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Dave de Vos
12-04-2010, 07:55 AM
Reading through the forums I find that many posters quantify their experience by the number of training years they accumulated.

I'm only a beginner in aikido, but I am a 4 dan in an ancient japanese board game called go (in japanese). So I might illustrate my question with my road to reaching some level of expertise in a different field.

I've been playing go for 22 years. In the first 4 years I spent about 30 hours a week on study and competitive play. Most of my progress occurred during that time (Go ranks are based purely on competitive results). I reached shodan after training about 2 years (3000 hours) and 3 dan 2 years later (3000 hours more).

But after those initial years I've spent less and less time on studying go (job, family etc.). The years after that initial period I only spent about 5 hours a week on playing and I hardly studied at all. With this lower intensity training it took me 12 more years (3000 hours more) to reach 4 dan. In the last 5 years (1000 hours more) I seem to have hit a plateau, or perhaps a slow degradation would be a more accurate description.

So now I have 22 years of experience, but that gives no indication of the hours and the intensity of my training during that period and even less of the expertise gained during that period. I know many people who have spent 30 years playing go without reaching shodan in go. But they have only spent 3 hours or so a week, accumulating only 5000 hours of low intensity training total.

I've heard about the 10,000 hours rule for mastering any worthwile skill and I think that training hours would be a more meaningful measure of experience. And then the expertise achieved depends a lot on the way those hours are spent. My observation is that the more you progress, the harder it becomes to train in a way that promotes learning instead of just going through the motions, so learning experiences become exceedingly rare.

I've read some discussions about comparing O Sensei's students who achieved great expertise in 5 or 10 year with others who accumulated decades of training without reaching the level of O Sensei's students.

So how many hours have you spent actually training? Do you still strive for some level of training intensity after so many years? Do you still learn from training?

guest1234567
12-04-2010, 01:43 PM
Hi Dave,
I think it is different, I mean a play like go, I saw the guys playing when I went to japanese school, comparing with a martial art. Of course you can be 4 dan in go and maybe there is not much more to learn for you. I think in a martial art you will be learning your whole life, it doesn't matter how many hours you train. It is just my opinion, I only am shodan and in our dojo there is aikido only two times a week for 90 minutes, so even if I wanted to train more, it is not possible, but I see my teacher 3 dan, the teacher of my teacher 5 dan and the teacher of this one 7 dan, they are still learning and they train much more, as they are teaching almost every day.

Lyle Laizure
12-04-2010, 05:27 PM
I think there is so much to learn that you will forget some of what you learned then relearn it.

kewms
12-04-2010, 06:58 PM
Hi Dave,
I think it is different, I mean a play like go, I saw the guys playing when I went to japanese school, comparing with a martial art. Of course you can be 4 dan in go and maybe there is not much more to learn for you.

I think you are underestimating the sophistication and complexity of go.

Katherine

RED
12-04-2010, 08:08 PM
Go is considered by some to be the ultimate martial art. It is a microcosm for battle field tactic.

Jonathan
12-05-2010, 12:33 AM
If I weren't learning something new through my training, I wouldn't continue to do it. I've been doing Aikido for 22 years now.

guest1234567
12-05-2010, 02:14 AM
I think you are underestimating the sophistication and complexity of go.

Katherine

No, I'm don't underestimating it, I'm just repeating what Dave said., or what I undertand he said, maybe I did not understand it correctly. I will not give an opinion if you still can learn as a 4 dan in go or not, because I don't know. I only gave my opinion about Aikido.

Dave de Vos
12-05-2010, 04:44 AM
I will not give an opinion if you still can learn as a 4 dan in go or not, because I don't know

I could still learn very much in go. 9 dan is the highest rank and then there are title matches between the strongest 9 dans. That is out of reach for me in my lifetime. But 5 dan would be a realistic goal.

The thing is that I feel that I stopped learning years ago, even though I spend time on go. I could add 10 more years without improving at all. I know I should increase the intensity of my training to improve, but my motivation for that is lacking. It would come down to spending a lot of effort for a small improvement (or perhaps no improvement at all). That is one of the reasons I was looking for a new challenge, which I found in aikido. It feels so good to get noticeable improvement from effort spent.

Can aikidoka recognize this feeling? Have you experienced long episodes where you lost motivation because you stopped improving?

Tim Ruijs
12-05-2010, 04:50 AM
I have practised Aikido for about twenty years now, seven of which running my own dojo. I have practised, once a week up to four times a week.
My current teacher lives in France, me in the Netherlands, so to receive regular practise from him is out of the question. Still, I want to learn/master his Aikido. Allthough I cannot put in as many training hours as I would like, I study hard and progress steadily.
It is not only the number of practise hours. It is your commitment that counts.

Dave de Vos
12-05-2010, 04:56 AM
Go is considered by some to be the ultimate martial art. It is a microcosm for battle field tactic.

It might seem inappropriate to compare go to martial art, because ones physical safety is not at stake in a board game. But I definitely feel many parallels: I can recognize moving off the line, keeping ones center, atemi, taking the center of you opponent, entering etcetera in go. The principles from "The art of war" by Sun Tzu apply very much to go (as I expect them to apply to martial arts).

Dave de Vos
12-05-2010, 05:09 AM
I think there is so much to learn that you will forget some of what you learned then relearn it.

Yes, but I think forgetting is good. Forgetting bad habits are the only way to improve sometimes. And sometimes, you need to forget things on a cognitive level to allow the subconscious to take over.

guest1234567
12-05-2010, 05:21 AM
I could still learn very much in go. 9 dan is the highest rank and then there are title matches between the strongest 9 dans. That is out of reach for me in my lifetime. But 5 dan would be a realistic goal.

The thing is that I feel that I stopped learning years ago, even though I spend time on go. I could add 10 more years without improving at all. I know I should increase the intensity of my training to improve, but my motivation for that is lacking. It would come down to spending a lot of effort for a small improvement (or perhaps no improvement at all). That is one of the reasons I was looking for a new challenge, which I found in aikido. It feels so good to get noticeable improvement from effort spent.

Can aikidoka recognize this feeling? Have you experienced long episodes where you lost motivation because you stopped improving?

Yes, I can, at the beginning sometimes I felt like that, that instead of going forwards I stoppedI was not improving, but since my shodan, I think this is the very first step to know anything about aikido I feel happy about every new class, every new movement, every correction of my teacher to become better.
Dave if you feel you are not improving in go, just relax, try to enjoy your aikido classes and maybe in a few months or a year you will enjoy go again.

Dave de Vos
12-05-2010, 05:24 AM
Allthough I cannot put in as many training hours as I would like, I study hard and progress steadily.
It is not only the number of practise hours. It is your commitment that counts.

Good to see a fellow dutchman here :)

Yes, I lost commitment when I stopped progressing. Or was it the other way around? Perhaps I let myself get caught up in a downward spiral.

Tim Ruijs
12-05-2010, 05:33 AM
Hollanders zijn overal, nietwaar?

lost commitment when progress stopped...
What exactly are you committed to then?

Dave de Vos
12-05-2010, 05:54 AM
Hollanders zijn overal, nietwaar?

lost commitment when progress stopped...
What exactly are you committed to then?

:)

I'm not sure I understand your question.

I used to be committed to improve the quality of my play in go by sticking to fundamentals, making sound choices on each and every move to avoid getting myself in a "stuck" situation where I would have to revert to "ugly" moves.

Tim Ruijs
12-05-2010, 07:58 AM
:)

I'm not sure I understand your question.

I used to be committed to improve the quality of my play in go by sticking to fundamentals, making sound choices on each and every move to avoid getting myself in a "stuck" situation where I would have to revert to "ugly" moves.

I kind of got the feeling you lost interest because you did not make any progress anymore. This suggests your focus is not on the game itself, but on winning, progress, achieve the next rank.
In other words, when you think your progress comes to a halt, your commitment is what makes you continue, regardless.
I hope this makes sense.

Janet Rosen
12-05-2010, 10:38 AM
It is very common to hit training plateaus in ALL endeavors and slogging through them is the mark of real committment.
I've heard it said that during these long plateaus there actually IS active learning going on, it just isn't integrating/manifesting yet and that eventually there is a real Aha! or shift that occurs.

ChrisHein
12-05-2010, 11:25 AM
Nice post Dave de Vos.

I think you are spot on with your assessment. Showing up and "clocking in" doesn't really do it either though. I've trained with several Aikidoists who have been doing Aikido since the 70's, most of them show up regularly, bow in and "train" several times a week. But, while they are physically there, they are not mentally/spiritually there, so they've stopped growing. They have 30+ years in class, an honest 10,000+ years "training" but they were only truly present for 2000-3000 hours of training. While some Uchi-deshi who has been training for only 1 year could easily rack up 1500 hours of very intense, dedicated training.

In most of the Martial arts I've studied I was in the lead pack of students. Those that gave 100% to everything they did, living breathing and eating the training. However I have done a few martial arts where I noticed that I was not there, I just was not as interested in the training. Even though I had the same "time-in" in two different systems, the one's I cared about I became very good at very quickly, but the ones where I tried less I was never in the lead pack of students.

You have to be present in order to improve. That gets harder the longer you study one thing because you must continue to stay interested, finding new ways to improve and develop. Most hobbyists will never do this, so they brag about their 30+ years of training, but really have done less then a serious 3 year student.

Dave de Vos
12-05-2010, 02:47 PM
This suggests your focus is not on the game itself, but on winning, progress, achieve the next rank.


Your intuition is very good. Indeed, I focus too much on winning. Trying to prove I am making progress gets in the way of making progress.

A couple of weeks ago I participated in my first aikido seminar. One of the things Shimamoto shihan said to us: "you are not fighting your opponent(partner). You are fighting yourself." The funny thing is, even though I know it works this way in go too, I still can't help myself.

In other words, when you think your progress comes to a halt, your commitment is what makes you continue, regardless.
I hope this makes sense.

Indeed, although I may never break away from this plateau, I love the game too much to stop trying.

I've heard it said that during these long plateaus there actually IS active learning going on, it just isn't integrating/manifesting yet and that eventually there is a real Aha! or shift that occurs.

Thank you for the encouragement. I may be learning to not let myself get carried away by complacency or fear. Taking up Aikido may improve my mental balance (I think it has this effect on me).

Janet Rosen
12-05-2010, 02:57 PM
You have to be present in order to improve. That gets harder the longer you study one thing because you must continue to stay interested, finding new ways to improve and develop.

I've been absolutely floored - mentally, not physically! - from time to time (not often, but just often enough that it's left real impressions on me) when visiting a dojo or off at a seminar, and having someone clearly of high rank w/ many years in the art partner with me and give the most ho-hum, unconnected attack, literally looking somewhere else and acting as if ready to start a conversation w/ somebody over there, w/ no attempt at connection. And I wonder why they bother showing up at all.

Dave de Vos
12-05-2010, 04:02 PM
Nice post Dave de Vos.

I think you are spot on with your assessment. Showing up and "clocking in" doesn't really do it either though.
...
While some Uchi-deshi who has been training for only 1 year could easily rack up 1500 hours of very intense, dedicated training.

In most of the Martial arts I've studied I was in the lead pack of students. Those that gave 100% to everything they did, living breathing and eating the training. However I have done a few martial arts where I noticed that I was not there, I just was not as interested in the training. Even though I had the same "time-in" in two different systems, the one's I cared about I became very good at very quickly, but the ones where I tried less I was never in the lead pack of students.

You have to be present in order to improve. That gets harder the longer you study one thing because you must continue to stay interested, finding new ways to improve and develop. Most hobbyists will never do this.

Yes, training with dedication is much more effective. But as you say, it is hard to stay dedicated over the years. I feel very dedicated to aikido now, but that is easy because I just started. I used to be very dedicated to go in my first 4 years. Over the years my dedication has shrunken to about 25% of my original dedication. Is it possible to maintain ones initial dedication for decades?

I've trained with several Aikidoists who have been doing Aikido since the 70's, most of them show up regularly, bow in and "train" several times a week. But, while they are physically there, they are not mentally/spiritually there, so they've stopped growing. They have 30+ years in class, an honest 10,000+ years "training" but they were only truly present for 2000-3000 hours of training.

I would think that a large portion of the "less dedicated aikidoka with many training hours" is still getting something out of training. Why else would they keep showing up?

so they brag about their 30+ years of training, but really have done less then a serious 3 year student.

Are you talking about Aikiweb posts?
Posts I read mentioning many training years did not feel like bragging to me. Senior members here seem to be quite mild-mannered, just being helpful and conveying some information about themselves so readers know the advice is coming from someone with experience.

lbb
12-05-2010, 05:14 PM
I would think that a large portion of the "less dedicated aikidoka with many training hours" is still getting something out of training. Why else would they keep showing up?

Habit, perhaps. Like any habit, a training habit can work for good, or it can work for ill.

I think that in aikido, or any martial art, there's also a problem that people can run into as a result of rank testing -- and shodan is probably the biggest danger point. Passing the test becomes the goal, it blocks out other reasons for training. When the test is over, it seems like people look around and find themselves at something of a loss. Not only do they no longer have this tangible goal in front of them, and the specific test criteria, test date, etc. to focus them...but they may find that they no longer have any reason to train. The answer to the question "Why am I training?" changes unexpectedly, and people who get locked into some specific goal and stop really honestly asking themselves that question can end up in the classic and unenviable position of getting what they want, but no longer wanting it once they get it.

kewms
12-05-2010, 05:44 PM
It is very common to hit training plateaus in ALL endeavors and slogging through them is the mark of real committment.
I've heard it said that during these long plateaus there actually IS active learning going on, it just isn't integrating/manifesting yet and that eventually there is a real Aha! or shift that occurs.

A very common experience for me is to go to a seminar, feel completely frustrated and underwhelmed by it, and then get back to my regular practice and realize that I've taken a big jump. Sometimes you need a different perspective in order to improve.

Katherine

kewms
12-05-2010, 05:50 PM
You have to be present in order to improve. That gets harder the longer you study one thing because you must continue to stay interested, finding new ways to improve and develop. Most hobbyists will never do this, so they brag about their 30+ years of training, but really have done less then a serious 3 year student.

It helps to have teachers and peers who will push you. If you stay around long enough, you'll eventually become a senior student. At that point, it's easy to become complacent. Who will call you on your mistakes? If the answer is no one, it's time to move on.

(This is a particular challenge for dojo chos, and why I think running your own dojo before you're pretty senior is often unwise.)

Katherine

ChrisHein
12-05-2010, 07:39 PM
Yes, training with dedication is much more effective. But as you say, it is hard to stay dedicated over the years. I feel very dedicated to aikido now, but that is easy because I just started. I used to be very dedicated to go in my first 4 years. Over the years my dedication has shrunken to about 25% of my original dedication. Is it possible to maintain ones initial dedication for decades?

I don't know, I'm just past my first Aikido decade myself. But as of right now, I'm more interested in Aikido then ever. Seems like every day I find something else to work on.


I would think that a large portion of the "less dedicated aikidoka with many training hours" is still getting something out of training. Why else would they keep showing up?

There are lots of things to get from going to Aikido besides the training. Your ego gets stroked as a senior member of the Dojo, you get to chat with long time friends, you might enjoy ordering kohai around, getting away from the wife/husband kids. There are lots of distractions if you want to take them.


Are you talking about Aikiweb posts?
Posts I read mentioning many training years did not feel like bragging to me. Senior members here seem to be quite mild-mannered, just being helpful and conveying some information about themselves so readers know the advice is coming from someone with experience.

No, I don't mean bragging in a malicious way. But people do like to talk about how long they've been "training". Most Aikido people are pretty good people, this was the subject you brought up, I'm simply sharing my observations.

Tim Ruijs
12-06-2010, 07:22 AM
A very common experience for me is to go to a seminar, feel completely frustrated and underwhelmed by it, and then get back to my regular practice and realize that I've taken a big jump. Sometimes you need a different perspective in order to improve.
That is what a good teacher and open mind on your side can accomplish :D
Your frame of reference has been changed during the seminar. Next you start working and explore what this new perspective has to offer...
For you to progress you must be aware that you very likely have made assumptions in the past that made sense so far, but now may be the time to reconsider them. Problem is off course to know/remember/recognise such an assumption.
Seminars/workshops, back to basics, may all help. Play some go with beginners and you may be surprised what they may come up with. You will very likely beat them easily, but still perhaps there is a surprise move/tactic in there that makes you think, what if?

jonreading
12-06-2010, 11:54 AM
I've read some discussions about comparing O Sensei's students who achieved great expertise in 5 or 10 year with others who accumulated decades of training without reaching the level of O Sensei's students.

So how many hours have you spent actually training? Do you still strive for some level of training intensity after so many years? Do you still learn from training?

I think first you need to differentiate training and the various environmental circumstances surrounding how long one has trained. As several senior instructors have posted on this forum, a beginner can do advanced aikido in a very short period of time if they are focused and given proper instruction.

What is it worth if you have trained aikido for 30 years, but your aikido is bad? I interpret that as 30 years experience doing bad aikido. What about 5 years experience in good aikido? Learn 5 years of good aikido, then practice it for 25? Now we are talking.

I sometimes find myself getting jealous of my friends who train directly under my instructor or some of the other wonderful instructors I have met through the years. I think "man, I just have a revelation after 2 classes with this guy and that lucky SOB gets to train with him all the time."

I think aikido gives us significant latitude to alter our training to fit within our abilities. I think that latitude is sometime abused by those who would be less dedicated but for the expectation of progress to earn their stripes. Of similar abuse is the margination of those with less experience (but possibly greater skill) because they are not so long in the tooth. The learning cycle should continue to advance through phases of learning, practicing, evaluating, and refining technique. The number of years you have trained simply indicates how many opportunities you have had to train, not if you trained or how well you trained. If you tell me you've been training for 20 years, you bet I am going to use that figure to judge if you took advantage of that time or not... And that may tell me more about your training than you think. You cannot hide who you are on the mat.

I think it prudent to monitor your intensity to match the physicality your body can safely assume in training. Over the duration of many years that should assume a fluctuation, often in correlation with your life challenges. I will say one thing though (experiencing this myself) - the number of days that you feel like a spry young chick decline over the years, I do not advocate squandering those days.

jurasketu
12-06-2010, 12:17 PM
If you tell me you've been training for 20 years, you bet I am going to use that figure to judge if you took advantage of that time or not...

My father always used to say with regards to experience...

"Some folks have 10 years of experience. But most folks have 1 year of experience 10 times."

Dave de Vos
12-06-2010, 12:58 PM
I think that in aikido, or any martial art, there's also a problem that people can run into as a result of rank testing -- and shodan is probably the biggest danger point. Passing the test becomes the goal, it blocks out other reasons for training. When the test is over, it seems like people look around and find themselves at something of a loss. Not only do they no longer have this tangible goal in front of them, and the specific test criteria, test date, etc. to focus them...but they may find that they no longer have any reason to train. The answer to the question "Why am I training?" changes unexpectedly, and people who get locked into some specific goal and stop really honestly asking themselves that question can end up in the classic and unenviable position of getting what they want, but no longer wanting it once they get it.

I see this happening in go too. Shodan is a rank where players are more likely to "retire". 4 dan is too. Perhaps 4 dan in go is a rank where one realizes something discouraging: even though one has come a long way, the road ahead is much longer and much less accessible than expected.

I don't know, I'm just past my first Aikido decade myself. But as of right now, I'm more interested in Aikido then ever. Seems like every day I find something else to work on.

I know a 5 dan go player in his early sixties who has been playing go for 45 years. He has been a 5 dan since the mid seventies and back then he was one of the top players in europe, but over the years dozens have surpassed him and he has not been promoted for more than 30 years (he is still a solid 5 dan though). But he still enjoys the game very much and he still sits down every day to study the game by himself for a couple of hours like he has done for all those years. I envy and admire him for being able to stay that dedicated. But that kind of players are very rare.

No, I don't mean bragging in a malicious way. But people do like to talk about how long they've been "training". Most Aikido people are pretty good people, this was the subject you brought up, I'm simply sharing my observations.

Ok, I understand.

George S. Ledyard
12-06-2010, 01:54 PM
So how many hours have you spent actually training? Do you still strive for some level of training intensity after so many years? Do you still learn from training?

An idealized model for Aikido training would be starting training as a child. The training would be non-impactive stressing relaxed movement, basics such as footwork, understanding balance control, good posture etc but not with joint locking or atemi waza.

Then, in the twenties, the training would get more intense. The kihon waza of joint locks, atemi waza, break falls, etc would be introduced. Hopefully, some emphasis on proper relaxation and aiki principles too, but intensity of training would be important.

The intensity of the physical training could continue up until about aged 40 as long as it was uninterrupted. After that, it is better to use weapons work to continue to "push the envelope" since that is far less impactive on the body.

By the time one hits forty, one has a good twenty to thirty years under ones belt. By that time, teaching becomes an important part of the training and ukemi becomes less important, at least it should be less impactive, otherwise one hits fifty and is completely beat up.

Teaching becomes increasingly the focus, although one never stops looking for new information and inspiration.

So this, in my opinion would be the ideal. It is, however, not really the way things work.

Very few of the kids on a Children's Program will actually continue training as adults. Now, with young men wishing to fight, interest amongst twenty something males in traditional martial arts is at a new low. So the average age amongst Aikido practitioners is rising steadily.

This has huge implications for the art. The majority of my new students are already past the age at which they can physically train to their limit without being injured. I simply cannot duplicate the kind of training I went through with my students because they are too old already to do it.

Most Aikido folks do not do much weapons work or, if they do it is remedial and does not have the depth that will carry ones advancement forward nor is it technically solid enough that they can "push the envelope" using the weapons as a tool for continuing to advance their understanding as their bodies need to go easier.

Aikido is becoming an art that folks do either because they want to avoid the intensity of other martial arts or because they have done other martial arts and now wish to go easy because they are already physically trashed. In either case, the training is adjusted to fit the students and the art becomes something quite different than what it would have been in the ideal model.

With the majority of folks being older and / or less inclined towards hard physical training, those rare young, athletic students who could train hard are held back because in most dojos they have very few partners that can train with them. I had a couple of acquaintances leave a dojo because they were perceived as too rough because people were being hurt training with them. The fact was that they were in a dojo full of people who simply couldn't train with any intensity and these guys were trying to train as they had done in their earlier dojos as they had been taught by their previous teachers. They were simply in a dojo in which you couldn't train that way. More and more dojos are like this.

So, in terms of experience, years is just one indicator. But it makes a huge difference when you started, how you trained, etc. Twenty years starting at age 10 - 30 is entirely different than 20 years starting at age 30 - 50 (which is becoming more the norm). Folks starting later not only cannot train as physically hard, but they are at a stage in their lives in which they typically cannot train as frequently. Once your career takes off and you have family responsibilities it is rare to see one training every day. Two or three times a week is a serious student. So that student who has twenty years of training but started when he or she was thirty may have half as many hours on the mat as the student who started at twenty and went through a ten year period when he or she trained every day.

This is why, when I look around, I don't see many teachers who have any students at all who look to be as good as they are or better. As critical as I am of the teachers themselves, it is also a matter of not having the "material" to work with. The people of my generation who are running dojos with whom I am familiar all spent a period of a decade or two training 5 to 7 days a week, often several hours per day. I have almost no students who can do that. Most of these folks are training three times a week for between 1 1/2 and 2 hours each day. Do the math... half as many days for 30% to 50% fewer hours over twenty years is a huge differential.

Does anyone think that any of these dojos will close when their current teachers retire? Of course not... The teacher will hand off the dojo to one of the seniors to carry on, despite the fact that that senior isn't anywhere near that retiring teacher's ability (due to having trained a fraction of the time and with less intensity).

There was a fellow up in Canada years ago who had been in his dojo for well over a decade. If you chatted with him, you'd have thought Aikido was the center of his life and that he must be very experienced and skillful. Aikido was almost all he talked about... Except that he actually seldom was actually in class. His attendance was very sporadic. He was one of these folks who always complained of some physical ailment that caused him to miss class this week, the job related event that took priority, etc. We used to joke that he had been pretending to train longer than anyone we knew. This is not unusual. Ask someone how long they have been training, they'll often give you a figure that has nothing to do with how many hours of training or the quality of that training. In their minds they really have been training for fifteen years despite the fact that one of us from my day had the same amount of mat time in four or five years.

I know this sounds like the old guy bitching... "In my day..." But I think I am simply reflecting a fact. I look at the teachers here in Seattle, most of whom I know very well, and the vast majority trained as I have stated. Kimberly Richardson, Joanne Veneziano, Pam Cooper and I all trained together under Mary Heiny for years and we trained minimum five days a week plus seminars on the weekend more often than not. Bookman Sensei trained seven days a week in Japan with Chiba Sensei. Chuck Clark and Aaron Clark trained seven days a week, in several arts. I am not directly familiar with how the other teachers trained but I doubt it was different.

When I talk to these teachers, virtually all say that they have VERY few students who train as we trained. So, I don't think this is just a matter of the crotchety old guy remembering an idealized age that really didn't exist.

Just as with your Go experience, if you lay down a foundation of intensive experience early on, that will stay with you for a long time, even when you might cut back a bit on frequency or intensity. It won't carry you forever, but it allows you to get the most out of any subsequent training. With a good foundation one can keep progressing, albeit more slowly perhaps, with fewer hours of less intensity. But the folks who don't have that never really make up for it. My take on it anyway...

DonMagee
12-06-2010, 02:15 PM
I count my experience in the number of break falls I have taken.

Assuming 50 (at a low end) falls per class, I have come up with this number: 62400

Seriously, to me experience is something I can see in the person I'm training with. It's in his eyes, his distance, his timing. Does he focus? Does he reach? How does he walk? How does he react to a blow?

These things tell me more than anything about a person.

George S. Ledyard
12-06-2010, 02:22 PM
I see this happening in go too. Shodan is a rank where players are more likely to "retire". 4 dan is too. Perhaps 4 dan in go is a rank where one realizes something discouraging: even though one has come a long way, the road ahead is much longer and much less accessible than expected.


I think this is precisely the same in martial arts and Aikido in particular. The way Sensei always presented the Idea of Dan ranking, Shodan meant you had paid your dues and now knew enough for the serious people to talk to. In other words you had worked hard enough on your basic foundation that real training could begin. A serious beginner.

Of course, the myth was that Black Belt meant you were some sort of expert. Many folks set that as a goal for their training... When they accomplished that goal, they moved on to other things.

Fourth Dan was always presented as the limit for the amateur practitioner. You might have a guy who had trained for many years but he'd top out at 4th Dan if he wasn't teaching. Ranks above 4th Dan were considered teaching ranks. So you'd actually lose people after all those years because they would drift away when they realized that they'd never go any higher without more commitment and effort.

5th Dan meant you were on the Shihan track. You wouldn't get a 5th Dan if Sensei didn't expect to move you to 6th Dan eventually. 6th Dan was a Shihan and meant you were a professional teacher.

Of course all that has changed now. The bar got raised because so many folks were getting 5th and 6th Dan that it simply didn't mean the same thing. So now Shihan is 7th Dan. People will get 5th and 6th Dan just because of time in grade.

Since we don't have competition, and one doesn't lose his grading just because his performance degrades in competition, as in Western fencing for instance, people after a certain point in their progression in rank simply plateau and stop trying to get better. They "retire" only in the sense that they no longer work hard enough to get better, and they devote themselves to dispensing whatever knowledge they gad previously acquired. That would be fine if they had been really excellent when they plateaued but more typically, they were simply mediocre. So they teach and don't progress and become the limiting factor in the development of their students. It might have been better for the art and those students if they had "retired" instead.

Now if the teaching issue weren't so intertwined with the time in grade and years in the art issue, none of it would matter. It wouldn't matter whether one quit or didn't, whether one was getting better or wasn't. As I said in another thread, if we had a teacher certification such as Menkyo Kaiden in the Koryu or some such that actually had nothing to do with the Dan ranks, and perhaps had re-certification requirements associated with it, then things would be a lot more clear and the training would be better, I believe. But that's not likely to happen.

Dave de Vos
12-06-2010, 03:59 PM
An idealized model for Aikido training would be starting training as a child.
...
By the time one hits forty, one has a good twenty to thirty years under ones belt. By that time, teaching becomes an important part of the training.
...
I simply cannot duplicate the kind of training I went through with my students because they are too old already to do it.
...
With a good foundation one can keep progressing, albeit more slowly perhaps, with fewer hours of less intensity. But the folks who don't have that never really make up for it. My take on it anyway...

In go too, one should start as a child to have a fair chance to reach "shihan" level (this title does not exist in go, but I guess it would be about 8 dan in go: a player with enough ability and teaching ability to have people travelling hundreds of miles by car to attend a seminar).

I think it is harder to train aikido for many hours because aikido can only be trained in a dojo with a teacher and other students. I long for spending more time in the dojo than 3 hours a week, but I just can't because of family and job.

But in go also, progress slows down considerably when people get involved in family and career. Most strong go players were already very strong in their late teens. Some of them become uchi-deshi. I tried to become uchi-deshi in Japan 20 years ago. I stayed for a year, but I was just was not good enough for my age. And my progress was too slow to catch up.

Teachers are usually strong players who enjoy teaching, but teaching is not that prominent in go. You learn mostly by competition and studying. But I can see to the difference between ability and teaching ability. Finding both qualities in one person is rare. I am not a very good go teacher. I know many go players of lower rank who do much better.

Physical effects from aging is not much of a problem in go, but aging has a mental effect too. As one ages it takes more and more time to absorb new stuff (like learning a foreign language). That is also a major reason to start young.

Dave de Vos
12-06-2010, 06:32 PM
I can accept that my potential progress in aikido is limited by the age at which I started (though I wish I had started earlier). I still enjoy doing it.:)

phitruong
12-07-2010, 07:06 AM
I think it is harder to train aikido for many hours because aikido can only be trained in a dojo with a teacher and other students. I long for spending more time in the dojo than 3 hours a week, but I just can't because of family and job.



no. it's easier to train aikido outside of the dojo away from teachers and other students. certain ways of training will get you progress faster outside the dojo than inside. it's a matter of how you train.

Dave de Vos
12-07-2010, 10:45 AM
no. it's easier to train aikido outside of the dojo away from teachers and other students. certain ways of training will get you progress faster outside the dojo than inside. it's a matter of how you train.

Please tell me more!

George S. Ledyard
12-07-2010, 11:29 AM
no. it's easier to train aikido outside of the dojo away from teachers and other students. certain ways of training will get you progress faster outside the dojo than inside. it's a matter of how you train.

Phi,
I think it is a mistake to think you can substitute solo training for paired work. There's no question that internal power training will condition your body and ones Aikido will be far more powerful with less effort. But there is far more going on in Aikido than just that. Most of what we do absolutely needs to be done with partners. It is important to remember that, while off the charts skillful at what they do, the IP guys are not actually Aikido guys. One will not be a great Aikido practitioner by following their examples to the exclusion of more traditional Aikido training.

I think it is very important for those of us who are embarked on doing alternative training to really try to understand what O-Sensei had in mind as he was creating what later became post war Aikido. Why did the movement get larger? Why did the Kihon Waza become what it did? Why did he not teach the internal power exercises to the post war folks in the way he had in the thirties when it was Daito Ryu? I think that, while trying our level best to improve our understanding of what we now have access to in terms of IP training, Systema, Daito Ryu, aikijutsu, Ushiro Karate, whatever, we always need to come back and look at what makes Aikido, Aikido. Otherwise we risk throwing the baby out with the bath water.

MM
12-07-2010, 01:39 PM
I'd agree with George. You need both solo work and partner practice. Of course, what kind of each is still important. :)

And recently I had some preconceptions shattered that touch on this subject. I've yet to really dig into things, but below is a general overview.

Ueshiba really didn't spend a lot of time training with Takeda.
Shioda, Tomiki, Mochizuki, Shirata really didn't spend a lot of time training with Ueshiba.

With Ueshiba, I think Takeda gave him specific things to train. I think Ueshiba did a lot of solo training, but I think he also trained with other people when not training with Takeda. There was the training with the Oomoto followers, for example.

Regarding Shioda, Tomiki, etc, I think they were training with Ueshiba at a critical time where Ueshiba was still working things out. So, by that very nature, they were exposed to specific exercises and training methods. And they had each other to train with.

But, it is hard to deny that each student spent a lot less time with their teacher than they did training either on their own or with other partners. At some point after learning aiki, it was their responsibility to take it further. And several of Takeda's students were quoted as having said they took aiki further or in a different direction than Takeda.

Note the training listed below. Note how there really isn't any lengthy training periods of student-teacher. Even though there were 4-5 training sessions per day, Ueshiba was not always there. He had a busy schedule and was gone quite a bit. We're looking at 10 years at most for students and even then, it wasn't "extensive" training with Ueshiba. I think people would find it surprising just how many days Ueshiba was gone from his main dojo.

Now add to that all the students stating that he never really explained. That he only showed things once. And when he talked, it was spiritual things that they didn't understand. Sounds a lot like the training in post war. :)

I think the difference between the two was that pre-war, Ueshiba was still working aiki, building aiki, changing his body with aiki and it showed through in certain ways that his students could pick up on. Post-war, he was beyond that point and what he was working on was more completely internal and couldn't be seen.

The whole point about experience though is that these martial giants didn't need "extensive" training with a teacher being there all the time. They needed "extensive" training with what they were taught, yes. They needed specific training, yes. Those came from being taught specific solo exercises and partner practice.

And at some point, they no longer needed the teacher.

Where, then, is the explanation for Modern Aikido?

===
Ueshiba learning from Takeda:
1915
20 days in March.
10 days in April.

1916
All of February.
10 days in March.

1922
Might as well say from April to September. 5 months.

1931
10 days spanning Mar-Apr.

Shioda learning from Ueshiba:
1932-1941
Fom 1941-46 was not training with Ueshiba. Supposedly spent a brief training period (month?) of training with Ueshiba in Iwama sometime after the war. Then started teaching in 1950.

Tomiki learning from Ueshiba:
1926-1936
In 1936 he moved to Manchuria.
Awarded 8th dan by Ueshiba in 1940.
Part of teaching staff at hombu until late 1950s.

Mochizuki
1931- few months of training.
1932 - Trained with Ueshiba when Ueshiba travelled to Kyoto. Awarded 2 scrolls by Ueshiba.
Spent 8 years in Mongolia.

Aiki News Issue 054
Mochizuki Sensei: That same year my brother and some others had built a dojo in the center of town and I guess they were afraid that if I went back up to Tokyo I would die. Anyway, we decided that when I got out of the hospital I would start out slowly by teaching the young people in the town as I recuperated. When word of all this reached Ueshiba Sensei, he, Admiral Takeshita, General Miura, Shun'nosuke Enomoto Sensei, Yasuhiro Konishi Sensei, and others all were kind enough to come down for the dojo opening ceremony. After that, every month, when Ueshiba Sensei went go to teach at the dojo of the Omoto Kyo religion in Kyoto, he would stop in on his way there and on his way back. There were times when he would stay for two or even three days. Anyway he really liked me. Sensei would tend to stay on and not go home so at times (his son) Mr. Kisshomaru would have to come get him; that's how much he liked my place. It was about that time
that he gave me the scrolls for the menkyo kaiden (master teacher's license).

===

Shirata
1933-1939

Aiki News Issue 027
From 1926 until the outbreak of World War II, O-Sensei maintained a heavy teaching schedule centering his activities in Tokyo. His
students were primarily military officers and person of high social
standing and his teaching services were in constant demand. He was obliged to travel extensively around the country and made almost yearly visits to Manchuria, then under Japanese political control.

===

Aiki News Issue 033
Saito: In the pre-war period he taught without explanation. Students couldn't ask questions. He only demonstrated throws.

===

Aiki News 047
Editor: During Ueshiba Sensei's training sessions in what way did he explain the techniques of Aikido? [1933 time frame]
Kunigoshi Sensei: No matter what it was that we asked him I think we always got the same answer. Anyway, there wasn't a soul there who could understand any of the things he said. I guess he was talking about spiritual subjects but the meaning of his words was just beyond us.

Editor: How many training sessions were there everyday back then?
Kunigoshi Sensei: There was the 6:00 am class and another morning practice at about 10:00 am. Then for people who worked in the daytime there were three other periods in the evening. Then the uchideshi could train anytime in between those hours, too.

Akazawa Sensei: No, there was nothing like that. He would say,
"O.K.", and show a technique, and that's all. He never taught in
detail by saying, "Put strength here," or, "Now push on this point."
He never used that way of teaching.

Akazawa Sensei: O-Sensei never taught exactly how to become really strong or about such things as that.

===

phitruong
12-07-2010, 01:53 PM
Phi,
I think it is a mistake to think you can substitute solo training for paired work. There's no question that internal power training will condition your body and ones Aikido will be far more powerful with less effort. But there is far more going on in Aikido than just that. Most of what we do absolutely needs to be done with partners. It is important to remember that, while off the charts skillful at what they do, the IP guys are not actually Aikido guys. One will not be a great Aikido practitioner by following their examples to the exclusion of more traditional Aikido training.

I think it is very important for those of us who are embarked on doing alternative training to really try to understand what O-Sensei had in mind as he was creating what later became post war Aikido..

George, maybe i should explain a bit more. i tend to write short since i am not as eloquent as you. i don't mean to do solo work and forget aikido. what i meant for dave is to do solo works outside of aikido in the dojo. with family and work, we are barely scratched the surface with aikido training in the dojo, especially if we have to retrain and train our body to move better as well. why not come up with a way to train outside of the dojo to augment and cut the time needed for dojo work. the majority of IP works are solo which fit perfectly into the training scheme, at least mine. i can squeeze in multiple "15 minutes" here and there throughout the day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. i can rack up a tremendous amount of solo works that would short cut my aikido training at the dojo. i can make my body to do what i will it to do, instead of going to the dojo and try to figure out which is my left foot and which is my right foot; that's a waste of dojo pair work time. i don't have time to waste. my role model is Ikeda sensei. i want my aikido a martial arts, not a dance (that is going to piss off folks. don't bother me none :) )

as far as understand O Sensei's intention for aikido, i don't have that goal. he was a product of another time, another place, another culture. i don't presume to understand him nor do i waste my time to try. i got better things to do with my time. if other folks want to do that, then good for them.

dps
12-07-2010, 01:59 PM
.

And at some point, they no longer needed the teacher.



At that point did they become Aikido hobbyist, less than two days a week in the dojo with their teachers as defined by the elite professionals of Aikido.

David

kewms
12-07-2010, 02:01 PM
I
I think the difference between the two was that pre-war, Ueshiba was still working aiki, building aiki, changing his body with aiki and it showed through in certain ways that his students could pick up on. Post-war, he was beyond that point and what he was working on was more completely internal and couldn't be seen.

Every decent teacher I've ever seen -- on any subject -- did a certain amount of "thinking out loud," too. The more his thinking was evolving, the more he would have shared, simply out of his own need for clarity. But the further he went, the further behind he left his students, to the point where toward the end of his life it seems that many of his students pretty much ignored him. Which is kind of sad, in retrospect.

When people talk about the training of Ueshiba's students, they seem to focus on the time they spent training with him, but ignore the time spent training with each other. But does that really match our own experience? Don't *all* of us spend more time training hands-on with our peers than we do with our teachers? And isn't that time valuable, too? I would guess that the uchi-deshi learned a *ton* from each other, and that part of their excellence was due not to Ueshiba, but to their peer group.

Katherine

guest1234567
12-07-2010, 02:34 PM
I can accept that my potential progress in aikido is limited by the age at which I started (though I wish I had started earlier). I still enjoy doing it.:)

Hi Dave,
I began with aikido with almost 47 and I used to think what a pity not have known before about aikido, so that I would begin before. But now I know it was just the time, before my children were to young and more things. Everything comes at the right time in your life:),

Dave de Vos
12-07-2010, 04:15 PM
Hi Dave,
I began with aikido with almost 47 and I used to think what a pity not have known before about aikido, so that I would begin before. But now I know it was just the time, before my children were to young and more things. Everything comes at the right time in your life:),

I think you have a point. 10 or 5 years ago I had enough challenges in my life as it was. But about 3 years ago this started to change. Some might call it the midlife crisis: a longing for a new challenge in ones life. So Aikido fulfills something for me now, but that might not have been the case 10 or 20 years ago.

Dave de Vos
12-07-2010, 04:20 PM
i don't mean to do solo work and forget aikido. what i meant for dave is to do solo works outside of aikido in the dojo. with family and work, we are barely scratched the surface with aikido training in the dojo, especially if we have to retrain and train our body to move better as well. why not come up with a way to train outside of the dojo to augment and cut the time needed for dojo work.

Perhaps I should ask about this in another topic. But I see there already is a topic about solo training. I think I better start reading there first.