even be tempted to give any credence whatever to the idea that less training than what my folks are asked to do would ever be "enough"? Some folks have stated that they don't actually care of they get good at the art. Iwould say that training just because you find it enjoyable but having no investment in whether you get any better and not putting in the time that would allow you to do so, is a waste of time. And in the case of my dojo would act as a drag on the folks that I am really trying to train. There is no uchi deshi program that I can send them to that will teach them what I need to pass on. So, my little dojo is it. It happens there or it doesn't happen. I think this is true all over the country. So many folks sit back and just assume that someone else will do it. They don't see that they actually have any part in supporting the process, accept financially perhaps. But it is the mass of practitioners that are the sea in which the up and coming teachers swim. If that environment is poisoned by mediocrity and trivializing of the art, then that environment will not support the transmission of the depth and breadth of the art

Everyone is responsible for the transmission. That's the only way for this to work. People cannot get good training with people who are not. Dojos can't exist with out a certain number of students but I absolutely resist the notion that the rank and file are there just to support the training of the folks who are doing the "real" work, which is essentially what the folks who say they don't care if they get good are maintaining.

The generation of the uchi deshi is passing away as we have this discussion. Their work is virtually over. They've passed on what they could and time is running out to pass on much more. They will be gone soon and then its totally up to us. I have done my level best to figure out what was taught to me and I continue to train and change all the time. I look around and wonder where the next generation of teachers will come from when so many say they can't find even the minimum amount of time to train. What I have learned will be lost or perhaps pass on to so few that it can't have any larger impact. I cannot pass on what I know to folks who won't take on the job of learning. Simple as that. We are about to be in a time, for the very first time, of having no one left who trained with the Founder. Many martial arts never survived this stage. Perhaps they manged to exist for a time but no one was produced who was of the quality of the original teacher and his students. Perhaps the folks that don't care about whether they get better, will not care if Aikido loses its heart. They weren't going to get it anyway... But I have to care. It is my profession, my mission, and my duty to pass it on. When I see that folks generally aren't interested, I find it hard not to despair about the art. There are enough interested folks around to support me professionally... it's not my problem... it's that I don't see enough around who want to do the work that they are the ones who define the art. Instead I see increasingly, that it's the hobbyists who are defining the art. If that doesn't change, Aikido will end up with no more depth than the TKD taking place in your local shopping center.

dps
11-01-2010, 01:41 PM
Actually, I have to say that I found it a bit refreshing to have some of the women here "mixing it up".. usually it's just the boys getting their knickers in a twist. When Mary and Maggie were going at it, no disrespect intended at all, all I could think of was Dan and Mike...

LOL, which one is Dan and which one is Mike?:)

dps

RED
11-01-2010, 02:40 PM
This is why I "care" so much about this... You can see right on the forum that folks have a desire to do good Aikido... they don't want to be told that what they are doing isn't enough, they will ignore all evidence to the contrary, in order to tell themselves that what they can put in will be enough. If the majority of folks in the art are telling themselves this story, pretty soon there is a collective belief that it's true. Eventually, in order to make that view square with reality, the definition of "enough" will be changed. What used to be a mediocre Shodan would now be be an acceptable San Dan..

This exert is exactly why I'm feeling a bit passionate over the issue. There just comes a point where people stop realizing what quality Aikido it.
I've been a student of classical music most of my life. As in any fine art, the answer to "what is enough" is, its never enough. The work never ends. The route to genius is obsession with any fine art.
I'm driven mad by the argument that 3 hours a week is considered outrageous to a practicing Aikidoka. I don't think there is something wrong with training twice, once a week, or even once a month, so long as you call a spade a spade.
Some one who trains once a week might be a great person, great mother, great employee...but great student of Aikido? Like I said I did classical music the better part of my life, with a commitment of once or twice a week I'd be considered a VERY BAD student! A recreational musician at best.
In music we do not call the guy that plays the recorder(even honestly with joy)a few times a week a student of music...we call the man that practices daily in the apprenticeship of his better a student of music.

Why is people's self worth so wrapped into Aikido, to the point of anger, when they only devote an hour or two to it a week? They haven't devoted enough of their time to even begin to become defensive. IMO It just simply doesn't mean what it means to the people who do reroute their lives, jobs, and home-lives to devote to the study of this art.

I accept the argument of "I'm injured" or "i have a family tragedy" when some one trains too little. But there are some arguments I find to be excuses. They are inconvenienced by long drives, or having to wake up early, or having to eat a late dinner, or rearrange their social/family routines. My biggest pet peeve in life is people who do not take personal responsibility for where they are in any area of life. People can do anything with enough work and devotion IMO.


A hobbyist who appreciates the art can devote 1 or 2 hours a week or less. But at the point where you are claiming to be a devoted student of Aikido, to perform at such a low level is intellectual dishonesty. IMO You can be a good hobbyist with 2 hours a week on average. But you are a bad student IMO with 2 or less hours a week on average.
I don't respect the delusion that we can be great Aikidoka with such a casual commitment. That might offend some, but I think they are dishonest with what Aikido is in their lives. Nothing wrong with the honest casual practitioner. I just hate to see the casual practitioner argue that what they do is enough to be considered disciplined students.

In the end it is my belief that Aikido, like all fine art, is an apprentice program. You have to find the highest skilled Aikidoka you can, whenever you can, and train at the highest level you can(health permitting), whenever you can...like any other discipline. only the quality of Aikido suffers when the casual hobbyist starts calling themselves Martial Artists.

This is what my teachers, Shidoin and Shihan have taught me about what is expected from a student in order to practice quality art with a heart receptive to instruction.

ChrisMoses
11-01-2010, 02:41 PM
Hi folks, remember me? :)

I'll do my best to stay on topic, but since this thread has wandered far and back again, I'm afraid I'll be wandering a bit. This will also be more of an "op-ed" type post and less of investigative journalism. I'm expressing my own opinions, not arguing before a jury. ;)

Topic One: Training two days a week.

I agree with George on this one. Training two days a week is enough to get your interest peaked, or to *barely* maintain what you have learned *if you really put in the work beforehand*. It is not enough to reach what I would call "competence in aiki". That's my way of sidestepping the issue of rank, since that's it's own separate issue. I think three very active days a week is the minimum to actually make progress in the art. If you're only going to be able to get to the dojo three days a week, you will need to be doing work on your own. Now that supposes that you are being offered something useful to do on your own time and given a paradigm to self check (I'm going to leave that can of worms closed for now).

I am also reminded of something Andy Dale said a while back (paraphrasing), "Train as hard and as often as you can when you are young because you will need to lean on that training when you get older and life gets in the way." Like George, I wonder where the fanatics have gone, probably all at MMA gyms. (please read in your best curmudgeon voice:) )When I started Aikido, I trained 5-7 days a week two hours a day. I kept that up for the better part of 10 years barring injury. When I had to travel for work, I took my gi and trained in whatever city I found myself. Was that actually the best use of my time? Probably not, but it's what I did. I know there are still folks out there like that, but it seems that the average age has gone up a lot, and those of us who aren't single and 20 years old have a lot less disposable time on our hands. Particularly in the last two years I've trained less than ever, mostly because now I have two young children and have a lot of critical responsibility at my work. Despite that, I'm trying to get to the dojo three days a week again and it is definitely a hardship to make that happen, both for me and my spouse and children. At two days a week (for me) I come very close to the point where it doesn't even feel like training, and I have had to very seriously consider accepting that and stepping completely away from the dojo.

Topic Two: Aikido and Aikido-lite plus (at no extra charge!) pre/post war Aikido.

Before reading on, please remind yourself that I am sharing my own views and opinions, not trying to debate anyone here. George, I also have no doubt that you will disagree with this statement, you may even (rightfully) take offense. In my mind, Aikido IS Aikdio-lite. The awesome art we all think of in association with Ueshiba Morihei happened before 1942. When O-Sensei retired and handed over Aikido to his son (and Tohei Sensei), Aikido (and Aikido-lite) was born. Before that, I see one man's flavor of Daito Ryu aiki-budo. I believe Doshu simplified the curriculum to the point that it was possible to do without using any "aiki" as I currently understand the term. Unfortunately it was that iteration of the art that has spread worldwide and is what most folks practice today. I really appreciate Mark Murray's lengthy and well researched quotes, they very much echo my own view of what being a post-war uchideshi meant and what specific contact those people had with O-Sensei or his immediate teaching. Being and uchideshi meant sleeping at the dojo and training very hard every single day. It did not mean that you were a personal student of O-Sensei who followed him every where 24/7 365. Well over 90% of the Aikido I see today is simply very cooperative jujutsu. It can be a great workout and a source of real and profound joy, but I do not see or feel any aiki in it.

I think for a long time I was bitter at Aikido because I wanted to believe all the things I had read about it in books, and I felt that in so many ways Aikido was letting me down by not being that thing. I actually enjoy Aikido a lot more now that I don't hold it up to that standard. I now try to do my aikido with what little aiki I have, but I also don't fault it for what it is. I can play in Aikido because I have other venues to try to study aiki in, and different tools than ikkyo to learn it from. It's either ironic or telling that I feel I learned almost everything (I think) I know about aiki from outside of Aikido.

RED
11-01-2010, 03:03 PM
I think we all can name shihans with complex personal lives. But then, we can probably name professional athletes, writers, and musicians with equally complex lives. And we can all name people in all those categories who are good parents, devoted to their spouses, and generally exceptional human beings.

Based on my own experience, though, if your marriage will fall apart because you do something you love three times a week instead of two, there are probably other issues there that have nothing to do with aikido.

Katherine

I appreciate your statement. It respects the contribution of personal responsibility in a person's own life. I think this is a soft-life skill that is important for being successful in any area of your life.

RED
11-01-2010, 03:11 PM
You tell yourself whatever stories you want to, Maggie. You have been all along, and you will continue to do so, no matter what I say. You tell yourself whatever stories gratify whatever need it is you have, and you tell yourself that they're true. You keep right on doing that. I, however, don't have to listen to them.

You already said something similar to me above. It didn't bare repeating.

Respectfully, I got your message, respect the fact you choose to leave the conversation. I got it You don't care or believe what I say, I don't respect everything(some however) of what you say. It's okay, not everyone has to agree or even appreciate each other's contribution. lol That's cool, our discussion on the topic is done.

kewms
11-01-2010, 03:11 PM
Is two days a week a maximum, or a minimum?

For some people, two days a week is what they do when the roof falls in at work, and the hot water heater leaks, and a relative gets sick. For others, it's what they manage only when everything goes right, and traffic isn't too terrible, and the kids are in school.

Clearly those two individuals represent very different levels of commitment, will get different things out of their two classes, and will have different long term histories in the art.

Katherine

Nicholas Eschenbruch
11-01-2010, 03:18 PM
I think some straw men have been put up here recently - did anybody really argue two times a week was enough for mastery? In this thread? All that I myself asked for was some respect for the committment of those who cannot make it more often.

Why is people's self worth so wrapped into Aikido, to the point of anger, when they only devote an hour or two to it a week? They haven't devoted enough of their time to even begin to become defensive.

Who exactly are you referring to here? Anybody on this thread?

Personally, I would find it a lot more credible if you could accompany this statement and all the judgements you have been making with another one as to how long you yourself have been doing aikido. Overzealous newbies come and go. They bring all sorts of issues and take them with them when they leave. I hope you are not one of them.

Basia Halliop
11-01-2010, 03:27 PM
I think some straw men have been put up here recently - did anybody really argue two times a week was enough for mastery? In this thread? All that I myself asked for was some respect for the committment of those who cannot.

I've been wondering the same thing. It's a long thread, so maybe I just missed those comments? But I don't recall reading anyone make that claim either.

I've read some arguments over whether or not one can improve at all over one's current level at two times a week, LOTS of arguments over the psychology and motivations of people who train two times a week, some arguments over whether and how these people harm or help the art as a whole...

But no claim that I can find or recall that one can eventually, e.g., meet or exceed the level of the current highest practitioners training two days a week? Is it there somewhere and I missed it?

RED
11-01-2010, 03:33 PM
I've been wondering the same thing. It's a long thread, so maybe I just missed those comments? But I don't recall reading anyone make that claim either.

I've read some arguments over whether or not one can improve at all over one's current level at two times a week, LOTS of arguments over the psychology and motivations of people who train two times a week, some arguments over whether and how these people harm or help the art as a whole...

But no claim that I can find or recall that one can eventually, e.g., meet or exceed the level of the current highest practitioners training two days a week? Is it there somewhere and I missed it?

I never said that people are claiming that they can master it with two days a week. I've constantly affirmed that more than two days a week is required to gradually get better. And that a teacher has the right to demand a minimum amount of hours from his students.

C. David Henderson
11-01-2010, 04:10 PM
Why is people's self worth so wrapped into Aikido, to the point of anger, when they only devote an hour or two to it a week? They haven't devoted enough of their time to even begin to become defensive.

1. Folks have gotten annoyed not because they are "defensive" but because they viewed some things said as "offensive." Too bad you can't see why, since its really pretty obvious, but it isn't about some shallow need to protect the ego. .

2. So, let me get this straight, while Ryan gets to be "extremely insulted" by a perceived slight to a third person, people who may have felt offended by something you (or he, let's be honest) have said have no cause for their feelings. Just like the annoymous guy you flamed who wanted to quit Aikido. Nice. Gotta have a license to have a reaction....

3. The sloppiness in the discussion began to creep in, in my view, when a technical question of the relationship between frequency of training and mastery drifted into a discussion about "commitment," with one side taking a one-size-fits-all yardstick.

And oh, when someone drops out of the conversation, are you the kind of person who feels the need to have the last word? If you do that, some things may get repeated that otherwise would have been left said once.

kewms
11-01-2010, 04:16 PM
But no claim that I can find or recall that one can eventually, e.g., meet or exceed the level of the current highest practitioners training two days a week? Is it there somewhere and I missed it?

At least one person argued that you can achieve black belt level with only two classes per week, and that Ledyard Sensei's requirement of three classes per week for yudansha candidates was therefore unreasonable.

I think that was page seven or so... that was the comment that inspired me to jump into the discussion.

Katherine

Janet Rosen
11-01-2010, 04:18 PM
Y'all have one hour classes?
Let's see...Monday night class is 2 hours. Wed night class is 2.5 hours. Thursday is the short one, 90 minutes.
I just wish we weren't bunched up like that - I miss having option of a wkend class (just do my weapons and ki exercises solo at home).

Mark Kruger
11-01-2010, 04:37 PM
So where does someone like me fit in this picture?

Monday: Shinto Ryu Iai BattoJutsu, done as my "lunch hour". Pistol range session right after work. Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido, 1 hour in the evening.
Tuesday: Judo, 1 hour. Aikido, 45 minutes since my wife and I swap toddler watching duties during class.
Wednesday: Aikido, training during my "lunch hour" with my sensei, privately. Italian Longsword two hours.
Thursday: Judo, 1 hour. Aikido, 1.5 hours of me "teaching".
Friday: pistol range session right after work

Oh, and after dinner most nights... 10-30 minutes of dryfire with the pistol.

Weekends are quite varied. Last month: USPSA match, speed steel match, Doran sensei semiar, attending the dojo aikido exam, Tim Cartmell BJJ/MMA seminar. The month before that: USPSA match, Italian Longsword seminar in Wisconsin, IDPA match, carbine class with Larry Vickers.

Am I a dilettante who can't decide what to be an amateur in?
Am I looking at a much bigger picture than most folks?
With the limited time I'm spending on aikido will I actually learn and improve?

(I know what my answers are, I'm interested in seeing what other folks think.)

Chris Evans
11-01-2010, 06:11 PM
[/QUOTE] With the limited time I'm spending on aikido will I actually
...nterested in seeing what other folks think. [/QUOTE]

I think you have a plan and must have a rewarding array of interests, some which I'd consider for myself. Are you a peace officer (cop)?

I'd like to add "1911" practical course matches and "M1SA" metallic silloutte matches someday, but now i'm building a fitness base for MMA sparring and mt. bike riding, these willl keep me busy.

The most challenging aspect of my Budo training's mostly at home: Zazen sitting.

barbaraknapp
11-01-2010, 08:19 PM
Greetings Mark Kruger !

I suspect I know what you think about your practice as well ;)

Seriously, I can't give you any real opinion, because I have never done what you are doing. Sounds like you are really really good at pistol shooting, and you are in really good shape (ok, so I knew that already...) I know the tiny amount of cross training I have done has certainly informed my aikido. (So has accomplishing totally unrelated goals and having a daily meditation practice) However, I wouldn't expect training a bit in many arts to get me to the same level in aikido as would sustained, committed, daily practice in aikido. It might get me somewhere else well worth going, were that my path.

love to all at home - off to class.

Barbara

George S. Ledyard
11-02-2010, 01:52 AM
Hi folks, remember me? :)
Topic Two: Aikido and Aikido-lite plus (at no extra charge!) pre/post war Aikido.

Before reading on, please remind yourself that I am sharing my own views and opinions, not trying to debate anyone here. George, I also have no doubt that you will disagree with this statement, you may even (rightfully) take offense. In my mind, Aikido IS Aikdio-lite. The awesome art we all think of in association with Ueshiba Morihei happened before 1942. When O-Sensei retired and handed over Aikido to his son (and Tohei Sensei), Aikido (and Aikido-lite) was born. Before that, I see one man's flavor of Daito Ryu aiki-budo. I believe Doshu simplified the curriculum to the point that it was possible to do without using any "aiki" as I currently understand the term. Unfortunately it was that iteration of the art that has spread worldwide and is what most folks practice today. I really appreciate Mark Murray's lengthy and well researched quotes, they very much echo my own view of what being a post-war uchideshi meant and what specific contact those people had with O-Sensei or his immediate teaching. Being and uchideshi meant sleeping at the dojo and training very hard every single day. It did not mean that you were a personal student of O-Sensei who followed him every where 24/7 365. Well over 90% of the Aikido I see today is simply very cooperative jujutsu. It can be a great workout and a source of real and profound joy, but I do not see or feel any aiki in it.


Hi Chris,
I don't get offended... I know exactly what you are saying. Depending on your point of view it is either quite correct or somewhat irrelevant. But definitely not wrong.

There were never more than a handful of folks who trained under Ueshiba in the 20's and 30's. There is no question that these folks were great. O-Sensei was, by all accounts pretty much a genius, while I would still allow for the fact that there were others around who did know what he knew i.e. Takeda, Sagawa, etc.

But, other than reading everything written in English on these folks, (not hard to do as there isn't that much) and pretty much seen every video, my only direct experience of Aikido and aiki came from my teacher Saotome Sensei. I don't want to get into my opinion of some of the other post war deshi, some were amazing and some weren't, in my opinion, very good at all.

But Saotome Sensei is an absolutely amazing Aikido practitioner. This man, in my opinion, represents the very best that post war Aikido produced. His Aikido sure as hell had "aiki". For most of my career I was literally over twice his body mass and I still have 100 pounds on him. He could throw me effortlessly, using no more effort than Toby or Howard or Don. He just couldn't explain what he did. Some of us have spent well over thirty years figuring it out. From the standpoint of someone who has spent his whole life training, I'd die happy if I could be any where near that good. Was O-Sensei better? Saotome Sensei says yes to that... but I have seen nothing from any pre-war Aikido teacher that would put Saotome Sensei in the second tier.

So, no matter what the debates about pre-war or post-war, or Aikido not having the "goods", I personally have seen an Aikido that I would be more than satisfied being able to do. And not a single American I have ever seen, aside from Angier Sensei, is doing anything with the sophistication that he is. Of course a few of my friends are yonger and getting better so who knows by the time they are in their seventies like Sensei is. I guess I would be at all surprised if they get that good, maybe better, no reason they couldn't... There are individuals who may do certain things well, like the Internal Power guys... fabulous stuff and quite possibly they can hit you harder than Saotome Sensei can... But when we start talking about the complete package of all the things that make a martial artist, the physical, the mental, the ability to shift from empty hand to weapons at will, you name it, I'd feel I died and gone to heaven to be as good as Saotome Sensei.

These discussions about the 30's art being better... Well,better for certain things, perhaps. But I have come to really appreciate many of those very things that others dislike about our art. As I have said before, I think that Aikido impracticality was intentional. I do not think it was meant to be about fighting, although the principles can be used that way. I see nothing in the arts with which I am familiar hat can touch your heart the way Aikido can. Many have a better methodology, some have more sophistication in one area or another. But I simply think that people are wrong when they look at the spiritual / philosophical side of the art as something that wasn't there in the thirties and got added on later. For O-Sensei, it was always there and became central to the art after the war.

So in terms of principles based training, Aikido comes off rather badly compared to Daito Ryu and the Aiki Budo of the thirties. But as an art that has the possibility of really speaking to people, that could, if better taught, really be a practice of tremendous depth, with a heart to it that other arts perhaps intentionally don't have, I am sticking with Aikido. I fully intend to master and pass on an Aikido, like my teacher's which isn't by any stretch, Aikido lite.

MM
11-02-2010, 07:30 AM
Hi George,

Let me start by saying that I am *not* dismissing Saotome sensei or his skills. Or for that matter, even his personality -- I am told he is a great person.

But, the notion that most post-war students had extensive hands-on time with the founder ... it's very hard to support. Don't take that as meaning post-war deshi weren't skilled. As you noted, some were, some weren't.

As for pre-war vs post-war ... egads, it's nearly identical in regards to hands-on training. You should see the small amount of notes I have on it. There was no extensive hands-on training with Ueshiba Morihei then, either.

Which begs the question, what was different? How did Shioda, Tomiki, Shirata, etc get so good so quickly? You can't just say it was the Daito ryu training because we have thousands studying with Takeda and not getting good, you have the whole Modern Daito ryu world that is pretty much in the same boat as the Modern Aikido world (all technique and no internal skills), yet there were people who *did* get significantly better.

We can definitely say it wasn't the overall length of training. There are people who have trained 2-3 days a week for 40 years and aren't at the level of Shioda, Tomiki, Shirata, Mochizuki, etc.

We know that Shioda and Tomiki trained in 5-10 years and got very good. We know that many of the "Giants of Aikido" came from the pre-war period. I have notes that show that those pre-war students didn't have extensive hands-on time with Ueshiba either.

By deduction, we can rule out training for lengthy times per week over the course of decades, training for very short times per week over the course of decades, knowing hundreds of techniques, and not having extensive hands-on training.

What's left then is my theory: Ueshiba during the pre-war period was not yet fully developed in both his martial abilities (aiki) and the Oomoto kyo doctrine (spirituality). He was a work in progress in those years. When those pre-war students trained with Ueshiba, they were seeing, having it explained, and hearing the training in somewhat more simplified terms. These pre-war students were able to "steal" the working knowledge of how to start training aiki. Not the complete package, mind you, (read the Sagawa book and notice how he spent long years trying to become "sticky" because Takeda wouldn't teach him) but enough. It wasn't the techniques nor extensive hands-on time, but a very specific manner of training that had to be explicitly shown.

As the years passed and Ueshiba became more proficient in both, his explanations became more ... spiritual. Or as many said, they didn't know what he was talking about. That created a very large obstacle to learning aiki. Of course, you can also theorize that Takeda was angry that Ueshiba was showing people the "secrets" and Ueshiba just started using spiritual terms to hide his attempts to teach people aiki.

That brings us back full circle to "Is two Days a week enough"? I think you covered the answer very well for Modern Aikido. No need to repeat what you've already said throughout this thread. For Ueshiba's aikido, the answer is no. Neither in partner training, nor in solo training. Ueshiba and Sagawa were prime examples of just how much *correct* training was required.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
11-02-2010, 08:55 AM
Enough...

... to have worth and deserve respect? Most definitely.
... to contribute to the finances and statistics of the dojo and thus support others? Definitely.
... to make practice meaningful for oneself on some level? Sure.
... to have a positive impact on other people’s training and on the dojo community? Quite possibly.
... to have a negative impact on other people’s training and on the dojo community? Quite possibly.
... to get beyond shodan? Apparently depends where you train, but certainly not far beyond that.
... to contribute decisively to an atmosphere of really intensive, devoted high-level training? Unlikely.
... to become a full-fledged instructor? Hopefully not.
... to get some proficiency in the advanced technical aspects of the art? Quite unlikely.
... to do justice to the complexity of the art? Very unlikely.
... to deserve the attention of a master teacher? No, unless she feels like it anyway.
... to become a master teacher? Definitely not.
... to ensure the full transmission of the art in one’s own person? No way.

So that sums it up for me, it's been interesting, and unless Maggie really humbles me with the information how long she has been training and thus forces me to apologize, I am out of here.

Rabih Shanshiry
11-02-2010, 09:01 AM
Enough...

... to have worth and deserve respect? Most definitely.
... to contribute to the finances and statistics of the dojo and thus support others? Definitely.
... to make practice meaningful for oneself on some level? Sure.
... to have a positive impact on other people's training and on the dojo community? Quite possibly.
... to have a negative impact on other people's training and on the dojo community? Quite possibly.
... to get beyond shodan? Apparently depends where you train, but certainly not far beyond that.
... to contribute decisively to an atmosphere of really intensive, devoted high-level training? Unlikely.
... to become a full-fledged instructor? Hopefully not.
... to get some proficiency in the advanced technical aspects of the art? Quite unlikely.
... to do justice to the complexity of the art? Very unlikely.
... to deserve the attention of a master teacher? No, unless she feels like it anyway.
... to become a master teacher? Definitely not.
... to ensure the full transmission of the art in one's own person? No way.

So that sums it up for me, it's been interesting, and unless Maggie really humbles me with the information how long she has been training and thus forces me to apologize, I am out of here.

That sums it up quite nicely. Should hopefully be the last word on the matter but I know better.

lbb
11-02-2010, 01:00 PM
Enough...

That makes sense to me.

There are a couple (at least) of threads in this conversation that I think are worth following up on...but not, I think, here or right now. Maybe later. Many thanks to all for their replies and the effort that went into them...I did read them all, and many of them gave me ample food for thought. When that's the case, sometimes you need to just chew on things for a while.

Pauliina Lievonen
11-02-2010, 01:05 PM
Enough...

I agree that this was a very nice summary! Good discussion and lots to think about.

Pauliina

dps
11-02-2010, 06:52 PM
Hey all, I am Eric, new to Aiki Web, and relatively new to Aikido. I was wondering how many days a week the average person in Aikido trains? My dojo is two days a week. But after you feel comfortable you can stay for the intermediate class which is directly after the beginners class. I think I could do with more. At least 3 days a week. Is two days enough?:confused:

Hello Eric and welcome to Aikido and Aikiweb. You posted a good question that brought about a vigourous debate.

I wonder how many of the people posting on this thread read your personal information and tailored their answer to your question. As what often happens here on Aikiweb the original poster gets lost in the discussion as everyone pulls out their soapboxes to stand on and express their opinion. (Personally I prefer a plastic milk crate.)

It seems that your dojo only offers beginners classes two times a week anyway and if your sensei thinks that is what you need then I would accept that. If as you said you can pick up another class then that would be good.

Don't be in too much of a hurry to learn, but make a commitment ( not measured by how often you are in the dojo) to practice Aikido for a very long time.

dps

P.S. Did you ask your sensei what he thought. It would be interesting to know what he thinks.

mathewjgano
11-02-2010, 07:33 PM
As what often happens here on Aikiweb the original poster gets lost in the discussion as everyone pulls out their soapboxes to stand on...
Dang and I thought I was just getting taller! :p
Masakatsu Agatsu, dammit! Masakatsu Agatsu!!!

...I think I may have just made a new verb.

danj
11-02-2010, 09:08 PM
Chiming in a bit late... but enjoying the dialogue so far

The scientific literature suggests that around 4,000-10,000 hours is generally required to gain expertise in a skill. Thats a lot of aikido classes especially, if you factor in that a lot of the time in classes is overhead and not actual practice. At once or even twice a week thats around a 25yr, process assuming active learning can be maintained.

Beyond that and relative to the debate. Early experiences are said to be the most powerful in learning and an opportunity that can be capitilised through intense training at this stage of development.
Blocked learning (repetitive drills, kata?) on the other hand have limited value with emerging expertise in a skill and can infact hinder development whilst breeding a false sense of confidence. You see this most often in the old hands at the dojo just chuggin' it out with the same technique year after year and never taking on anything new within.

best,
dan
(doomed to be a hobbyist but yearning for more)

PS my insights from elite sport if helpful here (http://www.aikidorepublic.com/learn-aikido)

tarik
11-02-2010, 09:13 PM
Thanks to all for the entertaining thread.

Thanks to Mr. Ledyard for expressing some thoughts that I largely agree with regarding transmission.

Best,

oisin bourke
11-02-2010, 10:39 PM
Chiming in a bit late... but enjoying the dialogue so far

The scientific literature suggests that around 4,000-10,000 hours is generally required to gain expertise in a skill. Thats a lot of aikido classes especially, if you factor in that a lot of the time in classes is overhead and not actual practice. At once or even twice a week thats around a 25yr, process assuming active learning can be maintained.

Beyond that and relative to the debate. Early experiences are said to be the most powerful in learning and an opportunity that can be capitilised through intense training at this stage of development.
Blocked learning (repetitive drills, kata?) on the other hand have limited value with emerging expertise in a skill and can infact hinder development whilst breeding a false sense of confidence. You see this most often in the old hands at the dojo just chuggin' it out with the same technique year after year and never taking on anything new within.

best,
dan
(doomed to be a hobbyist but yearning for more)

PS my insights from elite sport if helpful here (http://www.aikidorepublic.com/learn-aikido)

That's a really interesting blog. I'm currently studying a bit of psychology and the learning and cognitive areas are fascinating.

SeiserL
11-03-2010, 04:59 AM
As a three day a week hobbyist for 16 years with minimal skills, I still feel committed and am having a good time.

IMHO, its the quality of the intent and practice, not the quantity of days or weeks that makes for commitment.

But, when you can have quality and quantity under an instructor that can keep you humble and learning new skills and principles you have the best of the situation.

Linguistics would look for the referential index: Enough according to who? Enough according to what standard and for what purpose?

Great question and discussion, compliments and appreciation to all.

George S. Ledyard
11-03-2010, 11:57 AM
I wanted to thank everyone for this thread. There are too many times when content is lacking or vituperation seems to predominate on forums like this. I think this exchange represents what is best about AikiWeb. There was a lot of divergent opinion on a subject that people clearly care a lot about. I think that everyone got to see the issue from a perspective that was different than his own. And for the most part, everyone stayed fairly calm and civilized, especially given the amount of investment people have on this topic in particular.

As is usually the case, far more people read these posts than posted themselves. I had a number of e-mails and PM's from various teachers of Aikido who reflected my concerns about its survival in a time when the predominant training paradigm is so different from what we perceive as necessary to be competent. One teacher pointed out to me that Chiba Sensei in his Birankai does actually require his instructors to re-certify periodically, which I think should be universally adopted.

Anyway, I think this was a very good exchange reflecting the views of a number of different groups within the Aikido community. Maybe no one changes anything about how they do thins or even changes his thinking, but at least people understand each others outlook better. That's how the forums should work.