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Michael Varin
12-02-2010, 06:12 AM
It is almost universally excepted in other arts, disciplines, sports, and professions that talent is relevant to the success of the person engaged in the activity. Not all participants will have the same performance, creativity, insights, or perceptions even with a similar amount and type of training.

It seems that there is a belief underlying the practice of certain martial arts, one of which is aikido, that talent is a non-issue or at least an issue that can be overcome either through the right teachers, the right training, enough time, or by gaining and/or accessing magical powers.

For example, Michael Jordan had an extremely high degree of both talent and training. His former Bulls teammate Steve Kerr also worked incredibly hard and maximized his level of talent, achieving things in pro basketball that few have, winning 5 championships. However, Kerr could never have been Jordan or do the things Jordan could do.

The above example is a comparison of two men that had broken into the highest level of their particular field.

If you take a random sample of the aikido community you will find a much greater variance, from very good to very poor.

So what about it?
Does this attitude exist? If so, why?
Why do we accept that someone who is slow, uncoordinated, physically weak, old, handicapped will be able to attain even reasonably high levels in the art?
What, if any, effect does this have on dan rankings?
What does this mean about the practice and future of the art?
Is this a problem, and, if so, how can it be remedied?

These questions are only things that quickly came to mind. Please, feel free to response in any way.

grondahl
12-02-2010, 07:15 AM
I think that everybody acknowledges the fact that there exists such a thing as talent, but since the majority of aikido practice does not focus on creating top level practitioners (I think that many in the aikido community even would say that focusing on elite practices is contrary to the spirit of aikido) talent is not really an issue.

Exactly what constitutes talent is another issue. Iīl take it that you heard of Gladwells Outliers and the 10 000 hours of practice-"rule" and maybe also the "The Talent Code"?

Tim Ruijs
12-02-2010, 07:33 AM
Interesting subject.
Exactly what would talent be? The way our body works is greatly determined by our DNA. However, we also say that the mind controls the body.
Would Schwarzenegger be able to run as fast as Carl Lewis?
Who knows? Who cares? Allthough the mental picture is funny :)
Problem arises when you wish to equal or surpass another man's abilities. But in there hides the bigger problem: ego/competition.

Why do we accept that someone who is slow, uncoordinated, physically weak, old, handicapped will be able to attain even reasonably high levels in the art?
Do we really accept that? I do not. :confused: All I do is respect those that truly make an effort to change and progress relatively to their starting point, not another's. Coincidentally, this is also how I grade my students: what progress did the individual make?

Where lies the future of the art? In the hands of those that truly walk the walk.

lbb
12-02-2010, 07:43 AM
So what about it?
Does this attitude exist? If so, why?
Why do we accept that someone who is slow, uncoordinated, physically weak, old, handicapped will be able to attain even reasonably high levels in the art?
What, if any, effect does this have on dan rankings?
What does this mean about the practice and future of the art?
Is this a problem, and, if so, how can it be remedied?

Michael, where are you going with these questions? It seems to me that you're trying to initiate a discussion not about talent, but about people's attitudes towards talent -- and even how these attitudes should be manipulated and controlled? The two discussions are very different, so which one are you trying to have?

Nicholas Eschenbruch
12-02-2010, 07:55 AM
What Tim and Peter say....
I also recommend the Malcolm Gladwell book.

I guess we would have to agree on what talent is for exactly, we would quite possibly have to come up with a shared definition of the purpose and content of aikido, to have a meaningful discussion. Any suggestions, Michael? Would you say talent is about quickly learning techniques?

For me, aikido is both an in-the-moment and a very-long-term endeavour, that's one reason talent does not really feature in a central place there. I guess it would if I were involved in becoming or training an elite of teachers, but I am not.

When somebody learns stuff quickly, I clearly encourage them, and the environment I train in will also do so. However, I also find it very interesting how some physically "untalented" people keep suprising me and become much better than anyone would have thought. Quite possibly including myself. :)

---

Cross-posted with Mary - great point!

Mary Eastland
12-02-2010, 08:36 AM
This made me think of some students at our dojo...myself included. Being physically gifted isn't always an asset in our style of aikido. A person who can uke and fall and roll easily may not have the internal fortititude to stay and find out who they really are. Developing strong ki and an "easily returned to center" takes time, commitment and daily practice.
Several people who were very good at technique quit after 3rd dan...to bad...they are missing the really fun and interesting stuff.
Mary

Janet Rosen
12-02-2010, 09:15 AM
There are limits to "talent." I was seemingly born "wired " with a lot of talent for two dimensional visual arts, symbol reading and language, very weak on music, timing, and movement. But utterly lacking the inner-directed drive to practice or excel, I've never achieved the levels of mastery in painting that artist friends have by dint of the hours they put in day after day, week after week.

Yet my love for aikido, a movement-based art that it was painfully slow to learn the basic moves of, keeps me working hard at it, coming back after injuries, persevering. I don't think w/ my age and relative infirmity that I'll ever achieve what I'd like, but sure will keep trying.

EzD
12-02-2010, 09:41 AM
For example, Michael Jordan had an extremely high degree of both talent and training. His former Bulls teammate Steve Kerr also worked incredibly hard and maximized his level of talent, achieving things in pro basketball that few have, winning 5 championships. However, Kerr could never have been Jordan or do the things Jordan could do.

The above example is a comparison of two men that had broken into the highest level of their particular field.


I believe we all have talent, that is the ability to achieve skill and success. In looking at the Jordan/Kerr analogy, I think one should accept that Michael Jordan was gifted.

phitruong
12-02-2010, 10:07 AM
i think it's the jordan's shoes. do you see how much they cost?

some have natural talent for certain things, others, not. might as well go back and read through darwin stuffs. take for example, we asians are much better at aikido than other folks. that's just it. don't fight it! just accept it! :D

as far as personal talent goes, i have great knack for eating and sleeping and carousing. :)

sakumeikan
12-02-2010, 10:29 AM
It is almost universally excepted in other arts, disciplines, sports, and professions that talent is relevant to the success of the person engaged in the activity. Not all participants will have the same performance, creativity, insights, or perceptions even with a similar amount and type of training.

It seems that there is a belief underlying the practice of certain martial arts, one of which is aikido, that talent is a non-issue or at least an issue that can be overcome either through the right teachers, the right training, enough time, or by gaining and/or accessing magical powers.

For example, Michael Jordan had an extremely high degree of both talent and training. His former Bulls teammate Steve Kerr also worked incredibly hard and maximized his level of talent, achieving things in pro basketball that few have, winning 5 championships. However, Kerr could never have been Jordan or do the things Jordan could do.

The above example is a comparison of two men that had broken into the highest level of their particular field.

If you take a random sample of the aikido community you will find a much greater variance, from very good to very poor.

So what about it?
Does this attitude exist? If so, why?
Why do we accept that someone who is slow, uncoordinated, physically weak, old, handicapped will be able to attain even reasonably high levels in the art?
What, if any, effect does this have on dan rankings?
What does this mean about the practice and future of the art?
Is this a problem, and, if so, how can it be remedied?

These questions are only things that quickly came to mind. Please, feel free to response in any way.

Surely the important thing for anybody is to be the best of your own potential talent and achieve this goal rather than draw comparisons between anyone else?
As a example if a six stone man can bench press 100 lbs and that is his maximum and a twenty stone guy can bench press 400 lbs max.since both are achieving their personal best , relatively speaking they are both the same. How does one compare a middle aged man in relation to a mid teen in Aikido?Can you compare a rose with a thistle?
Each person has his /her limitations and skill. In my mind comparisons are to be avoided. Just see the person as he /she is.

mathewjgano
12-02-2010, 10:48 AM
I think talent like Jordans is accessible by most, but not as easy to tap into as it seemed to be by him. I'm guessing it's a mixture of happenstance and effort. I think of my experience learning math as a kid as one of the main factors: when I was in 4th grade I was put in remedial math because I was the "weakest" in the class. I decided I would love math instead of hating it and by 5th grade I was the top of the class, finishing my tests with 98% and before anyone else; with enough time to start learning higher levels of curriculum. By the time 6th grade came along, I was a little full of myself and didn't try as hard. I think most people operate like this. It's hard to go full blow all the time and it's easy to get into a rythm and keep to that comfortable rythm rather than pushing it to new levels.
That said, who really knows....maybe Jordan was born to be a basketball player. We do know it didn't translate into other athletics though...and it's hard for me to think natural selection played a huge role in that compared to other people. I think the mind primes the body and somewhere along the way, Jordan developed a mind for playing basketball that allowed his body to follow suit the way it did.
...My two bits too early after too little sleep...

kewms
12-02-2010, 11:24 AM
I believe we all have talent, that is the ability to achieve skill and success. In looking at the Jordan/Kerr analogy, I think one should accept that Michael Jordan was gifted.

But Kerr was still able to play in the NBA. That puts him several steps above all but a handful of players. He wasn't Jordan, but he was still very very good.

At the very top levels, yeah, maybe genetics matter. But without the hard work, you'll never be in a position to find out. For that reason, I don't think talent is worth thinking about, in any endeavor. Having it may mean that some things are easier, but it shouldn't change your overall approach.

Katherine

Lan Powers
12-02-2010, 11:37 AM
Warning!!
No great insights here.....

But it has been noticed and commented upon, about the correlation between the "natural" student and the "struggler".
We have had several very gifted folks come, train, achieve, ..... then drift off.
Any number who came, flailed about, struggled to comprehend,
achieve,.............. and still train and find fullfillment in the art.

There does seem to be a inverse relationship between the obviously talented and how well they "stick".
More to the point, the strugglers have sometimes surpassed the gifted in what observers perceive as ability. (not always the same thing as ACTUAL ability, but that is a different song)

Ketsan
12-02-2010, 11:48 AM
So what about it?
Does this attitude exist? If so, why?
Why do we accept that someone who is slow, uncoordinated, physically weak, old, handicapped will be able to attain even reasonably high levels in the art?
What, if any, effect does this have on dan rankings?
What does this mean about the practice and future of the art?
Is this a problem, and, if so, how can it be remedied?

These questions are only things that quickly came to mind. Please, feel free to response in any way.

Put it this way: the fastest way for a freshly minted 25 year old 1st kyu to get shodan in Aikido would be to chop their legs off.
In my association anyway. The individual is assessed on health, age and ability and then the test is created so that they can pass it.

Shodan makes a simple statement "the basics have been mastered by this person" In our quest for equality we make it into "The basics would have been mastered but........" The fastest way to high rank is through consistent achievement of low potential.

Shodan test is a simple question: "Have you mastered the basics, yes or no?" If the answer is no then the answer is no and as an Aikidoka who's supposed to be learning to deal with life and the universe you should be learning to deal with the reasons why you haven't mastered the basics and get beyond them if you can. Talent is only as useful as the determination that supports it and I think too often we give people an excuse not to be determined.

grondahl
12-02-2010, 11:49 AM
I strongly disagree. Being outstanding in any major physical activity just isnīt for everyone. You have to have a great combination of talent, a training environment that lets you develop that talent, etc.

But I agree that most people never even try to take their potential to itīs limits.

I think talent like Jordans is accessible by most, but not as easy to tap into as it seemed to be by him

Don Nordin
12-02-2010, 01:04 PM
I think that for many people their unique talent may never be realized. This is where practice and training come into play. Taking another view of your Mj example. Jan Ullirich was considered by most experts to be the most talented cyclist in the world, however he was always behind Armstrong at the end of the race. Is that because Armstrong was more talented? Personally I think it was because Armstrong worked harder for it.
Does talent or lack thereof limit the art, No not in my opinion.

George S. Ledyard
12-02-2010, 01:07 PM
If you take a random sample of the aikido community you will find a much greater variance, from very good to very poor.


No, question.

So what about it?
Does this attitude exist? If so, why?

I think the answer is simple... this is not a competitive art. There's no win or lose. So abilities of all levels participate, and that's good. Since the art is about personal development rather than simple technical skill, allowances are made for age, size, strength, handicaps, emotional baggage, athletic ability or lack therefor, etc Ranking reflects that.

If we had competition, the quality of the technique, if not the quality of the people doing the art, would be higher and there would be far fewer people doing it. Competition makes wishful thinking about ones abilities difficult. If you can't do it, you come to the dojo every night and lose. Folks who don't have at least some talent for it quit. In Aikido there are all sorts of folks who have little or no actual talent for it. They stay and train and are encouraged to do so. Personally, I think it should be this way. There are all sorts of benefits to training that come from participation and have nothing to do with actual skill. I want everyone to have the benefits available from training.

The problem comes when folks of mediocre or poor ability or folks who are not serious about their training still think they should be rewarded for their efforts. My wife is a fencer. In fencing you get your grades by winning matches. You don't win, you don't get graded. To go up in grade, you have to be able to beat some folks at that higher grade, or no grade. Period.

But in Aikido, people seem to rise in grade because they are nice people, are trying hard, contribute to the dojo in positive ways, etc Afetr a couple of decades you have someone with some serious rank who now thinks he or she should be teaching. It screws things up for the art big time.

Now, in Aikido they have tried to solve this by having teaching certifications that are separate from the Dan ranks. But my experience is that these certifications have become almost automatic when certain ranks are achieved. So if a mediocrity can get a 5th Dan (Oh, say it's not so) he usually ends up with Shidoin papers.

Why do we accept that someone who is slow, uncoordinated, physically weak, old, handicapped will be able to attain even reasonably high levels in the art?

What makes you think people believe this? They certainly act like they do at times, but I think if you sat down and actually asked point blank whether this could be true, most folks would admit that it isn't possible. High level is just that. If everyone were at that level, it wouldn't be high level. It is not possible for everyone to be high level. Talent absolutely comes into it.

What, if any, effect does this have on dan rankings?
What does this mean about the practice and future of the art?
Is this a problem, and, if so, how can it be remedied?

I think a truly exclusive Teaching Certification track would solve many problems. It would be based on ability, period. Then Dan ranks could reward all sorts of things and people wouldn't have the association that some Dan rank actually meant you were at some standard level, because as we all know, that simply isn't true.

mathewjgano
12-02-2010, 01:39 PM
I strongly disagree. Being outstanding in any major physical activity just isnīt for everyone. You have to have a great combination of talent, a training environment that lets you develop that talent, etc.

But I agree that most people never even try to take their potential to itīs limits.

What do you think makes for talent? I see it as the product of nurture more than nature...that is to say, I think genius isn't something most "genius's" are born with...though I have to admit some might be born more well-suited than others. I just think those cases are probably very rare...the exceptions which might prove the aforementioned rule.

kewms
12-02-2010, 01:59 PM
If someone told you that you were fabulously talented, how would your practice change?

If someone told you that you had no talent whatsoever, how would your practice change?

Education studies have shown that people who are told that they *don't* have talent actually achieve more than people who are told that they do: the people with "talent" tend to coast, while the ones "without" tend to work harder. (The studies assigned people to one group or the other randomly, not based on test scores or any other actual measure.)

Katherine

Tim Ruijs
12-02-2010, 02:18 PM
I think a truly exclusive Teaching Certification track would solve many problems. It would be based on ability, period. Then Dan ranks could reward all sorts of things and people wouldn't have the association that some Dan rank actually meant you were at some standard level, because as we all know, that simply isn't true.
In such a track who will judge potential yudansha? Their teachers no doubt, or perhaps a group of teachers. But how will a grade given in the US relate to the (arguably same) grade in the Netherlands? The teachers most likely will never have met. Who sets the standards?
Problems aside, on the technical part (instruction) all this is perhaps feasible. However, I am very afraid politics will interfere quickly. Dare I say would result in the very system that exists today?
At a different level I do not believe a teacher can grade your progress/growth as a person. People cannot be compared on an absolute level (which any grading system does). This ultimately implies duality, competition. But this [growth] is what Aikido is about: learn to balance mind and body.

Good students find good teachers...(and no that is not a mistake)

I am very interested in this subject and appreciate you sharing your view (perhaps different thread, PM).

SeiserL
12-02-2010, 04:52 PM
Some of us have no natural talent, but we are coach-able.

Dan Hover
12-02-2010, 05:10 PM
Clearly Ledyard Sensei hit the nail on the head, big difference between rank and ability and even teaching ability. Very rarely does those three things overlap. Maybe 1% of the time, meaning that about 1% of aikidoka are the blessed or gifted individuals who either through perseverance or talent or even excellent teachers become one of those people who have the motivation and desire to not only physically master the art, but understand the history, philosophy, culture, antecedent arts and context of Aikido. That being said that 1% should be 100% of your instructors.

Janet Rosen
12-02-2010, 06:48 PM
Well, if one is looking for a separate system for teaching, per George's post, an option could be: testing the individual for rank, testing the individual's students to assess his teaching. It would only make sense to do this within a given organization.
Just off the top of my head.

George S. Ledyard
12-02-2010, 08:38 PM
Some of us have no natural talent, but we are coach-able.

You know how many wiz kids I've seen come and go? It takes a combination of things to get someone to achieve expertise, and natural talent isn't necessarily one of them.

Commitment beats natural talent every time. Put commitment together with natural ability and throw in top level instruction and you will have a top level practitioner. Like yourself, I had two out of the three... natural talent was not one of my gifts. However, I made up for that lack by being more passionate about my training than most folks. I suspect you have been the same...

I have to say, just as an aside, I will never forget looking over at you with Tennenhouse attached to your arm trying to do ikkyo on you... It flashes every time I read one of your posts...
- George

Keith Larman
12-02-2010, 09:00 PM
I have to say, just as an aside, I will never forget looking over at you with Tennenhouse attached to your arm trying to do ikkyo on you... It flashes every time I read one of your posts...
- George

Ah, haven't heard that name in years... Wonder where he went...

lbb
12-02-2010, 09:04 PM
In the years before he became a bestselling author, back when he was still pretty hungry, Stephen King wrote a great book on the horror genre called Danse Macabre. It's a great read if you're interested in the main subject, but I remember it most for a digression on the subject of writing, and the distinction between talent and ability. King defined talent as what you're born with, your inherent potential, and ability as what you can actually do. To compare talent to ability, he used the analogy of a knife, and said (my paraphrase) "Nobody was ever born with a sharp knife. Some people are born with an almighty big knife, but nobody is born with a sharp knife."

A little sharp knife beats a big dull knife every time, and a knife only gets sharp one way: by honing it.

Keith Larman
12-02-2010, 09:56 PM
Not wanting to get into the nitty-gritty as I'm getting expert-shy on some topics, in skills measurement/testing/psychometrics we make the distinction between aptitude and proficiency. Aptitude loosely defined meaning inherent ability for some task as contrasted with proficiency as technical competence in a task. One can have a great aptitude with no proficiency (no training yet). One can develop great proficiency even without great aptitude (lots of hard work).

Also, many also confuse early success with high aptitude. Often early success does not correlate well with long term success. Aptitude in most non-trivial things are usually multiple factor things and quite complex once you start breaking them down into parts. So someone may find some early aspects easy and as a result succeed at initial levels. However, they can never get over other hurdles that are necessary to get beyond those early levels of success.

Back when I worked in psychometrics writing tests and doing studies of job performance those long term guys who'd say they were never the best initially in fact showed a fantastic balance of the aptitudes necessary for the task. Those who "flared out early" often showed very high aptitude for some aspects, but were sorely lacking in others. Hence the eventual failure.

So you slow guys shouldn't sell yourselves short. In most non-trivial areas the slow guys *are* the ones with the most aptitude. It just doesn't always happen the way you'd expect...

tlk52
12-02-2010, 11:10 PM
some random thoughts:

teaching, technique, and ability to apply technique seem to me to be 3 separate talents.

It seems to me difficult and complicated to talk about this in Aikido. what is talent in Aikido? Aikido is non-competitive so how would talent manifest itself?

I do think that within a martial context, that talent shows itself most clearly in actual fighting.

In competitive martial arts and other sports, many champions don't necessarily have well rounded technique, they have a few techniques that they're really good at, combined with the superior natural ability to apply the techniques, to read the other person's movement and timing...

but great performers don't always make great teachers and great coaches are not necessarily great performers. teachers need to be fairly strong with the whole curriculum, and have social skills.

... someone with more talent will develop greater proficiency with the same amount of practice.

Talent seems more the innate proclivity to be able to absorb and apply that technique, to physically understand quickly, to make it live. some people just have a greater sensitivity to moving their own body, moving with another person. better timing, manipulating Ma-Ai, etc..

... to reach a very high level it does seem to be necessary at some point for a student to work intensively. ie: 20-30 hours a week for 5-6 + years

I'm a musician so maybe that's influencing my thinking about this stuff... ie; who's a greater musician, Thelonius Monk, or the batch of pianists that got M.A.'s at Julliard this year, all of whom have more technique than T. monk.

I'm not really arguing for a particular point of view here I just think that the discussion might have been leaving these kinds of complications out because they're difficult.

Aikido is a Koan

crbateman
12-02-2010, 11:17 PM
I can't see much to be gained by making judgments or comparisons on individual aptitudes or performances in aikido. It's like you get 100 people to jump into a swimming pool. Those who are good swimmers will probably boogie to the deep end, while those with little swimming ability will probably hang out in the shallows (at least until they get good enough to venture outward). But just about everybody will have a good time, and most will not care too much about what the others are doing. All that's really important is that nobody drowns... ;)

Keith Larman
12-02-2010, 11:30 PM
In the end all that matters is who are the old farts who are still treading water 40 years later... ;)

kewms
12-02-2010, 11:33 PM
I'm a musician so maybe that's influencing my thinking about this stuff... ie; who's a greater musician, Thelonius Monk, or the batch of pianists that got M.A.'s at Julliard this year, all of whom have more technique than T. monk.

Of all the people in the 1935-1939 classes at Julliard, how many are we still listening to today, as either composers or performers?

(Monk was born in 1917, so I'm guessing those classes roughly contain his contemporaries.)

Although that also gets into the technique and/vs. creativity question, which may be too far into the weeds for this thread.

Katherine

Benjamin Mehner
12-03-2010, 12:02 AM
Not wanting to get into the nitty-gritty as I'm getting expert-shy on some topics, in skills measurement/testing/psychometrics we make the distinction between aptitude and proficiency. Aptitude loosely defined meaning inherent ability for some task as contrasted with proficiency as technical competence in a task. One can have a great aptitude with no proficiency (no training yet). One can develop great proficiency even without great aptitude (lots of hard work).

Also, many also confuse early success with high aptitude. Often early success does not correlate well with long term success. Aptitude in most non-trivial things are usually multiple factor things and quite complex once you start breaking them down into parts. So someone may find some early aspects easy and as a result succeed at initial levels. However, they can never get over other hurdles that are necessary to get beyond those early levels of success.

Back when I worked in psychometrics writing tests and doing studies of job performance those long term guys who'd say they were never the best initially in fact showed a fantastic balance of the aptitudes necessary for the task. Those who "flared out early" often showed very high aptitude for some aspects, but were sorely lacking in others. Hence the eventual failure.

So you slow guys shouldn't sell yourselves short. In most non-trivial areas the slow guys *are* the ones with the most aptitude. It just doesn't always happen the way you'd expect...

This reminds me of something I heard on NPR. There was some kind of expert on the air who explained that those that believe they have a natural ability for something often get frustrated by their perceived lack of progress and give up, while those that believe that they have to struggle for every ounce of skill tend to be the ones that succeed because they believe that success will only come through perseverance.

"Slow and steady wins the race".

Tim Ruijs
12-03-2010, 03:48 AM
...who explained that those that believe they have a natural ability for something often get frustrated by their perceived lack of progress and give up, while those that believe that they have to struggle for every ounce of skill tend to be the ones that succeed because they believe that success will only come through perseverance.

Some people I have encountered believe talent is required in the first place to be able to do certain things [e.g. Aikido] and do not give it a fair chance. The biggest obstacle only exists in the mind.

philipsmith
12-03-2010, 05:13 AM
Thoughtful and fascinating thread.

I work in a sports science department of a university and as such are associated with elite athletes in a variety of sports.

Success (by whatever measure) is only acheived by the application of talent. In other words unless even extremely gifted individuals apply themselves to training in a meaningful way then they will never realise ther full potential.

There is some discusiion about the 10,000 hour rule with some psychologists suggesting that we should really think in terms of repetitions rather than hours.

My main field is remedial therapy and exercise and again some research suggests that only a few hundred repititions may be needed provided that anhy errors are corrected immedialtly, an often friustrating process.

From my experience as both a therapist and Aikido/Iai-do teacher it is those individuals who strive for perfection; ask others to observe and criticise them and (most importantly) take that advice make the most progress both in the long and short-term. these individuals usually also describe themeselves as having less talent than other individuals - although this is often not the perception of outside observers.

perhaps it is no coincidence that the "top" performers in any skill based sporting activity are also the most self-critical and open-minded.

sakumeikan
12-03-2010, 05:39 AM
During a conversation I had with Chiba Sensei I asked him the question :In his opinion who is more likely to stay with Aikido , a guy who is naturally talented or a guy who is clumsy , ungainly and a slow learner?
Chiba Sensei stated that in his opinion and experience the slow/ungainly guy was the more likely person to continue the practice of the art.
Maybe the ungainly guy as opposed to the natural has more motivation /need to master the art?Sometimes if things come easy for you you do not really appreciate them.
Success in anything is 10% inspiration 90 % perspiration as the wise men state.

lbb
12-03-2010, 07:27 AM
Also, many also confuse early success with high aptitude. Often early success does not correlate well with long term success. Aptitude in most non-trivial things are usually multiple factor things and quite complex once you start breaking them down into parts. So someone may find some early aspects easy and as a result succeed at initial levels. However, they can never get over other hurdles that are necessary to get beyond those early levels of success.

Back when I worked in psychometrics writing tests and doing studies of job performance those long term guys who'd say they were never the best initially in fact showed a fantastic balance of the aptitudes necessary for the task. Those who "flared out early" often showed very high aptitude for some aspects, but were sorely lacking in others. Hence the eventual failure.

Now that really is fascinating. It's a very different way of thinking than the way I'd been thinking of talent, as a sort of monolithic thing: you've got a "talent" for aikido or music or whatever, but it's all of one piece. What you say makes a lot more sense, though -- if I understand it correctly, that your natural aptitude for something like aikido is actually a composite of your natural aptitude for eye-hand coordination, for balance, for certain kinds of visualization, etc. I think that model does a better job of explaining not just the early success and ease of some people, but also why those who struggle initially usually start to experience breakthroughs at some point -- not always dramatic and sharply defined ones, but it seems to be a common experience. I don't think I have known any "long term guy" who just struggled constantly -- the struggle never goes away completely, but everyone I know who stays with it has these times when things seem to be falling into place. This fits well with the idea of aptitude for aikido being a composite of many aptitudes, not all of which kick in on the first day you step onto the mat.

grondahl
12-03-2010, 08:03 AM
This is a intresting thread. The main theme has gone from; talent (as in aptitude etc) is not that important compared to the quality of training to talent is bad, they never stay anyway, lets focus on the clumsy ones.

A good training/learning environment should be able to nurse the growth of both those with an high aptitude and those who will take longer time to excel. Maybe the way aikido training normally is set up is geared towards the slower ones?

Keith Larman
12-03-2010, 09:05 AM
Now that really is fascinating. It's a very different way of thinking than the way I'd been thinking of talent, as a sort of monolithic thing: you've got a "talent" for aikido or music or whatever, but it's all of one piece. What you say makes a lot more sense, though -- if I understand it correctly, that your natural aptitude for something like aikido is actually a composite of your natural aptitude for eye-hand coordination, for balance, for certain kinds of visualization, etc. I think that model does a better job of explaining not just the early success and ease of some people, but also why those who struggle initially usually start to experience breakthroughs at some point -- not always dramatic and sharply defined ones, but it seems to be a common experience.

Yes, the "common sense" conception of aptitude (and things like intelligence, etc.) is that it is a monolithic thing. That is just simply way too simplistic. The reality is that most non-trivial tasks require a variety of aptitudes. They also require the development on non-trivial skills some of which are no doubt more easily acquired for some than others. So put that gigantic mess into a blender and hit go and each one will be different.

Seeing success right away is always encouraging, certainly better than sucking horribly right off the bat. However the requirements of any non-trivial task are usually complex and that initial success simply doesn't guarantee it will continue. You always have to look at the "whole" student. The whole package. And like most area most will end up performing in the big, tall middle chunk of the bell curve. Those who push up into the vastly more rarefied air of a few standard deviations higher are few and far between. It is not just the perseverance that gets them there, however. I'm sure we all know people with 30 years experience who, well, just aren't all that good at whatever it is we do. Because what it takes to be "good" at this stuff isn't trivial.

Keith Larman
12-03-2010, 09:10 AM
Just as a random thought, ever heard someone say "So and so was great, but he never seemed to be able to put it all together..." You can never quite put a finger on why they couldn't "get it" since "it" all seemed to be there. "It", however, just seemed to be a mess.

It probably was a mess. And it may not have been the lack of any one skill, just not quite enough of the right balance of every thing else.

Or as someone else has also pointed out you also have to consider mental "aptitudes" as well such as perseverance. The person who is able to just keep "plugging along" can sometimes get through it and get where they need to go. But then again, we all know of 30 year vets who clearly have some skills, but just don't have that "umph" you'd expect. You think "It just lacks something...". Yes, it does.

jonreading
12-03-2010, 09:11 AM
I think this is a great discussion, and an important to have.

I believe aikido has a lower point of entry than other martial arts, especially the physical ones. I do not mean this in a derogatory manner, O'Sensei worked very hard to make aikido a martial art that offered a wide berth of participation. However, I know of no evidence that O'Sensei believed everyone who trained aikido would become a competent martial artist. Related to this point, I think O'Sensei actually worked to remove much of the "martial" aspect of the art to make it more palatable for a larger demographic. Over the years, I think this attitude corroded into the thought that anyone could do aikido and become a competent in a fighting art. I believe this is achievable from an intellectual standpoint, but not necessarily from a physical standpoint.

I preamble my comment because I believe this mindset has something to do with the prevailing perception of competency in aikido.

Aptitude is a great assessment of potential. We used to issue aptitude tests to children before testing became the end-all, be-all of schools. Aptitude is not a judgement, only a measurement of potential. Somewhere along the line we dropped aptitude because "you can be anything when you grow up," and we didn't like being told that wasn't necessarily true.

Like many posters, I believe perseverance is more important than aptitude in a budo like aikido. Likewise, dedication and training ethic are more important than aptitude. However, I think talent plays a larger role in the bujitsu side of martial arts, including aikido. The aikido people who separate themselves from others usually employ a strong training ethic, natural talent and they persevere through the years.

I am going to venture into theory here, but I think sometimes we confuse the budo of self-development with the bujitsu of martial application. I think the nature of aikido lends itself to slipping from one into the other quite effortlessly.

As a very personal story, I used to work with the special needs children at my high school. In gym class I remember one occasion during which the kids were playing basketball. No, imagine a number of high-school age children with a variety of needs, some handicapped, some autistic, some with MS, and some with mental development problems throwing a basketball generally in the direction of the basket... It was basketball in the loosest sense of the sport, but physical activity. One of the wheechair-bound children with severe MS asked the teacher (a special needs counselor) why he wasn't as good at basketball as the other [normal] children with the other kids. The teacher replied that he could be if he practiced, I think as a way to answering the boy's question without hurting his feelings. Well, class ended and we all went to the dressing room to change and that boy went missing. I went to find him and there he was in the gym throwing a basketball at the basket, then wheeling over to pickup the basketball and doing the whole thing over. He started crying when I told him he had to stop and get ready for his next class. He just wanted to be able to play basketball like the other kids so he was practicing. I was 15 I think and I'll be damned if I still don't have feelings that that teacher shouldn't have taken the time to give that kid a better answer.

I am very conscious as an adult in how I speak to children. I am also very conscious as an instructor about what expectations I set in class. I'll be damned if I ever make a poor answer to a difficult question like that teacher, or put someone else in a position of feeling what I felt that day. Aikido has a lot of commentary based on what we want to hear, not what is necessarily feasible.

Tony Wagstaffe
12-03-2010, 09:23 AM
It's been my observation that those of mediocre physical coordination are the ones that seem to go the distance, while those of "natural ability" short term, seldom ever last.... the tendency is to become over confident and disintegrate at the first hurdle, usually shiai, where there opponent is better skilled by practice or simply stronger.....
Those of lesser coordination either give up or become useful in administrative applications to do with organizational events, thus earning "honorary dan grades" through that avenue....
This I personally disagree with, unless elderly or have some physical disability which limits there progress.....

grondahl
12-03-2010, 09:34 AM
Regarding the fact that those with "natural ability" seldom lasts; what about individuals like Mochizuki, Tohei and other of the greats that early on got teaching responsibilites from Ueshiba?

If a individual with Toheis aptitude would walk in to your dojo tomorrow, would you be able to keep him?

Keith Larman
12-03-2010, 09:47 AM
Regarding the fact that those with "natural ability" seldom lasts; what about individuals like Mochizuki, Tohei and other of the greats that early on got teaching responsibilites from Ueshiba?

If a individual with Toheis aptitude would walk in to your dojo tomorrow, would you be able to keep him?

I never said people with "natural ability" seldom last. What I said is that there is not a strong relationship between having initial easy success and lasting. Some do come in with tremendous aptitude across the board. Those people will flourish in the right environment. The point was that aptitude isn't a singular thing but a complex assortment of "sub-aptitudes". And that having initial success can be a sign that *some* aspects are there, it is no guarantee that *all* of them are there. And as a matter of fact the person may in lack tremendously important attributes which may not manifest problems until later.

Of course all this assumes we are providing a rich, vibrant atmosphere for learning tuned to the person's aptitude as well. Crappy instruction is, well, crappy instruction.

Tony Wagstaffe
12-03-2010, 10:11 AM
Regarding the fact that those with "natural ability" seldom lasts; what about individuals like Mochizuki, Tohei and other of the greats that early on got teaching responsibilites from Ueshiba?

If a individual with Toheis aptitude would walk in to your dojo tomorrow, would you be able to keep him?

Who knows? Maybe that's why Ueshiba's heir couldn't.....;)

George S. Ledyard
12-03-2010, 12:10 PM
I can't see much to be gained by making judgments or comparisons on individual aptitudes or performances in aikido. It's like you get 100 people to jump into a swimming pool. Those who are good swimmers will probably boogie to the deep end, while those with little swimming ability will probably hang out in the shallows (at least until they get good enough to venture outward). But just about everybody will have a good time, and most will not care too much about what the others are doing. All that's really important is that nobody drowns... ;)

Hi Clark,
Not to seem too obstreperous but do you think that the Founder and subsequent deshi who have created and spent their lives attempting to transmit this art did so with "everybody having a good time" in mind?

It's just got to be about more than that... even for folks with less aptitude or less than whole hearted commitment. I simply am unwilling to see this art as somthing O-Sensei created for the world so they'd have a fun activity for their leisure.

If it was about fun, I'd go drink wine at a nice bistro with friends... easier on the body, and nothing to achieve.

crbateman
12-03-2010, 02:12 PM
Hi Clark,
Not to seem too obstreperous but do you think that the Founder and subsequent deshi who have created and spent their lives attempting to transmit this art did so with "everybody having a good time" in mind?

It's just got to be about more than that... even for folks with less aptitude or less than whole hearted commitment. I simply am unwilling to see this art as somthing O-Sensei created for the world so they'd have a fun activity for their leisure.

If it was about fun, I'd go drink wine at a nice bistro with friends... easier on the body, and nothing to achieve.
No George, I was not attempting to channel O'Sensei and his intentions here. This thread seemed to be more about what people were doing with aikido in the mainstream today than about what those esteemed forefathers were trying to teach, hence my analogy. I simply don't expect everybody to show up "at the pool" with exactly the same intentions or capabilities as everyone else, but if everyone can enjoy the swim (i.e. have fun) then everyone has something to show for it. While it would be great if everyone showed up for the reasons O'Sensei had in mind, I think the reality is that most train more for what they themselves expect. Sorry if I was more confusing than informative...

jducusin
12-03-2010, 05:35 PM
Commitment beats natural talent every time. Put commitment together with natural ability and throw in top level instruction and you will have a top level practitioner.

Well said. Such a rare combination!

Walter Martindale
12-03-2010, 05:51 PM
Well said. Such a rare combination!

And rare to find the talent, commitment, and hard work all in the activity/sport/etc that they "fit"...

The volleyball player who's not quite there and doesn't know about... this or that sport in which they might just be the best in the world... (I've seen it happen)... someone who got tired of not "starting" on the 2varsity volleyball squad retired 11 years later from rowing with 3 Olympic and 3 World gold medals... Because someone shoulder tapped in a queue at university and said "have you thought of trying..."

The guy bashing away on a makewara for years and years, not knowing that (say) Aikido exists and may (or may not) be more suited and will never find out because his sensei/sifu/whatever walls off his training...
and so on.
W

graham christian
12-03-2010, 10:47 PM
It is almost universally excepted in other arts, disciplines, sports, and professions that talent is relevant to the success of the person engaged in the activity. Not all participants will have the same performance, creativity, insights, or perceptions even with a similar amount and type of training.

It seems that there is a belief underlying the practice of certain martial arts, one of which is aikido, that talent is a non-issue or at least an issue that can be overcome either through the right teachers, the right training, enough time, or by gaining and/or accessing magical powers.

For example, Michael Jordan had an extremely high degree of both talent and training. His former Bulls teammate Steve Kerr also worked incredibly hard and maximized his level of talent, achieving things in pro basketball that few have, winning 5 championships. However, Kerr could never have been Jordan or do the things Jordan could do.

The above example is a comparison of two men that had broken into the highest level of their particular field.

If you take a random sample of the aikido community you will find a much greater variance, from very good to very poor.

So what about it?
Does this attitude exist? If so, why?
Why do we accept that someone who is slow, uncoordinated, physically weak, old, handicapped will be able to attain even reasonably high levels in the art?
What, if any, effect does this have on dan rankings?
What does this mean about the practice and future of the art?
Is this a problem, and, if so, how can it be remedied?

These questions are only things that quickly came to mind. Please, feel free to response in any way.

Hi Michael, nice thread.
I think that all people still doing Aikido have talent, probably of similar magnitute, so I don't think it of itself could ever be a problem. I'll explain:

Talent is indeed natural aptitude but to fully get the concept of it
you would have to see it's other components ie: love or liking of and desire.

When anyone tells me they would love to do something but, but , but.... Then I see they have the love and desire and so will have an aptitude for it. So now we come to NATURAL talent and what does it mean? Well it just means that this person has the above AND takes to the practice like a fish to water, with such ease it seems like he's done it all his life.

So everyone doing it has talent and some have that x factor.

So now to skill and ability, which are totally different. I'll break this down in to four stages.

1.First is indeed the desire to do the activity. (Try teaching someone who doesn't want to do it, or learn)

2)Second is the intention to study. (I define study here to mean the disciplined effort given towards learning) Emphasis here on disciplined and effort.

3)Third is the gaining of understandings and the application of those understandings better known as practice.( herein lies the responsibility of the teacher, for if the student has been'told' a million times and still does not understand it's nothing to do with his genes or brain.)

4)Fourth is the continuous apllication of those understandings until you can comfortably DO it. Now you have a skill, an ability.

Through not differenciating in this way many come to false conclusions even about themselves and believe things like they found they didn't have a talent for it after all, or that they are slow or clumsy. No, they do have a talent but there has been a failure somewhere along the line either in themself or in the teaching.

I find the student who is apparently slow is not slow at all, he is responsible for he won't let himself go to the next step until he understands the previouse step to his satisfaction. In fact those who jump to the next step think they are clever and look impressive but don't know the workings of the mind and spirit for these are still back in time still trying to understand the previous step or steps and this will eventually catch up and lead to a severe lesson.

In Aikido there is a problem before you even think of teaching it in that it is a martial art that was formed by a person who said it was to do with harmony, ki, and aphilosophical path in action. In other words that it is a martial art which deals with and has three aspects to it which can be studied and practiced, those three being physical, mental and spiritual.

So it's quite easy to get students not lasting too long and it's quite easy to get students who seem to last long but are seen as not truly representative of the way expounded by it's founder.

Why? Well many people who read what O'Sensei said and are inspired to do Aikido expect to be taught all these three aspects in equal measure and want to understand how the spiritual applies to the physical, how the mind apllies to the physical how they all relate to each other in every technique and even in life itself.

So then you can also see that if a person enters Aikido purely for the physical aspect then they may last quite a long time and get very good at the physical movements and applications and yet puts down the spiritual side and thus puts many people off of doing it and doesn't even know why. This also applies the other way round where a person makes it apparently all spiritual with the view of the physical being irrelevent. Same effect.

I think I've said enough for now. You probably noticed I do go on a bit don't I.
Good training. G..

SeiserL
12-04-2010, 07:22 AM
In the end all that matters is who are the old farts who are still treading water 40 years later... ;)
I used to run distance (marathons) and I would tell people that I don't run fast and I don't run pretty but if I show up at the start line I will show up at the finish line.

crbateman
12-04-2010, 08:56 AM
I used to run distance (marathons) and I would tell people that I don't run fast and I don't run pretty but if I show up at the start line I will show up at the finish line.
So will I, provided my car doesn't break down... :D

Josh Reyer
12-04-2010, 11:18 AM
Regarding the fact that those with "natural ability" seldom lasts; what about individuals like Mochizuki, Tohei and other of the greats that early on got teaching responsibilites from Ueshiba?

If a individual with Toheis aptitude would walk in to your dojo tomorrow, would you be able to keep him?
This is a case of selection bias. When Tohei, Mochizuki, Shioda and other greats entered Ueshiba's dojo, the standards were much, much higher for entry. You needed to have an introduction, and just about every great uchideshi, particularly the pre-war ones, already had nidan or better in some other art such as judo, karate, or kendo when they started aikido. They'd already gone through the winnowing process as far as aptitudes in coordination, movement, visual learning, and perseverance.

jurasketu
12-04-2010, 11:54 PM
I think Keith Larman is dead on concerning talent(s).

Let me add these thoughts to the concept of "talent".

Talent sometimes means "natural ability" or "potential ability". No amount of coaching, training, discipline, perseverance, effort, PEDs, etc can overcome certain practical physical and mental limitations. You can't dunk the ball unless you can jump high enough. Seven-foot centers barely need to jump about 18 inches to dunk the ball. Six-foot guards need a 40-inch vertical leap to achieve the same result. The six-foot guard with just the potential to have a 40+-inch vertical leap probably had to train really hard to maximize that talent. Being that tall or being able to leap that high are fairly rare talents.

In many cases, however, you can only be so "good" at a particular skill. So with enough practice and training, you "max" out the skill. In these cases, "talent" is regarded as how much effort was required to achieve the skill. If it only takes a person 20 hours of training to achieve X level of proficiency in a skill but it takes the average person 100 hours to achieve the same X level of proficiency. Then we say that person has "talent" for that skill and I think rightly so. But in the end, the talented person isn't really any better at the skill. So, it depends on what they did with the 80 "saved" hours. Dd they use those hours to learn other complimentary skills? Or did they use that time for other interests (perfectly valid decision in my mind) but are often said to have "wasted their talent"?

The disciplined, focused talented will out compete the disciplined, focused not-so-talented. But the disciplined, focused not-so-talented will out compete the not-so-disciplined, not-so-focused talented.

Of course, discipline and focus should be regarded as real talents themselves.

oisin bourke
12-05-2010, 12:06 AM
What exactly does being "talented" at Aikido entail?

Keith Larman
12-05-2010, 12:26 AM
Oops, wrote a reply after misreading a post. Ignore those who saw it... Sorry about that. Shouldn't post when tired.

graham christian
12-05-2010, 03:08 PM
I was gonna train today - but then I got high,

I was gonna do what my Sensei say - but then I got high,

I was gonna pass my fifth kyu,

But I forgot what I was meant to do,

So I sat back and played a tune - and then I got high....

graham christian
12-05-2010, 05:06 PM
I was gonna train today - but then I got high,

I was gonna do what my Sensei say - but then I got high,

I was gonna pass my fifth kyu,

But I forgot what I was meant to do,

So I sat back and played a tune - and then I got high....

Ohhhh what an embarassment. This ended up on the wrong thread, anyone know how I delete it before you all tell me I must be high?

lbb
12-05-2010, 05:21 PM
Ohhhh what an embarassment. This ended up on the wrong thread, anyone know how I delete it before you all tell me I must be high?

It's just as well. If you look at that "other thread", you'll notice that it has gone through many pages of discussion and is months old at this point. It's stale. Bring it back to life and all you have is a zombie thread.

graham christian
12-05-2010, 05:54 PM
It's just as well. If you look at that "other thread", you'll notice that it has gone through many pages of discussion and is months old at this point. It's stale. Bring it back to life and all you have is a zombie thread.

Good point! Alas too late I've just posted a new comment on there. Oh well, it may be helpful.
G.

lbb
12-05-2010, 06:32 PM
Good point! Alas too late I've just posted a new comment on there. Oh well, it may be helpful.

No knock on you, but I'm not sure how it could be. It was a sound-and-fury thread in which a number of people acted in a pretty buttheaded manner, spurred by a thoughtless post (as in, no thought went into it). People said their say at some considerable and tiresome length and retired to their respective corners to nurse their sore heads. Commenting in threads like that after they've died down doesn't generally inspire further discussion, and when it does it would probably be better if it didn't :dead:

George S. Ledyard
12-06-2010, 02:05 AM
You needed to have an introduction,

It would be hard to overestimate the importance of this fact... These students had an intro from someone who would have been deeply embarrassed if they hadn't measured up. For folks like that, it would have been a matter of honor to train hard enough to justify the trust that this person had placed in them by giving that introduction. It would be almost impossible for most Americans to understand this as there isn't really much that is equivalent in our culture.

Lan Powers
12-07-2010, 03:39 PM
It would be hard to overestimate the importance of this fact... These students had an intro from someone who would have been deeply embarrassed if they hadn't measured up. For folks like that, it would have been a matter of honor to train hard enough to justify the trust that this person had placed in them by giving that introduction. It would be almost impossible for most Americans to understand this as there isn't really much that is equivalent in our culture.

A sad fact of life.
I have heard so MANY times that it is either the *worst thing to hear or the highest praise* is for someone to ask "Who is your Sensei?"
One can only strive to live up to the expectations.